2004 was a leap year starting on a Thursday, and soon after that I turned 30. It was also the International Year of Rice.
NASA's Spirit and Opportunity landers touched down on Mars, Facebook launched, Massachusetts legalised same-sex marriage and North Korea banned mobile phones, Cassini-Huygens reached Saturn, The Scream was stolen, Ubuntu was launched, and the Southeast Asia earthquake and tsunami killed hundreds of thousands of people on Boxing Day and generally devastated the entire Indian Ocean region.
Those taking the Stairway or the Highway included Peter Ustinov, Estée Lauder, Ronald Reagan, Ray Charles, Marlon Brando, Francis Crick, Rodney Dangerfield, Superman (Christopher Reeve), John Peel, Emlyn Hughes, Yasser Arafat and fucking Dimebag.
Alter Bridge - One Day Remains
Yep, Alter Bridge again. Honestly, one of the best heavy rock bands around, and this was their debut album. It's amazing from start to finish - one of the best debuts ever. Shits all over Creed from the greatest of heights. Top track: "One Day Remains"
Green Day - American Idiot
You've always known what you're going to get with a Green Day album - well delivered straight-ahead punky rock with plenty of attitude - but for me this was where they took it up a notch and really felt like they had something to say. Top track: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"
The Streets - A Grand Don’t Come For Free
I really don't do the hippety-hop, save for the mighty Scroobius Pip, but when I gave this "rap opera" concept album a crack I couldn't get enough. Skinner is properly clever with his lyrics and the tunes are engaging. Plus I've totally been that guy in the club in "Blinded By The Lights" once or twice. Top track: "Blinded By The Lights"
Velvet Revolver - Contraband
I love Slash and everything he does, so when he reunited with Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum of Guns N' Roses to form a supergroup with Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots on vocals, I was sure the resulting album would be stellar. You know what? It is. Top track: "Headspace"
And the winners are…
I couldn’t separate the top two for this year - so it’s a tie!
Max Richter - The Blue Notebooks
I first encountered the neoclassical stylings of Max Richter on Classic FM a few years ago. I was returning home late one evening and as I parked outside my house I was transfixed by the short piece playing on the radio - it turned out to be "H In New England" from Richter's 2008 album 24 Postcards In Full Colour. I immediately sought out more information and promptly bought all the CDs I could find, the pinnacle of which being this one. Utterly sublime.
Top tracks: "On The Nature Of Daylight", "The Trees", "Arboretum"
William Shatner - Has Been
I've tried before to tell people about this album, and I know I've failed. So I'm going to have one more go.
It's not a joke. I don't like it because it's "so bad it's good". Irony is not involved, though intentional comedy is, on occasion.
OK? Do you get it? Yes, William Shatner. No, not kidding.
See, the music is co-written, produced and arranged by Ben Folds. In fact, I get the idea that in many cases Shatner has scribbled down some words and Folds has basically done the rest, but no matter. What you've got here (ignoring the attention-grabbing opener, a cover of Pulp's "Common People") is a guy laying his soul bare to music. "That's Me Trying" is an open letter to Shatner's estranged daughter. "It Hasn't Happened Yet" is a chronicle of his trials and failings as he sees them. "Has Been" is a nod to the fact that perhaps his glory days are behind him. "You'll Have Time" is a knowing wink and a smile to his own mortality. "I Can't Get Behind That" is just Shatner and Henry Rollins cooped up in a studio and revelling in the joy of yelling about shit that annoys them. And "What Have You Done"… well I can't talk about that one - you should just listen to it and you'll see.
Honestly. No guff, Chet.
Top tracks: "It Hasn’t Happened Yet", "I Can't Get Behind That", "You'll Have Time"
Turkey of the Year
Razorlight - Up All Night
Fuck all of that noise.
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