betterPropaganda 2004 Year in Review
2004 was year one for betterPropaganada. Excuse us a tiny moment while we think small for a change and declare 2004, in retrospect, the Year of the Mouse. Hip Hop producer DJ Danger Mouse, German electronic act Mouse on Mars, and rockers Modest Mouse all had awesome years.
There were a lot of good and bad things to notice over the past year. Strangely, the concept of merging or mergers were among our best and worst moments of the year. Merging musical styles- creating hybrids or genre crossovers- were in abundance this year. Rock bands might have had a sequencer, sampler and a dance remix; an electronic artist might have picked up some guitars and started singing; maybe a hip hop act was sounding more like an electronic artist or vice versa. Mash-ups became part of the mainstream vernacular, and people were mixing widely divergent styles together in the studio, or wandering around with them playing in their iPods. It was probably the best year ever to break out with a disco/rock/hip-hop/bossanova/downtempo/remix crossover album. Lots of music on betterPropaganda wound up on one or more of our genre charts for lack of a better definition, and we were totally cool with that. Most of the time anyway. Our publisher Ken Manning explains the crossover trend: "Many effortlessly cross genres, diminishing the categorical, myopic nature of the popular commercial albums currently being force fed to us." On the bad side, the concept of merging or mergers, when applied to corporations such as Clear Channel or the five remaining major record labels (or is that four?), stood out as a uneasy blemish in 2004. Lots of fingers were being pointed at Michael Powell and FCC for being part of the problem. Others complained about the RIAA's alleged abuse of the American legal system.
United States President Bush was extremely unpopular in the betterPropaganda realm over the course of the year. Certainly, our offices in San Francisco and Chicago are admittedly part of that evil and biased liberal media that fills the world with lies and other distortions of reality. Not a single artist on our site- out of literally hundreds- has been, to our knowledge, a Bush supporter over the past year. For absolute real, we quadruple checked. Many artists- the ones who actually bother to wear their opinions on their sleeve or in song- are very opposed to President Bush. Many, in fact, were also opposed to Bush's Democratic opponent John Kerry as well. Some labels literally specialized in anti-Bush artists and releases throughout the year. Other artists went on anti-Bush tours sponsored by groups like punkvoter.com. As 2004 went on, it seemed that more and more artists were willing to use their careers in an effort to discredit the President, who still won a disappointing and close election in November.
After a series of heavily arbitrated and heated discussions full of concessions, the betterPropaganda team was able to come up with a look at the best of 2004 from our vista in the world of online music.
betterPropaganda 2004 Year in Review
Artist of the Year
betterPropaganda Editor Terbo Ted has this to say about DJ Danger Mouse's year: "Well, the Grey Album was the musical event of the year in my mind, which was Danger Mouse all the way (sorry John, Paul, George, Ringo and Jay Z). His album with MC Jemini was top-shelf, and by year's end, he was picked to produce the new Gorillaz album, crossover supergroup of the decade. AND he's on Waxploitation, my favorite label this year. He digs old psych rock and German art rockers Can and is a great interview subject."
also nominated: TV on the Radio, Teargas & Plateglass, Jimmy Edgar
Hip Hop Artist of the Year
He had two tracks top our charts this year, the title track "Ghetto Pop Life" from his album with MC Jemini and the second a remix of a Zero 7 track "Somersault" featuring MF Doom.
also nominated: Vast Aire, Zion I, RJD2
Rock Artist of the Year
TV on the Radio
Our Managing Editor Justin Sinkovich explains: "Signed from a demo tape sent to Touch and Go [which was released as the Young Liars EP], TV on the Radio has already refined their sound into one of the most unique and important new directions in recent independent music. Their debut album Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes seems like merely the first full chapter in the chronicles of an inevitably legendary band. Meanwhile their live shows went in a year's time from largely ignorable, to one of the most inspiring sites and sounds to walk upon a stage."
also nominated: Modest Mouse, Guided by Voices, Jello Biafra
Electronic Artist of the Year
Jonah Sharp, betterPropaganda Music Director, wrote this back in June when we picked Dear's track "And in the Night" as our weeklyPropaganda song of the week: "Texas-born, Detroit-based Matthew Dear has made remarkable steps toward becoming one of America's best new techno artists. Between his stunning live performances and evolved DJ sets, Matthew has perked the ears of the industry's best. His uniquely haunting vocals are truly subliminal."
also nominated: Jimmy Edgar, Teargas & Plateglass, Electric Company
Experimental Artist of the Year
Sinkovich says: "I saw Kid606 for the first time this year at All Tomorrow's Parties in England, and it may have changed my life. How someone can make a couple of laptops spitting noise so damn mesmerizing I will never know. I thought maybe I was just really inspired by the festival, but then I saw him again at our party in Oakland and he completely did it to me again. Genius."
also nominated: OOIOO, Mouse on Mars, Electric Company
Comeback Artist of the Year
This was as close as our staff was to come to making a unanimous decision, with only one other artist receiving any votes at all. Tommy Boy records managed to talk Afrika Bambaaataa, the godfather of hip hop, into making an electro comeback album in the wake of the electro revival a few years back. We picked his collaboration with Gary Numan "Metal" as a song of the week the day it came in, and at one point Bambaataa held the number one and number two spots on our overall Top Downloads chart.
also nominated: Brian Wilson
Best New Artist of the Year
Sharp says "The 20 year old Detroit native has managed to create something new with his slamming techno tinged futurist R+B. This guy is definitely one to look out for."
also nominated: Von Iva, Battles, Murs
Crossover Artist of the Year
Sinkovich says "Jagged hott garage beats and lightning-fast rhymes in an East London accent, Dizzee Rascal's second album Showtime this year is maybe not quite as groundbreaking as his first, but is more listenable and polished that Boy In Da Corner.
also nominated: Afrika Bambaataa, Aeroc, Brian Wilson
Label of the Year
Miguel Depedro, aka Kid606 was prolific as both an artist and small label owner. betterPropaganda staff greatly enjoyed releases by Tigerbeat6, with artists Electric Company, DJ/Rupture and Kid606 himself making some of our year end top ten lists.
also nominated: Waxploitation, Warp, Kill Rock Stars, Plug Research, Ghostly International, Matador, Touch & Go
Album of the Year
Teargas & Plateglass: Teargas & Plateglass
This dark, eerie and cinematic downtempo release, which some could accurately describe as 'depressing' summed up the mood of 2004 for many of us. At one point this year the album was on heavily daily rotation at betterPropaganda world headquarters. Sinkovich explains his fascination: "Not since Boards of Canada has a electronic artist been so entrancing and original. Out of nowhere has come an amazing new addiction."
also nominated: Electric Company: Creative Playthings, K-Os: Joyful Rebellion, RJD2: Since We Last Spoke, Afrika Bambaataa Dark Matter at the Speed of Light
Song of the Year
Two Lone Swordsmen "Faux"
Sharp explains: "The ominous sounds of production duo Andrew Weatherall and Keith Tenniswood again rear it's head as Two Lone Swordsmen. Their first album in four years, Double Gone Chapel alienates and pulses with a paralyzing array of voices and effects layered on top of barbituated electro rhythms. This heralded London project reconfirms its ability to take modernist beats to the darkest of places like their forefathers Suicide, Kraftwerk or perhaps Gary Numan.
also nominated: Teargas & Plateglass "An Adagio for Tandems Stacked", Mouse on Mars "Mine is Yours", Von Iva "Not Hot to Trot", K-Os "Love Song"
Hip Hop Song of the Year
K-Os "Love Song"
Catherine Wiley from our production department explains: "We chose "The Love Song" from the new K-Os album, Joyful Rebellion, as the betterPropaganda Hip Hop Song of the Year because it truly shows how unbelievably multi-talented K-Os is. He not only has one of the most interesting voices in recent hip hop but easily presses the genre boundaries, bringing in influences ranging from reggae to 80's pop to rock and soul. "The Love Song" encourages kids to not believe the hype but to believe in themselves. K-Os implores youth to stand up for their rights and convictions over dazzling beats and DJ scratches. The instrumentation on "The Love Song" is riveting and amazingly listenable, with an assortment of rumbling trumpets, quick piano chords, and a drum machine loop to cap it all off. "The Love Song" provides a little something for everybody, which is why it is the betterPropaganda Hip Hop Song of the Year."
also nominated: Headset "Grasping Claw", Danger Mouse & Jemini "Ghetto Pop Life", Dizzee Rascal "Stand Up Tall", Paris "What Would You Do?"
Rock Song of the Year
!!! "Hello? Is This Thing On?"
There was a big movement in indie rock in the 80s new wave/retro disco direction, and this song easily encapsulated that vibe.
also nominated: 90 Day Men "Even Time Ghosts Can't Stop Wagner", Modest Mouse "Float On", Metric "Combat Baby", TV on the Radio "Dreams"
Electronic Song of the Year
Mouse on Mars "Mine is Yours"
German electronic act Mouse On Mars has been making imaginative and innovative music for over a decade. Unrelentingly idealistic in conceptual nature, they still come up with funky, catchy tunes, proving that artistic creativity and widespread global audience appeal are not mutually exclusive.
also nominated: Teargas & Plateglass "An Adagio for Tandems Stacked", Two Lone Swordsmen "Faux", Miss Kittin "Professional Distortion"
Pop Song of the Year
The Silent League "Breathe"
Justin Russo's New York based orchestral pop band was picked to headline two musical showcases sponsored by betterPropaganda at the CMJ conference in NYC this past fall.
also nominated: Slow Train Soul "In the Black of Night", Brian Wilson "Heroes and Villians"
Experimental Song of the Year
Green Milk From the Planet Orange "When Every Color Turns to Black"
This Japanese jazz-rock-noise-improv trio was a favorite at our San Francisco world headquarters, and they actually performed at the antique corner pub near our office while on tour earlier this year. Our production manager David Osborn explains our fascination: "The Green Milk From The Planet Orange song 'When Every Color Turns to Black' is over 16 minutes long. But, the amazing part is, again and again, 16 minutes is not enough. It never tires, it never grows weary, it is truly of a special nature...it must be heard to be understood, I cannot think of another way...long live Green Milk From The Planet Orange!"
also nominated: Nurse With Wound "A Wasted Life of a Phagocyte Foot Fetishism", Squarepusher "Ultravisitor"
Crossover Song of the Year
Afrika Bambaataa featuring Gary Numan & MC Chatterbox "Metal"
We were all amazed to see Gary Numan's name credited on Bambaataa's new album, and the track actually turned out to be a Gary Numan cover. This was a song of the week pick and a Top Download.
also nominated: Dizzee Rascal "Stand Up Tall"
Funniest Song of the Year
Wesley Willis "My Mother Smokes Crack Rocks"
Unfortunately, Willis has left our physical plane, but he left a large collection of recordings to remember him by.
also nominated: Brian Wilson "Heroes and Villians"