The Shortlist Music Prize has been awarding groups of cool-people approved cool people since 2001. Each year the event’s organizers tap a cross-section of the usual suspects — Beck, Mos Def, Waits, ?Uestlove — to nominate their musical faves, the only stipulation being a cap on total units sold. (Memo to Usher and Nickelback — forget about it.) When the field is narrowed and the winner is announced, it’s inevitably an artist you could’ve predicted, since sad factors like big-label homogenization and music’s cyclical predictability make whatever’s hyper-real shine like the sun. It’s no different this year, as this comp proves. TV on the Radio’s “Staring at the Sun” is a heart-wrenching doo-wop/post-rock cross, Loretta Lynn’s “Mrs. Leroy Brown” comes from the Jack White-helmed Van Lear Rose, and the Streets’ “Dry Your Eyes” is just one example of Mike Skinner’s street-level vision. Given the breadth of nominees, some of Shortlist 2004’s inclusions seem too safe. Ryan Adams? Come on, what about Blanche? Still, from the starkly modern indie of Franz Ferdinand and Secret Machines to visceral, razor-sharp hip hop from Ghostface and UK garage phenom Dizzee Rascal, Shortlist 2004 offers the curious an abstract of cool in 2004.
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.