Nominees for Best Record of 2004

The Beauty Shop

Crisis Helpline


The Beauty Shop craft personally-oriented pop songs delivered by John Hoeffleur’s stunning, deep voice. The band is equally adept at naturally slow tempos, rapid pace pop (“Monster”) and rumbly social commentary (“Rumplestiltskin Lives”). The mock-urgency and sharp wit is surprisingly compelling.

The Blackouts

Living in Blue


Released in April of 2004, Living in Blue instantly received critical acclaim, due in no small part to Adam Schmitt’s excellent production of The Blackouts well-crafted, garage-inspired melodies. Beginning with “Something I Can’t Say,” the fuzzy guitar licks abound, driven by a pounding rhythm section and capped with Stephen Ucherek’s unique vocal delivery.

Living in Blue shows the importance of track selection on an album as well. Quick, poppy numbers segue into slower, more soulful songs creating an ebb and flow that leave the listener intrigued and guessing. The album reaches its climax with “Where It Begins,” a pulsing, foot- stomping anthem that the band uses as a closer for its live shows. It’s not finished, however, as the two last songs complete the work, giving the listener the opportunity to ease out of the experience.

Cameron McGill

Stories of the Knife and the Back


Equally well-versed in the pop sound of the ’80s and the music of the ’60s, Cameron McGill writes music that sounds damn cathartic. A singer-songwriter since the breakup of Chicago’s Morris Minors, he writes intelligent, folky tales, often autobiographical. McGill benefits from a full, sunny sound on Stories… For example, the single “Long Way Back To California” features steel guitar and chuggy power chords. Like the best songwriters, writing and playing for McGill sounds less like a job and more like an instinct. Music “for the emotionally homeless.”

The Elanors

A Year To Demonstrate


Beyond their intriguing appearance, there’s plenty of substance to the Elanors’ sound. Deep, jazzy baritone guitar, sophisticated drumming and shimmering keyboards back the sound, while Noah Harris’ voice travels through Americana and ’90s Brit-pop with equal aplomb. They’re most impressive, though, on “Roads To Freedom,” which features only guitar, voice and rhythmic typewriter.

Poster Children

No More Songs About Sleep And Fire

Hidden Agenda

Considering the fact that the Poster Children’s Rick and Rose are graduate students, do research at the Beckman Institute, host a radio show and have a young child, it’s amazing that they are able to find any time to record at all. Ignoring their superhero status as a band for 18 years, No More Songs… is an impressive effort, featuring plenty of alternately sweet and militant pop and punk. Central Illinois populism and politics all fit into a frame of bassy no-wave. The album features excellent album art and enhanced CD features created by the band. If nothing else, the hyper-speed guitars of Rick and Jim Valentin rock as hard as whoever you kids listen to today.

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