Part 2

     

      Kate Collier

    Staff Writer

     
    The Hidden Cameras

    Mississauga Goddam (Rough Trade) Oct. 12, 2004
    This record is pretty much the whole package –pretty, dirty,
    infectious, manic, heartbreaking — all without taking itself too
    seriously.
     
    Björk

    Medulla (Elektra) Aug. 31, 2004
    Medulla proves Björk can get away with anything — even
    recording an album (mostly) without instruments. You may need to be in
    a particular frame of mind to enjoy to this album –it’s not something
    to listen to on your morning commute — but it is undoubtedly the most
    beautiful one released this year.
     
    PJ Harvey

    Uh Huh Her (Island) June 8, 2004
    On Uh Huh Her, the bluster of Harvey’s earliest recordings
    mingles with the more polished elegance of her later work, reminding us
    that she can devastate us any way she wants to.
     
    The Hives

    Tyrannosaurus Hives (Interscope) June 20, 2004
    No, their shtick is not wearing thin; the Hives release a
    relentlessly fun, smart-ass record and successfully avoid becoming
    annoying.
     
    Tracy + the Plastics

    Culture for Pigeon (Troubleman Unlimited) May 18, 2004
    With the CD/DVD package Culture for Pigeon, Tracy + the Plastics
    mastermind Wynne Greenwood shows that she’s unwilling to slide by on
    the cleverness of her performance art. These 11 tracks stand up just
    fine without their video counterparts.
      Kevin Dolak

    Staff Writer

     

    Honorable Mentions:

    Asobi Seksu: Asobi Seksu (Friendly Fire) May 18, 2004

    Blonde Redhead: Misery is a Butterfly (4AD/Beggars) March 23, 2004

    Guided by Voices: Half Smiles of the Decomposed (Matador) Aug. 24, 2004

    The Hidden Cameras: Mississauga Goddam (Rough Trade) Oct. 12, 2004

    Interpol: Antics (Matador) Sept. 28, 2004

    Magnetic Fields: I (Nonesuch) May 4, 2004

    Mirah: C’mon Miracle (K) May 4, 2004

    William Shatner: Has Been (Shout! Factory) Oct. 5, 2004

    The Walkmen: Bows and Arrows (Record Collection) Feb. 3, 2004

      10
    Modest Mouse

    Good News for People Who Like Bad News (Epic) April 6, 2004
    Good news: Your favorite band has managed to cross over to the
    mainstream without compromising its scruples or tweaking its sound. Bad
    news: The asshole meathead factor will make you never want to see the
    band’s live show again.
      9
    Les Savy Fav

    Inches (French Kiss) Oct. 2, 2004
    The “Godfathers of the Brooklyn Sound” have finally completed their
    career-spanning art project. The chronological progression of these
    tracks reveals one of the smartest punk bands around today. I think it
    might get them into RISD.
      8
    The Thermals

    Fuckin’ A (Sub Pop) May 18, 2004
    Thrashing lo-fi punk noise started to seem passé until Fuckin’ A
    became this summer’s refreshing blast, reminding us that noise and
    anger are still important even if we don’t hang out on Astor Place.
    Hutch Harris’s frustration is rooted in the same anger of so many indie
    classics.
      7
    Bloc Party

    Bloc Party EP (Dim Mak) Sept. 14, 2004
    On the strength of a mere five-song EP, this U.K. four-piece came out
    of nowhere to tell the U.S. dance-punk revival to blow it out their
    collective ass. Where other imitators are bringing their quiz on Wire
    and Gang of Four home for their parents to sign, Bloc Party is getting
    straight A’s.
      6
    Morrissey

    You Are the Quarry (Attack) May 18, 2004
    Not since his defining Vauxhall and I has the Mozzer been
    so sublimely indignant (“Irish Blood, English Heart”), catchy (“First
    of the Gang to Die”), honest (“I Like You”) and deadpan (“The World is
    Full of Crashing Bores”). It’s enough to make you wish it doesn’t have
    to be another seven years for another round.
      5
    Fiery Furnaces

    Blueberry Boat (Rough Trade/Sanctuary) July 13, 2004
    I like to imagine Matt and Elanor Friedberger’s songwriting process as
    a re-enactment of backseat fights they had on family road trips as
    children. “Let’s go this way!” “No, this way!” They shift about eight
    times before the song ends, but each way was the right way.
      4
    Frog Eyes

    The Folded Palm (Absolutely Kosher) Sept. 14, 2004
    The silver lining of four more years of Republican treachery might
    be the lack of funding for public health care. So Carey Mercer will not
    be getting his pills and will continue making these complex,
    schizophrenic records. Oh wait, he’s Canadian. Fuck.
      3
    Xiu Xiu

    Fabulous Muscles (5 Rue Christine) Feb. 17, 2004
    Though Jamie Stewart scares the shit out of himself, he is
    relentless in doing so to his fans. Here he outdoes himself, combining
    Nintendo rhythms with piercing wails, his signature falsetto with his
    signature clank-clank percussion, into a brilliant and surprising pop
    record, putting his demons on a skillet.
      2
    Arcade Fire

    Funeral (Merge) Sept. 14, 2004
    Stark themes of loss, love and growing up coupled with hope and rapture
    are on the one record that everyone agrees is epic. I’m pretty
    confident this will change a lot of people’s lives. Not to mention
    revive the Talking Heads. These kids know.
      1
    Brian Wilson

    Smile (Nonesuch) Sept. 28, 2004
    After years of debating, false compilations and bogus downloads of
    Wilson’s shattered masterpiece, he has finally released it for the
    masses, and it’s further ahead than anything that rips it off these
    days. Congratulations are due to America’s finest songwriter.
      Lawrence Lanahan

    Staff Writer

     
    A.C. Newman

    The Slow Wonder (Matador) June 8, 2004
     
    Madvillain

    Madvillainy (Stones Throw) March 23, 2004
     
    Brian Wilson

    Smile (Nonesuch) Sept. 28, 2004
     
    Wilco

    A Ghost Is Born (Nonesuch) June 22, 2004
      Morrissey

    You Are The Quarry (Attack) May 18, 2004
      Brad Mehldau

    Live In Tokyo (Nonesuch) Sept. 14, 2004
      Matt Gasteier

    Staff Writer

      15
    Kanye West

    The College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella) Feb. 10, 2004
    Take away the stupid anti-college rants and the last fifteen to
    twenty minutes and this is a pretty damn good hip-hop record. Grab the
    better version of “All Falls Down,” with the actual Lauryn Hill sample
    and Kanye running out of breath, from your local file-sharing service.
      14
    Max Richter

    The Blue Notebooks (FatCat) March 23, 2004
    I don’t buy much classical, but this is one of those rare discs
    I’ll keep in my rotation because it evokes a mood similar to the best
    of my down-tempo collection: contemplative, cinematic, natural. Peter
    Kruder with more traditional training.
      13
    The Libertines

    The Libertines (Rough Trade) Aug. 30, 2004
    “Can’t Stand Me Now” alone makes this a worthy album, but there are
    plenty of great songs to go around. Sure, there are throwaway songs
    where there were none on Up the Bracket, but a half-brilliant album is still pretty good, you fucking pessimist.
      12
    Ghostface

    The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam) April 20, 2004
    Yeah, that’s Ghostface rapping over a whole song, verse and all. Yeah,
    that’s Ghostface on the worst cover in recent memory. Yeah, that’s
    Ghostface, making his fourth straight must-own record.
      11
    Cee-Lo

    Cee-Lo Green is the Soul Machine (Arista) March 2, 2004
    Man, Electric Circus is the worst album ever. The
    neo-soul/hip-hop combos have been just awful, but this is excellent.
    Someone please make Cee-Lo a star.
      10
    Franz Ferdinand

    Franz Ferdinand (Domino) March 9, 2004
    Is every song this good? Who are these people? How can this record be as good as everyone says it is?
      9
    Air

    Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks) Feb. 17, 2004
    Run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run.
      8
    Savath and Savalas

    Apropa’t (Warp) Jan. 27, 2004
    This record just gets inside your body and becomes part of you.
    Each time I listen to it I hear new things, but I’m not really
    experiencing it as much as absorbing it. It’s becoming a dream in my
    head, and I am unsure if it even really exists.
      7
    Brian Wilson

    Smile (Nonesuch) Sept. 28, 2004
    Has there ever been a more satisfying record? Everyone was worried,
    no one thought it could be good, and then it came out. Fuck you for
    doubting.
      6
    The Walkmen

    Bows and Arrows (Record Collection) Feb. 3, 2004
    Alternately beautiful and explosive, a journey through nature and
    civilization. Everything rock ‘n’ roll was meant to be, once it stopped
    being silly dance music.
      5
    Madvillain

    Madvillainy (Stones Throw) March 23, 2004
    MF Doom and Madlib have been wandering around the solar system
    searching for each other. Quasimoto was hot, and Viktor Vaughn is top
    notch, but when they combine they form like Voltron.
      4
    Björk

    Medulla (Elektra) Aug. 31, 2004
    Bjork continues her unprecedented streak by continually morphing
    her sound and challenging notions of what defines her as an artist.
    It’s a completely inaccessible work, but give it a chance and be swept
    away.
      3
    Nas

    Street’s Disciple (Sony Urban Music/Columbia) Nov. 30, 2004
    The best commercial hip-hop record since Stankonia. The best double-album in hip-hop history. Just another Nas classic.
      2
    Loretta Lynn

    Van Lear Rose (Interscope) April 27, 2004
    Loretta Lynn has made better songs, but she has never made a better
    album than this collaboration with Jack White. Quite simply, this is a
    perfect record. If you don’t like this, I hate you.
      1
    The Streets

    A Grand Don’t Come For Free (Vice/Atlantic) May 18, 2004
    In a year of concept records, Mike Skinner gave us his masterpiece by
    passing it off as just another day. The best concept hip-hop album ever
    made.
      Michael Pollock

    Staff Writer

      15
    The Walkmen

    Bows and Arrows (Record Collection) Feb. 3, 2004
    Hazy power-rock in the vein of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
      14
    Alchemist

    1st infantry (Koch) June 29, 2004
    Al slings golden-nugget beats at lyrical Goliaths including Game, D-Block, Stat Quo.
      13
    Dizzee Rascal

    Showtime (XL) Sept. 14, 2004
    After Jigga left the throne open, who’d a thought Dizzee’s
    head-spinning raps and loopy rhythms would make him a contender to wear
    the crown?
      12
    Ride the Blinds

    Ride the Blinds (Orchard) June 22, 2004
    White-boy soul by way of San Francisco. Keep an eye out in ’05 …
      11
    Pete Rock

    Soul Survivor II (Rapster) Aug. 3, 2004
    Slept-on indie release from the original funk soul brother.
      10
    Dangermouse

    The Grey Album (Bootleg) February 2004
    Remember when you used to play two tapes at once on your boom box
    and it made that messy, off-beat noise? Yeah, well, somebody found a
    way to make it sound good.
      9
    Wilco

    A Ghost Is Born (Nonesuch) June 22, 2004
    So you hoisted Yankee Hotel Foxtrot onto every friend you
    have and even a few complete strangers. What next? This, an insular,
    post-genre collage of electronic experimentation and organic
    reliability.
      8
    The Roots

    The Tipping Point (Geffen) July 13, 2004
    The Roots finally made an album you could digest in one sitting,
    but what’s really interesting is the menu: soul, jazz, crunk, electro,
    reggae, old-school hip-hop — all within just ten songs.
      7
    Ron Sexsmith

    Retriever (Nettwerk) April 6, 2004
    A beautiful set of jangly pop songs by the man who reinvented
    jangly pop songs. You’ve got to be one heartless bastard not to give it
    a chance.
      6
    TV on the Radio

    Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go) March 9, 2004
    So what if the dudes in TV on the Radio look like those art history
    majors your older brother started hanging out with after he left for
    New York University? Desperate is wild, unpredictable and strangely hypnotic.
      5
    Kanye West

    The College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella) Feb. 10, 2004
    Okay, producers can rap. They can even hold their own
    against dudes like Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common. But who knew they
    could do a whole album without mentioning guns or crack? Better yet,
    who knew anyone could rap about Jesus and low self-esteem and not sound like a pussy?
      4
    Interpol

    Antics (Matador) Sept. 28, 2004
    [Note to anyone still worshipping at the shrine that is Turn on the Bright Lights]: Interpol has not only made a second record, but it’s equally correction, better
    — than the debut. It’s full of hope, confidence, and new direction.
    You may change your CD player now. And get into the fuckin’ sun
    already.
      3
    Ryan Adams

    Love Is Hell (Lost Highway) May 4, 2004
    Cocky, moody, derivative: Three words usually attached to Ryan Adams’s wannabe-rock star ego also sum up Love Is Hell,
    the melding of his two previous EPs with the addition of the
    jaw-droppingly tender “Anybody Wanna Take Me Home?” You can also add
    “brilliant” to that list. (Check out Jay Riggio’s hilarious review.)
      2
    The Streets

    A Grand Don’t Come For Free (Vice/Atlantic) May 18, 2004
    It’s safe to say we wouldn’t have missed Mike Skinner too much had he
    disappeared after his debut two years ago. There was promise in “It’s
    Too Late,” but nothing prepared us for the cerebral approach of Grand and its break-up anthem, “Dry Your Eyes.” Funny, now we can’t imagine another year without him.
      1
    Franz Ferdinand

    Franz Ferdinand (Domino) March 9, 2004
    Bowie, Blondie and Gang of Four held their 25-year reunion in ’04, and
    Franz Ferdinand was the house band, taking requests as the booze and
    memories flowed. It’s about as obvious a choice for record of the year
    as last year’s Elephant,
    but just try to find someone who doesn’t like all eleven songs this
    debut offered up, including the homoerotic “Michael.” The best part:
    Their next album will sound nothing like it.
      Mike Dougherty

    Staff Writer

      15
    Travis Morrison

    Travistan (Barsuk) Sept. 28, 2004
    If people would just start ignoring the fact that Travis Morrison used
    to be in one of the greatest bands in the universe, they’d probably
    take his solo stuff a little more lightly. Travistan
    is surely no Dismemberment Plan album, but taken alone it’s a truly
    interesting album about presidents and whales or something. Just let
    the man work, people.
      14
    The Beta Band

    Heroes to Zeros (Astralwerks) May 4, 2004
    This year saw the tragic split of the Beta Band, proof that rock
    critics alone don’t buy enough records to put food on a band’s table.
    This album may be one of their less consistent, but everything to like
    about the band is more than represented: the quirky experimentation,
    the strangely profound yet goofy lyrics, the dog barks. All in all, a
    fitting last stand for such a great band.
      13
    Rjd2

    Since We Last Spoke (Definitive Jux) May 18, 2004
    On his follow-up to Deadringer, Rj isn’t content with just
    flaunting his talent as a brilliant deejay; he has to go and show that
    he can write kick-ass songs, too. Everything from emo to tacky ’80s
    rock is here, and he can curiously pull it off better than anyone in
    these actual genres.
      12
    Modest Mouse

    Good News For People Who Love Bad News (Epic) April 6, 2004
    Modest Mouse’s latest is arguably their best, and not just because
    they weathered band troubles to make it, got with a reputable producer,
    and started writing more optimistic songs like the now immortal “Float
    On.” Well, maybe that did have something to do with it.
      11
    The Magnetic Fields

    I (Nonesuch) May 4, 2004
    On I, Stephin Merritt masters the art of the “plink.” His
    “no synths” policy had every threat of ruining what essentially created
    the Fields’ sound, but the staccato grace of this album, especially as
    support to Merritt’s smooth tenor, proves that simplicity can so often
    make the finest pop songs.
      10
    Joan of Arc

    Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain (Polyvinyl) Aug. 24, 2004
    After a decidedly mediocre showing from Tortoise earlier this year,
    the brothers Kinsella snatch up the title of the most creative players
    in the Chicago post-rock scene with this album. They even make Dick
    Cheney cool by association.
      9
    Kings of Convenience

    Riot on an Empty Street (Astralwerks) July 27, 2004
    Everything you might expect from the acoustic duo that brought you Quiet is the New Loud
    shows up on their new album: the same graceful harmonies (this time
    accented by Leslie Feist), the same breadth of songwriting talent, the
    same soporific mellowness. Plus, on “Homesick,” they finally learn to
    cope with everyone telling them they sound like Simon and Garfunkel.
      8
    The Bad Plus

    Give (Sony) March 9, 2004
    Give may just be more of the same frantic jazz that these guys delivered on their debut, These Are the Vistas,
    but the three members of the Bad Plus are skilled enough composers that
    they have no problem dealing the same hand twice. They still beat their
    instruments with a ferocity that no one around can match, and they
    still kindly give rock fans an excuse to say they “listen to jazz.”
      7
    Björk

    Medulla (Elektra) Aug. 31, 2004
    Björk has been widely regarded as the most creative vocalist in
    modern music, so it’s no surprise that this album showcases little more
    than the human mouth. Beats from Mike Patton and Rahzel give the songs
    a backbone, and Björk and her various choirs do the rest of the work.
    The result is an atmospheric masterpiece that only someone like Björk
    could deliver.
      6
    TV on the Radio

    Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go) March 9, 2004
    The buzz band that dominated much of the first half of this year,
    TV on the Radio’s first full-length is a high-energy rumble about love,
    peace and race. Their erratic drum machines and Energizer bass rarely
    stop for a breath over the course of the entire album, and Tunde
    Adebimpe’s multi-tracked guttural voice rests peacefully atop the
    mechanical foundation. All this, as if hailing from Williamsburg,
    Brooklyn didn’t make them hip by default.
      5
    Wilco

    A Ghost is Born (Nonesuch) June 22, 2004
    This album is a Godsend for those who didn’t care for Wilco’s past
    catalog of creaky twang-rock and the semi-psychedelic experimentation
    on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Ghost
    is a straight-up rocker with solid songwriting, long guitar solos, and
    a bare minimum of ambient background noise. It may be polarizing for
    the band’s fans, but this album sees the band wisely trimming the fat
    from both their sound and their songs.
      4
    Regina Spektor

    Soviet Kitsch (Sire) Aug. 17, 2004
    The Russian-bred, Bronx-based singer/pianist is one of the most
    talented songwriters to surface in recent months. Despite her classical
    piano training, she plunks out her songs with a graceful simplicity and
    a cheeky sense of humor that can win over any audience with just one
    listen. And there’s really barely any kitsch to be found.
      3
    Emperor X

    Tectonic Membrane/Thin Strip on an Edgeless Platform (Snowglobe) 2004
    Basically just forty minutes of Chad Matheny’s bedroom recordings
    of pawnshop guitars and an arsenal of keyboards, this album is
    unexpectedly one of the most solid works of lo-fi pop to come out this
    year (or any other year, for that matter).
      2
    John Vanderslice

    Cellar Door (Barsuk) Jan. 20, 2004
    From deep within the bowels of Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studio, Cellar Door
    was forged over the course of 2003 and released to kick off ’04. He is
    a fantastic songwriter (cuts like “White Plains” and “My Family Tree”
    testify to that), but this album mostly continues to showcase
    Vanderslice as one the most creative producers around. His trademarked
    “Sloppy Hi-Fi” technique gives Cellar Door a wider sonic range
    than any other release this year; the album is spattered with subtle
    string arrangements, swelling brass, bits of electronic noise, and too
    many other sounds to list. If the album proves anything, it’s that
    Vanderslice is no longer just your average American four-tracker.
      1
    The Decemberists

    The Tain EP (Acuarela Discos) 2004
    The Decemberists’ five-piece heavy-metal suite may come across as
    something of a bizarre practical joke, but it may in fact showcase the
    raw talent of this band more than any of the other releases. Vaguely
    inspired by an epic poem of Celtic folklore called “Tain Bo Cuailinge,”
    the band channels everyone from Iron Butterfly (Part I) to Ozzy (Part
    V) in the cycle of this eighteen-minute masterpiece. Of course, the
    initial appeal is a fish-out-of-water scenario with the typically
    acoustic-and-accordion-heavy band rocking out with gritty electric
    guitars on a minor-key riff. But as the song matures and develops its
    plot, the true level of skill that went into creating it becomes
    apparent. It’s still worth a laugh, but trying not to be moved by the
    amazing climax is next to impossible.
      Mike Krolak

    Staff Writer

      12
    Jolie Holland

    Escondida (Anti-) April 27, 2004
    Channeling old-school country and blues, Holland alternately charms and haunts, but pleases both ways. And, man, can she sing.
      11
    Masta Killa

    No Said Date (Nature Sounds) June 1, 2004
    Probably the most patient member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Masta Killa
    lays the smack down with trademark Wu beats and a flow that makes every
    line resonate like a great hook.
      10
    Ted Leo and The Pharmacists

    Shake the Sheets (Lookout!) Oct. 19, 2004
    Ahokay. Now I get why everyone raves about Ted Leo: bouncy
    rhythms, somersaulting guitar lines, and some of the catchiest damn
    songs you’ll ever hear.
      9
    Franz Ferdinand

    Franz Ferdinand (Domino) March 9, 2004
    Easily the most ubiquitous indie act of the year. Sure, you’re sick
    of it now, but you were singing along back in May — and with good
    reason.
      8
    Madvillain

    Madvillainy (Stones Throw) March 23, 2004
    MF Doom and Madlib overcome the handicap of high expectations by
    simply exceeding them with a fat sack of abstract beats and rhymes.
      7
    Adem

    Homesongs (Domino) July 27, 2004
    With a voice reminiscent of Beck, Adem Ilham gracefully bares his
    soul over ten unassuming yet gut-wrenchingly gorgeous tunes that employ
    the lack of sound as skillfully as its presence.
      6
    Rogue Wave

    Out Of The Shadow (Sub Pop) July 13, 2004
    A juicy slice of California pop drizzled with melancholy and topped with a sense of humor. Yum.
      5
    Arcade Fire

    Funeral (Merge) Sept. 14, 2004
    Okay, Canada, we get it. You guys are a lot cooler than we thought.
    And thanks again for this record: A balls out, heart-on-its-sleeve,
    controlled rage that’s a winner from start to finish.
      4
    The One A.M. Radio

    A Name Writ In Water (Level Plane) April 19, 2004
    Hrishikesh Hirway soundtracks your most introspective moments with
    acoustic guitars, glitchy electronics, and an uncanny sense of peace.
      3
    Chad VanGaalen

    Inifiniheart (Flemish Eye) Feb. 11, 2004
    Explorative psych-folk that discovers beauty in new places and sounds while providing a sense of relaxed comfort.
      2
    John Vanderslice

    Cellar Door (Barsuk) Jan. 20, 2004
    Vanderslice takes everything you like about pop music, pumps out
    the sugary filling, replaces it with bottomless creativity, then leaves
    you begging for more.
      1
    The Streets

    A Grand Don’t Come For Free (Vice/Atlantic) May 18, 2004
    Mike Skinner fleshes out the trivialities of everyday life with
    poignant accuracy and reinvents the concept album, proving that music
    doesn’t have to be complicated to be breathtaking.
      Nick Stillman

    Staff Writer

      10
    Matthew Shipp

    Harmony and Abyss (Thirsty Ear) Sept. 28, 2004
    The Shipp-curated Blue Series on the Thirsty Ear label really took a step back this year, but Harmony and Abyss
    at least proved that Shipp still has gas left in his tank. Although
    it’s frustrating that he seems unwilling to fully embrace the beatbox
    accompaniment of songs like “Blood to the Brain” and “New ID” to his
    staggering and beautiful piano playing, the instances when he does it
    catapult this album to the top of the year’s new jazz releases.
      9
    Vordul Mega

    Revolution of the Young Havocs (Nature Sounds) Nov. 2, 2004
    The Can Ox hangover finally subsided a bit this year, with solo albums
    from both Vordul and Vast Aire plus lots of guest appearances. Vordul’s
    silky flow goes down as smoothly as the green he raps so much about. Revolution‘s depressive themes paint New York City like it so often can be — black, a city of cold wind and hungry pigeons.
      8
    Suicide

    Attempted: Live at Max’s Kansas City 1980 (Sympathy for the Record Industry) March 16, 2004
    Keep ’em comin’! As long as there are new Suicide live albums, I’ll be
    buying. This was (and still is) one the best live bands of all time,
    and albums like Half Alive and the new Attempted capture them when they were tight and tough but still maintained a confrontational and ominously insane aura. Besides, Attempted
    provides further evidence that Suicide’s studio recordings really only
    comprised a fraction of their arsenal. Kiddies may know them through
    their newer, inferior material, but their famously demented reputation
    was formed during performances like this one.
      7
    Stereloab

    Margerine Eclipse (Elektra) Jan. 27, 2004
    Heavyweight indie rockers Sonic Youth and Stereolab both released
    albums this year, and the Lab won so easily they may as well have been
    holding a tomato ketchup and margerine sandwich in one hand and a copy
    of Switched on Bach in the other while surfing the NASA channel in their space-age bachelor pad. Combining the Dots and Loops sound with the Switched On-era one, Margerine Eclipse
    is an elegant fusion of old and new, and a weird reminder that
    Stereolab has been doing this long enough to actually make that work.
      6
    Vast Aire

    Dirty Magazine mixtape (Bootleg) 2004
    In a year that saw four releases by the more magisterial half of
    Cannibal Ox, Vast’s mixtape is definitively the best. His “real” album,
    Look Mom, No Hands,
    felt a little too loose (let’s just say it — stoned) to really engage,
    and the two collections of collaborations and demos are nice to have
    but ultimately combine a lot of stuff that was available elsewhere. Dirty Mag
    is Vast at his nasty, insulting and thuggish best, proving that, like
    King Gheedora does, hip-hop over disco-inflected ’70s samples sounds
    pretty damn good right now.
      5
    Devendra Banhart

    Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God) April 26, 2004
    Pop music continued its tiresome 21st-century trend of
    bandwagon-hopping this year, continuing to ride out neo-garage
    (enough!), then establishing neo-psych and neo-folk as the new “in
    things.” The first of Banhart’s two albums this year is the better one,
    and the best of both of the newest two neo-genres.
      4
    Beans

    Shock City Maverick (Warp) Oct. 19, 2004
    It’s the other third of the former Antipop. After a slightly
    disappointing EP, Beans’ second full-length is either just as good or
    just better than the first, Tomorrow Right Now.
    Mr. Ballbeam will insult your intelligence and steal your girl’s
    amorous eye so fast you won’t even quite catch what he said, but he
    slows down enough on the deliciously trippy “I’ll Melt You” to proclaim
    a truism: “The link between Suicide, Sun Ra and Bambaataa is Ballbeam.”
      3
    Airborn Audio

    Snapshots mixtape (Bootleg) 2004
    Yeah, yeah, it’s just a mixtape, and Airborn Audio has
    theoretically existed for more than a year now with no official album.
    No matter. This brief tour of the matrix that is High Priest and
    M.Sayyid’s psyche will make you need a bib — you’ll be drooling over
    how they might — can
    — sound, once they emerge from prolonged hibernation in the lab.
    Antipop Consortium mourners: An era hasn’t ended, it’s just evolving.
      2
    Phil Kline

    Zippo Songs (Cantaloupe) Jan. 13, 2004
    Pick your adjective: haunting, chilling, devastating, overwhelming —
    none quite captures the power of Kline’s most recent album, which sets
    to music speeches by comically inarticulate Secretary of Defense Donald
    Rumsfeld as well as poems carved into Zippo lighters by American
    soldiers in Vietnam. Kline and his band’s succinct Steve Reich-ian pop
    songs are the perfect accompaniment to Theo Bleckmann’s hair-raisingly
    poignant singing, and Zippo Songs should stand as the
    document of resistance to the Neo-Cons’ 21st century attempt to play
    masters of the universe and a grim reminder of war’s tolls on the
    human psyche.
      1
    Madvillain

    Madvillainy (Stones Throw) March 23, 2004
    This collaborative effort between Madlib and MF Doom is yet another
    paean to stoned life but is far from the generic, weeded-out efforts
    that characterize so many underground hip-hop records. Madlib’s
    creative sound collages are the ideal backdrop for Doom’s witty and
    bizarre rhymes. On the great “Money Folder,” he raps, “Either I get a
    strike or strike out — gutter ball.” But aside from a strange attempt
    to croon on “Rainbows,” Madvillainy‘s K’s are inconspicuously absent. An album truly appropriate for all moods, and one of the most enduring collabs ever.
      Patrick Coffee

    Staff Writer

     
    Fennesz

    Venice (Touch UK) March 23, 2004
    Criticized for veering too close to easy ambience, Venice is
    Christian Fennesz’s most consistent album, and though the pop duet with
    Japan’s David Sylvian sits slightly to the left of self-importance, no
    one can restructure the sound of six strings quite like Fennesz.
     
    Arthur Russell

    The World of Arthur Russell (Soul Jazz) Jan. 26, 2004
    This year’s biggest uncovered treasure, Arthur Russell’s hazy
    biography is every bit as compelling as his recorded material. Despite
    excellent remix efforts by late house originator Larry Levan, tracks
    like the intimate string duo “Keeping Up” prove that Russell was simply
    processing his own increasingly abstract ideas through a popular model
    loosely resembling disco.
     
    Joanna Newsom

    The Milky-Eyed Mender (Drag City) March 23, 2004
    Once the mind adjusts to the initial shock of Newsom’s fey poetics
    and seemingly oblivious vocal lunges, the scope of her lyrical maturity
    and instrumental prowess begins to appear, and excepting the misplaced
    “Inflammatory Writ,” the album is consistently captivating.
     
    Animal Collective

    Sung Tongs (FatCat) June 1, 2004
     
    Milton Nascimento

    Maria Maria and Ultimo Trem (Far Out) March 23, 2004
     
    Madvillain

    Madvillainy (Stones Throw) March 23, 2004
     
    Max Richter

    The Blue Notebooks (FatCat) March 23, 2004
     
    Devendra Banhart

    Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God) April 26, 2004
     
    Björk

    Medulla (Elektra) Aug. 31, 2004
     
    James Chance

    Sax Education (Tiger Style) April 26, 2004
      Rafael Martinez

    Staff Writer

      10
    Mos Def

    The New Danger (Geffen) Oct. 12, 2004
    No album received more mixed reviews this year than The New Danger. Mos Def’s first album in five years and the follow-up to the sanctified Black on Both Sides,
    this year’s LP is an ambitious musical grab bag that taps many
    different genres. Out-of-control expectations nearly killed this album,
    but once the smoke clears, Mos may finally get the props he deserves
    for The New Danger.
      9 The Roots

    The Tipping Point (Geffen) July 13, 2004
    After hitting hip-hop with the rock-tinged Phrenology, the
    Roots flipped the script and aimed the spotlight on Black Thought. With
    the focus off the band, Thought melts wax, highlighted by his flawless
    impersonations of Kool G. Rap and Big Daddy Kane on “Boom!.” Minus an
    occasional brick, there ain’t no half-stepping along this lyrical road
    to riches.
      8
    Masta Ace

    A Long Hot Summer (Yosumi/M3) Aug. 3, 2004
    Criminally slept on since his days with the Juice Crew, Masta Ace is a
    decorated hip-hop veteran with more stripes than John Kerry. Billed as
    his swan song, on Long Hot Summer Ace decided to break us off this one last time with a prequel to his conceptual gem Disposable Arts. The only fitting words left are these: Thanks for the memories, Ace.
      7
    Jean Grae

    This Week (Babygrande) Sept. 21, 2004
    Compared to Jean Grae’s previous efforts, This Week
    unveiled something indelibly different in the emcee. This time, she
    exudes confidence, rhyming with a chip on her shoulder and popping
    shots at all mean muggers. With an album exclusively produced by 9th
    Wonder coming right around the corner, Grae may make 2005 as big as she
    did 2004.
      6
    Alchemist

    1st Infantry (Koch) June 29, 2004
    In between producing hit records for Mobb Deep and Dilated Peoples,
    Cali super-producer Alchemist cashes in his chips, dropping beats that
    capture the essence of East Coast hip-hop. Like any elite producer,
    Alchemist crafted a flawless set of beats tailor-made to accentuate the
    skills of the featured guest emcees. Banging from the jump until the
    curtain closes, 1st Infantry is easily one of the best in ’04.
      5
    Murs/9th Wonder

    3:16: The 9th Edition
    Released only weeks before Madvillainy, 3:16
    followed a simple blueprint of 9th Wonder’s North Cacalac beats and
    Murs’s blunted Cali vibes. Weighing in at a meager ten tracks, the duo
    goes for quality over quantity, concocting an album that is reminiscent
    of another classic LP — Illmatic.
      4
    Ghostface

    The Pretty Toney Album (Rocafella/Def Jam) April 20, 2004
    With the Wu-Tang empire steady declining, Ghostface is the lone member
    still swinging his scepter with same ferocity as he did in ’93. After
    more than a decade in the game, no one is more passionate and has more
    fun holding down the stage. Minus one Rza track, the production is
    handled by a group of relative unknowns whose raw and stripped-down
    soul production will have you hollering “I love you.”
      3
    Kanye West

    College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam) Feb. 10, 2004
    Even though Kanye’s soul-sampling production became the industry flavor
    of the year, it was his ability to bridge the gap between mainstream
    and underground hip-hop that raised this album to another level. What
    other artist would feature Jay-z, Ludacris, Common, Mos Def and Talib
    Kweli?
      2
    Madvillain

    Madvillainy (Stones Throw) March 23, 2004
    Take two of the most prolific artists in hip-hop and a sack of chronic
    and you get the most complete and blunted album of the year. With
    production virtuoso Madlib behind the boards and MF Doom’s stream of
    consciousness running amuck, the resulting LP single-handedly
    resurrected hip-hop from its shallow grave.
      1
    Nas

    Street’s Disciple (Sony Urban Music/Columbia) Nov. 30, 2004
    Following in the footsteps of Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Tupac and
    Wu-Tang, Nas’s double-disc effort is a lyrical feast with all the
    fixin’s. Mr. Jones represents all sides of hip-hop, getting political
    on “American Way,” setting the streets ablaze with “Nazareth Savage”
    and throwing an old-school park jam on “Virgo.” His best LP since Illmatic may have ended the debate as to who is the greatest of all time.
      Ryan Duffy

    Staff Writer

     
    Two Gallants

    The Throes (Alive) May 18, 2004
    Two good-looking young dudes from San Francisco playing music that
    sounds like it came from two train-wreck-ugly old dudes from Nebraska.
     
    Nick Cave

    Abbatoir Blues and The Lyre of Orpheus (Anti-) Oct. 26, 2004
    What’s weirder about these jams giving me a boner: That Nick Cave is older than my parents or that he’s a dude?
     
    The Streets

    A Grand Don’t Come for Free (Vice/Atlantic) May 18, 2004
    I guess in England, rap means really well-thought-out and
    brilliantly articulated concept records. In America, Nelly blows the
    collective minds of the hip-hop community by putting out a double-album
    that spells a new word if you hold them up next to each other.
     
    Mission of Burma

    OnOffOn (Matador) May 4, 2004
    Really? We could’ve had this stuff somewhat regularly for the past
    twenty years? Really? There needs to be a governing body that vetoes or
    approves band breakups. Mission of Burma would have gotten so denied,
    and I would’ve stamped approved eighty-six times on Scott Stapp’s face.
     
    Mastadon

    Leviathan (Relapse) May 31, 2004
    Question: Is metal even a genre anymore? Just like regular fucking metal, not nu or rap or metal-core or whatever?
    Mastadon: Oh, now it is. Here are some songs about slaying whales, you fags. Enjoy.
     
    Green Day

    American Idiot (Reprise) Sept. 21, 2004
    The Tommy of our generation. I’m totally serious.
     
    Xiu Xiu

    Fabulous Muscles (5 Rue Christine) Feb. 17, 2004
    This is how I like my gays — wierd and skinny and yelling about cum on their lips.
     
    Hot Snakes

    Audit in Progress (Swami) Oct. 5, 2004
    They use the same exact drum beat for, like, the first half of this record and it’s so good that I don’t even give a fuck.
     
    Wrangler Brutes

    Zulu (Kill Rock Stars) Oct. 12, 2004
     
    Venomous Concept

    Retroactive Abortion (Ipecac) June 29, 2004
    “Jesus fucking Christ, thank you! This is what we meant, goddamn
    it. As soon as Canada and Florida got prominently involved, we knew
    something had gone horribly wrong.” Sincerely, Punk Rock.



    Best of 2003
    Best of 2004
    Best of 2005