AGONY SHORTHAND'S BEST OF 2004......
For the past 5-6 years I've been unable to make a Top 10 year-end list of music, mostly because I haven't heard enough new material pleasing enough to enshrine it on a public list for all eternity. That's a bitter, overly cautious curmudgeon for you. But if you throw in reissues -- well jeez, even I can squeeze out a list that includes those. Here's what I liked the best in 2004, potential hipster credentials be damned:
1. FIERY FURNACES
: "BLUEBERRY BOAT"
(new) -- Simply put, one of the craziest and most satisying new bands I've heard in ages. "Blueberry Boat"
is a pop experimentalist's dream record, full of soaring nooks and perplexing crannies to get lost in, with a dozen new things to discover every time I play it. It does not introduce itself gently, and thus this band turns off many before they'd had a chance to really dig in deep. Here's what I recommend, since this is precisely how I got hooked on the band this year: Download track #2 from this CD, "Straight Street", as an introduction. It's 99 cents at the "iTunes store"
. If you think that this schizoid Velvets-meet-Patti-meets "A Quick One While He's Away" technoid number is to your liking, proceed gently into their first CD "Gallowsbird's Bark"
. If ya like that, well then you're hooked, pal. You'll then be calling their second CD your favorite record of 2004, like I just did.
(new) -- We said on November 30th, "...stupendous, often jaw-droppingly gorgeous moderne folk music...His debut offering arrives fully formed and supremely confident, like he'd been writing sad, lyrical near-masterpieces for decades. Awash in cello and gently-plucked guitar, Vetiver's debut sounds like something Townes Van Zandt might've come up with in his darkest hours...."
3. FLESH EATERS
reissues -- Both "No Questions Asked"
and "Hard Road To Follow"
made it to CD this year, loaded with extra tracks and helping many to realize why this punk/roots/metal/voodoo-conuring band might've been the single best rock band the late 70s/early 80s had to offer.
4. DAVIE ALLEN & THE ARROWS
: "DEVIL'S RUMBLE"
(reissue) -- We said on June 21st: "....the missing link between heavy-reverb surf music, early garage punk and psychedelic acid rock. This is all by virtue of one incredible set of fuzz pedals and a guitarist who at times was able to out-Link Wray LINK WRAY as he strode for new sonic vistas in heavy, loud, parent-scaring instrumental sounds..."
: "RUNNIN' APE-LIKE FROM THE BACKWARDS SUPERMAN"
(reissue) -- We opined on September 14th about this fuzz-monster reissue of early 90s 45s and rare tracks, "...This CD conveys their unrestrained powers far more cohesively than even most of their live gigs did, and with a far better mix than any of the vinyl that preceded it. It’s one that’s worth playing repeatedly and which’ll deservedly make them a whole lot more friends in the afterlife than they garnered in the here and now..."
6. MIDNIGHT CIRCUS
: "RICHARD, RODNEY, RASTUS, RAOUL, RODERICK, RANDY, RUPERT"
(reissue) -- We had this to say on December 22nd regarding this great reissue of 1980-83 cassette & EP recordings : "....(Midnight Circus were) way tuned in to the rhythm & the motion of the times: recording on the dirt cheap, pushing ahead with boundary-breaking rock music despite a lack of native talent, sending out homemade cassettes of their practices & 4-track sessions to fellow travelers for the price of a blank, plugging into the most primitive synths imaginable, and firing off multiple attacking rounds of very aggressive, choppy guitar..."
7. REIGNING SOUND
: "TOO MUCH GUITAR"
(new) -- We said on July 9th: "....This is a lineup that you stealthily head to the world series with – not stacked up with the big boppers, just a bunch of .275-hitting grinders. And when I say multifaceted, I mean you get 60s teen rock anthem sounds (“Your Love is a Fine Thing”), you get harder-edged & croaking punkers like the hot opener “We Repel Each Other” and “You Got Me Hummin’” and some partytime sock hop boogie in the mix to boot. And even a couple of “tear in my beer” near-weepers, too...."
8. CAMERA OBSCURA
: "UNDERACHIEVERS PLEASE TRY HARDER"
(new) -- We said on September 1st: "....full of clever lyrical puzzles on love and the human condition...their singer Tracy-Anne Campbell delivers her lines with a shy and even kinda sexy set of nuances, winks and smiles. What could easily come off as wimpy and foppish instead delivers the sensitive strum-pop goods like nothing since those first few tracks on MAZZY STAR's great 1989 debut....."
9. JOANNA NEWSOM
: "THE MILK-EYED MENDER"
(new) -- We said on May 18th: "...I’m totally fascinated by this woman’s beguiling blend of baby-voiced vocals, fantastic/poetic wordplay, and off-kilter harp strumming and piano plinking. That’s harp as in HARP, the big golden thing that you sit down to play while wearing dark flowing robes....Newsom comes across as a classically-trained, well-read, wide-eyed naïf who loves spinning grandiose, big-hearted shanties and romantic tales of kooks and old-timers..."
10. THE SILVER
: "DO YOU WANNA DANCE / POPPER"
45 (bootleg reissue)-- We said on April 21st: "....It’s nice to hear something so perplexingly and genuinely wacked for a change. “Do You Wanna Dance” is a foaming-at-the-mouth, ultra-homemade take on the Beach Boys/Ramones “classic”, with what sounds like children being horribly crucified at the end. In fact I’d swear one of the two vocalists here is an 11-year old girl. Poor lamb! The feel is not unlike the pleasurable discomfort produced by Florida’s TEDDY & THE FRAT GIRLS a few years later – and if you don’t like it as first, you’ll learn to love it...."