There have been a few outstanding albums in 2005, along with some particularly egregious stinkers. I'm happy to end this year of reviews with one of the couple of best albums of the year- and from a new guy at that.
James Blunt just SO totally kicks ass with Back to Bedlam. This sumbitch is a real songwriter. He knows how to write some hooks, develop them melodically, and put some rhythm to them.
More significantly, this album really has some soul. "Soul" is obviously a somewhat epehemeral concept, hard to put a finger on, but there's some emotional depth to what he's doing. These songs are not just catchy- though they're certainly that- but resonant as well.
Indeed, this record got too damned resonant for me for a minute there. I first heard him on Saturday Night Live, and immediately this album got found and slapped into heavy rotation. After a week of intense listening, we suddenly got hit with the first big winter storm of the season down on the farm.
Thus, I was snowed in, feeling rather anxious and trapped getting into the shortest days of the season, watching the suicide video for "You're Beautiful" and the straight up suicide note of "Goodbye My Lover." Grim scene, baby. I had to put this thing down for a few days.
But not for long, cause it's just beautiful work, if a bit disturbing in places. Partly, this was a weird subjective moment of personal vulnerability, but still. I'm long since not some impressionable teenager, and I can't remember when a mere record has ever spooked me like this. That's a pretty fair achievement.
The whole album is excellent, but in particular there are at least four songs that rate as classics. The suicide note "Goodbye My Lover" probably counts as the best song. It's just a perfect quietly dramatic piano ballad. It's SO pretty and right that it starts to sound real convincing. This strikes me as a lot more potent and thus more emotionally hazardous than any damned silly Ozzy "Suicide Solution." This art is dangerous!
"You're Beautiful" was his first song on SNL, and appears to be the featured US promo track. If this thing doesn't make a huge radio hit, then you might as well just give up listening to a damned radio. It's more rhythmically aggressive with the guitars, and less directly sad. [The suicide theme was strictly the video, not in the lyrics at all.] This is as good a basic pop song as I heard all year. I just heard this on the radio for the first time while wandering through a Dollar General, and boy did it cut right through that so-so Avril Lavigne record playing immediately before.