City of Roses
What are your Top Ten Favorite CDs of 2004?
1: Pink Martini: "Hang On, Little Tomato" (This 12-piece band is killer! They're based right here in Portland, and created in 1994 by Harvard graduate and classically trained pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale to play at political fundraisers for progressive causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, clean water, and public broadcasting.
They are part language lesson, part Hollywood musical, with a lounge music sound that has French jazz overtones as well as some chamber music, Latin and Japanese influences.
The best musical wallpaper I've found yet, with a double dose of enlightenment and optimism!
2: Elliot Smith: "From a Basement on a Hill" (Elliot Smith, sadly, died from a fatal stabbing at age 34 last year. Despite the sadness that has always resonated in his songs, Smith also brings a great warmth to the record in songs like "A Fond Farewell", which leave you feeling Elliot like a lifelong friend you've always had that you truly cry missing.)
3: Brian Wilson: "Smile": Well, many have been waiting long before I was born for this release, and it was well worth it. Brian Wilson at his finest, which may have been recorded now, but sounds just as it would have sounded in 1967.
4: Franz Ferdinand: "Franz Ferdinand": This is one of two releases you'll definitely can't help but smile too listening. Besides the catchy guitar pop hit "Take Me Out", they cover vast musical territory and themes, from "Michael" to "The Dark of the Matinee".
5: Scissor Sisters: "Scissor Sisters": A wonderful eclectic mix of glam rock from the 70s and 80s blended with dance elements and adult alternative...and they're a band from New York! The sexiest sounding album of 2004. Elton John influences chime on the single "Take Your Mama Out" and on the epic album closer "Return to Oz". Believe me, "Lovers in the Backseat" will be your guilty pleasure Ipod track for a while, the venial sin of your playlist!
6: Loretta Lynn: "Van Lear Rose": Let's be honest here, if we knew Loretta Lynn would make a comeback, no one seriously would believe Jack White of the alternative hit duo The White Stripes would make it happen. But this unlikely collaborative effort has given us something special that will not be forgotten, a fresh set of new tracks from your country legend. The best country album in years. "Mr. Leroy Brown" and "High on a Mountain Top" are my wo favorite tracks.
7: The Darkness: "Permission to Land": Some still can't seem to take The Darkness seriously because they are defined under the pop metal genre and, frankly, are just seen as downright silly under the genre. Then again, the loony pants was the aspiring outfit for every rock god of the past. Rock and roll is supposed to be trill, squeal, laugh, spill lipstick. The Darkness bring back the magic of rock and roll through a solid album with some of the catchiest pop rock anthems in recent memory ("I Believe in a Thing Called Love", "Friday Night") and strong rockers ("Love On The Rocks With No Ice") complete with real guitar solos, quirky, hilarious lyrics and everything that made rock and roll what it is today. Behold, the ironic-named light that is breaking all the Korns and Three Days Graces of our times, a light known as The Darkness.)
8: Mindy Smith: "One Moment More" One of the underappreciated soloists of 2004. A fine set of alternative country and folk rock with hearty vocals, from the single
"Come to Jesus" to "Fighting For It All".
9: The Black Mollys: "Overnight Disgrace" If you are a fan of Jason Faulkner, Jellyfish, Big Star, etc. you will undoubtedly love the anthemic sounds of The Black Mollys. Great power chord ruckuses that Saturday morning cartoons are destined to select as theme songs.
10: U2: "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb": My final pick comes from an all too familiar band. We all know well what U2 has to give, but even if they're all too familiar to you and you can't expect much else from them, U2 continue to give us solid, strong rock and roll. By the way, if you didn't like "Vertigo", believe me when I say that's the worst track on the record. "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" is the best U2 single I've heard in a long time, as "City of Vlinding Lights" also hits home.
Though I wouldn't exactly consider it an all-new release in 2004, if you haven't heard of Puffy AmiYumi yet, check them out!
This Japanese duo (who now has a hit Cartoon Network animated series) sounds just as good as they do on their cartoon. The brains behind Jellyfish have collaborated with Puffy AmiYumi to craft some of the catchiest, most uplifting, sugar-sweet bubblegum power pop that'll make you want to go out and kiss babies and pet puppies just for fun. I absolutely love them!
"You'll find something that's enough to keep you
But if the bright lights don't receive you
You should turn yourself around and come back home" MB20