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Top Albums 2004

The whole 2004 list

01 Green Day – American Idiot

Hyped as a ‘punk rock opera’, it’s not quite any of those things. Green Day has expanded their sound away from the simple punk-pop power trio into more of a full-fledged rock band, without losing a bit of their brash, driving punky beat and “F’ the Man” lyrics. Comparisons to the best of the Who and the Kinks are not at all overblown.

02 Rilo Kiley – More Adventurous

An album that highlights what can be so right about music. With no real ’style’ (alt-country?, radio-pop?, indy-rock?) to stick to, the album tries a bit of everything. In the end, the sexy vocals and smart compositions make this a joy-ride of repeated listens.

03 A.C. Newman – Slow Wonder

The man is definitely the new king of pop music. This stunning album is crammed with 40 straight minutes of melodic hooks and innovative pop phrasings. Amazingly cohesive, given how complex it all sounds.

04 Brian Wilson – SMiLE

A bit hard to categorize as ‘new’, given that it was originally conceived almost 40 years ago. That said, this is easily the best psychedelic-pop album in ages, full of whimsy and charged emotion. I for one hope that the competitive spirit that was the genesis of this project in 1968 (Beatles -vs- Beach Boys) can be reborn amongst some of today’s pop heavyweights. Let’s get it on!

05 Jim White – Drill a Hole in That Substrate and Tell Me What You See

Impossible to categorize (Southern Gothic? Spoken Country? Backwater Blues?); Jim White blends despair and hope with a hypnotic grace and masterfully understated moodiness, around songs that are “reports about the state of hidden realms and should be regarded as such.” A great collection of collaborators including Joe Henry, Bill Frisell, The Sadies, Barenaked Ladies, Aimee Mann, and M. Ward.

06 Jackpot – F+

A mix of swampy rock and alt-country, Jackpot deliver a great collection of not-too-serious yet tasty tunes. I’ll put “Adventures Galore” up against any other track for song of the year.

07 The Mountain Goats – We Shall All Be Healed

The most in-tune and polished Mountain Goats album, full of the trademark John Darnelle cast of odd characters and semi-tragic situations. A great presentation of songwriting craft where every note and word open up avenues of both introspection and empathy.

08 Of Montreal – Satanic Panic in the Attic

Excellently rendered 60’s-style psychedelic pop from an (ex-)Elefant 6 band? Go figure. What makes this one different is the way it is at the same time wildly experimental/diverse and completely cohesive, with memorable songs aplenty. One of the most deeply-layered, fun albums you’ll ever find.

09 The Arcade Fire – Funeral

Hyped to no end, I really think I should hate this album. The only problem is that it seems to be a truly genius piece of work. Heartfelt and intense, every piece of glowing praise is well deserved. WOW.

10 Nellie McKay – Get Away From Me

Whatever the back story, this is a fun romping mix of cabaret-torch singing, sly comedy, and dead-serious social commentary. Love it for it’s irreverence, don’t hate it for it’s playfulness.


Other notables:

Sandbox – Mark Sandman Original Music

Mark Sandman (Morphine) passed away in 1999, and his former bandmates have spent the last 5 years compiling this fantastic box set. Not one filler or ‘bedroom quality’ track, the whole set brings attention to his unique talents and songwriting abilities.

11 Lambchop – Aw, C’mon/No, You C’mon

Two albums released at the same time (also avail as a double-set). This huge Nashville collective (13+ members), headed by Kurt Wagner, have expertly created a great, moody, country-tinted soundscape. You can almost feel the cool breezes and warm sunbeams coming through the speakers.

12 Animal Collective – Sung Tongs

Wow, now this is one seriously strange album. Perhaps loosely based on traditional folk music, this is a stunningly creative and inventive album that mixes very non-traditional sounds and transitions with excellently constructed pop song structures. You’ll find yourself ‘lost’ and then ‘found’ dozens of times.

14 Bumblebeez 81 – The Printz

Fucked-up, cut-and-paste slacker art-rock weirdness with white boy/girl rap vocals (more-or-less). Comparisons to early Beck and the Beastie Boys are inevitable. This is a collection of two non-US EP’s, and is catchy in a very strange way.

16 Detroit Cobras – Baby

Perhaps my fave band of the 00’s. Classic covers of soul, Motown and rock-n-roll tunes from the 50’s and 60’s, played by a Detroit-garage sounding band and fronted by a growling, ‘I-am-dangerous’ former stripper.

17 Luna – Rendezvous

Luna’s best album in years comes on the heels of announcing that they’re calling it quits after 13+ years; This is a must-own swan song. You’ve got one final chance to see them perform their magic live, don’t miss out.

19 Federico Aubele – Gran Hotel Buenos Aires

From Argentina, the sexy latin-dub sounds are perfectly matched with the silky-smooth production of the Thievery Corporation. 2004’s best cocktail party album.

21 The Go! Team – Lighting Thunder Strike

Good luck categorizing this one. Here’s my try – “a hundred anime cheerleaders banging out 80’s cartoon themes using dozens of barely-identifiable instruments. While playing hopscotch.” I would normally shy away from any band with an exclaimation point in their name, but here it’s perfectly appropriate.

Langhorne Slim – The Electric Love Letter EP

Eclectic, eccentric country-blues-rock oddity. Either refreshingly open and honest, or well-put-on shtick, your pick.

Always the Runner – Always the Runner EP

Great (short) lively mostly-instrumental guitar EP. Lots of GBV-ish overtones, with a great basis in pop structures.

30 Ash – Meltdown

Chock full of anthemic power-pop guitar tunes, toss this one in the car for a long drive (DrBeeper takes no responsibility for speeding tickets). A limited-edition live second CD is well worth hunting down.

39 63 Crayons – Good People

Sugary, enthusiastic (giddy even), infectious, psych-tinged pop. Quit pretending to be a grown-up and let your inner child enjoy.

50 Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez – A Manual Dexterity – Soundtrack Volume 1

A soundtrack to an in-progress movie, by a member of At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta. Mostly instrumental, this is a very challenging and sonically diverse album. While listening, I found it very easy to get swept into a strangely haunting and slightly disturbing state-of-mind.

The Dead Texan – The Dead Texan

A great ambient album which fits well into that strange place between sleeping and waking. The DVD has some great video pieces to accompany the music. Be advised to avoid heavy machinery while absorbing this one, as disorientation can occur.

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Too late for the list, but definite contenders

Tilly and The Wall – Wild Like Children

Fun and catchy as hell, if way raw. With tap-dancing. Really.

Nicola Conte – Other Directions

Less bossa-y than “Jet Sounds”, more straight forward jazz. A delight to listen to (and chill with).

Death From Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine

Quirky, angular and raw. Features (pretty much) just drums and bass. A heavy rock sound without much in the way of hystrionics.

King Khan & the Shrines – Mr. Supernatural

To the top of the list, on a rocket. FANTASTIC album. Funky horns powering a freak-out psychedelic R&B avalanche. Hot Damn!!!.

Donovan – Beat Cafe

Very interesting and diverse album, channeling the best of the Beat generation. I wasn’t expecting it to sound current or relevant, but it steps up on both accounts.

Uncle’s Institution – Everything A Man Can Dream Of EP

Quirky Norweigian singer/songwriter pop. Very short but most excellent.