The Arcade Fire – Funeral
Perhaps I’m not extraordinary amongst music lovers in our year 2004 when I place The Arcade Fire here, at the top of my list. But if ever there was a more deserving recording, I am not aware of it. The Arcade Fire’s album is every bit the epiphanic, monstrous achievement of genius that it’s been claimed to be. And hopefully you’ll have an opportunity to see this band live, at which point your limbs will quiver with joy and your jaw will hang slack, because these Canadians may know how to write songs, but they were fucking born to perform on stage.
• One great track: “Rebellion (Lies)”
Snow Patrol – Final Straw
A very solid piece of work is Snow Patrol’s offering. They have given us a whole album’s worth of melodies that stick with you paired with fairly intriguing lyrics, and enhanced it all with great production. I never became especially enthralled with any of their earlier stuff, but looking back it seems like they’ve been working towards this, and it’s nigh perfect. But — question: After achieving the goal, where to go from here? It’ll be interesting to see if Gary Lightbody can top Final Straw.
• One great track: “Somewhere a Clock is Ticking”
The Plastic Constellations – Mazatlan
While it can’t claim much substance, Mazatlan is certainly the most fun of all the albums who’ve lined up for and been awarded a spot on my 2004 Top Ten. Catchy guitars, vapid lyrics, and a definite college alt-rock feel may not appeal to everyone but I think there’s always a place for simplicity and lightness in my musical world.
• One great track: “Mazatlan”
Mono – Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined
Requires the modifier “(from Japan)” in all references. These guys obviously pilfered a few sheets out of Mogwai’s book of tricks when they were coming up with a signature sound. But since Mono (from Japan) do the Mogwai thing as well as Mogwai themselves do it, I shan’t complain. In fact, Walking Cloud is a more interesting and consistent listen than Mogwai’s latest, anyway. Thus it is all good.
• One great track: “Ode”
Elliott Smith – From a Basement on the Hill
Poor Elliott — you are dead, and your survivors squabble relentlessly over the pieces you left behind. Yet it’s a grand testament to your songwriting skills that this album is so strong regardless of everything. Simply put, it’s a fine listen, and while it’s playing one can pretend for a short while that Elliott Smith is still living and breathing and writing his tortured songs. (Meanwhile, I know who killed Elliott! It’s all so obvious, you see…)
• One great track: “Shooting Star”
M83 – Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts
M83 somehow manage to bring an epic warmth to electronica. That’s not to say Dead Cities lacks its share of creepy moments and alien beeps, but it all adds up to something more than just electronica. And it’s lovely.
• One great track: “Noise”
Drive-By Truckers – The Dirty South
Are these ‘billies for real? Or are they just a bunch of crazy poets who have the appropriate accents and have read the appropriate books and can therefore fake it? I don’t really get it but I do enjoy it.
• One great track: “Tornadoes”
The Legends – Up Against the Legends
This band of Scandanavian mystery musicians has given the world a nice present. The songs are a bit raw and garagey but contain an undeniable grace that just pleases me.
• One great track: “Nothing to Be Done”
Adem – Homesongs
It’s an introspective record, sure, and it does lack some of the energy and catchiness of the other records on my list this year, but Homesongs has dug itself deep into my skull and it won’t budge.
• One great track: “These are Your Friends”
The Killers – Hot Fuss
The Killers are definitely somewhat cheesy, but I can’t lie. This album rocks! It makes me bop my head and sing along with artificial emo, just like the lead singer does.
• One great track: “Mr. Brightside”