This was a brilliant year for British independent music. Piracy was taking off and the music industry started to feel the effects, however it didn't stop the artists. Many of the albums listed here (including the fringe albums) are still regarded as excellent albums. They have stood the test of time and are purchased even to this day. The fringe albums are stunning albums, they just failed to make the top 10, so let’s take a look at those shall we.
Jóhann Jóhannsson - Virðulegu forsetar
Kasabian - Kasabian
Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
Madvillain - Madvillainy
Brian Wilson - Smile
10. Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
Sneaking in at number 10 is the post-punk debut album by Franz Ferdinand. The Scottish rockers released a brilliant cheerful album filled to the brim of Josef K influenced rock tracks. "Tell Her Tonight" served as the sophisticated jam, whilst "Take Me Out" was adopted as one of the best indie rock tracks of the year, with its excellent dynamic change towards the final half.
9. Dizzee Rascal - Showtime
The eventual downfall of grime and Dizzee Rascal could have been predicted in 2004. Showtime was the second album Dizzee released, after his debut took the hip-hop/grime world by storm. His lyricism was on a different level when his music made it over to USA. The R&B listeners had never heard anything like this before and Dizzee sold it all with one sweet track, "Stand Up Tall".
8. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs
Animal Collective were bound to pop up in this list. Sung Tongs was their fifth album and featured the freak/psych folk music they first started with. Sung Tongs is seen as Animal Collective's last album that's remotely folk influenced. Even then they ventured completely out of the way with the fantastic single "Who Could Win a Rabbit".
7. The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike
The Go! Team's debut album was gritty, repulsive and messy. Three ingredients that would usually put me off listening to an album, however The Go! Team intended this album to sound this way. The brilliant "Ladyflash" and the symphonic "Huddle Formation" set the standard for one of the best sample-based albums that isn't hip-hop. "Get It Together" was later featured on cult PS3 game Little Big Planet, and "Bottle Rocket" went on to be one of the funkiest tracks of the year.
6. Kanye West - The College Dropout
"We at war with terrorism, racism, and most of all we at war with ourselves," says Kanye West on one of his best tracks "Jesus Walks". The Chicago based artist released his debut album on the back of a string of brilliantly produced albums. The College Dropout is noted for its personal lyrical content, as opposed to the 'gangsta' hip-hop style being released at the time.
5. The Libertines - The Libertines
Drug addiction has plagued Pete Doherty for quite some time, and after his release from jail, The Libertines follow-up album became his life. The song writing partnership between Doherty and Carl Barat was amazing. These tracks are garage-rock styled, with lots of modern Pixies-esque indie rock tunes. It's a splendid album with all the right ingredients for a highly critical British rock album.
4. Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender
The sinister British readers are now shocked that The Libertines are not number one on this list. They then participate in a chanting, 'who is Joanna Newsom?' Well Joanna Newsom is a folk-based American artist who released one of the best debut albums in the 00s. Newsom fused her harp playing with delicate structures and achingly beautiful (to some) vocals.
3. DFA 1979 - You're A Woman, I'm A Machine
Death from Above 1979 can be excused for making a little bit of noise in my room at university. The key to You're A Woman, I'm A Machine isn't it's sophistication, but more it's loud aggressive punk. 35 minutes of the Canadian duo is enough to blast the dance-punk/noise rock on a cold night in October. "Romantic Rights" is arguably one of the best tracks of 2004 with its clutched bass introduction. This is the work of a bass guitar and a drummer. In most cases, these two would be in the back; well DFA fight from the back with this album. It's a mind-blowingly good album and one which every punk listener from the 90s should have in their collection.
2. The Streets - A Grand Don't Come for Free
"Oh here it is in my pocket," says Mike Skinner on the opening track of A Grand Don't Come for Free, referencing his phone he thought he lost. Skinner lost £1,000 which is a grand (just explaining for Americans). The plot is arguably the best 'rap-opera' album of all time. It's certainly one on its own. Skinner's vocal is almost poetic, as he talks over tracks as opposed to singing or rapping. The hooks are comic and fit with the structures. UK-garage reached the popular domain with Skinner's debut two years previous. AGDCFF is Skinner's magnum opus. Tracks like "Blinded By The Lights" are precursors of the lucrative and highly unique early dubstep recordings. "Fit But You Know It" and "Dry Your Eyes" offer single value, and they can be selected out of the album without needing to know the plot. The moment this album reaches the listener, and fully breaks into their mind is on the finale, "Empty Cans". Skinner's downfall was represented since the albums opener; however this track is the epitome of AGDCFF. Skinner gives the listener two endings, ending the actual track on album with the preferred, glorious optimistic ending. He reconciles with his friends, finds his money and then, a light piano strikes through the heart and soul of the listener. This is The Streets, essential listening.
1. Arcade Fire - Funeral
Funeral is an album that needs no introduction. Canada's most acclaimed indie rock/baroque pop outfit released their debut album after taking influence from a range of sources such as Neutral Milk Hotel and The Magnetic Fields. Win Butlers high pitched vocals worked with the mass orchestral pieces and simplistic but ecstatic song structures. "Wake Up" is regarded one of the best indie rock anthems of our time and "Rebellion (Lies)" actually charted in the UK Singles Chart. Arcade Fire started out as an independent band utilizing harmonies, the piano and great riffs. Listening to Funeral is an experience, as avid music fans would say. It's a consistent album with a whole range of concepts, sounds and lyricism. It's already become somewhat of an independent modern classic indie rock album.