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The Seven Best Albums of 2004

I've been chewing this weekend on my personal top ten list of best CDs of the year. Instead of an album countdown, I've decided to boil it down to a magic list of seven albums that I found equally refreshing and original this year.

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Favorite
Overall: Scissor Sisters "Scissor Sisters"
Scissor Sisters' catchy debut album has a crunchy edge that captures rock venues and dancefloors with equal intensity. Jake Shears, Ana Matronic, Babydaddy, Del Marquis and Paddy Boom are quickly starting to make a name for themselves by challenging every expectation. Their album is a memorable mix of hooky guitar riffs, fierce electro sleaze and plenty of decadence. Album highlights include the group's infamous version of Pink Floyd's rock classic "Comfortably Numb" which gracefully transforms into the first single "Take Your Mama," a full-blown club anthem with Bee Gees-styled vocals. "Return to Oz" handles about the serious issue of party drugs in the gay community and shows listeners a serious side of the Sisters.

Favorite Pop/Electronica: Mylo "Destroy Rock & Roll"
If Madonna and Moby would have a baby his name would be Mylo. On this instantly infectious debut "Destroy Rock & Roll," the 24 year-old Scottish DJ/producer presents a sleek hybrid of ’80 inspired pop, downbeat house and electronica. He cuts and pastes musical ideas from Prince (on "Guilty Of Love"), Kim Carne’s "Bette Davies Eyes" (on "In My Arms") and Daft Punk (on "Otto’s Journey") to create a nostalgic feast that will keep you moving long after midnight. I also liked: The Go! Team "Thunder Lightning Strike," Air "Talk Walkie."

Favorite Soundtrack: BT  "Music From & Inspired By the Film Monster"
This sublime soundtrack for the movie Monster by BT (Brian Transseau) was nominated for an Oscar earlier this year. The DJ/producer/composer showed off his versatile talent by composing a score that perfectly captures the raw emotion of the movie. "Monster" blends roots Americana-like organic, melodic sensibilities and non-traditional acoustic instrumentation to garner a complex, powerful and darkly beautiful sequence of music. I also liked: Various "The Motorcycle Diaries," Various "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" (except that horrible duet between Rufus Wainwright and Dido).

Favorite Pop: Jem "Finally Woken"
"Finally Woken" is a progressive mix of catchy pop, hip-hop and electronica that appears simple in form and substance. But don't be deceived by the album's no-frill production qualities. Jem's voice and distinct songwriting carries an emotional intensity that has appealed to many. I also liked in 2004: Gwen Stefani "Love, Angel, Music, Baby," Darren Hayes "The Tension & The Spark."

Favorite: Pop/Rock: Rufus Wainwright "Want Two"
Rufus did it again. On "Want Two" he once again combines his grand poperatic tunes with poignant storytelling and social commentary. In an interview with me Wainwright confided, "It is a pretty apocalyptic time. And I have to say there are not many artists out there that are willing to speak about it. All these pop stars still think it is 1999." His new album brings us back to the realities of 2004 with Wainwright as an eloquent spokesperson and inspiration for the gay rights movement across North America. I also liked: Butch Walker "Letters," Keane "Hopes & Fears."

Favorite Alt Rock: The Killers "Hot Fuss"
In this category it was really a toss up between Snow Patrol, VHS or Beta and The Killers. It is the boys from Nevada that get my final vote for making alternative pop look cool, chic and downright sexy this year.

Favorite Dance: Sasha "Involver"
Spinning gigs around the globe, Sasha has been a leading force behind the progressive house movement since the early '90s. "Involver" marks an important milestone his career and was produced and mixed entirely electronically (without the use of vinyl turntables). His remix of Grand National's "Talks Amongst Yourself" on this CD is one of the finest he has ever done. The album's remix of Felix Da Housecat's "Watching Cars Go By" garnered him a 2004 Grammy nomination. I also liked to dance to: Gabriel & Dresden "Bloom," Depeche Mode "Remixes 81-04" and  James Zabiela "Alive."

December 27, 2004 in Music News | Permalink | Comments (8)

MP3: The Killers "Somebody Told Me" (Josh Harris Remix)


The Killers' Brandon Flowers

"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," must have been the thought of singer Brandon Flowers when he wrote the lyrics for The Killers' debut "Hot Fuss." The Las Vegas pop-rock outfit has been the topic of much speculation as a result of Flowers' ambiguous, gay-themed lyrics. The handsome crooner gives subtle hints about his sexuality on the songs  "Andy You're A Star" and "Somebody Told Me," but still leaves a wide margin for different interpretations.

"Andy, You're A Star" supposedly describes Flowers' crush on a football athlete in high school. But it is "Somebody Told Me" that has left most people wondering. Flowers sings, "Well somebody told  me/You had a boyfriend/Who looks like a girlfriend/That I had in February of last year/It's not confidential I've got potential." Opinions about the song's meaning on fan boards range from Flowers' ex-girlfriend getting a sex change to the singer's desire to have a three-way with his ex-girlfriend and her new girlfriend.

Check out a special remix of "Somebody Told Me" by DJ Josh Harris [MP3]  It is a sassy pop-rock tune that recently received a GRAMMY nomination for "Best Rock Song." The song is also included in my 2004 Gay Hits iMix on iTunes.

All rumors aside, let's agree that Brandon Flowers is well in touch with his sensitive side. I believe the song is essentially about how rumors can easily spiral out of control. Flowers finds out through the grapevine that his ex-girlfriend is now dating another woman. He is probably not gay, but at least he is having an open mind about it. (Click here to purchase The Killers' "Hot Fuss" on Amazon.)

December 23, 2004 in MP3 | Permalink | Comments (85)

Kylie Minogue Mash-Ups

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Mixing Kylie

Mash-ups are remixes that combine samples from two different tracks. Generally, one song's vocals are blended with another's instrumental or rhythm track. The challenge for most mash-up producers is to blend two completely different genres to create a mix that is odd, fun, interesting and might even sound better than the originals.

Check out some hot new Kylie Minogue mash-ups. On Fettdog's Kylie Minogue versus Gary Numan mash-up, Kylie delivers her hit "Slow" over an old Gary Numan b-side called "Photograph" to create a gorgeous track with piano and strings. On Pheugoo's Kylie Minogue versus David Bowie mash-up, Kylie's vocals are mixed up with David Bowie's 80 post-disco tune "Let's Dance." (Click here to order Kylie's newest "Greatest Hits" album)

December 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clay Aiken's Fairy Tale


Clay Aiken: Wooden Window Dummy.
Originally uploaded by camera1.

Our favorite American Idol loser Clay Aiken is currently appearing as a wooden dummy at the Marshall Fields department store in Chicago. In this photo, he is courting Snow White in a window display. This sleeping beauty might need a wake-up call, because apparently Clay has also been spending time with somebody else this Christmas season. More of Clay's fairy tale photos here and here. (Click here to check out Clay Aiken's lovely holiday album.)

December 21, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

MP3: Chris Price "Charge Me Up"


Eighties Kunst: Chris Price

Get out your peepers, square-end neck ties and checkerboard Vans for pop singer Chris Price. The Washington DC based artist flashbacks to the '80s with the nostalgic "Charge Me Up"  [MP3 link removed] that is taken from his forthcoming EP "The Identity Crisis." The song is a delicious slice of minimalist '80s electro pop that is reminiscent of late new wavers Human League and New Order.

With today's pop culture full of trivial '80s elements, Price, 27, is one of the few artists that puts his own spin on classic synth pop. Amusing Chris Price tidbit is that he is a great fan of Kirsten Dunst and considered to name his band Dirsten Kunst ('kunst' is German for 'art') as a homage to the actress. (Click here to visit Chris Price's web site.)

December 21, 2004 in MP3 Exclusives | Permalink | Comments (4)