"From a Basement on a Hill" by Elliott Smith. Surprise surprise, right? Beautiful album, and a brilliant sendoff to one of the greatest pop musicians since The Beatles. I could prattle on about this one for hours, so I'll just point out some key tracks. Fond Farewell, Twilight, King's Crossing, A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity To Be Free. Close runners up include "Hot Fuss" by The Killers and "You are the Quarry" by Morrissey.
"Good News For People Who Love Bad News" by Modest Mouse. Led by a slightly catchy pop single and boatloads of good buzz, I picked up this album. After one listen, I regretted it. After a second one, I vowed never to listen to it again. Completely disjointed, and weird--not weird for the music's sake, but weird for the sake of being weird. Only decent tracks on the album are Float On and Bukowski. The rest is scrap.
Most overrated album:
"American Idiot" by Green Day. Entertainment Weekly proclaimed Green Day "the band that saved rock" on their most recent cover. Critics everywhere are saying that this is what an "album" should be. This album is okay. It's just okay. It's actually a step back for Green Day, who I feel achieved greatness with their previous album "Warning." They have gone back to more "punk-style" guitar mashing for the most part, which is not a bad style. It's just a huge leap backwards in the artistic development of Green Day. Unlike their earlier albums (namely Dookie and Nimrod), the melodies seem forced, and some are just unlistenable. Good tracks include Jesus of Suburbia and Give Me Novocaine. Close runners up include "Franz Ferdinand" by Franz Ferdinand and "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" by Modest Mouse.
Most overrated song:
"Stacy's Mom" by Fountains of Wayne. What a stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, inane song. Radio cliche melody, awful "funny" lyrics, and nonstop 24-hour radio play made this a huge fucking flop.
Band Least Deserving of an Overrated Song:
Fountains of Wayne. Great tracks on their most recent album (which came out in 2003 but I didn't hear until recently) include Hackensack, Hey Julie, and Yours and Mine. It also has...that other song...but the album is solid otherwise.
There were three movies that I saw from 2004 that were truly great. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind takes the prize though. This is a movie that I can watch over and over and be thoroughly moved by it every time. Eternal Sunshine mixes the true feelings of being stuck in a loveless relationship, heartbreak, and the vicious cycle of break-up-make-up, and mixes it with incredible directorial vision and a dose of fantasy for what is definitely one of the best films I've seen in my life. Even though you've heard me rattle on about Eternal Sunshine for a year now, you'd be surprised to know how hard it was for me to pick that one over the other two. It's been a good year for movies. Honorable mentions go to Garden State and Sideways.
I didn't see very many movies that "sucked" this year. This may be because I only saw twenty-four of them, so I had to be choosy in my picks. I suppose that I would have to pick Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Overshadowed by that other, better summer comedy (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), the laughs were too sparse and the jokes too shallow. I hope the proposed sequel falls through, and that Ben Stiller gets some rest. He's been in far too much this year, and most was crap.
This was a tough choice, but I have to go with "America: The Book" by Jon Stewart and the Daily Show Staff. Skewering everything from the obscure (George Washington's cabinet members) to the current (Dick Cheney and Haliburton), this book doesn't have a page that isn't good for a laugh. Close runner-up is "Dress Your Children in Corduroy and Denim" by David Sedaris.
I can't really think of any books that I've read this year that have been bad. I'm easy to please in most respects. With that said, the worst of the best has to be The Vanished Man by Jeffrey Deaver. Like all of Jeffrey Deaver's stuff, it kept me enthralled to the end, but there was one thing that stood out, and that one thing was enough to make this the "worst" book I read this year. One of the tertiary characters, early on in the book, is described in this way. "a soft-spoken veteran who looked like Lawrence Fishburne." That is lazy, lazy storytelling narrative. But still, a good novel. Close runner up was "Bleachers" by John Grisham because I don't like football, but only about ten pages actually have to deal with football. The rest is emotion.
So there we go. Hopefully next year I'll be more on the ball.