50 Albums That Made The Decade – 2004
Franz Ferdinand – S/T (February 9th 2004, Domino Records)
Franz Ferdinand’s eponymous debut was the musical equivalent of an esteemed member of the aristocracy launching a bottle of champagne against a ship; their collection of brooding four-minute tours de force single-handedly relaunched indie as a fashionable, Radio 1 A-List genre after a couple of years in the wilderness. They decorate unashamedly poppy melodies (case in point: the singable guitar hook of breakthrough hit Take Me Out) with devious guitar lines (Jacqueline, This Fire), beastly drumbeats and end-of-the-night vocals from Alex Kapranos (at their sleaziest, and finest, on Matinee and 40 Ft). Franz Ferdinand is a record which has definitely stood the test of time – it still sounds as cool as the day it was released.
Best track – Darts Of Pleasure
Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender (March 23rd 2004, Drag City)
Joanna Newsom’s otherworldly vocals may be an acquired taste, but don’t let that put you off one of the finest leftfield debuts of all time, let alone this decade. Every inch of vulnerability in her delivery on opener Bridges And Balloons is exposed by minimal instrumentation, and the results are utterly beautiful. Each of the dozen songs on this album is a tantalising treat – Cassiopeia’s harp glissandos are beautiful, Inflammatory Writ is a witty romp, and This Side Of The Blue – made semi-famous in an Orange advert, of all places – shows Newsom at the haunting heights of her powers.
Best track - Cassiopeia
Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News (April 6th 2004, Sony Music/Epic Records)
Before wonky pop had even been conceived in a haze of Alphabeat songwriting sessions, there was an indie version (wonky indie? The genre name sounds too wonky itself to catch on). This quirky alternative territory was, and still is, largely owned by Modest Mouse. Isaac Brock’s demented vocal delivery, his typically apocalyptic lyrical content, those endless, echoey, trebly guitar lines (which offered Johnny Marr such a natural home a few years later) and lashings of brass which permeate Good News... make it an essential part of any record collection.
Best track – Float On
The Walkmen – Bows + Arrows (April 26th 2004, Warner Music/Record Collection)
Bows + Arrows has to be one of this decade’s most underrated releases. It’s a shambolic, slightly mad, yet beautiful offering, best exemplified by its opening track What’s In It For Me. Its standout number, The Rat, is a mainstay of indie discos up and down the land by dint of its jagged guitars and vindictive refrain of “# You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favour… #”. Elsewhere on the album, Little House Of Savages and The North Pole are cut from the same cloth. But if it’s contrast you’re after, fix your gaze on New Year’s Eve, its woozy, detuned piano and Hamilton Leithauser’s talk of a faltering relationship make a charming little song.
Best track – The Rat
Hope Of The States – The Lost Riots (June 7th 2004, Sony Music)
The same care and devotion which Hope Of The States put into their limited-edition single releases, bootleg tracks and relationship with their fiercely loyal fanbase was more than apparent on their stunning debut album. There’s plenty of lavish soundscapes like the opening instrumental The Black Amnesias, a sinister hidden track entitled A Crack Up At The Race Riots, and Black Dollar Bills, a melancholy magnum opus led by the piano and Sam Herlihy’s world-weary voice. However, there’s also more traditional, upbeat indie-rock numbers like George Washington, with its hoedown violin, and The Red The White The Black The Blue’s anguished minor-key guitar.
Best track - Goodhorsehymn
Regina Spektor – Soviet Kitsch (August 17th 2004, Shoplifter Records)
Regina’s major label debut is more accessible than 11:11, but is still packed full of the idiosyncratic stories which are a trademark of her early work. Us neatly sums up the dizzying effect of defiant young love, backed by Spektor’s ever-impeccable piano playing. The Ghost Of Corporate Future breathes new life into the oft-recounted tale of a humdrum suit’s existence (and his apparent lack of domestic harmony). The Flowers is moody and melancholy, Poor Little Rich Boy tongue-in-cheek, and Sailor Song fluctuates between sweet’n’cheerful and gloriously bitter. Whatever the story and whatever the occasion, Regina Spektor’s probably got a song about it.
Best track – Ghost Of Corporate Future
65daysofstatic – The Fall Of Math (September 20th 2004, Monotreme Records)
The Fall Of Math offered a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stale indie/rock scene at this point. There’s none quite like 65days, and if we’re talking about national treasures, then they definitely deserve such a high accolade – they’re innovative, talented and each and every one of their soundscapes bristles with barely-tamed energy. The band’s signature track Retreat! Retreat! is one of the highlights of their debut album. It sends shivers down the spine just like an iconic painting or photograph. Other heart-stopping moments include Install A Beat In The Heart..., marrying sparse piano with precision drumming and a plaintive beep, and the anthemnic album closer Aren’t We All Running? A fine introduction to an exceedingly good band.
Best track – This Cat Is A Landmine
Kings Of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak (November 1st 2004, RCA)
Aha Shake Heartbreak is rock’n’roll filth from the days when Kings of Leon had dirty beards, put sexually suggestive pictures of orchids on their album covers and it was actually impossible to work out what Caleb Followill was singing about (as opposed to their most recent offering Only By The Night, where it’s merely almost impossible to work out what he’s singing about). A glorious collection of breakneck rock’n’roll tunes, highlights include Taper Jean Girl (the track from which the album’s title originates), and the single Four Kicks with its ever-so-precise staccato rhythms. There’s the occasional diversion into slower territory, with Day Old Blues doing it best.
Best track – King Of The Rodeo
words: Kate Goodacre
Coming up on 50 Albums That Made The Decade: Belle & Sebastian, Martha Wainwright and more 65days...