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The best albums of 2004 (in various categories!)


Compiled by: Jack Foley

NOW that most music journos have named their favourite 50, 25 or 10 albums of the year, we thought we'd bring you an alternative spin on things.

While there are plenty of obvious choices for top long-players of 2004 - Keane, Franz Ferdinand, etc - we're also bringing you the hidden gems you may have missed out on buying.

Hence, while the likes of U2 undoubtedly get a mention, what of James Blunt, The Handsome Boy Modeling School or Thirteen Senses?

Not heard of them? Then read on...

The obvious ones....

U2 - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
What we said:
How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is a carefully constructed, awe-inspiring and quite brilliant collection of songs that simply serves to enhance their reputation as rock icons.
Best tracks: Vertigo, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, Crumbs From Your Table, A Man And A Woman
Review l Buy it l Hear it

Keane - Hopes & Fears:
What we said:
What makes Keane's debut effort all the more outstanding, however, is the lack of guitars - for this Sussex-based three-piece prides itself on the lack of such an instrument... In short, this is a masterpiece.
Best tracks:
Your Eyes Open, Bedshaped
Review l Buy it l Live l Interview

Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
What we said: It is intelligent, and it does possess an arty vibe at times, but it’s also capable of delivering that quick fix of harmonious melody that the record-buying public occasionally seems to crave, when they decide to get hip for a while.
Best tracks: Take Me Out, Auf Achse
Review l Buy it

The Libertines - The Libertines
What we said:
It also serves to ensure that the band remains at the forefront of the post-punk revival, putting the chasing pack of Franz Ferdinand, Razorlight and, to a lesser degree, The Strokes, in their place.
Best tracks: What Became of the Likely Lads?, Last Post on the Bugle
Review l Buy it

REM - Around The Sun
What we said
: While it might not rate as one of the band's all-time great efforts, it does remain a fascinating, rich and ultimately very rewarding affair that confirms Stipe as one of the great songwriters of modern times.
Best tracks: Leaving New York, I Wanted To Be Wrong
Review l Buy it

The Beastie Boys - To The Five Boroughs
What we said:
To The Five Boroughs may possess an air of familiarity about it, and the novelty value of the Boys may have diminished, but it remains an excellent album - and one which emphasis the gulf between the all-time hip-hop elite, and those who continue to strive for success by opting for cheap shock tactics.
Best tracks: Ch-Check It Out, Triple Trouble, An Open Letter to NYC
Review l Buy it

Air - Talkie Walkie
What we said:
Talkie Walkie is an extremely impressive affair, which has the ability to charm, soothe and inspire in equal measure. Highly recommended.
Editor's note: If you dig this, make sure you seek out the Mark Ronson remix of Alpha Beta Gaga. Buy it
Best tracks: Alone in Kyoto, Alpha Beta Gag, Cherry Blossom Girl
Review l Buy it

Ash - Meltdown
What we said:
Final track, Vampire Love, brings the album to a suitable rousing conclusion, making this a breathless rock extravanganza, that should ensure Ash enjoy a deservedly successful return to the limelight.
Best tracks: Renegade Calvacade, Won't Be Saved, Starcross'd
Review l Buy it

The Killers - Hot Fuss
What we said:
If you're looking to gamble on one of the breakthrough bands of the moment, then Las Vegas indie rockers, The Killers, would be a pretty safe bet for value-for-money.
Best tracks: All These Things That I've Done, Mr Brightside
Review l Buy it

Kasabian - Kasabian
What we said:
It would seem, on the basis of this first album, that the band's arrogance is justified, for this is one belter of an introduction, that would seem to pave the way for a very bright future.
Best tracks: LSF, Club Foot, Ovary Stripe
Review l Buy it

Gomez - Split The Difference
What we said:
The album manages to cross several genres, effortlessly fusing that trademark blues ability with a far more rock ‘n’ roll outlook, which may even appeal to the indie dancefloor crowd.
Best tracks: We Don't Know Where We're Going, Nothing Is Wrong, Chicken Out
Review l Buy it

The Charlatans - Up At The Lake
What we said:
The weeping guitars of High Up Your Tree, for example, which also comes laced with tingling pianos, is an absolute gem of a track, while the acoustic-psychedelia of Try Again Today is like a ray of musical sunshine, no doubt influenced by Burgess' current love affair with California.
Best tracks: High Up Your Tree, Try Again Today, Loving You Is Easy
Review l Buy it

The Cure - The Cure
What we said:
It's a major return to form, extolling all the virtues of the celebrated back catalogue, while also sounding as fresh and exciting as they did when first bursting onto the scene.
Best tracks: I Don't Know What's Going On, Alt.end, Labyrinth, Going Nowhere
Review l Buy it

Embrace - Out of Nothing
What we said:
With Out of Nothing, however, the McNamara brothers appear to have moved up a gear, incorporating a more uplifting, less ponderous, feel to their music - and emerging from the shackles that had seemed to constrain them for so long.
Best tracks: Ashes, Looking As You Are, Wish 'Em All Away
Review l Buy it

Green Day - American Idiot
What we said:
American Idiot is the sound of a disenchanted band that has become frustrated and alienated by Bush’s post-War On Terror administration. It is one of anguish, pain and confusion, that screams out to be listened to several times over, in order to fully take in all that it has to say.
Best tracks: American Idiot, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Wake Me Up When September Ends
Review l Buy it

Gwen Stefani - Love Angel Music Baby
What we said:
The album is rhythmic, rebellious, fierce, funky, confessional and emotional. As Gwen states: "I was looking to make a specific record that would be everyone’s guilty pleasure. There was no room for anything but singles on the album."
Best tracks: What You Waiting For, Luxurious, Cool
Review l Buy it

Steriogram - Schmack!
What we said:
Schmack! is like a short sharp slap in the face, or should I say, on the behind! From the word go, Schmack! hits the listener with fast talking, in-your-face, addictive lyrics. Steriogram's humour is very tongue-in-cheek.
Best tracks: Walkie Talkie Man, Fat And Proud, Schmack!
Review l Buy it

DJ Shadow - In Tune & On Time
What we said:
In short, it is a DJ-ing masterclass; a celebration of all things Shadow, which is a must-have for anyone who attended the Brixton show, not to mention anyone with an appreciation for anything the artist has done.
Best tracks: What Does Your Soul Look Like, Organ Donor
Review l Buy it

Ed Harcourt - Strangers
What we said:
It isn't often I stumble across an artist as amiable and accessible as Ed Harcourt. His lyrics are charming, personable and downright captivating. His is the sort of musician that you just want to pick up and cuddle, or at the very least, snuggle up and listen to the beautiful sound that is his latest offering, Strangers.
Best tracks: The Storm Is Coming, Born In The Seventies, Let Love Not Weigh Me Down
Review l Buy it

 

 




 

 

The surprise choices (or not-so mainstream efforts)

Handsome Boy Modeling School - White People
What we said:
Imaginative and innovative, funny and funky, not to mention downright cool, White People is the album that should be at the top of everyone's Christmas list, especially if you digged Outkast last year. It's definitely time to enrol in this particular school.
Best tracks: Breakdown, I've Been Thinking
Review l Buy it

Bent - Aerials
What we said:
This is, indeed, the emotional journey that Bent had envisaged, as you cannot fail to be moved by some of the symphonies they have created.
Best tracks:
Review l Buy it

Thirteen Senses - Invitation
What we said: Let the comparisons [with Keane, Radiohead and Coldplay] guide you; for the music will certainly do the rest once you hear it. Invitation is a magical experience from start to finish.
Best tracks: Last Forever, Into The Fire, Thru The Glass
Review l Buy it l Interview

Automato - Automato
What we said:
Delivering the same sort of retro-sliced, feel-good rap which made the likes of DM & Jemini and Outkast so cool, the NY outfit provide compelling evidence as to why their arrival has been so keenly anticipated.
Best tracks: Walk Into The Light, Capes Billowing, How To Read A Person Like a Book
Review l Buy it

James Blunt - Back To Bedlam
What we said:
It's little surprise to find that Back to Bedlam was recorded in Los Angeles with the help of super-producer, Tom Rothrock (who has worked with Beck, Elliott Smith, Badly Drawn Boy), for this contains much of the songwriting pedigree of all three of those artists.
Best tracks: High, Cry, You're Beautiful
Review l Buy it

Lenny Kravitz - Baptism
What we said:
There isn't really a bad track on the album, which makes it damn near essential purchase for the rock 'n' roll contingent. It could (and probably should) become Kravitz's most successful long-player to date.
Best tracks: Storm, I Don't Want To Be A Star, California
Review l Buy it

Jason Downs - The Spin
What we said:
But the wait has been worth it, for The Spin is every bit as good as its much-touted original, featuring Downs at his most laid-back and thought-provoking; not to mention party-friendly.
Best tracks: Sing My Song, Shut Up (Hook Up), Everything Is Love
Review l Buy it

The Album Leaf - In A Safe Place
What we said:
I cannot remember the last time an album so profoundly moved me, such is the magical beauty of the music contained within. Please, please, please, allow yourself to be captivated by it.
Best tracks: The Outer Banks, Over The Pond, On Your Way
Review l Buy it

The Bees - Free The Bees
What we said:
It harks back to a time when love was free, flower power was king, flares were the order of the day, and people felt a little bit more chilled out about themselves. All The Bees need is the army of screaming women fans and they will be set. For this really is an album worth shouting about!
Best tracks: Chicken Payback, One Glass of Water
Review l Buy it

Blockhead - Music By Cavelight:
What we said:
This is, quite simply, spellbinding stuff - musical magic spun on the decks of a new DJ master. Make sure you cast your musical lights on Blockhead.
Best tracks: Insomniac Olympics, Sunday Seance, Triptych, Part 1
Review l Buy it

Blues Explosion - Damage
What we said:
It is a tribute to Spencer's talent, and willingness to mix things up a bit, that when he hollers, 'can you dig my band!' during the title track, you'll want to scream back 'yes'!
Best tracks: Fed Up And Low Down, Spoiled, Hot Gossip
Review l Buy it

Detroit Cobras - Baby
What we said:
Northern soul collides with Fifties-influenced rock 'n' roll for a genuinely feel-good third album from The Detroit Cobras, a fertile quintet who excel in delivering tracks of nostalgia-laced exuberance.
Best tracks: Cha Cha Twist, Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat), Weak Spot
Review l Buy it

Dogs Die In Hot Cars - Please Describe Yourself
What we said:
From the punchy melodies of opening track, Godhopping, through to live favourite, Paul Newman’s Eyes, the long-player consistently entertains, forcing you to take notice with the arrival of each new track.
Best tracks: Paul Newman's Eyes, Apples and Oranges, Modern Woman
Review l Buy it

Delays - Faded Seaside Glamour
What we said:
The Delays seem to have found the knack of catching listeners with simple, but oh-so-effective hooks, best emphasised by that mesmerising whistle at the start of Long Time Coming - the track which really helped them to break through.
Best tracks: Wanderlust, Hey Girl, Nearer Than Heaven
Review l Buy it

The Koreans - The Koreans
What we said:
With all this in mind, The Koreans have delivered a debut long-player that effortlessly realises the early hype surrounding them, and which really ought to be basking in the same sort of limelight that has currently been reserved for the likes of Kasabian and Chikinki.
Best tracks: Slow Motion, Still Strung Out, Keep Me In Your Mind
Review l Buy it

Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News
What we said:
What is important, is the quality of the music - and when it's good, Good News For People Who Love Bad News delivers some of the tracks of the year so far.
Best tracks: Float On, Ocean Breathes Salty, The View
Review l Buy it

Paul Nice presents a Journey To The Centre of the Beats
What we said:
The result is a compilation album to rate alongside the DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist collaboration, Brain Freeze, in terms of out-and-out enjoyment, while also putting the bland Summer compilations from the likes of Kiss FM firmly in their place.
Best tracks: Rapper's Delight, White Lines, Be Thankful For What You Got
Review l Buy it

Polly Paulusma - Scissors In My Pocket
What we said:
It would be a shame if Polly Paulusma became overlooked, having arrived so soon after the new releases from Norah Jones and Katie Melua, for this rates just as highly - if not more so. This is, at the end of the day, a folsky day-dream of a record, that announces the arrival of yet another major female songwriting talent.
Best tracks:
I Was Made To Love You, Dark Side, Carry Me Home
Review l Buy it

The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
What we said:
I wasn't totally convinced by the first single, So Says I, but the album, Chutes Too Narrow, is an altogether different affair - a retro-style indie throwback which recalls memories of The Byrds, Neil Young and George Harrison, which also containing contemporary nods to the likes of Badly Drawn Boy and Hot Hot Heat.
Best tracks: Kissing The Lipless, Pink Bullets, Fighting in a Sack, Turn A Square
Review l Buy it

South - With The Tides
What we said:
Whether playing it mellow and acoustic, or letting the guitars take over, the songs retain a delicate beauty borne out of terrific songwriting ability.
Best tracks: Mend These Trends, Colours in Waves, Loosen Your Hold, Nine Lives
Review l Buy it

The Wire Daisies - Just Another Day
What we said:
Morris' sultry, entrancing vocal style contains an epic quality about it, which can sound as uplifting as it can melancholy - and there are several moments, early on, when she'll probably leave you heartbroken.
Best tracks: Butterfly, No More, The Great Outdoors, Billy Boy
Review l Buy it l Live review

Wagon Christ - Sorry I Make You Lush
What we said:
Sorry I Make You Lush is the sort of album that may require a couple of listens to truly pay dividends, but it's well worth sticking with, because the rewards get bigger each time you do so.
Best tracks: Nighty Night, Shadows, The Funnies
Review l Buy it


 



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