I want to spare you from reading another indie-heavy best of 2004 music list, so instead of recounting my absolute favorite albums this year, I decided to highlight all the little guys I enjoyed this year. These are my favorite unsigned or small label bands that started out as a person in their apartment with a PC and a website. The real indies, if you will.
Goh Nakamura - A guy with a PC and a guitar (and a boatload of effects pedals I hear) making delightful music. It's like coffee spot folk music, but with a sense of humor and an undercurrent of romance. Lots of catchy little love songs on his debut.
Say Hi To Your Mom - I bought his first album via paypal on his site last year, and now he's on a little label and I picked up the new one at the iTunes Music Store. The new release is even better than the first and I'm happy to hear he's on a small label and doing east coast tours.
Fredo Viola - I found out about this guy from this incredible music video he shot for his Sad Song. He used the 15 second animated-gif function of a cheap nikon digital camera to shoot the entire thing and it's a clever use of simple tech to produce something that looks fantastic. It was good enough to get me to buy the album, which is great. It's got an ephemeral sound, sorta like a male Enya or something with tons of vocal layering. Fantastic driving music, I find.
Magnatune - not an album or band, but an internet label that offers downloadable samples and a sliding pay scale. Discs I enjoyed in 2004 from this small outfit included Cargo Cult, Emma's Mini, and the Magnatune Remixed disc. If you're ever at a conference they're at, try out their genre sampler CDs, or just listen to their entire catalog stream.
Worth a mention: I discovered Brad Sucks last fall so it can't make it into this 2004 list, but I still hear his songs everyday in my monster mix and enjoy them all. It's still a wonder his music hasn't caught on like wildfire with a label.