The best new grooves of 2004, from my list of purchases. And here, in no particular order:
Banyan, Live At Perkins Place. Mike Watt (Minutemen) and Nels Cline (Wilco) team up with Steven Perkins (Jane's Addiction) and kick out a set of furious fusion. Funky, jazzy, driving, fun. Easily Watt's best release of the year, aside from the DVD of him playing bass for the Stooges (and if you missed that, check it out -- the outtakes of Scott Asheton banging out Raw Power songs on a paint bucket and a box at an in-store is worth the price of admission.
Guided by Voices, Half Smiles of the Decomposed. If it must be their last album, then let it be. But, wow. This is how one goes out on top.
Elvis Costello, The Delivery Man. Thank dog the man had the sense to release this following that dismal release North. Love ya, Declan, but man alive, you should stay away from the torchy-feely-croony stuff.
Steve Earle, The Revolution Starts Now. This is the album that Jerusalem could have been. This is more what I expect from Earle, which is steps up from the previous -- and in this case, I measure him against the genius of Transcendental Blues. Oh, and if you're a fan like I am, you must check out the New West DVD of his performance from Austin City Limits in 1986ish. Whoa. Especially note his behavior coming out for the first encore. When he doesn't have a guitar in his hand, it's pretty damn obvious that he was in the throes of a blow habit.
Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak. Based on a recommendation from Earle's XM radio show -- and is it ever good. Available now as an import. I believe this ground is already trod, so the less said the better.
A.C. Newman, The Slow Wonder. The New Pornographers tunesmith cuts a solo release, and crafts a wondrous work of power pop. (Honorable mentions here -- Neko Case's The Tigers Have Spoken, featuring The Sadies, and The Sadies Favourite Colours album. If you dig the Flying Burrito Brothers, check 'em out.)
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Who is This America? Props to Doyle Davis for leading me to this American ensemble kicking it Fela style -- I expect a lot more from this band during the next four years of a Bush administration. "Indictment" has to be one of the angriest ... well, indictments handed out against the war criminals in DC. Supposedly they were so damned militant at their show here at the Mercy Lounge that they were driving patrons away. Those who stayed saw a burning rendition of Afrobeat not soon forgotten.
Hoodoo Gurus, Mach Schau!. Taken from a bit of Beatles trivia, the Gurus reform to "make a show" of their rock prowess. Following hard upon the dazzling outing by Faulkner and Shepherd as The Persian Rugs, this Australian import is a must-have for Hoodoo Gurus fans, and could easily be well-loved by fans of Aussie rock. "Keep Your Powder Dry" was one of the most earwormy songs of this year for me.
Mission of Burma, ONoffON. Picking up where they left off, and not losing many steps.
Wilco, A Ghost is Born. Although it would have been great to have had Nels Cline do the studio work with the gang, this CD has gotten spun so many times around my house and my car that I'm under edict not to play it again where my wife can hear it for at least six months. Now that's monomania for you!