Another pretty good year is about to go into the books. This time last year, we were hiding the fact that S. was pregnant until we had sonogram #1 and were sure all was well. We spent our New Year’s trip to a cabin in southern Indiana swapping my empty beer bottles for hers under the table so our friends wouldn’t notice. M. arrived, and life changed forever, in July. We watched over a dozen friends welcome children to the world as well. I kissed the corporate world good-bye for the time being in September. We just about finished furnishing our home. I moved to a Mac and got an iPod. I spent time in Arizona, California, and sucked my company into sending me to Portland twice in six weeks. I also made four trips to Kansas City, with the obligatory visits to my favorite barbecue haunts. Not much to complain about, and a lot to be thankful for.

2005 is shaping up to be another year of changes, as I begin grad school in two weeks and search for a place in the non-profit world to supplement my academic pursuits. S. faces some major changes in her job in the coming year. M. will continue to grow like a weed (or a tick, more appropriately), and demonstrate new tricks every day. We’ve got a trip to Puerto Rico booked, hopefully a trip to Portland, and of course, a couple trips back to KC.

Along with reading, music is my biggest time filler. 2004 was an interesting year for several reasons. Alternative rock made a big comeback, although it’s not nearly as prevalent as during the 90s heyday. MP3 blogs sprang up left and right, opening a new world of music to those of us who lack a local station that plays quality music. In the months AM (After M.), my discovery of new music slowed way down, so my top ten songs of the year list is heavily weighted towards the first half of the month. Unlike recent years, though, I had no trouble coming up with a list.

10 – Neighborhood #3 – The Arcade Fire: Some songs you just don’t get at first, second, or even third listen. This was one of those songs, and it took awhile to get. But eventually it did made sense. The darlings of the indie music press, The Arcade Fire is a band I’ll be exploring in more detail in 2005.

9 – Vertigo – U2: Every time I look at my iPod, I think of this song. Mission accomplished, Bono.

8 – Won’t Give In – The Finn Brothers: A simply gorgeous song full of maturity and emotional strength.

7 – American Idiot – Green Day: I just got the single, rather than the whole album, so I can’t comment on the strength of the larger work. The single was a tremendous statement, though, full of power and fury that would have made the punk gods proud.

6 – Can’t Stand Me Now – The Libertines: The sound that sums up what it must feel like to be a drug-scene hipster in the UK.

5 – Portland, Oregon – Loretta Lynn: Stunning. Brilliant.

4 – Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand: Ass shakin’ music for the new millennium.

3 – Jesus Walks – Kanye West: Taking hip-hop to a whole new level and direction. This was a song I totally got the first time I heard it.

2 – Spitting Games – Snow Patrol: Songs of unrequited, teenage love are always relevant. When they sound as good as this, they’ll last forever.

1 – Float On – Modest Mouse: One of the least likely hits in recent memory, this song would have been #1 on my list regardless of the personal angle. A song so ugly it’s pretty, the fits, starts, and shrieks combine to create a universal anthem to better times always being just around the corner. Even the song structure upholds that idea, with the bridge before the final reprise creating a false end before those four little guitar notes at the 2:34 mark lead back into the sing-along close. Every time I hear this, I’ll think of listening to it in my office on July 24, and hearing S. yell down that it was time to go to the hospital and have a baby.

Honorable Mention:
Handshake Drugs – Wilco
Irish Blood, English Heart – Morrissey
Death Cab for Cutie: They didn’t have any ’04 releases, but I found a couple of their CDs at the library and have become a big fan. (ED: Heck, I just used one of my iTunes gift certificates to grab another of their albums.)