Friday, December 10

The Best & Worst Of 2004.

(Well, here's the list. This is a direct representation of my poor tastes and resounding ignorance of what's popular this year, in 13 bite-sized categories. Pray for me.)

Communique - Poison Arrows
(Lookout! Records)
I knew when I first listened to this CD that it would be the best thing I heard all year. This says one of 2 things. Either it is one amazing CD, or it was a piss-poor year for music. The real answer lies somewhere in between, although this is truly a wonderful album.
They rock harder than any dance-rock band, and they'll make you dance more than any rock band. Their songs are catchy, dark and sexy; truly the make-out CD of the last 4 years. Lyrically, they find a way to break the norm of teenage angst with honest songs about longing and emotional distress, suicide and death. This is a synth-rock emo CD for adults who have grown out of the genre, or never really liked it at all. If you find yourself looking for any new CD to buy, I offer this album my full endorsement. If it hits you at the right time, "Poison Arrows" will stay in your CD player for a month straight.
Of Montreal - Satanic Panic in the Attic
(Polyvinyl Records)
When you listen to Of Montreal, you get the feeling like they are purposely trying not to make the perfect album. In amongst the musical brilliance, they always find a way to muck things up with experimentation gone horribly wrong. Well, despite their best efforts to avoid it, they finally pulled it off.
Once a 60's throwback band with a heavy influence from the Zombies and others like them, Of Montreal tackles a dozen different genres on their newest and best album ever. If you don't like one track, the next one will be your favorite, and so on. Using faint electronic elements, drum machines and a mixture of all sorts of strings, random sounds and vocal harmonies, they transcend the usual sound of their former Kindercore counterparts. If you didn't have the patience for a band like Of Montreal in the past, please reconsider, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
(In case you're wondering, my choice for best album of 2003 was "Reconstruction Site", by The Weakerthans.)
Green Day - American Idiot
Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
The Velvet Teen - Elysium
Green Day tried to pull off the pop-punk rock opera concept album, and succeeded. Almost. You have to give them credit for trying. Franz Ferdinand showed up in amongst about a hundred other 80's throwback bands, and didn't look back at the saturated market. They were certainly the best of the bunch. The Velvet Teen surprised everyone with the most beautiful sounding album of the year. Quiet and emotionally draining in exactly the right places, this was an unexpected wonder.
Mr. Brightside - The Killers - Hot Fuss
Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
American Idiot - Green Day - American Idiot
If you have to listen to the radio at work as much as I have to, it's always a pleasant surprise to hear something you actually want to listen to. Initially, I enjoyed "This Love" by Maroon 5, but that got pretty sickening after the billionth God damn time.
The Killers released a mediocre album with about 3 decent songs on it. "Somebody Told Me" was their first single, but "Mr. Brightside" is superior in just about every way. It's the first song I would turn up the radio to listen to since OutKast's "Hey Ya".
Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out", with its' Strokes-like intro leading into an unrelenting pogo-fest, was always nice to hear squished in between Creed and Disturbed at 8am. Like the Killers, their second single, "This Fire" is the superior single, but it's not on the radio here in Madison.
Celia hates "American Idiot", and I don't blame her. It's just another slice of the Green Day radio single pie. It offered nothing new, and gave us not too much to look forward to in "American Idiot". However, this song marks a huge change in Green Day's style. In fact, they've changed their "style" on every album they've released. They had the 2 albums about girls, the album about growing up, the one about failure, the angry one, the mellow one, and now the one about the guy who walks around a lot. In a year that was the biggest one in political history, "American Idiot" was the theme song for the blue states.
What U Waiting For? - Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani's solo album is nothing short of a career-ending mistake. I've always defended No Doubt because I admired their abilities to write catchy songs that sounded like nothing else you'd hear on the radio. Turns out, Gwen is worthless without her band.
Egotistical, completely self-indulgent and downright silly, "What U Waiting For" is not only the worst song I've heard this year, it might be the worst song I'll EVER hear. Enough said. I'm done talking about music.
Fahrenheit 9/11
(Mirimax Pictures)
I will not lie to you. Fahrenheit 9/11 changed the way I look at things. Call me easily swayed, call me an idiot or a traitor, it doesn't really matter to me. This, the most successful documentary ever filmed, was also the most important. If George W. Bush would've lost the election, Fahrenheit 9/11 could have gone down as the most important film ever made.
I was one of the first in line to see it in Madison. I laughed my ass off one moment, and was completely disgusted the next. I cannot watch it without crying. If there's ANYONE who hasn't seen this movie yet, get a hold of me and I will burn you a copy. Even though the election is over, it's never too late to see how much you're being kept in the dark.
Super Size Me
(Roadside Attractions/The Con)
2004 was the year of the documentary. When Michael Moore was taking on the biggest enemy in the world, Morgan Spurlock was taking on the second-biggest enemy; McDonalds.
The amazing thing was, where Michael Moore fell short of his ultimate goal, Spurlock succeeded. You can no longer "Super Size" anything at a McDonalds. This David and Goliath story was funny as hell, scary and very informative. It goes very well with "Fast Food Nation".
Arrested Development
Let me make a few opinion-based statements, since this is what this list is all about:
1. Arrested Development is the funniest, smartest, most brilliant show on TV since Seinfeld.
2. The writers of Arrested Development exist at a higher level of comedy consciousness than any other staff on television.
3. Watching Arrested Development will make you a better person, maybe even save your life.
I cannot say enough about Arrested Development. They saved the sitcom from reality-tv destruction, and put every other sitcom to shame. They have the best cast, the best storylines, and the fastest pacing of any live-action show. If you laugh hard enough, you'll miss the next 10 jokes. Sometimes I can't even laugh because I'm simply floored by the brilliance in the joke they've crafted for my entertainment. If you don't like Arrested Development, you're just not intelligent enough for the future of network sitcom.
(Discovery Channel)
Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are geniuses. Special-effects wizards, inventors, scientists, former Special Forces agents, carpenters, mechanics and robot builders. They are using their multiple talents to re-create and test famous Urban Legends. The result is the smartest and funniest non-fiction show on TV. I beg you to give this show a chance, and you'll be hooked and amazed.
(In case you're wondering, my choice for the best shows of 2003 were the entire Fox Sunday night lineup: King of the Hill, The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle and Arrested Development.)
The Simpsons - Complete Fourth Season
When all is said and done, the Simpsons should go down in history as the greatest television show of all time. It has not only defined a generation, it has changed the world. Season 4 of the Simpsons was arguably the best season of the best show ever. If you aren't planning on buying every single season of the Simpsons like I am, season 4 is where you should start.
Presidential Elections
The less said about this, the better. Check out Boycott Unity for my feelings on the outcome.
Dude, I Got Married!
Hey, I got married this year. This should really be YOUR best moment of 2004, too.
The Mutha$%#!ing RED SOX!
The Red Sox did something that had never been done before. They won 4 straight playoff games against the Yankees, and swept the Cardinals to break the longest drought in baseball history. It's almost unfair that this happened the same year that I got married, because nothing in 2005 will compare to these 2 moments in my life. Maybe if I get RE-married, and the Packers win the Super Bowl, but that's really it.
(So, there you go. Indeed, this was a short list of things that only mattered to me, and I left a lot of things out. If you want to add your own categories or tell me that I'm a knob, do so in the comments section.)

By the way, I'm pretty pissed off at the formatting nightmare this post became. The page was being very unresponsive, so eventually I just settled on it looking the way it does. It sucks, and I know it.

My writing sucks this time, too. I'm tired. Leave me alone. You can tell I got sick of writing this about halfway in. Anyways, let me know what you thought was the best or worst for 2004.
As catchy and good as the Communique CD is, I think that Satanic panic in the Attic is better. Lots more interesting things going on and definitely will hold up throughout the years much better. Thank you for including the Velvet Teen; I know you're not fond of the album that much, but next to Satanic Panic it's without question the best musical purchase I've made this year.

Don't know about the green day thing...they really didn't change their style at all. In fact, this album marked a complete regression to older albums. I was expecting much more growth and maturity in the music, especially when the album was proclaimed to be a "rock opera." Instead, I found an over-produced and hastily written mediocrity with 9-minute songs that easily could have ended in 2. Nice try Green Day, but better luck next time.

Good thing for the whole wedding thing, cuz 2004 kinda sucked. No, it REALLY sucked.
I don't know if 2004 sucked THAT much. I mean, we moved into a new place, got married, things like that. I think in terms of my life in general, it was one of the most important years of my life thus far. I'm certainly not the person I was in 2003. A lot of terrible things happened this year, but just concerning me, it was pretty memorable.
Yes, as far as my own life it was a good year. As far as the outside world, it was a pretty sucky year in those terms.
There you go. Who cares about the rest of the world, WE had a good year!

I heart isolationism.
Coming from a music major's standpoint, the new Green Day album was certainly not a rock opera. I appreciate their attempt at developing melodic ideas, but in the end I would have to say that they are incapable of developing the motives in their music. Solution: throw a whole bunch of music ideas into one song and call it a 9-minute song. Each of the "movements" in their long songs could have been made into many different good songs, but they lack the musical training and composition expertise to do that. I enjoy several songs on their new album; I'm not saying that this album failed to make it into my CD holder; all I'm saying is that they shouldn't become all arrogant and proud of their long, sometimes drawn-out songs.

P.S. Jesus of Suburbia is a really good song; the other long song is the drawn-out one.
P.P.S. It should be noted that I'm putting off working on my Spanish presentation that I have to give in less than two hours; sorry for the ranting.
I agree. "American Idiot" is a concept album in that it has an ongoing theme and storyline. It is not a "rock opera". The second half of the album sputters out completely. I will not hesitate to say that "Jesus of Suburbia" is one of the top 5 songs they have ever written. It's just wonderful.

They tried to stray away from their usual format to create a newer, more mature sound, but they weren't stupid enough to alienate the 3 chords that sell millions of records. That's why they get the "E for Effort" award.

Sherry, you said something about them "becoming arrogant" of their longer, drawn-out songs. Have you seen this happening? I've seen a few interviews with them about the new album, but I haven't really heard them bragging any more than they always do. If you heard them say something like, "We're way more musically talented now that we started stringing hooks together for 9 minutes", let me know, because I'd be kind of pissed off at them.

Truth be told, they've always been a boastful bunch. You can't tell them that they're not in the greatest band ever, because they're not going to listen.

Best of luck on your Spanglish presentation.
They look very hot on this album, I know that much.

I agree completely...there is no musical necessity for their 9 minute songs. What is boils down to is they didn't know how to start or finish the songs so they just threw them together into one poorly crafted song.

Jesus of Suburbia is OKAY, but that's it. Definitely not in the top 5 songs. Probably not in the top 15. It's good in the context of that album, but not in the context of their career.
I think we can all agree that Billie Joe looks mighty sexy nowadays. Hopefully, I can age like him.
I'm talking out of my ass about the arrogant thing (self-fullfilling bias you could say). Yes, Billie Joe is damn sexy.
Looking at him makes me realize how conservative I've gotten with my manner of dress. Because of work (and getting older), I've had to dress a little more formal in the past 6 months. I didn't always dress this way, maybe it's time for a little revival.


Well, maybe.

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