A few thoughts on 2004 & a Rae 'sighting' [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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12-23-2004, 10:43 PM
Lo & behold, what was in my mailbox but a bundle of good cheer courtesy of Rae! I never did write him after I saw someone on television who had the same last name & looked EXACTLY like him being interviewed about something or other, but I will as I still haven't forgotten about that. I do wish he had better access to a computer...

On the Asylum someone put up a post asking if 2004 wasn't the worst year for music. The ROCK board over there is heavily populated by folks who are indeed boomer fogies stuck in the 60s & 70s, which is something not worthy of further editorial comment; if you're reading this, you probably know what I mean. But the guy who put this up is a guy I was surprised to see this from, as he's very knowledgeable about music & listens to a ton of new stuff...and rarely utters the sorts of proclamations about how music all sucks these days as is common with some of the crusties over there. I had to...how do I put this? I had to motherf*cking disagree with him. I thought it was a GREAT year for music, the best in many years. I started to write a brief response & it turned into a manifesto on the year. I don't think there's much I hit on that I didn't mention here on this board at some point or another, so it's redundant to me in that way, which means it may be redundant to you. Except maybe it isn't. Warning, one of my typically overly long screeds follows. Beware.

12-23-2004, 10:44 PM
Best year in over a decade so far as I'm concerned. Couldn't disagree more. Outside of doing it just because people do it on boards like this, the last time I even thought about doing a personal top 10 list for the year was 1993, I think. At the top will be the Green Day album, and the Nick Cave, Brian Wilson, the Libertines, Eminem, the Streets, the Asylum Street Spankers, and a couple more will be in there, & I won't feel like any of them were gratuitous choices.

Rock'n'roll: the Green Day album blew me away & I say it's the best thing they've ever done. The Hives album disappointed me a bit, but the Mooney Suzuki & Little Killers came through with solid garage punk recs to make up for it. Great punk rock record from some band called Randy--Welfare Problems. The Vandals album had way more good songs on it than I ever would've expected, and the Armstrong rec wasn't bad either, so far as that punk **** goes. The Frank Jordan rec is I guess a little more towards the alternative camp, but a good listen nonetheless. The Libertines album is probably my #2 overall r&r rec for the year, but the more I listened to the Von Bondies album, the more I liked it. Not sure if it was a 2004 rec, but the Jet album was pretty damn good itself; and honorable mention to two obscure names in Some Action & Ms. Led. I did hear a few things in a similar vein that just weren't as good; these two are at least worth a listen.

Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE! was somehow completed, performed, recorded, and then properly toured. If it was the only good album the entire year I say that's a good year for music, and there are quite a few aspects of it I don't think lives up to the bootlegs. It's difficult for a lot of people to take it in the spirit it would've been roundly received had it been completed at the time it was conceived, which is not to reiterate my opinion that it would've been a huge pop masterpiece, just to say that at this point of time some hear BW's work through what I would consider a one-dimensional prism. This might be due to overplay of radio staples, or the unbelievable fact that a touring act that calls itself the Beach Boys actually still goes on the road every summer. Whatever. Though I personally enjoy other recs from this year more than SMiLE, it's an amazing achievement. In what I guess I'd consider to be a similar category, but not even in the same universe when it comes to how much I like it, I'd say the Polyphonic Spree. Their Together We're Heavy rec is pretty good, I think.

Like most years, I didn't hear much rap I liked. There were a few things, though. I loved the Eamon rec; the Beastie Boys rec wasn't great, and seemed to stiff, but it had a great single; I've only heard the new Eminem once, but I thought it was really good; and then there was the Streets album, A Grand Don't Come For Free, which I also liked a lot. Oh, and last night I was in a karaoke bar, see...I've never cottoned much to Snoop Dogg. Never thought he was much in the way of skills, never dug his subject matter, which so few ever rapped about with what I ever thought of as cleverness or insight or just about anything outside of being, well, vile. But I'm going to go back & revisit some of his older work. We'll see. In the meantime, check this out:


I think it was a GREAT year for blues & roots stuff. There were some hit & miss compilations on labels like Blind Pig & Rounder; but the hits were hits indeed. Best of the bunch was an outfit I managed to hear a whole album of, and it rocks like a mofo: Nick Curran & the Nitelifes, "Player." Wow, what a great album--kinda like Roomful Of Blues, but WAY more rockin'. I mean, there's a STOOGES cover. GREAT stuff. Even better? The Asylum Street Spankers! The "Mercurial" album. What a hoot. Rockabilly, Western Swing, Django Reinhardt-style early swing, Cab Calloway covers, Black Flag covers...hell, they do a rockabilly/WS version of the Beastie Boys' 'Paul Revere.' YOU try that. Then there was a real interesting thing on Rounder called Tangle Eye, which was sort of like an organic take on what Moby did on the Play album, I guess you'd say. I mean, they used some traditional stuff, don't know if it was sampled or old parts covered in re-recordings, but that was merged with a band that, at times, played very much like certain strains of contemporary electronica. VERY interesting, and, while I didn't love the whole thing, the good stuff was very good indeed. Beyond that, there were decent, if not great, recs from Alvin Lee (In Tennessee), Dexter Romweber, Southern Culture On The Skids...and then there was the live Blasters CD & DVD. And a Brian Setzer Orchestra double live album, and a Xmas album also, and a Stray Cats DVD, though I haven't watched that yet...anyone see it? Any good? I have a feeling I will enjoy it.

Singer-songwriter-type stuff? Nick Cave certainly tops the list, that double album is amazing. A loud disc & a relatively quiet disc, and damn if this guy ain't the best right now unless Beck comes along with a monster to displace him. Any of you who've read my crap on this board over the past few years knows I've said I think Beck's the best out there these days, but with this rec Cave might've stolen that from him. The Waits album isn't bad, either...though, like quite a few of his recs, I think it'll take a little, ahem, digesting. That said, I don't really have an album of his I think is a dog, and I do try to hit them all equally. After that there was a superb little rec from Luka Bloom that I thought was outstanding, very much in the vein of early Leonard Cohen. Brilliant. The Eleni Mandell album was very good, and Jill Sobule surprised me with a decent rec, too. The Innocence Mission put out something resembling a covers rec that I dug very much, and then there was the Ditty Bops, yeah, heck, they were good too. All in all a darned good showing in a genre where there were no Dylan or Neil Young efforts as in years past to sweeten the pot, so to speak. I just got the Steve Earle rec, haven't heard it yet, so I can't comment on it. But he's pretty consistently good, or great, too, so that only speaks well for this area for this year.

Alternative-type stuff? Well, I might be mentioning a few recs here that, unbeknownst to me, may have actually been released prior to 2004, but if that's the case, I sure didn't know. I think a couple in this cluster of bands may fall into that category, but I group them all together anyway, and all of these put out recs I thought were pretty good that either came out this year, or that I heard for the first time this year. That'd be Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, the Killers, British Sea Power, *stellastarr, and, oh, one or two others. I didn't hear the most recent efforts by Interpol or Hot Hot Heat, and I didn't think the Futureheads rec was as good as other people seemed to, but so what. Although I retain the chip on my shoulder that finds irony in so much work being put out that is derivative of a style of music that was incredibly original, a good rec is a good rec & I think some good came out of all of this. As for stuff that is--to paraphrase Charles Ives, based on the appreciation of his noise on the part of a friend of mine--tenting in a different campground, well, I thoroughly enjoyed the Sonic Youth album--Nurse. I'm no fan of their stuff, but I would be if all their albums had these sorts of songs on 'em. The Auf Der Maur rec didn't knock me out, but I thought it was pretty okay; the solo G. Love rec I thought was definitely on a par with his Special Sauce work; Gaze, Citizen Cope, the So-And-Sos, Spiderbait, & the Rosenbergs all put out varyingly good recs; and I don't give a damn what anyone thinks about this, but I sorta liked the Ashlee Simpson album.

That's right, I thought it was kinda good. I don't care about her, or the fact that she can't sing, or that she blew it on SNL, or that she may have received credit for stuff she didn't actually write...well, scratch that one, because I DO care about THAT, a little bit, anyway, but whoever was responsible, I listened to the rec & it wasn't terrible. And I liked it for the fact that it wasn't terrible, which was what I'd been expecting. And I listened a couple more times & thought that for what it was, it was a decent piece of work. I haven't heard much in that genre; I really haven't heard Avril Lavigne. But if I think it has a melody or a hook or something, I'm at least willing to listen. Much as I loathe mall-punk, I actually heard an Ataris song I liked...can't say the same for Good Charlotte or Sum 41, but I digress...while I can't say any of the Ashlee tunes have any staying power or anything like that, and while at least a couple of 'em actually flat-out suck, the rest of it is simply some well-written disposable pop music that leans more towards guitar-based rock pop, rather than electronic-based dance-pop. And there are some hooks & some melodies, and I think one or two of ya still reading these words might be as surprised as I was to find that the thing's not bad at all. I mean, it's a better listen than some things by guys whose best work was something like 30 years ago but who still continue to make records. Not saying much, perhaps, but some of these guys carry some measure of cache because they were once great, but they flog at least a couple of decades' worth of uninspired pap that we're supposed to take as seriously as what they did that was good? Puh. Listen to the Ashlee rec, why don't ya. Seriously.

When I saw Queen Latifah's The Dana Owens Album, I thought it could be real good. Well, it's not, but it's still decent. Never heard much of her rapping but she's just someone who seems like she's good at a lot of different things--great comedic actress--and maybe she wouldn't try something like singing unless she could actually pull it off. Not a great rec, but a promising one. There's at least an album's worth of songs I'd really like to hear her tackle, but fortunately for her, I don't think her management team would be interested in what I have to say. Then there was the Jane Monheit album, her first for a major. What she's doing on Sony Classical I have no idea. And, again, not a great rec, but certainly better than the one before it, and it reversed a trend for her of each album being, well, not as good as the one before it. I don't need to hear anyone sing Over The Rainbow again, ever, but now that she's recorded it twice, perhaps her next outing will be a tad more interesting. She sure can sing.

Lastly, there were a couple of oddball recs I guess you'd file under 'world' if you're one of those people who has to classify ****, as I am. One would be the Bebel Gilberto rec, which may not be as good as her first, but I think it's the only Six Degrees rec I heard this year, or at least the only one that I liked, which is unusual. She is so darned good...not a flawless rec like her first, or a great great great one like the re-working of the first, but very, very good. Leads off with my favorite Os Mutantes song, 'Baby.' With a first track like that, how can you go wrong? Then there was the Jazz Jamaica All Stars, with 'Massive.' How to explain? They literally are like a cross between ska & jazz. Great hybrid, doesn't work on every track, but a very pleasant surprise out of nowhere. And then there's Daniele Luppi, some Italian guy whose great appreciation for the 'Italian Wrecking Crew' of musicians that played on many movie soundtracks in the 60s & 70s (often performing the music of Ennio Morricone) spurred him to somehow convince them to come out of retirement to perform on his record. Which is a very, very good listen, a solid entry in the space age bachelor pad/lounge dept. this year.

I haven't heard the Wilco or the Fiery Furnaces or the Loretta Lynn recs yet, but I do think I will be getting all of them. I tried to give the Bjork rec a chance, but I think my coming to appreciate her music will have to wait until she starts doing something that actually sounds like music to me. Ummm, maybe not a great year for reissues, I'm really not sure, but Stones Throw is putting out some real interesting stuff--obscure 60s & 70s jazz & fusion & funk, stuff like Stark Reality, and also a bunch of current electronica stuff. They just put out something that was recorded, low-fi, on a reel-to-reel player at a pop/funk festival in Dallas in 1970, AND IT ROCKS LIKE A MOFO. Oh, and the Cactus stuff came out this year, too, and damn if they weren't almost a punk version of GFR & who knew? Not me.

But I thought it was a GREAT year for music, so what do I know?

12-24-2004, 09:01 AM
Started last January with the remasters of Tull's Bursting Out, Stormwatch and A, which included a pretty good DVD concert. I know, it's not new but I'm gonna include the remasters which I think are important. Also released this year was Tull's performance at the 1970 Isle Of Wight festival. Nice to finally hear that bit Tull of history.

On the prog side of things I picked up the new releases from The Flower Kings, Chain, Henning Pauly, Happy The Man, Brave (ep), Ozric Tentacles, Dead Soul Tribe and The Jelly Jam. From that list the best would be Dead Soul Tribe's The January Tree and Happy The Man's The Muse Awakens. I was a bit disappointed with Chain's.exe and The Jelly Jam's 2. They weren't bad just not very good sophmore efforts. Also, I was very disappointed with The Flower King's Adam And Eve. Very uninspiring and I just couldn't connect. It was finally nice to get the remasters of Porcupine Tree's On The Sunday Of Life and Voyage 34 as well.

There was quite a few surprises along the way too. One of them being The Mooney Suzuki's Alive and Amplified. I took a chance and was I glad I did. A fun and entertaining record for sure. Another gem this year was The Killers' Hot Fuss. Nice retro sound and equally entertaining. The Polyphonic Spree's Together We're Heavy was good but won't make any top ten lists. And another huge surprise (for me) was the Trashcan Sinatra's Weighlifting, which turned out to be a darn good rec. Brian Wilson's SMiLE had some spins in the CD player as well. After reading so much about this fabled recording I just had to buy it, and I'm glad I did. No matter what you may think of BW, this is still a great rec and historically important to the music world. Okay, maybe I shouldn't go that far but it will be remembered.

But the biggest enjoyment for me this year came from the world of Jazz. Discovering the works of those great artists from 40's, 50's, 60's and beyond was thrilling. The high note was the 2004 release of Miles Davis' Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings Of 1963-64. A seven disc box set centering around The Seven Steps To Heaven release which was also an important transitional period in Miles' career. The collection features mostly live sets from the period first released on LP (most notably Miles In Europe, My Funny Valentine, Four And More, Miles In Berlin and Miles In Tokyo) but making their debut appearance on CD. A very nice box set for any fan of Miles Davis and jazz in particular.

Not a bad year I guess. I did spend more time this year discovering jazz and concentrating my efforts towards acquiring a few necessary titles. It took me away from my normal listening habits but I didn't mind the diversion one bit.

Here's hoping for an even better 2005.


Dusty Chalk
12-24-2004, 09:49 AM
Hey, I miss Rae. I'm sure I speak for most of us when I say, 'send him our best'.

12-24-2004, 09:52 AM
Hey, nice writeup MGH! As you know by now, I usually tend to shy away from a lot of the stuff you wind up liking and concentrate more on the indie hipster side of the beast. But there's almost always a whole bunch of stuff that'll keep the flame burning, no matter what your taste in music might be. Brad Kava from the local Mercury News had nicely organic list, not too much different from yours Jay.
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Posted on Sun, Dec. 19, 2004
By Brad Kava
Mercury News

The spark of politics in '04 helped ignite so-called alternative music (rock for teens) and their parents' roots rock (once called alt-country). We don't need no thought control, indeed.

1. ''American Idiot'' Green Day (Reprise): A powerful indictment in rock-opera form of the current administration and the suburbanites possessed by consumerism who voted it in, by a band of punks who were never afraid to lift great classic-rock riffs. Rock that bridges generations.

2. ''Sanctuary'' Charlie Musslewhite (Real World): A gritty, haunting and spiritual roots album that owes as much to the hardscrabble country of Johnny Cash as it does to the Mississippi blues of Muddy Waters. Unclassifiably beautiful.

3. ''Peace Love Death Metal'' Eagles of Death Metal (Rekords Rekords): Forget your pain, put on your glitter and let's rock out like T. Rex in 1974. Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme's side project with former journalist Jesse Hughes is the best glam-rock album -- and the first the term could be applied to -- in maybe three decades. You can't hear it without a knowing, or unknowing, smile.

4. ''The Revolution Starts . . . Now'' Steve Earle (E-Squared): Get him riled and this country rocker will take you right down the Copperhead Road, indicting the ''Rich Man's War'' lamenting the life of a Texas trucker driving in Iraq in ''Home to Houston'' and chanting love to the former Stanford provost driving the national train, ''Condi, Condi.'' Not his best work, but after a scary national hush, it's a relief to hear someone unafraid to speak out.

5. ''Ollabelle'' Ollabelle (DMZ/Columbia): Gospel distilled from a jam night at a club in the shadows of the World Trade Center site. That breathtaking rootsy voice belongs to Amy Helm, daughter of the Band's great singer, Levon Helm, who guests. Producer T Bone Burnett -- of ''O Brother, Where Art Thou?'' -- knows the real thing when he hears it.

6. ''Franz Ferdinand'' Franz Ferdinand (Epic): Strong, layered debut rock like you didn't think they made anymore from this Glasgow band. I wish the new U2 were this fresh, with forays to the hard-hitting on ''Take Me Out'' to disco fantasy in ''Michael.'' Leave it on the disc player and it's not just an album, it's a whole radio station.

7. ''Beat Cafe'' Donovan (Appleseed): A tough call between comebacks from the ''Sunshine Superman'' and one by the ''Boots'' lady, Nancy Sinatra, aided by Bono, Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker. Both have excellent moments and a few that need to be skipped. Both sound more new than retro. But Donovan's self-written, atmospheric, jazzy poem is absolutely uplifting, proof that with great talent anything is possible.

8. ''Damage'' Blues Explosion (Sanctuary): Unapologetically loud and always unafraid to experiment, Jon Spencer's trio hits its high-water mark with help from electronica producers Dan ''the Automator'' Nakamura, DJ Shadow and David Holmes. This crunchy rocker sounds at once classic and brand new. If it had come out in the 1960s, they would have built a whole movement around it. They still might.

9. ''Crystal Shoe'' Mary McLaughlin (RRCD available at www.marymclaughlin.com): This Bay Area Gaelic-language teacher is simply the best Celtic singer today, but as yet almost unrecognized. She has a tune on one of those sold-on-TV Celtic collections, so maybe she's making headway. This is a breathtaking work, a haunting voice surrounded by a dense weave of brilliant musicians. It floats by so easily, it's hard to take it off the player.

10. ''Spirit Songs'' Bill Miller (Vanguard): There is some irony in a greatest-hits disc from a Native American artist who has never had a hit. But finally, this year, the singer with the best falsetto since Roy Orbison got a Grammy nod. This genre-bending collection takes you from the spiritual and traditional life of the reservation road to modern sounds that could be inspired by Dylan, Springsteen and, most surprisingly, Radiohead.

(In the interest of full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for this disc. I was asked to do it because I had him on my Top 10 in 1995 and have continued to champion him as a brilliant, rarely heard voice.)
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And now back to the words of Davey....

Most of you know by now, since I've been mindlessly raving (http://forums.audioreview.com/showpost.php?p=45276&postcount=11) about it and defending it from the hordes of naysayers for about 5 months now ;), my favorite of the year is gonna be the majestic journey around the world of music by Matt and Eleanor Friedberger, better known as the Fiery Furnaces. I've posted many fun reviews for it in the past, but one of the nicest and most concise expressions of why some of us love this music so much can be glimpsed in the year end writeup at the Stylus ezine site. Their original review by a different writer left a lot to be desired, in my mind, but I think J T. Ramsay really nails it. I already posted this over at the rocky place, but here's just one more Blueberry Boat mini-review before the end of the year (and this time it really will be the last)....ho ho ho!
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<center><img src=http://www.stylusmagazine.com/images/articles/041220_01.jpg></center>

<I>Blueberry Boat</I> is a testament to the operatic ambitions of all of the great pop bands of the '60's and '70's. It embodies the best efforts of the megalomaniacal personalities that fueled them, figures like Ray Davies, Pete Townsend, Rick Wakeman, Alan Parsons, and Keith Emerson. Unlike these hirsute predecessors, Fiery Furnaces departed the lo-fi coastal shoals for more treacherous tropical waters, recording an album that seems beyond the depth of even their most accomplished peers, something that approaches side two of <I>Abbey Road</I> in terms of its complexity, scope and sweep. By escaping the three-minute verse/chorus/verse stranglehold that has long hobbled independent rock, <I>Blueberry Boat</I> demonstrates a willingness to limn carefully circumscribed images through intricate and alternately expansive suites, resulting in a dazzling stylistic collage pasted together with vibrant <I>leitmotifs</I> and arcane gestures to melodramatic pop forms.

With melodies that run from convention like fugitives, winding down back-roads, weaving in and out of the dappling daylight and bursting out of briar thickets, Fiery Furnaces' <I>Blueberry Boat</I> surprised many of those who didn't expect Matt and Eleanor Friedberger to record a Gilbert & Sullivanesque sophomore album. Unlike other great records in recent memory, <I>Blueberry Boat</I> imparts personality and warmth via their euphonous tones and tongue-twisting lyrics, avoiding the icy detachment common to the warmed-over esoterica too often conflated with a postmodern idyll, a notion that reeks of <I>epater le bourgeois</I>. Beginning with the undulating scales of the epic "Quay Cur", <I>Blueberry Boat</I> provides convincing evidence that progressive rock can once again capture our imagination, be accessible, entertain and make us dance, a truth that stands in contrast to the stubborn insistence that listeners be rendered mute by passionless techniques, stunned by deafening sophistication, and awed by such impersonal monoliths.
[J T. Ramsay]
[<a href=http://www.stylusmagazine.com/review.php?ID=2145>Stylus Review</a>]

12-24-2004, 12:43 PM
3. ''Peace Love Death Metal'' Eagles of Death Metal (Rekords Rekords): Forget your pain, put on your glitter and let's rock out like T. Rex in 1974. Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme's side project with former journalist Jesse Hughes is the best glam-rock album -- and the first the term could be applied to -- in maybe three decades. You can't hear it without a knowing, or unknowing, smile.

This sounds very intriguing. Did I miss something? Has this been discussed here? Comments anyone?

12-24-2004, 01:27 PM
Hey, I didn't even mention the Jamie Cullum DVD. You were the one that mentioned him, right? I thought some of his jazz stuff was kinda okay, not sure if I prefer it to Harry Connick Jr., whose work I tend to avoid, but he can actually play piano. Not so sure I'm enamored of his attempts to rock. And...the thought of doing the Beach Boys' God Only Knows using a string quartet that's performing an arrangement based on the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby might sound great on paper, but in reality I don't think it worked all that well. Brave attempt, though. I'd give him a B- or less overall based on what I did see/hear, but I think he's got GREAT potential.

12-24-2004, 02:33 PM
This sounds very intriguing. Did I miss something? Has this been discussed here? Comments anyone?

It hasn't got much discussion around here. I have it and I like it, but it won't come close to making my top 10. It's a fun album, just not really my style (or maybe it's just not a great album). YMMV. I'd describe it as Stonesy rock mixed with some garage rock with a sprinkle of harder edged glam. Even though it's a QOTSA "side project" it is not QOTSA mk. II.

12-26-2004, 09:50 AM
Here's a review (http://hipdispleasure.blogspot.com/2004/12/best-of-2004-6-eagles-of-death-metal.html) from a year-end list.

P.S. Can we not edit our posts anymore?

12-26-2004, 10:46 AM
Hey, I didn't even mention the Jamie Cullum DVD. You were the one that mentioned him, right?

Are you talkin' to me? ;)

Yes, I mentioned him a while back. I picked up his album after seeing one of his videos. Like you, I thought that the CD could have been a little stronger, but I liked his more jazzy take of some of the modern day classics. I think that there's lots of potential here and I really hope that he doesn't fall into the Harry Connick Jr. wannabe trap. I'd like to see more of his original material on his next release.

Here's a review from a year-end list.

Thanks. This sounds right up my alley. It's been added to my wish list.

Edit: P.S. I can edit.

12-27-2004, 09:28 AM
Finally heard the Green Day record and I think it kicks ass. For me, it's head and shoulders above their past work, although I missed their last couple. Always seemed to me that their records had one or two really great songs and a bunch of run of the mill stuff. This one's great all the way through and works together as an album in a way that doesn't come around all too often. Easy comparison would be The Who, especially Quadrophenia. They really expanded their sound while still holding tightly to their basic character. It's pretty accessible for most any rock fan too. I've played it around a few other people and it's been universally saluted. I can see why it's getting so much attention.