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2004 New Music Roundup

As 2004 ends, mostly for my own purposes I find myself wanting to write a quick round-up of the music Sarah and I have purchased or received this year. 2004 is notable in that it's the first year I've made a significant number of purchases of downloadable music, entirely from allofmp3.com. However, that doesn't mean I didn't buy a bunch of actual physical albums as well. Not as many as some people, but a good handful.

Here they are, with a short summary of my thoughts on each one.

Vivaldi for Valentines - despite the drugstore-marketing title, a great selection of romantic Vivaldi pieces performed by various orchestras from across the world. I don't know classical music too well, but I still enjoy listening to it, so simple collections like this are pleasant to have around.

In the Zone, Britney Spears - In my opinion, Britney's albums have all gone downhill since her first. In fact, the best songs written for 2001's Britney were only available as b-sides on singles. In the Zone is decent, but I could take it or leave it. Sarah, on the other hand, can't be persuaded to give any Britney album a pass.

A Love Supreme, John Coltrane - What can I say about this? Absolutely fantastic.

Hard Candy, Counting Crows - Another solid album from a solid band. Counting Crows never really pushes the envelope, but they do manage to put together an entertaining album. Hard Candy doesn't have the emotional kick that August and Everything After does, but that doesn't mean it's not a good album.

Tales of a Librarian, Tori Amos - A greatest-hits collection from an artist with lots of great hits. Sarah and I are big Tori fans (we have more of her albums and singles than any other artist) so this was a no-brainer. Very solid, with lots of additions for long-time fans (like a keen DVD!).

Afterglow, Sarah McLachlan - Her first album since she went on hiatus (to get married and have a child) isn't as moving as her earlier albums, but again, it's very solid and worth owning.

Sabla Tolo: Journeys Into Pure Egyptian Percussion, Hossam Ramzy - Ramzy, the Egyptian percussionist who performed on Peter Gabriel's incredible Passion: Music for the Last Temptation of Christ, has released numerous albums of fantastic Middle Eastern percussion, primarily for use by belly dancers. I find them absolutely stunning to listen to even though I own no hip scarves.

In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988 - 2003, R.E.M. - A wonderful collection of singles, rarities, and b-sides for fans of R.E.M. who came in late in the game (hello, I was three when they released their first album). It has loads of great tracks. You have to hear "Star Me Kitten" as performed by William S. Burroughs.

Get Away From Me, Nellie McKay - a musical suckerpunch to Norah Jones' Come Away With Me's jaw, this album is the result of an incredibly talented singer and musician being given the freedom to run wild in a studio. Two discs of great tunes that run from swing to rap, jazz to disco, all with a tongue-in-cheek ironic view of the world. Very highly recommended.

Music from the Motion Picture "Mona Lisa Smile" - while the movie was a fairly straightforward romantic comedy (featuting one of my favourite actresses, Ginnifer Goodwin), the soundtrack is wonderful. Contemporary artists, most of whom don't actually record jazz music, singing old jazz and swing classics. When Seal performs "Mona Lisa," he sounds as good as Nat King Cole himself.

The Lost Christmas Eve, Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Okay, I admit it. I'm a sucker for decent symphonic rock music. When the Trans-Siberian Orchestra goes over the top it's almost embarassing to listen to, but when they're on, they're really on. While this album is a bit too much to listen to in one sitting, it's a great addition to a nice long Christmas mix playlist.

Barenaked for the Holidays, Barenaked Ladies - A nice collection of holiday music from a band I enjoy. I'm crossing my fingers hoping that "Hanukkah Blessings" replaces that ear-bleeding Adam Sandler schlock as the song that all the hip TV shows/radio stations play when they want to pass as inclusive.

Spin, Darren Hayes - Sarah and I have always loved Savage Garden. I fondly remember the day (long before we were married) that we both went to the local mall and bought ourselves copies of their first album. (We weren't really planning ahead.) Hayes' solo album isn't quite as catchy as his work as part of Savage Garden, but it's still enjoyable.

Who Do You Think I Am, Sinéad Lohan - Lohan gained some minor fame in the U.S. when her single, "No Mermaid," got some airplay shortly after the release of her second album. Sarah introduced me to that album, and I've loved its quirky folk-rock sound ever since. Recently I decided to hunt down her first album, an Ireland-only release that topped the local charts there for a time, and picked it up for a song from someone on GEMM. It's just as good as her second, and just as quirky. I love it.

Reloaded: Greatest Hits, Tom Jones - I have a fondness for people who manage to make a career out of... well, I have a fondness for Tom Jones and his ilk (see also the next two albums in this list). It makes me laugh. Plus, I can get any fiftysomething woman into bed by playing it.

The Definitive Collection, Lionel Richie - One day I said to Sarah, "You know, Lionel Richie is one of those artists that, while I wouldn't buy most of his albums, I'd love to own a greatest hits collection." Then I came across this album on tremendous sale. It's a great collection. I could listen to it all night long (all night!).

Greatest Hits, Barry White - I, like so many others, got turned on to Barry White because of "Ally McBeal." Sadly, the thing that inspired me to finally purchase one of his albums was his death this year. I'll miss you, Barry. You're the first, the last, my everything.

Dan Reeder, Dan Reeder - a folk album, entirely written, performed, and recorded by a middle-aged American painter living in Germany, on his own hand-made instruments, and with a parental advisory on the cover. Reeder's music is pure genius, absolutely inspired and inspiring. I only hope I can someday create something with one-tenth the creativity he's shown in making this album.

Everything to Everyone, Barenaked Ladies - a largely standard release from a fun band whom I think of as the mainstream answer to Moxy Früvous.

This Very Moment, Hacienda - a delightful, danceable album of house music with a Latin feel, despite coming from Germany. After being introduced to the Bajofondo Tango Club early this year, I've sought out various similar artists. Hacienda is one of them, and a wonderful purchase.

Naked City, John Zorn - this album reminds me strongly of Sex Mob, a favourite band of mine. Zorn's jazzy noir sound fits my taste in jazz perfectly.

New Comer, Llorca - another electronic jazz-house album, purchased on a whim. Very good.

Trickle, Olive - Olive's debut, Extra Virgin, was the sort of trip-hop that I would play to introduce people to the trip-hop genre. It had enough stylings to make it fit the genre, while still being accessible to mainstream listeners. Trickle pushes even more towards the mainstream, and suffers for it. It almost sounds like Olive is trying to be Hooverphonic (and failing), but that position is already filled. This doesn't mean Trickle is a bad album, though; it's still miles above most of what gets played on the radio these days.

Cartouche, The Funky Lowlives - yet another enjoyable electronic jazz album.

Hot Fuss, The Killers - it's always nice when I hear something on the radio that I actually like enough to purchase. The Killers have a fairly straightforward rock sound, but I find it much more listenable than most mainstream pop rock.

The Beginning Stages Of..., The Polyphonic Spree - is it just me, or does The Polyphonic Spree sound like an auditory version of OK Soda? It's cheerful, upbeat music, good for cleaning to. I'm glad I only spent about fifty cents on it.

The Outernational Sound, Thievery Corporation - I remarked to Sarah at one point that if I could only listen to one group's musical output for the rest of my life, I might choose Thievery Corporation. Even when they make a compilation mix album like this one, it's unique and special. I love this album.

Tourist, St. Germain - a fantastic example of the electronic jazz genre. It's very evocative and brings together various styles of music from all over the jazz landscape.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2004 04:25 am (UTC)
what's this trip-hop genre you speak of? i haven't ever heard of it. please explain :)
Dec. 31st, 2004 01:45 pm (UTC)
Trip-hop is a generally downtempo, jazzy blend of electronica and hip-hop. Do you know Portishead or Massive Attack? They are two of the canonical examples of trip-hop artists.
Dec. 31st, 2004 03:05 pm (UTC)
i LOVE portishead!
and also massive attack.
apparently i'm a trip-hop loving fiend.
Dec. 31st, 2004 04:26 am (UTC)
The Barenaked Ladies are awesome.

Other than that, there aren't many artists on that list that I am familiar with. I need to become more well rounded in my musical tastes.
Dec. 31st, 2004 01:52 pm (UTC)
Re: barenaked
I agree that they are awesome indeed.

Some people would say that my musical tastes are too well-rounded and that I am not discerning enough. But I ignore those people.
Dec. 31st, 2004 09:10 pm (UTC)
Re: barenaked
It's nice to like a lot of stuff though, that way you never get bored with your music and you have a lot of options.
Dec. 31st, 2004 05:26 pm (UTC)
Re: barenaked
they're especially fun in concert. i saw them at The Meadows in Hartford (an outdoor theater)and it was just so summer-y and fun. They get very involved w/the audience. Fun times.
Dec. 31st, 2004 09:09 pm (UTC)
Re: barenaked
I would love to see them in concert. I imagine that they would have tons of energy.
Jan. 3rd, 2005 03:49 am (UTC)
Re: barenaked
They are fantastic in concert. They ad-lib whole songs and play around with their other songs. I've seen them at least 5 times and I'd go see them again in a heartbeat.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 31st, 2004 01:48 pm (UTC)
Dear Andrea,
Yes. Your gaze is more than welcome!

Sarah and I were just discussing how if you'd just move to RI, we all would get along SO WELL. Why aren't you moving to RI? ;)

Dec. 31st, 2004 03:08 pm (UTC)
i love your analysis. i have a ton of cd's from just this year and i don't think any analysis will take place on my part but i have one recommendation for you:
stevie wonder - the definitive collection.
mm mm good! :)
Dec. 31st, 2004 03:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, that is definitely on my Wanted list. The Stevie, he is great.
Dec. 31st, 2004 03:33 pm (UTC)
I think we need to get you some hip scarves.

Also, reading your Tom Jones analysis reminds me...we should really own some Rod Stewart albums. Because who does cheesy overly-confident you-know-you-want-it music better than Rod? If you want his body and you think he's sexy, come on sugar, tell him so!

Note that I have said nothing about Britney. :)

We got a lot of music this year!

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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