It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. If you love guitar-driven pop (sometimes called ‘indie’ but we’re not going to make that mistake here) then you probably spent 2004 in music fan heaven. Rock – or, go on then, indie – had decisively stolen back the high-ground of the British musical mainstream from pop thanks to an assortment of American groups such as The Strokes, The White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs whose influences were as artfully chosen as their threads. Strangely, given its US origins, this new (but old) aesthetic was embraced by British bands who became willing pop stars, fashion icons and tabloid fodder, just as they had during the ‘golden’ days of Britpop. Yet just as this trend was booming, it was also peaking and then stagnating, perhaps an indication of the speeded up times in which we now lived.
Maybe that’s why many of the releases in Soundblab’s 2004 list feel like the apotheosis of 00s indie rock. What better distillation could you have than the sharp-suited, floppy-fringed arch-pop of Franz Ferdinand’s debut album, which at the time felt like the distillation of every great impulse pop music had had in the last 30 years? In classic pop style, Franz were born celebrating their own success. Meanwhile, The Libertines were busy chronicling their untimely combustion. Their second and, to date, final album also felt monumental, but a monument to wasted opportunity and talent. While Franz reinvigorated the Britpop dream of indie success, The Libertines’ Pete Doherty lived out another, just as potent, fantasy of excess which was itself as old as the Stones.
Elsewhere, we had the stadium-sized ambition of The Killers, the bad boy rawk of Kings of Leon, the DIY defiance of The Cribs. Each one took the past and used it as a template for the present. Each one, while wholly successful, signaled the exhaustion of what NME had termed The New Rock Revolution. So where did we look for something new? Well, Sweden’s The Knife mixed Euro-dance with art concepts on sophomore album Deep Cut, producing a template which pop producers are only now beginning to assimilate. New York’s TV on the Radio created music which mixed angsty art rock with seductive soul. Meanwhile, former rock revival darlings Liars gave us the bewildering cacophony of They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, a concept album about witch trials which signaled their utter disinterest in indie heritage rock.
But what did your 2004 sound like? Get involved by voting and contributing reviews about your favourites.