Guest Post by Dave Danglis
The making of "best of" lists should be left to those who expose themselves to a lot of music. Let's say...at least...I don't know, maybe 50 new releases per year?
I've said that to say this: I'm not qualified. If I know myself at all, I know that I'm pretty finicky about music, and I keep maybe half the music that enters my house. I also know that it doesn't take a lot of music to satisfy me. What the heck does this mean? I guess it means that I'd be happier with two incredible new CDs per year, than with 50 that are so-so, having maybe one decent song per disc. I'm not the sort that goes out of his way to hunt down every possible new album that might be worth mentioning. I'm probably missing out on a lot. So again I say: I'm not stinkin' qualified!
But there are still those who like to know, so this is what my year sounded like:
The Top Two CDs of the Year:
Laika & The Cosmonauts, Local Warming. I know there are those who think I'm crazy. I'm of that opinion myself. But I can't argue with the fact that no other 2004 release found its way into my CD player as much as this one. Surf rock, but so much more -- and it's the "much more" that pushes this one over the top -- a mix of The Ventures and any number of other sound-alike surf bands, with a healthy dose of Combustible Edison. The result is a blend of surf, space pop, jazz, and even some hard rock. Every song is distinctive -- the CD is never boring. My gosh, just buy a copy so I'll shut up.
Keane, Hopes & Fears. For some reason, a comparison to Sparks comes to mind. I know there are those who think I'm crazy. But this stuff is what might result if those Sparks guys lost the sarcasm and gained hearts and emotions. Check out the similarities: high-pitched lead vocalist, lots of keyboards, tons of melody. Eh? Huh? Do you see what I'm talking about? Hopes & Fears is a tremendous debut for this band; here's hoping they don't suffer too much of a sophomore slump. Because there may be no where to go but down from here.
Best of the Rest (in alphabetical order):
Air, Talkie Walkie. There's a five-song stretch that's almost perfection -- I'm talking about tracks 2 through 6. Beautiful, quirky, strange and poppy.
Collective Soul, Youth. I was afraid that I might be padding my list by adding this one -- so hard to come up with that 10th "Top 10" disc, you know. We're straying awfully close to the mainstream for my tastes, but...there are some excellent songs here. Great melodies and great sentiments. Strip away that Collective Soul style, and the songs would still stand up.
Dogs Die In Hot Cars, Please Describe Yourself. You really do have to wonder if Andy Partridge had anything to do with this CD. "I Love You 'Cause I Have To" is almost maddeningly catchy -- dang thing was stuck in my brain for days.
The Finn Brothers, Everyone Is Here. I've been on a Finn binge for the past few years, so this was a natural. In retrospect I'd have to admit that this one might not be as satisfying as some of their earlier output, but Tim and Neil still "have it."
Jeffrey Foskett, Stars in the Sand. Mainly a compilation of pre-2004 songs, this one is on my list for purely personal reasons, as opposed to all these other titles -- which are on the list for non-personal reasons, I guess.
Tears for Fears, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. I've never been much of a huge TFF fan, even though I've appreciated most of their hits and have owned a few of their CDs over the years. Therefore, it will sound hollow if I say that this is probably their overall best release. So I won't say that.
They Might Be Giants, The Spine/Indestructible Object/The Spine Surfs Alone. Can we all admit that maybe we're a little "over" these guys? Can you remember when a new TMBG release would be greeted with whoops and shouts of delight? So what has happened -- is their new stuff really that much inferior to their earlier work? I'm not so sure. Okay, the older stuff is better; it's about time They started running out of ideas. I'm not playing the new material all that often, and yet every time I do play it, I can't help but notice how good it is.
Brian WIlson, Smile. There is little that I can add to what's already been said about this CD, except for my admission that I don't appreciate it as much as I should. Brian Wilson has obviously influenced almost everything I enjoy, but -- I heard all that other stuff first. And I also admit it feels a little weird hearing a 60-something singing these songs.
Still no Self CD. I heard "Grow Up" and thought "My gosh, it's going to be a great album." But I'm still waiting. Or was it released and I missed it somehow?
Fluid Ounces, The Whole Shebang. I wonder if Seth Timbs spent himself on 1999's In The New Old Fashioned Way. He hasn't topped it since. Track one ("Paperweight Machine") promises a return to brilliance, but the rest of the album fades into forgettableness.
U2, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. I know there are those who think I'm crazy, but if Tony Shore can include the Al Franken Show on his best-of list, then I guess we're not shunning controversy here. I've tried -- heaven knows I've tried -- to enjoy this disc. And yes, there are great statements here. It's just not an album that calls out to me, demanding that it be played again and again. I don't crave it, and that's what really matters. Okay, "Vertigo" is a classic U2 track. But...sigh...I don't know. I've been kinda done with these guys for several years now.
Songs of the Year
Keane: "Somewhere Only We Know," "Your Eyes Open"
Dogs Die In Hot Cars: "Apples & Oranges"
Finn Brothers: "Won't Give In"
Tears for Fears: "Who You Are"
Collective Soul: "General Attitude"
Laika & The Cosmonauts: "Crosstown Canyon"
Air: "Surfing on a Rocket"
U2: "Vertigo" ("But...didn't you just say..." Yes, I know, but this is undeniably a great song and I do crave it sometimes.)
They Might Be Giants: "The Spine Surfs Alone"