Top Ten Albums of 2004 by The Warfreak
1. Kanye West - The College Dropout - Sure in recent years Kanye has made himself to be one of the biggest asses in show business, but when this record first dropped, so did my jaw. So this was where all the good beats went? Clever, creative, braggadocios, and bold, Kanye sky rocketed into stardom after this record and then began his steady descent into megalomania, but if you go back and listen to The College Dropout again, I'm sure you'll fall right back in love.
Stand-out tracks: Jesus Walks, Graduation Day, School Spirit
2. Arcade Fire - Funeral - The Arcade Fire are most certainly five supremely ambitious Canadians. Funeral was their debut feature length and it was absolutely brilliant, combining frighteningly lonely imagery with baroque musical sensibilities. There are few records that actually can change my mood, and make me feel desperate, but Funeral is one of them. Fortunately, the band chose to sprinkle silver linings into their songs, both musically and lyrically, to keep me from killing myself. Written amidst a barrage of the band members family deaths, the album does feel dirgey, and wouldn't be out of place to play at an actual funeral.
Stand-out tracks: Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), Wake Up, Rebellion (Lies)
3. TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes - The avant-garde band's first full studio album release is a very good one. Critically acclaimed, the album featuring a surprisingly popular single in "Staring at the Sun". Desperate Youth really showcases all that was good about the group on their previous album (OK Calculator, har har) but cutting out the fat. Upon first hearing the record, I expected great things from this band and they have not disappointed me so far.
Stand-out tracks: Staring at the Sun, Ambulance
4. Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News - I remember driving around my college town one day in late April of 2004, with the windows down on my truck, when I came to a stop sign. I was listening to this record, fairly loudly, minding my own business, when some guy leaves his front porch and approaches the truck. I was unsure what he wanted, so I prepared myself for anything, but he just calmly said, "Nice album". And you know what, he was right. There's something so summery and fun about Good News that when the it's drive-around-with-the-windows-down weather, there's something so right about this album being on.
Stand-out tracks: Ocean Breathes Salty, Black Cadillacs, Bukowski
5. Air - Talkie Walkie - Air's fourth release is my personal favorite. Produced by Nigel Godrich, Talkie Walkie is an intimate affair that showcases the best of Air. Sounding like a mixture of Brian Wilson, Serge Gainsbourg, and David Bowie, the record just oozes a subtle coolness, like some kind of electronic philosophy caught on wax. And, yes, "Alone in Kyoto" is best known for being the song from Lost in Translation. And, yes, it's still really good.
Stand-out Tracks: Alone in Kyoto, Cherry Blossom Girl
6. The Streets - A Grand Don't Come for Free - I was first introduced to The Streets (aka Michael Skinner) with Original Pirate Material by none other than our very own Pop Newmo. By the time A Grand came out, it seemed like The Streets was only getting better. This time Skinner went bigger, more grandiose, making a concept album about a guy that loses £1000 and is looking to recoup his losses. The whole, fairly uneventful thing plays out on the record, ending with the final track "Empty Cans" that actually has two different endings to choose from. Smooth as ever, The Streets delivers not only a great concept, but a great album.
Stand-out tracks: Fit But You Know It, Could Well Be In
7. Blonde Redhead - Misery is a Butterfly - Marking a fairly large shift in the band's career, Misery is a Butterfly is Blonde Redhead's best album to date. Departing from Touch & Go records, and recording this one on their own dime, the band were really able to make the album they were capable of without having to worry about a label. Of course, the album was later picked up by 4AD, which seems to be the right fit, being the formal label of bands like the Cocteau Twins. Misery is delicately romantic, even while dealing with the sometimes tragic subject matter of loss and woe.
Stand-out tracks: Falling Man, Elephant Woman
8. Madvillain - Madvillainy - This collabo between MF DOOM and Madlib really exemplifies everything that is good about the MC and the producer. There's a real DIY aesthetic to the album that is particularly endearing. Decidedly radio un-friendly, the duo often eschew with choruses, and keep most of the songs short. The mixture of Madlib's unstoppable beats and Doom's intelligent, clever lyrics makes this one of the best albums of the year.
Stand-out tracks: Rainbows, Great Day
9. Get Up Kids - Guilt Show - Getting a little more synth heavy with this their last record, The Get Up Kids shuffled off a lot of the bareness present on the superior On a Wire, but kept things weirdly intimate with tracks like "Is There a Way Out". Overall, the band's final showing is a very good one that is more haunting, and more ambient than any of their previous works.
Stand-out tracks: How Long is Too Long, Is There a Way Out, The One You Want
10. Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous - Jenny Lewis (Troop Beverly Hills) and Blake Sennett are back on this, Rilo Kiley's third full length record. The album actually ended up doing pretty successful both with critics and commercially. The main problem that Rilo Kiley has had since inception is how fumbling the lyrics can be, fortunately Lewis vocals are evocative and more powerful than ever on More Adventurous, giving the record some added "umph".
Stand-out tracks: It's a Hit, Portions for Foxes