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

Scott's Picks (2004)

staff picks

2004 – Can't We All Just Get Along?

If 2003 was the year that roughly every band ever got their gear stolen, crashed their van or just plain broke up, 2004 is the year that some of that repressed anger started to lash out. Nu-emo and nu-metal clashed not once but twice, with Story Of The Year and Godsmack going a round backstage, then Finch and Disturbed brawling in front of tens of thousands of people. Hardcore proved just how tough they were, when the North Side Kings decked Danzig; and hardcore proved just how stupid they were when arena-punks Lit got their bus and trailer tagged, presumably by Remembering Never. Good times, right?

In more personal news, I graduated college and was miraculously able to secure a job as associate editor for Alternative Press magazine, causing me to move to the lovely city of Cleveland, Ohio. For those who supported me in this decision, thank you. For those who inexplicably call me a sellout or other, less family-friendly insults: To each their own, I suppose. In any event, I owe where I am today to wholeheartedly, and I thank the entire community for helping me get here. Thank you.

Unfortunately, another year went by without someone figuring out a cure for death. We saw figureheads of every niche of the the music world fall faster and faster as the year went by, with everyone from legendary bluesman Ray Charles to influential BBC radio DJ John Peel pass away. Of course, we can't overlook deaths that struck the punk/indie scene a bit closer and definitely harder, including former Saves The Day bassist Sean McGrath, Arthur Kane of the New York Dolls, Voidoids guitarist Robert Quine, Dead Milkmen bassist Dave Blood, and, of course, Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone; among others who couldn't be mentioned due to lack of space. As cliché as it may sound, all of us at mourn with you, no matter whose death you've been affected by.

Moving more into current music, one can take a look at 2004 as a sort of "rebuilding" year. There didn't seem to be as nearly as many definite album of the year contenders as in 2003–for a personal example, in 2003, over 50 different albums were on my shortlist for the eventual top 20. This year, barely 30 made it that far. What does this mean? Perhaps it's the calm before the storm. 2005 could blow us all away; or it might stay in neutral, as 2004 did for most of the year. Luckily for music fans worldwide, there were some amazing albums released this year; I've compiled my personal favorites below. Thanks for reading.

The Top Twenty Records Of 2004
#20. The Gamits – Antidote
The fact that the Gamits broke up earlier this year makes this disc all the more bittersweet–pop-punk hasn't sounded this refreshing in years. Rest in peace, boys. (original review)
#19. Sex Positions – Sex Positions
A hint of Refused, a splash of the Blood Brothers, a pinch of Give Up The Ghost, and some cool electro-breaks. Stir vigorously, and you have the most exciting hardcore album in years.
#18. Reeve Oliver – Reeve Oliver
A total sleeper record for me. I didn't even know I was in love with it until I realized I was putting it in my CD player roughly every time I ejected any other CD. A pop-rock masterpiece. (original review)
#17. Walking Concert – Run To Be Born
Walter Schreifels, how I love thee. You rocked me with Quicksand, you rolled me with Rival Schools, and now you make me chuckle and tap my toes with your quirky pop stylings in Walking Concert. Just make it past two albums this time, please?
#16. Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! – Volcano, I'm Still Excited!!
And speaking of quirky pop, VISE!!'s full-length debut was one of the highlights of early 2004, delivering hit after hit of keyboard/guitar/drums madness that can only be topped by their life-changing live show. For real. (original review)
#15. Jimmy Eat World – Futures
I'm actually surprised this album has fallen down as far as it has, as I was madly in love with it just a few short months ago. Still, the songs on here are gorgeous examples of what the current crop of baby bands should be imitating, not what they are imitating; I'd rather see a thousand JEW clones than a single Taking Back Sunday copycat. (original review)
#14. The Hives – Tyrannosaurus Hives
The record didn't take over the world, but it took over my airwaves for a good chunk of 2004. Even the B-sides from this record smoke.
#13. The Felix Culpa – Commitment
The long-awaited debut from the southern Wisconsin/northern Illinois trio whose sound is that of Engine Down being fronted by Daryl Palumbo, with a healthy dose of Thursday in the mix. Absolutely breathtaking, and, as Brian said in his review, "If there was some sort of midpoint between dreams and nightmares, this would be the soundtrack."
#12. Big D And The Kids Table – How It Goes
Good ska still exists. Who knew?
#11. Colossal – Welcome The Problems
As much as I love American Football, something tells me that in future years, I might be pulling out this disc to mope to instead of AF's. Stronger vocals, deeper lyrics, insane drumming… This record is an indie-pop milestone.
#10. The Frenetics – Grey Veins To The Parking Lot
These Canadians created one of the strongest melodic punk albums of 2004 with an introspective twist in both lyrics and music. Fans of the Weakerthans' more uptempo stuff should be worshiping this band, as they're the next great Canadian thing.
#9. Green Day – American Idiot
Thank god it wasn't another Network album. (original review)
#8. Phantom Planet – Phantom Planet
In 2004, Phantom Planet stripped their sound down, lost the Hollywood connection, became slightly obsessed with zombies, and stopped playing their O.C. hit at shows. A true artist's band, if there ever was one. (original review)
#7. Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News
Isaac Brock has a gold record on his wall now. And the thing is? This record is completely deserving of it.
#6. Say Anything - …Is A Real Boy
This is not an "emo-opera," no matter how many times certain douchebags refer to it as such. It's simply a brilliant display of neuroticism in a twentysomething, handily documented on tape for all of us to study for years to come. How Max Bemis avoided being swallowed alive by endless amounts of hype is beyond me, but he survived; and made one of the most excited debuts in quite some time.
#5. Audio Karate – Lady Melody
A complete 180 from their first record, Lady Melody digs its fingernails into your skin and tears away at your preconceived notions of emo-punk, showcasing one of the brightest upcoming talents today. Let's hope the band's current hiatus ends quickly, as something tells me this album is only the tip of the iceberg. (original review)
#4. Tsunami Bomb – The Definitive Act
Labelmates with number 5 on our list, Tsunami Bomb's hotly-anticipated follow-up to The Ultimate Escape was leaps and bounds better, with stronger lyrics and better instrumentation. The band have been through the ringer too many times to count over the past 2 years, but remember–whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. And if Tsunami Bomb keeps getting stronger, there's no reason their next album couldn't be at the top of this list. (original review)
#3. The Velvet Teen – Elysium
And keeping the tie-ins going, Agent M's brother's band, the Velvet Teen, get the bronze medal this year with an ambitious pop record containing no guitar, lots of piano, and one 12-minute song that has been the talk of the town for a good six months. And this record wasn't even supposed to be a full-length! I have no idea what the band have up their sleeves for their next proper full-length, but rest assured, I'll be raving about it, whatever it is.
#2. The Zutons – Who Killed... The Zutons?
Funny how that song in the Levi's commercial was my MP3 of the Week, oh, five months ago. Goddamn, I should seriously be doing A&R. Anyway, this record is a brilliant example of psychadelica existing in the modern age–don't miss the boat with this band; pretty soon, NME will ruin them for everyone.
#1. Muse - Absolution
Warner Bros.
How many albums do you own where every single song sounds important? Where every vocal sounds like it's a desperate plea for life? Where every guitar solo, every distorted bass chug, every powerful drum full jumps out of your speakers and into your psyche, for days at a time? How many records do you own that really, honestly, truly changed your life? Muse's Absolution joins that elite club in my record collection, and I'm a far better man for it.
Honorable Mentions

A Wilhelm Scream – Mute Print [Nitro]; the Blood Brothers – Crimes [V2]; Cult Of Luna – Salvation [; Death From Above 1979 – You're A Woman, I'm A Machine [Vice; Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand [Domino]; The Fullblast – The Contagious Movement Theory [Black Box; Killradio – Raised On Whipped Cream [Columbia]; Ted Leo/Pharmacists – Shake The Sheets [Lookout!]; Stiff Little Fingers – Guitar And Drum [Kung Fu]; the Thermals – Fuckin A [Sub Pop; TV On The Radio – Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes [Touch And Go]

The Top Five EPs Of 2004
#5. Gatsbys American Dream – In The Land Of Lost Monsters
The more pretentious they get, the better they get. Tim Kinsella, take note.
#4. Cougars - Manhandler
These songs sound like they were recorded on a Casio tape deck from three miles away, with a blanket covering its microphone. And it still completely rules all. Cougars are going to maul you, whether you like it or not. (original review)
#3. TV On The Radio – The New Health Rock
Touch And Go
I haven't listened to this band's full-length enough to get it onto my Top 20 list, but this follow-up EP with one new song, one from the full-length and a Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover, is fucking amazing.
#2. Cartel – The Ransom
self-released/The Militia Group
Cartel would've been named "Unsigned Band Of The Year," had the Militia Group not been smart enough to snatch them up and re-release this incredibly fun EP in November. Summer songs never sounded so good in the winter. (original review)
#1. Somerset - Somerset
I Ate Her
I really shouldn't have to write anything about Somerset, besides they've yet to write a bad song. Something tells me 2005 won't see that changing any.
The Top Ten Biggest Disappointments 2004
#10. Ben Kweller – On My Way
How does an album that I gave five stars make my disappoints list? Simple: I'm a schmuck who rated it too high. (original review)
#9. Descendents – Cool To Be You
Fat Wreck Chords
I don't quite know what I wanted this album to be; but after so many years of waiting, it just wasn't it. Songs about pooping just don't get me like they used to, I guess.
#8. The Special Goodness – Land, Air, Sea
All I want is the new Weezer album. No more side projects. Pretty please. (original review)
#7. Northstar - Pollyanna
Triple Crown
How can "To My Better Angel" be so good, and the rest of the album be so… not? (original review)
#6. Engine Down – Engine Down
These Virginians came out showing more fangs than ever before, but ultimately locked themselves into a holding pattern. Here's to hoping they can snap out of it, as Demure is one of my all-time favorite albums. (original review)
#5. The Get Up Kids – Guilt Show
And speaking of holding patterns… (original review)
#4. Rise Against – Siren Song Of The Counter Culture
Don't get me wrong–I love Rise Against. But this disc was just too uneven to see the inside of my stereo more than a handful of times.
#3. Further Seems Forever – Hide Nothing
Tooth & Nail
Singer number three makes album number worst. Someone buy me a plane ticket to the Bamboozle fest so I can at least hear FSF's good songs sung by the dude who wrote them, please.
#2. The Faint – Wet From Birth
Saddle Creek
You're kidding, right? This wasn't worth three months of waiting, let alone three years. (original review)
#1. Paris, Texas – Like You Like An Arsonist
New Line
I honestly can't get over just how pathetically overproduced this record is. The demo of "Hip Replacement" made me champion this band like they were my own; the album completely let me down on all accounts. Blech. (original review)
The Most-Improved Band Of 2004
Turing Machine – Zwei
French Kiss
It took them four years to follow up their awkward and stunted Jade Tree debut, A New Machine For Living; but this instrumental trio have come into their own, creating some of the sickest grooves just begging for a totally sweet lead vocalist to wail on. The cohesion going on in this recording is nothing short of spectacular.
The Best Compilation Of 2004
Les Savy Fav – Inches
French Kiss
How this band's post-punk brilliance continues to go unnoticed by the majority of people in the indie community is beyond me. This disc, which compiles all nine of their short-run 7-inches over the past years, is more cohesive than most bands' full-lengths.
The Best Record Of 1966 That Just Happened To Come Out In 2004
Brian Wilson – Smile
The long-lost album that almost never was finally surfaces (albeit re-recorded completely). Had Brian Wilson not lost his marbles 40 years ago, this shit would've blown the Beatles out of the water.
The Three Best Music DVDs Of 2004
#3. Mates Of State – Two Of Us
The world's cutest indie-rock couple document the making of Team Boo; and if you're not in stitches from the segment segues and album-title brainstorm sessions, you obviously have no sense of humor.
#2. Against Me! – We're Never Going Home
Fat Wreck
Hollywood couldn't have written a better plot for this film.
#1. Weezer – Video Capture Device
This is worth owning simply for the live footage of a severely choked-up Rivers singing "Mykel And Carli" at the memorial concert for the sisters. That night, Weezer died; and amazingly, it's caught on tape.
The Two Best Music Videos Of 2004

2. Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! – In Green

If you don't burst out in laughter at the start of the second verse in this video, there's something seriously wrong with you.

1. Big D And The Kids Table – Little Bitch

What an awesome piece of film. If I drank, I'd want to do it with Big D.

The Best Reissue Of 2004


Weezer – Weezer (Blue Album)
The Clash – London Calling
Sony Legacy
This was a tough one–do I go with the band who's personally affected my life more (Weezer), or the one who's impacted the world more (the Clash)? Easy–I do a tie, and not worry about it. Both of these records are near legendary by themselves, and their reissues make them all the more essential to anyone's record collection. (original review)
The Best Reunion Of 2004


What, you thought I was going to say the Pixies? Fuck that. Braid owned my soul for six days this summer, and I wouldn't trade my sing-alongs with complete strangers for anything in the world.

The Best Record By Andrew WK Of 2004

Sadly, not applicable. Here's hoping for 2005.

The Two Best Records Of 2004 That Really Aren't All That Good, But I Really Couldn't Stop Listening To Them Regardless
#2. Autopilot Off – Make A Sound
#1. The Killers – Hot Fuss
Both these albums have more than their fair share of duds, but for some reason, I had the damnedest time prying them out of my CD player. Both albums are near-perfect driving music, too.
The One Record Of 2004 That Probably Would Have Cracked My Top 20 List Had I Actually Gotten A Copy Of It
Mock Orange – Mind Is Not Brain
I never got a copy of this record for review. I was going to buy it in a used record store in Iowa City back in June, but the band were supposed to be opening for Braid that night, so I figured I'd buy it at the show, instead. The band never made the show, I never made it back to the record store, and thus, this record has only been played once within my earshot. I vaguely recollect it rocking all. I need to go buy this.
The One Record Of 2004 That Would Have Cracked My Top 20 List Had I Not Lent It Out Two Months Ago And Not Gotten It Back, Thus Not Letting Me Fully Absorb It, Allowing It To Compete With The Others On My Shortlist
The Plastic Constellations - Mazatlan
Shitdamn, this record is brilliant. I think. Unfortunately, I let a co-worker borrow it roughly two months ago, and it's yet to make the trip back to work with him, thus depriving me of refreshing my memory on the quirky rock goodness that are the Plastic Constellations. Complete sleeper hit of 2004.
The Best Record Of 2004 Where Every Single Song Sounded The Same, In A Good Way
Limbeck – Hey, Everything's Fine
What? I can't pick the same band again, with essentially the same record, just stripped down? Whatever, man, I invented this category.
The Best Record Of 2003 That I Didn't Get Until 2004
Every Time I Die – Hot Damn!
The title pretty much sums this one up. Hot damn, indeed.
The Best Record Of 2003 That I Didn't "Get" Until 2004
Murder By Death – Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left Of Them?
I bought this record late last year but never gave it a fair shake; when I saw that the band were opening for Braid's reunion tour this past summer, I pulled it out to get reacquainted to it, and fell completely in love. I've seen the band seven times this year alone, and I can't wait to add to that total while singing along to these wonderful songs about the Devil, whiskey and the end of the world.
The Best Unsigned Band In America For 2004

Ryan's Hope

Technically, Ryan's Hope are still on Double Zero Records, but from what little birds whisper into my ear, that label is all but officially closing its doors, thus putting the most exciting punk band to come out of Chicago in quite some time free agents. Their most recent record, The Trials Of Recession, makes me feel like I am 15 again, attending my first punk-rock show.

The Mixtape, 2004 Edition
  1. Rise Against – State Of The Union
    The second year in a row that these Chicagoans kick off my mixtape, and what a song to kick it off with. A total hardcore TKO.
  2. None More Black – Nothing To Do When You're Locked In A Vacancy
    This song fucking rips. Plain and simple.
  3. Stiff Little Fingers - Strummerville
    An awesome tribute to the fallen Clash frontman from one of the few punk bands who were there when it all started.
  4. The Faint - Paranoiattack
    One of the very few bright spots of the Faint's new album.
  5. TV On The Radio - Ambulance
    This song is completely a capella. And amazing.
  6. Pilot To Gunner – Barrio Superstarrio
  7. Useless ID – State Of Fear
  8. The Blood Brothers – Crimes
  9. Hey Mercedes – Roulette Systems
    The best song this band have ever written. So incredible.
  10. The Velvet Teen – Chimera Obscurant
    Ah, what the hell. I ended side A of last year's mixtape with a 14-minute song, might as well do another double-digit rocker for this year.
  1. Hot Water Music – Keep It Together
    The best song off The New What Next, easily.
  2. Tsunami Bomb – Being Alright
  3. Jimmy Eat World – Just Tonight…
    This song is so aggressive, I love it.
  4. Hot Rod Circuit – Inhabit
    The only good song on the new Hot Rod Circuit album, complete with an awesome bridge delivered by Say Anything's Max Bemis.
  5. Melee – The War (Piano Version)
    From the In Honor comp, this version of Melee's "The War" is absolutely stunning.
  6. Audio Karate – Gypsyqueen
    Song of the year. Virtually nothing else gets me going like this song does.
  7. The Hives – Diabolic Scheme
  8. Paris, Texas – Hip Replacement
    The song is so good, yet the album is so bad! It drives me nuts!
  9. Say Anything – Admit It!
  10. Big D And The Kids Table – Moment Without An End
The Most Anticipated Records Of 2005

Weezer. It's all about Weezer. But I'll need something to listen to once I eventually wear that disc out, so here's looking forward to new discs from Mando Diao, Paint It Black, the Mars Volta, the Decemberists, the Suicide Machines, H2O, Saosin, Hey Mercedes, Alkaline Trio, Against Me!, Every Time I Die, Boys Night Out, Death Cab For Cutie, Thursday, Thrice, Brand New, the Weakerthans, the Bronx, Deftones, Motion City Soundtrack, Murder By Death, Vaux, Limbeck, and who knows what else.

Things I'd Like To See Happen In 2005

Adam Levin sending me the Slow Gherkin T-shirt I paid him for back in October of 2002. If any of you know this man, please make him send it. I'll put out a 20 dollar reward for the person who can get it to me [I really want the shirt]. I had a million witty things here, but they probably weren't too funny, so I'll just leave it at the aforementioned plea. Happy New Year, everyone. And yes, I really want that shirt.