Saturday, 18 December 2004

The best albums of 2004

25. Morrissey – You Are The Quarry
After a seven year absence, Morrissey returned to deliver what is remarkably his greatest solo achievement.

Best track – Irish Blood, English Heart

24. Lambchop – Aw C'mon / No You C'mon
Everything seems right in the world when you hear Kurt Wagner crooning about his idiosyncratic observations.

Best tracks – Steve McQueen / Nothing Adventurous Please

23. The Dears – No Cities Left
Gorgeous and uplifting but incredibly sad and evocative, No Cities Left is totally unpredictable and totally wonderful.

Best track – Lost In The Plot

22. Regina Spekor – Soviet Kitsch
Kooky and quirky but never pretentious, Soviet Kitsch requires a bit of patience but it's proof that Regina is a unique talent.

Best track – The Flowers

21. Ghostface Killah – The Pretty Toney Album
Determined to prove he's only Clansman still making music that matters, Ghostface was at his hungriest on this bruising album. A rap classic that straddles the divide between street cred and commercial respect.

Best track – Run

20. Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell
These are the most focused, affecting and best songs Adams has written since Heartbreaker. Hopefully Lost Highway will now realise they have to trust his artistic urges.

Best track – This House Is Not For Sale

19. The Killers – Hot Fuss
Included for the near-perfect first half and not the substandard second, Hot Fuss is still a goliath of modern synth pop.

Best track – All These Things That I've Done

18. Interpol – Antics
Warmer and much more fun than their incredible debut but not quite as good. Still, a smart and satisfying second step.

Best track - Evil

17. Giant Sand – Is All Over The Map
More shambling and raucous than anything they've made since 1992's Centre Of The Universe, Howe Gelb is still a class apart when it comes to melding and weaving together differing musical forms.

Best track – Classico

16. The Beastie Boys – To The 5 Boroughs
They look old, hell, they are old but they don't sound it. After the experimental Hello Nasty, Ad Rock, MCA and Mike D got back to making a straight up hip hop album and it's probably the best they've made since Paul's Boutique.

Best track – Oh Word?

15. Kanye West – The College Dropout
We knew Kanye had skills as a producer but I doubt anyone imagined he'd be this good on the microphone. Hip hop has a new megastar.

Best track – All Falls Down

14. Devendra Banhart – Rejoicing In The Hands
Sixteen left field, bonkers and, you suspect, timeless songs.

Best track - This Beard Is For Siobhán

13. Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender
Appalachian folk and bluegrass somehow wrapped up in the blanket of harp-driven indie rock. Sounds strange? Well that's before you factor in Newsom's screeching girlish voice. Certainly the year's most unique album.

Best track – The Book Of Right On

12. Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
How good is this guy? Not content with writing an album about all 50 states of the US, he took time out to record this delicate and arresting beauty.

Best track – The Dress Looks Nice On You

11. Arcade Fire – Funeral
Less a truly remarkable debut album and more a life-affirming religious experience. Following Funeral, the world is Arcade Fire's oyster.

Best track – Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)

10. Madvillain – Madvillainy
That the ceaselessly inventive Doom gets some help from Madlib to produce a blissful, engaging and irreverent album. That it's only Doom's second best album this year is testament to his genius.

Best track – All Caps

9. Comets On Fire – Blue Cathedral
Brutal and bludgeoning, Blue Cathedral needs to be play brain-meltingly loud. Definitely the best freak-out record of the decade so far.

Best track – Whiskey River

8. Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News
Isaac Brock's band have always deserved a breakthrough moment and Float On was it. Daring and thoughtful but accessible and catchy.

Best track – Float On

7. Brian Wilson – Smile
Arguably the greatest triumph in the history of pop music. The songs are just as spellbinding as they always were and Wilson's wrecked voice just makes it all the more poignant. Worth the wait? I'll say.

Best track – Surf's Up

6. The Hold Steady – Almost Killed Me
Channelling the ragged, drunken spirit of Husker Du, this modern-day E Street band are destined for huge things. Craig Finn's sing-talking was the most unique vocal performance of the year.

Best track – Killer Parties

5. Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose
Jack White's reinvention of Loretta Lynn is every bit as triumphant as Rick Rubin's work with Johnny Cash. This is a tough, gritty and heartbreaking country album. Gen-yoo-ine country brilliance that shows the wusses how it's done.

Best track – Van Lear Rose

4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus
After the tepid Nocturama, this pair of incredible albums mark a (yeah, I know it's a cliché but it's true in this case) storming return to form. Not only remarkable in their scope, these are certainly the two most beautifully packaged albums of the year.

Best tracks – Hiding All Away / Breathless

3. Tom Waits – Real Gone
By ditching the piano Waits has become more grizzled and grimy than ever. His junk yard genius appears to know no bounds. Real Gone ranks right up with his very best work.

Best track – Hoist That Rag

2. Laura Veirs – Carbon Glacier
A cold, beautiful and engaging record that improves with every listen. A truly hypnotic masterpiece.

Best track – The Cloud Room

1. MF Doom – MM Food?
Has the bizarre feel of a magnum opus and something Doom tossed off in his lunch break. His breathless creativity is head-spinning, hard-hitting and jaw-dropping. Dumile is everything that's great about not hip hop but music in general.

Best track – Hoe Cakes

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