Recap: The Records Of The Year, 2004

24 Dec 2004

the futureheads, franz, the killers, the libertines, le tigre, squarepusher, trencher, the shins, dizzee, nick cave, beastie boys, coxon... and many more. and the year's finer single-releases and events assessed. it's been a grand one, world.

In the highest-selling year ever for records in the UK - proving that the Internet is helping record-labels no end, the cretins - it's only apt that we were dealt a host of classics from all across the spectrum. As per last year's peculiar figure, below are the rockfeedback writers' most notable, 73 records of 2004. Peruse, and be enlightened.

image22-20s - '22-20s': Young guitar-slinger Martin Trimble and gang live up to the exultant promise of their live shows (and '05/03' live EP), turning out a sharp, focused blues-rock masterpiece for their debut LP - see especially: 'Such A Fool', 'Why Don't You Do It For Me?' and 'I Am The One'.

imageAIR - 'TALKIE WALKIE': Released right at the start of the year, Air bagged the chance to first-hand swoon the world with their angelic, not so subtly Serge Gainsbourg-harking ambient pop before any other band could steal the thunder. What resulted was one of the grandest, melting, trippy delights we'd set our ears on in recent times.

imageASH - 'MELTDOWN': Going rock once more provided Ash with an invigorated, new lease on life, and a real chance to finally slay the States - while cunningly still brandishing the same, skewed pop acumen that made their prior 'Free All Angels' LP so commercially and critically revered. Good work, boys and girl.

imageAUF DER MAUR - 'AUF DER MAUR': So, she's still finding her feet publicly, but when in the company of Josh Homme and Chris Goss, there's far worse ways to get on with it. Melissa Auf Der Maur exudes the sort of sensuous showmanship that makes the greats, and is slowly, and quite rockingly, finding the songs to back it up.

imageBEASTIE BOYS - 'TO THE 5 BOROUGHS': Understandably treated with caution for being just a hip hop record (when we're used to a proper, rambling head-f**k of an album from these guys), worries were laid to rest with the realisation that if anyone is allowed to strip it back to just the beats and rhymes, it'd be these boys. Stark, political and considered, the Beasties' first offering in over six years felt as if it had something to fight for besides its right to party.

imageBETA BAND - 'HEROES TO ZEROES': It's a tragic title, yet somehow fitting. With the band splitting up this year after many moons of 'underachieving' (you're a top-30 band that can play to thousands, lads; just what's the problem?), 'Heroes...' is the Scots' grand, saddening departure. It's aloft with their most expansive and warming matter to date - bold, gleaming brass, pop songs, and all.

imageBJORK - 'MEDULLA': No guitars. Oh no, no, no. No piano either, oh dear no; none of that. Another mainstay of end-of-year polls, due to her consistent inventiveness and uncanny ability to re-invent her(s)elf completely album after album, whilst still being herself. When teaming up with Mike Patton and Rahzel, this LP is stellar in its splendour and timelessness. Our modern day David Bowie?

imageBADLY DRAWN BOY - 'ONE PLUS ONE IS ONE': In his last album for XL Recordings, BDB continued to silence us with wistful, understated beauty. Returning to the lo-fi restrains of his earlier work, 'One Plus One...' is a warm, potently sparse and altogether more refined work from the hatted wanderer.

imageDEVANDRA BANHART - 'REJOICING IN THE HANDS...' : Mmm... It's a sight to behold. A timeless (what a horribly overused term) folk record and/or disjointed, beautified mess. If he's not bigger than shepherd's pie in 2005 then the world is at some very, very serious odds with itself.

imageTHE BEES - 'FREE THE BEES': Do the chicken. Monkey back. Phrases you'll know and adore if you 'Free'-d' the Isle Of Wight combo earlier this year. An LP of doo-wop, sixties rock 'n' roll, trumpet-parping abandon and classic songwriting that's made this lot a grander, more substantial and intriguing cult than Scientology in a bloody short amount of time.

imageBIFFY CLYRO - 'INFINITY LAND': The noisy expera-punk threesome continues to rise and rise. On account of 'Infinity Land', the scope is endless: a band able to combine both raw tension and compelling songcraft, in structures so earth-shatteringly complex, grotesque and massive, your mind is at risk from implosion.

imageBLONDE REDHEAD - 'MISERY IS A BUTTERFLY': The kick-start to the art-Goth movement. Intelligent arrangements of necRomantic beauty. Illusive ghosts walking through the walls in your mind. Tim Burton's wildest fantasy.

imageNICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS - 'ABATTOIR BLUES' / 'THE LYRE OF ORPHEUS': When one is never enough. Two albums. Two CDs. One genius. And a fantastical set of backers. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds mark one of those acts you severely doubt could get better. And then he chucks our way 'Abattoir Blues' / 'The Lyre Of Orpheus'. Both as inversely foreboding yet striking as anything else that's been previously deemed his 'finest yet'.

imageCLAYHILL - 'SMALL CIRCLE': Bands like Clayhill are often doomed to obscurity; their songs sound so nice that the lyrical interpreters won't listen quite properly, while they're just edgy enough to be kept away from some corruptive, mainstream action. The problem is they're ideal for both; 'Small Circle' is a perfected work of melody and lyricism - so listen up; justice won't keep itself y'know.

imageTHE CONCRETES - 'THE CONCRETES': Intricately pretty, Swedish sounds from a band that numbers eight members. Or, nine, if you count sometime-contributor and producer, Jari. It makes for a truly sumptuous coalition. Amply, exhaustingly beautiful melodies and siren-like vocals hover over waltzes and ballads that'll heat the very cockles of your swiftly beating heart.

imageGRAHAM COXON - 'HAPPINESS IN MAGAZINES': The working title of 'No More Mr. Lo-Fi' perhaps wouldn't have looked as snappy, but it sure would have summed up this collection of hard-hitting pop songs rather well. With Stephen Street at the controls and Coxon breaking up the tunes with brilliant squall.

imageDEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 - 'YOU'RE A WOMAN, I'M A MACHINE': Leave it to the Canadians to turn out the anti-White Stripes, eh? Jesse F. Keeler plays bass and synths; Sebastien Grainger is a singing drummer. They supposedly met in prison, are definitely signed to trendy f**kers Vice, and unequivocally produce a grinding, guitar-less, ear-ringing racket.

imageDELAYS - 'FADED SEASIDE GLAMOUR': The most 'fey'-perceived indie act of 2004 also happens to be the strangest - tracks contained parping, bright samples and extraordinary arrangements that few bettered in way of melodic slant throughout late. 'IT'S BEEN A LOOOONG TIME COMING... A LOOONG TIME COMING HOME... CAN YOU SEE ME REEEEELING?' And in the aforementioned single, Delays had won our hearts for good.

imageDIZZEE RASCAL - 'SHOWTIME': The kid does it again. 'Showtime' was altogether less immediate than its predecessor - and breakthrough, 'Boy In Da Corner' - but through his most crossover effort to date, 'Stand Up Tall', and even more enhanced breadth of lyrical furrows, down 'n' dirty Dizzee still purveys a force to be reckoned with.

imageDOGS DIE IN HOT CARS - 'PLEASE DESCRIBE YOURSELF': Why Scotland's' true answer to Talking Heads (no, not Franz) didn't usurp 2004 remains a wonder, but their 'Please Describe Yourself' record unfurls a quintet both eloquent and daft. Via 'Apples & Oranges', 'Lounger' and the irrepressible 'Paul Newman's Eyes', DDIHC rewrote the quota for what constitutes 'worthy UK pop'.

imageTHE EARLIES - 'THESE WERE...': No chance of this becoming a 'lost' album. The Earlies perhaps constitute one of the more captivating unearthings to have found their way into our '04 - this compilation of the band's indie releases to date is akin to a subtly hushed orchestra, with the equivalent of a thousand lullabies crammed into each loving tune; psychedelia with a pinch of soul rarely rears such fineries.

imageTHE EIGHTIES MATCHBOX B-LINE DISASTER - 'THE ROYAL SOCIETY': Following their ten-song/twenty-five minute debut 'LP', Eighties Matchbox return in full throttle and fine arsenal with their second opus. More rigidly produced this time round, the tunes come thick and fast ('Rise Of The Eagles') and - thrillingly - just when it really gets a bit much, EMB-LD still show few signs of relenting.

imageEINSTURZENDE NEUBAUTEN - 'PERPETUUM MOBILE': Far from the token experimental industrial German band in the list, 'Perpetuum Mobile' was a unique take on music itself. The ethic of 'if it goes 'clunk', we'll hit it' paid off admirably, but the true genius of it was making these otherworldly sounds into something bizarrely soothing.

imageELECTRELANE - 'THE POWER OUT': Candidate for the most criminally overlooked record of 2004, 'The Power Out' was a triumph that saw Electrelane experiment with choirs, cute stabs at dance and some of the most edgy, heartbreaking honesty of any love songs in years.

imageELLA GURU - 'THE FIRST ALBUM': The whisper. It's as if the world had forgotten that you can turn the volume up on something quiet, and that it doesn't have to be loud to start with. However you listen to Ella Guru it will be as if they're just beside your eardrums, murmuring melodious mutterings that seep into and soothe your soul.

imageEMBRACE - 'OUT OF NOTHING': A glorious, two-fingered musical salute to the big City hipsters searching in vain for the next faux-decadent, faux-insurrectionary East London rascal-popsters, Embrace stormed back into the nation's collective consciousness with a number-one album bursting at the seams with heart and passion, and in 'Ashes' one of their best ever singles. Being uncool was never so much fun.

imageJERRY FISH & THE MUDBUG CLUB - 'BE YOURSELF': Jerry Fish has purveyed his craft long and hard over the years amid various set-ups, but none seemed more fitting than his debuting this year of his Mudbug Club and its spectacularly formed 'Be Yourself'.

imageFRANZ FERDINAND - 'FRANZ FERDINAND': Obvious choice for album of the year in every mag poll going. Not since David Byrne and his curious chums has skinny-tied, post-punk peculiarity with tunes to spare been lapped up so voraciously by an eager public. Also contained, in the form of the ubiquitous 'Take Me Out' one of 2004's best singles. Aye, it was just like the old days - except louder. And with, y'know, tunes.

imageTHE FUTUREHEADS - 'THE FUTUREHEADS': You know when you go shopping for second-hand records, and you find an obscure post-punk album that you initially buy just because you like the type of paper that the cover's printed on, only to go home and find it's the most enjoyable romp your ears have had since you bought a turntable. In twenty-five years, this will still be that orgy in your ears.

imageTHE GOLDEN VIRGINS - 'SONGS OF PRAISE': A powerful new force, that could go anywhere from here, fortuitously lacking ties to any 'scene'. The LP glows with invention, backed up with a solid knowledge of guitar trickery. 'Renaissance Kid' should be adopted as every indie kid's anthem, and don't get us started on the disco-noir classic-in-waiting that is 'I Am A Camera'... the hottest band of 2004, and yet easily the most unnoticed.

imageGOLDIE LOOKIN' CHAIN - 'GREATEST HITS': 'Dripping with charm, style and panache/He'll leave you sore like a venereal rash.' Just like their dress-sense, GLC's DIY Welsh stoner rap tends towards the, erm, idiosyncratic. A laugh-out-loud funny collection of smutty odes to roller discos, firearms and ladies with willies. You knows it.

imageGREEN DAY - 'AMERICAN IDIOT': Not so much a comeback as a full-on resurrection, Green Day upped the stakes on their politically charged and furious 'American Idiot' concept LP. It's rich with the trio's strongest anthems thus far, let alone the sort of inspired yet still-accessible commentary that their twatty contemporaries are too bloody twatty to attempt.

imageED HARCOURT - 'STRANGERS': A man whose plaintive piano meanderings and timely death-rock-outs continue to compel, yet at last find themselves at a more considered pace on a third album proper. Dedicated to that special someone in his life, Ed H addresses the past ('Born In The 70s'), the present ('This One's For You'), and the future ('Kids') in a demeanour and calibre that's both besotted with melodic charm and continuing to fervently push the limits.

imageHAR MAR SUPERSTAR - 'THE HANDLER': It's becoming a routine: Har Mar seems a dab hand at providing us with that most guilty of entertainment; disco-funk-pop with a cheesy danceability quotient that requires the turning of all dials to 11. And, slags that we are, we must confess to loving it. If only all things in life were as easy as Har Mar.

imagePJ HARVEY - 'UH HUH HER': Towards the end of this year, Polly told us that her live-career is over. If not a wind-up, it's a blinding shame. As would it be if this proved her swansong. Returning to lo-fi, songs are stark, muddy, blues-based in an almost purist sense, and thus make for her most aggressive in some years. Somehow, though, despite the grit and spit, we still fancy her rotten.

imageTHE HIDDEN CAMERAS - 'MISSISSAUGA GODDAM': Following on just a year after the Canadian collective's classic debut - 'The Smell Of Our Own' - 'Mississauga...' was - welcomingly - more of the same; witty, church-based, gay folk music. And in eccentric leader Joel Gibb, The Hidden Cameras' star is surely never likely to shift.

imageTHE HIVES - 'TYRANASARUS HIVES': The band's only coherent, full-length album perhaps, what 'Tyrannosaurus Hives' lacked in impact upon its initial release, it made up for in spawning yet another two classic 'Ives tunes, 'Two Timing Touch & Broken Bones' and 'Walk Idiot Walk': soundtracking football-match goal playbacks and telly ad's everywhere.

imageHOPE OF THE STATES - 'THE LOST RIOTS': Not so much a mere 'album' as a soundtrack to the revolution. 'The Lost Riots' is rife with Sam Herlihy's uplifting sloganeering (the phrases 'People, come on' and 'Come on, people' are both used at various intervals amidst its duration), intense string arrangements, and the sort of elevating aural experimenting we've not heard since Yorke last hammered a tambourine or did that robot dance of his.

imageINTERPOL - 'ANTICS': A progression from the marvellous debut, this was the daybreak after the thick, foggy night of 'Turn On The Bright Lights', and whilst not exactly happy clappy, Interpol showed they could do uplifting even better than they did gloom with a collection of genuinely affecting melodramas based on day-to-day characters. And the magnificent 'Slow Hands' could fill an indie-disco dancefloor at ten paces.

imageKASABIAN - 'KASABIAN': Proof positive that triumphant lad-rock never really goes out of fashion, the Leicester boys' sheer joie de vivre merits a place on this list straight off. Mixing the Chemical Brothers' disregard for genre, Primal Scream's politicking and Shaun Ryder-esque lyricism ('A polyphonic prostitute, the motor's on fire/Messiah for the animals', anyone?) 'Kasabian' stands proudly as one of the year's most snotty entrances.

imageKEANE - 'HOPES AND FEARS': They had just as many foaming at the mouth at their lack of rock n' roll hipness as they their swooning along to their staggeringly adroit, sweepingly elegant pop music, but if Keane can follow this classic debut with a second album that's anywhere near as good, the naysayers' gnashings will continue to prove ineffectual.

imageTHE KILLERS - 'HOT FUSS': Interpol's impish, young cousins, the Las Vegas foursome instead provide shiny, Cure-infused, Wall-Of-Sound synth-pop glistening with all the showbiz élan of their hometown. And they're probably the only band we'll let get away with unnecessarily re-releasing a single that was already a hit single ('Somebody Told Me'). Simply because it's so ace.

imageKINGS OF CONVENIENCE - 'RIOT ON AN EMPTY STREET': Erlend Oye - fine by himself. But when partnered in his original guise - whoa. The Scando twosome continue to (almost silently) compel with rich tapestries of entwining acoustics and slight vocals as collectively serene as the prospect of tripping over and finding a gasmask during an unanticipated nuclear blast.

imageMARK LANEGAN BAND - 'BUBBLEGUM': In the year that Queens of the Stone Age fell to pieces, Lanegan flew solo and created a masterpiece, ably assisted by the likes of Polly Harvey. Songs of smack and attack, 'Bubblegum' is set to become a cult classic, and rears the voice of a troubled man whose tales enrapture us all too powerfully.

imageSONDRE LERCHE - 'TWO WAY MONOLOGUE': Quietly accomplished, second album from everyone's favorite Norwegian singer-songwriter, which fuses the tones of Nick Drake and later-period Beatles into twelve lush yet fragile tracks.

imageLE TIGRE - 'THIS ISLAND': Pop songs about war and butch lesbianism had to happen eventually. Luckily, in Le Tigre's most accessible move yet, it was a party political broadcast with 'party' very much the operative word.

imageLIARS - 'THEY WERE WRONG, SO WE DROWNED': Much-hyped, second album, which finds Liars taking on the genre they'd been pigeon-holed in (early '80s dance-rock) in the only way they know how: by zigging when everyone else zags. 'Brilliantly unlistenable' on first encounter, it's a noisefest that eventually reveals true depth.

imageTHE LIBERTINES - 'THE LIBERTINES': 'I'll take you anywhere/I can't take you anywhere...' The good ship continues its stormy sails, yet could well be forced to harbour amidst all these torturous climes. '04 will be remembered as the year that not only the Shoreditch kids and leather-jacketers fell in love with the London foursome - so did the rest of us. Music-hall, pub-spawned knees-up's, rowdy, incensed punk - The Libs are as multifarious and adept at a tune as they come.

imageCASS MCCOMBS - 'A': With the identifiable earnestness of a true, weeping solo star - good hair - McCombs also managed to enchant us with 'A': a record so littered with fragile paeans to confusion, depression and trips to hospitals that we wanted to adopt Cass and attempt to cheer the poor lad up.

imageMCLUSKY - 'THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ME & YOU IS THAT I'M NOT ON FIRE': Being a million times more obnoxious, hard-edged and crucially more catchy than anything they'd done before, Mclusky had mastered hooks on this one - and hooks in the proper sense of being able to pierce flesh.

imageMORRISSEY - 'YOU ARE THE QUARRY': Fabulously unlikely comeback for Manchester's perennial mopester in the form of possibly his best work since The Smiths' heyday. With a storming treatise on British cultural identity, 'Irish Blood, English Heart' storming the top-five earlier in the year, the LP itself was droll, topical, poignant, dazzling: quite simply, classic Moz.

imageTHE MUSIC - 'WELCOME TO THE NORTH': 'WTTN' cemented Kippax's position the standard-bearers of the northern rock lineage bequeathed to them by The Stone Roses, Oasis, The Verve et al whilst transcending their provincial baggy/dance-rock influences and adding a spiritualist twist to become something quite colossal.

imagePOLLY PAULUSMA - 'SCISSORS IN MY POCKET': The girl's got it, alright. Up to the eyeballs in sass and soul, Paulusma deserves love - firstly, for 'Scissors...' being One Little Indian's other incredible release this year (see also: Bjork - 'Medulla'), and - secondly - for bearing that name.

imageTHE RADIO DEPT - 'LESSER MATTERS': Recorded in a bedroom, Sweden's The Radio Dept. and their first significant overseas record is the stuff of dreams. Arrangements so cautiously crafted and voices so eminently alluring that we can only sit back and ponder how it gets any better. A clue: it doesn't.

imageRAZORLIGHT - 'UP ALL NIGHT': His haircut may well prove the most frustrating in recent years, but there's no denying the finesse and ease with which Johnny Borrell has greeted his stardom. Though 'Up All Night' occasionally falters through way of lyrical slump, its sheer determination - piloted by Borrell's intense drive - and couple o' classics ('Golden Touch'; 'Stumble & Fall') earn it a spot as one of the year's most compulsive releases.

imageREM - 'AROUND THE SUN': Their most elegiac, sparse album in years, politically frustrated and introspectively languid. It may have seemed a minor regression after several latter-day attempts to muster still-winning pop singles, but REM continue to deserve the most distinguished of plaudits for their resounding hatred to provide what's expected of them.

imageSCISSOR SISTERS - 'SCISSOR SISTERS': The Village People's days as synonymous camp icons became numbered, thanks to this scantily dressed and severely horny five-piece. The token, pop inclusion? Nah. Scissor Sisters were more, and formed the biggest, overground resurgence in (almost-)disco in years.

imageSECRET MACHINES - 'NOW HERE IS NOWHERE': Three's a crowd. Or at least sounds like a crowd in this case. What's most refreshing with Secret Machines is the complete lack of attention to convention - instruments are swapped, arrangements exceed the eight-minute mark, and there's the whole, overriding, unsettling sense that they're somehow getting away with playing prog and yet we're not complaining. Genius.

imageTHE SHINS - 'CHUTES TOO NARROW': 'It's A Shame About Ray' collides with the Beach Boys over at Mercury Rev's summer-house. Perhaps as good as the art of proper, intelligent, baffling and beautiful songwriting got all year, 'Chutes...' had studied the rulebook and thrown most of it out of the window (hitting a passing Brian Wilson on the head). Perfect pop.

imageELLIOTT SMITH - 'FROM A BASEMENT ON THE HILL': If a claim for a more poignant, heartbreaking album of the last twelve months was put forward, we'd throw this in your face. And watch you crumble. Prior to (and now after) his suicide, Smith always seemed a tortured soul, but now you can hear it in his last breaths. They're beautiful and so severely human, it scares us. If you're not blubbering like a baby, you're probably soulless.

imageSNOW PATROL - 'FINAL STRAW': Who could have predicted that these endearing yet perennially-underachieving indie classicists would have been responsible for one of the biggest records of the year? An admirable singles yield ('Spitting Games', 'Chocolate', 'How To Be Dead' and the all-conquering 'Run') ensured Snow Patrol's promotion from Division 2 drudgery to Premiership majesty.

imageSONIC YOUTH - 'SONIC NURSE': Youthful? No. Overflowing with ideas, hooks and sounds the like of which you've never heard before? Hell yes. The rumours of this being almost as good as 'Daydream Nation' weren't exaggerated; 'Sonic Nurse' is one of the most shining pieces of work in an already dazzling collection.

imageREGINA SPEKTOR - 'SOVIET KITSCH': Horrific front cover. Lumped in with the 'quirky somethings'. Thankfully sounds nothing like a 'F(r)iends' episode but an expressionist dream-scape of cancer and romance. Essential; the only rockfeedback-voted album to be featured in two annual wrap-up polls (last year for its US release; this year for its UK release).

imageSQUAREPUSHER - 'ULTRAVISITOR': Part-live, 'Ultravisitor' is the ultimate Warp album; a record steeped in entrancing loops, splutters, beeps and electronic squawks, only giving way here and there to some jittering, mildly macabre noise the likes of Autechre would mess their kecks over.

imageCANDI STATON - 'CANDI STATON': Damon Albarn's 'vanity' label Honest Jon's unearths a true classic: twenty-six tracks of astounding soul music, never before on CD, that belt, boogie and do Aretha Franklin proud.

imageTHE STILLS - 'LOGIC WILL BREAK YOUR HEART': A fair old avalanching of 80s synths, chiming guitars and Tim Fletcher's yearning vocal introversion, enlaced with songs that simply quiver in their own majesty. The Stills may ply a trade best known in a previous era, yet presently maintain a sophisticated flair that few possess.

imageTHE STREETS - 'A GRAND DON'T COME FOR FREE': This year saw the improbable return of the concept album: along with Green Day, Mike Skinner saw it fit to reappear with a story-within-a-record. But 'AGDCFF' was about as far removed from the bloated, self-serving rock operas of the 70s as is possible. A brilliant saga of love lost and kebabs consumed in metropolitan Britain in the 21st century, it gave us the opportunity to bellow along to 'Fit But You Know it' as the summer approached and cry along to 'Dry Your Eyes' as the England football team crashed out of Euro 2004. As the chavs prepared to inherit the earth, Mike was on hand to provide them with the ultimate soundtrack.

imageTHE THRILLS - 'LET'S BOTTLE BOHEMIA': Mournfully overlooked, The Thrills' second album bears undoubtedly some of the quintet's finest tunes to date - whether singles 'Whatever Happened...?' or 'Not For All The Love...', or the winning wash of trippy sixties beatnikism, 'Found My Rosebud'.

imageTRENCHER - 'WHEN DRACULA THINKS 'LOOK AT ME": Casio Grind Core. Under fifteen minutes long. Which means you can listen to it twice in the time it takes for those fat Beach Boys to negotiate 'Chutes Too Narrow'. Eczema all over your groin. Nasty, aggravating, and the perfect way to unhinge the OAP's in the queue for the Post Office.

imageTV ON THE RADIO - 'DESPERATE YOUTH, BLOOD THIRSTY BABES': Soul-rock fusion that scooped the Shortlist Music Prize this year - the US answer to Blighty's oft slated Mercury Music Prize. Theirs was an inspired coalition of influences - funk, jazz, punk - and, as such, won the outfit the prestigious rockfeedback gong of 'newcomers in '04 most likely to span a decade-long career. At least'.

imageVHS OR BETA - 'NIGHT ON FIRE': Kentucky-ians VHS or Beta hone their explosive live show into a major-label debut that's funky yet rocking, and thoroughly enticing throughout. Think Daft Punk and Led Zep filtered through Duran Duran and you've got the right place to start.

imageTOM WAITS - 'REAL GONE': Behind the human beatboxing, his son on turntables and what seemed like the noise of a passing train panned hard left and right in the headphones, this contained some of the most beautiful songs Waits has ever written. And in thirty-three years, that's saying something.

imageTHE ZUTONS - 'WHO KILLED THE...?' : Abi Harding surely made many chauv. fellows' 'top bint' lists during the annum, but the band's debut album wasn't so bad either. One of the better sellers in the year - shifting over 400,000 in Britain alone - 'Who Killed...?' was in equal parts sinister, euphoric, romantic and ebulliently harking back to all the old greats, whether Motown, skiffle, or salacious schmindie.

Compiled By: Tim Dellow / Tom Hannan / Toby L / Joshua K / Kevin Molloy

Next Page: Tim Dellow's charting of the finer single-releases - and additional, key events - of 2004.

SINGLES AND MISC>>> Bloc Party - 'She's Hearing Voices'This year has seen a reinvigoration of smaller formats, and - a la punk in '77 - it's where a lot of the key people of the future lurk.

Firstly, and I've got to get this out of the way. The stuff that I've put out on Trash Aesthetics and Transgressive Records (Oh, for f**k's sake - Shameful Plug Ed). BLOC PARTY's singles are essential. You've missed out of the first two now ('She's Hearing Voices' on Trash / 'Banquet' on Moshi Moshi), but they're available on a tasty import EP and are worth seeking out; the other two are still out on Wichita and the album 'Silent Alarm' is the record of next year. Trust me.

Elsewhere, THE RAKES led the way for the deluge of London bands. And, with ART BRUT's 'We Formed A Band', are the only items you really need from this collective. Vital for reminding us that we can DIY and get people's attention.

THE SUBWAYS, oh la la! The perfect conclusion of this whole Garage scene, rounding it off nicely as the perfect encapsulation of its values and bunging in a f**kload of noisy grunge and teenage kicks. LADYFUZZ, out early next year; mates/collaborators of Bloc Party and TOM VEK (his 'If You Want': another essential single for its audacity to make something fresh of the slap bass).

Then - by others - there's NINE BLACK ALPS, also part of that neo-grunge Gravy Train, and CHARLOTTEFIELD's astounding live tape (yes, that's cassette-tape, check out Victory Garden Records). Noisestar Records have been putting out some glorious live recorded 12"'s - which include QUERELLE, THE WOW and some tossers called SHIP'S A GOING DOWN. They also released a glorious 3" EP of a band called PRINCESS HEADBUTT.

Mini-album wise, COVE's record on Jonson Family/Unlabel is a must for all you Slint fans, and YOUTH MOVIE SOUNDTRACK STRATEGIES wowed us into submission by playing with Mission of Burma AND Busted. THE EDMOND FITZGERALD have also been kicking the crap out of that post-hardcore horse and REDJETSON have continued to fight the good fight.

Reforming was cool for a change, too. GANG OF FOUR; PIXIES; TELEVISION (again); MC5 and, er, QUEEN (with Paul Rodgers, ex-Free) all flew the flag in this respect.

And some of the '04 debutants that will molest and ravage our impending months? THE MAGIC NUMBERS, whose 'Hymn For Her' and numerous rockfeedback live-gigs this year will live on in hearts and minds forever more; MYSTERY JETS with their barmy prog-pop fumblings; while - to be observed - the terrifying continuation / conclusion / collision of PETE DOHERTY swinging between his Babyshambles, whose fine first efforts were unleashed this year via Rough Trade and High Society, and much-beloved The Libs.

Here's to next year.

Tim Dellow

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