Monday, December 20, 2004

Records of the Year, part one:

Futureheads - Futureheads.
OK. So you know this. So everyone know this now. Nevertheless, it's true. The Futureheads album is a near-perfect blast of knotty, inventive punk-pop; dazzlingly hook-laden, catchy and engaging, it's the album that Franz Ferdinand should have made but didn't. The way that the Futureheads use their three and sometimes four part harmonies made me think anew about ways of writing music, and for a band superficially devoted to XTC and the Gang of Four that's some mean feat. What on first listen sounded a little one-dimensional has proved capable of long-lasting scrutiny - the band's exuberance constantly replacing one riff with another, forever shifting and shaking onto a new part of the dancefloor. 'Meantime', 'Decent Days and Nights', 'The City is Here For You' and 'Carnival Kids' are just so instant, so melodic and so marvellously simple. No guitar solos, no crap, and no nostalgia either. Album of the year.

The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free.
Is it me, or did the shine wear off this one? When it came out it seemed destined to hog everyone's stereos for the rest of the year, but from summer onwards things seemed to change; indie rock rattled up crack alley, grime - insular and brilliant - remained dense and thrilling, a slew (not in the grime sense) of bands - Interpol, The Secret Machines, LCD Soundsystem, Maximo Park - released new stuff and Mike's masterpiece slipped away in the end of year polls. Well, it's still stunning: a whole new kind of rap album and a lovely, if slight, piece of storytelling. Vic reckons it lacks the banging tracks of his debut, but I think it's the superior record - winning, hilarious, articulate and individual. Less self-referential than it's urban peers (this year, Kanye, Diz, Wiley) but just as nice. A unique record.

Electrelane - The Power Out
One of the first records I bought in 2004, and it feels so long ago it that it was another year, but I checked, and it wasn't. I'm not sure I've ever quite persuaded anyone else of this, but I think Electrelane are one of our very best bands. I love this record's subtlety, the beautiful, sparse production and wispy playing, Verity's lovely, wayward singing style, forgetful and washed-along on the music. 'The Valleys' was the best song of the year, a tremendous piece of music which made the rest of the album seem dull in comparison. It's not an immediate record, sure, but it's lights-out stuff, odd and idiosyncratic. I was concerned that they'd cut much of the keyboards from the sound, but it works a treat, creating a loose groove that often puts me in mind of Slint's peerless 'Spiderland'. And that usually does the trick.

1 comment:

Powerful Pierre said...

I agree - The Futureheads album is one of the best of the year. There's so many bands around at the moment, mostly called The somethings, but they really stand out.