It was at the break of the culture being hipster conscience. Casey Kasem gave Ryan Seacrest the reins of "American Top 40." Janet Jackson's nipple managed to show us all what tight-asses we are while making broadcaster's lives a living hell. San Fransisco began issuing same-sex marriage licences. The third "Lord of the Rings" film won best picture. We were still at war in Iraq, but, ya know...some things never change.
2004 was an unquiet year, which is why it may be really easy to forget how much amazing music came out that year. It was a game-changing year full of debut albums from bands still with us today and some who had hit their one high-water mark. Sounds were changing in a particular way that redefined cool. It may have even been the death rattle of what many would now consider traditional guitar rock, just don't tell Dave Grohl.
The same year that Google gave us Gmail gave us these artists albums and songs. Take them in and ask yourself: is music better today, or are we being sentimental.
Arcade Fire "Funeral" - Not their debut album, but the one bringing them to a mass amount of minds. "Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)", "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Wake Up" are the first big tracks that come to mind. We learned about a new type of soulfulness. We learned new ways to scream "Whoaaaaaaoohhhh oooohhh." We learned these Canadians really loved parentheses. It had been maybe since Rage Against the Machine's self-titled album since there was that much passion in an entire album, only in an completely different key. Buy it here.
The Killers "Hot Fuss" - Sure, they can claim a Las Vegas heritage and write songs about neon graveyards all they like, but the first time X96 played "Somebody Told Me" (and we were on of the first, it not the first) to do so, they frenzy began. "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine", All These Things That I've Done" with Mr. Flowers telling us about souls and soldiers. "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" had this slick, echo from a garage that sounded like a marble confessional. For the ambitious fans , we tracked down the import versions so we could enjoy the anthem that is "Clamorous Indie Rock & Roll. Buy it here.
The Dresden Dolls "Dresden Dolls" - Technically released in 2003, but eh, it was re-released in 2004 under a bigger label. This was something completely unexpected. Completely theatrical, not dark, but certainly not light. You can really make the entire adjective stew here: sexy, broken, antique, bold, mysterious, and on and on. And it was all the work of a vaudevillian two-piece: Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione of Boston. While everyone will remember "Coin Operated Boy" it was "Girl Anachronism" that gave me chills. Something this driving was eventually going off a cliff and it did when they took a hiatus in 2008. Let's hope it ends sooner than later. Buy it here.
Franz Ferdinand "Franz Ferdinand" - So damn dancy and catchy with some eroticism thrown in at time. Were people in love with the music of Alex Kapranos' hair? "Jacqueline was 17, working on a desk when I..." You can't start an album out like pop song written by Humbert Humbert, but they did and when the strumming started you got steam-rolled punk guitar that roll into the lyrics and spirit of the French New Wave. That's just the opening track. I haven't even mentioned "Take Me Out", "The Dark of the Matinee" or my favorite "40'." Buy it here.
Interpol "Antics" - Sure it was easy to say, "They sound like Joy Divison." And yeah, they do, but Ian Curtis is gone and New Order sure didn't have the same sound, so stop complaining. This album was and is fascinating. The casualness of these songs led into some driving choruses that immediately raise your pulse. The chorus in "Narc":
Feast your eyes, I'm the only one Control me, console me 'Cause that's just how it should be done...
You should be in my space. You should be in my life...
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch would have asked to be lashed then tossed his pen and parchment away...or typewriter. Whatever writers wrote with at the time. Key tracks like "Not Even Jail", the opener "Next" and of course "Evil." Fantastic, downtrodden, self-inflicting music. It sounds even better when it's dark and raining outside.
Oh, and this one...
Buy it here.
Keane "Hopes & Fears" - Okay, maybe I am getting soft on this one and it took me about 6 years to enjoy this album, but my sentimental side forced me. "Somewhere Only We Know" and "Everybody's Changing" have pretty relevant meaning no matter where you are in life. There is a stench of the genuine article in this album and that is a hard thing to do in music. Get this album out if it has been a while. Buy it here.
Modest Mouse "Good New For People Who Love Bad News" - Modest Mouse was always a band my friends just talked about, but I never paid mind to. That all changed when X96 received an advance of "Float On." I had heard their named dropped, so I didn't stick it in the "listen later" pile. I gave it a shot. Three minutes and twenty-nine minutes later I was busting into the studio during Todd's airshift demanding we put it into rotation. I had no doubt I would be a Modest Mouse fan. When we finally snagged a copy of the full album and I saw it contained a song called, "Bukowski" the deal was sealed. Hopefully the rumors Modest Mouse is in the studio are true. Buy it here.
Razorlight "Up All Night" - Yeah, you mostly likely haven't heard of this one, but if you like The Libertines and Keane you dig this. There are a Beatles-like simplicity in this collection of songs. The lyrics are perhaps a bit trite, but it really works. "Golden Touch", "Rock 'n' Roll Lies" and "Which Way Is Out" are all pretty forgettable song titles until you hear them. It's just a really solid album. Buy it here.
Rilo Kiley "More Adventurous" - I'mm sorry, but the new Jenny Lewis album is so disappointing. A collection of songs preaching the over-preached. Perhaps society needs to hear it, but I don't. I get it. I tried to force myself and honestly couldn't put my ears through it, so I went back to this album. It's cheeky and original. It sounds like music from the Northwest but without the overwrought pretentiousness. Also, not all of Lewis' solo music is bad. To the contrary. It doesn't beat the feeling this album give you with the headphones on. "Potions For Foxes" is a great one here as well. Buy it here.
Say Anything "...Is A Real Boy" - Wow! Did my friends have an obsession with this album and band for a while. This album had been released earlier, but like The Dresden Dolls got a label push and later released as a two-disc. The ol' chestnut goes, "You have your whole life to write your first album and.." Well, yeah. Max Bemis is a victim of this if there ever was one. These songs are narrative, dramatic, passionate, pissed, anxious. The only thing I can compare it to is "Hedwig and the Angry Itch." It's a grand opus and one of my all-time favorite albums. Every track is perfect. Buy it here.
The Streets "A Grand Don't Come For Free" - The Cell Phone Poet, Mike Skinner. Not always hit, but when he did, he did. It's interesting music and lyrics delivered as very British hip-hop. This was the second of six albums Mr. Skinner did under the guise of The Streets and it was pretty much downhill after that. You can hear it getting progressively bored on with each album, but "Blinded By The Lights", "Dry Your Eyes" a song he managed to get Chris Martin from Coldplay to sing on and "Fit But You Know It" are all worth the price of admission. Buy it here.
The Zutons "Who Killed...The Zutons" - This one is for the 70's music fans, but damn, it's good. Another one with not one bad track on it. They are a Liverpool band, but you wouldn't think Kentucky on first listen. A casual blues-rock feel, ya know, heavy, but genuinely great tracks here. "pressure Point", "Havana Gang Brawl", though I could float down a river and listen to "Remember Me" on repeat for hours. This is a perfect Summer album. Buy it here.
The Libertines "The Libertines" - Sure Pete Doherty shot his blood out of a syringe at someone, but it was for at and we all have hobbies. The tabloids: sometimes they ruin things, sometimes they empower things. I have no idea what they made me think about The Libertines. I just tuned out the antics and the drugs and that Pete dated Amy Winehouse. This is the third album on the list I would call perfect. There just isn't a bad song here. The music meets the verse so well. All bands make their music differently and I am sure there is some mad story on how this album was made, but I don't care to know it. It would ruin it for me. A grand rock record: passive aggressive, anti, lustful, disappointed, confused. Buy it here.
I think I will leave this list how it is...for now. There are some honorable mentions like Washington Social Club, Scissor Sisters, The Kills amazing album "No Wow", The Honeymoon, Handsome Boy Modeling School (I have framed, autographed poster that will never not be hung on a wall wherever I may be residing), Graham Rabbit, The Go! Team's "Thunder, Lightning, Strike" taught me I can like pop music, The French Kicks song "One More Time" is patient-cool and The Faint's "Wet From Birth" - damn, that's a great album, too. Their best.
That's what was happening over and underground ten years ago in "Modern Rock." It was the year local boy, Ken Jennings, began his 74 game winning streak on "Jeopardy and people still liked Lance Armstrong.
Think about it...is music better or worse ten years later?
I am watching this video to see if I can spot myself or any of my friends as it was filmed at this year Coachella. Andrew Garfield, who is the current Spiderman, was seen wandering around the festival in a dress, which is where the end of this video was filmed. Though a couple of my friends were wearing cutoffs I can't seem to spot any of them. Maybe they formed a dance troop while I was waiting in the line for some Spicy Pie.
The video certainly elaborates on the verse of "We Exist". The thing with Arcade Fire that many people like and some may hate is how atmospheric their songs are, especially with the tracks on "Reflektor", that you get lost in the music and miss the words.
Andrew Garfield, who born in California, but grew up in the U.K., is certainly most known for his role as Spiderman, but certainly also from "The Social Network." It is a different side for an actor the U.S. is just getting to know and let's face it, this video may be challenging for some. That is what makes it a good video and a great companion piece to the song. There's nothing original about just standing on a stage strumming. It's always better when a band has something to say and a story to tell.
Day 3 was about a perfect a day one can have at a music festival. The desert was not angry. Rather than dust, a nice, cool breeze kept things from getting too hot and it was a day of amazing performances. A nice clip poolside in the morning at the compound and the group was off to catch The 1975. The thing The 1975 they could fit in many contexts. You could put them in matching suits with some choreography and they'd be a boy band. Acoustically, a coffee shop quartet. I don't mean this in a negative way. Their songs are truly catchy. Lead singer, Matthew Healy, is a cross between Aldous Snow and Christopher Martin of Coldplay. His voice is great live and he has the swagger it takes to sell it. I could tell because every hot lady around me was belting out the lyrics like gospel. Mr. Healy is tattooed and leather clad, playing up the rockstar persona, which may have been lacking otherwise at this year's fest (aside from Queens of the Stone Age, which I only caught a glimpse of). Leather pants in 90 degrees, no problem. Accompanied with a brunch of pizza and beer The 1975 was a great way to start the day on the Outdoor Stage (clever name, I know).
I stuck it out in the beer garden (the last day, you've gotta go big) for the artist I who was at the top of my list, Blood Orange. I've had their album playing non-stop since I discovered it in February. Blood Orange is the brainchild of Dev Hynes, who was also in the short-lived, but grandiose Test-Icicles then went under Lightspeed Champion for a spell. Very different sounding projects from one another, but all great in their own right. The best breakdown to describe Blood Orange is Prince meets Frank Ocean. This is baby-makin' music.
Before planting our flag at the main stage the group was lured to the adjacent Gobi Tent by the a familiar groove. A familiar sound, know to us from junior high parties. The sound of Montell Jordan, but it wasn't Montell Jordan. It was AlunaGeorge singing Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." Dancing, we hung out and watched the sexy AlunaGeorge while admired the final sunset we would witness over Empire Polo Field.
Calvin Harris took the main stage and did the opposite of what Fatboy Slim did the day before: he played the hits. Opening with, "Feel So Close" to "We Found Love" to Icona Pop's "I Love It." He demanded the audience show their hands and not miss a beat. He kept the hits coming and no once seemed to mind.
Finally, another must-see, Beck this the stage opening with "Devil's Haircut" and, like Calvin Harris, the hits kept coming. A highlight for me was the surprise selection, "Debra" from "Midnight Vultures" - a song touting the benefits of picking up women at JC Penny and driving a Hyundai. Beck was on a role, telling stories about playing the first Coachella between songs and reminding the audience why he is so revered by those who really love music and live performance. Therefore, it was quite disappointing when Goldenvoice cut him off during "High 5" for going over his allotted time. I know these things need to run like trains and not airplanes, but come on! It's a headliner and one with Coachella tenure. Beck shrugged it off, danced a bit and then was disappeared by his band as they surrounded him and shuffled him off stage, forcing smirks and chuckles from the crowd.
It was now meat and potatoes time. We bumped and hustled as close as all 11 in my group could get to the mainstage to see what Arcade Fire would finish the weekend off with. They did not disappoint. A thing, covered from head to toe in mirrors announced himself as Fred, then announced the band who promptly opened with the title track from their latest, "Reflektor." I can say this song paces better live. All the songs they performed from "Reflektor" paced better live including my favorite, "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)."
Many would say, including myself, the highlight of the show was Debbie Harry, looking amazing, joining the band on stage for her own "Heart of Glass" and the epic "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains). The set was passionate, defiant (Win Butler calling the VIP section "bullshit" to the pleasure of the crowd. Well, those not in VIP, anyway) and at times heart-breaking. The set and the show ended with warnings the sound may be cut off again, just as it was with Beck.
Luckily, they made it through the closer, "Wake Up" with a few folks around me actually tearing up. As the rise of whatever was left of the 90,000 plus in attendance singing, "Whooooaaa ohhhhh, ohhh, ohhhhh, ohhh, oh, ohhhhhhwhooaaa..." the sound was eventually cut, the band pulled together some acoustic instruments and, accompanied by a small brass section, leapt into the crowd, marching band style. The crowd chanting for as long as everyone realized the weekend was over. We would all be leaving Coachella on this bittersweet note and back to real life until next April.