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Ray Troll's' Top 5 CDs (+ 2) for 2004
by Ray Troll


January 01, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - This was the year that dad Troll fell behind the curve and the teenagers in the house finally eclipsed the old man in music consumption and trend setting. I've got to admit I've helped spawn two very musically savvy kids that spend all their extra cash on CDs at an alarming rate. They both have their own shows on the local public radio station (as do I), so the little town of Ketchikan by the sea may be in danger of Troll over-exposure. But that's clearly not enough since all three of us compose top 5 lists and e-mail them around the world. We're a regular family of critics it seems.

jpg Ray Troll

Ray Troll
Photograph by Chip Porter;
Photo courtesy Ray Troll

So here's how it plays out with our nuclear unit: the kids are endlessly at the family computer with the tunes cranked up or they immediately pop their latest burned mix into our cars CD player. If I ask "Who's that?" more than three or four times about a band over the course of a few weeks, chances are I'll really like them. Eventually they'll loan me a few for the studio. So three of my top 5 this year are cribbed from the kids. Credit where credits due.

It all goes to reinforce my faith in the ever evolving music scene. I bristle a bit when people say there's no good music being made anymore. Not true at all. You have to seek it out though. With that in mind, I can strongly recommend these 5 CDs.

1. Iron and Wine/ Our Endless Numbered Days

At first listen this very mellow, very laid back album sounds super sugary, sweet and light. But once you start paying attention to the wildly evocative lyrics and catchy melodies, you're hooked. The songs sneak up on you and haunt you. The saccharine coating belies many touching tales of death and loss. One standout cut, Naked As We Came, opens with a Simon and Garfunkel type catchy riff, with a married couple happily celebrating their love. The weird twist is that they lovingly promise to spread each others ashes around the yard when they die. The songs are up close and personal with hushed, whispered lyrics, plucky banjo bits and elegant guitar riffs. The songs are written and sung by a fellow named Sam Beam with help from his sister Sarah and 5 other musicians. Sam's a former community college cinematography teacher living in Miami, now making music full time. They're on the hip record label Sub Pop out of Seattle, a small indicator of their indie cred.

2. Broken Social Scene/ You Forgot it in People

Okay, this one was released in the fall of 2002 but I didn't notice it until this year. This is a musical collective of between 10 and 15 Toronto based musicians with real art house chops that came together to make a sprawling pop music masterpiece. The music is expansive and lush and covers just about every genre imaginable. The songs are extremely original and I dare say you havent heard anything like it before. Standout cuts to me are Anthem for a 17 Year Old Girl with layered looping overdubbed vocals that spiral off in a jillion directions. Lovers Spit is a great dirge of a song that builds to symphonic heights. My absolute favorite line from the album is buried in this song It's time that we grow old and do some shit. My kids and I thought that might make for a nice prom theme somewhere. This is one cool very arty record.

3. Haley Bonar / the Size of Planets

My buddy Lance Bifoss used to own the only record store in town and finally tossed in the towel when the Wal-Mart juggernaut hit our shores. He's a completely dedicated music freak though and continues to track down obscure acts here and there. He's got a real soft spot for female vocalists and stumbled across this under appreciated treasure from 2003. Haley Bonar hails from Duluth, Minnesota now but grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She's in her early twenties now. This is Lances #1 choice for the year and I quickly agreed that she's a force to be reckoned with. Her songs are very heartfelt and just plain beautiful. Her voice is amazing. The emotional epicenter of the record for me is Am I Allowed. Car Wreck has a great opening line: 40 miles outside of Baker I fell out of my car. The surreal imagery of blazing hills and parched landscapes from The Water could only have been written by a midwesterner. A fabulous CD.

4. West Indian Girl/ West Indian Girl

An unabashedly drug friendly group from California named after a particular kind of LSD know for it's hallucinatory powers. Shades of U2 meets Verve with a groovin beat. These are hook friendly songs that'll get inside your head. A couple of the tunes are about California locales ( Hollywood and Monterey). Lush music indeed. Close your eyes and take a trip.

This is the first entire album, by the way, that I purchased online from the iTunes store.

5. Drive By Truckers/ The Dirty South

Man oh man this is one helluva an album that hearkens back to the good old days of Lynard Skinner and the Allman Brothers Band. The Drive By Truckers hail from the deep south and write powerful guitar heavy songs about tornadoes, Elvis, Carl Perkins, politics, race cars, Iwo Jima, and so on. With three lead guitars and three songwriters, this group is cranking out a body of work that's mighty impressive. At seventy plus minutes this CD will almost wear you out. Some of the best cuts are buried at the end of the CD. Lookout Mountain is a sonic blast of a song about a guy thinking about his death in very straightforward terms. Here's the chorus:

If I throw myself off Lookout Mountain
No more pain my soul to bare
No more worries about paying taxes
What to eat, what to wear
Who will end up with my records?
Who will end up with my tapes?
Who will pay my credit card bills?
Who's gonna pay for my mistakes?

6. P.J.. Harvey/ Uh Huh Her

What can I say? I think it was good year for music and my list expanded to seven! Much has been made about PJ getting back in touch with her angry punk self on this CD but if you ask me it's all a reaction to the vehement little dittie called Who the F---. If you put that one aside this albums really a pretty evocative and somewhat mellow (at least for PJ) piece of work. Child of Mine is a lilting guitar sing along kinda tune. The Letter is about the simple joys of putting pen to paper. Desperate Kingdom of Love is downright moving.

Oh love, you were a sickly child
And how the wind knocked you down
Put on your spurs, swagger around
In the desperate kingdom of love

PJ Continues to experiment with new sounds and new instruments. I love this CD but admittedly shes not your average cup o tea. Buyer beware.

7. Laura Veirs/ Carbon Glacier

I first heard Laura's tune Rapture on the World Cafe radio show and was blown away by it. Very few songs ever describe this strange business of art that I find myself in. This one spoke right to the heart of the creative process. When I found out she was trained as a geologist and lives in Seattle I paid even more attention. You can hear her appreciation for the out of doors in almost every song with landscape imagery informing many of her lyrics. There's some gorgeous instrumentation on this CD as well, with strings and piano complementing Laura's guitar playing.

17 year old Corinna Troll's list:

1. French Kicks - Trial of the Century
2. Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News
3. Arcade Fire - Funeral ( dads diggin this one too)
4. Helio Sequence - Love and Distance
5. Interpol - Antics
6. The Delays - Faded Seaside Glamour
7. TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth Bloodthirsty Babes

14 year old Patrick Troll's list:

1. Broken Social Scene - Bee Hives (2004!) Key track - 'Market Fresh'
2. Minus the Bear - They Make Beer Commercials Like This Key track - 'Fine + 2 Pts'
3. TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes Key track - 'Wrong way'
4. Cake - Pressure Chief Key track - 'Guitar Man'
5. Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News Key track - 'Float On'

My Top 5 2003

1. Steve Winwood/ About Time
2. Rickie Lee Jones/ The Evening of my Best Day
3. Blur/ Think tank
4. Lucinda Williams / World Without Tears
5. Joe Strummer/ Streetcore

Top 5 for 2002

1. Bruce Springsteen, The Rising
2. Flaming Lips. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
3. Patty Griffin, 1,000 Kisses
4. Pulp, We Love Life
5. Low, Trust

Top 5 2001

1. Ryan Adams, "Gold"
2. Sigur Ros, "Agaetis Buyjrun"
3. Bjork, 'Vespertine"
4. Amy Correia, "Carnival Love"
5. Lucinda Williams, "Essence"

Top 5 2000

1."Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea", P.J.. Harvey
2."69 Love Songs" the Magnetic Fields
3."Transcendental Blues", Steve Earle
4."Kid A", Radiohead
5."Red Dirt Girl", Emmylou Harris


1. Blur - 13
2. Moby- Play
3. Heather Duby- Post to Wire
4. Belize Tropical 2

Ray Troll ©2005

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