The Zaw Towers Review of 2004

Well, 2004 was a year of contrasts, and a year of reflection for me in many ways. Here I wade my way through a few categories and offer you, the dear reader, the chance to see what really made my year. You may not agree with the selections here - but it's the individuality that matters and that's what counts. So here goes:

Best Single of 2004 - "Vertigo" - U2
So it was boosted by adverts for Apple's iPod, but nonetheless this is U2 at their unmistakable finest, and no apologies for including it here. It's infectious stuff too, with some great guitar hooks and an effortless chorus that no doubt will become a favourite for everyone to join in when they eventually do tour. It's one of those rare instances when you don't mind a record being number one, because it's a song you can truly believe in to have all the right ingredients. And the album's pretty good, too.

Also recommended:
"Take Me Out" - Franz Ferdinand
- It's stomping, it has bucket loads of great guitars throughout and just makes you want to get down on that indie dance floor and strut your stuff. It sounds simple, but it's so well executed at the same time. And this was only the beginning.
"First of the Gang To Die" - Morrissey - The best of the four singles released from You Are The Quarry, First of the Gang To Die is immensely catchy, has a great hook line throughout and deals with how gang culture ultimately results in death, guns and violence, setting the scene well of how Hector became the first of the Pretty Petty Thieves to be "the first to do time, such a silly boy". He stole our hearts away with this one.

Best Album of 2004 - "You Are The Quarry" - Morrissey
It couldn't have been anything else. Simply because it wasn't any old comeback album. It was a comeback album that defied all the critics and showed just how good Morrissey is. Whether you want his cynical barb, summed up perfectly in How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?, the stand out track, or a dig at manufactured pop stars in The World Is Full of Crashing Bores, or the slower reflective stuff like I'm Not Sorry, you'll find there's a definite mood of reflection and defiance mixed expertly in his finest album for many many years. Simply put: I knew it would happen someday - he's back, and how!

Also recommended:
"Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus" - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Despite the loss of Blixa Bargeld Cave and co still came out with a sumptuous effort of a release crammed full of massive arrangements so beautifully made, and there's even uplifting songs on here too, quite a rarity for a Cave record. And it's bloody good to sing along to as well, provided you can stay with the double album's worth!
"Franz Ferdinand" - Franz Ferdinand - No apologies for this one either. A truly great debut album, and one that has plenty of variety along the way as well as the floor stompers, notably "Michael" where even the odd gay overtones are done with crunching goodness, and the hollering "Tell Her Tonight" which just goes at a nice pace while being stonkingly good. Oh, and that's even before the sing along la la la la closer that's "40ft". In other words, go and buy it.

Best Concert of 2004 - Morrissey - Manchester Evening News Arena
It had been such a long time for Morrissey to make his comeback, and You Are The Quarry was superb as I've already mentioned. Nothing could prepare me though for a rarity - an arena gig that doesn't feel like an arena. Morrissey lit up in big letters a la the Elvis comeback, and Mozster himself in superb voice and indeed in one of the best live performances I've ever seen. From the new album's material to old and obscure Smiths songs like Rubber Ring, to an awe-inspiring Headmaster Ritual, a stomping How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel? and to finish, a bittersweet emotional There is a Light That Never Goes Out. How true, and his name is Morrissey. Period. And when one Morrissey fan site declares it the best Morrissey gig ever, you get some idea of just how good it was. Look out for the DVD in March 2005.

Best Film of 2004 - The Incredibles
Say what you like about Pixar if you must, but there's no doubting their abilities to give you a quality film every time. And that's just what they've done here. That strict rarity that all the family can go and watch and be entertained, with plenty of in-jokes for the adults and lots of fun, amusement and comic book heroism for the children too. And little subtle touches like the kid on the tricycle (keep your eyes out for him during the film) as well as a slightly different ending, throw in lots of believable characters and set the pace just right, and you have what's undoubtedly Pixar's finest ever movie, even beating Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc. Yes, it's that good, and yes, you should buy it when it is released on DVD in March 2005.

Best DVD of 2004 - Star Wars Trilogy Box Set
For many years all Star Wars fans had waited for a box set of what many diehards see as the only three Star Wars films you'll ever need: Star Wars (yeah yeah, A New Hope if you must), The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Not least because the quality job done on the picture and sound is second to none, and a fully certified THX soundtrack really has you on your toes with the scores of exciting moments. Plenty of quality materials gone into the extras disc too, with almost a three hour making of the trilogy, and if you look hard enough, some out takes as a hidden Easter Egg. The only possible complaint you might have is that they're mostly based on the 1997 Special Edition releases, and thus for example the ending of Return of the Jedi's been changed (I really miss the Ewok Celebration tune) but in terms of awe inspiring quality and attention to detail throughout the whole package, that's me nit picking. Who needs episodes 1 to 3 with a box set like this?

Best TV Programme of 2004 - Little Britain (series 2)
Plenty of good programmes had their moments, not least series four of Coupling with new character Oliver doing a great job in being a different kettle of fish from the sadly missed Jeff. However, for pure entertainment value and humour, the second series of Little Britain just about won for me. Why? Well, the humour's there in buckets and often it's simple but workable humour that does it, taken in some cases to extremes by the likes of Daffyd (the only gay in the village) and the scary as hell Marjorie Dawes who runs Fat Fighters. Add new characters like Bubbles De Vere who tries to seduce the owner of the health club in most obvious means, Harvey Pincher ("bitty!!") and the bank clerk Carol ("computer says no") and pretty much you've got the funniest thing this side of that side. No wonder the tour sold out so quickly.

Best Sporting Moment of 2004 - Kelly Holmes' Double Olympic Gold
Well, considering how hard it is to win the 800m and the 1500m at one Olympics, for anyone to even attempt to do it deserves a lot of credit. And when Kelly announced she was going to give it a go, then I was all for it and see how she did. Not only did she really give it all in the 800, she got it spot on tactically and as she was running down the final straight you could almost hear BBC's Steve Cram behind her yelling "Come on Kelly!" as she spurted for the final last bit of energy to cross that line to win. That was emotional enough, but the controlled Kelly went on and showed the others at her better event, the 1500, just how to win a race tactically and get it spot on and make it look easy, and run a fast time. Her success was nothing more than she deserved.

Best male personality of 2004 - Shaun Wright-Phillips
I can't even remember the last time a Manchester City player scored for England, and the last time an outfield player respresented England was way back in 1993 with David White's one off against Spain. This year Wright-Phillips came of age, with exciting wing play and a string of superb goals, not least the fourth in City's 4-1 derby day win over United. Perhaps though his finest moment and goal was the first time he played in an England shirt in a friendly against Ukraine. He nabbed the ball from a pass, ran half the length of the field at the scared Ukraine defenders and took them on before slamming home a shot in to the far bottom corner of the goal. And when the likes of the legendary BBC commentator John Motson says "there can't have been many England players who've scored a better goal on their debut, can there?" you know you're talking quality. Keep it up, Shaunie Wright Wright Wright!

Best female personality of 2004 - Kelly Holmes
No contest. And following on from her Olympic success, the humility and the warmth she showed the public back for their adoration and her sheer persona really came across well. No one was surprised when she won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, because it was deserved for the success that she'd strived for, earnt and showed just how good you can be if you really want to give 110% to anything. Just makes me think if other athletes followed her example how good Britain could be.

Best personal moment of 2004 - Happiness
A lot can be said for being happy at any time, but really I felt very contented and happy this year. I'm settled in the house, the job is going very well, I'm able to spend much quality time doing the things I like, I have wonderful friends and family and even inside myself I've realised there's a lot of things that I know I'm good at, and I may as well use my strengths to my advantage. It might not be something you'd expect, but it was a year of overall contentment - and I'm sure if I can achieve more in 2005 that'll be reflected thus.