Best of 2004 | Music

TOP 11 ALBUMS OF 2004, according to me
In alphabetical order:
The Arcade Fire – Funeral (Merge)
One
of the most hyped records of the year, but it’s swooning epic-ness
cannot be denied. Add to that one of the blow-you-away live
performances of the year and it’s a one-to-punch sure to knock you
down. The songs may be sad at the core, but this is an album about
living.
The Delays – Faded Seaside Glamour (Rough Trade)
Despite
the utter poppiness of the songs, this is a record that takes a few
listens to get into. It sounds throwaway, but by the fourth or fifth
play the songs stick with you. And yes, it’s DUDE singing. What a
voice. They’ve already got the second album in the can.
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
I saw
these guys play a little over a year ago at a tiny club on Ludlow
Street. They were in town playing their first American shows, a string
of NYC dates trying to drum up US label interest. I thought they were
so good, I went to see all their other shows that weekend. But if you’d
told me a year later "Take Me Out" would be on a Now That’s What I Call Music!
compilation, I wouldn’t have believed it. I played this constantly for
about three months. I’m burnt out on it a bit now, but it’s a great
record nonetheless.
The Futureheads – The Futureheads (679 Recordings)
Take
the Jam and Devo, mix in doo-wop harmonies and songs about robots and
you’ve a record devoid of trends. (You cannot come up with this sound
using market research) Yes, you’ve heard it before, but never like
this. Short, sharp, burst of energy that are tighter than a steel drum.
They play the songs twice as fast (and loud) live.
The Go! Team – Thunder Lightning Strike (Memphis Industries)
How
to describe the racket The Go! Team makes? Um, well it’s kind of like
The Avalanches, but no samples — all played live — but it’s super
lo-fi; then there’s the cheerleader chanting, the Hawaii 5-0 horns and
drumming, the Johnny Marr guitar. You try and explain it and it doesn’t
work, but Thunder Lighting Strike sounds exactly as it’s meant to — brilliant.
Interpol – Antics (Matador)
Yes, the second Interpol album sounds pretty much like the first one. Were
people expecting them to suddenly produce Beatlesque harmonies and
collaborate with Ludicris? But this is a leaner, meaner, sexier
Interpol, and singer Paul Banks has finally found his own voice (the
only part of the Joy Division tag that really fit). More important, the
songs are better. "Evil," "Not Even Jail," "Narc," and "Slow Hands"
best almost anything from their debut. With Antics, Interpol now sound only like themselves, an accomplishment few bands achieve.
Nelly McKay – Get Away from Me (Columbia)
How
is it possible that this 21-year-old makes music as smart and
sophisticated and funny as this? From the title of her album down,
she’s the anti-Norah Jones — a total charmer, the way she coos on "I
Wanna Get Married" and "Clonie"; or adopts a French accent for "Ding
Dong."  A double album debut takes some serious chutzpah. Even if it
doesn’t all work (doubles rarely do), you gotta give her credit — even
when she’s trying to rap.
The Moonbabies – The Orange Billboard (Hidden Agenda)
First
off — yes this is a 2004 release (even in their hometown of
Malmo, Sweden). Now that that’s out of the way, one of the year’s first
releases may also be the best. Sparkling pop music with lovely boy-girl
harmonies, chiming guitars and a twinkle of electronics. It’s just a
lovely lovely record that got almost no attention at all. This is the
musical equivalent to what I imagine Sweden to be like in the
Springtime. "Sun A.M." is one of the best singles of the year, with
"Forever Changes Everything" being another standout on a record that
has no bad songs.

AC Newman – The Slow Wonder (Matador)
New
Pornographer goes solo and turns in a 35-minute slice of pop
perfection. This guy is a singles machine. Witness: "Secretarial," "The
Town Halo," "On the Table," "Drink to Me Babe, Then." Every song is
memorable, even if I have no idea what the hell he’s singing about.
The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Origin 1 (WEA)
The
loss of TSOOL founding guitarist — and chief songwriter — Bjorn
Olsson doesn’t seem to have phased them a bit, if Origin 1 is any
indication. Their first non-double album of their career, this one is,
if you’ll allow a cliche, all killer and no filler. They’re still
mining the late ’60s and early ’70s for inspiration but nobody does it
better — "Big Time," "Lone Summer Dream," "Heading for a Breakdown" —
it’s all just great singalong rock. Their lyrics remain stupid
psychedelic gobbledygook but that certainly won’t stop you from playing
air guitar.

The Zutons – Who Killed the Zutons? (Epic)
The
’80s pretty much killed the legitimate use of saxophones in rock, but
The Zutons are doing their best to restore the horn’s credibility. It
doesn’t hurt that the girl with the reed plays like James Chance and
looks like Penelope Cruz. These Liverpudlians sound like a saxified
version of fellow scenesters The Coral, except they’re having a lot
more fun and there are, thankfully, no sea chanteys found on Who Killed the Zutons?
Who knows, they might even have a chance at mainstream success, if that
commercial using "Pressure Point" means anything. The Zutons are great
live too, so go see them if they’re playing near you.
ALSO-RANS
The Scissor SistersThe Scissor Sisters; AdemHomesongs; Of MontrealSatanic Panic in the Attic; The Secret MachinesNow Here is Nowhere; MiloMilo Destroys Rock and Roll; The Trash Can SinatrasWeightlifting (this one continues to grow on me); ElectrelaneThe Power Out; LunaRendezvous; !!! Louden up Now; Graham CoxonHappiness in Magazines; Sondre LercheTwo-Way Monologue; Joanna NewsomThe Milk-Eyed Mender; AirTalkie Walkie; Kanye WestThe College Dropout; Sufjan StevensSeven Swans; AnnieAnniemal; MorrisseyYou Are the Quarry; The ComasConductor (has anyone else heard this album? Really good, deserves more attention than it’s getting, which is none); StarsSet Yourself on Fire; The Album LeafIn a Safe Place; AbberfeldyYoung Forever; Razorlight – Up All Night; The DearsNo Cities Left
I think I have grown to hate The Killers, though "Mr. Brightside" is still a good song.
SINGLES/TRACKS/EPs
Phoenix – "Everything is Everything"
Kings of Convenience – "I’d Rather Dance with You"
Razorlight – "Golden Touch"
Annie – "Heartbeat"
The Go! Team – "The Power is On"
Sons and Daughters – "Johnny Cash"
Bloc Party – "She’s Hearing Voices"
Death From Above 1979 – "Romantic Rights"
LCD Soundsystem – "Yeah (Stupid Version)
Moonbabies – "Sun A.M."
Franz Ferdinand – "Dark of the Matinee"
Delays – "Wanderlust"
Kanye West – "All Falls Down"
Scissor Sisters – "Take Your Momma Out"
The Secret Machines – "Nowhere Again"
Dirty on Purpose – Sleep Late for a Better Tomorrow EP
BEST LIVE BANDS
The Arcade Fire, The Futureheads, Franz Ferdinand, The Dears, The Secret Machines, The Zutons, Joanna Newsom
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.

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