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BLACK LIVES MATTER! ×
BLACK LIVES MATTER!

Buy, steal or borrow these albums


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GQ magazine picks the ten best albums of 2004, from Kanye West to Loretta Lynn.

By BRIAN RAFTERY

How weird was the year in music? Let's put it this way: For the first time since someone was in the kitchen with Dinah, a good chunk of the albums on our top-ten list rominently feature...a banjo. Thanks to the iPod and its shuffle-crazed, 'anything goes' delivery method, we're not only accustomed to incongruous sounds rubbing up against each other, we expect it. So it only makes sense that our record roundup includes everything from Christian folk to disco to jazz-inflected rap and is topped by a guy who combined every style imaginable—hip-hop, soul, even a little bit of country—to craft an album that has played nonstop for almost a year...

1. Kanye West

The College Dropout

America pretty much gets the rapper it deserves, whether it's Ice-T during his Reagan-era pimped-out phase or Puff Daddy in all of his fur-coated, Cristal-brandishing late-'90s glory. So it seems fitting that this year saw the rise of West, a rapper-producer-fashion plate whose appeal lies not only in his tenacious choruses but also in his ability to articulate our schizo mind-set. Just about every song on Dropout is a study in contrasts: He'll don Versace and brag about his skills, only to admit it's all just to mask his insecurities; he'll pray to God, even though he knows his faith has lapsed; and he'll worry for the children, though what he really, really wants is to buy that $10,000 watch. Who among us can't relate to such confused priorities? Dropout is full of inner conflict, not to mention a seemingly limitless collection of singles—'Jesus Walks,' 'All Falls Down,' 'Slow Jamz,' 'Through the Wire'—that toss off playful rhymes with loose-limbed ease (Couldn't afford a car / So she named her daughter Alexis). It's the album of the year, hands down, and considering that radio is still only five tracks in, it's not going anywhere soon.

2. The arcade fire

Funeral

What is it about Canada that's breeding so many great bands? Is it the ample arts funding? The eye-gouging boredom? Whatever the reason, Montreal's Arcade Fire is the latest stunning collective to emerge from up north, and with Funeral—an ambitious union of symphonic grace and stirring anger—they've crafted the year's most memorable debut.

3. Madvillain

Madvillainy

While most contemporary hip-hop albums sound as though they were devised in some teched-out, marble white Miami mansion-slash-laboratory, Madvillainy—a collaboration between sleepy-voiced lyricist MF Doom and sludge sampler Madlib—is as limber as the jazz riffs it hijacks. And it's hard to imagine a tune as head-noddingly good as 'All Caps.'

4. Modest Mouse

Good news for people who love bad news

So this is what you get after ten years of flea-bitten, road-tripping backstage sparring and enough boozing to shock Andy Capp: a feel-good hit single that doesn't dumb itself down ('Float On') and a platinum-selling record. Good for them, but seriously—how the fuck did this happen? Modest Mouse scanning at Best Buy is like Ralph Nader taking Texas.

5. A.C. Newman

The Slow Wonder

It was an iffy year for Kinks fans. On one hand, Ray Davies got shot, and Dave Davies had a mild stroke; on the other, A.C. Newman released The Slow Wonder, A collection of pure pop for now people so clever and catchy, it sounds like it could have come straight from Waterloo Sunset. The one record you and your dad will be able to agree on.

6. Loretta Lynn

Van Lear Rose

Not to be too flippant, but everything you need to know about this 69-year-old porch mama's comeback is in the opening lines to the Jack White duet 'Portland Oregon': Well, Portland Oregon, and sloe gin fizz / If that ain't love, then tell me what is. Uh-huh.

7. Ted Leo + The Pharmacists

Shake the Sheets

In a year devoid of memorable protest music, this Clash-inspired collection was a welcome bit of cage rattling. Leo never gets too overtly polemical—a wise move, since nothing really rhymes with 'Condoleezza' anyway. But on songs like 'Walking to Do' and 'The Angels' Share,' he taps into the urgency and anxiety of the past twelve months, and with enough melodic know-how to ensure Sheets won't have to come with an expiration date.

8. Sufjan Stevens

Seven Swans

A strange thing happens with Swans: You get sucked in by all the lulling banjos, and before you know it, you're singing about God! But if any Christian-leaning folksinger is gonna sway the grubby masses, it should be Stevens, who harvests Neil Young's whispered voice and mounting melodies (as on the beautiful six-minute sweep 'Sister') to create the perfect Sunday-afternoon soundtrack. Just make sure you're on your way back from church.

9. Scissor Sisters

Scissor Sisters

Granted, they steal liberally from Elton John on the winking hit 'Take Your Mama.' But at least these campy fashionistas have the good taste to also lift from the likes of the Bee Gees ('Tits on the Radio') and Bowie ('Lovers in the Backseat'), all the while still sounding like nothing else in the club. Scissor is an instant party; if you can't shake it to this, you may as well saw off your legs. Or buy a Switchfoot album. Same difference.

10. Drive-by Truckers

The Dirty South

In a year that saw Lynyrd Skynyrd shilling for the RNC (lame!), the Truckers restored southern rock's good name with a sweaty batch of defiant anthems ('Never Gonna Change') and stare-at-the-stars ballads ('Goddamn Lonely Love'). Your only chance to convert that Porsche into a pickup.

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"' In a year devoid of memorable protest music, this Clash-inspired collection was a welcome bit of cage rattling. Leo never gets too overtly polemical—a wise move, since nothing really rhymes with 'Condoleezza' anyway "....

:lol::lol::lol::lol: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

Edited by kiwibank
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