The Glide 20: Our Top Albums Of 2004

Just when you thought 2004 was a year full of so-so releases with a few random bright spots…Boom! Our ears were flooded with so much good stuff that all of sudden a Top 20 list became a serious challenge. So with a bigger pile than we anticipated, there was nothing left to do, but knock away the pretenders and narrow the list down to a chosen few. So without further adieu – here are our picks for the year’s best – The Glide 20 of 2004.

Glide strives to represent the best in music from all genres – jazz, indie, punk, alt-country, jam, folk, metal or just plain alternative… whatever that means anymore. Regardless of label or category…if its good, its good. So these twenty albums appeal to us as the strongest artistic statements of the year, representing both our diverse content and readership. As always, thanks for listening and thanks for the feedback. We hope this list confirms some favorites and makes you feel a bit more adventurous next time you saunter into your local record shop. And if you find them on vinyl, more power to you!


Ambulance LTD – LP


Right from the start, this Brooklyn group washes away the countless New York bands that reek of Strokes imitation. Drone rock and romantically pleasing, they combine British disarming melodies into a dreamy whirl that nails the order of each song. The whole album feels like a story – like what My Bloody Valentine accomplished with its ethereal soundscape – with splashes of pop that scare the mainstream away. And what could be better than that?

Arcade Fire- Funeral

A strong debut from this Montreal band which brings back emotional rock with beautiful guitar arrangements and melodies, always interesting, never dull. Written over the course of the band losing some close loved ones, many of track are about death and religion, but it never gets too morose. The song-writing is delivered in a non-preachy way, with verdant arrangements and sometimes with as many as 14 musicians contributing to the sounds. This is one of those albums that you need to spend some time with, letting it absorb into your soul. Even if it is a funeral.


The Bad Plus – Give


The jazz traditionalist on your holiday list may have as tough a time swallowing the Black Sabbath cover as your radio-raised sister does listening to the more abstract experiments of the album. But that’s the beauty of the record, and The Bad Plus themselves. Perhaps not as groundbreaking as These Are The Vistas, The Bad Plus forges onward with Give, continuing to force jazz and rock to come more face-to-face than ever before. It was only a matter of time anyway. Every other genre and music polarity has crossed paths…why not indie rock and a piano trio?

Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains – The Big Eyeball In The Sky


Talk about a freakshow! Put two living cartoon characters – Les Claypool and Buckethead – along with sixty year-old synthesizer wizard Bernie Worrell and the jackhammer drumming of Brain, and you’ve got an album that gives avant-garde eight balls and a bucket head. These eleven original compositions solidify this mutant collective as rock’s equivalent to the Super Friends or Super Freaks.



Drive By Truckers – The Dirty South


Do the Drive By Truckers ever make a bad album? The critics darlings (Glide included) once again shove more bleeding heart rock and roll down our rest stop sleeves. Man…tornadoes, death, battle sites, livin’ poor and broken homes never sounded so cool. Just don’t tell these boys from Alabama that they’re fakin’ it. Damn posers. Patterson! We’re kidding!

Steve Earle – The Revolution Starts Now

Thank goodness for Steve Earle and his fear of nothing lyrics on his latest opus….

So fuck the FCC
Fuck the FBI
Fuck the CIA
Livin’ in the motherfuckin’ USA

Obviously Earle isn’t looking for commercial success and we salute him for that. Always speaking out for what he believes, Revolution is the freshest batch of songs that Earle and his band, The Dukes, have released. This one came out just prior to election day. Apparently it didn’t get enough Wal-Mart distribution in the swing states.

Gary Jules – Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets

Due to the Patriot Act, Yusef Aslam, or as we like to call him, Cat Stevens, is no longer allowed in the U.S. But thankfully we have Gary Jules to combine his brand of soft and mystical folk rock to coffee-house fans. Showing us a beatnik side of L.A. that isn’t typical amongst the Sunset Strip hysteria, Jules hits home in this feel-good album. Featuring the British #1 hit, “Mad World” – aptly titled as it was the most popular downloaded ring-tone over there as well – he proves folky rock can be a wakeup call.

Luna- Rendezvous

After twelve years together, Luna ultimately decided to call it quits. As a rare band who released nothing but substantial albums throughout their career, Rendezvous proves to be a memorable swan song with meandering and mellow tracks, including the contagious "Speedbumps" and the remixed "Astronaut" that makes you love the repeat button. It doesn’t touch 1995’s Penthouse, but Rendezvous will definitely leave the fans – old and new – feeling good. 

Nellie McKay – Get Away From Me

Nellie McKay could kick Norah Jones’ ass. Taking jazz piano refinement to wise girl bashing levels, from the title alone its obvious the sassy McKay has morphed turn of the century (that’s 1900) into a distinctive flavor that will get the females enticed and most guys lured. She’s about as original as Frank Zappa with show biz horns and tight rhymes, showering both an explicit and clean album.

Medeski Martin & Wood – End of The World Party: Just In Case

After the atmospheric The Dropper and Uninvisible alienated and even bored many fans, the jazz, groove, ambient craftsmen have made their best album since their mid 90’s masterpieces Shack-man and Friday Afternoon in the Universe. The momentum never dies in this party, as the trio explore the strongest elements of their past compositions to refine their sound into a focused and groove hungry recording. Forget the cowbell…I need more keyboard!

Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News

Who would have thought a bunch of former manic-depressives from rainy Seattle would turn out the years most hopeful and sunny album. Former indie-rock icons, Issac Brock and company may have alienated some fans with this strikingly “mainstream” effort, but when you hear “Float On” played as a television sports promo, its obvious the Zoloft worked. The rest of the album is just Prozac to the ears.

Railroad Earth – The Good Life

This New Jersey band communicates the celebratory spirit of rock, like nobody else. Acoustic guitars, piano, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, dobro, bass and drums all sparkle in the uplifting plight of hope and the good life. Their previous two albums may be gems, but Railroad Earth has hit their stride with The Good Life, proving they may not be the biggest name in the newgrass/bluegrass movement, but are highly respected by their peers and fans.

Rilo Kiley – More Adventurous

Jenny Lewis melds country roots-rock with punk charisma like a test tube daughter of Debbie Harry and Lucinda Williams. Her sexy voice makes her a rising star and gives her the seductive lure of a poster girl for record store geeks. But there’s enough on this album to scratch every surface of what’s good in music today. Folk without sounding too sappy. Country without sounding too Nashville. Pop without sounding too No Doubt. And 100% original.

Elliott Smith – From A Basement On The Hill

Smith has always been profound at masking his misery with sharp Beatlesque harmonies, and this posthumous album gives new meaning to pop rock, radiating with vulnerability. Sure this may be only his third best album, after Either/Or and XO, but this one shows that some of Smith’s best songwriting lay in his darkest days. Leaving a legacy like fellow down and out song-writers Jeff Buckely and Nick Drake, Smith is left to sing of being “ugly before” but somehow still sounds handsome.

Snow Patrol- Final Straw

Just admit it, you like these guys – they get the same “my girlfriend is coming over” rotation as Coldplay. And just when the music almost sounds too generic Britpop, the band surprises you with their orchestra of sounds on "Spitting Games,” "Gleaming Auction" and "Run" that stays embedded in your head for days. Which is of course, exactly what the media is all about. So their fourth album has gained quite a bit of airplay this year in both film and television. And you know that’s always a good indication that a band has made it. Just ask Modest Mouse.

Sonic Youth – Sonic Nurse

With close to twenty-five years and almost that many albums, one of the world’s greatest bands is hitting yet another stride. A righteous follow up to 2002’s Murray Street, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon are still the coolest husband and wife duo in all of rock. All of that sonic feedback is still abundant, and somehow when they get in touch with their melodic tendencies in “Unmade Bed” and “Stones,” they still sound tougher than any 20-something on heroin.



Stockholm Syndrome – Holy Happy Hour


Jerry Joseph likes his sunny side mixed with a lot of dark. So Holy Happy Hour takes full advantage of this motley bunch of jammers that includes David Schools of Widespread Panic, Eric McFadden, Wally Ingram and Danny Dziuk. Making songs that actually sound like songs instead of noodle-draining jams, this album is pure, full force immediacy. If we picked a Glide Song of the Year, the infectious rocker, "Couldn’t Get It Right" would be the hands down favorite.

TV on the Radio – Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes

Brooklyn has quickly become the new breeding ground for talented musicians: The Liars, Yeah, Yeah Yeahs, Ambulance LTD and now these artsy Brooklynites. Their hybrid elements of soul, rock, a cappella, and electro were even good enough for them to win the newly coveted Shortlist Prize, but you don’t have to wait long for it to kick in. The first two songs off the album, the powerful gospel fueled "Wrong Way" and the psychedelic and trance-like "Staring at the Sun, are especially genius. And not just because lead singer Tunde Adebimpe sounds exactly like Peter Gabriel.

Kanye West- The College Dropout

Producer-turned-rapper Kanye West collected a leading 10 Grammy nominations for his pioneering debut. Yeah, I know, “who gives a f*ck about a Grammy,” but this hip-hop record stands above the rest, steering clear of the sex, money and violence clichés, instead touching on everything from insecurities to every day struggles. Old soul licks and modern beats waver alongside special effects for some true ear candy. Who knew the term "college dropout" could be so triumphant.

Wilco – A Ghost Is Born

Taking another sonic leap forward, Wilco continues to reinvent their sound, adding another "top this" album to their growing legacy. Recorded just prior to leader Jeff Tweedy’s stint in rehab for painkillers, the album explodes with neurotic tendencies, while maintaining a poignant songwriting flair. Yeah, Wilco is everybody’s new favorite band, but despite the growing fanbase, they have clearly carved a deserved space in rock-and-roll history as the alt-country gone experimental rock outfit. It’s a shame there wasn’t a documentary filmed for the recording of this drama like 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.


Twenty Honorable Mentions


Ben Harper With The Blind Boys of Alabama – There Will Be A Light
Bjork – Medulla
David Byrne – Grown Backwards
Ray Charles – Genius Loves Company
Citizen Cope – The Clarence Greenwood Recordings
Elvis Costello – The Delivery Man
Dangermouse – The Gray Album
Jerry Garcia & David Grisman – Been All Around This World
Patty Griffin – Impossible Dream
PJ Harvey – Uh Huh Her
Iron and Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days
Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose
Mofro – Lochloosa
A.C. Newman – The Slow Wonder
Grant Lee Phillips – Virginia Creeper
Sam Roberts – We Were Born In A Flame
Rich Robinson – Paper
Mindy Smith – One Moment More
Secret Machines – Now Here Is Nowhere
Brian Wilson – Smile

Notable Compilations, Reissues and Live Albums


Allman Brothers Band – One Way Out
Neko Case – The Tigers Have Spoken
The Clash – London Calling
Derek Trucks Band – Live At Georgia Theater
Jay Farrar – Stone Steel & Bright Lights
Nirvana – Box Set
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: L.A.’s Desert Origins
Talking Heads – The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads
Various Artists – Garden State Soundtrack
Various Artistis – Por Vida: A Tribute To The Songs Of Alejandro Escovedo
Ween – Live In Chicago
Widespread Panic – Uber Cobra

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