In wrapping up the year I realize I’m not much of a “Top Ten” list kind of guy. In fact, for a long time, I used to attribute such lists in periodicals to year-end editorial laziness. Having since been tasked to compose such copy for magazines I know now its more difficult than it might seem – its sometimes, if you feel such a personal connection to art, music, and film as I do, like ranking one’s children according to preference, often arbitrarily. Its so much easier to point out the lemons but I try my very best to be positive here. At any rate, you can easily read about my highs and lows and picks and misses of 2004 by a cursory look at this past year’s archives on this site. I mean, I haven’t posted that much!
Sometimes life gets crazy and busy for me and more often than not I can’t summon the inspiration or motivation to post, so I’ve had a few things on the back burner that I’d wanted to write about but never got around to. I would say I’ve got a list but I don’t keep those. With the holidays and running around at work covering the terrible situation in Aceh, Thailand, and South Asia, I’m busier than ever I guess but I’ll make an effort to dig into my memory banks and try to summon whatever it was I’d been meaning but neglecting to post about all this time.
But that might be too much work…
so instead right now I’ll take the time to highlight my three Guilty Pleasures of 2004, albums which have been in constant circulation on my machine all year.
Feist’s debut Let It Die has got to be one of the most all-around satisfying albums ever! This is going to drop and be marketed in US in March and it will hit hard so I might as well put my two bits in before I grow tired of hearing it in every trendy restaurant and coffee shop. It has been yet another amazing year for Canadian pop musicians and Calgary native, now Paris transplant, Leslie Feist might well be the latest great hope from the great white north to take off! Spare me Avril and Celine any time. Yikes one her songs has already been incorporated into a "classic" high school dance scene on The OC! I’ve put off writing about this release because I didn’t think I could find the words to do it justice. And I don’t think I can right now but, in short, Let it Die is a collaboration with Peaches cohort Gonzales who turns out to be a soulful, sensitive and gifted arranger (who knew?). Ms. Feist has an achingly warm and assured voice. The material ranges from the bump and grind of a cover of the Bee Gees’ “Inside & Out” to a stunning, crystalline treatment of Ron Sexmith’s “Secret Heart,” and, in addition to stellar original compositions, as illustrated by a choice interpretation of Francois Hardy’s “L’amour ne Dure pas Toujours,” the overall vibe is one ripe and fine European vacance. I’ve recommended this purchase to a ton of folk and no one has been disappointed or taken this disc out of their player since. Essential listening!
Talk about beautiful, Mara Carlyle’s solo debut, The Lovely, is just about the most exquisite thing in my possession right now. Lets start with the packaging. As with all of the Matthew Herbert helmed Accidental releases, the design is gorgeous and thoughtful; The Lovely is wrapped in a linen sleeve and contains a sumptuous folio of black & white flower prints on Japanese rice paper. Lovingly produced by long-time collaborators Plaid, The Lovely is the perfect and natural companion to Feist’s Let it Die, although somewhat more earthy and ethereal. You can find it in the Electronica bin but obvious points of reference include: Nico, Sandy Denny, Goldfrapp, Julee Cruise, and another one of this year’s faves, Dani Siciliano. The material is wide-ranging, all self-penned by Carlyle and featuring her myriad talents with eclectic instruments, jazz and folk influenced, and decidedly torchy. Pure rapture.
The third of this years’ guilty pleasures is Anniemal, the infectious gem of a pop album from Norway's Annie, which has been widely heralded on the internets and is probably already being played in the clubs if I even ever bothered to go out these days. I think this is the kind of party disc Gwen Stefani was aiming for with her solo effort but maybe got mussed up with too many guest producers and musicians. “Chewing Gum” has to be the single of the year, showcasing the catchiest hook since the Tom Tom Club got overly sampled in the early nineties. The production values are way, way top-rate. I have a certain weakness for shameless europop but one can’t categorize Anniemal as just that. Its way too strong and there is an odd air of urgent poignancy to the effort (Annie recently experienced a great loss to whom the album is dedicated). I dunno when this is going to officially be released in the US but I’ve been grooving on this for the better part of 2004! Bring out the Anniemal inside of you! Absolutely delightful.
Other 2004 albums “I’ve loved, but forgot to mention” – and are all well worth checking out - include: Cerys Matthews, Cockahoop; the new-wave bossa nova treat Nouvelle Vague; Allison Moorer, The Duel; Keren Ann, Not Going Anywhere; Junior Boys, Last Exit; Devotchka, How It Ends; a new release from ol’ classmates The Walkmen; and that fantastic The Arcade Fire debut. Oh, and Nancy Sinatra's nuevo virtual greatest hits album. Yikes I know I'm forgetting a bunch of stuff.
I’ve read barely any books this year. But perused unfathomable amounts of web material and tons of magazines. Doesn’t that just suck? Sad commentary.
I’ve lead a fairly nomadic life – and, believe me, after four years in DC, I’m itching for another move – but at the core, the glue that has always kept things together has been my family. I’m eternally thankful that my grandmother is still with us after all that she went through these past two years and doing very well, adjusting amazingly to a new living situation, and bringing us tremendous joy as always. This year also brought the permanent return to the US of my parents. In November, with my sister’s wonderful wedding, I was able to reconnect and celebrate, albeit rushed and in the frenzy of needy guests, with friends and family from the various periods in my life - for which I am very grateful. Circumstance, crisis, chance encounters, and, yes, even, Googling, have enabled old friends to re-enter my life as well this year. Since returning to the US, I’ve been a decidedly independent, solitary, selfish kind of guy most of the time, but the departure of a very close friend has opened my eyes to the notion that maybe I should start branching out a bit more again and make some fresh connections.
Site-wise, I’ve been meaning to revamp, but the outdated equipment I have at home and work and my lack of technical prowess makes this a cumbersome task. It’s a challenge even to post sometimes! Besides, I’ve grown comfortable with the clunky design. The other day I realized that the color palette echoes the Philippines flag – it was never intentional – and that somehow makes me happy and feels appropriate. And I’ve grown accustomed to Anna Karina’s face (and pointedly-pregnant scissors) in the upper-right-hand corner! However, in January, when I’m house sitting Uptown while the Folks are on their Asia sojourn and looking after The Kid and have access to the new turbo laptop, that might all just change… maybe get inspired. Makeover!
I don’t “do” resolutions but it has been coming harshly to my attention that I need to take dramatic and dedicated steps to take better care of myself physically. I’ve been paying my gym fees all along but can’t seem to take the first step of the walk of shame back into the place. However, I do know, once I get started up and into the routine, I’ll be hooked again. Old habits die hard, but I’m quick to take on new addictions and hopefully a healthy lifestyle and lots of gym will be one of them. My god the wedding photos of me were scary, I’ve become this carbo-fleshy monster – one bloated toad! I used to take it for granted that I would have good skin and full head of hair but even that’s been failing me! Essie saw a barely ten-year old photo of me the other day and she was genuinely and visibly in shock – she said I looked like “Phil Donahue or whatshisname from the beach party movies.” Yikes, I think she meant Troy, and maybe that’s just how all young white boys with a full head of tawny blondish locks look like to black people, but it goes to show illustrating the sad reality of young man coming face-to-face with his thirties. Yo kids never take it for granted – my mother was right when she told me I was ruining my looks through hard living and excess!
Ay, getting to be bitch session here! And more confessional and revealing than my comfort zone will allow.
I’ll stop here. Plus I’m hosting a brunch tomorrow/today and need to be fresh.
All in all, I think I had a great 2004!
Oh, and a big “Salut!” to the Copains on the sidebar! I dig you all!
A brilliant 2005 everyone!