With the coming and going of the 47th Annual Grammy Awards, there are several truths that need to be revealed. Going into the show every year, each of the nominees wins nothing more then a gold-plated paperweight that often does not reflect public opinion, merit or even relevance. There was a time when winning a Grammy Award actually had some meaning; unfortunately, those days passed us almost a quarter of a century ago. With all that said, I now present my own awards of musical merit for the year 2004.
Best New Artist
Nominees: Franz Ferdinand, Trent Dabbs, Autolux, Ben Arthur, Charlie Mars, Hope of the States This category has long been the most butchered and misinterpreted award of all time. After all, this year’s winner, Maroon 5, has existed as a band since 1997 (originally recording under the name Kara’s Flowers). The album itself has been in print for over two years now, meaning that it is hardly new at all. However, the nominees on my list are all new artists and displayed considerable talent with their debut efforts. But the winner is still fairly obvious.
Winner: Franz Ferdinand
Nominees: Belle and Sebastian – “Wrapped Up In Books;” Sloan – “False Alarm;” Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out;” Morrissey – “First of the Gang to Die;” Keane – “Bend and Break”
I’m going out on a limb by including Belle and Sebastian, since that song was released as a single in 2004 (the album came out in late 2003). Everybody has heard the Franz Ferdinand song, while everybody in Canada (though not many in the United States) has heard of Sloan, which is one of the country’s biggest bands. This was indeed a tough decision. But Franz already won one and Sloan created the most perfectly calculated power pop song I’ve ever heard.
Winner: Sloan – “False Alarm”
Best Solo Performance
Nominees: Ken Stringfellow – “You Become The Dawn;” Ryan Adams – “Avalanche;” Elliott Smith – “Pretty (Ugly Before);” Trent Dabbs – “It’s Not Like That;” Sondre Lerche – “Two Way Monologue”
This was one of the harder decisions that I had to make throughout this entire process, as all of these artists are very talented and created some great stuff. The late Elliott Smith will be remembered as one of the preeminent songwriters of our generation, Ryan Adams made perhaps the best album of his career with this year’s “Love Is Hell” and the young Norwegian Sondre Lerche has some fantastic ability. However, the winner of this category is a guy who released another incredible solo album in 2004.
Winner: Ken Stringfellow – “You Become The Dawn”
Best Rock Album
Nominees: Sparta – “Porcelain;” Jesse Malin – “The Heat;” Drive By Truckers – “The Dirty South;” Loveless – “Gift to the World;” Like Young – “So Serious”
Another tricky category, but ultimately the winner proves that he is indeed worthy of the title. Sparta made the best punk/emo album of the year (take that Green Day), Jesse Malin released another excellent solo album and Drive By Truckers proved that they are the deserving heirs to the southern rock throne. But none of them would win this year.
Winner: Loveless – “Gift to the World”
Nominees: Morrissey – “You Are The Quarry;” Interpol – “Antics;” Joseph Arthur – “Our Shadows Will Remain;” American Music Club – “Love Songs For Patriots;” Franz Ferdinand – “Franz Ferdinand”
Here it is, the award you’ve all been waiting for: best album of the year. It certainly isn’t Ray Charles, who did release a good album. But album of the year? That is questionable (just like Steely Dan in 2000). This list includes a former member of the Smiths who returned to glory (Morrissey), a fantastic songwriter (Joseph Arthur) and another influential band on the comeback trail (American Music Club).
Winner: American Music Club – “Love Songs For Patriots”
One thing I discovered while compiling these awards is that choosing the best of something is not always easy. I won’t claim that my list is the best out there, but I believe that it at least holds a shred of respectability in an industry that has lost its way.