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flag Mare Smythii - Full Moon 101 - 12/26/04

Brian's best of 2004 thingy

Youth Group - Skeleton Jar
Emotionally resonant and lyrically stunning, Skeleton Jar takes top honours here for album of the year - by a mile. Brimming with towers of strength including "Drowned" and "Frankston Line", it's due for release in the US in 2005. I don't think I've heard such a strong triple punch of songs to close an album, big things predicted for this Sydney band next year.

Dallas Crane - Dallas Crane
Equal parts grunt and refined tenderness with "Dirty Hearts" revving things up & "Iodine" & "Open to Close" leaning towards old blues/rock, displaying a diversity in their attack. Centrepiece "Come Clean" is sublime, displaying the Dallas skill for an intricate twin guitar attack a la Marquee Moon. Also slated for US release, forget The Vines & Jet cos' Dallas are here to rumble.

Interpol - Antics
It's all been said... Joy Division to its logical conclusion... The Strokes with substance. Just listen to the majesty that is "Take You on a Cruise" or the "Reel Around the Fountain"-era Smiths of "C'mere" for evidence of their craft. They've quelled any second album jitters right here.

Mieli - Version
Meticulously crafted album by Brisbane solo artist Ryan Gobbe, full of scratch crackle & subtle dubby flavours. With gently throbbing bass and crackled tones of "Fly-over" & shuffling house of "Eighty-hour Sequence", it never fails to turn up aural surprises after repeated spins. If only life was as pristine and as faultless, gorgeous Aussie electro.

The Sunnyboys - This is Real Compilation
One of Australia's most loved bands of the early eighties, heartening to hear this wonderful music compiled onto a two CD set. "Happy Man", "Alone With You", "Love to Rule" and many other gems feature, simply a great rockin' pop band. They will reform for a brief run of shows in Australia next year, a very special outing for a fondly remembered band.

Black Cab - Altamont Diary
Concept albums can be hit and (often) miss affairs, but this debut by two Melbourne artists is most definitely a hit. Based on the infamous 1969 Rolling Stones/Grateful Dead concert & laced with snippets of dialogue, Altamont Diary brilliantly captures the celebration, good vibes and ultimate downward spiral into tragedy. Their masterful take on the Grateful Dead's "New Speedway Boogie" is a highlight, but this album must be listened to in its entirety to appreciate the achievements of Andrew Coates and James Lee.

Decoder Ring - Somersault Soundtrack
Where Decoder Ring adapted their open-ended electronica for the gorgeous Australian film Somersault. Their hushed emotive tones complemented the film's depiction of mid-winter Snowy Mountains town Jindabyne to stunning effect. Like Altamont Diary it must be consumed whole - the icy, bristling moods a match for any recent folktronica.

Mylo - Destroy Rock n Roll
He's really quite clever this Mylo bloke, meshing eighties pop, Daftpunk rhythms and Air-like lounge ambience. Hilarious vocal grabs, a touch of "Bette Davis Eyes", some ice-cold electro - can only hope he's not a one-trick pony. The funnest release this year.

Karma County - Pacifico
A true gem and a real return to form for KC. Formed in 1995, the band play with true feel here, double bass to the fore pulsating throughout Pacifico. Often seen as too MOR for the indie cardigans, the County stamp their ground with strong songs, gorgeous vocals and a smooth ensemble performance. Possibly their finest moment.

Blockhead - Music by Cavelight
Apt title for a broken-down, cut up, pensive late night masterpiece. As with Melbourne sculptor Gotye, Blockhead employs long-lost grainy soundtracks and rests them on a bed of keys and broken beats to stunning effect. Exquisite ambient electro for the head and the heart.

Degrees K - Children of the Night Sky
Only an EP length release, but this sure packs a punch. Think Shihad and Meantime-era Helmet with a nice thick layer of melody running through all the riffery. Standout is "Worth It" with its chop-chop chords and pummelling rhythms - bring forth the debut album now!

Shapeshifter - Riddim Wise
Not to be confused with UK club bangers Shapeshifters, this Melbourne-based Kiwi drum & bass crew have certainly stepped up to the plate on Riddim Wise. Full of superior crisp beats, sharp rhythmic pulses and stunning male/female vocal performances. "When I Return", "Move With Me" and "Long White Cloud" prove how dynamic this crew can be, even more so in the live arena. Music for clear ocean rockpools.

Silver Ray - Humans
Immediately striking about this album is Silver Ray's ability to continue the momentum established over previous releases. Recorded live in the pre-dawn chill between 1am and 5am, Humans is full of strident graceful rolls, romantic swagger, sheets of noise and beautiful serenity. Their warmth, telepathy and intuition is such you forget you're witnessing a 'live take'. This Melbourne trio's epic dusky ballroom soundtracks continue to impress.

Dappled Cities Fly - A Smile
Local indie train spotters thoroughly wet themselves over Dappled's debut album. Giving perhaps too much of a nod to Flaming Lips and Pavement, they scrape in due to their pretty, otherworldly use of backing vocals and the strength of tracks such as "League of German Girls". Beautiful intricate production also makes this a worthy inclusion. Second album will be the real reveal for these Sydney boys.

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