Thursday, December 30, 2004

2004's Best Music

1. Pain of Salvation – Be

It's a concept album about the origins of man and deities (without being cheesy) and mixes a sickening amount of musical genres. In other words, it's really, really, really ridiculously good.

2. U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

The critics were right -- it is their best since The Joshua Tree

3. David Ryan Harris - Soulstice

The bastard offspring of Prince, Jeff Buckley and pop rock bands like The Goo-goo Dolls, the former Follow For Now frontman's latest solo release has songs that can put a smile on your face ("getyourway") or set the mood.

4. Brian Wilson - SMILE!

No, it may not quite be Pet Sounds, but the rumors are true, the mad genius finally got out of bed and 40 years later this is the best pure pop album in years.

5. Fantomas – Delirium Cordia

Easily the best album to scare yourself (and anyone else who might be listening) while listening to of 2004, Delirium Cordia seems to be far more a “Mike Patton project” than anyone else in Fantomas—gone are the crazed speedmetal bursts (mostly) from the band’s previous albums. Instead we get something that sounds like a soundtrack to a very, very disturbing horror movie.

6. Fates Warning - FWX

Yeah, it continues with the “Pink Floyd on ‘roids” sound that Fates has been working on since A Pleasant Shade Of Grey, but they’re damn good at it. They make a 10/8 time signature groove in “Simple Human” and “A Handful of Doubt” may be one of the best hard rock songs you’ll never hear on radio.

7. Dream Theater - Live at Budokan

Non musicians may want to ignore this and just go buy a regular DT album, because three discs of this could be guitar/keyboard solo overload. To me, what made this album was the rearrangement of Hollow Years—easily the best thing on the album and full of great playing and varied dynamics (which much of DT’s last studio album lacked).

8. Dillinger Escape Plan – Miss Machine

Sadly Mike Patton isn’t involved, but DEP’s latest (and first full-length since their debut) is still some of the sickiest playing around. Musically it’s practically aural cocaine—I can be faced with a long drive, have had almost no sleep and popping this CD in and turning up the volume is like…well let’s just say a rush (I’m being civil in case certain folks who are no longer speaking to me and have moved far away read this).

9. Drive By Truckers – The Dirty South

Maybe not quite as fun as seeing them in concert, this album would be the one to play for anyone who thinks all southern rock is happy “Sweet home alabama” ripoffs. Worth it for “tornados” and “Puttin People on the moon” alone.

10. Friday Night Lights Soundtrack

Explosions In the Sky are some really talented guys from Texas who make instrumentals that do an amazing job of taking you—with only some guitars, bass and drums—to the “wide open spaces” of the world. On this soundtrack they get some strings to help…given the band’s previous output this combo could have been really great, but it’s still amazing and I can always blame the mild shortcomings (it’s not quite as dynamic-rich as previous EITS albums) on Billy Bob.

11. Fabolous – Real Talk/Lloyd Banks – The Hunger For More

One is the album that combined intricate rhymes and killer hooks with floor-shaking beats in the way I’d hoped Eminem’s album would (but didn’t)…the other is the debut from the most talented member of G-Unit and features some of the catchiest hip-hop heard in clubs and on radio that didn’t involve Lil’ Jon or Kanye West.

12. Marillion - Marbles

This one is worth it for the final track on the first disc "Ocean Cloud" alone, but there's plenty of other good stuff here too. For the unfamiliar, Marillion is (die-hard fans don't behead me for this) more or less a modern day Pink Floyd (they're English too!). The album is also notable for it's release strategy: the band sold copies from their website and the primary source for sales (and likely will make far more per CD than they ever would stocking 1 or 2 copies in your local BestBuy).

Honorable Mentions:

Jeff Buckley – Grace (Reissue)
It kicks plenty of musical ass, but isn't really a "new" release.

Coheed and CambriaIn Keeping Secrets of A Silent Earth 3
Originally came out in 2003, but I didn't hear it until later and have been playing the hell out of it lately. That faux-50s harmonies bridge in "Blood Red Summer" is the catchiest thing 99x has played in years.

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