The Upstate Life
The Upstate Life

Thursday, December 23, 2004
TUL Presents His Top 10 Albums of 2004, Because You Really Care!

Because it's that time of year where everyone takes a stab at their favorite albums of the past year, The Upstate Life decided it was due time to post his submissions for 2004's best. We had a try at this last year with minimal feedback, and my minimal I really mean none. Then again, I don't even think I had a comment section back in the day when I was a bitter, unemployed college grad living in Upstate New York, so who honestly knows. Now that I'm a partially less bitter, fully employed young professional living in the outskirts of Washington, DC, several of the listed records have made the commute on the Beltway more tolerable (especially when it rains and am forced to travel at the maximum speed of 15 miles per hour). The year of 2004 has certainly brought us more flavors of the month than the latest pint offering from Ben & Jerry's (The Killers, anyone?), however a certain few have stood the test of time and will forever grace TUL's newly acquired iPod. Was that a passionate enough introduction? Felt like I was back in college writing so much shit out of my ass. On to the list!

10) Sondre Lerche - Two Way Monologue

As the only singer-songwriter to make the cut, I hope Mr. Lerche knows the honor that has just bestowed him. There's some great indie pop on this record, like listening to a Sub Pop version of Burt Bacharach. The plentiful use of harmonization and strings makes Two Way Monologue one of those albums where you'll eventually cave in and sing along to while in the car.

9) TIE:

a) The Hives - Tyrannosaurs Hives

One of those records where it kicks you right in the balls and is over before you hit the pavement thriving in pain. Howlin' Pelle Almqvist never loses his swagger throughout the LP's twelve rapid-fire, solid rock tracks. "Antidote" closes out the LP with a shockwave of energy reminiscent of how "Twist and Shout" triumphantly concluded The Beatles debut record. This is how albums should end.

b) Muse - Absolution

The one-two punch of "Apocalypse Please" and "Time is Running Out" is more than enough justification of why Muse's Absolution graces the Top 10. NME's poster boys provide an album full of Brit-Rock so powerful and evocative it's no wonder their live show is so exceptional.

8) Pinback - Summer in Abaddon

I was only introduced to this record a few months ago when I was browsing through my friend's iTunes at his apartment in NYC. He only had a handful of tracks from Summer in Abaddon, but I wanted to hear more of what this band had to offer. So after obtaining the entire LP, I've been hooked ever since. "Fortress" has become one of my most played songs according to Apple's jukebox stats with "This Red Book" trailing not too far behind. It's been a more than welcome addition to TUL's library.

7) The Futureheads - The Futureheads

I almost had to go to the orthopedist due to some serious tendon pain as a result of excessive toe tapping thanks in part to this release. Each tightly structured song (only one track exceeds the three minute mark) carries a beat that'll make you and your hoodie-wearing friends get up and dance. Just be sure to knock out the first person who asks "Hey is this The Cars?"

6) Hollertronix - Never Scared

Though a lot has been said about Diplo's latest offering, Piracy Funds Terrorism Volume 1 w/ M.I.A., I'm more a fan of Never Scared as the epitomic party album, at least of 2004. The DJ's of Philly's Hollertronix, Diplo and Low Budget, effortlessly mashup Ludacris, Soft Cell, Björk, Trick Daddy, The Cars, Hova, and of course J Timbo into one continuous listening experience. The results are some hot jams that'll be sure to get your ass on the dance floor, Hpnotiq in one hand and a 40 in the other.

5) Interpol - Antics

Interpol follows up their breakthrough debut with this sensational sophomore offering. "Evil" is possibly the best track on this record despite the weird-ass video it accompanies. Interpol still has that familiar sound throughout Antics, but it seems a little more evolved this time around. I mean tell me I wasn't the only one who heard a harmony vocal on "Slow Hands"? This is getting interesting.

4) Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News

The Upstate Life certainly did not see it coming. The platinum-selling status, the SNL appearances, it was all too much to take in. I guess that's what happens when you create such an excellent album as Good News. These guys deserve all the success they're receiving right now. From the first time I heard "Bury Me With It", on Carson's Daly craptacular late night show out of all things, I knew it was a definite winner.

3) Brian Wilson - Smile

I'm sure everyone knows by now that I have and always will be a diehard Beatles fan. I was also one of the many eagerly anticipating Brian Wilson's Smile project to finally see the light of day after 30 years of pondering what the supposed Beach Boys masterpiece would sound like. After all, much like how Pet Sounds was a response to Rubber Soul, Smile was crafted as a reply to Revolver, the Beatles' strongest album. Listening to Smile is like taking a time capsule back to the mid-sixties where popular music was approaching its climax. Even though most of the material was penned over three decades ago, it's very much still a fresh breath of air to listen to.

2) The Arcade Fire - Funeral

As 2004 was dwindling down, Montreal's The Arcade Fire delivered Funeral onto the world like Homer Simpson trying to mail in his taxes at the very last minute. However, instead of falling into the Severe Audit bin much like the fate of Mr. Simpson's package, The Arcade Fire rather cashed in with a very big check. It's one of those records that really stand out on their own due to its original sound and lyric. The fact that each track on the record sounds entirely different from each other but yet somehow remains cohesive as a whole is proof enough that this Canadian group knows what they're doing.

1) Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand

One of the few bands to match the hype surrounding them, this album is nearly flawless. Hell, even the B-sides were good! For starters, I still haven't got tired of "Take Me Out." (Sans Daft Punk's horrid remix). These Scottish lads reinvigorated the rock scene by combining catchy hooks and punchy beats, creating a euphoric sound and delivering a terrific debut album. They also put on one of the best live shows in TUL's memory.

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