As the year winds down, it’s time to look back at the year that was in music, at least the music I give a shit about.
Here are my top 20 Albums of 2005, and then some other categories:
20. Bright Eyes–I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning This album is missing from a lot of folks’ Year End Lists, and I think it’s a matter of short term memories. The album came out nearly a year ago, but it includes some absolutely fantastic songs, including, “Old Soul Song”, “We Are Nowhere And It’s Now”, “The First Day Of My Life”, and “At The Bottom Of Everything”. C’mon folks, if this album was just released, folks would be all over it. Sometimes you have to let an album sink in. You can’t just jump all over everything you just heard and call it the best of the year.
19. The National–Alligator-An album that grew on me with time. “Baby, We’ll Be Fine” is one of my favorite songs of the year.
18. Franz Ferdinand–You Could Have It So Much Better…-More ultracatchy pop from Franz. This album may not be as good as their debut, but it’s pretty damn close, and in an age where sophomore slumps tend to be the rule and not the exception, that’s pretty good.
17. Martha Wainwright–Martha Wainwright-Ballsy debut album from the other Wainwright sibling. “Bloody Motherfucking Asshole” is the best song that will never be played on regular radio. The rest of the album is a nice mix of folk, rock and pop.
16. British Sea Power–Open Season-Some argue that British Sea Power sold out on this second album, opting for accessibility over art. I think they captured the best of both. Their debut album, The Decline Of British Sea Power, is tough to penetrate at times, and while there are some really good songs on it, I had trouble really loving it. No big shock, since I definitely prefer artists who maintain some pop sensibilities (the Arcade Fire) over bands that have a disjointed, chaotic sound (Broken Social Scene). “It Ended On an Oily Stage” and “Oh, Larsen B” are two favorites from this album.
15. Aberdeen City–The Freezing Atlantic–I came upon these Bostonians late this year, but their debut album is proof positive that Americans can make post punk as well, even if its not quite as good as the Brits.
14. Kaiser Chiefs–Employment-When I reviewed the CD in March, I said it would be on year end Best Of lists, and I was right. Probably further down than I thought at the time, but let’s chalk that up to over-enthusiasm. Still, The Kaiser Chiefs made a raucous, fun record that still had great tunes to go with the tongue in cheek delivery and stage show. They’re also the only band on this list to play Live 8. Not too shabby.
13. Depeche Mode–Playing The Angel–Some compared this favorably with Violator–an act of gross hyperbole. It IS, however, their best album since Songs of Faith and Devotion. It is obvious that DM has been listening to current trends in music, and they have responded accordingly. That isn’t to suggest that the band is glomming off of their fellow bands, but rather that they tend to see trends happen, and them execute them better than anyone else.
12. The Hold Steady–Separation Sunday-I love albums like this: Rock N Roll with a singer whose voice you can understand, singing lyrics you don’t necessarily get. But they force you to listen to what they have to say.
11. Death Cab For Cutie–Plans-The indie set really had their way with Death Cab for releasing Plans. I’d love to have seen the Pitchfork review if the album had been released on Barsuk Records. They lost points just for going with a major. This is not a bad album. It’s accessible, well produced, and expertly executed by the band, even despite a few missteps like “Someday You Will Be Loved”.
10. The New Pornographers–Twin Cinema-This album really grew on me after repeat listens, and now it cracks my Top Ten of 2005. I can only imagine how excited that must make the band members, who are religious readers of the “Rant”. Really, they are….really.
9. Editors–The Back Room-It hasn’t been released in the US yet, but I feel compelled to put it on my list regardless because I love it. Folks dismissed Editors right off the bat for being Joy Division sounda-likes, but I disagree. Editors sure have some similar elements, but they are their own band. Almost every song on this album is on my favorites playlist on the iPod. If it gets a proper US release in 2006, I may just include it on my Best of ’06 list, too. Why? Because I can. Go get your own blog.
8. Wolf Parade–Apologies To The Queen Mary-The Lennon and McCartney type co writing from Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug makes for a two faced album that is an aggressive, raw introduction to this next big thing from Canada. As far as I’m concerned, it’s The Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, The New Pornographers, and then the rest of Canada.
7. M Ward–Transistor Radio A vastly underrated album, possibly because of high expectations after 2003’s The Transfiguration of Vincent, but Transistor Radio stands on it’s own as a low-fi folk journey that celebrates a time when regular radio was actually relevant.
6. My Morning Jacket–Z A delightfully post retro album that seems entirely genuine. It cannot be shoehorned into any genre. Z crossed over multiple musical landscapes in making one of the best rounded albums of the year. “Into The Woods” is one of my favorite songs of the year.
5. Shout Out Louds–Howl Howl Gaff Gaff While the album has been bouncing around in Europe since 2003, it was not released in the US until this year, and thank God. It’s just a well crafted pop album with a great mixture of keyboards, guitars and simple lyrical elements necessitated by a Swedish band exploring their second language of English.
4. Sufjan Stevens–Illinois Another installment in Steven’s ambitious “50 States” project. What makes these albums more than just a sterile history lesson is the one-off references that he makes to certain parts of a state’s lore, such as the song “John Wayne Gacy” a beautifully crafted song that tells the story of the serial killer. Sufjan Stevens is good enough to turn Gacy into the object of a great song, that’s fucking talent. “Chicago” and “The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts” are my favorites from the album.
3. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah–Clap Your Hands Say Yeah The hype has turned to derision by many of the very bloggers who built the hype in the first place. It’s a shame, because their album was easily better than all but 2 LPs released this year. Lead singer and creative force Alec Ounsworth walked us through his worldview over the course of 9 strong, full formed songs, 2 well crafted instrumental pieces, and a strange album opener called “Clap Your Hands” which sounds like a carnival act. The mixture of upbeat guitar riffs and soaring keyboard parts made for great complements to Ounsworth’s unique lyrics. “The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth”, “In This Home On Ice”, “Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood” and “Details Of the War” are just four of the great songs on this confident, DIY self-release.
2. Antony and the Johnsons–I Am A Bird Now Antony’s stripped down cabaret arrangements and nakedly personal lyrics about personal discovery and sexual ambiguity made for the most unique album I heard all year. “For Today I Am A Boy”, “You Are My Sister”, “Fistful of Love”, and “Hope There’s Someone” represent 4 of the best written songs of the year. Antony’s compelling persona guarantees that we’ll be hanging on his every word for years to come.
1. Bloc Party–Silent Alarm My favorite album of the year. It starts with the feverish beats of “Like Eating Glass”, and end 14 songs later with the moody, Depeche Mode-like drone of “Compliments”. I usually prefer an album that keeps itself to 12 or less songs, because few bands can maintain excellence over that many songs. Silent Alarm is an exception-there is nary a dud on this album. It’s an orgasm or punk energy with thinking man’s lyrics and ridiculous guitar riffs and drum fills. New single “Two More Years” proves that Bloc Party won’t be a one-album wonder.
1. Razorlight–Up All Night-A little discussed addition to the Brit pop ranks. I liked this album a lot more than most folks seemed to.
2. Engineers–Engineers-They were better live than in the studio, but this is a good album, although it reminds me a bit too much at times of Pink Floyd.
3. Animal Collective–Feels-Just haven’t listened to it enough to fall in love, but I like the album. It’s a bit impenetrable at first, but grows on you with repeat listens.
4. Sleater-Kinney–The Woods–A violent album. A heavy album. A good album. Just not one of my favorite albums this year.
5. Sigur Ros–Takk–I know they are loved by the indie crowd, Brian included, but it didn’t wow me. Maybe I just don’t “get” Sigur Ros much as everyone else. It’s beautiful music, but it represents something I’d prefer in the background as opposed to something I want folks to shut up during so I can hear it.
6. The Magic Numbers–The Magic Numbers–A nice album, but I don’t really see myself popping it in all that often.
7. M.I.A.–Arular–A very cool album. Probably a bit overhyped in my opinion. My wife loves it, so it needs to be recognized.
1. Coldplay–X&Y–I actually don’t dislike the album, but it’s just harmless MOR bullshit masquerading as high art. Chris Martin cares far more about commercial appeal than he does anything else related to making an album.
2. The White Stripes–Get Behind Me Satan–1 listen is enough. The only song that stuck with me was “Doorbell”, and I hate that song now, too.
3. The Bravery–The Bravery–These guys can have all the pissing matches they want with rivals The Killers. Frankly both bands are boring, but The Killers at least have the tunes to back up some of their false braggadocio. The only worthwhile song on this album is Honest Mistake. Remove the rest from your iPod and you’ll be fine.
I Own These Albums Now, And I’m Willing To Sell Them For $ .04
1. Broken Social Scene–Broken Social Scene–Noisemaking masquerading as music. Not a discernible hook to be found on this meandering, ponderous recording. I listened about 5 times to the album. Usually exorcising the sound from my speakers with heavy doses of The Arcade Fire’s Funeral. Their debut album, You Forgot It In People, sucks too. Just a little less.
2.. The Caesars–Paper Tigers–A example of letting a single, in this case “Jerk It Out” from the iPod shuffle commercial, sway me to buy an album that totally sucked.
So there it is, my Year In Music. Here’s hoping that 2006 is at least as good.
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