Checking it Twice - Favorite Records of the Year
Salon.com | by Thomas Bartlett
Devendra in Top Ten Records and Top 25 Free DownloadsItâ€™s listmaking time, and Iâ€™ve got three of them for you. The list of my favorite records of the year ranges from the nearly universally praised (Arcade Fire, Madvillain), to the underrated (Cee-lo), to the unknown (Flashpapr).
As for pop and hip-hop, Iâ€™m focusing on what it continues to do best, which is singles, not records. If you read my article yesterday, you know that I donâ€™t think it was a particularly exciting or adventurous year for popular music. But even if it wasnâ€™t a great year as a whole, there were plenty of spectacular songs. My ten favorite are below, and some of you may be scandalized to see that Britney, Maroon 5, and (gasp!) even Ashlee made the list. But these are great songs, not guilty or ironic pleasures, so even if youâ€™re allergic to commercial radio, listen exclusively to NPR, do your best to shield yourself from the corrupting influence and soullessness of mass cultureâ€”even if all those things are true, give them a listen, because theyâ€™re brilliant.
Lastly, since this column is all about downloads, Iâ€™ve included a list of my 25 favorite free mp3s of the year. Devoted readers have probably downloaded them all already, but for the rest of you, itâ€™s a nice little mixtape of some of the yearâ€™s best music.
Top Ten Records
1. â€œCherry Tree EP,â€ The National
A near perfect EP, both delicate and ruggedâ€”like a beaten and battered but very butch butterfly. Profoundly moving, but without any big emotional gestures, any trace of sentimentality. I expect great things from this band.
2. â€œFuneral,â€ the Arcade Fire
Passionate, unashamed, and bold, arranged with precision and performed with joyful, sloppy fervor. A record worthy of all the hype.
3. â€œReal Gone,â€ Tom Waits
It all started with Waits beatboxing into a tape recorder in his bathroomâ€”how badass is thatâ€”and out comes this clanging, clattering run down steamroller of a record, welcome proof that Tom isnâ€™t losing his edge. His best in over a decade.
4. â€œFlashpapr,â€ Flashpapr
A hushed, retiring record, all muted sounds melted together, evoking a delicate sweet/sad emotion.
5. â€œMadvillain,â€ Madvillain
The best of underground hip-hop in 2004, with Madlibâ€™s lush, gently counter-intuitive beats, and MF Doomâ€™s hypnotic dream logic raps.
6. â€œLa Maison de Mon Reve,â€ Cocorosie
The atmosphere piece of the year, a cloistered, rainy day reverie of a record made in a Parisian apartment by two sisters with the voices of mournful, aged cats.
7. â€œCee-lo Green Is The Soul Machine,â€ Cee-lo
Itâ€™s a mystery that Cee-lo, one of the great producers and rappers in todayâ€™s hip-hop scene, not to mention hands down the best singer, has yet to achieve greater success. An up and down record, but with some of the highest highs of the year, including brilliant tracks from Timbaland and the Neptunesâ€”although the best were produced by Cee-lo himself.
8. â€œRejoicing In the Hands,â€ Devendra Banhart
A legend in the making, the charismatic, enigmatic young songwriter is the locus of a burgeoning new folk movement. His perfect miniatures are by turns profound, naÃ¯ve, mystifying, and almost always touching.
9. â€œAbattoir Blues/ The Lyre of Orpheus,â€ Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
The songwriting record of the year, an extraordinary display by a master of the craft, the poetry all banged out and burnished, and shining with the kind of workmanship that only obsessive drive combined with genius can achieve.
10. â€œMisery Is A Butterfly,â€ Blonde Redhead
The most cerebral of bands gives in to long repressed romantic urges and creates a dark, cinematic beauty. Honorable mentions: â€œMedulla,â€ Bjork; â€œNot Going Anywhere,â€ Keren Ann; â€œDesperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes,â€ TV On the Radio; â€œHeroes To Zeroes,â€ the Beta Band; â€œThe College Dropout,â€ Kanye West, â€œUh Huh Her,â€ PJ Harvey.
Top Ten Singles
1. â€œThis Love,â€ Maroon 5
2. â€œNaughty Girl,â€ Beyonce
3. â€œ99 Problems,â€ Jay-Z
4. â€œToxic,â€ Britney Spears
5. â€œArt of Noise,â€ Cee-lo feat. Pharell
6. â€œSlow Jamz,â€ Twista feat. Jaime Foxx and Kanye West
7. â€œHappy People,â€ R. Kelly
8. â€œThrough the Wire,â€ Kanye West
9. â€œPieces of Me,â€ Ashlee Simpson
10. â€œOver and Over,â€ Nelly feat. Tim McGraw
Top 25 Free Downloads
1. â€œYou Canâ€™t Blame Me,â€ Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr, Salon Exclusive Free Download
2. â€œWasp Nest,â€ the National, Free Download
3. â€œTrack One,â€ Panda Bear, Free Download
4. â€œAccordion,â€ Madvillain, Salon Exclusive Free Download
5. :The River,â€ MÃ¢rz, Free Download
6. â€œNeighborhood #2,â€ the Arcade Fire, Free Download
7. â€œMisery Is A Butterfly,â€ Blonde Redhead, Free Download
8. â€œLeave The Place,â€ Flashpapr, Free Download
9. â€œMe And Mia,â€ Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Free Download
10. â€œPaul Haâ€™Penny,â€ Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, Salon Exclusive Free Download
11. â€œRun Into Flowers,â€ M83, Salon Exclusive Free Download
12. â€œMotel Sex,â€ Danny Cohen, Free Download
13. â€œStatic On The Radio,â€ Jim White w/ Aimee Mann, Free Download
14. â€œItâ€™s Gonna Take An Airplane,â€ Destroyer, Free Download
15. â€œThe Body Breaks,â€ Devendra Banhart, Free Download
16. â€œSomersault,â€ Danger Mouse, Free Download
17. â€œLive Like A River Town, by Stars Like Fleas,â€ Free Download
18. â€œLast Walk Around Mirror Lake,â€ Boards of Canada (remix of Boom Bip), Free Download
19. â€œLegacy,â€ Maylay Sparks, Free Download
20. â€œYou Make Me Feel,â€ Milosh Free Download
21. â€œOn Vacation,â€ The Robot Ate Me, Free Download
22. â€œDiamond Day,â€ Vashti Bunyan, Free Download
23. â€œOne More Time,â€ the French Kicks, Free Download
24. â€œSupport Our Troops,â€ Xiu Xiu, Salon Exclusive Free Download
25. â€œBMFA,â€ Martha Wainwright, Free Download