Top 20 of 2004 - greg0rb's Picks (Cover Artwork)

Top 20 of 2004

greg0rb's Picks (2004)

staff picks


Greg here. I'm the staff reviewer who gets in fewer reviews because I spend way too much damn time on them, even if I hate the album. Anyway, I had a good year in 2004- I finished my first year as a classroom music teacher, then after a summer off, began my second year, which has been much easier. Though much of my daytime listening was little-kid music, there was plenty of time for me to keep up with all the great stuff in the world of underground rock.

2004 was year full of releases from old favorites of mine (Jimmy Eat World, Mock Orange, Elliott Smith, Modest Mouse, They Might Be Giants, Green Day) and newbies who are destined to become old favorites (The Killers, Death From Above 1979, Volcano, I'm Still Excited!!). It seemed that not a week went by that I didn't purchase a CD, but I'm sure that did happen. Also of note this year was that releases took on a more political spin than they ever have since most of us have been old enough to be aware of politics. Biggies were Bad Religion, Rock Against Bush 1 & 2 and some others, and even unlikely participants like Green Day and the Descendents dabbled in political messages due to the election, and although it did not go the way many of the artists had hoped, at least we were left with a lot of great songs and records.

2004 also brought the return of some great bands that resulted in amazing concerts. Braid and The Pixies both met my extremely high expectations, and equally as important for me was The Blue Meanies, especially since they are returning for good it seems. Now onto my list, which I also spent waaaaay too much time on.

My Top Twenty Albums of 2004

#20. Death From Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
Last Gang Records (Canada) / Vice Records (US)
This drum & bass duo just squeezed onto my radar in the last month and managed to find their way onto my list in the last days of the year. The amount of noise created by just two people is astounding. It's aggressive and dancey, harsh yet somehow catchy. It's a win-win.
#19. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Shake the Sheets
Lookout! Records
We all know the moniker this guy has acquired around this website, and I finally got a taste. All the songs are solid, smart punk rock, no bones about it.
#18. Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous
Brute/Beaute Records
No, I have not really heard their older stuff so I don't give a damn if this is different. What I hear is a great blend of indie rock, folk, alt-country and pop.
#17. Q and Not U - Power
Dischord Records
They are dancier and synthier than ever and I love it. Falsetto rules, too.
#16. Magnetic Fields -i
This was my introduction to the underground songwriting genius that is Stephen Merritt, and he lives up to the title almost. I'd call this synth-less offering "classical-indie-pop", full off strings and acoustic guitar, with every song being like nothing you've heard this year and great on the ears.
#15. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - The Lyre of Orpheus / Abattoir Blues
Anti- Records (Epitaph)
What an introduction to a legend for me. Actually two albums meant to be listened to separately, they are different stylistically but both strong and interesting indeed. This was a bit of a change of pace for my listening, and much appreciated. [review]
#14. Travis Morrison - Travistan
Barsuk Records
Pitchfork be damned! The former D-Plan wonder now has no one to hold him back and he can do whatever the hell he wants. Maybe that makes for an errant song or two, but I love them as well. This man can do no wrong.
#13. Ben Kweller - On My Way
Although it didn't fully live up to my expectations after his debut Sha Sha, it is still a damn good rock/alt-country record and I expect great things from this guy forever and ever.
#12. The Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives
Interscope Records (UMG)
Love these Swedes. A little new wave this time around, but still enough of their kickass rock to deny them trend-rider status. At least when they do go new wave, they pick the right band to copy: Devo.
#11. Jimmy Eat World -Futures
Interscope Records (UMG)
We all know now that this is the best mix between the rock of Static Prevails and the beauty of Clarity.
#10. The Killers - Hot Fuss
Island Records (UMG)
I can't help liking this. New Order meets the Cure, these 80's revivers were only kids in the 80's like most of us, but damn they sure nailed it anyway.
#9. Elliott Smith - From a Basement on a Hill
Anti– Records (Epitaph)
After reading that article in SPIN about how his former-abusive stepfather may have had something to do with the editing of the tracklisting, I am left wondering just how great this album could have been had Smith completed his vision. It is still great and leaves his discography nearly flawless, but this was supposed to be his White Album, a double disc full of organic goodness. Nevertheless, the album is a worthy swan song for one of the greatest singer/songwriters of our generation.
#8. The Blood Brothers - Crimes
V2 Music (Sony BMG)
If you like them, you'll like this album, if you're too hip to like hip bands then you won't like it. As I see it, they stayed as obnoxious as they like to be, yet made it more accessible and listenable through the use of grooves. Fantastic!
#7. Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! - Volcano, I'm Still Excited!!
Polyvinyl Records
Some of the most unique pop songwriting I have ever heard. Some tracks are great pop on the surface and are more traditional songs, while others use vocal ostinatos and rounds not typically found in pop music. The album in its entirety is a tough, almost frustrating listen at first, but well worth the effort. It will change the way you listen to pop rock.
#6. Ryan's Hope - Trials of Recession
Double Zero
Despite being marred by production issues, the songwriting on this disc is consistently outstanding. Incredibly catchy yet powerful and with melodies metalheads will be crooning to and breakdowns the rest of us can't help but headbang to. [review]
#5. The Mountain Goats - We All Shall Be Healed
4AD (Beggars Group)
Darnielle is still doing the hi-fi thing with a real studio and all that, but the songs are still dead-on awesome and I do enjoy hearing him rock out now and then with drums. You either love The Mountain Goats or you have never heard them, really.
#4. Green Day -American Idiot
Reprise Records (WMG)
What more could really be said about this album? I'll just say that it's great to see them still trying new things after all these years. I loved Warning and although this backsteps a little sound-wise, it is still a fresh concept for them, call it a rock opera or not.
#3. Colossal - Welcome the Problems
Asian Man Records
Jazzy yet rockin', intricate yet powerful, and full of baritone vocals and searing trumpet, the Chicago foursome leaves their few comparisons in the dust with this album. [review]
#2. Mock Orange - Mind is Not Brain
This band deserves to be way bigger than they are for how long they've been making great records, each with a logical evolution from one to the next. This is by far their best, a Northwest sound with an Indiana attitude. [review]
#1. Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Epic (Sony BMG)
Sure, every frat boy in America can sing the first verse to "Float On" but that doesn't change the fact that this hard working band has been producing great music for a decade and has now released their most concise and consistent record yet. They did not compromise their sound at all to attain this recent success; one listen to "Bury Me With It" or "This Devil's Workday" will prove that. Congrats, fellas.
Top Five EPs of 2004
#5. Vaux - Plague Music
Equal Vision Records
More of the three-guitar onslaught and entertaining song titles. Bring on the next full length.
#4. The Whirlwind Heat - Flamingo Honey
Dim Mak
A bizarre EP, the first ten song EP I've ever encountered, but which also contains some of the most unique noise I've heard. From dance-pop to hardcore to hip-hop this band dabbles in everything, but just for minute. [review]
#3. Mates of State - All Day
Slightly less sugary but still sweet. Growth can be seen especially on the ballad "Drop the Anchor", and "Goods [All in Your Head]" is like three awesome songs linked together. Keep em' comin' you two!
#2. Rescue - Flamingo Minutes
How did we get two of the top five EPs with "Flamingo" in the title? Call this a mini-LP instead of an EP if you will, all I know is it's a short and fantastic batch of songs that showed me that Rescue can be tech andlistenable. [review]
#1. Cougars - Manhandler
Thick Records
–This band is the whole reason I am doing an EP list- gotta spread their name around as much as possible. Kick-your-ass gritty rock with horns and keys, a wall of sound for sure. The only downside is that the production is not as strong as Nice, Nice but the songs more than make up for it.
Five Biggest Disappointments of 2004

Note that these are not albums I hate, after all I shelled out cash to get them. They were just not up to my expectations.

#5. They Might Be Giants - The Spine
Where do you go after being the best quirk-rock band in the world for two decades? I guess you just go for a straight-up rock album. I still consider these guys my favorite band of all time (I guess I'm a nerd), but this album just doesn't stand up to even their previous album, 2001's Mink Car (not counting 2002's children's album No!.) I still like The Spine, but probably just cuz I love them so much.
#4. Piebald -All Eyes, All Ears, All the Time
SideOneDummy Records
I like this album, I do. But just in coming off of We Are the Only Friends that We Have this one just doesn't have the same addictiveness. Can't say they didn't try though.
#3. Taking Back Sunday - Where You Want to Be
Victory Records
I will admit I loved their first album upon first listen, and I still like it. Their hardcore fans say their sound hasn't changed, but I think it has, and honestly the hype just brings it down more.
#2. Bad Religion - The Empire Strikes First
Epitaph Records
Process was an amazing comeback, and now I've forgotten about them again. Not that it's that much weaker of an album than the previous, it's just… the same.
#1. Midtown - Forget What You Know
Columbia Records (Sony BMG)
After reading that AP interview with them prior to the release, I was expecting so much; a return to their rawer, punker roots and no more of that over-produced stuff. Well it is raw a little I guess, but it just sounds like they were trying way too hard to be depressing.
Albums I Ignored in 2004
Sparta - Porcelain
Geffen (UMG)
It must be better than Wiretap Scars, but I don't care enough to find out.
Interpol - Antics
Hype, hype, hype. I've heard this album was disappointing even to fans, but I haven't even heard more than half the album. I was not impressed; they are not that special, people!
Muse - Absolution
Yeah maybe they sound like "Radiohead with balls" or whatever, but I really don't see what the fuss is all about. This album came out in 2003 anyway.
Best Record of 2003 That I Didn't Hear Until 2004
Coheed and Cambria - In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth:3
Equal Vision Records
I took a category Scott invented last year and gave the award to a band he hates. It was not intentional, I swear! I love this album and damn those of you who don't.
Most Anticipated Records of 2005

Alkaline Trio, Murder By Death, Coheed & Cambria, Bright Eyes, Against Me, Death Cab for Cutie, Thursday, Motion City Soundtrack, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Thrice, Suicide Machines and Ryan's Hope.

2004 Mixtape Mix Tape
  1. The Killers - On Top
  2. Modest Mouse - The View
  3. Travis Morrison - Born in ‘72
  4. Of Montreal - Disconnect the Dots
    Try to be in a bad mood with the song on, I dare you.
  5. Franz Ferdinand - Darts of Pleasure
    If every song were as good as this and "Take Me Out" this would be on my list for sure.
  6. Q and Not U - Wonderful People
  7. !!! – Shit, Sheisse, Merde Pt 1
    Shaking your ass is even more fun while cursing in three languages.
  8. The Mountain Goats - Pigs that Ran Straightaway into the Water, Triumph Of
  9. Rilo Kiley - Portions for Foxes
  10. Ben Kweller - My Apartment
  11. Iron & Wine - Naked as We Came
    A beautiful song off a close runner-up.
  12. Mock Orange - Payroll
  13. Colossal - I'll Look at You When the Dying Starts
  1. Death from Above 1979 - Blood on Our Hands
  2. Thermals - A Stare Like Yours
    Extremely addictive song!
  3. Cougars - Phil's Collins
  4. Descendants – ‘Merican
    Catchy-as-hell tune from a decent returning album.
  5. Ryan's Hope- In a Sea
  6. Blood Brothers - Love Rhymes with Hideous Car Wreck
  7. Walking Concert – Run to Be Born
    Great song off what I could have been the next Rival Schools album.
  8. They Might Be Giants – Experimental Film
  9. William Shatner – Common People
  10. Sondre Lerche – Two Way Monologue
  11. Hidden Cameras – I Believe in the Good of Life
  12. Nick Cave - Get Ready for Love