Apologies for the timeliness this month. We as a staff needed a little extra time to piece together the albums that sat so heavily with us back in 2004. Some of them have resonated over the past eight years, others have been discovered since that time. Regardless, they speak to us in a way that makes this recognition noteworthy. Personally, looking back to my high school graduation (2004, yes), this year is distinctly memorable.
Jarrod Church’s #1 Album – Let It Enfold You by Senses Fail
I began to change my mentality around the time I began college – when it came to a lot of things really. With music particularly, I fixated on the “Warped Tour Regulars.” While I was still a metalhead on the inside, my views expanded. So, I did not completely throw out the hardcore side (which will make an appearance yet again in the later years of the decade, just wait), but it did step back into the shadows a bit. Senses Fail’s monumental release in 2004 was among many great records fitting into the aforementioned “Warped” category, but to me, it was the best among the bunch. Track-for-track, not many will stand up to this one and although SF’s true sound wasn’t recognized until their next release (Still Searching), Let It Enfold You will forever be my favorite (by Senses Fail, that is) from that year.
Jacob Testa’s #1 Album – Catalyst by New Found Glory
I almost chose John Mayer‘s As/Is: Mountain View, CA (7/16/04) this time around, but it seemed a bit redundant with Heavier Things having been the best of 2003. Maybe more importantly, Catalyst is an incredibly underrated album, and I simply couldn’t let it go unnoticed. While it seems that very few consider this to be New Found Glory’s best, I don’t think any of their other records even comes close to the quality found here. The way that the intro leads into “All Downhill From Here” gets me unreasonably excited even eight years later, and songs like “Truth Of My Youth,” “I Don’t Wanna Know,” and “Doubt Full” remain some of my favorite songs to this day. When this record came out, I scanned the art from the booklet and added it to my desktop background. If that doesn’t show how obsessed with this album, I don’t think anything else will. For me, this is a landmark record, defining a significant period of my listening history, and maintaining a high position on the list of the best pop-punk records ever recorded.
Eric Schulz’s #1 Album – The Blue Notebooks by Max Richter
Since the world has been full of awesome music since like always, it’s hard to pick a favorite album from a specific year. In 2004 I was a teenager not aware of the abundance of great music that was all around me, but today I have a collection of 2004 releases so big that I really can’t call an obvious first place without doing a record injustice. So, I figured I’d take the most personal and intimate one, an album that shared an undeniable connection with me right from the start – a sound so dense and all-encompassing that the beauty never surrenders to the despair and melancholy the record transports, with those vibrating string harmonies and trickling piano sobs creating an absorbing soundscape that’s meant for a long night and a moon veiled in cloudy grey. As the words from Kafka and Miłosz frame his nebulous dreams, Max Richter fuses together human emotions with compositional minimalism and electronic branching, writing reminiscences scarcely remembered into his blue notebooks of the ineffability of life – a neoclassical experience you will never forget.
Nick Moffitt’s #1 Album – Funeral by Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire did something special on their debut album Funeral. The album is surrounded with dilemmas of death and ultimate sadness but instead of moping, Arcade Fire took their feelings to a level of epic proportions. They turn death into the ultimate adventure on “Neighborhood #2” and bid fond farewells on “Une Annee Sans Lumiere.” In 2004 this was the epitome of indie-rock; they recalled guitar-driven jams of years past and made way for the future by incorporating folk music crafts. Arcade Fire control their music by keeping the songs in a stark pop formula while beautifully elaborating tales of the deepest human emotions. They celebrate life instead of dwelling on sadness. This is an album that will help someone see positivity in the hardest moments. “Wake Up” still remains as one of the most powerful songs of the generation.
Jason Gardner’s #1 Album – As The Roots Undo by Circle Takes The Square
When people talk about post-hardcore, or screamo – or skramz for that matter – Circle Takes the Square is generally the first band I’ll bring up. Yes, Pg. 99, Orchid and a number of other bands are probably just as important to the movement, but none of them truly hit me like CTTS’ As the Roots Undo. A themed record full of motifs, emotional outbursts and cathartic songwriting, it is arguably one of the best albums of its kind. Starting with the gentle whistle of the introduction, we are led through seven tracks of frantic, blistering fits of musical intensity that is countered with a subtle realization of poetic fury over broodingly beautiful segues of melody. It is a perfect balance of top-rung musicianship and calculated expression of art, making it one of my favorite records of all-time as well.
Johnny Fraxier’s #1 Album – Good News For People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse
I remember being home sick from school. Back in the days of old when being sick was the best thing ever and MTV actually played music videos, I saw the video for “Float On” and fell in love with this band. At the time, most of my CDs were comprised of nü-metal (don’t judge) until one day at the airport, I saw this album on sale and threw it in my Walkman (God, I feel old). I recall immediately being blown away by the “Horn Intro” and irresistible tracks such as “Black Cadillacs,” “Bukowski,” “The Ocean Breathes Salty” – actually, it would just be easier to name the tracks that I’m not completely enamoured with on this album. Modest Mouse had a busy year in 2004, but to be honest I wouldn’t have remembered that this album came out so long ago, because every so often I put on this album wishing I could dance hall dance hall, every day.
Nicholas Niedzielski’s #1 Album – Futures by Jimmy Eat World
The first album I ever bought on my own was Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American. It was my first venture into my own musical tastes and it will forever have a special place with me. But if I had to pick the best Jimmy Eat World album, it would be Futures. The band took a huge step away from the music that brought them their most commercial success and created an album filled with raw emotion. The entire album has a dark, moody atmosphere to it, making it feel like a completely cohesive piece of work. While the more uptempo, straightforward tracks such as “Futures,” “Pain” and “Work” are some of the band’s strongest, what really makes the album a classic are the more ambitious songs like “Kill,” “The World You Love,” and “Drugs Or Me” (my personal favorite). These tracks keep with the album’s dark, cold feeling, and the simplicity of some of the songs creates another layer of intrigue and emotion. The entire album comes to a head with“23.” It’s as epic and heart-wrenching of a song as any they have written, and closes this masterpiece out perfectly as the last lines of “Don’t give away the end/The one thing that stays mine” fade away.
Tim Dodderidge’s #1 Album – Mmhmm by Relient K
In the eighth grade, one of my friends approached me at school with a CD he had burned for me. That CD was Mmhmm. For the time being, I didn’t know what it meant, why the album was titled “Mmhmm,” or who the artist even was for that matter. The only thing I knew was that from the very first time I popped it into my portable CD player, it would become one of my favorite albums ever. This was my first exposure to Relient K and I loved every second of it. I loved the epic piano postludes that brought many of the songs to a calming conclusion. I loved Matt Thiessen’s wailing voice, priming itself above gritty, bouncy guitar rhythms. Most of all, I loved the honest yet tongue-in-cheek tone of the uplifting songwriting and musical themes. As I entered high school, my musical tastes changed. Hard rock and metal took over, and pop-rock became an afterthought from all of my friends. Though a lot of things have changed since the eighth grade, I still made sure of one thing – that Mmhmm would never outgrow me.
Landon Defever’s #1 Album – American Idiot by Green Day
I don’t think Green Day will ever be able to top American Idiot. And how could they, really? Dookie may have properly introduced the three pop-punks to their genre, but it was American Idiot that gave them both a voice and a drive to add more gusto to their material. I still remember being in fifth grade and the effects this album had on the world around me. After the album released, something amazing started to happen. All around me, kids everywhere around the ages of 12-13 started talking about politics and actually created a dialogue about their government. It’s refreshing to see such an impactful album that not only brought 13 tracks of Clash-inspired, awe-inducing rock anthems, but also allowed the public to take away something even more powerful: one hell of a message to the establishment that we’re not going to take it anymore.