2004: A year in 365 words
Top Albums of 2004
I don't have any quotable observation about 2004, it came and it went, though not without a little fanfare. Politically, the
US Presidential Election had us nervously flipping channels, and the Iraq war continues unabated despite the Administration's best
claims otherwise. There were some great books, like Phillip Roth's The Plot Against America and some lousy TV like the
abysmal season so far of the West Wing, and the similar plummet of South Park from inspired satire to weak straw man jokes.
The dead horse of pop-metalcore/emocore reached an ever greater strata of popularity,
the true innovators of this genre, and every genre were still in full force. Aggressive music took many
steps forward with inspired recordings from Pig Destroyer, Dillinger Escape Plan and Planes Mistaken for Stars
and pop-punk saw great releases from the likes of Green Day.
But besides all the great new records this year, 2004 was an especially great year for classic records, with
many of them finally recieving the kind of lush treatment they always deserved. While some labels went a little
overboard by reissuing records less than a year old, others produced beautifully packaged and definitive versions
of recordings like London Calling, Dear You and Weezer's Blue album.
Punknews.org went into it's fifth year and while we saw the departure of long-time friend and co-conspirator, Scott Heisel,
our newest editor, Brian Shultz has more than capably filled his ample shoes (figuratively of course, Scott is a big guy.)
We also launched our new version of the site, which besides being an incredibly nerve-wracking experience for me, was a
great way to respond to your suggestions and comments about the old site.
And while it's certainly been an eventful and exciting year, it has unfortunately been also punctuated by tragedy, for another year, we lost too many people. One
particularly sad loss was that of John Peel who remains the most important DJ since the dawn
of radio, and I doubt any broadcaster will ever come close to matching his legacy. Progressive music has lost
its greatest advocate and biggest fan. We'll miss you John.
Anyway, without any further ado, here is my list, as always in no particular order.
Pig Destroyer: Terrifyer
Astounding complex, powerful and violent. The record that could very well bring grindcore into the mainstream. Well, maybe not
the mainstream, but probably Hot Topic.
Dillinger Escape Plan: Miss Machine
While not as bleeding edge as Calculating Infinity
, a record which saw
the hardcore math-metal pioneers achieving new levels of melody and accessibility while doing their part to revitalize heavy music. Again.
The masters of athmospheric, narrative metal return with another alternately explosive and delicately beautiful release.
Green Day: American Idiot
A band so consistently creative, catchy and plain fun that it's sometimes hard to imagine how they manage to succeed at it
year after year. Another successful reinvention of their sound, and a rock opera which is neither indulgent nor annoying.
Descendents: Cool to Be You
Fat Wreck Chords
Hardcore for the skinny, glasses wearing geek inside you. I'll say what I said in the original review:
“the Descendents don't need to change the world of music with Cool to Be You. They already did in 1981.”
Snow Patrol: Final Straw
Strong melodic indie rock made ever more special by insightful lyrical musings that demonstrate one of the few
nuanced views of relationships in emotional music.
Planes Mistaken for Stars: Up in Them Guts
Another dirty, ugly and beautiful classic from a band that is finally starting to get the attention it deserves.
Yes, vocalist Matthew Bellamy sounds a lot like Thom Yorke, but besides that, the Radiohead comparisons are undeserved.
Baroque instrumentation and Sabbath-esque riffing combine beautifully to make a record that is energetic and prententiously lush, but
in the best possible way.
Rise Against: Siren Song of the Counter Culture
While it didn't grab me as quickly as Revolutions Per Minute, over time, the impact and passion of the record grew on me.
A truly impassioned and exciting record from a band which has gone from obscurity to one of the most loved hardcore/punk bands
around in a handful of years.
Mono: Walking Cloud & Deep Red Sky Flag Fluttered And The Sun Shined
The heir apparent of noise rock like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, but infused with a classical sensibility
allowing effortless segues between gentle melancholy and crushing feedback. Achingly beautiful and unforgettable.
Brian Wilson: Smile
Bad Religion: The Empire Strikes First
Arcade Fire: Funeral
Menomena: I Am the Fun Blame Monster
Flat Earth Society: Isms
Champion: Promises Kept
Cult of Luna: Salvation
The Secret: Luce
Alkaline Trio/One Man Army: BYO Split Series Volume
The best material from both the Trio, and One Man Army in years. It's a shame that it turned out to be One Man Army's swan song
A veritable “greatest hits” of the band compressed into a single twenty-one minute track. Effectively combining all
of their incarnations, from their first great record Destroy Erase Improve, through the polyrhythmic grandeur of
Chaosphere with the esoteric range of Nothing.
The Casket Lottery: Smoke and Mirrors
After a series of unconventional and interesting post-rock releases, the Casket Lottery released arguably their strongest
and most refined offering to date with Smoke and Mirrors. Unfortunately, all signs point to the fact that it is likely
their last as well.
Gatsbys American Dream - In The Land Of Lost Monsters
Talented, creative and thoroughly unique. I've heard the band spent one and a half months recording their full length compared to the
five days spent on the EP and I can't wait to hear what they'll do with all that time.
Taken: Between Two Unseens
Another band that broke up too soon, melodic, heavy hardcore and strained vocals. It's hard to explain what makes them different
from the glut of bands playing this kind of music, but dig them up, give them a listen and you'll see.
The Clash: London Calling
In a year which had a surprisingly high number of quality reissues from major acts like Weezer, to obscure but brilliant ones like
Coalesce, one stood far above the rest, the painstakingly thorough reissue of the London Calling which includes both the
remastered original, a bonus disc of demo tracks and odds and ends, and a interesting and compelling DVD presentation of the recording
of the classic record. No fan of punk rock should miss this one.
- Psyopus - “Death, i”
- Pig Destroyer - “Gravedancer”
- The Secret - “Memento Mori”
- Nasum - “The Deepest Hole”
- Lamb of God - “Blood of the Scribe”
- Old Man Gloom - “The Volcano”
- He Is Legend - “The Seduction”
- Dillinger Escape Plan - “Panasonic Youth”
- The Haunted - “99”
- Meshuggah - “I”
- Rise Against - “Give It All”
- Snow Patrol - “Wow”
- Menomena - “Cough Couging”
- The Killers - “Mr.Brightside”
- The Thermals - “How We Know”
- Death from Above 1979 - “Romantic Rights”
- Arcade Fire - “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”
- Jimmy Eat World - “Drugs or Me”
- Owen - “Note to Self”
- One Man Army - “All the Way”
- Green Day - “Give Me Novacaine”
- The Casket Lottery - “On the Air”
To paraphrase that dark wordsmith, Jerry Seinfeld:
Well, the new year is merely symbolic of how another year's gone by and how little we've grown.
No matter how desperate we are that someday a better self will emerge, with each flicker of
the candles on the cake we know it's not to be. That for the rest of our sad, wretched, pathetic
lives, this is who we are to the bitter end. Inevitably, irrevocably. Happy New Year? No such thing.
That cautionary statement aside, at least 2005 will have some great new music with new releases expected
from many bands like Alkaline Trio, Meshuggah, Gatsbys American Dream, Paint it Black, Chixdiggit,
Thrice, Propagandhi (!), The Esoteric, Comeback Kid, No Use for a Name, Millencolin, ...And You Will
Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Weezer and many others. So despite the ominious quote, the new year just
may be a good one.
As for me, I'll still be here, hope you'll be here too.