2004! The year of my daughter’s birth, and also the year in which I felt like the decade really started to come into its own, musically. My personal favorites from this time skew a bit indie, yet I still include some popular tunes that I really dig. Let’s wander back, shall we?
“The Rat” – The Walkmen
I tried to forget about this song! I really like it, but it’s been years since I last listened to it. The Walkmen were another one of those bands that I always meant to investigate further and never did. The drums in “The Rat” are fantastic, as well as the screaming-desperation of the vocals. While we were within the Aughts as a decade (like any other decade), it was hard to think of them having a particular “defining sound.” The Walkmen, as well as The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand (whom you’ll hear further down the column here), and a few others somewhat encompass the decade for me.
“Laura” – Scissor Sisters
I love that the Scissor Sisters own their delightful strangeness with the costumes, unusual dance beats mixed with guitar, and the general camp attitude. Once again, they are a band I’ve meant to pay more attention to over the years, but they’ve ended up being one that I enjoy when I happen to stumble across them, but I do not own anything by them. 2004 was the year they debuted, and though they are American, they’ve been much more successful in the UK and elsewhere.
“Black Horse and The Cherry Tree” – KT Tunstall
KT Tunstall is someone I’d heard of for months through a few UK-based internet friends, yet it seemed like it took forever for her album to be released in the US. I love that she uses a looper pedal while playing the song live, and even though this song eventually ended up playing everywhere, I never grew tired of it. I quite prefer her live method more than the studio version, but both are good.
One of those friends who introduced me to her music died shortly thereafter from diabetes complications, so I also always think of him when I listen to this song. RIP, Mick.
“Sprout and The Bean” – Joanna Newsom
When I was a kid, I remember being disappointed that the harp was not one of the stringed instruments offered as part of the orchestra. Me being me, of course I wanted the giant, complicated and more rare instrument that’s also probably the most expensive as well. Gee, I can’t imagine why they didn’t want to hand one over to a ten-year-old. I chose viola instead, and three years later, switched to cello. Still, I experience a bit of harpist envy from time to time, and Joanna Newsom is one of those musicians who seems to have arrived from another planet – with her unusual voice and her talent – to make me remember such things.
She’s also one of those musicians that I find quite odd to watch sing. Something about the way her mouth moves. I know that’s a weird hang-up to have – I feel that way about Cat Power and Morrissey too – but at least with her, I can concentrate on the harp-playing. That’s some magic.
“Take Me Out” – Franz Ferdinand
Another performance from Jools Holland! I miss watching that show now that I don’t have BBC America. “Michael” is probably my favorite from their debut self-titled album (“Michael, you’re the one with the leather hips…”), but “Take Me Out” is the single that people likely remember. The whole album is enjoyable, but I could never get into their second one. It was the last CD my dad bought me before he died and between that and its title – You Could Have It So Much Better – it’s felt easier to let it languish. Maybe it’s a good album, but I’m still not quite ready for it yet.
“This is The Last Time” – Keane
Oh, radio and TV and magazines killed my goodwill for Keane, even if I do still like this song. What initially attracted me was the “bigness” of their sound – the soaring vocals, pianos, and strings. Yes, yes, they are tailor-made for radio and stadium play, and that’s fine; I never begrudge a band their success. However, their other singles were played so, so often and they kept popping up in the music magazines I read moaning about how hard it was to be famous that I got a bit… Well, STFU, you whingers. This is what you signed on for – if you didn’t want people to hear your music, you would’ve never left the bedroom or garage in the first place.
Anyway, this is a good tune.
“World Turning” (Live in Boston) – Fleetwood Mac
In August 2004, I was able to see Fleetwood Mac play live in Spokane, WA, and the set list was very similar to their Live in Boston release from earlier that year. With so many additional musicians hired to tour with them, I imagine that does not lead to much spontaneity. There would be too many elements to coordinate, and they are no E Street Band. Though Christine McVie no longer tours with them, this version of “World Turning” is still very good with Stevie taking over her vocals. This embedded video is a rather extended version of what is on the live album, with Mick Fleetwood doing his mad drummer solo. With the drum vest! Only Mick Fleetwood could make a drum vest solo work, I think. He’s great, and even though I was in the nosebleeds during the gig I saw, it was still a magnificent experience.
“The Long Road” – Tiger Army
“The Long Road” is what hints at singer Nick13’s future alt-country solo career. Instead of Tiger Army’s usual punk rock, they take a rockabilly turn and involve some pedal-steel and I dig it so much. This song sounds like it belongs on a California desert road trip film.
“More Adventurous” – Rilo Kiley
Another slidey-woozy-sad-geetar features here, and I do love Rilo Kiley’s melancholy tunes. Jenny Lewis almost purrs the sad lines:
I’ve been trying to nod my head
But it’s like I’ve got a broken neck
Wanting to say “I will” as my last testament.
For you to be saved and me to be brave
We don’t have to walk down that aisle
Cause if marriage ain’t enough,
Well, at least we’ll be loved
More Adventurous is an excellent album, by the way. I could have recommended just about any song from it here, but decided to go with the title track.
“Club Foot” – Kasabian
Why have I not bought this album yet? Seriously. “Club Foot” is such a great song full of fuzzy, grimy British rock and I love it. Kasabian clearly went to the metaphorical Oasis School of Rock, but they’ve still managed to do their own thing and have managed to tour with both Oasis and Beady Eye, which is certainly a great gig for former teenagers who used to have their mums drive them to see stadium gigs. I have a later Kasabian album, Empire, but this is an excellent reminder to start filling in the catalog.
“One Way Road” – Paul Weller
Sometimes, a musician can be inspired by another, and a funny thing happens – the inspired musician can end up influencing the person who made them want to start playing in the first place, and it all becomes a tidy circle of musical love. Paul Weller, the Modfather himself from The Jam and Style Council, released a covers album in 2004, and one of the songs is an Oasis b-side rarity by Noel Gallagher, “One Way Road.” Noel’s version is much more melancholy and quiet compared to Weller’s almost jaunty rendition. Somewhat predictably, I dig both.
I wanna get high, but I really can’t take the pain…
“Take Me Anywhere” – Tegan and Sara
Take me by the hand and tell me
you would take me anywhere
Even though I always enjoy listening to Tegan and Sara, 2004’s So Jealous is the only album of theirs that I own. It’s really solid, so I had a hard time deciding which song to feature here. I picked “Take Me Anywhere” since it’s in that familiar territory of being a mess, yet still feeling loved. It’s nice.
“Jolene” – Ray LaMontagne
Aw, look at Ray LaMontagne sportin’ the beard-rock look before it became trendy. Bless ‘im. Now, here’s an album, Trouble, I do own, yet I always forget that I do. I should really remember to put it on more often because it’s lovely in a hurts-so-good way. He’s a very private person and does not give a lot of interviews, and the very few I’ve read, he’s been a bit cranky because interviewers decide to prod him about his life anyway. I find him interesting and a great musician.
“Playing with Pink Noise” – Kaki King
I first saw Kaki King perform on David Letterman, and my dad must have seen the performance because within the next few days, he’d called me up and mentioned buying the album, Legs to Make Us Longer. He burned me a copy and popped it in the mail soon after that. And as far as royalties go, if it makes you feel better, know that I’ve since inherited the purchased copy since he died in 2005. It’s entirely instrumental, and it’s rather amazing she gets sounds from finger-picking and tapping her guitar. The whole album makes for great writing music. On later albums she sings (Here she is covering The Smith’s “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”), and her voice is wispy and wonderful, but I dig the instrumentals too.
“Big Pimpin’/Papercut” – Jay-Z and Linkin Park
Collision Course is actually one of my favorite albums from the Aughts, even though Jay-Z and Linkin Park are not among my all-time favorite artists. I like them both, but there was a certain amount of magic when they decided to mash-up their songs. The accompanying DVD with live footage is quite funny to watch because at first, fans of one don’t quite know what to make of the other, and yet at a certain point, they all come together and decide that this is a really cool collaboration.
All right friends, 2004 was a pretty good year for music, so do peruse Wikipedia’s roundup, and tell me your favorites.