The Best Albums of 2004

By Caleb Rippee

2004 was an incredible year for music, and also the year most of our seniors were born. In honor of the class of 2022, I will be covering 10 of the best albums from the year they were born.

10. The College Dropout – Kanye West

Kanye West’s debut album was nothing short of a monolithic release in the hip-hop world. It forever changed the genre and inspired many other artists through its unique sound. “By paying homage to iconic soul legends on tracks like “Slow Jamz,” The College Dropout represented a bold new counterpoint to the digital production style that Timbaland had popularized in the early 2000s, and this in turn helped hip-hop evolve beyond the “Bling Era” lifestyle championed by artists like 50 Cent.”

9. Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson

The sophomore release by Kelly Clarkson is nothing less than a pop benchmark that yielded several enduring and iconic songs such as “Since U Been Gone” and “Because of You”

The album had a much more alternative sound, due to Clarkson collaborating with lots of different songwriters and producers, including former Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody. The result is, in all respects, an incredibly well made album that hit the pop-rock target on the mark and made its way to many young girl’s CD players. 

8. Genius Loves Company – Ray Charles

The final, posthumous release from Ray Charles. This album features duets with many amazing classic singers such as James Taylor, Elton John, BB King, Willie Nelson, and more. Ray Charles explains: “I’ve recorded with so many amazing artists in my career but never on a duets album of my own. I thought it was time to have some of the friends that I love & the artists that I admire come into my studio & sing with me live, the way we did it in the old days,”

Genius Loves Company is a shining example of the magic captured with Ray Charles and his amazing talent.

7. Musicology – Prince

The 28th studio album by the late, great Prince. This record was given to concert-goers during his Musicology tour. The album was released under the same name and received positive reviews from many. It once again shows off Prince’s songwriting prowess and gives us another refreshing taste of his unique style.

6. Reise, Reise – Rammstein

The industrial legends 4th album is a monstrous creation, blending all of their past sounds and further developing and refining them. The album packs less of a bunch than the ones that came before and after it, but still delivers the signature Rammstein sound. Till Lindemann’s cold, dark voice still creepily croons and groans over the crushing riffs and electronic melodies. Although not their best album, still a notable release from the German industrial titans.

5. Encore – Eminem

Eminem’s 5th album is almost as well known as he is. Full of iconic songs like Toy Soldiers and Mockingbird. The album shows a more mature Eminem still flaunting his older style, but still experimenting with different sounds and styles. During the time of recording, Eminem considered this his final album and upon initial release, the album was not taken kindly to by critics. But as time has gone on, the album has aged like a fine wine and garnered positive reviews from many fans. Eminem was even investigated by the US Secret Service for certain lines in the album that just shows he is still willing to cross the line for the sake of a good rhyme.

4. Leviathan – Mastodon 

The progressive stoner metal masterpiece is mostly known for its crushing opening track “Blood and Thunder” and as good as that song is, there is much more to get from this dense, layered album than just that song. The album shows a peak in the band’s sound as they strike the perfect balance between Prog, Stoner, Thrash, and Groove metal. Songs like “Seabeast” are a shining example of the expertly crafted riffs and drum parts that seamlessly groove together. The incredible production is ever apparent on songs like “Iron Tusk” and “I am Ahab” while tracks like “Joseph Merrick” give us a tasteful shift in dynamic and timbre. Overall this album is an absolute monolith with layers upon layers of pure riffage and melody.

3. A Crow Left of the Murder – Incubus

Despite being somewhat underrated, Incubus made quite a statement with their 5th album. Left with the task of living up to the status of their last two records, “Make Yourself” and “Aqueous Transmission” the band exceeded expectations with this well rounded and impressive album. A Crow Left of the Murder still boasts the band’s angsty lyrics backed up by instrumentals with a fusion of different styles that all contribute to the band’s unique sound. Songs like “Talk Shows On Mute” show the band is still capable of writing ballads that are uniquely their own. While tracks like “Beware! Criminal” show off the band’s incredibly well developed blend of jazz, rock, post-punk, and a touch of their own signature weirdness. The album is a staple in the band’s discography and a classic album in its own right when compared to their earlier work.

2. American Idiot – Green Day

This classic album needs no introduction. The commercial and musical peak of Green Day’s sound as well as their lyrics and songwriting. This album is often cited as people’s favorite or the best in their catalog. While I cannot tell you which Green Day album is the best, I can certainly tell you that “American Idiot” is the most developed musically. With songs like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” that craft memorable and emotional melodies and experiment with guitar effects to give the song a personality of its own. Whether it’s the 9 minute “Homecoming” the melancholy “Wake Me Up When September Ends” or even the anthemic, fist pumping “Holiday.” This album has lots of great songs that have seen much commercial success and represent a level of songwriting that the band has not attained since. 

1. Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge – My Chemical Romance

Often overshadowed by its more popular younger brother, “The Black Parade.” Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is just as good, if not better musically. Still utilizing the classic My Chemical Romance sound while having a much more raw and overall more passionate performance in my opinion. Songs like “Thank You For The Venom” really show off the band’s twin guitar attack to an extent not quite seen in The Black Parade. The aggressive riffs of this album are tempered by the softer, more welcoming songs like “The Ghost of You.” Emotional peaks are also reached with songs like “Helena” that really give us the best example of the pure passion that was put into this album. Again, I cannot say which album is the best in their catalog, but this album is a serious contender with lots of amazing songs full of passion and energy, but still knowing when to dial it back and be soulful. The band blends their more aggressive side with a jazz-like shuffle that makes the songs both headbang-able and dance-able at the same time. Truly a masterpiece and in my opinion, the best album to be released in 2004.

Congratulations seniors! Hopefully this list was a little nostalgic for some of you. I wish you all the best for the future. 

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