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From Franz Ferdinand to Scissor Sisters: Legendary albums turning 20 this year

The class of 2004: Franz Ferdinand, Green Day, Gwen Stefani all released albums  (Standard comp)
The class of 2004: Franz Ferdinand, Green Day, Gwen Stefani all released albums (Standard comp)

If 2003 had been the year that rap and RnB ruled then perhaps its follow-up was the year that rock rejoined the party.

Classic albums released 20 years ago were a mixture of genres with some big returns (U2, Usher) and ambitious young acts who proved they were well worth a seat at the industry’s top table (The Killers, Lil Wayne).

Britain and the US were both involved in the Iraq war, which was then dominating the news, and in Green Day’s American Idiot and Arcade Fire’s Funeral there was commentary through music to match.

But it wasn’t all bad. The economy was still in good shape in the New Labour years; Kelly Holmes was tearing it up at the Olympics; Arsenal completed their unbeaten season. And there was party music for the good times, with Scissor Sisters releasing their OTT debut and who can forget Gwen Stefani’s post-No Doubt banger What You Waiting For?.

Damn, you've got some wicked style... Gwen Stefani in 2004 (PA)
Damn, you've got some wicked style... Gwen Stefani in 2004 (PA)

The summer of 2004 saw the UK singles chart dominated by Eric Prydz’s hit Call On Me, while dance music also moved further into the mainstream thanks to Tiesto performing a set for the ages at the Athens Olympic opening ceremony.

As far as albums went, it was a classic year, with some artists releasing what would later be considered their best work. And, in some cases, whole genres were established or changed.

Here are our picks well worth a 20th birthday party.

Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand

Proving they were well worth the hype, Franz Ferdinand delivered a sleek, cool, and hook-alicious debut album to stomp their signature sound on the British scene.

The album was so good that it won the 2004 Mercury prize and sold more than three million copies worldwide. The band struggled to repeat it.

U2 – How to Destroy an Atomic Bomb

Ever the PR genius (you can admit that if nothing else!), Bono created hype by labelling this as U2’s "first rock album".

Working with long-time producer Steve Lillywhite, the four-piece were more energised than ever 20 years into their career. The album kicked off with monster single Vertigo.

Keane – Hopes and Fears

The fact the best-selling album by a British act belonged to three privately educated lads without a guitar in sight showed that indie was in an unusual place in 2004.

Hopes and Fears was an unlikely success but found a huge audience, shifting more than 1.5 million copies.

Green Day – American Idiot

Billie Joe Armstrong and co meant business on this ambitious, hour-long concept album.

The story of America through the eyes of the invented character ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ is as relevant today as ever. The record spawned Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Holiday, and the monster title track to open a pop-punk classic.

Arcade Fire – Funeral

This was a band with mega ambitions from the off. The Canadian ensemble started as they meant to proceed; unafraid for songs in four parts, lengthy running times, and anthems.

Pitchfork considered this the second-best album of the 2000s.

The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come for Free

Original Pirate Material was a tough debut to match from but Mike Skinner delivered with a concept album told in deadpan language.

Fit But You Know It is a lads (lads, lads!) anthem but Dry Your Eyes and Blinded by the Lights showed a tender side to the Brummie wordsmith.

Kanye West – The College Dropout

Ye was far from the finished product (in good and bad ways!) in 2004, but while this debut LP was not his masterpiece, it was an exceptional debut.

Through The Wire and All Falls Down detail his pre-fame struggles which provide refreshing listening when set against what the excess that the rapper went on to achieve.

The Killers – Hot Fuss

Not a start-to-finish masterpiece (come on, nobody wants Andy, You’re a Star at a concert) but the Vegas four-piece brought something new to the alternative rock sphere with synths meeting guitars and huge choruses.

All of the early hits are here, not least Mr Brightside – the enduring song of the 2000s. But song-writing displayed on Jenny Was a Friend of Mine showed they were here to stay.

Usher – Confessions

An RnB coming of age from the American who delivered a mature and versatile approach over 17 tracks courtesy of a huge team of producers.

This critical breakthrough was so successful that Mr Raymond didn’t feel the need to release another album until 2008.

Norah Jones – Feels Like Home

Country music hasn’t always been commercially received in the UK, but Miss Jones found enormous crossover potential with her second album selling almost one million copies.

The understated recording, produced by Arif Mardin, did not modify the singer’s laidback style for her growing audience and won a Grammy for Best Female Vocal Performance.

PJ Harvey – Uh Huh Her

Album six from the acclaimed singer-songwriter wasn’t as well-selling as some of the others on this list but is still adored by her fans.

Uh Huh Her was completely self-written, produced and played by Harvey, which was enough to win her a Brit and Grammy nominations.

Kasabian – Kasabian

The Leicester rock outfit were unafraid to venture into the psychedelic for their debut album which immediately made them Radio 1 mainstays.

Kasabian, the album, is the band's only effort to have sold more than one million copies and contained the singalong L.S.F, which is still a popular set closer.

Lil Wayne – The Carter

Not his debut, but Weezy was becoming an established voice in rap when he released this – the first of five albums bearing his surname.

Not such a commercial hit in the UK (where Lil Jon was sadly all the rage in 2004), The Carter shifted two million copies in the US to provide a launchpad for domination.

Gwen Stefani – Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

In 2004, Stefani was known only as the singer of rock band No Doubt, but forged her own unique and inspirational direction with her solo effort and Harajuku Lovers Tour.

First track What You Waiting For? was the most fun single of the year but there was plenty more colour with Rich Girl and Hollaback Girl (“this sh*t is bananas! B.A.N.A.N.A.S”).

Scissor Sisters – Scissor Sisters

Unafraid to be anything but cool, this camp masterpiece was the best-selling album in the UK in 2004 and contained hits such as Laura, Take Your Mama, and Filthy/Gorgeous.

Still the best known of the New York band’s catalogue, the LP was far more successful here then it was in their native US, where conservatism cost it commercial success. Their loss was our gain and Attitude magazine named it the best gay album of all time.