By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Remix culture’s bandwagon-jumping also helped propel Jadakiss’s "Why?" toward folk prescience. Initially, the Bronx rapper’s solo song asked timely questions — a mix and match of news reporting ("Why they let The Terminator win the election") and conspiracy theorizing ("Why did Bush knock down the towers?"). But as the track hit the community’s nerve, the inevitable mixtape versions featured others rappers — platinum kings like Common and Nas among them — barking social plaints, like it was the mean new "Walking Blues," and everybody deserved a verse (which in 2004 they got).
Modest Mouse’s "Float On" wasn’t interested in conveying news items. Instead, it dealt in elemental surrender and blind hope. The breakout hit by the West Coast indie-rock careerists was proof of continued detachment by post-collegiate types, even faced with unemployment ("we were gonna quit anyways") and rip-offs ("worth it just to learn some sleight of hand"). The great anthemic chorus blasting from alt-rock radio all year assured that "we’ll all float on OK," though contrary evidence was all around.
Country Music Association’s newcomer of the year Gretchen Wilson also didn’t peddle current events, but her Song of the Year–nominated "Redneck Woman" foretold a post-11/2 truth. Unlike the suburban divas Nashville manufactured during the ’90s economic bubble, Wilson is gloriously white trash, and this honky-tonk rebel yell — produced by country’s finest gay-friendly production team (Big & Rich) — revealed red and blue divisions unaffected by evangelical morality rolls. Had Kerry used it instead of "No Surrender" in the South, things could’ve turned out differently.
(Life-changing reissues and previously unreleased rarities from back in the days when nobody said lame things like "back in the day")
1. Cheifs, Holly-West Crisis (Dr. Strange)
2. Twisted Roots, Twisted Roots (Bacchus Archives)
3. Urinals, Negative Capability (Warning Label)
4. Wire, On the Box: 1979 (Pink Flag)
5. Really Red, Teaching You the Fear (Empty)
6. Métal Urbain, Anarchy in Paris! (Acute)
8. The Cramps, How To Make a Monster (Vengeance)
9. The Ramones. It was a great year to be a Ramones fan, if you overlooked the premature death of yet another original member, Johnny. Rival Greek choruses pushed for space around the freshly dug graves to tell their competing Rashomon versions of the Ramones myth, with drummer Marky’s relentlessly satiating DVD, Ramones Raw (Image Entertainment), and Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia’s more-tragic-than-comic documentary End of the Century (Magnolia Pictures) best capturing the band’s Rockaway Beach of the mind. Gabba gabba sad.
Top 10 songs played before the Dodgers came up to bat in 2004!
Shawn Green — "Song 2" (Blur)
Milton Bradley — "Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang" (Dr. Dre)
David Ross — "Break Ya Neck" (Busta Rhymes)
Eric Gagne — "Welcome to the Jungle" (Guns N’ Roses)
By Falling James
1. The Dresden Dolls, The Dresden Dolls (8 Ft.). Under the face paint and grand theatrical flourishes, the year’s cleverest songwriting, alternately fanciful and romantically doomy.
2. Mission of Burma, ONoffON (Matador). "Prepared" is heartbreakingly pretty amid the postpunk chaos, while the melodically blurry "Falling" evokes both a rapturous dreamtime flight and the last thoughts of a man plunging ruefully to his death.
3. Dead Moon, Dead Ahead (Tombstone). "We’re the best-kept secret in a world where no one survives," these contrarian garage-rock visionaries howl balefully and quite truthfully from their cave in the Oregon forest.
4. Neko Case, The Tigers Have Spoken (Anti). On her first live album, the reigning anti-diva takes her country roots into brave new dark-pop worlds.
6. Biblical Proof of UFOs, Interstellar Messages (Old Testament Aliens). The state of the art in local modern hard-rock -propulsiveness.
7. Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, Oh My Girl (Barsuk). Transcendently languorous pastoral interludes.
8. Johnny Dowd, Cemetery Shoes (Bongo Beat). Johnny’s jealous that his bride got to wear the wedding dress, and other deadpan hilarious calamities.
9. Sally Timms, In the World of Him (Touch & Go). Cowboy Sally pumps up the spaciness on balladry by her favorite male -songwriters.
10. The Things!, Major Bailey’s Menagerie (www.the-things.com). Only Nancy Mitchell, with that heroically powerful voice, can breathe new life into "Strychnine."
11. Love, On Earth Must Be (Castle Blue EP). Stormy pop rainbows fluttering delicately on the wings of fantastic feathered fish, Arthur Lee’s first new songs in a decade. Gorgeous.
12. Girlschool, Believe(Communique). Harder & heavier than any pack of riot grrls.8 Eerie CDs
1. The Cramps, How To Make a Monster (Vengeance). Can’t-fucking-live-without-it slew of unhinged rarities.
2. Vic Mizzy, Songs for the Jogging Crowd (Vicster). Just as it so memorably did during his Addams Family–Green Acres heyday, the genius of composer-musician Mizzy, on his first-ever album, reigns supreme.