Andee's Recommended Musical Stocking Stuffers for 2K4
Even as the record industry crumbles and mainstream music continues to degenerate deeper and deeper into complete vapidity, I still managed to buy dozens of CDs this year, like I do every year. Contrary to popular opinion, there is always great music being made. You've just gotta find it. You can't depend on the radio, magazines or MTV to clue you in anymore, so it's a bit more challenging to find the musical treasures -- but trust me, the good stuff is out there.
And of course, you've always got plenty of old music to investigate. More than you could ever hope to consume in one lifetime. Just in this past year, I have discovered the wonders of Marshall Crenshaw, The Chiffons, Chaka Khan, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, The Ruts, Kylie Minogue, Killing Joke (thanks JB), The Ventures and even Hall & Oates ("Say It Isn't So" rules), to name a few. There's so much great stuff out there, the challenge is to find time for it all.
There were some very cool albums released in 2004. These are the ones I love the most:
Nellie McKay "Get Away From Me"
God damn. This chick is frighteningly talented, and a real original on top of that. Some critic called her "Ella meets Eminem" and believe it or not, that's pretty accurate. I listened to this record every day for a good part of the spring and summer. This gal is just exploding with ideas and amazing talent. If you haven't heard Nellie yet then you are truly missing out. Please, go out and buy it now.
!!! "Louden Up Now"
Yes, this NYC band with the unpronounceable name (usually spoken as "chk chk chk") are mining the currently popular "disco-punk" vein but don't write them off -- !!! do it way better than anyone else I've heard. Their phenomenal disco/funk chops suggest some serious, long-term commitment and woodshedding and the "punk" part is no pose, either -- their intelligent, celebratory and pissed-off (yes, all at the same time) lyrics are delivered dripping with cathartic attitude. Far more enjoyable than The Rapture, if you ask me.
Beastie Boys "To the 5 Boroughs"
Returning champions! This is my favorite Beasties album since "Paul's Boutique" and it is their tightest and most focused disc since their debut. A lean 40 minutes of old-school rap (no throwaway hardcore or meandering instrumental jams) with rhymes that are hilarious and politically scathing. What a joy to have these guys back.
Somehow this phenomenal English band doesn't even have an American record deal, so you're gonna have to hit Ebay to find most of their stuff. This is Moloko's fourth album and I've been following them ever since I heard "Fun for Me" in late '97. It's really hard for me to describe music like this because it is so utterly original -- some of the ingredients include electronica, pop, funk and soul, but those generic terms don't help much. "Statues" is the most band-oriented record they've made yet and the musicianship is righteous. If you ever come across their recent live dvd "11,000 Clicks," check it out. Lead chantreuse Roisin Murphy is a true diva, thoroughly captivating and totally unique; and the band is ridiculously tight. Joyful, smart, catchy, soulful, bizarre, danceable. What more do you want?
The Faint "Wet from Birth"
It's another Faint record, and another good one. It's not all that different from what they've always done, but their style is so cool that it doesn't matter. My favorite is "Dropkick the Punks." What a great title.
Prodigy "Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned"
I love Prodigy. And even though the brain of the operation has always been Liam Howlett, I was a little bummed to find out that he'd sacked both of his frontmen and principle mouthpieces, Keith Flynt and Maxim. But my trepidation was quickly obliterated upon hearing the white-hot opening track, "Spitfire," featuring a devastating vocal by Juliet Lewis. Ouch. Just blistering.
Finally got to see the man play live this year, and as you know, copies of his new album were given to all concert attendees. "Musicology" isn't one of his best, but it's still totally bangin' and brilliantly played, which is more than most mortals can muster, isn't it?
Dave Grohl is one of my favorite drummers so I'm psyched that he's played on so many great records lately -- Queens of the Stone Age's "Songs for the Deaf," Killing Joke's newest one and the ultra-heavy Probot project, in which Grohl pays tribute to his extreme metal roots.
I first discovered the magic of Motorhead about five years ago when I decided, on a whim, to pick up a used copy of "Iron Fist." Since then, I have purchased every CD I can get my hands on that bears the Motorhead moniker. To me, they are the musical equivalent of a basic food group (like, say, fiber) and I need regular doses to sustain myself. Anyway, I thought their last record "Hammered" sounded a bit tired but they really got back on track with the raging "Inferno," which just levels mountains. Lemmy come back to New York!
So that's it. My dorky "best-of" list. Happy listening and Happy Holidaze.