2004 music awards

It’s the time of year when thoughts turn to favourite music, at least for those afflicted (as I am) with Hornby’s Syndrome, an unhealthy desire to classify, evaluate and reduce great art to numbers and lists. I’ve not been on the ball this year, fROOTS has gone unread, I haven’t been hooked on any music lists. But still a few things seeped through to snag us. Not all 2004 releases, it takes me a while to catch up. Here are five:

Ojos de Brujo, Bari.

Album of the year in J-M land, these Catalans combine outrageously adept flamenco musicianship with hip-hop spirit to make music you can sing and dance to. Outstanding live; we missed them at WOMAD 2003 (though caught the TV coverage) but saw them at Glastonbury this summer. Should be due a new album soon, can it get as good as this’

Oi Va Voi, Laughter Through Tears.

Young Londoners take Jewish culture by the horns. 20-year-olds sound like octagenarian Rabbis as the Hebrew chants mix with beats, though in this case it’s only (real) drum and bass providing the rhythm.

Diana Krall, The Girl in the Other Room.

Always liked her voice, but a certain glibness turned me off at times. The tartness of songs co-written with Costello seems to be the missing ingredient. There’s real emotional depth here.

Jim White, Drill A Hole In That Substrate and Tell Me What You See.

How to describe this’ An ersatz Bob Dylan with a weedy voice and an obsession with the religiosity of Southern USA meets a swampy electro-blues soundtrack to produce some vivid sound pictures. Favourite track: Combing My Hair in a Brand New Style.

Damien Rice, O.

A dangerously populist choice, but D seems to be inhabited by a touch of the spirit of Van Morrison, while Lisa Hannigan’s voice and Vyvienne Long’s ‘cello are masterfully introduced.