Best Albums of 2004

Dec 082004
Authors: Casey Cisneros, Nicholas LoFaro

The Roots, "The Tipping Point"

By far, the best work from Black Thought and company to date. The Roots have stayed true to their fan base and their sound, and they have consequently become one of the most revolutionary bands in hip-hop. The group's fusion of tricky bass and guitar lines, combined with the contagious beats of drummer ?uestlove and Black Thought's prophetic, political, and pervasive lyrics help to show that The Roots are artists ahead of the mainstream but will prevail in the underground.

Incubus, "A Crow Left of the Murder"

Incubus has grown since the band's funk-metal days. On "Crow," the band members must have taken some tips from Rush; their sound has refined into clever progressive and harmonious rock 'n' roll. Brandon Boyd's poetic lyrics are at times cynical, but they mostly consist of Boyd's fascination with abstractions from his relationships. Every song comes alive with hyperactive drumbeats, otherworldly guitars and vocal melodies that all work in giving Incubus its definitive and original drive to create rock music.

Kanye West, "The College Dropout"

Kanye West is a household name in music now, but don't let his success divert you from enjoying his hip-hop genius. He has collaborated with more artists than P. Diddy has sampled other people's songs. And the strange thing is, just about every song that West appears on is a hit on the charts and in the world of hip-hop music. Incorporating smart, soulful beats with his trademark, humanizing lyrics, Kanye's version of rap is beyond the glossy window of fame he now looks out through.

Norah Jones, "Feels Like Home"

Ranking in as the only female on this list, Norah Jones' career is well deserved. You know, eight Grammy awards can't be wrong. Rather than dancing on a poll or lip-syncing on a late-night show like far too many contemporary female artists do to ploy their careers, Jones perches behind her piano like a songbird and quietly shares her talent. She is as much a singer as a piano player, and she reveals her whispering charisma hiding behind black and white keys, picking up where Billie Holiday left off.

A Perfect Circle, "eMOTIVe"

Described by Maynard James Keenan as a collection of songs about peace, love, war and greed, "eMOTIVe" not only surprised Circle fans, but also surprised world order. It seems to have been written more as a message than as an album. All the songs, with the exception of two originals, are political cover songs. From the haunting minor keys of John Lennon's "Imagine," to the hard-edged guitars of Devo's "Freedom of Choice," to the transformation of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" from soulful to creepy, A Perfect Circle has managed to stir up the future with some words of the past.

Dizzie Rascal, "Showtime"

Thank Dizzee Rascal for putting the United Kingdom on the hip-hop map. If you follow mainstream hip-hop and are usually chanting hymns of icy grills and ridiculous necklaces, then you are not ready for Dizzee. Definitely check this album out if you are interested in a whole new sound for hip-hop culture. Dizzee Rascal hails from East London and keeps his accent throughout his highly evolved and highly original dance-computer-techno-rap. Don't expect simplistic rhyme flow and beats, but do expect to be in shock because of the album's originality.

Modest Mouse "Good News For People Who Love Bad News"

In between the band's rigorous touring and drinking, Modest Mouse managed to put together the group's most musically diverse and well-produced album ever. This album departs from the six-minute feedback jams of the past but still has powerful poetic lyrics, loaded with the irony of everyday life. Modest Mouse has created an album that has brought about critical acclaim from contemporary music snobs across the United States while maintaining the respect of the group's original fan base.

Wilco "A Ghost is Born"

Although the piano has had somewhat of a comeback in contemporary music recently, Wilco's music departs from the softer melodic easy listening that has become synonymous with the instrument in recent years on the group's new album. On Wilco's new album the piano haunts the listener, sending chills all over the body, and accompanies the rest of the band with authority. Besides the piano, "A Ghost is Born" has every other element of a great album: strong lyrical content, musical diversity and progressive movement throughout the album.

Green Day, "American Idiot"

Say goodbye to the high-school-strung-out teenage anthems, and welcome the new world adult perspectives of grown-up Green Day. On their first album in years, the members of Green Day have created the punk rock opera. The five part "Jesus of Suburbia" tells a narrative of lost youth and dreams in suburban America. Interesting experiments with vocal harmony and pianos add for some depth to the album and although much of the album attacks American leaders and criticizes hypocrisy in the United States, don't worry; there are still plenty of songs that deal with love, self-loathing, and rebellion.

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