15 November 2010

Top Albums: 2004

{ I suppose the second time is the charm. For the second time in 2004, Britney Spears got married. This time to Kevin Federline. Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunctioned at the Super Bowl. Usher sold over a million records. Lindsay Lohan released a record. Dimebag Darrell was murdered on stage. Ray Charles died. Lollapalooza died. And Ashlee Simpson died on SNL. But, for me, 2004 turned out to be an incredibly memorable year for music. }

As usual there are going to be albums that I missed or didn't get around to that year. The Streets came out with A Grand Don't Come For Free but didn't really get around to listening to the record. The long-awaited Smile by Brian Wilson was interesting but I felt it was too overhyped. I wish I knew Devendra Banhart back in 2004 because he's one of my favorite artists today. I absolutely adored "Float On" by Modest Mouse but paid little attention to their album Good News For People Who Love Bad News. That album is really solid, though. In spite of all that, there were a lot of fantastic albums that kept my ears busy.

Here are my top albums of 2004:

5. The Libertines - The Libertines

How good are The Libertines? They're that good. I've waxed poetic about The Libertines in my Top Albums of 2002 list and this amazing self-titled album solidifies this band as of the best two-and-done bands in recent memory. They are one of the best pure rock 'n' roll bands of our generation. Full stop.

For anyone who loves the album format, it is essential that an album can carry on from start to finish without any filler. The Libertines has that quality.

This record also has one of the most iconic album covers of all time. It is the perfect representation of this band and the times.

4. Phoenix - Alphabetical

The soulful R&B style of the debut Phoenix record gives way to this fantastic sophomore release. There is certainly a bit more guitar on Alphabetical but there's also a Dr. Dre-esque hip-hop tinge to the record especially on songs like "Victim Of The Crime."

I'm still of the belief that the first two Phoenix records are far better than their next two. Their most recent effort Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a stellar album and I'm glad they ultimately achieved mainstream success. I just hope that new fans of Phoenix will rediscover the earlier albums and truly appreciate the growth of this fantastic French band.

3. The Killers - Hot Fuss

When I started hearing songs from Hot Fuss on the radio, I thought it was one of the most refreshing sounds that I have heard in a long time.

It was really one of the first times that a major band captured and revisited the sounds of the '80s synth-pop in the vein of New Order and The Cure and other similar bands. And, well, I am a sucker for '80s New Wave bands so this was right up my musical alley.

Off the eleven track album were four singles "Somebody Told Me," "Mr. Brightside," "All These Things That I've Done" and "Smile Like You Mean It." The album stayed in the top 50 of the Billboard 200 for about a year. You could hear The Killers everywhere. In the pubs, the clubs, in film trailers, on the radio, and pouring out of the stereos of hipster get-togethers and fraternity keggers alike.

Frankly, what may have ruined the album for most is the oversaturation factor. It was everywhere.

But take a listen to the record again with fresh ears and you'll won't reach for the skip button on any of these tracks. And you will remember that this was a fantastic pop album.

Don't be ashamed if you find yourself singing along at the top of your lungs.

2. Ambulance LTD - LP

Ambulance LTD may fall under the category of "The Best Band You've Never Heard." Songs like "Anecdote" has seeped into some television commercials and, I think, some film trailers but for the most part, they are a forgotten band.

Mostly because the band ultimately fractured and future projects have been few and far between and seem to lack the magic found in this record.

But LP is an album worthy of an hour of your time and even more.

Check out my Last.fm statistics and I've listened to tracks off this album over 700 times. More times than bands like The Rolling Stones, The Libertines, The Smiths, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk, etc. That's a lot considering this band only has eleven tracks on their full-length (not counting the bonus tracks).

What does this mean? Well, it means the album is pretty damn good and eclectic without sounding all over the place. There's a little folk-indie-acoustic magic like in the aforementioned "Anecdote" but there's also a lot of shoegaze influences and some tracks that give off a sort of soft-rock feel but with the energy of this young Brooklyn outfit, it still sounds fresh, new, modern.

It's album full of sharp melodies, catchy hooks, clever understated lyrics, beautiful reverb and lovely harmonies with production that isn't tainted by the gloss of major label releases.

I really can't say enough about this album and it would easily been the top album of 2004 if it wasn't for the next record.

1. Arcade Fire - Funeral

Let's be honest here, what more can be said about Arcade Fire and their debut record that hasn't already been said by every music publication, every blogger, every hipster, every superfan, and every cynical critic?

The lips of the critics and fans are firmly planted on the ass of this album. And without hyperbole or hype, this album is really that good. Funeral is the kind of album that receives the critical acclaim along with some of the commercial acclaim. It's a record that was never so mainstream that it was overplayed on radio stations (at least, it never felt that way).

It's a careful balancing act, but somehow this album was able to walk the tightrope.

Take a look at some of the plaudits Funeral has received:
  • No. 1 in Pitchfork Media's Top Albums of 2004 list
  • No. 2 in Pitchfork's Top Albums of the 2000s
  • No. 6 in the Village Voice's 2004 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll
  • No. 7 in NME's Top 100 Albums of the Deacade
  • No. 7 in Uncut's Top 150 Albums of the Decade
  • No. 6 in Rolling Stone's 100 Best Albums of the Decade
And the list goes on and on and on. And take note of the fact that this record is in the top 10 albums of the decade.

There is weight and power on this album. There are slow burning songs and barn burners on this album. There is a level of emotion, depth and musical talent that aspiring songsmiths can only hope to achieve.

{ Arcade Fire - "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" }

"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" was one of the first songs off of Funeral that really stuck with me. And the album has stuck with me since. There is no doubt that this album is the best album of 2004.

2004 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
  • Air - Talkie Walkie
  • Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
  • The Go! Team - Thunder Lightning Strike
  • Interpol - Antics
  • Kasabian - Kasabian

{ Are you not familiar with this album? Do you think it's overhyped? Believe the hype. }

Please be sure to read my post explaining this little project and, more importantly, the criteria that I'm using. Thanks!