Monday, December 15, 2008

Albums of the Aughts: 2004

“Funeral,” Arcade Fire
Maybe the best debut album of the decade, this Canadian band of melancholy multi-instrumentalist troubadours weaves together more musical influences than I could possibly hope to identify into an unclassifiable ethereal mixture of passion, poetry, poignancy, and power. Part requiem for family members, part celebration of music’s ability to heal open wounds, “Funeral” remains a stunning achievement. Memorable tracks abound, including “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),” “Haiti,” “Rebellion (Lies),” and my …
Favorite Track: “Wake Up,” which U2 used so effectively as their walk-on music during the 2005 Vertigo tour.

“Make A Sound,” Autopilot Off
Not much to say about this little known band from New York, other than this hard-charging pop/punk album really struck a chord with me because its chunky guitars and pounding drums sound great in the car. Also, frontman Chris Johnson’s alto sounds similar to Saves the Day lead Chris Conley, and in 2004 I was desperate for that kind of sound following STD’s 2003 mess “In Reverie.” Autopilot Off filled that void nicely.
Favorite Track: “Make A Sound”

“Rubber Factory,” The Black Keys
If Jack White is this generation’s Jimmy Page, then The Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach is Stevie Ray Vaughn with a little Hendrix thrown in on occasion, offering up thick, groovy, toned-down melodic blues of the finest caliber. Auerbach’s (mostly) restrained fuzzed-out bravado is matched by the band’s lone other member, drummer Patrick Carney, who can thunder away with the best of them behind the kit. The band’s best album is a classic of the decade with so many great songs, it’s nearly impossible to pick a …
Favorite Track: but I’ll go with closer “Till I Get My Way.”

“The Grey Album,” Danger Mouse
Like a lot of people I’m guessing, Danger Mouse’s underground classic was my first exposure to the art of true mashups. Jay-Z doesn’t do much for me on the whole, but Mouse pairing his vocals from “The Black Album” with the music from The Beatles’ “White Album” was pure genius. There isn’t a skippable track on the whole thing, what with “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” combined with “Julia,” “December 4th” over top of “Mother Nature’s Son,” “Encore” mixed with “Glass Onion,” and my …
Favorite Track: “What More Can I Say” mashed with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

“Within A Mile of Home,” Flogging Molly
Flogging Molly’s first three albums were very appropriately named: “Swagger” was full of that very thing, and follow-up “Drunken Lullabies” sounded just like, well, a bunch of drunken lullabies. “Within A Mile of Home” followed suit, showcasing more of the band’s Irish heritage than ever. Sure, they still raved up with all their considerable hellfire and brimstone power on excellent tracks like “Screaming at the Wailing Wall,” “Tobacco Island,” and “The Seven Deadly Sins,” but there’s a lot more variety here on Flogging Molly’s best album. Its heart lies in quieter numbers like “Factory Girls” (featuring Lucinda Williams), the title track, and …
Favorite Track: the heartbreaking “Whistles the Wind.”

“Franz Ferdinand,” Franz Ferdinand
This Scottish quartet set the music world on fire in 2004 with this dance/rock extravaganza. Fun, fiery, and funky all at once, Franz Ferdinand made an indelible impression, updating New Wave and making it cool again. Catchy hooks and choruses are scattered all over the self-titled disc, from “40’” to “This Fire” to
Favorite Track: the unforgettable “Take Me Out.”

“American Idiot,” Green Day
Though I disagree COMPLETELY with the politics of this record, there’s no denying its epic greatness. My goodness, what an album—from start to finish a punk rock masterpiece. I never thought the guys who named their breakthrough album “Dookie” had it in ’em, but this rock opera revival for the 21st century is an ambitious project the likes of which we hadn’t seen in years. If I were a liberal, this would definitely be one of my favorite albums of the entire decade—maybe of all time (the great Bruce Springsteen tried to match its political intensity three years later—and failed). But, personally, my heart can’t get past the rhetoric.
Favorite Track: “Are We the Waiting”

“Van Lear Rose,” Loretta Lynn
Just as Rick Rubin reintroduced Johnny Cash to my generation, Jack White did much the same by collaborating with his country music idol on this fabulous throwback gem. White only takes lead vocal on one song, “Portland Oregon,” preferring to stay in the background as musician and producer on the entire album. His work adds a definite edgy intensity to the project and draws the best out of Lynn. The legend is in fine form throughout, particularly on “Van Lear Rose,” “Have Mercy,” “High on a Mountain Top,” “Mrs. Leroy Brown,” and my …
Favorite Track: the touching “God Makes No Mistakes,” which actually reminds me of a Cash song.

“How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” U2
Though not the flat-out rock extravaganza Mr. Hype Machine Hewson predicted, “Atomic Bomb” did drop a few bombshells in 2004, starting with “Vertigo,” one of the band’s best-ever singles, while “All Because of You” was a pleasant Who homage and “City of Blinding Lights” blinded us with its epic-ness (in all the right ways, as only U2 can do it). But some of the best parts of this album were in its quieter moments, like the touching “Original of the Species,” the contemplative “A Man and a Woman,” and my …
Favorite Track: the still-goosebump-inducing opera in 5 minutes, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own.”
[original review]

“A Ghost Is Born,” Wilco
And I thought “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” took a long time to sink in! It took nearly two years to finally get to a point where I enjoyed listening to this dark-cloud disc. Seeing the band live in spring 2006 finally helped me appreciate excellent songs like “At Least That’s What You Said,” “Hummingbird,” and “Handshake Drugs,” but it was …
Favorite Track: “Company in My Back” that originally broke the seal earlier that year.

“Let It Die,” Feist
“The Futureheads,” The Futureheads
“The New What Next,” Hot Water Music
“Aha Shake Heartbreak,” Kings of Leon
“20,000 Streets Under the Sky,” Marah
“Now Here Is Nowhere,” The Secret Machines
“Straylight Run,” Straylight Run
“Where You Want To Be,” Taking Back Sunday

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