Walking Concert – Run To Be Born
As Walter Schreifels gets older, his bands get mellower, step by sonic step. From Gorilla Biscuits to Quicksand, Rivals Schools to Walking Concert, it’s a progression strung together by his voice & guitar, and with songwriting that rarely lets me down.
download What’s Your New Thing? (mp3)
The Futureheads – Self-Titled
Wow. A little bit o’ Jam, a dash o’ Housemartins, borrows liberally from the old and ends up sounding, well, like the old. So it’s derivative as all get out, but it milks the good stuff. “Meantime” makes me want to jump around the room like a giddy schoolboy. One time I, uh, think I even did. And no, it wasn’t pretty.
download Decent Days and Nights (mp3)
The Album Leaf – In a Safe Place
No matter what mental state I’m in, Jimmy LaValle is able to relax me with just a couple keyboard notes and a programmed beat. The guy can do no wrong in my book, even with added guest vocals on a couple songs this time around.
download On Your Way (mp3)
The New Year – The End Is Near
With this album, the New Year fully embraces their Bedheady past and finds the perfect balance between what they are now and what got ’em here. Any wounds I suffered at Bedhead’s breakup are now entirely healed. I just wish ‘Chinese Handcuffs’ went on a little longer.
“I wish that song was a whole day long… that’d be the best day, that day.” – kith
download Chinese Handcuffs (mp3) / download Disease (mp3)
The Arcade Fire – Funeral
Yeah, yeah. You knew it was gonna be here. From a slight buzz to all-out-hype faster than the strumming in “Power Out”, the supposed over-blogging and hipster backlash can all be ignored… not just because the songs on this album measure up, but because their live show exceeds it all.
download Wake Up (mp3) / download a complete live set (mp3s)
Pinback – Summer In Abaddon
While I’ve liked Pinback for a little while, it wasn’t until this record that I really loved ’em. Something clicked, and I’m digging through the back catalog with newfound enthusiasm. Looking forward to them live sometime this year.
download Fortress (mp3)
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Shake the Sheets
It’s a safe bet that any Ted release would end up in that particular year’s list, even it doesn’t reach the highs of the previous ones. Shake the Sheets is a solid record, with some great songs, but none that really hit me in that specific, receptive brainspot that certain songs do. That said, the tracks took on added impact when I saw them live, and made me appreciate the album even more.
download Me and Mia (mp3) / download some live tracks (mp3s)
Matt Pond PA – Emblems
Like Pinback, Matt Pond PA was a band I appreciated but wasn’t passionate about, but seeing them live and hearing Emblems all the way through changed that easily. Time to dive into the whole discography.
download Grave’s Disease (mp3)
Stereolab – Margerine Eclipse
I’d call this a much-appreciated return to form, but it’s not like they’d gotten terribly off-track with 2001’s Sound Dust. They’ve come full circle since the sterility of Dots & Loops, which nearly shoved me off of the Stereolab train. Glad I hung on, though.
download live tracks from 2004 (mp3)
Hot Snakes – Audit in Progress
They’ve got their sound, and they’ve got it down. A formula that works and works and works, that pummels and energizes and just makes me want to see them on stage again & again. As Chris wrote to me, “It’s no Rocket From the Crypt, but wow wow wow.” My sold-out-peel-session-seven-inch story ends sweetly: Chris bought an extra copy of that limited and long-gone Snakes’ vinyl, and sent it to me as a surprise. Most. Thoughtful. Friend. Ever.
download Hi-Lights (mp3)
Interpol – Antics
A disc that doesn’t only avoid the sophomore slump, but overcomes the worst leadoff track for a good album that I can remember. Took me awhile to get past that, but once I did… tracks 2 through 10 got constant play, with ‘Not Even Jail’ being one of my favorite songs of the year. And it’s not just because the ending of it gets me kinda nostalgic for Starlight.
watch Interpol videos
Snow Patrol – The Final Straw
While my Snow Patrol enthusiasm has faded a bit from where it was this time last year, I’d be remiss to leave this disc off the list. It spent a lot of time in my player, and I saw ’em no less than four times in ’04. Thing is, I enjoyed each show a little less than the previous one. Too much of a good thing? Could be.
download live acoustic tracks (mp3)
The Sixth Great Lake – Sunday Bridge
This album renders the title ‘favorite discs’ inaccurate, unless of course you’re talking about the black wax kind… because it’s vinyl only for now. This choice isn’t a favor for friends (and what a weak favor that would be), but one that came from repeated flips from side A to side B and back over again. These three songwriters have never blended better than they have here, with four songs from each of them, Zach then Chris then Mike and repeat.
They were kind enough to let me share ‘Fool’, transferred from colored vinyl to mp3. Order the vinyl direct from the band, or ask your favorite independent record retailer, since Carrot Top Distribution is now on board. Fingers crossed for a cd release sometime in ’05.
download Fool (mp3)
Rilo Kiley – More Adventurous
A really good album kept from total greatness by 2 or 3 weak songs (*cough* token blake ditty *cough*), but the first three alone are just pure pop genius. I don’t think it has the personal staying power of The Execution of All Things, but time and distance will tell.
download a complete live set (mp3s)
Explosions In The Sky – The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
Technically released in late ’03, but undiscovered by me until ’04, America’s answer to Mogwai grabbed me from the first note of the first epic instrumental. They’re taking this year off to record a Travels in Constants EP, and to write their next record, due sometime in 2006.
download Memorial (edit) (mp3) / download live sets
Elliott Smith – From a Basement on the Hill
A farewell that wasn’t supposed to be, it’s impossible to listen to this and not get sad… to not imagine of what his next album might have sounded like. I still can’t believe that he’s gone, it still doesn’t make sense.
download Twilight (mp3)