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My Favorite 20 Albums of 2005 (and some I hated)

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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.

Honorable Mention

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 WoodsA violent album. A heavy album. A good album. Just not one of my favorite albums this year.
5. Sigur Ros–TakkI 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 NumbersA nice album, but I don’t really see myself popping it in all that often.
7. M.I.A.–ArularA very cool album. Probably a bit overhyped in my opinion. My wife loves it, so it needs to be recognized.


1. Coldplay–X&YI 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 Satan1 listen is enough. The only song that stuck with me was “Doorbell”, and I hate that song now, too.
3. The Bravery–The BraveryThese 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 SceneNoisemaking 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 TigersA 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.

More music, mp3s and other stuff at The BM Rant.

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About Matt Freelove

  • Bliffle

    What a lousy list! Not one new classical recording, not one new or re-issue jazz recording. I suppose it reflects the stunted audio world of modern dilettantes. How shallow. Too bad.

  • Triniman

    Great list, Matt. Lots of music for me to check out. Did you manage to listen to Montreal’s Stars’ album Set Yourself On Fire?

  • You didn’t like the Caesars?

  • Bliffle–I am not only a modern dilettante. I am also an indie yuppy and a rock snob. There are no reissues on my list at all. They don’t count. Plus, I find it shallow that you summarily dismiss this list because it doesn’t fit your narrow musical view. How sad.

    Triniman–Stars is on my short list of shit I need to listen to. Some many great albums, so little time.

    Tan–I hated the Caesars album. I really wanted to like it, too. “Jerk It Out” is a great song, but the rest of the album was just boring to me. I’ll gladly mail you my copy, postage paid!

  • Wow I am now officially out of it, and old. I don’t have a single album on this lists. Better yet, I haven’t even heard of half of them. Guess I better get back to my Laurence Welk albums, its almost bed time.

  • Welly, welly, welly, Monsieur Freelove comes out of the closet as an enemy of The People. Perhaps a little vacation at Camp Mimi will improve his poor attitude.

    And if the “Little Ghost” and “Blue Orchid” don’t do anything for you, then you just don’t know a real song when you hear it.

    On the other hand, Matt does have a good strategery here to make himself hard to criticize, in that he’s managed to pick 20 albums without even ONE of them being anything that anyone would have ever, ever heard of.

    I hunted down that New Pornographers album. I’m all in favor of porn, but you think THIS is a hot record and the White Stripes were not memorable? Granted, the New Pornographers are far more obscure and thus more legitimate, but they still suck and JACK WHITE RULES WITH AN IRON FIST!

    Perhaps a loved one will gift you with a box of Q-Tips for Christmas.

  • he’s managed to pick 20 albums without even ONE of them being anything that anyone would have ever, ever heard of.

    only true if you stopped caring about anything new way the hell back in college.

    don’t agree on the White Stripes though. really great record.

    Bright Eyes…also a great record. i’m a little amazed that the Duke picked the other one. ah well.

  • I can’t get even remotely interested in The White Stripes album. Sorry. Al–you need to get off the farm once in a while and get to a record store to buy some good music. Christ dude, you haven’t heard any of this? Put down your Jack White autographed copy of White Blood Cells and switch the 20 CDs spinning in your changer.

  • zingzing

    decent list, although i don’t care for most of the albums on the list. especially bloc party. it’s a bit lifeless.
    broken social scene may take you a while to get into, and it is a big bloated mess, but the sound is just amazing. the detail and the rush of the whole thing makes up for any lack of hooks. the sound is the hook.
    i do find the first comment funny… how limiting… new classical (what, like philip glass? there’s really not that much interesting stuff coming out of classical music… maybe william basinski… or that “blue notebooks” album…) same with the quoted bit in #7… if there is a person out there who has not heard of even one of these albums, there’s really no point in them reading this list…

  • I like your declaration as indie yuppie and rock snob, Matt. Great work on this list, though I’m very surprised you’re down on the Stripes. And no Guero by Beck? I freaking played that album into digital smithereens this year.

    Kaiser Chiefs is currently tops on my lists of albums I want to snag.

  • EB, I am with you on Guero. It is no worse than #3 on my list and might wind up in the #1 slot. It keeps morphing with two others that have been at the top of my list throughout the year.

  • EZ

    If you’re using Arcade Fire to cleanse your speakers it really should be on your top twenty. Great, frickin’ solid album, gosh darnit. I’d say it’s better than any Bright Eyes album.

  • Arcade Fire was last year. Best album of last year, too, except for the final draft of Smile. Animal Collective’s Feels is far and away my favorite album of this year, spellbinding…I played it four times in a row when I got it.

    And I truly hated the Bloc Party album. Truly. But my desperate loathing of the entire neo-postpunk style may have something to do with that…

    Oh, and Al: I’d heard of all the Top 20. Actually listened to 16. Own eight of them. I’ve also heard of all the stuff on the honorable mention list. How, as the writer of countless music reviews, the “New CDs” column, and more comments than any other Blogcritic, could you have not heard of ANY of them? You’d almost have to have actively avoided hearing of them.

  • I think the thing about CYHSY is just how badly the hype got carried away. They went from “exciting new band with great album” to “this year’s indie-rock savior who everyone else in the world will imitate from this day forward!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    Plus, their live show turned out to be pretty dull. I think that diminished people’s appreciation of the album, which is, I agree, a shame. I think it’s great (although it’s probably more like 6 or 7 on my list).

  • Definitely agree with you on Martha, Franz, Pornographers (should have been #1 though) and Death Cab. Passionately disagree on the Stripes. There are so many great sounds on that CD. Really the Coldplay is pretty decent as well, but it takes forever for it to click into place. How could you leave out great Brit records like Hard-Fi and KT Tunstall? What about the interesting grooves of Royksopp or Thievery Corporation? Fiona Apple’s latest (the Brion version) was also quirky amazing stuff.

  • “I freaking played that album into digital smithereens this year.” EB, that is the best thing i’ve read in days, an i been up to the eyes in Camus. you kick Camus in the arse-gland!

    Great list here, Matt, some cross-overs with my own end-of-year list (i’m waitin till after christmas to post, on account of i haven’t heard the new ryan adams yet). perplexing that Bright Eyes is way down at #20, though. and Bloc Party i find especially, well, bland. but i AM however giving the British Sea Power record another spin at this minute, on account of this reminding me it was due another go in iTunes sometime soon. it really is rather spiffing, although it wouldn’t make a personal top 20. thats the joy as these things, i’d wager.

    good call on Martha as well, best Wainwright ever, is what.

    And Mark, i adore I’m Wide Awake…, but Digital Ash is the one that keeps me awake at night reelin over those sonic wonderments.

  • I don’t really get the appeal of CYHSY. They’re perfectly decent “now sound” indie rock, but they sound exactly like Wolf Parade, etc. to these ears. And why is it now a prerequisite for indie singers to not have even the most precarious grasp on, you know, singing? Is that all Jeff Mangum’s fault or what?

    Don’t get me started on the Stripes. I’m sitting that one out.

  • “How could you leave out great Brit records like Hard-Fi and KT Tunstall? What about the interesting grooves of Royksopp or Thievery Corporation? Fiona Apple’s latest (the Brion version) was also quirky amazing stuff.”

    Mark–one can only listen to so many albums in one year. I’ve gotta play with my kid, too.

  • The Arcade Fire is probably my favorite album of the last five years, just not a 2005 album, unles you’re in the UK

  • And why is it now a prerequisite for indie singers to not have even the most precarious grasp on, you know, singing?

    I was just commenting the other day about CYHSY’s singer, but I said that it now seems a prerequisite for indie singers to do their best David Byrne impression. What’s up with that?

  • zingzing

    david byrne is cool, that’s why. sheesh.

  • JR

    Still not a good enough reason to imitate a lousy singer.

  • Flying Bannana Pie

    Great list Matt! But I kind of like Get Behind Me Satan, but it still didn’t live up to my expectations.

  • I dunno, I kind of like Byrne’s voice. These new bands (I’m thinking CYHSY and Wolf Parade in particular) just seem like they’re TRYING to sound grating. Maybe I just haven’t given them a fair enough shot.

  • CYHSY’s lead singer, Alec, has a nasally speaking voice. You guys are so presumptuous to think that it’s just imitating. News flash: David Byrne is not the only human being to have that voice. Some folks sound like him. And some of them happen to sing in bands, too.

    Zach–I do agree that the Spencer Krug songs on Wolf Parade’s album sound like he’s trying to sound wacky. Dan Boeckner’s voice on his WP songs are much more conventional vocally. I really think Alec Ounsworth is just singing with the voice God gave him. I got a chance to talk to him after a solo show he did in Philly a few months ago, and he sounds like his singing voice fits, if that makes any sense.

  • [MR]Chip


  • Rob

    this stuff sucks. royksopp live is best