Part 1

     

    These are the albums that the staff felt stood above the rest in 2004. Enjoy.

     

     

      Aaron Rietz

    Staff Writer

     

    Animal Collective

    Sung Tongs (FatCat) June 1, 2004

     

    Superpitcher

    Here Comes Love (Kompakt) March 30, 2004

     

    Franz Ferdinand

    Franz Ferdinand (Domino) March 9, 2004

     

    Destroyer

    Your Blues (Merge) March 9, 2004

     

    Madvillian

    Madvilliany (Stones Throw) March 23, 2004

     

    Arcade Fire

    Funeral (Merge) Sept. 14, 2004

     

    Bjork

    Medulla (Elektra) Aug. 31, 2004

     

    Junior Boys

    Last Exit (Domino) Sept. 21, 2004

     

    Deerhoof

    Milk Man (Kill Rock Stars) March 9, 2004

     

    The Streets

    A Grand Don’t Come For Free (Vice/Atlantic) May 18, 2004

     

    Annie Wilner

    Staff Writer

      5

    Loretta Lynn

    Van Lear Rose (Interscope) April 27, 2004

    American
    music was made by people like Loretta Lynn. To clarify, American music
    was made by people like Loretta Lynn and their no-good cheatin’
    boyfriends. Also, the reputable tabloid The Globe put her on the cover because she was touring with a dangerous case of pneumonia and surely she would die!
    Her family members “said” that although she was on the verge of death
    and the American Medical Association unanimously ruled against Lynn
    continuing with her tour, she refused to Aunt “Wimpy” Geraldine’s pleas
    to just stay home and rest. Why do I tell you this? You can’t chain a
    country singer’s spirit to her potentially “terminally ill” condition. Loretta Lynn lives.

      4

    Frank Ferdinand

    S/T (Domino) March 9, 2004

    Geeks
    ruling the world — no, totally pale geeks ruling the world — no,
    totally pale geeks with their guitars ruling the world — rules my
    world.

      3

    Panda Bear

    Young Prayer (Paw Tracks) Sept. 28, 2004

      2

    PJ Harvey

    Uh Huh Her (Island) June 8, 2004

    Uh
    huh. This is not her best album, but everything PJ Harvey does is
    genius. She is the greatest white chick alive (sorry Wayans brothers).

      1

    Joanna Newsom

    The Milky-Eyed Mender (Drag City) March 23, 2004

    Modest musicians take the cake this year. This was the year of the
    dork, the geek, the outcast, and whoever identified with the raccoons
    instead of Condaleeza Rice. Absolutely phenomenal lyrics locate Joanna
    Newsom aloft my five-tiered wedding cake. “The sight of bridges and
    balloons/ makes calm canaries irritable./ They caw and claw all
    afternoon/ Catenaries and Dirigeables.” This neo-folk harpist crafts
    melodies as delicate as Victorian lace, the clouds before rain. Her
    precocious song structures can surprise like an O’Henry story but with
    more orchards and exotic birds. Growing up in Reno, Newsom would get
    liquored up by the railroad tracks. And she’s really nice. I met her.
    Verdict: lovely, lovely, and lovely.

     

    China Bialos

    Staff Writer

      23 Prosaics
    Aghast Agape EP (Dim Mak) Oct. 12, 2004
    This was the year of the ’80s revival, and even so, bands like Prosaics
    avoided cheesiness and stood out by creating flowing
    synth-instrumentals a la My Bloody Valentine.

      22 Langhorne Slim

    Electric Love Letter EP (Narnack) March 23, 2004
    He may be appropriate for the country fair, but he’s got spunk.
      21 Gravenhurst

    Black Holes in the Sand EP (Warp) Nov. 2, 2004
    The EP is actually more beautiful than the full-length released
    earlier this year — wonderful acoustic guitarwork and a Husker Du
    cover. Does it get any better?
      20
    Tom Waits

    Real Gone (Anti-) Oct. 5, 2004
    So much Tom Waits-style quirkiness packed into one CD. I appreciate
    that the ballads were kept to a minimum. A personal highlight is “Shake
    It.”
      19
    The Walkmen

    Bows and Arrows (Record Collection) Feb. 3, 2004
    Enough with the Strokes comparisons. This album is a bit more
    “rock” than their debut, but it manages to have a really pretty essence
    about it — kind of like Christmas lights in a city.
      18
    Real Tuesday Weld

    I, Lucifer (Six Degrees) May 11, 2004
    Drama without the visuals. Another one of 2004’s most overlooked.
      17
    The Futureheads

    The Futureheads (Sire) Sept. 7, 2004
    For a band that undeniably sounds like XTC, this is fantastic. Dan Carter’s review
    is dead-on in pointing out the prominence of vocals here, and quite
    honestly, this is by far one of the most solid pop albums to come out
    this year.
      16
    Holly Golightly

    Slowly But Surely (Damaged Goods) October 2004
    She’s definitely become more musically mature since Thee
    Headcoatees, and this features Holly going the slow country ballad
    route much more than her last album, Truly She Is None Other.
      15
    Interpol

    Antics (Matador) Sept. 28, 2004
    Many will argue on this one because Antics is less dark and personal than Turn on the Bright Lights, but I find it satisfying to see they have identified their own sound out this point. Additionally, Antics finds Paul Banks sounding more like himself and less like Ian Curtis.
      14
    Black Keys

    Rubber Factory (Fat Possum) Sept. 7, 2004
    Even with an album that’s slightly more polished than their first two,
    the Black Keys continue to be smooth yet rough, and vocalist/guitarist
    Dan Auerbach continues to be the refreshing man among a sea of painfully high voices.
      13
    Sonic Youth

    Sonic Nurse (Geffen) June 8, 2004
    Another predictable choice, but that they can still make experimental
    albums while their sound simultaneously shows up in newer great bands
    like Kinski and Trail of Dead means they have consistency that most
    bands can’t even strive for.
      12
    PJ Harvey

    Uh Huh Her (Island) June 8, 2004
    I am a huge PJ Harvey fan and was happy to see she’d started making
    fairly raw music again, despite her turn at maturity over the last few
    albums. Every album is different but she’s consistently great and never
    goes out of style.
      11
    The Libertines

    The Libertines (Rough Trade) Aug. 30, 2004
    It’s not quite as strong as their debut, but this is more solid a
    rock album than most to come out this year. That they’ve worked with
    Mick Jones is apparent, as they’ve got a fair amount of Clash energy
    about them.
      10
    The Hives

    Tyrannosaurus Hives (Interscope) July 20, 2004
    Before I’m told this group of spirited Swedes has become far too
    poppy to be considered “punk,” let me first say that I agree. However,
    this is a near-perfect pop album; it is catchy, somewhat dynamic, never
    gets tiring, and contains a token ballad (the James Brown-like
    “Diabolic Scheme,” my favorite song on the album).
      9
    Badly Drawn Boy

    One Plus One is One (Astralwerks) July 27, 2004
    The odd thing about this album is that it has fewer standout tracks than its predecessor, Have You Fed the Fish?, but overall is much more consistent and full. I also like the bonus tracks on the U.S. version.
      8
    Coachwhips

    Bangers Versus Fuckers (Narnack) Jan. 27, 2004
    New Yorkers who make distorted garage rock aren’t exactly the
    newest thing, but what sets the Coachwhips apart is that they play five
    times faster than any other band, and their album is insanely
    consistent — none of those surprise ballads or “meaningful songs.” Oh,
    and it’s nice and concise for those of us with short attention spans.
      7
    Ratatat

    Ratatat (XL) April 20, 2004
    I’ll be damned if this isn’t on everyone’s list for 2004; it’s amazing what two guys can do with two guitars and some beats.
      6
    The Fall

    50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong (Beggars Banquet) June 8, 2004
    Yeah, they had a new LP, and sure, it was pretty good. But that
    doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the best greatest-hits
    compilations I’ve ever heard. One listen and I was a fan; granted, I
    love ’70s and ’80s Britpunk, but despite the bias, this is worth the
    time it takes to listen to both discs.
      5
    Detachment Kit

    Of This Blood (French Kiss) May 18, 2004
    It’s like a mashed-up version of Les Savy Fav, but they do it oh-so-well. This was overlooked this year.
      4
    Elliott Smith

    From a Basement on the Hill (Anti-) Oct. 19, 2004
    Cliché, yes, but clichés exist for a reason. This may not be his
    best album, but it is incredibly beautiful, particularly compared to a
    number of albums that came out this year. Had he pieced this record
    together himself, though, I do wonder if he would have ended on the
    painfully pessimistic “A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to Be
    Free.”
      3
    Devendra Banhart

    Nino Rojo (Young God) Sept. 13, 2004
    I loved this on the first listen and found it refreshing to hear a folk singer use lo-fi while sounding optimistic!
    In a year where political music dominates, it’s nice to hear the
    phrase, “Hey there, Mr. Happy Squid, you move so psychedelically.”
      2
    Jolie Holland

    Escondida (Anti-) April 27, 2004
    Easily the most underrated album of the year; her voice is gorgeous
    — sounds even better now that she’s incorporated a few jazz elements
    — and the album will never go out of style. Plus, it’s nice to see a
    female vocalist who doesn’t make her half-naked body the focus of her
    cover art.
      1
    TV on the Radio

    Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go) March 9, 2004
    I’m sure there will be many a fight over this one, but I think this
    album is incredible, especially when blasted to the highest of volumes
    so that it thrashes a la Joy Division.
     

    Dan Carter

    Staff Writer

      9
    808 State

    Prebuild (Rephlex Records) Oct. 5, 2004
    A fascinating collection of bedroom recordings from Massey and Co.
    when A Guy Called Gerald Simpson was still a member. Lo-fi acid house,
    the next big thing? Oh, wait, that was yesterday.
      8
    Arthur Russell

    Calling Out of Context (Audika Records) Feb. 16, 2004
      7
    Arthur Russell

    The World of Arthur Russell (Soul Jazz Records) Jan. 26, 2004
    The New York City-based cellist was quietly responsible for some of
    disco’s and house’s most beloved classics, and he’s finally getting his
    due with these two long overdue collections of his work. The haunting
    fragility of the cello-based songs on Context are unbelievable.
      6
    Kanye West

    The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella) Feb. 10, 2004
    One of the few hip-hop releases this year — in fact, in any year —
    with tracks that stand up to its singles. It’s an album-length “Fuck
    You” to higher education, and it’s destined to be a classic.
      5
    Night Rally

    The Elegant Look of New (Self-Released) 2004
    Beantown’s best band. Lazy comparisons to Fugazi abound, and maybe
    the Pere Ubu ones are a little more accurate. But really, this is just
    some of the best songwriting and arrangements in years, not to mention
    a yelping mustachioed singer looking more like an Irish pugilist on
    loan from the late 19th century.
      4
    Tomorrow’s Friend

    Area 51 (Seven-Inch) (Self-Released) 2004
    This New York City all-female four-piece unleash two songs on a
    homemade seven-inch and then break up. Glorious no-fi rock music:
    “Banging Everything in Sight” is sheer raw beauty in a five-minute
    song.
      3
    Nirvana

    With the Lights Out (DGC) Nov. 23, 2004
    Despite being the band that most influenced the current crop of
    nu-metal loser bands, Nirvana is still irreplaceable, and we’ve been
    waiting over a decade for this. As my friend feared before its release,
    this is pretty much sixty-one versions of “Beans.” But yes, I do want
    to hear that.
      2
    Animal Collective

    Sung Tongs (Paw Tracks) June 1, 2004
    Wow. Avey Tare and Panda Bear prove they can boil down their
    experimentation to create some of the most wonderful avant pop songs
    ever. Exuberant beauty. The sound of the forest and hopefully the
    future.
      1
    The Futureheads

    S/T (Startime) Sept. 7, 2004
    The next XTC? The next Franz Ferdinand? Who knows, who cares? These
    kids know how to write unfathomably catchy pop songs, and they can sing
    their asses off.
      Dan Redding

    Staff Writer

      5
    Chingy

    Powerballin’ (Capitol) Nov. 16, 2004
      4
    Chingy

    Powerballin’ (Capitol) Nov. 16, 2004
      3
    Chingy

    Powerballin’ (Capitol) Nov. 16, 2004
      2
    Chingy

    Powerballin’ (Capitol) Nov. 16, 2004
      1
    Chingy

    Powerballin’ (Capitol) Nov. 16, 2004
      Dany Sloan

    Staff Writer

     

    Honorable Mentions:

    The Zutons: Who Killed…? (Sony)

    Wiley: Treadin’ on Thin Ice (XL)

    Beans: Shock City Maverick (Warp)

    Jean Grae: This Week (Babygrande)

    Aloha: Here Comes Everyone (Polyvinyl)

    The Fiery Furnaces: Blueberry Boat (Sanctuary)

    Black Eyes: Cough (Dischord)

    Interpol: Antics (Matador)

      10
    Measles Mumps Rubella

    Fear No Water (Troubleman) March 2, 2004
    The only bad thing about this disc is its length. Stop teasing us
    with the singles and give us a whole fucking album. They pull off the
    whole Talking Heads/Liquid Liquid vibe and update it for the new
    millennium. Upcoming shows will have a section roped off for all of the
    shitty dance-punk bands to meet up and take notes.
      9
    Nas

    Street’s Disciple (Sony Urban Music/Columbia) Nov. 30, 2004
    In a year where all hip hop could say was “Kanye, Kanye, Kanye,” Nas
    drops in and says “Hey, don’t forget about me” with an exapnsive and
    almost perfect double album. I listen to both of these discs and go away wanting more.
      8
    Inouk

    No Danger (Say Hey) Aug. 24, 2004
    This Brooklyn-via-Philadelphia band confounded me at first. I wasn’t
    quite sure if they really dug classic rock, or if they were just being
    ironic. About a hundred spins later, it finally hit me: Inouk is one of
    most exciting bands to come out of New York City or anywhere else this
    year. And since I am still picking up on shit on No Danger, this excitement should carry on well into next year.
      7
    Modest Mouse

    Good News for People Who Like Bad News (Sony) April 6, 2004
    The fact that this album made Modest Mouse a household name is one
    hundred percent satisfying for longtime fans for one simple reason –
    it’s their finest work to date. Isaac Brock and his band mates tackle
    the same subjects, but they look at everything from an optimistic
    perspective.
      6
    TV on the Radio

    Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch & Go) March 9, 2004
    This really doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard. I don’t
    want to describe it for fear of sounding like an enormous pretentious
    dick. I’ll leave that to Dominic Umile.
      5
    Q and Not U

    Power (Dischord) Oct. 5, 2004
    The seeds for this album were planted a long time ago, and if you
    missed it, you were not listening. Check the groove of “We Heart Our
    Hive” on No Kill No Beep Beep, or the On Play Patterns single. The groove has been growing bit by bit with each release, and it’s out there on full force with Power,
    this District trio’s best album to date. Of course, there is some of
    what you might expect from a band inside the beltway, but it is all
    infused with a Morris Day/Prince sensibility.
      4
    Ted Leo and The Pharmacists

    Shake the Sheets (Lookout!) Oct. 19, 2004
    “If Ted Leo is not making music in ten years, it will be a crime against humanity.” ~Travis Morrison [ex-Dismemberment Plan]
      3
    Loretta Lynn

    Van Lear Rose (Interscope) April 27, 2004
    If only all of those pesky red states could appreciate Ms. Lynn’s
    career-redefining album rather than that fucking clown Toby Keith or
    whatever. I wasn’t counting down the days leading up to this album’s
    release, but after hearing it, I couldn’t spin it enough. In bringing
    back the spark that made Lynn a household name without taking over the
    entire project, Jack White became about twelve times.
      2
    The Streets

    A Grand Don’t Come For Free (Vice/Atlantic) May 18, 2004
    When I heard that Mike Skinner was following up the great Original Pirate Material with a concept album, I was ready for buddy to check out and start living off the dole again. Was I wrong: A Grand Don’t Come For Free
    is bananas. There aren’t many party-bangers, but Skinner still keeps
    the party alive while showing us the absolute depth of his lyrics.
    Plus, the Robbie Williams moment of “Dry Your Eyes” is to die for.
      1
    Kanye West

    The College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella) Feb. 10, 2004
    By the end of “We Don’t Dare,” West is frontin’ on half of the
    ladies in the bar. Halfway through “Never Let Me Down,” he and his boy
    Jigga are sitting in a dark corner with the two hottest ladies in the
    joint. And by the end of “Through the Wire,” West is on his way home
    with both of those ladies. This album is no joke; every last second is
    pure fucking genius that still leaves me short of breath. If you like
    good hip-hop and don’t own this, you are a complete fucking sucka.
      Dominic Umile

    Staff Writer (Honorable mentions go to many, but most importantly to the Bigger Lovers.)

      10
    Dangermouse

    The Grey Album (Bootleg) February 2004
    For as much press as this “unofficial” record has gotten, there
    still hasn’t been enough. It’s a breakthrough from the bedroom of a
    pop-music professional. An album that takes this much work and
    dedication should be recognized for the standout it is. I motion we
    knight this D’mouse bloke.
      9
    DJ Cam

    Liquid Hip Hop (Inflamable) Aug. 24, 2004
    Cam has always been around, dabbling in a little bit of everything.
    This record, however, as the title indicates, is a nod to great hip-hop
    beat-smiths in the States, such as Premier and Pete Rock. It’s
    scratch-heavy trips through pimpin’ instrumentals and hypnotic electro
    romps from a French gentleman who actually likes America. How
    refreshing.
      8
    Wise and Foolish Builders

    Someone Like Smith (Self-released) 2004
    Philadelphia is rich with the sound of Wise and Foolish Builders. The
    many folks that haven’t heard this record should be seeking it out for
    the fireside chamber-pop wonder that it is. Piano-based glory, accented
    by sometimes-drunken sounding vocal harmonies and slide guitar — what
    could be better?
      7
    Kanye West

    The College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella) Feb. 10, 2004
    Kanye’s the brightest bulb on the Roc. His debut full-length is
    very worthy of the praise its gotten because of his ability to score my
    overwhelming disillusionment and distaste for academia. The album could
    do without so many skits, but the songwriting and beats are just too
    solid for me to complain. Sometimes I see Prefix writer Dany Sloan
    bumpin’ this in his fat ride in town. We exchange real dirty looks when
    he rolls by.
      6
    Diplo

    Florida (Big Dada) Sept. 21, 2004
    This guy kills it every time he blesses the masses with Hollertronix. But Florida
    is a winner because it’s his own thing, not just the mastery of mashing
    up Bonecrusher with the Cure. He brings us close enough to Florida
    without actually having to count votes. This is way better than Space
    Mountain, man.
      5
    Sam Phillips

    A Boot And A Shoe (Nonesuch) April 27, 2004
    I cannot eloquently describe this record, and I am afraid that
    merely remarking that it’s “swell” or a “must-have” will do it an
    injustice worthy of a caning. There are delicately arranged beauties on
    here, but Phillips’s harmonies and the heavenly strings cannot elevate
    the very dampened mood I have come to admire. Ma’am, I am quite the
    little fan.
      4
    Madvillain

    Madvillainy (Stones Throw) March 23, 2004
    Madlib and Doom: What an unholy and remarkable alliance.
      3
    The Streets

    A Grand Don’t Come For Free(Vice/Atlantic) May 18, 2004
    Yeah, but is it better than the first one? Let’s not get into that.
    Let’s instead get your girl out of the arms of that fucking
    white-shirted man. Skinner’s still finding ways to make the mundane all
    the more important, even between strong linear storytelling and stoned
    beats.
      2
    Adem

    Homesongs (Domino) July 27, 2004
    Every expression from Adem Ilham on his debut seems as if it should
    be delivered with grave reluctance, but he is instead announcing these
    things as if painting his innermost fragilities across an interstate
    billboard. Fifty years from now, when I get married, I’m gonna toast to
    my wife using the words to “There Will Always Be,” Homesongs‘ closer. Actually, I’ll have robots do it. There will be robots doing stuff like that by then.
      1
    The Walkmen

    Bows and Arrows (Record Collection) Feb. 3, 2004
    A sophomore release that blatantly outdoes its respectable freshman counterpart, Bows and Arrows
    boasts the Walkmen’s great live sound and the band’s nonchalant
    eagerness to recreate it effortlessly in the studio. Just as the
    opener, “What’s In It For Me,” sounds like ancient AM radio tubes
    warming to their potential, this sweet piece o’ wax has warmed my heart
    and soul on a weekly basis this year.
      Gwendolyn Elliott

    Staff Writer

     
    Tom Waits

    Real Gone (Anti-) Oct. 5, 2004
    By far, his best in years. Only the lugubrious Tom Waits can bring
    a sense of impending doom to his work and still make you feel like
    you’re at the circus. With every boom-ack in the background
    meticulously recorded by Waits in his bathroom, Real Gone is a brave, industrial leap beyond Blood Money and a jumpy, drunken venture into his vision of the macabre.
     
    Junior Boys

    Last Exit (Domino) Sept. 21, 2004
    These swanky synthsters really nailed their first one — like New
    Order mated with Daft Punk and popped out a ready-made hipster. An
    ambient blend of electro blips, lush trance loops and waves of
    digi-boogie, nothing is too processed or over-cooked. Great music for
    robots who like music.
     
    The Black Keys

    Rubber Factory (Fat Possum) Sept. 7, 2004
    Throw Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray and some slamming drum work into the fray and Rubber Factory
    will happen all over your iPod. Adding Akron, Ohio and two more white
    dudes to the growing hotbed of blues-rock that has absorbed the
    Midwest, Rubber Factory is alive with a freakish kind of
    other-worldly possession. They make a lot of racket for a two-piece.
    And at twenty-five and twenty-three, Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach
    have the kind of soul that makes me wonder where they got it.
     
    Daniel Johnston

    Discovered Covered (Gammon) Sept. 21, 2004
    Quite possibly, one of the finest tribute recordings in years. On
    any account, it is a rare thing to have an artist “discovered” during
    his own lifetime, even more so Daniel Johnston, a Picasso in many
    respects to artists like M. Ward, Tom Waits, Connor Oberst and Vic
    Chestnut, to name a few. An incredible, heartfelt mix with an
    accompanying CD of original recordings.
      Jacob Nelson

    Staff Writer

      8
    No Album By Mase or R. Kelly, on principle

      7
    Beastie Boys

    To the Five Boroughs (Capitol) June 15, 2004
      6
    Bobby Bare Jr.

    From the End of Your Leash (Bloodshot) June 22, 2004
      5
    Ray Charles

    Genius Loves Company (Concord/Hear Music) Aug. 31, 2004
      4
    Norah Jones

    Feels Like Home (Blue Note) April 20, 2004
      3
    American Music Club

    Love Songs for Patriots (Merge) Oct. 12, 2004
      2
    Wilco

    A Ghost is Born (Nonesuch) June 22, 2004
      1
    Loretta Lynn

    Van Lear Rose (Interscope) April 27, 2004
     

    Jay Riggio

    Staff Writer

      5
    A Day In Black And White

    My Heroes Have Always Killed Cowboys (Level Plane) April 13, 2004
    Post-apocalyptic, trance inducing hardcore. These guys don’t just
    play songs, they play movies. From an introduction to character
    development to a bloody climax, My Heroes Have Always Killed Cowboys is brilliant.
      4
    Neva Dinova

    The Hate Yourself Change (Crank!) January 2005
    Technically this album doesn’t drop until January, but it was sold at
    the band’s recent shows with the Good Life and it was supposed to drop
    Oct. 5. So it kind of fits into the 2004 category. Neva Dinova fucking
    rules. Frontman Jake Bellows could make Shaq weep like a fucking sissy
    during a free throw. Get this album.
      3
    Modest Mouse

    Good New For People Who Love Bad News (Epic) April 6, 2004
    Yeah, they’re played on the radio now and people that you despise
    listen to them, but they’re still fucking better than they ever were.
    Swallow your pride and love this album.
      2
    Death From Above 1979

    You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine (Last Gang/Vice) Oct. 26, 2004
    So good. The perfect album to hate to. If The Strokes were more
    talented and more pissed, they’d be begging to tour with Death From
    Above 1979.
      1
    Man Man

    The Man In the Blue Tourban Without A Face (Ace Fu) Oct. 19, 2004
    These four guys, who are arguably man-children like myself, are
    completely out of their fucking minds. Fucked up, with the help of
    every high-school-music-class instrument you can think of, Man Man
    miraculously succeeds in making more ass-shaking jams than Menudo. If
    Man Man isn’t on your play-list right now, you’re an asshole.
     

    Jesse Serwer

    Staff Writer

      10
    TV on the Radio

    Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go) March 9, 2004
    I’m not going to try to defend TV on the Radio to people who don’t feel
    over-produced, Genesis-sounding prog-rock type “big rock.” All I can
    say is, as far as Desperate Youth goes, I could get into the atmosphere of it all.
      9
    Infinite Livez

    Bush Meat (Big Dada) June 1, 2004
    Though it got almost no U.S. press, this U.K. weird-boy’s debut album
    kills the over-hyped second Dizzee album. I wouldn’t play tracks about
    rimjobs and a puppet who likes to screw apes at the wrong party, but
    this shit is seriously funny. Big Dada also deserves a big
    indie-label-of-the-year award for Livez, Diplo, Ty and the new TTC, out now in Europe and 2005 in the U.S.
      8
    Various Artists

    Coolie Dance Riddim (Greensleeves) Sept. 2, 2004
    If you a sound bwoy or gal and didn’t get on the Coolie this year (or last), you done messed up.
      7
    MF Doom/Madvillain

    Mm Food (Rhymesayers) Nov. 16, 2004 / Madvillainy (Stones Throw) March 23, 2004
    At first I was unable to get into the flow of Madvillainy’s uniformly
    short songs; and it isn’t as good as either of Doom’s 2003 concept
    albums (King Geedorah’s Take Me To Your Leader and Viktor Vaughn’s Vaudeville Villain — the first one, yo) or Operation: Doomsday. But to say it and Mm Food aren’t continuing evidence of this man’s genius would be un-geniuslike.
      6
    Devin The Dude

    To The X-Treme (Rap-a-lot) July 13, 2004
    Devin’s third album is his third best, but it still manages to beat out
    100,000 other albums to get on this list. This dude is one Chappelle Show guest appearance from showing a lot of people where hip-hop should be.
      5
    The Alchemist

    1st Infantry (Koch/ALC) Sept. 21, 2004
    In most any other year, this would have been by far the best
    hip-hop-producer album, but thanks to Kanye West and Diplo (with an
    asterisk — I’m not sure I want to outright label him a hip-hop
    producer), my favorite Beverly Hills white boy comes in a distant
    third. On both ends, the dope tracks with Mobb Deep buddies Prodigy and
    Havoc (especially “It’s a Kraze”) more than make up for the travesty of
    Mobb’s Amerikaz Nightmare.
      4
    Ghostface

    The Pretty Toney Album (Rocafella/Def Jam) April 20, 2004
    The beginning of the future for Tony Starks. Even Ghostface’s seemingly
    half-assed attempt at production was a stroke of pure genius.
      3
    Diplo

    Florida (Big Dada/Ninja Tune) Sept. 21, 2004
    From single-handedly bringing Brazilian baile funk to American
    attention to getting in at just the right moment with Dizzee 2004, I
    mean British trendsetter M.I.A, you just couldn’t fuck with Diplo this
    year. The vague but distinct Southern gothic vibe running through this
    mostly instrumental cut-and-paste product (featuring just the right
    guests in Vybz Kartel, P.E.A.C.E. and Marina Topley-Bird) blows your
    Rjd2s right out the water.
      2
    Kanye West

    College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam) Feb. 10, 2004
    As a listener of commercial hip-hop radio I’m sick of Kanye
    already, but I must agree with my February self in stating this is the
    most compelling, and most focused, above-ground hip-hop album from
    front-to-back since Doggy Style.
      1
    !!!

    Louden Up Now (Touch and Go) June 8, 2004
    The most consistently thrilling touring band of the past few years
    finally gets it right on record. Their new, more
    studio-oriented/friendly sound was a deal with the devil, though; their
    previously insane, energetic live show seems to have devolved into a
    karaoke act, at least judging by a New York City performance this
    summer. Louden is still hot enough that, in an ideal world, it would put every other dance-punk act into retirement.
       John MacDonald

    Staff Writer

     
    Air

    Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks) Feb. 17, 2004
    We couldn’t really be sure where this well-groomed French duo was going with 2001’s gloomy 10,000 Hz Legend, but Talkie Walkie
    lighted the proceedings with panache. The weightless sex of “Cherry
    Blossom Girl” finds a home with the introspective “Alone in Kyoto” on
    an album that somehow makes gettin’-it-on the perfect arena for
    existential malaise.
     
    Sonic Youth

    Sonic Nurse (Geffen) June 8, 2004
    It’s no Daydream Nation, but considering the quarter-century of trailblazing Sonic Youth had to live up to, Sonic Nurse
    is impressive in its refusal to compromise or patronize. Jams like
    “Stones” and “Pattern Recognition,” in part made possible by the
    addition of studio guru and guitarist Jim O’Rourke, prove that
    “maturity” needn’t be a four-letter word for a rock band.
     
    The Walkmen

    Bows & Arrows (Record Collection) Feb. 3, 2004
    With the release of their dynamic sophomore outing, The Walkmen
    went from an upright piano-using novelty act to full-fledged Big Apple
    phenomenon. With more sharp guitar and propulsive drumming behind him,
    vocalist Hamilton Leithauser reels from one battered relationship to
    the next with true drunken conviction making album stand-out, “The
    Rat,” just about the best street-fighting song since, well, “Street
    Fighting Man.”
     
    Fly Pan Am

    N’ecoutez Pas (Constellation) Sept. 7, 2004
    Some of those Constellation acts north of the border may have
    become a bit predictably apocalyptic, but Fly Pan Am, some of whose
    members were culled from those same ranks, have tread a path all their
    own. N’ecoutez Pas is by far their most ambitious, and accessible,
    outing yet – nimbly treading the line between darkly-lit minimalist
    soundscapes and hummable pop.
     
    P.J. Harvey

    Uh, Uh Her (Island) June 8, 2004
    The fifty-foot queenie returns, and this time she’s pissed-off …
    again. Thankfully, the British songstress has the skills to match her
    temper, and as she has throughout her career, whether she’s going for
    studio gloss or the stripped-down grit of Uh, Uh Her, Harvey’s tales of desperation and desire strike a universally unnerving chord.
     
    Iron & Wine

    Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop) March 23, 2004
    While the tape-hissed intimacy of his debut my have pulled
    listeners in, Sam Beam, the voice and guitar behind Iron & Wine,
    proved the second time around that there was more under his beard than
    old Robert Johnson records. Our Endless Numbered Days trades in the four-track for a real studio and a few friends without sacrificing a warm-hearted note of Beam’s literate folk.
     
    Modest Mouse

    Good News For People Who Love Bad News (Epic) April 6, 2004
    It may have taken a while to come together, but Isaac Brock is not
    a man who does things the easy way. All the more surprising, then, that
    his band’s fifth full-length should be so stubbornly optimistic. But
    with tracks as impossibly catchy as “Float On” and “One Chance,” it’s
    hard to fault the guy for a little change of heart.
     
    Wilco

    A Ghost is Born (Nonesuch) June 22, 2004
    Following the near-universal acclaim of 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    couldn’t have been easy, but despite drug abuse and escalating band
    tension, these alt-country legends managed to spit out a dandy of a
    record. Refusing to pander to expectation, these cold and brittle tunes
    bristle with subtle lyricism and Jeff Tweedy’s maniacal axe-grinding.
     
    The Arcade Fire

    Funeral (Merge) Sept. 14, 2004
    It’s not a secret that great art can come from great tragedy, and
    the debut LP from this Montreal crew, many of whom lost family members
    during its recording, illustrates this point magnificently. Vocalist
    Win Butler’s breathless calls-to-arms butt up against grand swathes of
    surging guitar, fist-pounding bass, swooning strings and
    immensely-danceable percussion that could kill a wallflower.
      Jonathan Eccles

    Staff Writer

     
    Scissor Sisters

    Scissor Sisters (Universal) May 4, 2004
    The ultimate party album of the year. Pounding beats and shit-loads
    of sass help to form unique, complex songs that also happen to be
    amazingly funky.
     
    Iron and Wine

    Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop) March 23, 2004
    Pretty much one of the most chill albums I’ve ever heard, with
    “Passing Afternoon” ranking as my new favorite song to fall asleep to.
     
    Mission of Burma

    ONoffON (Matador) May 4, 2004
    Old dudes sound like they’re young dudes again. This is a good
    thing, because they rocked the world the first time they were young
    dudes.
     
    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

    Abbatoir Blues and Lyre of Orpheus (Anti-) Oct. 26, 2004
    Great, gritty blues, gospel and experimental songs abound as Cave
    sounds a lot happier with his life than before. He’s still one of the
    few artists who can successfully meld Greek myths and poop jokes.
     
    Modest Mouse

    Good News For People Who Love Bad News (Epic) April 6, 2004
    Call it a sell-out, call it what you want. Just because it has the
    universal appeal to get 12-year-old girls singing along doesn’t mean
    you wouldn’t be rocking out to it if it weren’t so popular.
     
    Franz Ferdinand

    Franz Ferdinand (Domino) March 9, 2004
    Drinking. Dancing. Listing to Franz Ferdinand. These are all pretty
    inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, and when they’re
    finished, you don’t feel like you’ve experienced something significant.
    But then you’d be forgetting how much fun each of these things are.
     
    The Arcade Fire

    Funeral (Merge) Sept. 14, 2004
    Merge signs these dudes out of Canada. A certain reviewer gives
    them a near perfect rating. Now they’re the hottest thing on the
    street. Crazy thing is that the album truly is nearly perfect.
     
    Old Enough 2 Know Better

    15 years of Merge Records (Merge) July 13, 2004
    The hell with 69 Love Songs. Here’s sixty-three awesome songs for fifteen bucks.
     
    The Streets

    A Grand Don’t Come For Free (Vice/Atlantic) May 18, 2004
    The Ulysses of British rap. It’s not that often that something so banal is transformed into something so beautiful.
     
    Animal Collective

    Sung Tongs (FatCat) June 1, 2004
    If I dressed up like an animal that often I’d make pretty crazy
    music too. Weird as fuck and celebrating every second of it. Yes, even
    you could win a rabbit.
     
    Morrissey

    You Are the Quarry (Attack) May 18, 2004
    Nice one from the Comeback Kid. Though some of the production gets
    hammy and overblown at times, the rapier wit is still evident, with
    gut-splitting lyrics and a voice that still sounds tip-top.
     
    William Shatner

    Has Been (Shout! Factory) Oct. 5, 2004
    Sure, it’s complete novelty, but it’s also a cultural moment
    captured in full. Thanks to Shatner and Ben Folds, we have a time
    capsule to show our children when they ask how quirky, self-referential
    and utterly insane pop culture in our time was.
     
    The Deadly Snakes

    Ode to Joy (In the Red) April 15, 2004
    It’s like gospel getting kicked in the groin by an electric guitar.



    Best of 2003
    Best of 2004
    Best of 2005