by carl wilson

2004 In the Rear-View

john darnielle.jpg nas4.gif newsomx.jpg

Zoilus' artists of the year: John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats), Nas, Joanna Newsom

From today's paper:

Music awards selected by an academy of one

OVERTONES
By CARL WILSON

The Globe & Mail
Saturday, Jan. 1, 2005

Is every year as uncertain as 2004 was? Is it always so hard to track which events matter, or identify what subject is on the table? Probably, but it was more palpable this year. Even in music, it seemed doubtful any sound would outlast its moment, as each week brought new thrills and abominations.

Music was more plentiful, polyglot and multivalent than ever; boundaries blurred between genres, and even between mainstream and margins. It wasn't a year of consolidation, but of intense, risky conversation.

As a side effect, year-end lists that try to rank Atlanta rappers against French chanteuses and Canadian indie-rock bands have never seemed so absurd. It's not apples and oranges but pineapples versus cough syrup. Most efforts stink of tokenism. In the digital era, a year is too slow to download; yet for posterity it's way too soon to know.

So instead of an overall list, welcome to the first annual Overtones Music Awards, in 22 categories, as selected by an academy of one. [...]

The New Year's Champagne Toast. Of course, I have favourites. Nothing captivated me quite like the Mountain Goats' We Shall All Be Healed, an elliptical, six-string roman à clef about speed freaks, paranoia and incomplete redemption. John Darnielle's songwriting has grown out of willful classicism into a driving inevitability.

Runner-up: The most delightful surprise was The Milk-Eyed Mender by California's Joanna Newsom, whose exacting folk poetry and torrents of heavenly harp offered a far-sighted antidote to the sorts of compulsions Darnielle chronicled.

But if Bob Dylan's memoir, Chronicles, were a song, it would trounce them all.

The Golden Pimp Cup. Other MCs grooved more, rocked harder or twisted their tongues into more ticklish contortions, but Nas's sprawling, uneven Street's Disciple reaffirmed his place as the most substantial voice in mainstream hip-hop, just when it needed him most. Meanwhile, Ghostface's The Pretty Toney Album delivered the sonic knockout Nas sometimes flubbed.

The Keepin'-It-Surreal Gold Rope. From the fringe, British MC Dizzee Rascal on Showtime and U.S. duo Madvillian (MF Doom with Madlib) on Madvillainy worked musical miracles with sounds and syllables so improbable they might as well have been bedsprings and sausage.

The Escape-from-Rock-City Diamond Keychain. Destroyer, Your Blues: Vancouver's Dan Bejar relocated from the retro guitar theme park to a make-believe liberated Europe of penny-candy synthesizers, parade drums and erotic existentialism. His sometime collaborators Frog Eyes unplugged their merry-go-round rock for the shivery, claustrophobic Ego Scriptor.

The Boys-of-Melody Tiara. Pop-electronic hybrids are everywhere now, but on Hamilton, Ont., duo Junior Boys' debut album, Last Exit, the beats were complex enough for London and Berlin, the songs as swoony and unforgettable as a first kiss. Toronto's Hidden Cameras, meanwhile, created ever more perfectly perverse clap-along pop anthems; Mississauga Goddam earned its Nina Simone reference.

The Red-State-Feminist Blue Ribbon. And where were all the women? They certainly weren't made welcome in hip-hop. But they were busy revitalizing country music. Honky-tonk queen Loretta Lynn led with the generation-jumping Van Lear Rose, produced by the White Stripes' Jack White. And she found an heir in Gretchen Wilson, whose Here For the Party shook up country's past and future in tequila with a twist of lime. (Yellow ribbons: Allison Moorer, The Duel; Iris DeMent, LifeLine.)

The Outlaws' Black Hat. Meanwhile, the country boys' best came from far outside Nashville's limits, with the Drive-By Truckers' combustible The Dirty South (Southern rock meets gangsta) and Canadian Fred Eaglesmith's best disc in eons, Dusty, constructed of car parts, skating-rink organ and sorrow.

The Emotional-Daredevil Medallion. California's Xiu Xiu (Fabulous Muscles) shares it with Toronto's Les Mouches (You Mean More to Me than 1,000 Christians) -- feelings so raw, they're pornographic.

The Laminated Souvenir Postcard goes to Blocks Recording Club's Toronto Is Great!, whose all-day launch concert was the live event of my year, and Arthur magazine's definitive psych-folk anthology, The Golden Apples of the Sun, compiled by Devendra Banhart.

The Historical-Revisionist Platinum Platter. New York's 1980s genre-bender Arthur Russell found posthumous fame with the release of The World of Arthur Russell, as well as World of Echo and Calling Out of Context. Also: DNA on DNA; soul revelation Candi Staton.

The Geographical-Revisionist Golden Compass. Brazil went wild on Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats and the white-bread mecca revealed its R&B; past on Night Train to Nashville.

The Golden Globalism Award. Also from Brazil, Caetano Veloso killed America softly on A Foreign Sound. The internationalist mash-up massive convened on DJ/rupture's Special Gunpowder and DJ/rupture vs. Mutamassik.

The Jazz-and-Beyond Amber Spyglass. Big event: The Tzadik label's John Zorn 50th Birthday Celebration series marked an overdue retrospective. Andy Bey's American Song put other standards singers to shame. Plus: Peter Brotzmann/Joe McPhee/Kent Kessler/Michael Zerang, Tales Out of Time; John Tilbury and Eddie Prévost, Discrete Moments; David Murray and the Gwo-Ka Masters, Gwotet; Erik Friedlander, Maldoror.

The Hugh McIntyre Memorial Medal. In honour of the late bassist of London, Ont., chaos pioneers the Nihilist Spasm Band: Wolf Eyes' Burned Mind turned the kids on to good, wholesome, horrible noise.

The Golden Laptop for electronic soundscaping: The brutalist, Tim Hecker (Montreal), Mirages; the romantic, Christian Fennesz (Vienna), Venice.

Art-Punk-Reunion Cash Prize. Mission of Burma, ONoffON: Best reunion album ever? Frank Black Francis: Amid the Pixies-comeback hoopla, Charles Thompson challenges devotees with broad variations on his greatest non-hits.

Art-Punk Purple Heart. No reunions necessary -- they just never stopped: Amsterdam's the Ex, Turn; David Thomas (of Pere Ubu), 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man's Chest.

The Ivory Lab Coat for Rock Reinvention. The Arcade Fire, Funeral. Oneida, Secret Wars. TV on the Radio, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes. Fiery Furnaces, Blueberry Boat.

The Neglected-Poet Laurel. Sam Phillips, A Boot and A Shoe. Leonard Cohen, Dear Heather. Richard Buckner, Dents and Shells.

The Overlooked-Canadian Brass Tap. The world embraced many of our best, but missed Eric Chenaux and Michelle McAdorey's tangled and intimate Love Don't Change, and Black Ox Orkestar's bold Yiddish broadside, Ver Tantz?

The Most-Dissed Subtle Knife. Tom Waits, Real Gone: Rappers get to take rhythm to the limit. Why not an old master? Bonnie Prince Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music: Indie-rock fans mistake its gorgeous Nashville lushness for a punchline.

The Bronze Angels (Most Problematic). Brian Wilson, Smile: Is a re-enactment of a masterpiece also a masterpiece? Elliott Smith, From a Basement on the Hill: Time heals, but like many of 2004's wounds, this one will take a while.

Read More | In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Saturday, January 01 at 5:40 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

COMMENTS

excellent job on not going the regular Top whatever route.

meanwhile, it's pretty funny to look over at Edge 102 and see how the new genre of late-90's "Classic New Rock" seems to be emerging with artists like Green Day, Sum 41, U2, Marilyn Manson, Papa Roach, Korn, Social Distortion, Linkin Park, Collective Soul, Lenny Kravitz, the Tea Party taking up so much of their top 30

Posted by matt on January 2, 2005 8:39 AM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson