4 min

40 faves

The best songs & albums of the year

Credit: Xtra files

For me, the year 2004 will be remembered as the year I turned 40. Ouch. This may explain why sensitive human emotion, uneasiness and violins overtake my list of 20 fave albums and songs of the year.

20 fave songs of 2004: 20. “I Believe In The Good Of Life” Hidden Cameras (Evil Evil). A great song in 2001, this 2004 remake, with its tighter, fuller production, is stellar. 19. “Gay Messiah” Rufus Wainwright (Geffen). Amusing lyrics for an enchanting tune. A chorus singing, “Baptized in cum,” is so deliciously wrong. 18. “(You Can’t Blame It On) Anybody” Phoenix (Source). A clean funk Commodores meets Pet Shop Boys confection with a French sensibility. And it works. 17. “Somebody Hurt You” A Girl Called Eddy (Anti-). An oh so pretty ballad with a Dusty/ Bacharach vibe all over it. 16. “Charmed Life” The Divine Comedy (Parlophone). A lost track from Oklahoma? No, but it’s as grand and magical as the Rogers and Hammerstein tunes that surely inspired it.

15. “You’ll Have Time” William Shatner (Shout Factory). No song gives me the chills and makes me laugh out loud like Captain Kirk’s ode to death. 14. “Rebellion (Lies)” Arcade Fire (Merge). “Sleeping is giving in/ So lift those heavy eyelids/ Every time you close your eyes/ Lies, lies.” And you can dance to it! 13. “Chris Michaels” Fiery Furnaces (Rough Trade). Eight minutes of twists and turns with unfathomable silliness that oozes brilliance. You won’t know what hit you. 12. “Teach Me How To Fight” Junior Boys (Domino). Slow, murky, sullen and haunting electronica. Tears For Fears without the pretension. 11. “Open Letter To NYC” Beastie Boys (Capitol). Their second stab at a post 9/11 song is a winner. One of their best.

10. “Filthy Gorgeous” Scissor Sisters (Polydor). As queer as a three dollar bill. Sylvester is smilin’ down from disco heaven. 9. “Surfing On A Rocket” Air ( Virgin). Ridiculous, insane and slightly dumb. Perfectly joyous pop. 8. “All These Things That I’ve Done” The Killers (Island). The only track from this Las Vegas foursome’s debut that is full of sincere emotional power. When gospel greats The Sweet Inspirations join in, it’s stirring. “If you can’t hold on/ Hold on.” 7. “Toxic” Britney Spears (BMG). The only Britney song I’ve ever loved. The only Britney song that soars above Madonna’s best. 6. “Have Mercy” Loretta Lynn (Interscope). How many 69-year-olds can sing, “Have mercy on me baby/ I’m down upon my knees” with such a sexy upfront nakedness?

5. “C’mon, C’mon” The Von Bondies (Sire). Two minutes of aggressive blistering rock that never falters. 4. “Dry Your Eyes” The Streets (Locked On). A kitchen sink drama of a boy/girl break-up. So visual and heart-wrenchingly real. 3. “Lose My Breath” Destiny’s Child (Columbia). Kelly, Michelle and Beyonce, “Move so fast baby I can’t find you.” Brilliant. 2. “You Don’t Know My Name” Alicia Keys (BMG). Okay, it was released in 2003 but it kept on going into 2004. Incredible 1970s-inspired R&B (think Aretha and Marvin) with a camp flirtation thrown in. “You know, the one with the braids… yeah.” 1. ” Take Me Out” Franz Ferdinand ( Domino). Like The Karl Lagerfeld Collection for H&M. Cheap, slick, well designed and way cool.

20 fave albums of 2004:20. The Old Soul. The Old Soul (Hand Of God). Front man Luca Maoloni and his buds make a solid, quirky, indie release with silly surreal lyrics and spirited smart music. “Fuck it!” 19. I. The Magnetic Fields (Nonesuch). Twisted, self-deprecating gay love songs by twisted, self-deprecating gay Stephin Merritt. 18. Talkie Walkie. Air (Virgin). Sounding like a wispy gayer Siegfried And Roy, this French duo finally sing and the result is post-rock wallpaper music at its best. 17. I Dreamed We Fell Apart. Memphis (Paper Bag). Torquil Campbell and friend Chris Dumont make an atmospheric love album. Long walks on the beach? No. Stoned, making music on your laptop, is more like it. 16. Smile. Brian Wilson (Nonesuch). After more than 30 years of geeky anticipation we finally hear Brian Wilson’s classic album that never was… and now is. 15. Hymns Of The 49th Parallel. kd lang (Nonesuch). Lesbian #1 sings Canadian penned tunes with controlled emotion and a steady heart.

14. Scissor Sisters. Scissor Sisters (Polydor). Take every gay artist you can think of (George Michael, Elton John), throw in a few glam faves (Bowie, New York Dolls), the Bee Gee falsetto of sexy Jake Shears and you’ve got a well-crafted piece of smarty-pants fluff. 13. Songs From The Basement. Elliott Smith (Anti-). A year after his death and the words and music make it painfully clear: He was wound and bound to kill himself. 12. Pawn Shoppe Heart. The Von Bondies (Sire). Detroit unisex foursome ignites a feverish album with dreamy cerebral slow burns and devastatingly crisp hearty rock. 11. A Girl Called Eddy. A Girl Called Eddy (Anti-). If this was the 1970s, Erin Moran’s debut album would have been played all over the radio airwaves. The lovelorn songs have a Carpenters magic about them.

10. Blueberry Boat. The Fiery Furnaces (Rough Trade). An album by an eccentric bro and sis who don’t play by the rules. They step on the cracks and colour outside the lines. 9. A Grand Don’t Come For Free. The Streets (Locked On). Doe-eyed Brit Mike Skinner (aka The Streets) plays out a working- class lad’s day in the life with lost money, dreams, loves and extreme insecurities. 8. Our Endless Numbered Days. Iron And Wine (Subpop). Sam Beam’s delightful sleepy tunes have death all over them but the beauty is that life is the inspiration. 7. Absent Friends. The Divine Comedy (Parlophone). Ireland’s Neil Hannon makes fragile show-tune pop with lush orchestrations and clever masterful lyrics. His best yet. 6. Let It Die. Feist (Arts And Crafts). Canadian Leslie Feist finds herself in Paris and makes an inventive sultry album. Her choice of covers is surprising and right on the money.

5. Van Lear Rose. Loretta Lynn (Interscope). The White Stripe’s Jack White inspires the country legend to tell her truly mesmerizing stories that are provocative, high-spirited and downright heartbreaking. A country classic. 4. Franz Ferdinand. Franz Ferdinand (Domino). Beautiful dance whores unite and take over! Cool cocky Glaswegian peacocks make a guitar-laden rump-shaker. 3. The Concretes. The Concretes (Licking Fingers). This Stockholm octet’s debut is a supremely glorious album with its beatnik sensibility and Diana Ross obsessiveness. 2. Want Two. Rufus Wainwright (Geffen). Gay man love has never been rendered as sweetly, as poetic and so over the top drama queeny as this. 1. Funeral. Arcade Fire (Merge). For me, no other album this year comes close to the power and tenderness of this Montreal band’s debut. It stirs your emotions with an urgent driving force that makes your heart beat faster and tears run down your happy smiling face.