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Top Ten

The Year in Music

CUDDLE DOWN PRODUCTIONS: Kanye West pioneered a new brand of hip-hop stardom with his debut album, The College Dropout.

Top Ten 2004

The Year in News “There’s a myth that emanates around some floors in Annapolis,” Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley told... | By Van Smith

The Year in Quotes 1 “The First Amendment doesn’t say you have to be good.” — street-performance advocate Stephen Bair...

The Year in Sports Suffice it to say that 2004 will not go down as a banner year in the annals of Baltimore sports. ... | By Gabriel Wardell

The Year in Film Cheer up: 2004 was a good year—at least for film. While the past 12 months didn’t produce a film as ...

The Year in Television The “moral values” referendum surprised and rebuked lefties in Hollywood and elsewhere. The post-Nip...

The Year in Music Run down the list of recent heavyweights that released albums in 2004 which have moved units but los...

The Year in Local Music Only one local music story really percolated around Baltimore newsrooms this year: Paula Campbell. T... | By Bret McCabe

The Year in Art Sure, 2004 was the year of Baltimore’s very own public art controversy, in the guise of Jonathan Bor...

The Year in Books Yeah, publishers keep telling us that the book business these days really belongs to nonfiction, tha...

The Year on Stage The vamping post-op transsexual of our No. 1 selection notwithstanding, this year’s roster of Baltim...

Posted 12/15/2004

Run down the list of recent heavyweights that released albums in 2004 which have moved units but lost that elusive hook that keeps these artists interesting, fun to write and talk about, and secure on our playlist: U2, Gwen Stefani, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Nelly, Britney Spears, Good Charlotte, Nirvana, Ja Rule, Jessica Simpson, the Hives, R. Kelly, the Roots, Björk, Janet Jackson, the Magnetic Fields, Norah Jones, P.J. Harvey, Jadakiss, Destiny’s Child. No hating, just saying.

Some of those were greatest hits or box sets, but sheesh. That’s not to say the above didn’t fire off some winning songs—viz., Destiny’s Child, whose “Lose My Breath” video did answer that Sphinx riddle What’s better than one Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle rocking in high heels and fur wraps? Answer: Multiple superimposed images of the body-too-bootylicious women dancing off with each other—just that the albums as a whole were a little lean. Think we’re lying? A Hamilton says a random person on the street couldn’t name a single song on Janet Jackson’s Damita Jo but could prolly describe the shape of her nipple guard. It’s been one of those years.

Which is but an end-around way of saying 2004 witnessed some fresher faces start their 15 minutes. If any two personalities dominated 2004, it was Usher, a young man with abs you could grate cheese on, and Lil Jon, a man whose beats make you wanna badonkadonkdonk and whose rhymes make you feel like you should bathe. Country proved it could go dirty-South crunk as Big and Rich’s “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” and Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” got as goodies freak-a-leeking as Ciara and Petey Pablo. Numbing exercises in mediocrity called Hoobastank, Yellowcard, and Maroon5 passed for rock on alt-rock radio. Mid-’90s Pacific Northwest’s creepy, melodic noise-rock survivor Modest Mouse cracked into MTV2. And the Scottish fuck-puppies in Franz Ferdinand not only gave fashion-rock some balls but did so by making it cool to go out and then leave with someone else.

Elsewhere, Jay-Z showed that his retirement is more like Cher’s final tour. Big Baby Jesus joined little baby Jesus (RIP, ODB). And a young Chicago hip-hopper who donned more J. Crew than Roca-wear released an album that’s still as funky-fresh dressed to impress and ready to party now as it was in February.

The top 10 albums of 2004 were determined by weighted ballots submitted by a sampling of 11 regular CP contributors, and a three-way tie for No. 10 was decided by the biased editorial fiat of me. (Bret McCabe)


Kanye West College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)

When Kanye West spit through a jaw wired shut, it was intriguing. When the Chi-Town stunner masterly unfurled speedy soul samples for hit singles, it was hypnotizing. When the rapper/producer’s thudding Jesus jam evolved into a MTV staple, it was baffling. “I’m gonna change music as we know it,” West boasted at a College Park gig just after his album’s release. His words were egomaniacal then. Now, they’re hip-hop gospel. (Craig Smith)


Ghostface The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam)

Ghostface is a vein-popping, sweat-dripping, mic-ripping beast, an MC whose force, intensity and urgency are unparalleled in hip-hop history. He’s one of the great ones, and Pretty Toney is his best album. Ghost runs his fevered yowl all over luxurious, tear-drenched, hard-swinging soul tracks, focusing his abstract expansiveness into direct, focused descriptions of breathless desperation and concrete humanity. (Tom Breihan)


The Hold Steady . . . Almost Killed Me (Frenchkiss)

Pills and powders baby, powders and pills. NYC’s the Hold Steady’s . . . Almost Killed Me debut rocks sarcastic skills to pay the bills. It’s great to see ex-Lifter Puller guitar/vox Craig Finn back in a bar band (he thinks it’s great to see we’re still in the bars), and he twists lyrical balloon animals out of hipster scenes’ hot air over twinned-guitar killer parties. Call it Exiled from Midwestern Main Streets—and then reach into the speaker and try to hold on to the quarter notes. (BM)


Animal Collective Sung Tongs (Fatcat)

Flipping over from last year’s murky, full-band Here Comes the Indian, Animal Collective returned to the two-headed monster of Avey Tare and Panda Bear for Sung Tongs, a frantic, sweaty pile of caffeinated acoustic séances that never falters. The spilling, overdriven “Who Could Win a Rabbit?” was one of 2004’s best singles, spawning a Cremaster-tinted blood ‘n’ fur video that’s the weirdest thing ever to soil MTV2. (Marc Masters)


Sonic Youth Sonic Nurse (Geffen)

Rather than a phoned-in regurgitation of old ideas, Sonic Nurse is as much a continuation of Murray Street’s growing momentum as it is an exercise in self-restraint. Kim Gordon actually emotes rather than screams, and reigning in the group’s sonic assault focuses our attention on every note—further underscoring that even on its 19th album, Sonic Youth can still find something new to say. (Catherine Lewis)


DJ Danger Mouse The Grey Album (White Label)

Described as hip-hop’s Woody Allen and Andy Kaufman following his melodic, swaggering 2003 debut Ghetto Pop Life, producer Danger Mouse showed he was irreverent but no joke with 2004’s The Grey Album. Splicing together basement beats from the Beatles’ White Album with verses from Jay-Z’s The Black Album, DM cobbled together psychedelic rock pastiche with grimy Pete Rock-meets-Primo panache, bridging outer mental space with the inner city. DM took the mash-up beyond cheeky toss-off, and The Grey Album was unintentionally instrumental in making a statement about copyright and internet-trading freedom, setting a mood while setting it off. (Tony Ware)


Madvillain Madvillainy (Stones Throw)

For many lovers of a particular subset of hip-hop—cerebral yet soulful, enigmatic yet playful—the last few years have belonged to Madlib and MF DOOM. Their first full-length collaboration easily represents Madlib’s finest collection of beats since Quasimoto’s 2000 The Unseen, while DOOM’s astonishing verses on songs such as “Fancy Clown,” “Strange Ways,” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” continue making the case for him as a master rhymer. (Eric Allen Hatch)


The Streets A Grand Don’t Come for Free (Vice/Atlantic)

For the follow-up to his rapturously received debut as the Streets, endearingly twerpy Englishman Mike Skinner simply condensed Original Pirate Material’s charms into a tighter, sadder, funnier day in the life of the geezer his beginner’s bling has ensured he isn’t quite anymore. If that means the material’s less original, it certainly doesn’t mellow its popwise tang: Who else makes losing a cell signal sound this poignant? (Mikael Wood)


Thalia Zedek Trust Not Those In Whom Without Some Touch of Madness (Thrill Jockey)

The only reason you can’t knight Thalia Zedek’s second solo outing a career peak is that hers is a 20-plus-year stretch with few rough spots. Trust Not is a so-late-night-it’s-early Loaded-era Velvet Underground crawl through emotional black holes that singes nerve-endings and cauterizes the wounds. Zedek’s indelible voice and arresting arrangements—Trust Not’s haunting mood is stitched almost entirely by strings and percussion—paint melancholic tinged song pictures, yet Zedek’s blue mood is not myopic self-pity, but the fleshy heartbreak of a mind and muscle still excitedly beating. (B.M.)


Graham Smith, Final Battle (March/What Are)

Graham Smith must’ve lived through the circumstances chronicled here a few too many times. Bedding a pal’s girlfriend, venomous lovers’ quarrels, ensuing breakups, post-split conciliatory chit-chat, whatever—even when Smith’s screaming about this stuff, he’s just playin’ on, playa, peekin’ his own script. But it’s a killer script—forthright, piercing, zinger-packed, affecting despite itself—and Smith bundles it with such effortlessly exuberant college-rock guitar heroics, both acoustic and electric, that the drama’s just gravy. (Raymond Cummings)

The Unabridged List

Tom Breihan

1. Ghostface The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam) 18
2. M.I.A. Piracy Funds Terrorism, Volume 1 (mixtape) 17
3. Dizzee Rascal Showtime (XL) 13
4. The Hold Steady . . . Almost Killed Me (Frenchkiss) 11
5. The Streets A Grand DonÕt Come for Free (Vice/ Atlantic) 10
6. Gretchen Wilson Here for the Party (Sony) 8
7. Mountain Goats We Shall All Be Healed (4AD) 7
8. DJ Roli Fingaz Reggaeton Fever (mixtape) 6
9. Various DFA Compilation #2 (DFA) 5
10. Trick Daddy Thug Matrimony: Married to the Streets (Label) 5

Ray Cummings

1. Graham Smith Final Battle (March/ What Are) 20
2. Animal Collective Sung Tongs (Fatcat) 16
3. Stereolab Margerine Eclipse (Label) 14
4. The Walkmen Bows and Arrows (Record Collection) 13
5. Kanye West The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella) 12
6. The Fiery Furnaces Blueberry Boat (Rough Trade) 7
7. The Yellow Swans Bring the Neon War home (Narnack) 6
8. Arial PinkÕs haunted Graffiti The Doldroms (Paw Tracks) 5
9. Green Day American Idiot (Reprise) 4
10. Eminem Encore (Interscope/ Shady/ Aftermath) 3

Michael Alan Goldberg

1. The Good Life Album of the Year (Saddle Creek) 15
2. These Arms Are Snakes Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home (Jade Tree) 15
3. Mark Lanagen Bubblegum (Beggars Banquet) 15
4. Dios Dios (Startime) 11
5. The Thermals FuckinÕ A (Sub Pop) 10
6. P.J. Harvey Uh Huh Her (Island) 9
7. Viva Voce The Heat Can Melt Your Brain (Minty Fresh) 8
8. The Cure The Cure (Geffen) 7
9. Iron and Wine Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop) 5
10. Dillinger Escape Plan Miss Machine (Relapse) 5

Eric Allen Hatch

1. Madvillian Madvilliany (Stones Throw) 20
2. Savath and Savalas ApropaÕt (Warp) 20
3. David Cross ItÕs Not Funny (Sub Pop) 15
4. Various Ghana Soundz Volume 2 (Soundway) 15
5. MF Doom MM..Food? (Rhymesayers) 8
6. Beans Shock City Maverick (Warp) 6
7. De La Soul The Grind Date (AOI/ Sanctuary Urban) 5
8. Ghostface The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam) 5
9. Masta Ace A Long Hot Summer (M3) 3
10. Jean Grae This Week (Babygrande) 3

Geoffrey Himes

1. Brian Wilson Smile (Nonesuch) 20
2. Carla Bley The Lost Chords (Watt/ ECM) 10
3. Jon Dee Graham The Great Battle (New West) 10
4. Talib Kweli The Beautiful Struggle (Rawkus/ Geffen) 10
5. The Drive-By Truckers The Dirty South (New West) 9
6. Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men Ashgrove (Yep Roc) 9
7. Lafayette Gilchrist The Music According to Lafayette Gilchrist (Hyena) 9
8. Nellie McKay Get Away from Me (Columbia) 9
9. Buddy Miller Universal United House of Prayer (New West) 7
10. Modest Mouse Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Daylight/ Epic) 7

Catherine Lewis

1. Joanna Newsom The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City) 10
2. Alison Krauss and Union Station Lonely Runs Both Ways (Rounder) 10
3. Thalia Zedek Trust Not in Whom Without Some Touch of Madness (Thrill Jockey) 10
4. Mission of Burma ONoffON (Matador) 10
5. Animal Collective Sung Tongs (Fat Cat) 10
6. Sam Pjillips A Boot and a Shoe (Nonesuch) 10
7. The New Year The End is Near (Touch and Go) 10
8. Sonic Youth Sonic Nurse (Geffen) 10
9. Anne McCur Roll (Messenger) 10
10. Eliza Gilkyson Land of Milk and Honey (Red House) 10

Marc Masters

1. P.G. Six The Wells of Memory (Amish) 15
2. Gang Gang Dance Gang Gand Dance (Fusetron) 15
3. Henry Flynt and the Insurrections I DonÕt Wanna (Locust) 15
4. Excepter KA (Fusetron) 10
5. Mouthus Mouthus (Psych-o-Path) 10
6. Sonic Youth Sonic Nurse (Geffen) 10
7. Greg Davis Somnia (Kranky) 8
8. Mission of Burma ONoffON (Matador) 8
9. Animal Collective Sung Tongs (Fat Cat) 6
10. Liras They Were Wrong So We Drowned (Mute) 3

Bret McCabe

1. The Paper Chase God Bless Your Black Heart (Kill Rock Stars) 15
2. Kanye West The College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella) 14
3. The Hold Steady . . . Almost Killed Me (Frenchkiss) 13
4. Converge You Fail Me (Epitaph) 12
5. Thalia Zedek Trust Not Those in Whom Without Some touch of Madness (Thrill jockey) 11
6. Devendra Banhart Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God) 9
7. Sir Richard Bishop Improvika (Locust) 8
8. Burmese Men (Load) 7
9. Sonic Youth Sonic Nurse (Geffen) 6
10. Madvillian Madvilliany (Stones Throw) 5

Criag Smith

1. Kanye West The College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella) 20
2. Immortal Technique Revolutionary Vol. 1 (Viper) 18
3. De La Soul The Grind Date (Sanctuary) 12
4. DJ Danger Mouse The Grey Album (White Label) 10
5. Ghostface The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam) 10
6. Alicia Keys Diary of Alicia Keys (J) 10
7. Prozack Turner Death, Taxes and Proxack (White Label) 5
8. Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand (Sony) 5
9. Alchemist 1st Infantry (Koch) 5
10. Murs Murs 3:16 (Definitive Jux) 5

Tony Ware

1. Kanye West The College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella) 20
2. DJ Danger Mouse The Grey Album (White Label) 15
3. Arcade Fire Funeral (Merge) 10
4. The Hold Steady . . . Almost Killed Me (Frenchkiss) 10
5. Dungen Ta Det Lugnt (Subliminal) 10
6. Th Go! Team Thunder, Lightning Strike (Memphis Industries) 10
7. Mastodon Leviathan (Relapse) 10
8. Mylo Destroy Rock N Roll (Breastfed) 5
9. Dykehouse Midrange (Ghostly) 5
10. VHS or Beta Night on Fire (Astralwerks) 5

Mikael Wood

1. The Streets A Grand DonÕt Come for Free (Vice) 15
2. Kanye West The College Dropout (Roc-a-Fella) 14
3. My Chemical Romance Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (Reprise) 13
4. Ghostface The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam) 12
5. Interpol Antics (Matador) 11
6. Keren Ann Not Going Anywhere (Blue Note) 9
7. Ashlee Simpson Autobiography (Geffen) 8
8. Rilo Kiley More Adventurous (Brute/ Beaute) 7
9. Air Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks) 6
10. Scissor Sisters Scissor Sisters (Universal) 5

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The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
. . . just in the case the album really is dead.

The Year in News (12/9/2009)

The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)

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