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   Now in our sixth calendar year
    PCR #251  (Vol. 6, No. 2)  This edition is for the week of January 10--16, 2005.
The Digital Divide by Terence Nuzum
LEDsCD REVIEWS    by Terence Nuzum
CDs are rated 1 to 5 LEDs


Last year I predicted that we would see the popularity of electro-clash and dance punk grow and that Justin Timberlake would co-opt it. OK, so that didn't happen. Instead Gwen Stefani co-opted it, as dance punk did indeed light up the dance floors at clubs. For 2005 I have no idea what's in store. 2004 saw a rise in interest of Indie rock as Modest Mouse, Walkmen, Wilco etc., all saw large sales that weren't usual for them. But it was the revelation that Bright Eyes' simultaneously-released singles went to number one in the Heatseeking charts that shocked us all to the possibilty of an indie rock revolution seeing fruition. Oddly, it was also the year of the rock opera as The Fiery Furnaces, Arcade Fire, and even Green Day gave us epic albums linked to a loose storyline, all topped off by the release of the lost Beach Boys' masterpiece, Brian Wilson's SMILE. So get out the stones and tomatoes 'cuz here's my list, least to greatest.....

10. Xiu Xiu: Fabulous Muscles - Xiu Xiu's most accesible album to date was also brimming with that honest emotion that permeated so many of 2004's releases. Brutal and unkind yet soothing to all. Released early in 2004, it gave us the hope that if Xiu Xiu could go pop than maybe indierock was on its way.

9. TV On The Radio: Desperate Youths, Blood Thirsty Babes - The band with the most original sound around could've and should've been the new hit band of the year but something about this jazz/funk/rock/rap/barbershop quartet smorgasbord didn't hit at home with everyone. Either way, they showed they could pull off an album of classic status. No one can say they weren't humming "Dreams" and "Staring at the Sun" in the summer of 2004.

8. Dungen: Ta Det Lugnt - Swedish take on late '60s early '70s psychadelia. You know, when it got heavy and all hard rock. This could have turned into a sappy nostalgia album that made the garage rock movement look original but instead proves to be a hidden gem with honesty and a true love of the form. There are no songs in English but the guitars speak the universal lagunage...rock!

7. The Go! Team: Thunder, Lightning, Strike! - Imagine a band that sounded like some session players for Saturday morning '70s and '80s action cartoon themes. Now imagine they made an album. No album screamed "party!" more than this in 2004. Imagine techno or electro-clash played live in the studio and you have this, the sleeper of the year.

6. Animal Collective: Sung Tongs - Folk came back with a vengeance in the form of acts like Bright Eyes and Iron& Wine but none were as odd and erratic as Animal Collectives Sung Tongs. Dance music played on a acoustic guitar mixed with tribal African ryhtms with vocals by a room full of acid-frazzled Easter bunnies. Hard to explain, just listen. They ask of you but one thing: "What are your Sung Tongs?"

5. Wilco: A Ghost Is Born - It took many listens and writing a lukewarm review later to recognize the brilliance of Wilco's follow up to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. From the Niel Young guitar heroics of one song to the Krautrock drone of another to that skippable wanna be controversial like "Revolution no. 9" track. Every song on the album is its own little mini masterpiece of an homage to '70s rock. It restores faith in the Long Player as an art form once again. It also holds up what many have been saying, Wilco is America's answer to Radiohead. "Theologians they don't know nothing".

4. The Castanets: Cathedral - One of the most talked about albums of the year and it hadn't even been released yet. The Castanets gave us dark folk and goth country all wrapped in emotional sentiment that was not forced. They fill the hole left by The Swans and beat The Handsome Family to the morbidest alt-country prize.

3. The Fiery Furnaces: Blueberry Boat - Basing their entire album on the idea of making an entire LP of songs like The Who's ten minute mini-opera "A Quick One" The Furnaces made out in spades. Nothing since Zappa and Beefheart has sounded this chaotic yet cohesive. Every instrument you can imagine pops up in the first few songs as the album skips from tales of pirate raids to cheating wives and lost dogs. The year of rock opera and concept albums was upon us.

2. Brian Wilson: SMILE - What can be said that I haven't already. It is simply everything it claims to be: a teenage symphony to god, Wilson's masterpiece, the greatest album that wasn't. But it was much more. The hurt and abused ego and psyche of Brian Wilson had finally come out of its shell and found happiness. That's all the album really was supposed to do anyway. While I couldn't give an album that was comprised of rerecorded lost tracks album of the year there is no denying that 2004 was the year of SMILE. The Dumb Angel had arrived, our prayers answered.

1. Arcade Fire: Funeral - It takes one hell of an album to beat SMILE, but Arcade Fire proved themselves. Recorded following several deaths in the family, it marks a new aesthetic. Using current emotional pain to use on songs that have no relation to it. While the songs weren't all about death, every ounce of emotion was poured into love-lorn epics that form an indie rock opera of a city covered in ice as two lovers try to unite admist emotional turmoil. Kinda like if Ryan Adams fronted the Nuetral Milk Hotel; usually songs of that nature would come off trite or be composed of faked emotion...these are not. Was it luck? Studio trickery? Or raw emotion fueled by loss? Who can tell but one thing is for sure: it is the album of 2004. "And if my parents are crying, I'll dig a tunnel from my window to yours...."

"The Digital Divide" is ©2005 by Terence Nuzum..  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.