The year is dying, and that means everyone is posting their Best of 2004 lists, and for the most part, Best of 2004 lists don't look so different from each other--particularly Best Album lists, particularly when those Best Album lists are put together by internet coolsters. You see a lot of repeated favorites, which makes sense, because there's only so much music all the cool people in the world can be listening too, and since we all know how cool I think I am, if I were to make an official list of my favorite records of the year, it wouldn't be super different either except for a few records that I disagree with very much. So, here's my list of "Albums of 2004 that I'm Saying Weren't as Hot as Other People Say they Are."
Air, "Talkie Walkie" First of all, every time I see this record on a Best of the Year list, I'm just dumb with disbelief. I can't believe people even remembered this record existed, let alone remembered it to be one of their favorites of the year. Here's my brief history of Air records: Moon Safari comes out, everyone says "Ooh!", we're introduced to chill French-electro. I loved this record so hard from 1998-2000, I probably have no idea how much I really listened to it. Then Premiere Symptomes comes out, its a collection of pre-Moon Safari tracks, but it sounds like Moon Safari, and I totally dig it for all of 2000. Also, the Virgin Suicides score comes out, and its good, but all the tracks are too short, although "Playground Love" is a dope track. Right now we've got three records worth of chill French-electro, everyone's cool with it. Then, summer of 2001, the 10,000 Hz Legend comes out. It's like Air's version of Midnight Vultures, it's a total turn-off, the kind of record that at first is panned by critics, then embraced, then panned again when everyone gets their senses together. 2004, Talkie Walkie comes out, its a return to the mellow French-electro we liked on the first three records, with a few twists, a little this, a little that, but guess what? We loved those mello records back in 2000, its 2004 now, Air records age as well as a Nine Inch Nails record. No thanks, Air. I don't need any mellow French-electro right now, and I really don't need car commercials set to the tune of "Surfing on a Rocket." So not a best record of the year.
Madvillain, "Madvillainy" What? I'm calling the year's most popular underground hip-hop collabo a not-the-best-record-of-the-year? Yes. I am calling it that. I was as into this record as anyone else when it first came out, mostly because I wanted to be into streetlevel stuff SO BAD (still do, I guess) but it doesn't hold up to the multiple listens. While the tracks are short and the record is skit-free, 1/3 of it is still nearly unlistenable, and MF DOOM really doesn't rap that much, like, 10 lines a song, maybe. I got into this record because of the throw-back Silver Age Marvel lookin'-video to "ALL CAPS", and I think I'll always like that track and a few others, but just because we all bought this records and listened to it a few times doesn't mean we have to have it on every Best of the Year List. If I was going to pick an indie-rap collab for 2004, it'd definitely be "Ghetto Pop Life" from Dangermouse and Jemini. SO much hotter than Madvillainy. And for an indie-rap solo record, "Tellicatessan" by Rob Sonic. But I'm not hating Madvillainy (I was hating Talkie Walkie, in case that wasn't clear) and I hope any rapper who wears a metal mask finds all the success he deserves, especially when putting out records as "Viktor Vaughn" because that's the best comic-book insider nod I've ever come across in a record store.
Futureheads, "Futureheads" I saw these guys live this year and they brought the fun and made the crowd move. But their record is dead in the water, brings none of the love I felt from their show. Putting this record in a Best of List is like trying to show you were struck by the Franz Ferdinand lightning twice. I bet you're wondering if I'm going to be putting down Franz Ferdinand on this list . . . nope, not gonna. That record really was something, it set something off back in March, some balls really got rolling, people liked it, and I feel that if you live in a land where you're not killing yourself to be into the next big thing as soon as possible at all moments, in those lands Franz Ferdinand can be your next-big-thing for a long time.
The Arcade Fire, "Whatever the Arcade Fire Record is Called" I haven't listened to this record, but it topped lots of lists. I don't know how, they played some soldout shows at the Mercury Lounge and the whole world is losing their mind and this record is topping lists off left and right and I just don't feel I have the energy to be an expert on it. I thought I heard this band has a whole lot of members in it? How can a big band be good? Whatever. If this is your favorite record of the year, then you really, really love being into the hot new music. If this is your favorite record of the year, then you must have seen Franz Ferdinand at Maxwell's last February and laugh at how popular "Take Me Out" still is in Chicago. I, however, thought I could get around to listening to the Arcade Fire and Bloc Party until later on, and now, look. Arcade Fire is everyone's favorite record. If I was going to pick a record from the end of the year by a band with some buzz to go nuts over, I'd pick Death From Above 1979's "You're a Woman, I'm a Machine." To imagine the total amazingness of this record, imagine the White Stripes, but with two Meg Whites instead of a Jack White and a Meg White, and you're headed in the right direction. It has the loudness going for it.
Scissor Sisters, "Scissor Sisters" No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Not cool. Maybe if the whole record was as good as their "Comfortably Numb" cover (definitely one of my #1 Joints of 2004) but it isn't. It's just piano-y songs. These guys should be a weird European techno band that makes one song that gets totally popular in Mexico (that would be "Comfortably Numb") and then no one ever figures out what they were all about, not some band that winds up on SNL in their overalls singing "Take Your Mama Out" or whatever it was called.
The Walkmen, "Bows + Arrows" When this record came out I loved it I drained my iPod listening to it. I also loved the Secret Machines record when it came out. Now, we're reading best of 2004 lists. Bows + Arrows is all up on them, but not Secret Machines. How come one record gets all the love and the other's forgotten? Don't tell me its 'cuz Bows + Arrows is a masterpiece that will be remembered forever, because they're both just rock records. I'm sorry. Maybe I'd still be in love with this record if the Walkmen concert I went to wasn't an encore-palooza. "The Rat", however, was another Top Joint of 2004.
Dizzee Rascal, "Showtime" C'mon, no one really liked this record that much, did they? It had two stand-out tracks ("Stand Up Tall", which set my brain on fire the first time I heard it, and "Dreams") and the rest doesn't sound all that different from "Boy in the Corner" (and you can take that to mean "The rest of the record is difficult to listen to.") And I say this as a guy who has seen Dizzee Rascal twice and would see him again. If you're going to make Showtime one of your favorite records of the year, did you even listen to Rob Sonic?
And Exactly what Best of 2004 lists do I refer myself to here? Pitchfork's mostly, of course. And Stereogum, Tiny Mix Tapes, some others, I dunno, dig around a bit.
I believe I've painted myself into a corner where I'll need to be producing a list of my "Most Slammin' Jams of 2004." I'll try to do that by 2005. It's my end of the year resolution.