Obligatory Top CDs List 2004

With all the changes that 2004 brought I didn’t get to nearly as many new records as I usually would, and I’m still trying to catch up so this list is very much in flux. But then, I’ve never written such a list without a disclaimer of some sort… This list is in a rough order, but not a fixed one. It also does not contain Julie Lee’s Stillhouse Road purely because I listened to it so much in 2003. For a more accurate picture of what I’ve actually been listening to this year, there’s audioscrobbler.

Nick CaveLyre Of Orpheus/Abbattoir Blues

I came to this one a little later than I’d hoped but can’t stop hitting repeat. The inclusion of London Community Gospel Choir and a few production choices mean at times this has a bit of a ‘worship album’ feel, but every now and again that’s ok. Probably what a worship album ought to be.

Sam PhillipsA Boot And A Shoe

Not my favourite Sam Phillips release (Martinis & Bikinis still takes that title) but the first one I’ve seen her tour. The lyrics are customarily intricate, the emotions a little less guarded than they’ve sometimes been, and the concert was little short of a revelation.

WilcoA Ghost Is Born

It’s been talked about to death, and my perception is probably once again coloured by seeing them live for the first time, but this really feels like the album on which Wilco begin to deliver on all that promise. On a drive to Traverse City in October we listened to all Wilco’s albums in sequence, realising that none of them have been as much of a departure as some critics would have us believe, but this one certainly does feel the most mature. Very carefully constructed/sequenced, its an album that brings out the old cliche ‘where will they go next?’

Brian WilsonSmile

Long awaited etc. etc. etc. About as good as pop gets. The second time Van Dyke Parks’ work appears on this list.

Polyphonic SpreeTogether We’re Heavy

They’d played most of these live before releasing the album, but it’s still great to hear them on record. The production lives up to the tunes in a way that the first album couldn’t, and the result is more fun than any album deserves to be.

AirTalkie Walkie

We just kept playing this over and over.

Tom WaitsReal Gone

Another recent acquisition and one that I haven’t yet given the time it deserves, but it’s a strong release from a man who doesn’t really make weak ones. I think everything I love about Tom Waits can be found here somewhere.



David ByrneGrown Backwards

David Byrne was the soundtrack for about half of our summer (the Spree were the other half). I think I probably preferred “Into The Eyeball”, but this certainly demonstrates he still has an ear for a good song.

LamchopAw C’mon/No You C’mon

One of two double albums on the list, this one isn’t quite such a tight collection as Mr. Cave’s and still doesn’t quite top “Nixon” in the Lambchop album ratings, but Kurt Wagner demonstrates once again that strange knack for conjuring an intimate sound from a 14-or-so-piece band. Once I start this pair playing, they usually keep going for several days.

Sufjan StevensSeven Swans

I’ve probably talked too much about the surprise I experienced when I spotted one of Sufjan’s singles in the Junction11 studio some months ago. He moved from being ‘that guy Denison is really into’ to ‘that guy every one seems to be into’ remarkably quickly. This album is more complex than “Michigan”, which was itself a good release, and shows there’s far more substance than you’d expect from his meteoric rise.

Woven HandConsider The Birds

I’ve been a fan of 16 Horsepower—David Eugene Edwards’ main band—for some time but despite being very taken with the first Woven Hand album never got round to buying it. On the strength of this (which I’ve written about in more details elsewhere) I’m going to have to.

The Arcade FireFuneral

One of those bands who’ve been discussed to death on many other blogs. A friend recommended them a few months ago, and that combined with a few clips on the web had me convinced. They’re one of those bands whose influences are at first far too apparent (when we first played the album in the car, I couldn’t help but comment on the influences apparent on each and every track) but it’s a real grower and those influences are better melded than it first appears.

Iain ArcherFlood The Tanks

A very long time in coming, but probably worth the wait.

U2How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

Solid, but not really a development. I listened to this over and over in the week before its release (that online streaming thing) but by the time of release, as the reviews and other furore refused to abate, it felt like time for a break. I’m sure the tour will be great. There aren’t any surprises, but when the band is U2 that’s not all bad.

Pedro The LionAchilles Heel

I’m not quite so taken with this as I was with Control, but it certainly showed that the band deserve the sell-out crowd that showed up when they played at Calvin in November. Dave Bazan’s storytelling is carefully layered, evocative and empathetic. And he upsets a lot of the CCM world, so that’s good too 🙂

The Postal ServiceGive Up

The one or two standout tracks on here are what makes the album for me. The opening “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and “Such Great Heights” stand tall above the rest of the songs, but it’s still a nice little album that belies its side-project status.


  1. What to say next?

    A number of people (Martin) rag on me for not blogging very often, but really it’s kind of a liability of a ‘theme blog’ – James is in the US, the wedding is done, and the wait for the green card continues. No new news in that department. Unfortunately…

  2. I’m with you on the ones I know there (apart maybe from the U2 album, which I think is possibly their weakest, and Bjork which I really haven’t got used to yet) – Nick Cave in particular. The Lyre of Orpheus CD won’t play for me on my computer, which drives me mad. And doesn’t ‘Fable of the Brown Ape’ scare you quite a bit?

    Also, I’d dispute the presence of the Postal Service, I’m SURE I heard ‘Such Great Heights’ (if it’s the apartment complex/out of context one) in a club back in the summer of 2003…

    How do you do this trackback thing anyway?

  3. I’d be disappointed with a Nick Cave album if there weren’t at least one song that was scary 🙂

    I’m not sure I’d say the new album is U2’s weakest. I actually prefer it to Joshua Tree right now. It’s not one of their strongest, but I have enjoyed it a lot.

    You’re very right about The Postal Service. That release was in fact from February 2003. Ah well.

    As to trackback, moveabletype does it automatically. For blogger, check out http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=987&topic=40

  4. I don’t really know the other Nick Cave albums, this was the first one that’s really grabbed me.

    Thanks, I’ll check out the Trackback thing!

    U2-wise, I’m in the camp of fools who thought they were going the right way with Pop and that ATYCLB was a big step back…

  5. I only really know the previous two Nick Cave albums. Of those, I’d recommend “No More Shall We Part”.

    Less with the ‘fools’ please! My take is that they were going the right way with Achtung Baby and Zooropa. With Pop they showed where that could have gone if they’d actually produced the record that Pop shows was in their imagination. ATYCLB and HTDAAB are good records, but they don’t sparkle like the three before them.

  6. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll get it once I’ve got the albums by Joanna Newsom, Frankie Machine, another Van Morrison album etc. etc.

    In the meantime, have my Convoluted Sentence Of The Week award:

    ‘With Pop they showed where that could have gone if they’d actually produced the record that Pop shows was in their imagination.’

  7. I live for that award! 🙂

  8. My views are remarkable similar to Martin’s (even so far as this being the first Nick Cave album to take my notice in a serious way). But, I strongly divert from him on Medulla – you’re right to say it’s entrancing.