Cuckoo's Eleven - The Best of 2004

 

Top Eleven Songs of 2004:

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  1. Modest Mouse - Float On

  2. Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out

  3. The Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)

  4. The Walkmen - The Rat

  5. Green Day - Jesus of Suburbia

  6. Morrissey - First of the Gang to Die

  7. The Killers - Somebody Told Me

  8. Muse - Time is Running Out

  9. U2 - Vertigo

  10. DJ Dangermouse - 99 Problems

  11. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Me and Mia

Honorable Mentions:
Keane - Somewhere Only We Know
Velvet Revolver - Big Machine
Interpol - Next Exit
The Delgados - Keep on Breathing
Iron & Wine - Each Coming Night
The Futureheads - Meantime

 

1

Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand

"So I'm on BBC2 now, telling Terry Wogan how I made it / What I made is unclear, but his deference is and his laughter is / My words and smile are so easy now / So find me and follow me through corridors, refectories and files / You must follow, leave this academic factory."

Cited as the U.K.'s response to the "White Strokes," this Scottish quartet claims it would have changed the history of Europe had they replaced the Austrian-Hungarian Archduke. Enough for me to buy the album, and I wasn't disapointed in the least.

 
2

The Arcade Fire – Funeral

"You change all the lead / sleepin' in my head to gold / as the day grows dim / I hear you sing a golden hymn / the song I've been trying to say.”

Chapel Hill's Merge Records struck gold with this Montreal based band. Recorded in the aftermath of four family members' deaths. This quintet melds stringed arrangements with honest lyrics that are reminiscent of Jeff Buckley's Grace. 

3

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Shake The Sheets

"As I was walking through a life one morning / the sun was out, the air was warm, but / Oh, I was cold / And though I must have looked half a person / to tell the tale, in my own version / It was only then that I felt whole.”

A prolific songwriter that released the critically acclaimed Hearts of Oak in 2003. More powerfully charged than its predecessor, Shake the Sheets is living proof that locking yourself in a New Jersey basement can be beneficial.

4

Green Day – American Idiot

"I'm the son of rage and love / The Jesus of suburbia / From the bible of none of the above / On a steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin / No one ever died for my sins in hell / As far as I can tell / At least the ones I got away with.”

A Punk Rock Opera? Believe it. Front man Billy Joe Armstrong's songwriting has matured, widening the spectrum of their genres without the contrast issues of Nimrod and Warning. Influences of The Clash and Bowie clearly come through. 

5

DJ Dangermouse – The Grey Album

"You gotta pardon Jay, for sellin out the Garden in a day / I'm like a young Marvin in his hey' / I'm a hustler homey, you a customer crony / Got some, dirt on my shoulder, could you brush it off for me?”

By far the most advanced album of the year. English DJ Dangermouse samples The Beatles' White Album as a backdrop for Jay-Z's "final" album (anyone who uses the line "When I come back like Jordan, wearing the 4-5" has to have at least one comeback album). How is it that anyone can cover Yesterday and it isn't a problem, but the minute someone uses Helter Skelter as a sample, EMI files a cease and desist order? Beyond the creative blend of two genres, this is a great rap album. If you're interested in listening to this album, email me.

6

Muse – Absolution

"You're working so hard / and you're never in charge / Your death creates success / and you'll build and suppress.”

After The Bends, Radiohead chose one path in the fork in the road. Ever wonder what would have happened if they chose the other path? This is it. Matthew Bellamy rivals/resembles Cinjun Tate as the best voice in rock today.

7

Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News

“"Bad news comes don't you worry even when it lands / Good news will work its way to all them plans / We both got fired on the exactly the same day / Well we'll float on good news is on the way.”

A Washington-state based band that's been around for some time, but became more mainstream with impressive results. Punk, Brass, Pop concoctions start the album off to an upbeat start. The last four tracks are a different sound (for those who like Float On and for the long-time fans), almost to the point where it should have been the Blame it on the Tetons EP.

8

Morrissey – You Are The Quarry

"You must be wondering how / the boy next door turned out / have a care / but don’t stare - he’s still there ... no, it’s just more lock-jawed pop-stars / thicker than pig-shit / nothing to convey / so scared to show Intelligence / It might smear their lovely career.”

Now that Morrissey's share of the bill has been paid to former record label EMI (reason #2 why this record label is evil), The Guv'nor has returned with both arms swinging. Touching on racial prejudice accusations, one-dimensional frontmen, and American policy, Morrissey's lyrics are as sharp as ever, and are worth the price of admission alone.

9

The Killers – Hot Fuss

"Breaking my back just to know your name / Seventeen tracks and I've had it with this game / … / Ready? Let's roll onto something new / Taking its toll and I'm leaving without you.”

Founded in Nevada, signed in the U.K., and all thanks to an Oasis gig in Las Vegas. Firm handshake to Mr. Noel Gallagher for making Brandon Flowers realize he "needed more guitar," quit his neo-synth band, and record this album.

10

Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days

"There are things that drift away like our endless, numbered days / Autumn blew the quilt right off the perfect bed she made / And she's chosen to believe in the hymns her mother sings / Sunday pulls its children from the piles of fallen leaves.”

Floridian singer-songwriter Sam Beam moved from the bedroom to the studio to record his second album, with impressive results. Warm, hushed, subtle.

11

The Futureheads – The Futureheads

"Its another lonely winters day / December's coming soon / Gonna need your coat / … / Gonna cut your hair / Gonna loose your mind playing truth or dare.”

If the Scottish music scene was a grade school, Franz Ferdinand would be the cool kids, The Futureheads would be the art geeks. Sounds harsh, but it's better than being Travis, the guys who would turn in a compilation of all the term papers it used over the past 7 years (exactly why those guys dumped a "singles" album I'll never know). 

Honorable Mention


 

 

HM

Velvet Revolver – Contraband

"All that first class jetset brings me down, down, down / All that first-class drug shit brings me down, down, down / We're all slaves to a big machine.”

Lots of people don't like Scott Weiland; hence, they didn't give this album a shot. Contraband certainly isn't Appetite, nor is it Core, but it's proof of a few critical points: Weiland is at the top of his list for frontmen of his era (sit down, Eddie); Slash & Co. are back again; and Axl really is insane. It's an album full of emotions, recovery, and retribution. Weiland really can function when he's surrounded by those who've fought his battles.

Now that I've written that, the odds of Scott Weiland being arrested for drug possesion have just increased tenfold. But, hey - if the Red Sox can break their curse, then so can Crackerman.

 
HM

The Delgados – Universal Audio

"Just another list of consequences of things that we do / Just another hit of happiness that we have to live through / In and out of all the reasons and all the whys and wherefors / Just want to keep on breathing.”

After two records with Flaming Lips producer David Fridmann (see also Hate, ranked #9 in 2003's list), this Scottish group stripped down their stringed arrangements and recorded an album that any New Pornographers fan would appreciate.

HM

Steve Earle – The Revolution Starts ... Now

"Been called a traitor and a patriot / Call me anything you want to but / Just don’t forget your history / Dirty Lenny died so we could all be free.

You may criticize celebrities for vocalizing their political beliefs; however, Steve Earle took it to the studio and at least did something positive. My guess is that Earle is sitting somewhere with Hunter S. Thompson (who wrote a scathing article against W. in Rolling Stone last fall), wondering where it all went wrong.

HM

Interpol – Antics

"You've been building up steam / Ignited by this fight / So do this thing with me / Instead of tying on a tight one tonight.”

Antics is a notable sophomore effort from this Joy Division-influenced band from NYC. Despite slight concern for one-trick-pony-syndrome, still makes Honorable Mention.

HM

The Walkmen – Bows & Arrows

“Changing your strut when you know I’m behind you/Changing your ways cause you don’t know what to do.”

Another strong new band in the long line of NYC bands with early-80s influences. The Rat is a song that hangs with the best of Interpol and Longwave.