The real Musical YouthI'd better get my skates on if I'm to finish this round-up of the best of 2004, seeing as I'm now getting to grips with some of the sounds of 05 - and I'm impressed. But 04 had some fantastic triumphs, perhaps none more so than the quiet return-to-consistent-brilliance of Sonic Youth, making two consecutively great records for the first time since Dirty came off the back of Goo - 2002's Murray Street saw the debut of fifth member Jim O'Rourke, and his presence on 2004's sublime Sonic Nurse makes it 2 for 2 with the master recorder/musician/sound theorist on board. The band still whip up a fearsome racket, especially in the live arena, but on record have entered a period that perhaps matches their ages and moods - autumnal, leafy colours instead of silver rockets and the industrial greys of their pre-93 material.
However, it begins misleadingly - 'Pattern Recognition' wants us to rock, albeit with less thrash and more elegance - but as 'Unmade Bed' rolls into focus, arguably one of their most outright beautiful tracks ever recorded, shoulder-to-shoulder with 'Theresa's Soundworld', the ochres and dark orange hues of this record blur and the timbre of the record becomes one of rememberances and quiet pleas; Kim Gordon's hoarse whisper never sounded more fragile than on 'I Love You Golden Blue', the lyrics standing out, rather than being some words that convince you that Da Yoof make 'songs' as opposed to dense thickets of art noise. O'Rourke has his way with the technical end of the spectrum, rather than contributing anything obviously musically his own - the drum sounds of 'Stones', some sounds shimmering where they would previously have been a gimmicky trick, like a drill through a wah-wah pedal. Every track is at least 'strong', and in most cases they're downright excellent - Sonic Nurse is how an older band can do 'mature' without losing their edge or their cool; buy, listen, treasure, drop out. Put The Killers record the fuck DOWN.
Sonic Youth online - check out the 'Sonic Mixtape' online, some fresh material, remixes of old classic Youth material and some side-project stuff. All high quality stuff.