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Best Of 2004: Songs

1. PITTY SING – Radio
"Smalltown Boy" and "Beautiful Day" have a baby from this New York via Boston (and Manchester) four-piece that captures the mid-'80s better than the mid-'80s did. Desperate, majestic, earnest, yet with a slight hint of acknowledgment of the absurdity of it all.

2. ANNIE - Me Plus One
If you use The Human League’s "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" as a blueprint, you can only screw up so much. Annie didn't screw up at all, and she created a pop song worth soiling your underwear about.

3. THE STREETS - Fit But You Know It
Jilted John, Ian Dury, and Blur’s "Parklife" are the most obvious antecedents of the most unique and interesting-sounding song of 2004.

Is to 2004 what "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was to 1992, and we needed it roughly as much.

5. THE DEARS - Lost In The Plot
There’s some kind of shipwreck of love swirling around in this lush two-part creation.

When you're achin' to be on top of the mountain, sometimes asserting that you've already made it is the only way to get there.

7. DAN BERN - Sammy's Bat
Modern-day political parable about fighting the Bush administration by any means necessary, even if it means playing outside of the rules. Best lyrical invocation of a baseball icon since "Mrs. Robinson."

A good-time meeting of the minds.

9. CRAYON ROSARY - Siren Song
Cool lo-fi indie nerd-pop duo from New Brunswick with acoustic guitars, drum machines, and toy instruments. Will appeal instantly to anyone looking for a less goofy They Might Be Giants or a stripped down Weezer. And one of the best lyrics of the year: "If I could write you a song with keyboards and horns/And a powerful rock beat to push it along/If I pull off a rock & roll swagger and sneer/Would it finally get you back in my bed?"

Britain’s new favorite MC spins one of the most charming "how I made it" stories ever told through music, with Captain Sensible’s version of "Happy Talk" as the looped musical bed.

The best song ever written with my name in the title, so while I wanted to put it in the top 10, I felt I had to keep it out, in order to avoid accusations of bias.

12. BEN KWELLER - Different But The Same
If I supervised the phones at a suicide hotline, I might use this keep-yer-chin-up piano ballad by one of the coolest rock kids on the block as the hold music.

13. CHROMEO - Needy Girl
Gloria Steinem probably would not sign off on the lyrical caricature of emotionally dependent femininity, but if she liked The Human League she’d probably have a hard time dismissing this on the dance floor.

14. ART BRUT - Formed A Band
We—we meaning most of the rock & roll obsessives likely to read this—have all lived this. Not that we’ve all formed bands. The only band I've been part of to date was the Dumont High School Marching Band; they’d kind of been around a while by the time I ended up on lead crash cymbal, so I really can’t claim to have played any part in forming that band. But anyone who’s spent time around a rock & roll fan who suddenly picks up an instrument and fancies themselves an instant rock star has heard this type of hopeful prognostication and energy. It only ups the ante further when these South Londoners who recall The Buzzcocks and The Fall sing "I wanna be the boy, the man/That writes the song/That makes Israel and Palestine get along."

15. THE KILLERS - Somebody Told Me
Admit it, you like this crap.

16. I AM THE WORLD TRADE CENTER - Future Sightings
A ringer for New Order’s "Temptation" that brilliantly splits the difference by having even poppier music but even darker lyrics.

17. MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE - I'm Not Okay (I Promise)
Nailing it on their first major-label single, the budding screamo stars who cut their teeth playing The Loop Lounge in Passaic Park made the most important rock song to come out of New Jersey all year.

Annoyingly good.

19. DUNGEN - Festival
Sounds like one, if that’s possible.

20. SCISSOR SISTERS - Take Your Mama
Veers so close to being really, really bad. And yet its synthesis of "Take Me To The Pilot" and "Freedom 90" couldn’t be more right.

21. RILO KILEY - Love And War (11/11/46)
22. RILO KILEY - It Just Is

I’d fill up the next several chart positions with tunes from Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous, but that that would just be boring. If these kids aren’t the songwriters of the year, I’m eating my hat.

23. THE KILLERS - Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll
Almost as tongue-in-cheek as the Art Brut song—or is it? Best b-side of the year.

Icelandic/Italian/English trip-hop goddess Emiliana Torrini (where’s her second album?) co-writes, and out pops the second-best song of Kylie’s career.

25. THE KILLERS - Smile Like You Mean It
Anthem 2004.

26. MORRISSEY - Irish Blood, English Heart
A searing rock & roll ode to the dual and long-feuding homelands of so many of his fellow Mancunians, as well as Liverpudlians and others from the north country.

27. THE FALL - Theme From Sparta F.C. #2
Proof that they still can if they want to; too bad this wasn't on their two-disc career retrospective released earlier in the year (see the Reissues chart).

28. WILLIAM SHATNER - Common People
29. NANCY SINATRA - Let Me Kiss You

The year’s two best cover songs come from the over-60 set: one of Pulp’s 1995 Britpop slumming anthem, one of a Morrissey song that was only a couple months old when this second version surfaced. Both are perfectly conceived and executed.

30. BUTCH WALKER - Uncomfortably Numb
"I wasted a good conversation ‘bout music and God/On an out-of-work, coked-out A&R guy." If you’ve hung around the clubs long enough, you might have lived this one too.

31. THE DIVINE COMEDY - Absent Friends
32. TRASHCAN SINATRAS - All The Dark Horses
33. THE MAGNETIC FIELDS - I Thought You Were My Boyfriend
34. EDWARD ROGERS - Make It Go Away

Get out the Kleenex for four breathtakingly gorgeous, masterful gems of heartbreak.

35. THE PONYS - Trouble Trouble
Simply irresistible.

36. U2 – Yahweh
"God, Schmod; I want my monkey man!" – Bart Simpson

37. HAR MAR SUPERSTAR - Body Request
Tongue in somewhere far naughtier, albeit sillier, than cheek. A phenomenal rip-off of Off The Wall-era Jacko.

38. KANYE WEST - Through The Wire
Some of the best storytelling this side of The Streets.

39. JEM – They
A mini word-of-mouth phenomenon that began with Nic Harcourt at KCRW. When, almost as a goof, I started playing this infectiously bouncy, British, Bach-sampling beat at my Goldhawk gigs, it blossomed into one of the club's most-requested and best-loved songs of the year.

40. THE BRAVERY - Unconditional
41. VHS OR BETA - Night On Fire

Somebody told me, that you had a boyfriend, who looked like a girlfriend, that I had…oh, we already did that one? Terribly sorry. Carry on.

Did I mention this is the best band on the planet with an eight-album catalog that nobody has ever heard of?

43. AVRIL LAVIGNE – Together
The biggest pop chorus of the year.

44. MORRISSEY - The First Of The Gang To Die
Will this man never run out of sad characters to immortalize in song?

45. ANNIE - The Greatest Hit
This one’s more reminiscent of Sarah Cracknell’s solo album than anything she’s done for Saint Etienne, but then it also reminds me of Hoku. All of this is good.

46. THE STREETS - Dry Your Eyes
Keep ya head up.

47. SAHARA HOTNIGHTS - Walk On The Wire
Sweden’s answer to The Donnas on their tightest, most focused and punk-influenced moment.

Yeah, I didn’t think the Babyface-Mellencamp collaboration would work either. Who knew?

49. PALOMAR - Albacore
Give a man—or, in this case, three women and a man—a fish.

50. RADIO 4 - Party Crashers (Headman Vocal Remix)
51. BUMBLEBEEZ 81 - Pony Ride

Electronic-based pop songs, both of which I like a lot, both of which might actually be really, really bad. In other words, I enjoy the bejesus out of them now, but I won’t be surprised if, five years from now, I look back with embarrassment and think, "Ooh, I liked that?" So they go right smack in the middle of this list.

52. WILLIAM SHATNER - That's Me Trying
Nick Hornby and Shatner co-wrote this frightening, funny vignette of a pathetic, aging absentee father. Aimee Mann and Ben Folds help out vocally on the track, which of course was produced by Folds. Just the right number of cooks in this kooky kitchen.

53. GEORGE MICHAEL – Amazing
When a mainstream dance/pop song this good can’t get arrested (and no, not for public lewdness, though, you know, wocka wocka and all that) at Top 40 radio, we’ve officially gone to musical hell in a musical handbasket.

54. SMART BROWN HANDBAG - Half Worth Having
55. JOHN CALE - Things

Sometimes the simplest sentiments say the most.

56. JUST JACK - Snowflakes (Cured By The Temple Of Jay Mix)
Just some white Brit laconically rapping over The Cure’s "Lullaby," but give him points for thinking of it.

57. DUNGEN - Lipsill
Like "Penny Lane," evokes fond memories of an idyllic town on a fine, sunny afternoon when all is right with the world. Then again, I could be totally off, being it's in Swedish.

58. THE FEVER - Cold Blooded
59. THE HIVES - Walk Idiot Walk
60. THE CURE - Taking Off

Return to the valley of 1982.

61. JILL SCOTT - Golden
Sharp, catchy R&B pop.

62. X-WIFE – Eno
Just another Portuguese band that sounds like Suede mashed-up with The Undertones.

63. PITTY SING - We're On Drugs

Resigned contentment.

65. DIZZEE RASCAL - Stand Up Tall
The best breakneck-paced rap song I’ve heard since Outkast’s "B.O.B."

66. THE WILDHEARTS - Nexus Icon
67. THE WALKMEN - The Rat

A couple of the most balls-out guitar rock songs of the year, from England and New York, respectively.

68. DAN BERN - Bush Must Be Defeated
69. CAETANO VELOSO - (Nothing But) Flowers
70. VON BONDIES - C'mon C'mon
71. RILO KILEY - Portions For Foxes

It is our duty to resist.

72. ROBYN HITCHCOCK - Television
A haunting six-minute meditation, and Hitchcock’s best song in years.

73. HUMA - Given The Reasons

Whether it’s New Brunswickian dream-pop or Bloomfieldian Brit-rips, Jersey rocks in all kinds of ways. Peep my Huma interview here.

75. RATATAT - Seventeen Years
Even before it was in a Hummer commercial, this was the quasi-mainstream electronic instrumental of the year.

76. FRANZ FERDINAND - Tell Her Tonight
Gang Of Four crossed with The Zombies, and it works.

77. THE PONYS - Fall Inn
Borrows an intro from Phil Spector and takes it down a rock & roll road.

78. PHOENIX - Everything Is Everything
Not the Lauryn Hill song.

79. FREEDY JOHNSTON - She's A Goddess
Unearthed demo finds the ex-Hobokenite at his poppy best.

80. CAM'RON – Girls
I can’t help it; I like Cam’ron. It’s not just because Killa was nice when we chatted for a minute early one evening in the Sony building circa 1999. His crisp delivery is everything I like about modern thugged-out hip-hop pop. Uses good beats, too. I’ll take this guy over Jay-Z any day.

The atypical song from the Franz album. Which is of crucial importance, as it shows they have at least some capacity for variety.

82. JONATHAN RICHMAN - Cosi Veloce
Suitable for conga lines.

Cornball mainstream pop with schlocky true-life lyrics about being on friendly terms with you ex does not get any better than this. Nor should it.

84. LE TIGRE - After Dark
85. THE CRYSTAL METHOD - Born Too Slow
86. THE FAINT - Desperate Guys
87. KASABIAN - Club Foot
88. SCISSOR SISTERS - Comfortably Numb

I see you baby, shakin’ that ass, shakin’ that ass, shakin’ that ass.

89. LLOYD COLE - Late Night, Early Town
All quiet nights at home should be this thoughtful, peaceful, satisfying.

90. SNOW PATROL - How To Be Dead
What happens if you screw up U2’s directions.

91. SPIRALING - Ah, Sugar
Honey honey, you were my candy girl...

93. THE LIBERTINES - Can't Stand Me Now
95. SNOW PATROL - Spitting Games
96. COMMUNIQUE - Death Rattle Dance
97. TAKING BACK SUNDAY - A Decade Under The Influence

Long live rock.

98. PRINCE - Cinnamon Girl
The only track I went gaga for on the overrated Musicology was this pop-oriented non-Neil Young cover that recalls "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man."

Doesn’t it seem like this came out years ago?

100. MORRISSEY - America Is Not The World
We'll learn.

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