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.
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."