In honor of the return of the Red Sox to the World Series, here are the songs I was listening to when they finally broke the ‘curse’ in 2004.
Songs of the Year: “Colours,” Donovan; “The Good Times are Killing Me,” Modest Mouse
Runners Up: “Hey Ya,” Outkast; “Cinder and Smoke,” Iron & Wine; “Every Moment”, Rogue Wave
Honorable Mentions: “Take Me Out”, Franz Ferdinand; “Handshake Drugs,” Wilco
2004 was a year that in retrospect was one of transitions. The world of media was in the throes of cyclical change in musical tastes intensified by uncertainty with the rise of the iPod and internet music. The world was still at war with a US presidential election in the works. And I was moving along in graduate school only to have the entire process stalled and then accelerated by a fire.
In early 2004, there was a fire in my apartment in NYC that basically destroyed everything. Now, I could offer this as a narrative of the challenges I faced and the loss I suffered. But even at the time I realized that the event was cleansing and liberating. I was already somewhat nomadic (staying at my future wife’s place in Washington Heights or crashing on friends’ couches) and I spent most of my days in the library, a classroom, or the gym.
I am not sure I understand any more either.
When the fire occurred, however, I used it as a great excuse to do very little but ingest substances and watch movies. A few of us, for some godawful reason, became obsessed with the movie Rules of Attraction. We used to watch it in various states of mental disruption on a frequent basis. There is one scene in the movie that uses a beautiful version of Donovan’s song “Colours” that I found especially fetching. I downloaded the song and walked around the snowy streets of NYC pretending I was someone someplace else.
I also, thanks to the Magical Musical Treasure Trove, got really into Modest mouse this year. Later in the year I traveled to Venice where I was lucky enough to have a fellowship for a month and, as we drank and ate away the evenings, I constantly had the song “The Good Times are Killing Me” in my head. I knew for a fact that this song expressed something true that I was a little too slow to absorb, that my harder living was taking a physical and mental toll. I was gaining weight, smoking too much, and spending too much time believing I was someplace different and someone else.
During the summer, I really started to listen to music more widely—I became obsessed with Wilco, Rogue Wave and wore out my love for Iron & Wine faster than I can now believe possible. For a few weeks, I listened to nothing but the band. Now, I can’t listen to a single track.
In 2004, Pop music was moving away from Britney Spears (and she didn’t know it, she was “Toxic”) and cursing the world with Jason Mraz and Mayer (both of whom are still with us). My father, after the Patriots won the Superbowl (again) and the Red Sox made that unbelievable comeback that led to their first championship in 86 years, believed that New England was about to be the center of the world again right after John Kerry was elected. This didn’t happen. So many of us didn’t understand the world we were living in.
If you don’t know Rogue Wave, you should check them out
2004 tortured me with Maroon 5, the rise of what people called Garage Rock (which was really just third generation alt-rock), and a stagnant period for hip hop. But if you comb through the releases that year, you can see that the charts were fragmenting and that radio and MTV had lost their hegemony over ratings—music was coming from different places, from social networks and from independent sources. The world was changing and for some ways it was better.
And the Red Sox won the world series. And I watched every game with friends. It was a great year. It was a strange year. It was a great year.
2004 was a year that I was freed from my past by a fire that was purely accidental. I swam in the present for a bit but by the end I knew that I had to grow up some, that the world wasn’t going to wait for me, and that change is the most static thing about human life.
Music I would listen to later: The Magnetic Fields’ I; Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs; Bad Religion’s The Empire Strikes First; Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous; Tegan and Sara’s So Jealous; Arcade Fire’s Funeral; Stars’, Set Yourself on Fire; Ray LaMontagne’s Trouble
Horrors: “This Love”, Maroon 5; “Toxic” (Although I do kind of miss the song now); “Are You Gonna Be my Girl”, Jet; Anything by the Black Eyed Peas; 311 released a greatest hits album?!!!!; Chumbawumba tried to return; William Shatner released an album; Jessica Simpson’s Christmas album