At Last, the Year in Review:
Some of the songs released in 2004 that JHeaton liked best
- Steriogram: Walkie Talkie Man (2:13)
- Joshua Radin: Winter (3:25)
- Steve Earle: The Revolution Starts Now (4:23)
- Paul Westerberg: As Far As I Know (3:02)
- Patty Griffin: Love Throws A Line (3:32)
- Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Me and Mia (3:31)
- Thao Nguyen: City Sky (3:27)
- Neko Case: Train from Kansas City (3:18)
- The Killers: Somebody Told Me (3:17)
- Jedd Hughes: High Lonesome (3:39)
- Black Eyed Peas: Let's Get It Started (3:38)
- The Zutons: Pressure Point (3:15)
- Alanis Morissette: Eight Easy Steps (2:50)
- Allison Moorer: Baby Dreamer (4:21)
- Waking State: De-vil (3:33)
- Los Lonely Boys: Crazy Dream (4:47)
- A. C. Newman: Miracle Drug (2:19)
- Andy Partridge: I Wonder Why the Wonderfalls (3:07)
- Lejeune: Moon-Shy City (4:15)
- Madeleine Peyroux: Don't Wait Too Long (3:08)
- Franz Ferdinand: Take Me Out (3:57)
- William Shatner feat. Joe Jackson: Common People (4:39)
I'm not sure why I decided to limit my choices for my mix CD to songs released in 2004. I had to limit my choices somehow; I have some 4100 songs in my music library, and I knew I'd never be able to choose 70-80 minutes of music from such a vast archive. Limiting it by year seemed reasonable (and it allowed me to steal the title from the classic British sketch comedy series At Last, the 1948 Show). 2004 turned out to be a good year to use because I had an unusually broad (both in terms of genre and total number) selection of tunes from that year.
I was going to explain what specifically I like about the songs I chose, but for most of them I really couldn't come up with anything more specific than, "I dunno, I just do." So instead, I'll talk about where I first encountered them, which probably of no interest to anyone at all other than me. Not that I've ever let that stop me.
Two of these songs were prominently featured in television commercials. "Pressure Point" turned up in an ad for blue jeans, though I can't for the life of me remember which brand. And "Walkie Talkie Man" was used in an iPod commercial. However, it was only in the latter case that the commercial was my first exposure to the song; I had previously encountered the Zutons song on …
VH1 Mega Hits
I discovered VH1 Mega Hits lurking in the upper reaches of my digital cable lineup in July of last year, and quickly became a big fan. I first heard five of the songs on this CD on VH1 Mega Hits: "Somebody Told Me," "Let's Get It Started," "Eight Easy Steps," "Take Me Out," and the aforementioned "Pressure Point." Of those five, "Eight Easy Steps" had the most memorable video, though I was also very fond of the video for "Let's Get It Started," particularly the parts featuring dancing in a tight white tank top.
VH1 Mega Hits was also indirectly responsible for "Crazy Dream" making the list; I doubt I would have heard the song, an album track from Los Lonely Boys's self-titled debut, had I not been inspired to buy the album after the video for "Heaven" was placed in heavy rotation.
But VH1 Mega Hits isn't the only place I heard music. "Winter" was featured in a memorable episode of Scrubs ("My Screw-Up") last year. "I Wonder Why the Wonderfalls" served as the theme song to the short-lived and frustratingly erratic FOX series Wonderfalls. And I first heard "Common People" performed live on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, though I didn't fully appreciate its brilliance until I heard the studio version.
Incidentally, grocible was absolutely correct when he called Ben Folds a genius in the "liner notes" to his mix CD, and "Common People," which Folds produced, is proof. William Shatner's 1968 covers of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" are recognized as (unintentional) comedy classics, and a lesser producer would have tried to reproduce those recordings as closely as possible. But Folds recognized that it's nearly impossible to make a something "so bad it's good" on purpose, and tried instead the somewhat radical idea of having Shatner record something that was actually good. He chose a song that was funny in its own right, and was well suited to Shatner's declamatory style. He recruited a couple of legendary rockers, Adrian Belew and Joe Jackson, to perform on the track. And in a particularly bravura touch, he brought in a full chorus to sing backup. The result is a song that is in its own way as deeply weird as Shatner's earlier recordings but is also far, far better than it has any right to be. Who'd a thunk it?
Oh, and that little spoken word segment tacked on to the end of "Common People" is from the Futurama episode "Bender Should Not Be Allowed on Television." Which first aired in 2003, but since it's not a song, I figured it'd be OK to include it.
In addition to "Walkie Talkie Man," Apple also introduced me to "High Lonesome" by featuring it as a Free Download of the Week from the iTunes Music Store. "High Lonesome" is somewhat unusual among the Free Downloads I've sampled, in that it doesn't suck. I guess they reserve the good songs for use in iPod commercials.
An interesting and underpromoted part of the Washington Post's website is mp3.washingtonpost.com, where local musicians can upload and promote their songs. I found three of the songs on my mix there: "City Sky," "De-Vil," and "Moon-Shy City." One of the great unanswered questions of 2004 is why Waking State chose to hyphenate "Devil."
Two of my selections are from solo projects by members of my current favorite band, the New Pornographers. "Miracle Drug" is a track from frontman A. C. Newman's solo release, The Slow Wonder. "Train from Kansas City," from Neko Case's uneven live album The Tigers Have Spoken, is a cover of a 1965 Shangri-Las B-side. Coincidentally, both these two songs are also linked by having been featured on…
Salon.com's late, lamented Wednesday Morning Download column by Thomas Bartlett featured an astonishingly broad range of music: instrumentals by Macedonian brass bands, freeform jazz noodling, forgotten soul classics, ghetto rap, and everything in between. I obtained four songs on my CD from salon: "As Far As I Know," "Baby Dreamer," "Don't Wait Too Long," and "Me and Mia."
Blogs and web journals
"Love Throws a Line" and "The Revolution Starts Now" both came to me my way of people who write web journals I read regularly. My friend hcwoodward is a big Patty Griffin fan, and she enthused about Griffin's 2004 album Impossible Dream so loudly and so often that when I found it on display next to the register at the Olsson's Books in Dupont Circle, I bought a copy on impulse. As for "The Revolution Starts Now," I first heard it on a election-themed mix CD posted by… um, someone. I'm reasonably certain it was made by the husband of a female weblogger, but I'll be dipped if I can remember who. Nevertheless, good song.