Feature ·

Part 1

The Best Albums of 2004


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


Here Comes Love (Kompakt) March 30, 2004


Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand (Domino) March 9, 2004


Your Blues (Merge) March 9, 2004


Madvilliany (Stones Throw) March 23, 2004

Arcade Fire

Funeral (Merge) Sept. 14, 2004



Medulla (Elektra) Aug. 31, 2004


Junior Boys

Last Exit (Domino) Sept. 21, 2004



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

Loretta Lynn

Van Lear Rose (Interscope) April 27, 2004

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.

Frank Ferdinand

S/T (Domino) March 9, 2004

ruling the world -- no, totally pale geeks ruling the world -- no,
totally pale geeks with their guitars ruling the world -- rules my

Panda Bear

Young Prayer (Paw Tracks) Sept. 28, 2004


PJ Harvey

Uh Huh Her (Island) June 8, 2004

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

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
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.

Langhorne Slim

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

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?

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

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.

Real Tuesday Weld

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

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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

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."

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.

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

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.

Arthur Russell

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

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.

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.

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.

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


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.

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

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


Powerballin' (Capitol) Nov. 16, 2004


Powerballin' (Capitol) Nov. 16, 2004


Powerballin' (Capitol) Nov. 16, 2004


Powerballin' (Capitol) Nov. 16, 2004


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)

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.


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.


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.

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

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.

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.

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]

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.

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.

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.)


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.

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

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?

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.


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.

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.


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

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


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.

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

No Album By Mase or R. Kelly, on principle


Beastie Boys

To the Five Boroughs (Capitol) June 15, 2004

Bobby Bare Jr.

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

Ray Charles

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

Norah Jones

Feels Like Home (Blue Note) April 20, 2004

American Music Club

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


A Ghost is Born (Nonesuch) June 22, 2004

Loretta Lynn

Van Lear Rose (Interscope) April 27, 2004

Jay Riggio

Staff Writer

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.


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


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.


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

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.


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
The Best Albums of 2004 - A look back at the best albums of the year Prefixmag Staff Picks Part 2
Prefixmag Staff Picks

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