Best Albums 2004 (11-15)

15. Jaojoby — Malagasy


Eusèbe Jaojoby is the King of Salegy, a Madagascar pop style that nudges traditional 6/8 rhythms up near a frantic 300 BPM threshold. He’s not a particularly prolific recording artist–I can’t spot any releases since 2004. And he became so much stronger a bandleader in the four-year interim between his 2000 disc Aza Arianao and Malagasy, with his highlifey basics filled out by synths imitating accordions and some judiciously blatting horns, that I can’t guess where his music’s at six years later. I’m there if he ever tours stateside again, if only to watch the be-sandaled old guys worldbeat shows invariably attract try to rev their hippie skank up to meet the drummer’s demands.

14. The Fever — Red Bedroom


On this mostly forgotten New York band’s first full-length, the pop-garage organ rock is less dense and spazzy than the five-song predecessor Pink on Pink, from which it lifts one of two essentials (“Ladyfingers,” not their cover of “The Glamorous Life”). I prefer Chris Sanchez’s Voidoid-oid guitar to Geremy Jasper’s R. Hellish yelps, a prejudice that the follow-up, In the City of Sleep, sans Sanchez, bears out.  In fact, I wish the guitarist’s chromatics dominated here almost enough to check out the alternate versions later packaged as Red Room: The Jasper vs. Sanchez Remixes. Fortunately, the band rocks tautly enough to keep me from sifting through such arcana.

13. Thelonious Monster — California Clam Chowder


On his first Thelonious Monster album in sobriety, old-time indie lowlife turned Dr. Drew sidekick Bob Forrest names each song for another artist: e.g., “The Oasis Song” (“If you agree that things are not/ The way they could be or the way they should be or the way you want them to be/ Let’s get together and change the world.”) Forrest can be a crank for sure, lamenting how post-punk revivalists cheapened Joy Division for him and mocking Beck’s haircut. But he’s a crank struggling to live in the present rather than lose himself in the past–in other words, a better role model than lots of far more successful cranks.

12. The Libertines — The Libertines


I hate morality plays–not every youthful good time should end in penance, and lots never do. But where Up the Bracket, neither ripped nor roared quite as devil-may-carelessly as advertised, the bad boys of Britpop-is-back face their comeuppance in high style. This document of a band barely keeping it together careens as precariously as any rock and roll on disc. And though the self-mythologizing might grate if I’d lived with them as tabloid pop stars rather than esoteric imports, from this hemisphere the elegies to their own good-looking corpses are rather touching.

11. Madvillain — Madvillainy


Doom lives or dies by the verse–the couplet, even–so it can feel arbitrary to pick a favorite song, let alone a favorite disc. If you dig his quizzical mushmouth and TV-stoner sensibility, you’re not gonna hate anything he drawls. So at judgment day it comes down to beats. Only Danger Mouse’s toon coloration has backgrounded Doom’s flow as fittingly as Mad Lib’s jazzlets, and the spoken-word samples here are less obtrusive than Danger Doom’s Adult Swim in-jokes, with Doom slouching toward a beatnik poetry that he can really stroke his chin to.

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