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Laurence Station's Top 10 Albums of 2004

1. Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
The story of Loretta Lynn's life, as backed by Jack White's sweaty, muscular production, proves an incredibly fecund, synergistically combustive listen.
 
2. Brian Wilson: Smile (Nonesuch)
Better late than never. Even though Wilson's voice shows its wear and those vintage Beach Boy harmonies are notably absent, Smile is still a resounding, deliriously inventive triumph.
3. The Walkmen: Bows & Arrows (Record Collection)
Rising tension coupled with frustratingly unresolved climaxes shouldn't work. That Bows & Arrows does, and emphatically so, is a credit to a group that has found its voice without sacrificing an ounce of its core identity.
 
4. Madvillain: Madvillainy (Stones Throw)
Expressively chaotic yet structurally uniform. Madlib and MF Doom have taken the embittered outsider and imbued him with superhuman abilities. Call it Revenge of the Hip Hop Non-chart-toppers.
5. The Streets: A Grand Don't Come for Free (Atlantic)
Mike Skinner humorously documents the ups and downs of an aimless geezer, at times unlucky in both love and money, but doing just fine thanks to his ever-there-for-the-pickup mates.
 
6. Devendra Banhart: Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God)
Banhart takes rudimentary elements (quavering vocals, delicate guitar plucking) and marries them to nature-boy-unbound lyricism. What could be overly self-infatuated folk weirdness in lesser hands instead blossoms into a distinctly affecting sunburst of sonic goodness from an audacious new talent.
7. Les Savy Fav: Inches (Frenchkiss)
Devolving from fine-tuned art-punk craftsmanship to nebulously nascent uncertainty, Les Savy Fav backtracks its development with this surprisingly cohesive singles collection.
 
8. The Fall: The Real New Fall LP [U.S. Version] (Narnack)
Overcoming rapacious file-sharers and a nagging sense that the album just wasn't all it could be, Fall Burghermeister Mark E. Smith doggedly labored until he'd hammered out one of the most consistently rewarding efforts of his durable career.
9. Dizzee Rascal: Showtime (XL)
Dylan Mills proves nothing succeeds like success on his assured follow-up to Boy In Da Corner. Brash and (mostly) carefree, Mills explores the vicissitudes and vacuities of fame with an insight and candor atypical for someone barely out of his teens.
 
10. Iron & Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop)
Sam Beam's willingness to let notes breathe adds substance to his hand-carved narratives, speaking to an older, pre-electrified tradition, and a time when music was an essential part of a person's cultural heritage as opposed to today's disposable, prepackaged ear candy.
 
Notable near misses:
 
 
Top 10 Songs of 2004:
 
  1. "The Rat" The Walkmen (Bows & Arrows)
  2. "Counting Down the Hours" Ted Leo/Pharmacists (Shake the Sheets)
  3. "Chocolate" Snow Patrol (Final Straw)
  4. "My Week Beats Your Year" Telefon Tel Aviv featuring Lindsay Anderson (Map of What Is Effortless)
  5. "Can't Stand Me Now" The Libertines (The Libertines)
  6. "Yeah!" Usher featuring Lil' Jon & Ludacris (Confessions)
  7. "Born in the '70s" Ed Harcourt (Strangers)
  8. "C'mon, C'mon" The Von Bondies (Pawn Shoppe Heart)
  9. "Float On" Modest Mouse (Good News For People Who Love Bad News)
  10. "Chewing Gum" Annie (Anniemal)
 
Best Reissue/Previously Unreleased Material:
 
Talking Heads: The Name of This Band is Talking Heads [Expanded Edition] (Rhino)

Excellent two-disc overview of the band's early lives shows and the peak 1981 Remain in Light tour.

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