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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Jenny Tatone's Fave Albums Of 2004

Jenny Tatone writes: Throughout the year, dozens of records magically appeared at my doorstep each week, quickly jumping from their brown bubbly packages to join one another in unsteady towering stacks on my dusty hardwoods.

Climbing out of the old orange milk crate and onto the floor next to my kitchen table, they all got together and stared at me each day, for 365 days. Forming themselves into uneven piles in and around the crate, they taunted me, chanting over and over: "Listen to us. Listen to all of us."

I covered my ears and begged them to stop. "There's just too many of you!," I'd cry, running out the front door of my apartment. "Leave me alone. Please, can't you just leave me alone?" Really, how much can one person take?

When I did listen to music, it was to the quiet guys in the corner that didn't demand so much; the old standbys, the easy loves. Maybe I was just feeling nostalgic for better times — and if there was any year to feel this way, 2004 was it.

Feeling unloved and neglected, my army of CDs turned against me. When I finally did play them, many of them blared ugly sounds of revolt. Trying to battle the old classics in the corner, they sounded sad and pathetic in comparison. But would they get away with it? I think not. Off to the record store and into the used bin they went.

Only 10 survived.

1. Devendra Banhart, Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God): This is the album that wouldn't let me get out of the car this year. Even after I'd park, I just couldn't bring myself to kill the engine, 'cause that would mean this music, so human and unfettered, would stop. And when music like this touches you like it does, meaning it shoves its fist down your throat and squeezes your heart so hard you remember why you're alive, you never want it to stop.

2. !!!!, Louden Up Now (Touch and Go): This one took awhile to grow on me. It wasn't until I caught myself dancing to their live performance one night that I realized: a) I'm dancing in public (the last live show that got me to do that was George Michael's in '85), and b) I'm dancing to — gasp! — rave music. That's what I would've called it back in the day, anyway, when I laughed at electronic music like a bad joke. But !!! got soul; there's so much human element in those pumping, irate electro-thrash cuts of theirs, you're reminded good music is good music, no matter what category it falls in.

3. The Fiery Furnaces, Blueberry Boat (Rough Trade/Sanctuary): Seems to be those times you played in the sand or the dirt or the grass with your siblings that you got the wildest ideas. Youthful imagination can't be beat in adulthood, but the brother-and-sister pair at the core of the Fiery Furnaces come damn close. No doubt they borrowed from childhood fantasies and the feisty bond only siblings know to beef up Blueberry Boat with quirky storylines, colorful invention and real emotion.

4. Deerhoof, Milkman (5RC): One of the few experimental experiments I not only understand but really like, Deerhoof are a wonderful group who offered 2004 another wonderful album. Though a bit disorienting at times, Deerhoof manage to pair adorable innocence with jolting chaos to come up with emotionally charged arrangements that show they're as interested in toying with notes as with expectations.

5. The Arcade Fire, Funeral (Merge): Though there's been too much talk of death about this Montreal sextet already, it's worth mentioning that there's no bigger experience in life than death and, since big life experience translates into powerful artistic expression, it's no wonder Arcade Fire's debut album is so full of touching moments and striking emotion. Revealing a yearning to understand and a need to release through lush string arrangements and bittersweet indie rocking, the band recently faced the loss of three different family members and came out with an amazing set, in part, because of it.

6. Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand (Sony): While Franz's sound might be too commercial for the finicky music fan's taste, their success is important to today's pop music culture. Though they've got a sound all their own, at once spastic and perfected dance-pop, the Glasgow quartet's success wouldn't be possible had bands like The Strokes and the White Stripes never broken a few years back, and it's pleasing to see interesting music continuing its march into the mainstream and into the ears of today's impressionable youth.

7. The Hunches, Hobo Sunrise (In the Red): Portland, Ore.'s best punk-rock band released their best album this year. Here, the band stripped away just enough noise and fuzz to see the heart and soul at the core of their riotous garage sound, but left enough that you still feel like you need a bath after listening. While continuing in their fascination with noisemakers and creating music with a Stooges-influenced open mind, The Hunches use this new release as an opportunity to reveal a relatively sadder, more soulful side, proving they're not limited to crazed, uninhibited thrashing alone.

8. Death From Above 1979, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine (Vice): On this one, it boils down to one thing for me: the bass. I love that Deep Purple-y bass, especially when it feels like it's coming to get me. The drum/bass duo's ferocious and heavy guitar-less sound is so mighty and power-wielding, even a concept album about lost romance comes off as dangerous. And you can thank this menacing strong-enough-to-stand-on-its-own rhythm section for that.

9. Willy Mason, Where the Humans Eat (Team Love): Having garnered favorable attention for his rare knack for being at once young and prolific, subsequently earning an opening slot with Bright Eyes, who also first got notice for his youth and proficiency, Mason is an incredible singer/songwriter with a knack for simplistic, heartfelt honesty listeners can't help but connect to. Driven by a Delta blues influence, Mason crafts raw, tell-it-like-it-is songs that — regardless of the mere 19 years under the maker's belt — feel timeless.

10. Nirvana, With the Lights Out (Geffen): A lot of fussy critics are giving this box set mixed reviews, and I think it's all a load of snobbery-induced bull. Poor recording, multiple versions, revealing covers or no — if you care about Nirvana, you want this set.

The InsiderOne Daily Report appears on occasion.



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