Sunday, January 09, 2005

I Had So Many Admirations- Songs of 2004:

The song that meant the most to me this past year, Jon Brion’s Peer Pressure, from The Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind Soundtrack, is just 1 minute 12 seconds long. It’s brief but incredibly potent. It begins with a slightly out of tune barrelhouse piano somberly chording before it gently settles into a riff and is accompanied by breaths of strings that gorgeously billow before crashing back to reality in a swath of feedback. It’s a fragment of ache, evanescent and forever linked in my mind to one of this year’s great movie moments at the end of Eternal Sunshine, when the films chief protagonists and lovers, Joel and Clementine (Kate Winslet, in one this year’s best performances) recognize they’re experiencing the memory of when they first met for the last time. Their acquiescence (“What do we do?” “Enjoy it."), the dizzy and giddy joy of their loves original potential eroding before their eyes, is suddenly framed in a shot that has quite simply destroyed me each of the 4 times I’ve seen the film. Joel and Clementine walking on the beach at dusk, the wind fiercely blowing as Clementine turns to the sea, digs her feet into the sand and stretches both arms out. With Brion’s Peer Pressure accompanying and no dialogue, it’s a breathtakingly moment both deliriously romantic and devastatingly bittersweet.

There were so many songs I admired this past year. What follows is a fairly comprehensive list of them, most of which were released in 2004 though a fair number of them weren’t. I operated under the understanding that if I had never heard it until 2004 and it moved me, it should be (by all means!) included in the roundup. So bumping up against Lambchop’s Sunrise, from their 2004 release, Noyoucomon, is Up With People (which helped me through April), a song I only first heard this year but was released on 2000’s Nixon. There’s Minnie Ripperton’s Seeing You This Way from 1973’s Stevie Wonder produced Perfect Angel and Faron Young’s take on the Willie Nelson penned country classic, Hello Walls from 1961. There’s That’s Us/Wild Combination, from Arthur Russell’s Calling Out of Context, a collection of the last songs the artist recorded between 1986 and 1990 before dying of Aids in 1992. You get the picture.

The bulk, however, are from 2004 and include numerous artists new to me. In the realm of pop/rock I loved the blatant My Bloody Valentine homage in the introductory coos of Snow Patrol’s Spitting Games. I loved singing along to the hilariously catchy non sequitur lyrics of McLusky’s She Will Bring You Happiness (“Our old singer is… a sex criminal!”) Additionally, the sublime folk-pop of the Innocence Mission’s Tomorrow on the Runway (the song that most helped me to say goodbye to Berkeley back in February) and When Mack Was Swimming from their album Befriended were a couple of the most popular tracks when played for friends and family. Camera Obscura’s Lunar Sea brought late 80’s Sire Records pop back to my doorstep (like an outtake from The Wild Swan’s Bringing Home the Ashes) and Devandra Banhart released a couple albums that drew heavily from the weirder elements of the 60’s folk revival (had Banhart been recording in the 60’s, Joe Boyd would have been his producer and he would have, no doubt, toured with Incredible String Band) and I was especially fond of The Body Breaks from Rejoicing In Hands. Banhart’s weird folk peer, Johanna Newsome’s The Book Of Right On from her perfectly titled debut, The Milk-Eyed Wonder sways under the wintry spell of her luminous harp playing and the spooky charm of her childlike voice. The Arcade Fire’s album, Funeral, contained some of the most ecstatically joyful slices of pop released all year and I’ve included two of my favorites, Neighborhood #2 (Laika) and Une Annee Sans Lumiere, one of this years most swooning final minute of song.

There’s more. Bellona, from Junior Boys masterful debut, Last Exit (my favorite album of last year) is a clever merging of New Romantics early 80’s synthpop and spaciously cool sensuality, while Casual Friday’s Black Leotard Front funks one of last year’s tightest drum and bass lines- and I can attest that I’ve danced to it on the treadmill more then a few times. Mouse on Mars’s Send Me Shivers, like its name, rides an ice etched groove with processed vocals suspended in halcyon atmosphere. Hireklon, the first track on Ricardo Villalobos’s Thé Au Harem D'Archimèd has all of his characteristic percussion acuteness and texture along with a restless guitar that tinges the song with something vaguely ominous. Moodymann’s Black Mahogani, from the album of the same name, is one of his best no-nonsense moments of ecstatic disco-house, funky as papa’s brand new bag and, for once, descending into a collage of party chatter (think the beginning of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On, certainly a touchstone for Moodymann’s Kenny Dixon, Jr.) that doesn’t feel like a stoned indulgence. Justus Köhncke’s remix of Frieland's Frei was the highlight from the stellar Kompakt 100 remix compilation, with its rolling shuffle beats, gauzy strings, hijacked lyrics from Marc Bolan’s Hot Love and unabashed embrace of the absolutely fabulous- it sounded like something from an off Broadway musical about drag queens in space.

Quality albums of ambient music continued to be released as well. When you think about it, those great and explicitly ambient late 70’s and early 80’s albums released by folks like Eno, Budd, Sylvian and Astley that so many of us first got into when we were in our late teens, are now over 20 years old- and while there were certainly a healthy number of great ambient albums released throughout the 90s by newer artists like Aphex Twin, Global Communications, The Orb, Steve Roach, Marc Van Hoen, Biosphere and Manna, there’s been a much welcome and noticeable surge in the number of worthy ambient albums over the last few years, with most being released via labels like Kompakt, Touch, Kranky, Leaf and Rune Grammofon. It’s a tremendously good thing for those of us fond of drift music- of music “where, in terms of space, you’re not aware of the edges.” This year alone saw a great number of new ambient releases by Tim Hecker, Fennesz, Murcof, Klimek, Harold Budd, Pan American, Deathprod, Nils Okland, Max Richter (classical ambient?) and Jóhann Jóhannsson among others.

This was also the year I fell hard for classic country music. My port of entry into country music came, like many of my peers,via the alternative country scene- falling a few years back for the many charms of Wilco’s Summerteeth before branching out and “stumbling” upon Sweetheart of the Rodeo at the Berkeley Main Library, the album where Gram Parsons joined The Byrds and they went all country without an ounce of irony. Suddenly I was smitten and a couple decades of saying “I like just about any kind of music except country” suddenly felt terribly close-minded and cruel. Good music is good music.

A fateful February day pursuing I Love Music and LimeWire turned up golden country oldies by the likes of Faron Young (Hello Walls), George Hamilton (Abeline), Roger Miller( Dang Me), Claude King (Wolverton Mountain), Marty Robbins (The Story of My Life) that have been some of the most listened to tracks of the year. In the Spring I began purchasing some great compilations by Jim Reeves, Hank Williams, George Jones and Jimmie Rodgers- though I must take a moment to decry the horrible state of the country music sections in the cities Virgin Megastore and Tower Records- which are horribly overwhelmed with crap. You get the sense that the country music buyers at these stores lack powers of discrimination when it comes to what they fill their bins with. I say this as somebody who has been to Down Home Music Store in El Cerrito, California and knows better.

What would I do without the music, man? Here's the list.

001. Peer Pressure: Jon Brion
002. Spitting Games: Snow Patrol
003. Float On: Modest Mouse
004. She Will Only Bring You Happiness: McLusky
005. Everybody Come Down: The Delgados
006. Neighborhood #2 (Laika): The Arcade Fire
007. Pipe Dreams: Jimmy Beck & His Orchestra
008. Kings And Queens: Apostle Of Hustle Folk
009. These Are The Ghosts: The Bees
010. City Of Blinding Lights: U2
011. Teenage Kicks: Nouvelle Vague
012. Rated X: Neko Case
013. High On A Mountain Top: Loretta Lynn
014. Summer Kids Go: Moonbabies
015. I'm Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin'): Candi Staton
016. Festival: Dungen
017. Need To Be: Stereolab
018. You're The Storm: The Cardigans
019. Kicking The Heart Out: Rogue Wave
020. Up With People: Lambchop
021. Tomorrow On The Runway: The Innocence Mission
022. You Can’t Hurry Love: The Concretes
023. Seeing You This Way: Minnie Riperton
024. Hello Walls: Faron Young
025. Your Cover's Blown: Belle and Sebastian
026. Got My Boogaloo: Jackie Mittoo And The Soul Brothers
027. The Power Is On! The Go! Team
028. Frontin' On Debra (Pharrell and Beck): DJ Reset
029. Move Your Body Girl: Nina Sky
030. Sunshowers: M.I.A
031. My Heartbeat: Annie
032. Because: Ulf Lohmann
033. Gravity Rides Everything: Modest Mouse
034. Your Silent Face (In Session): New Order
035. Beautiful Close Double: Damon & Naomi
036. Make A Mistake: Brad Paisley
037. Sunrise: Lambchop
038. Lake Arthur Stomp: David Doucet
039. Handshake Drugs: Wilco
040. Drink To Me, Babe, Then: A.C. Newman
041. Music When The Lights Go Out : The Libertines
042. Lunar Sea: Camera Obscura
043. Train In The Distance: Paul Simon
044. Mr. Grieves: TV on the Radio
045. Set Me Free: John Cale
046. Tudo Que Você Podia Ser: Quarteto Em Cy
047. Shake Sugaree: Elizabeth Cotten
048. Iambic 9 Poetry: Squarepusher
049. Portland Grove Am: Corker Conboy
050. Whispering Dub: The Skatalites
051. I Dig It - You Dig It: Albert Mangelsdorff
052. Friends And Gardens (For Don Cherry): Hu Vibrational
053. I'm Gonna Change Everything: Jim Reeves
054. Dang Me : Roger Miller
055. Wolverton Mountain: Claude King
056. Moa Lei'ã'I: Jon Rauhouse
057. ¿Qué Ella Vino? Savath & Savalas
058. Everything You Need: Adem
059. Cool Water: Hank Williams
060. At The Hop: Devendra Banhart
061. Stambul Naturil: Usman Achmad & Diswansoni
062. The Lithium Stiffs: Tortoise
063. Run: AIR
064. Une Annee Sans Lumiere: The Arcade Fire
065. Narc: Interpol
066. Bellona: Junior Boys
067. Story About William Riley Shelton: Doug And Jack Wallin
068. Casual Friday: Black Leotard Front
069. Dinosaur L - Go Bang (Francois Kevorkian Mix): Arthur Russell
070. Ping Pong: Art Blakey
071. Clean Living: RJD2
072. Bedbugs: Brooks
073. Triumph Of A Heart: Bjork
074. Send Me Shivers: Mouse On Mars
075. I Think About You (Original Mix): Heiko Voss
076. No Under On The Ground: The Visitors
077. Sunplus: J.O.Y.
078, Run Into Flowers (Jackson Mix) : M83
079. Ding Dong: Nellie McKay
080. Extraordinary Machine: Fiona Apple
081. Bedda At Home: Jill Scott
082. Magpie (Morgan Geist Remix): Morgan Geist & Darshan Jesrani
083. One Day: RJD2
084. Stay Cool: The Roots
085. Dream: Dizzee Rascal
086. Accordian: Madvillain
087. Theo's Theory (To Theo Parrish): Akufen
088. Radeln (Saschu Funke Remix): Thomas Fehlmann
089. Doubledip Uuh..: Pantytec
090. The Spirit (Innervision-Mix) Pile
091. 1980: Estelle
092. You Don't Know My Name (Reggae Remix): Alicia Keys
093. I Can't Wait: Sleepy Brown Featuring Outkast
094. Say Goodbye Featuring Julee Cruise: (Losoul "She Homeless" Mix): Khan
095. Hireklon: Ricardo Villalobos
096. Timecode : Justus Köhncke
098. Black Mahogani: Moodymann
099. Privat: Michael Mayer
100. Saddic Gladdic: Wagon Christ
101. Hot Love (Justus Köhncke Featuring Meloboy Remix): Frei
102. Because (Michael Mayer Remix): Ulf Lohmann
103. Highlights: Van Hunt
104. If It's Not With You: Phoenix
105. Even Angels: Superpitcher
106. Black Cow: Steely Dan
107. Child Is The Father Of The Man : Brian Wilson
108. Because Of Toledo: The Blue Nile
109. Jamaican Rum Rhumba: The Clientele
110. I Don't Believe You: The Magnetic Fields
111. Dru me Negrita: Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban
112. Maybe You`re Gone: Sondre Lerche
113. Dry Your Eyes: The Streets
114. That's Us/Wild Combination: Arthur Russell
115. Grandmother's Teaching: Johnny Dyani
116. In The Meantime: Kenny Larkin
117. Wingbone: Califone
118. I Believe In You: Neil Young
119. Who Knows Where The Time Goes: Fairport Convention
120. Alive In 85: Broken Social Scene
121. Gulf Shores: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
122. The Story Of My Life: Marty Robbins
123. Your Belgian Things: The Mountain Goats
124. I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You: Colin Hay
125. Know-How: Kings Of Convenience
126. When Mac Was Swimming: The Innocence Mission
127. O Caçador: Lô Borges
128. First Walk (Peel Session Version): Boom Bip
129. Look the Sky: Vinicius Cantuária
130. The Book of Right-On: Joanna Newsom
131: I Blame You Not: Mara Carlye
132. Carnival Town: Norah Jones
133. I Do It For Your Love: Paul Simon
134. Too Many Bridges To Cross Over: Merle Haggard
135. Not Going Anywhere: Keren Ann
136. One Of Us Is Dead: The Earlies
137. What A Difference A Day Made: Dinah Washington
138. Painting Box: Incredible String Band
139. Head Over Heels: Deadbeat
140. Maps: Ada
141. Lion Thief: The Beta Band
142. Feat: Thomas Fehlmann
143. Extra Ordinary: Dani Siciliano
144. Phone Call: Jon Brion
145. Alushe's Night Out: Terrestre
146. Ulysses: Murcof
147. Horizon Variations: Max Richter
148. The Point Of It All: Fennesz
149. L'enfant Perdu: Harold Budd
150. Milk (Edit): Klimek
151. Even If You're Never Awake (Version): Stars Of The Lid
152. Ulysses (Fax Mix): Murcof
153. Isfahan: Duke Ellington
154. One Jack Rose: Glenn Jones
155, Astral Traveling (Alternate): Lonnie Liston Smith
156. Sketch For Summer: The Durutti Column
157. Encuentro: Alberto Iglesias
158. The Body Breaks: Devendra Banhart
159. Achin' Breakin' Heart: George Jones
160. Size Too Small: Sufjan Stevens
161. The Warmth Inside You: Mark Van Hoen
162. Incurably Optimistic! Tim Hecker
163. With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming: Virginia Astley
164. Leuchtturm: Triola

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