Top Five Of the Year 2004
5. Interpol – Antics
I think it’s a better album than Turn on the Bright Lights. TOTBL’s singles are better, but this album is more consistent and more pleasant and more advanced. There are so many parts where they reach these near-Strokes paths of greatness and you think ‘man that’s great, nearly as great as Reptilia’. I wrote something about a month ago about how the good-bad lyrics make the album. Its like the opposite of the Destroyer album, with Destroyer you’re listening to it and thinking ‘man, I’m going to be so smart when I figure out what he’s singing about’, but with Interpol your almost supposed to not listen to, like if you accidentally do you will become stupider. They have this great texture that would probably be good for driving to New York, but not through it.
4. The Strokes – Live at Alexandra Palace
Shelved by the Strokes themselves, (‘not dynamic enough’) still one of the best things to come out this year. A contrast to their miniature skyscraper recording sound, this album has this cavernous recording quality where the songs just roar out of there. And unlike other live performances they nail the tough parts. Like on Conan O’Brien when they flub the best part of Reptilia? Man that was priceless. In a bad way.
Here you get all the hits and all of the fun of being at a Strokes concert with none of the sexy oceans of hair to deal with.
3. Blood Brothers – Crimes
If last year you told me that the Blood Brothers would place higher than the Strokes on my list of the year, I would have punched you in the neck and not called for an ambulance. Plus, the Strokes didn’t actually release anything this year. I don’t want to think about that last album that this band did, or any of their other albums or any other hardcore band, or any other hardcore albums, this album is an anomaly. If they do another, it is two anomalies or a twonomaly. If they do two others it is called a hat trick, which in hockey is very difficult.
Here, the Brothers decide to skip over playing any sort of music and play some sort of wonderful amalgam. It isn’t hardcore; it only has vocals in common with that. It isn’t metal, the riffs aren’t meaty enough. Its just kind of somewhere in no-man’s land. And boy, what they do in there. This album reeks of careful planning, the songs find a new sense of excitement within themselves. Its like they sat there and asked themselves what kind of record they would most want to hear if they were them and then did it. The title track starts off side two of the vinyl. Can you imagine how many people just listen to that song and then pick up the needle and put it back at the start of the side and listen to it again and by that time the water’s boiled? I smile thinking about that.
2. Arthur Russell – Calling out of Context
This record takes me back to a childhood that didn’t exist, though I wish it had. Long car drives and a lot of healthy food. The landscape is painted in 80s colors that didn’t burn into our retinas but settled in, a modification of sixties wonder and a bridge to 2000 Technicolor. This is dance music that has the best of what dance music is supposed to be. It’s got these beats, simple. So simple that if anybody else played them, they would not be counted as real beats. And then its got these melodies, these little keyboard melodies that you can play on this keyboard right here. I swear I’m playing them as I type this: c c d d d d e e. And then the vocals come in and its like Zam!
At least two songs from this album have made me feel powerfully nostalgic for something that never happened, or hopeful for something that might never happen. Pretty much I feel like a forty eight year old woman when I’m listening to it.
So in my future I’m walking along a pier and I’m wearing some shoes that I wouldn’t wear now, because I’m older and I know that the style isn’t important when nobody wants to look at you anyway and I don’t care if I get a little salt water on them. It listens like an epiphany you have on Christmas. Not anything religious, mind you, its just a lovely coincidence.
1. Fiery Furnaces – Blueberry Boat
I don’t know what to do about this. Whenever I even think about this album I get excited. It’s too much to even think about listening to it. Okay. Here we go. There’s two kinds of bands. There’s the A kind of bands that when they describe what they sound like its either another band that they like or a genre that they sound like.
Example: “Hey, we’re The Messy Hair. We’re kind of a Hard Rock outfit with Radiohead and Hip-hop influences”
And while these bands, God Bless ‘em, work together as a cohesive unit and play hour-long shows, it gets real old. Your listening to them like you listen to minutes 20-80 of a lecture: progressively less. Unless the teacher comes up with some great melody. Which they won’t.
And then there are the B kind of bands where its usually two or three people and there’s always at least one other member that’s ‘new to the band, since tonight’ and they play like jug and harpsichord and pie tins and they describe what they sound like as the lyrics that they write.
Example: “We’re the Glengarry Glen Goulds. We do songs about John Updike books and end every concert with a Q and A sesh.”
As much as you love the B bands, as heartwarming as 20 minutes of amateur plunking and diagecic thumping from goofy lit majors is, its almost better to just imagine the band then actually take your time to watch them.
The Fiery Furnaces, every bit as adorable as the B bands, are infinitely more informed and creative. Its like the time they would have spent with a joint are spent having some great life experience that they can just ditch as an hilarious and evocative lyric later during practice time.
So that’s why the Fiery Furnaces are the second best band around today, but why is Blueberry Boat such a good album? Part of me identifies with the anti-musician in Matthew, spending time playing the guitar along to records that you realize you won’t ever beat and so you play against them and somehow it comes out all better. Really, what sounds cooler, almost getting the same guitar sound at Pete Townshend or playing minor fifths an eighth note behind the opening notes of Baba O’Riley?
So this album is lots of minor fifths and eighth notes behind the Who and beyond them. The Who never wrote lyrics this delightfully carefree or arrangements this nutty. So maybe they had a better ear for pop hooks, but that’s the only reason that you don’t have a Blueberry Boat poster on your wall right now, its just a little adjustment that we can make to Matthew Friedberger’s ear. Thousands of posters, Matt.
For as many times as I’ve praised this album and the band I get mad sometimes. I can hear what they are and where they are and I’ve read what they are working on and I want to just say ‘hurry up’. Get more albums out. I need more Fiery Furnaces. No other band on this list (besides the Strokes) do I care if they release a record in 2005 or 2006 or ever again, they are all good ending points or departure points or whatever. Blueberry Boat is a monolith that towers above every other album recorded this year. January 11, 2005 this new collection of unreleased B-sides comes out. I have most of them, its not going to be enough. Please Fiery Furnaces.
Albums from this list that I may never listen to again:
Bearsuit, Arcade Fire, Electrelane, Destroyer, Kanye West