I know I'm a little late in the making of this list; most everyone has probably put their five cents in (damn that inflation) on this particular subject. And I know that thanks to my limited income, I haven't listened to enough albums that I'd be able to make a very well-informed "Top Ten of 2004" list. But I've made myself a list of my favourite albums of the year for the past six years now, so I figure I should keep up my little tradition. And this year, I'll do it with pizzazz. Pizzazz! My list, in no particular order, is:
William Shatner - Has Been
If this was an "Official" list of best albums, this album would be the most honourable of honourable mentions. It's 90% brilliant; there's only one song on it that really irks me, and it irks me less and less every time I hear it. It's not a stellar album, but I like it enough to have it be a favourite of the year - if not musically "the best".
Feist - Let It Die
When this album first popped in to work, I couldn't figure out why we couldn't keep any on the shelves. When I played it, I could see why. It's folksy, but with a pop sensibility; it appeals to the general public as well as the music afficionado. It's an album that The Peach and I could both like. And that's saying something.
Keb' Mo - Keep It Simple
Folksy and bluesy, Keb' Mo' has been a favourite of mine for a number of years now. This album takes what he's done on his earlier albums and keeps expanding on it, both in terms of musical and thematic styles. Plus, it has my favourite song of the year.
David Byrne - Grown Backwards
The man does a little of everything on this album, making pop, opera, folk, world beat, and dance-y music without making it seem like much effort. Its appearance here might be a little biased by the amazing show he put on at Folk Fest this year, but I think the album is strong enough to take a spot on its own merits.
Coral Egan - My Favourite Distraction
From the look of the album, I thought that she was going to be a Diana Krall clone: blonde, young, Canadian woman playing jazz. She is not. She's got a more varied style palate to choose from, a more powerful voice, and more sheer talent. In short: she's better.
David Cross - It's Not Funny
Funny. Very funny. Also very bitter. David Cross out-does himself on this album, raging and warring to try and figure out what's going on in the world. Not for the faint of heart, but David Cross is a man who needs listening to.
Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News
Not a huge surprise, it's on pretty much everyone's list. When my brother told me about these guys a year and a half ago, I thought they were fantastic. This one's a little different from their earlier stuff, but it's still just as good. Popular or indie, Modest Mouse rock.
Björk - Medulla
When I first played this in the store, it was Hallowe'en, and a man asked me if it was an album of Hallowe'en sounds. I said no. He said, "Oh. It's not very good, is it?" It might take some getting used to, as Björk limits herself almost entirely to sounds that can be made with the human vocal tract. As a speech geek, that's something cool in its own right, but the music's fantastic to boot.
Rufus Wainwright - Want (One)
I should own this album, and I don't. I'm a late comer to the Rufus Wainwright Appreciation Society, but when this album came out, I was a quick convert. This album shows more maturity than his earlier stuff, and it adds to the complexity and the strength of his music.
Franz Ferdinand - s/t
I listened to the BBC a lot during the first half of last year, and I don't think I went a day without hearing at least one song by Franz Ferdinand. Fantastic album, poppy and rocky, this could be a band of international megastar proportions. As long as they keep making good music, I don't care.
Tom Waits - Real Gone
I haven't listened to this too much, as sometimes a little too much Tom Waits can grate on a man. But I'm taking it slowly, and it's fantastic. A new Tom Waits album is always welcome, even if it takes a bit of getting used to.
Bad Religion - The Empire Strikes First
My favourite album of the year, hands-down. After a few albums that were good, but lacking that special BR-something, they come back with everything that makes them great: good hooks, great lyrics, three-part harmony, and a boatload of anger. I guess the political turmoil south of the border has some good side-effects.