Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Top Five Albums of 2004

Tom Waits - Real Gone
This album probably qualifies as my favorite of 2004. Tom Waits' music here is exhilarating and a total thrill to listen to. He manages a progressive sound without leaving behind the storytelling and melodic creativity that makes his stuff so great. Somehow he manages to keep things sounding very organic on this album even as he employs remixing, DJ, and superb guest musicians including guitarist Marc Ribot and bassist Les Claypool. This is the best album released this year.

Medeski Martin and Wood - End of the World Party (Just in Case)
MMW experimented with a new approach on this disc. They invited John King (Dust Brother /producer on the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique and Beck's Odelay) to contribute heavily in the creation and mixing of this album. What results is perhaps MMW's most accessible acid/funk jazz for the casual listener in years. A great disc and an experiment that pushed their sound succesfully and worked out quite well.

Black Keys - Rubber Factory
The Keys' third album is great (already reviewed earlier on this blog). They've kept with the bleedingly raw blues-rock that made the first two albums interesting, but definitely moved on in the sounds and mixes department. They are able to recycle the heavy blues-rock sound of the 70s and make it sound original. I can't put my finger on how they do this, but they do it.

Groundtruther (Hunter, Previte, & Osby) - Latitude
This is by far my favorite stuff that Charlie Hunter (8-string jazz guitarist [plays the bass line as well]) has ever done. He's always been a very talented guitarist, but his stuff (studio especially) can tend to be slightly anti-climatic. This disc, thanks largely to Bobby Previte, finally seems to overcome that. I heard the two live (w/ DJ Olive) before I heard the disc and it was one of the best shows I've been to in a long time. Bobby Previte is a stellar drummer and composer and seems to push Hunter in ways that really gets his creative juices flowing. A warning: this stuff can really get out there - but man, it's cool.

Wilco - A Ghost is Born
Here is a very good album. It has been compared all over the place to Wilco's previous - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. YHF was the "in" critical darling a year or two ago. To be honest, I think YHF was overhyped and this effort surpasses it in listenability and songwriting. This album is much more subtle and minimalist, but that might be the very thing that YHF needed to truly be great. Some of the tracks here have a very Neil Young/Crazy Horseish sound, while others sound downright Beatlesesque. That is - there is nothing new here, it's the songcraft that makes this a great disc.


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