Top 20 of 2004 - Brian's Picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Top 20 of 2004

Brian's Picks (2004)

staff picks

In a year where a lot did and didn't happen, where efforts were made and weren't made, the only thing that concerned me is the lack of quality music produced. I honestly couldn't give any official release this year more than four stars, so 2004 was probably a little disappointing for me this year musically. The past few months have really made up for it, but I'm sure 2005 will have me gushing with every passing Tuesday, with a list you can see at the bottom.

Top 20 Full-Lengths
#20. Bad Religion - The Empire Strikes First
June 8th / Epitaph
Process Of Belief still does it better for me than anything else, but Empire is yet another intelligent, consistent collection of punk rock songs better articulated than anything else in its genre.
#19. Head Automatica - Decadence
August 17th / Warner Bros.
Glassjaw's Daryl Palumbo and Dan The Automator team up for glitzy dance pop that's actually quite better than it sounds to most people.
#18. Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
April 20th / Epic
Stutter-step, sorta new wave sorta indie rock that's just about worth its ridiculous hype. Probably the best of the 80s revival bunch this entire year. Read entire review here.
#17. Less Than Jake - B Is For B-Side
July 20th / Sire
Funny how a collection of outtakes and B-sides end up collectively better than the album they stem from. A nice little pop-punk effort from the third wave veterans.
#16. Autopilot Off - Make A Sound
April 13th / Island
Although Looking Up contained a sense of unrelenting urgency you don't really get out of pop-tinged skate punk quite often anymore, APO's Island debut doesn't compromise too much. Better punk-pop than you'll get from most of their tourmates and bands they probably get lumped in with.
#15. Sex Positions - Sex Positions
March 30th / Deathwish
An excellent mix of older Refused and the somewhat-experimentalism of latter-day Give Up The Ghost with slight, scattered amounts of electronic dependency, Sex Positions' self-titled debut is a breath of fresh air in the hardcore scene.
#14. Crime In Stereo - Explosives And The Will To Use Them
January 6th / Blackout/Brightside
A spectacular mix of Gorilla Biscuts-like straight edge hardcore with the melody of Strike Anywhere and the fast-paced Long Island pop of the MovieLife, Crime In Stereo puts forth an honest, hard rocking, uptempo venture for a debut.
#13. The Get Up Kids - Guilt Show
March 2nd / Vagrant
Quite a delight for an album that could very easily be regarded as a total compromise. I actually still think On A Wire is the band's best effort, but the upbeatness and growth of Matt Pryor's voice propels this nicely as a "return to form."
#12. Hot Water Music - The New What Next
September 21st / Epitaph
I don't know whether to be pissed off or jubilant with HWM's newest foray into emotional punk heavy on the former with the newly cleaned up vocal style, but hell, it works, so I can't complain. Definitely one of my new favorites from the band.
#11. No Motiv - Daylight Breaking
January 27th / Vagrant
The strength of No Motiv's fifth full-length really relies in its consistency; while nothing on this is amazing or deathly groundbreaking, the band knows how to write a good pop-rock tune, and there's one for every track on Daylight Breaking. Read entire review here.
#10. Green Day - American Idiot
September 21st / Reprise
One of the least expected efforts of the year and at the same time one of the most expected. Green Day's three-chord punk rock is used to script a near-hour long rock opera. Despite some relatively derivative though pleasantly familiar themes, they pull it off fantastically, drawing influences from all aspects of their career.
#9. Big D And The Kids Table - How It Goes
October 19th / Springman
An epic ska-punk delight, Big D And The Kids Table's finest album is a worthy effort of a long wait, consistent with its energy, pacing, and flat-out fun. Read entire review here.
#8. Northstar - Pollyanna
April 20th / Triple Crown
Another laid-back offering of melancholic, Long Island-styled punk-pop from the Alabaman outfit. Their style is taking the decidedly genre-routed path, but so far they've stepped over a lot of the pitfalls, keeping true to a relatively creative lyrical base and their trademark twinkly guitars.
#7. Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News
April 6th / Epic
The originality, diversity, and indie rock grandeur of a now-decidedly mainstream-recognized artist is rare, but that's Modest Mouse for you.
#6. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Miss Machine
July 20th / Relapse
With a healthy injection of melody, the Dillinger Escape Plan took their sound to skyscraping new levels. The ridiculously diverse nature of Greg Puciato's vocals make the outfit all the more powerful, and te band hasn't lost an ounce of their technical prowess. A spectacular hybrid jazz, electronica, hardcore, and metal and one of the year's top offerings.
#5. Say Anything - ...Is A Real Boy
August 3rd / Doghouse
Granted, Say Anything's Piebald-like, emo rock orchestrations essentially mock a scene it inhabits, and it's pretty far gone as far as irony is concerned, but Max Bemis's witty lyricism is matched only by his crunchy guitar hooks and tongue-in-cheek humor, driven by literaly insanity during A Real Boy's recordings. Hell of a debut (a proper one, anyway).
#4. The Living End - Modern ARTillery
March 2nd / Reprise
A great punk rock record that focuses more on singalong ability than guitar hooks, but its tempo, pacing, and consistency all work wonders for it.
#3. Audio Karate - Lady Melody
June 1st / Kung Fu
It was almost like someone listened to Domestica and decided it was in dire need of a jolt of energy. Audio Karate is said band. Taking equally from the band responsible for such and Jawbreaker alike, the band's sophomore effort is a wonderfully-crafted piece of guitar-based punk, with a beautifully gravelly improvement in the vocal area. Thank you, Mr. Stevenson.
#2. Blood Brothers - Crimes
October 12th / V2
Both lauded and criticized for their more subdued approach, the Blood Brothers take nearly all the chaotic elements that gave their earlier records the frantic hardcore sound and swap them in for equally norm-straying and spastic elements. You still have your screamy freakouts like "Trash Flavored Trash" and "Beautiful Horses," and then your more "relaxed" moments, as in "Love Rhymes With Hideous Car Crash" and its delicately building title track, "Crimes." While most, including myself, might prefer the ridiculous intensity and propelsive songwriting of Burn, Crimes, despite its more simplifed subejct matter and oddly accessible moments, is still a hell of an interesting progression.
#1. Circle Takes The Square - As The Roots Undo
January 6th / Robotic Empire
Quite possibly the best piece of progressive hardcore to arrive since The Shape Of Punk To Come, Circle Takes The Square's debut is an epic hybrid of just about every subegenre under the hardcore sun. Establishing Biblical imagery and picturesque, (post-)Apocalyptic landscapes, the band masters both beautiful, soothing, atmospheric textures, and spastic, high-on-flange guitars whilst two vocalists chant back and forth, most often in hectic spasms but other times literally hymn-like. All the hyperbole in the world couldn't really justify this release. The best full-length effort of 2004, and a shockingly good debut from a band who will get theirs in due time.
Top 10 EPs
#10. MC Lars - The Laptop
July 27th / SideCho
Probably one of the more loosely dangled pieces of hate mail bait in this list, but still a rather fun conglomeration of pop-punk, rap, and pseudo-techno with well-placed samples you may not even notice the first time around.
#9. Miracle Of 86 - Last Gasp
October 26th / Immigrant Sun
A splendid little EP from Kevin Devine's full band and quite possibly their last. Acoustic-based, sorta folky tunes that's got a bit of campfire camraderie but mostly fragmented emotions. Dreadfully overlooked this year. Read entire review here.
#8. The Lido Venice - Songs Written Around The Campfire In The Belly Of A Whale
September 14th / ECA
I'm not really sure what the current status of this band even is, but if it's what the current rumor is (and a lack of updates on their site only supports the theory), it's a damn shame. The Lido Venice's live show and recorded output here showcases a band filled to the brim with nothing but potential. The best elements of indie rock, garage, and indie pop are here, and hopefully the band will wake up from hibernation to realize the effect they could make. Read entire review here.
#7. No Trigger / Wasteland - Split
August / Self-Released
Wasteland's screamy, thrashy hardcore is a pretty decent fix, but the story of this split is No Trigger. The band's rapidly improving hardcore punk is aggressive enough for the leather jackets and emotional enough for the youth large tees. Read entire review here.
#6. Respira - This Is Not What You Had Planned
March 23rd / Grey Flight
A wondrous melding of Casket Lottery and Get Up Kids-esque emo rock, Respira's blatantly honest, gut-wrenching lyrics, and extensively emotional/instrumental landscapes are an absolute beauty. One of the most underrated bands of 2004.
#5. Hot Cross - Fair Trades And Farewells
June 8th / Level Plane
What Hot Cross is doing nowadays can't really be described as screamo at all, but I honestly couldn't care less. The band's most accessible effort yet still finds the band splashing frenetic guitar riffs against artcore scenarios, blending a whole mess of other obscure genres I'll willingly make up on the spot as well.
#4. Gatsbys American Dream - In The Land Of Lost Monsters
August 3rd / LLR
Ridiculously infectious, woefully addicting and masterfully artful, Gatsbys loosens its iron fist on the threshold of math-influenced pop-rock, and still manages to construct a seven-song breath of fresh air. Read ebture review here.
#3. Jenoah - Morning Is When Jenoah Wakes Up...
March 20th / Drive-Thru
Adding punk-pop and thoroughly dancey bits to a very Braid-like sound, Jenoah released one of the most promising debuts of the year. And it was free. The band's super jangly guitars and light yet billowy textures blend together with a somehow laid-back anxiety, and it works quite well on their first EP. By far and away, Drive-Thru's best signing since Rx Bandits.
#2. Trophy Scars - Hospital Music For The Aesthetics Of Language
January 7th / Self-Released
Yeah, the Jersey natives might play a style that doesn't stray very far from their mates of state in Thursday, but their wild style chips off the boundaries of post-hardcore little by little with every studio session. Read entire review here.
#1. Somerset - Somerset
April 1st / I Ate Her
Seeing as how Somerset's September 2003 demos received a proper release this past year, I had to recognize them as the best EP of the period. Each song is just flat out fantastic pop-rock. Though I prefer the more mathy textures of This Thought Process, the trio of tracks here rely on a simpler formula rather well.
Punknews.Org Mixtape Mix Tape
  1. Mute Print - A Wilhelm Scream
  2. Hey Kid. I'm A Computer. Stop All The Downloading - Fear Before The March Of Flames
    Easily the best song on what I like to otherwise call a sophomore slump.
  3. Nothing To Do When You're Locked In A Vacancy - None More Black
  4. Chromatic Fades - Autopilot Off
    easily the best and most rocking track on the band's full-length Island debut.
  5. Notes in His Pockets - The Good Life
    This song is so sleazy. I love it.
  6. Frame By Frame - The Honorary Title
  7. Designed Like Dice (Crickets in Tune) - Trophy Scars
  8. A Brief Conversation - Respira
  9. Dog And Pony Show - Descendents
  10. Wreck Your Life - This Is Hell
  1. The Girl's Distracted - Saturday Looks Good To Me
    Such a beautiful little pop single with beautiful vocal interplay and a little keyboard solo. It's so cheesy.
  2. Exhibit of the Year - Down to Earth Approach
    The album as a whole is pretty mediocre, but I must've had this one song stuck in my head the entire year.
  3. In Defense of Dorchester - Street Dogs
  4. Jesus is Alive and Well (And Living in Mexico) - Audio Karate
  5. Is There A Way Out - The Get Up Kids
    There's just something about The Get Up Kids that sounds so goddamned good when they show their depressing side.
  6. Emergency - I Am The Avalanche
  7. I'd Dodge A Bullet For You - Nightmare Of You
    Great tracks from both the newest ex-MovieLife projects.
  8. White Actress - Scatter The Ashes
    Probably the standout track of their Epitaph debut, this song reminds me of Refused in places, and gives me chills as to where it could take future material to.
  9. Necrotism: Decanting The Insalubrious (Cyborg Midnight) Part 7 - The Lawrence Arms
    They're only getting better, and this choice cut from Rock Against Bush 2 proves such.
  10. The Room - The Living End
Anticipated For 2005

2005 will see a killer slew of new releases from the likes of Gatsby's American Dream, Thursday, Nightmare of You, Brand New, Against Me!, Somerset, No Trigger, Saosin, Bigwig, Motion City Soundtrack, Alkaline Trio, Every Time I Die, Suicide Machines, None More Black, ASOB, Thrice, Hot Cross, the Sound of Animals Fighting, Streetlight Manifesto, Death Cab For Cutie, A Wilhelm Scream, Days Away, Moneen, Blink-182, I Am the Avalanche, Boys Night Out, AFI, The Bronx, Murder By Death, The Bled, Since By Man, Paint It Black, A Static Lullaby, Circa Survive, Reggie and the Full Effect, Coheed & Cambria, Less than Jake, and B-sides compilations from Strike Anywhere and the Lawrence Arms.