My Top Records Of 2005
Rogue Wave – Descended Like Vultures – In this day and age of freaky bands trying to find new and “exciting” avenues of creating atonal and simply weird “modern” music, one must ask oneself: what’s wrong with melody? The answer, if you listen to Rogue Wave, is nothing at all. These guys play exciting indie pop/rock with absolute sincerity which makes this one of the years best. Recommended track: “Publish My Love”
Crooked Fingers – Dignity & Shame – The post-Archers of Loaf career of Eric Bachmann has yielded mixed results and left more than a few fans scratching their heads. But on Dignity & Shame, there is something so deeply profound and sad underlying these tunes it’s enough to make you forget about a re-issue of Vee Vee and take notice. Concept albums are popular as of late, with varying degrees of success, but this album manages the task quite nicely. Recommended track: “Call to Love”
The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan – It’s amazing to me that no matter how far music may wander from the bare-bones basics of rock and roll, it can still be stripped to only the essentials with superb results. The White Stripes are the only proof you need of this. Listen to the piano and drums driven “The Denial Twist” or “My Doorbell” and tell me I’m wrong. Recommended track: “The Denial Twist”
The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday – In some ways, lead singer Craig Finn reminds of Frank Black. Or even better, Black Francis. But only if he was backed up not by the Pixies but by Cheap Trick. Bar band rock and roll is alive and well in 2005 and these guys managed to make a great rock record which can be appreciated by anyone, from average skinny indie rock kid to your uncle with the goatee and the mullet. Recommended track: “Banging Camp”
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois – Over hyped? Probably. Worth the hype? Definitely. Stevens paints a picture of the prairie state on a beautiful and schizophrenic palette. Let me put it this way, if you’re not convinced this is great after listening to “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” then it’s time to check your pulse. Recommended track: “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!”
Spoon – Gimme Fiction – While not as eclectic or experimental as 2002′s Kill the Moonlight, Spoon proved they can be just as exciting using a basic rock and roll template as they are using sampled beats and distorted organ. Just listen to “Sister Jack” and try not to clap or sing along. It can’t be done. Even better, listen to “I Turn My Camera On” and try not to dance. Even harder, I tell ya. Recommended track: “I Turn My Camera On”
Beck – Guero – Touted as Beck’s return to his more funk-rockin’ roots, this album plays less like Midnite Vultures and it’s take on hip-hop and funk with funny lyrics, and more like Sea Change with dance music. Is Beck still a sad sack? Listen to “Girl,” “Missing” and “Broken Drum” and you tell me. Still, from the “na na na” of the fist-pumping “E-Pro” to the “na na na” of the laid back bluesy hand-clapper “Go it Alone,” Beck has produced another fine album worthy of praise. Recommended track: “E-Pro”
The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema – The words “great album” and “The New Pornographers” have appeared in sentences together ever since these Canucks dropped Mass Romantic on us some years ago. So, it was no surprise that this album was good. The surprise was just how good it was. Despite burning the candle at both ends with a multitude of solo releases between it’s members, the Pornographers were able to pull off their best album yet and the best album of the year. Does their genius know any bounds? From where I’m sitting the answer looks to be no. If you check out only one album on this list, make it this one. Recommended track: “Use It”
The 5 most Over-rated/Underwhelming Records of 2005 (in no particular order)
Weezer – Make Believe – Fans hoped, wanted and demanded another Pinkerton. What they got was, well…it wasn’t good. While this did sport some decent tracks, it’s hard to listen to “My Best Friend” and honestly believe these are the same people who recorded “Tired of Sex.” And while Weezer did want to return to that sort of depth with their songs, they were unwilling to mine those depths to get there. Result? Underwhelming.
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm – New-wave revivalism has been going on for far too long now. However, that just doesn’t stop some people from heaping praise on a band, be it Hot Hot Heat, The Killers or Bloc Party for finally being “the ones” to revive the scene. Bloc Party were the darlings this year and Silent Alarm drew praise from all corners. Listening to it, I have one question: why? Result? Over-rated.
Death Cab for Cutie – Plans – Growing up is hard to do. Bands mature either naturally as the song writing becomes more precise and composed or through self-imposed moratoriums to sound more mature. I’m thinking Death Cab tried the latter. Gone is the joy and energy of pure pop goodness like “The Sound of Settling” from Transatlanticism, replaced instead with a clunky piano and a record that’s as dead as mid-winter. Result? Underwhelming.
Coldplay – X&Y – Raise your hand if can think of any mainstream major record label release that was as hyped as Coldplay’s third full-length album. Anyone? And what happened? Well, their “masterpiece” turned out to be nothing more than a mish-mosh of overly-sentimental and sloppy mid-tempo pop rock. Disappointing but not totally unexpected. Result? Over-rated AND Underwhelming.
Hot Hot Heat – Elevator – While Bloc Party were the darlings this year, Hot Hot Heat held the title for a little while a few years back after their debut album, Make Up the Breakdown, hit the scene. It was a fun, engaging, interesting and different pop rock album which actually did deserve praise. How that same band made the paint-by-numbers Elevator is beyond me. This album does not have even half the energy of it’s predecessor and none of the quirks that endeared us to Hot Hot Heat in the first place. Can you say sophomore slump? Result? Underwhelming.
Overlooked Record of the Year
The Pale Pacific – Urgency – Comparisons to Death Cab for Cutie are inevitable. DCFC and TPP both hail from the same part of the country and both produce the same kind of quiet/loud indie pop rock beauty that region is known for. But while Death Cab mostly eschew the pop aspects of their music, these guys embrace them. Listen to “If Only She’d Leave Town” for further proof. Could this album be better? Yes. It plods along a little too slowly at first, only really picking up steam on track 3, “Tied to a Million Things,” but once you hit “Fortune Folds” heavenly melodies and harmonies, you won’t look back. Sure, some of the songs have no direction and overstay their welcome, but this is a good album and this band has nowhere to go but up from here. Check ‘em out if it sounds like your kinda thing.