BSOTS faves of 2004

i'll hear what she's hearing...

If your 2004 was anything like mine, you're not a bit sorry that it's over. One thing I can't complain about, however, was the music. Well, I could - plenty of utter crap was released last year - but that's time that could be spent talking about all of the amazing albums that came out...and there were more of them than some might think. There was so much good music in 2004 that it almost makes me upset that I had no money to purchase half the albums I wanted. As you can see, the reviews section has suffered from a lack of two things: time and money (we didn't even post 20 for the year). Even so, the BSOTS team was able to get their hands on a few items and we're quite thankful and happy to share our favorites with you, as well as cap it off with a list of releases that we wanted to hear but got away from us somehow.


BJÖRK – Medúlla
By this time, you either love her or you don't. For those of us who do, the idea of an album that mainly focuses on the human voice is too perfect. As always, she manages to make the most interesting collaborations happen, and it is to the album's benefit. An absolute masterpiece. {chloe knuckles}

CLARO INTELECTO - Neurofibro [Ai] (UK)
After a string of well-received singles, Mark Stewart knocks it outta the park with his debut full-length. As Claro Intelecto, Stewart walks the line between Detroit and Berlin, producing some amazing techno and electro tunes. At the same time, he can turn around and create some head-turning downbeat electronic selections. Sonic food for the body and the mind. {macedonia}

DE LA SOUL - The Grind Date [Sanctuary]
While rap music continues to feed upon itself, the Soul saves the day with a healthy alternative: hip-hop for grown folks. One foot in the rap game, the other in the family way, Pos, Dave, and Maseo bring rhymes for life. Opening their home to a number of guests (Common, Ghostface, MF Doom, and Flavor Flav, to name a few) and securing some killer beats from the likes of J-Dilla, 9th Wonder, Madlib, and others, this one brings De La back to classic form. {downtempo don}

MATTHEW DEAR - Backstroke [Spectral Sound]
Breakout star from Ghostly International's sister label, this mini-album leans heavily towards vocal pop, but don't let that deter you. Some '80s synthpop, some minimal house and techno, and some pretty swell vocals from Dear. It might sound corny, but trust me, it's not...IT'S BRILLIANT. And it's no wonder why he is poised to be the next superstar in electronic music. {steve crognale}

Only though the wonders of modern technology and the global village can North Carolina meets the Netherlands. Little Brother's Phonte Coleman and The Justus League's Nicolay trade tracks back and forth over the Internet and end up with one of the most soulful and introspective albums of 2004. This is one of those releases that remind why you fell in love with hip-hop in the first place and, contrary to whatever's hot right now, a part of it did grow older and wiser right alongside you. {vic feedle}

LUNCHBOX - Anyways [theAgriculture]
DJ Olive teams up with a pair of gentlemen from Switzerland to create one of the best albums from theAgriculture to date. Wearing touches of jazz like a favorite shirt, the instrumentals weave through the tissue of your brain, dancing with dub, hip-hop, and indigenous sounds along the way. Phenomenal. {steve crognale}

PLANT LIFE - The Return of Jack Splash [Counterflow Recordings]
Panda One (a producer usually associated with hip-hop) is behind the sleeper album of the year. Fronted by the charismatic falsetto of Jack Splash, Plant Life's album is full of past/present/future pop songs - nuggets of soul, funk, disco, and more with a hip-hop swagger - usually no longer than three minutes. Considered by many to be an "underground Outkast," almost every cut here's a winner. {chloe knuckles}

PRINCE - Musicology [NPG Music]
Wanna know how fickle people are? As long as you're slinging smut in song, everything fine, but the moment you start exclusively talking about sex within the confines of marriage, everyone splits. What's the matter, people - is the funk not enough for you anymore? It oughta be, 'cause few bring it as right and as tight as His Royal Badness and his band. Don't sleep on this one... {chloe knuckles}

MADVILLAIN - Madvillainy [Stones Throw]
Perhaps the most creative album released all year. The beats of Madlib plus the rhymes of MF Doom equals a match in hip-hop abstraction. Jaw-dropping. {downtempo don}

MOUSE ON MARS - Radical Connector [Thrill Jockey]
The three-year wait for a new album was totally worth it. M.O.M. manages to make their sound more accessible while retaining all the fun and experimental qualities that make them so unique. Nine songs, all with vocals supplied by Niobe and the return of Dodo Nkishi, and is challenging and engaging from beginning to end. {cali ginseng}

DJ RELS - Theme For A Broken Soul [Stones Throw]
Madlib back at 'cha again, this time doing the West London stomp. Broken beats, house, and hip-hop come together to form a future soul so tough that it could've been released on 2000 Black. Clearly we are in the presence of greatness, and Otis Jackson, Jr. shows no signs of stopping. Catch him if you can, y'all... {vic feedle}

ARTHUR RUSSELL - The World of Arthur Russell [Soul Jazz] (UK)
A wonderful collection of work from a wide-eyed genius with a head full of possibilities. From his avant-disco classics like Dinosaur L's "Go Bang!" and Loose Joints' "Is It All Over My Face?" to his later solo work drenched in echo and reverb, the spirit of Arthur Russell lives on through this, the first of several retrospectives and reissues. {macedonia}

V/A – Offshore presents Troubled Waters (mixed by Clever) [Microcosm Music]
DJ Clever seamlessly guides us through a collection of wonderfully leftfield drum and bass from the Offshore Recordings imprint. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about the genre. There is hope, people, and you'll find it on this compilation. {steve crognale}

V/A - Stones Throw 101 [Stones Throw]
Seeing as how it's the only label to have three releases make our "best of" list, it should be obvious how we feel about Stones Throw. Hip-hop, funk, soul, and otherwise, we declare that Peanut Butter Wolf's label is the best label in the U.S.A. With this DVD/mix CD combo, class is definitely in session. (Can you imagine what's up their sleeve for their 10-year anniversary?) {macedonia}

*Honorable Mention*

N.E.R.D. - Fly Or Die [Virgin]
I think I get it now: N.E.R.D. is the musical safe haven that Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo retreat to in between studio jobs to pay the bills. While most people chose to "Drop It Like It's Hot" (The Neptunes have done better production and you know it, so you all need to stop lying to yourselves), we cuddled up with the sophomore effort from their side project. And I must say: there's some interesting stuff here, choosing to turn the amps on the guitars all the way up and bang their heads rather than simply nod. Besides, sessions that could create a song as moving and as perfect as "Maybe" must be a good thing. {chloe knuckles}


BJÖRK - "Triumph Of A Heart" [Elektra]
It's not a single, but it needs to be. When Björk, Rahzel, Dokaka, and Gregory Purnhagen get together, the power of the human voice can cause you to dance all by itself. Who knew? {chloe knuckles}

BLOC PARTY - "Banquet" [Dim Mak]
It's been described as Gang of Four if Robert Smith sang lead. One of those bouncy post-punk tunes that could've come from the late '70s-early '80s period. Once you let it in, you'll be singing the chorus for days. {cali ginseng}

Blindingly fast vocals by P.E.A.C.E. (of Freestyle Fellowship), Deranged, and Mawnstr with next level production by No. Kinda Dirty South, kinda Miami Bass, kinda psychedelic, totally defying categorization. An absolutely insane debut single by a crew I hope to hear more from. {chloe knuckles}

HANDSOME BOY MODELING SCHOOL - "I've Been Thinking (feat. Cat Power)" [Elektra]
Seriously, how could you NOT fall in love with Chan Marshall after this one?? Her releases on Matador as Cat Power already made her a captivating figure in alternative rock. Prince Paul and Dan The Automator were able to bring out of her what some suspected was in her all along: a sultry songstress. {cali ginseng}

JUNIOR BOYS - "Birthday" [Domino]
Ever wonder what would happen if Depeche Mode and New Order got produced by Timbaland and The Neptunes? Here you go. Let's pray that more moments in 21st Century pop music turn out as beautiful as this one. {macedonia}

KELIS - "Millionaire (feat. Andre 3000)" [Arista]
Further proof that you shouldn't judge the Tasty album by its "Milkshake." "Millionaire" is a far superior song, a combination of '80s new wave silliness and fat, futuristic warbling sounds while Andre and Kelis sing about having riches. This was the one worth writing home about; no surprise that Andre produced this one. It sounds just cheesy enough to be quirky, but doesn't send you screaming in the other direction. In fact, that's exactly what's so alluring about it. Bravo. {cali ginseng}

M.I.A. - "Galang" [XL] (UK)
This sister got her dirty bleeps and bloops all up in my dancehall...PAPA LIKE. I rewound this joint so many times, my MP3 player should've caught fire. Yo DJs, this one's guaranteed to bring all the honeys out to the dance floor - booty business gets caught up in the matrix and the world is better for it. Can't wait to hear a full-length from her... {vic feedle}

MU - "Paris Hilton" [Output] (UK)
Trevor Jackson's Output label can do no wrong, and the same goes for Maurice Fulton. "Paris Hilton" is an acid house monster of a tune, chugging along and laying the squelch squarely over your head while Mutsumi Kanamori (Fulton's wife) urges you to "move your body body, work your body body..." A butt-shakin' good time, perhaps a tired phrase from Ms. Hilton herself is the best way to describe this floor mover: "That's hot." {steve crognale}

THE ROOTS - "Star" [MCA]
Simple in its arrangement, but it floored me. And I haven't heard Sly & The Family Stone the same way since. {vic feedle}

SPYMUSIC – "Cloak" [2000 Black] (UK)
The dynamic duo of Probe dms and Jon Solo delivered one of the most elegant midtempo house tunes released all year. Jazzy and seductive, it provides the perfect bait to lure heads towards their debut full-length. {macedonia}

TV ON THE RADIO – "Dreams" [Touch & Go]
The thing that gets me about this song is the soulful harmony of the vocals over this genreless musical bed. It's rock, but not really - it's more than that. I'm left speechless every time I hear it. I have got to sit down with the rest of this album... {downtempo don}

*Honorable Mention*

!!! - "Hello! Is This Thing On?" [Touch & Go]
Few are doing the whole punk-funk thing as well as these guys are. If you don't dance while their music is playing, there must be a hole in your soul. {cali ginseng}


!!! - Louden Up Now [Touch & Go]
ALBERT AYLER - Holy Ghost (CD box set) [Revenant]
BEANS - Shock City Maverick [Warp] (UK)
CAT POWER - Speaking For Trees (DVD/CD set) [Matador]
FRANZ FERDINAND - (self-titled) [Epic/Domino]
GHOSTFACE - The Pretty Toney Album [Def Jam]
JUNIOR BOYS - Last Exit [Domino]
KERRIER DISTRICT - (self-titled) [Rephlex] (UK)
KONK - The Story of Konk [Soul Jazz] (UK)
MCNEAL & NILES - Thrust [Chocolate Industries]
MF DOOM - MM...Food [Rhymesayers]
MU - Afro Finger and Gel [Tigersushi] (France)
NAS - Street's Disciple [Columbia]
ISAIAH OWENS - You Without Sin Cast The First Stone [Case Quarter]
THE ROOTS - The Tipping Point [MCA]
SAVATH AND SAVALAS - Apropa't [Warp] (UK)
SECRET FREQUENCY CREW - Forest of the Echo Downs [Schematic]
SONIC YOUTH - Sonic Nurse [DGC]
SQUAREPUSHER - Ultravisitor [Warp] (UK)
TV ON THE RADIO - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes [Touch & Go]
KANYE WEST - The College Dropout [Roc-A-Fella]
V/A - How To Kill The DJ Pt. 2: Optimo Mix [Tigersushi] (France)
V/A - Nicky Siano's Gallery [Soul Jazz] (UK)
V/A - Warp Vision (DVD) [Warp] (UK)
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