December 31st, 2004

Wedding day

2004: The Year in Music That Sucked

This is the part of the year when newspapers and magazines (and even people on my friends list) are naming their X Best Albums/Movies/Books/Wardrobe Malfunctions/Etc. of the Year. I wish I could put a list like this together, but I can't. None of the books I read was published this year. None of the games I played did much for me. I could list my top ten movies, but it would be the top ten out of a list of fifteen, most of which I wouldn't have chosen to see if I hadn't been going with other people.

Music is a different story. I purchased a lot of music this year, but unless you want to count downloads, only three full albums were released in 2004. One of those is a reissue. Counting downloads and EPs the list becomes a little more formidable, but it also runs heavy to live They Might Be Giants recordings. Did I listen to ten new albums in their entirety (not counting The Spine)? I doubt it.

2004 was just not a good year for the kind of music I like. I emphasize the "I" because most of the music fans I know really like the places music has gone in the last year. I don't know what it is, but everything just sounds rehashed ("Sure, Kurt Cobain covered this ground, but did he cover it with jazz?") or overproduced and formulaic (Britney + Wheatus = Avril?). Wilco's A Ghost Is Born may be the greatest offender, thanks to all of the unwarranted praise and buildup. I'd heard the album before in its proto versions by other artists, and didn't like it then either.

Admittedly, most of the new music I've payed attention to has been from indie labels or unsigned bands. The major labels pretty much lost me in the late '90s when they brought back pop tarts and boy bands. That's not to say that nothing good has come from the major labels in 2004, but nothing springs to mind. The pendulum of popular music swings back and forth for me, and if I were to graph my enjoyment of the last three decades of popular music, it would come out looking like a sine wave (it's true -- I used Billboard's top singles, 1975 to 1995 (100 each year) to do this as part of a statistics analysis project in a logic class). Just as alternative rock and lit pop saved us from hair metal and new wave, something I like will eventually break through the current mediocre offerings of pop music. My guess is that it'll happen relatively soon; the major labels will always turn insane profits, but there's so much going on outside the narrow focus of popular music that they must be taking notice. The focus of pop is always narrow, but it moves around over time.

All that said, this year saw the release of several albums that I didn't purchase, but would like to. I've heard parts of some, none of most. Here's a small list off the top of my head:
  • New Roman Times by Camper Van Beethoven

  • From Heroes to Zeroes by The Beta Band

  • Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions by the Ensemble Modern

  • American Idiot by Green Day

  • Has Been by William Shatner

  • Smile by Brian Wilson
I'll probably pick those up within the next couple of months. I'm not sure what I'm looking forward to in 2005, but there has to be something. It's not that I don't like any of the artists currently recording, just that 2004 was generally a slow music year.

Anyway, I hope everybody has a happy and safe New Year's Eve. This will be my final post of aught four, as I'm heading to Cedarburg with Ellen to celebrate with her family. Wish me luck -- I'm meeting her father.
  • Current Music
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