Best of 2004

My top 20 for 2004 was pretty simple to put together, especially compared to 2003. Not sure why I like so many more albums from 2003, but 2004 definitely does not ave the depth and quality. I posted my original best of 2004 list on this blog in early 2005 and 9 of my top 10 of that time are still in this top 20.

As this was the year I truly began collecting vinyl, I'll include some photos of the vinyl versions of many of these albums (I did buy a few 7"s in 1995 and my first 12" in 1996, but my vinyl purchases were sporadic until 2004). All the photos in this post I found online as my collection is currently on the other side of the Atlantic from me.

Top 20 albums of 2004:

1. Brandtson- Send Us a Signal
First heard: Waiting for me at my parents' house in TN when I moved back from Zambia.

As I have written time and time again, I saw Brandtson play more concerts from 1998-2002 than any other band I listen to. In that 4-year-span, I saw them 12-15 times. Before this album Brandtson's recordings were good, but this is the first time they had the time and budget to really flesh out and album, and the result was remarkable. For the first time when listening to a Brandton CD I was surprised as the diversity of sounds they were able to create. Even my wife grew to love this album and she likes very little music in this genre.

From a vinyl perspective, this wasn't released until much later, and is actually the first project I ever backed on Kickstarter:

2. Lovedrug- Pretend You're Alive
First heard: I saw Lovedrug play at the Club Cafe in Pittsburgh, PA in July 2004, and I got this album either a couple weeks before this show, or maybe even at the show. (No vinyl version exists).

Last week I published a long story on Medium about Lovedrug and Kerith Ravine (both fronted by Michael Shepard). As I discuss in the story, I prefer Kerith Ravine as a whole, but this album is definitively my favorite release from Shepard.

Why do I like a band’s decade-old album better than their new one?

My discovery of Lovedrug was interesting. I was pretty active on the Northern Record message boards from 2000 to whenever they dissolved (2005?). In 2002 or so someone on that board started raving about the band Lovedrug, frequently talking about how they were "the next big thing" and how we all needed to be on the lookout. Honestly, I had no interest initially for a very shallow reason- I thought the band name was stupid. (Lots of band names are stupid and a great example is the next band below!)

Then in late 2003 or early 2004 I got the Lovedrug "Rock N Roll" EP free with another order from the Militia Group. I popped it into to my CD player, and after a couple songs, I thought, "Hm, this guy's vocals sound really familiar." Later I realized, "Hey this is the same guy from Kerith Ravine!" I think I went straight to the Northern Records board and posted "Kerith Ravine = Lovedrug!". Anyway, when I first made the connnection it was a radical realization, but looking back on it a decade later probably doesn't sound that interesting.

3. Jimmy Eat World- Futures
First heard: Downloaded a leaked version of the album in July 2004, months before it was actually released. My fiancé and I wore the album out in the months preceding our wedding. When I finally got the real version of the CD that fall, I was shocked, because they cut the song "Jen". One of my favorite songs on the album, and I just couldn't believe it. Zach Lind, drummer, actually years later said this is one of his favorite Jimmy Eat World songs of all time.

I have the original black vinyl with an etching on side "D", but here is the re-released version:

4. Arcade Fire- Funeral
First heard: When my wife and I got married, neither of us had a job, we had no car, and we had nowhere to live. We first found somewhere to housesit the first two months of our marriage, then we found good friends who let us borrow their car. When we picked up the car from them, they let us borrow a few albums, and this was one of them. (Another was the Be Good Tanyas, also our introduction to that band.)

5. Mindy Smith- One Moment More
First heard: If I followed my own advice in the name of my blog, I would have never heard this album. The car I mention above did not have a tape player, and the CD player was broken. So for the six months we had it, we listened to a lot of the radio, specifically Lightning 100 in Nashville. Mindy Smith was one of the artists we discovered during that time. (No vinyl version exists.)

6. Pinback- Summer In Abaddon
First heard: This was another album that someone gave me on a CD loaded full of MP3s while I was in Zambia in early 2003. Then I bought it on vinyl in early 2005.

The photo I found for this one is someone who posted their entire Pinback collection (not me!) who has all the variants. Pretty amazing collection.

7. Tegan and Sara- So Jealous
First heard: I have written about this story before, but in the summer of 2004 there were free shows weekly on the Nashville riverfront. The only one my then-fiancé were able to make it to was Cake. We enjoyed Cake, but Tegan and Sara opened and absolutely blew them away! I actually don't own this album on vinyl (yet), only on CD.

8. Blindside- About a Burning Fire 
First heard: iTunes. This was the second full album I purchased on iTunes. (The first was the self-titled P.O.D. album, which followed an Eisley EP in late 2003 and a couple singles as seen below). Here are my first few iTunes purchases after discovering it in late 2003:
Blindside released two songs early, so it appears that I purchased each track from the album individually. (No vinyl version exists.)

9. Sufjan Stevens- Seven Swans
First heard: As popular as Sufjan Stevens is, and as much as I like him, I honestly have no recollection of the first time I heard him. I know I called him "Suff-jann" for the first year I knew of him, as it was awhile before I heard "Soof-yan". My friend who let me borrow the Arcade Fire and Be Good Tanyas albums may have also played Michigan for me. I bought a later version of this album on vinyl that contains a bonus 7" with two songs.

10. Tess Wiley- Not Quite Me
First heard: When Tess sent this album to me in 2004 upon it's completion she included a note that I was the first person outside of Germany to get it; which is funny because we are both Americans and I was living in Zambia. (No vinyl version exists.)

11. Jump (Little Children)- Between the Dim and the Dark
First heard: Shipped to me in Zambia in 2004.
This was the band's attempt at writing more straight-forward, less-experimental songs, and they were largely successful despite probably gaining no new fans. The dumbest decision they made was abbreviating their band name to JUMP for this release and dropping the "Little Children". I think it was temporary, as JUMP sounds very much like a boy band. (No vinyl version exists.)

12. Rilo Kiley- More Adventurous
First heard: I didn't buy this album until the last couple of years, but I heard songs from it on the radio in 2004 (once again, Nashville's Lightning 100). I don't own it on vinyl, and I couldn't find a good photo of the wax anywhere either. This was probably the peak of the band's popularity, although I assume Jenny Lewis' most recent solo album is by far her most popular, best-selling release.

13. mewithoutYou- Catch For Us the Foxes
First heard: Embarrassingly, not until 2007. I actually saw mewithoutYou play Cornerstone in 2001, before they had an album out. I had no appreciation for it. At Cornerstone 2002 I was given a Tooth & Nail sampler CD that had a mewithoutYou song on it that also did not pique my interest. Then in 2006 mewithoutYou released Brother, Sister and I purchased it because of Jeremy Enigk's contributions. It took awhile to grow on me, and I included it as an honorable mention outside my top 10 of 2006 when I wrote that list in early 2007. Eight years later and Brother, Sister is one of my favorite albums of all time, and a top-3 album from that year. All that to say, after Brother, Sister I went back and bought Catch For Us the Foxes and grew to love it as well.

14. Pedro the Lion- Achilles Heel
First heard: Pre-ordered and shipped to me in Zambia in 2004.
This was a pretty huge disappointment for me at the time, as it seemed so subdued and boring following the album Control. With time though the excellent songwriting made more of an impression. I still feel like the album is a little too bland from a production standpoint.

I couldn't find a photo of the actual wax for this release (there is a beautiful yellow version), but the gatefold cut-paper artwork for this packaging is great...

15. Patty Griffin- Impossible Dream
First heard: We had a house-mate in 2005 that gave my wife some CDs and this was one of them; Patty Griffin has grown into one of my wife's and I favorites. (No vinyl version exists.)
16. Neko Case- The Tigers Have Spoken
First heard: Absolutely no idea. The first Neko Case album I bought was 2006's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. I assume I got this on eMusic soon after. I have never owned any Neko vinyl because it is all out of print and crazy expense on eBay. But in November she will release her entire discography in a gorgeous box set called TRUCKDRIVER, GLADIATOR, MULE:

17. Demon Hunter- Summer of Darkness
First heard: Sometime in early 2005 I got the CD. Demon Hunter got a little more melodic with this album. As much as I like all Demon Hunter albums, they do all somewhat blend together for me. (No vinyl version exists.)

18. Modest Mouse- Good News for People Who Love Bad News
First heard: Thanks to Lightning 100 radio for this one as well. I first heard Modest Mouse on a mix tape someone game me in the late 90's, but honestly never enjoyed them. This is the only Modest Mouse album I own (and I don't have that gorgeous vinyl below).

19. The Spirit That Guides Us- North and South
First heard: This one definitely slipped through the cracks. I listened to the band quite a bit in 2003, but then never even heard about this album until years later. (No vinyl version exists.)

20. The Lassie Foundation- Face Your Fun
First heard: I followed Lassie Foundation from the beginning (when the Prayer Chain broke up). I am assuming I got this album off eMusic. Some great pop-rock songs here, but I definitely miss the noise from the earlier Lassie Foundation albums. Thankfully they returned to the noisey shoegaze for their final 3-song EP in 2008.(No vinyl version exists.)

Most disappointing release of 2004:

R.E.M.- Around The Sun
I don't often include this category, but this album so awful I must mention it. What in the world happened to R.E.M. here? One of the greatest rock bands in history, but this album is just horrible. Stereogum ranked the 16 R.E.M. albums from best to worst and this is in its right place. The list is mostly good with the exception of my favorite R.E.M. album Up being inexplicably ranked 14th.

Other 2004 releases I own and enjoy in alphabetical order:

A.C. Newman- The Slow Wonder
Aaron Sprinkle- Lackluster
The Autumns- The Autumns
Avril Lavigne- Under My Skin (Loved this album at the time, which is hard to believe)
The Beautiful Mistake- This Is Who You Are
Blonde Redhead- Misery Is a Butterfly
Cake- Pressure Chief
Chevelle- This Type of Thinking Could Do Us In
Cool Hand Luke- The Fires of Life
Danielson- Brother Is To Son
Dead Poetic- New Medicines
El Ten Eleven- El Ten Eleven
The Emergency- Enemy Ships
Eskimohunter- Fast Trak Holy Nova Symphony
For All the Drifters- For All the Drifters EP (Pre-Paper Route)
Further Seems Forever- Hide Nothing 
The Get Up Kids- Guilt Show
GRITS- Dichotomy A
GRITS- Dichotomy B
Headlights- The Enemies EP
The Innocence Mission- Now the Day is Over
Iron & Wine- Our Endless Numbered Days
Katie Herzig- Watch Them Fall
Mates of State- All Day EP
Mutual Admiration Society- Mutual Admiration Society (Glen Phillips from Toad the Wet Sprocket with Nickel Creek)
Old Canes- Early Morning Hymns
The Reputation- To Force A Fate
Sandra McCracken- Best Laid Plans
Starflyer 59- I Am The Portuguese Blues
Starflyer 59- The Last Laurel EP
Stavesacre- Bull Takes Fighter EP
They Sang As They Slew- Get Well
Via Audio- Via Audio EP
Viva Voce- Lovers Lead The Way
The Weepies- Happiness