In this, the third installment of Music’s Best of 2005, a small sampling of Blogcritics pick the best group or duo of last year. Everyone is invited and encouraged to share their choices in the comment section.
The Arcade Fire
Canadian band, The Arcade Fire, released their debut album, Funeral, in September of 2004, but 2005 was their year. A relentless touring schedule to support Funeral, as well as a proper release of their first EP kept Win Butler and his band of merry musician’s quite busy. Of all the albums released in recent memory, (let’s say the last 5 years, at least) none is as important as Funeral. The music is fantastic, for sure, as are Win Butler’s David Byrne/Bowie-esque emotive vocals. But it’s what’s being said that makes Funeral so awe-inspiring. Created on the heels of several family deaths in the band, the group took a quantum leap forward from their somewhat disjointed EP to create a near perfect album about hope, happiness, sadness, and growing up. The beginning of 2006 is a time of rest and writing for The Arcade Fire, giving fans a moment to take a deep breath. It also gives the uninitiated a chance to listen to this gem of an album before another comes on its heels.
2. Robert Burke
The Bad Plus
The Bad Plus is the best group presently breathing air on planet earth. This acoustic Jazz trio continues to release brilliant albums that are a dazzling display of technical brilliance and songwriting talent. In 2005 they released a live album Blunt Object Live In Tokyo a full-length LP, Suspicious Activity and a 3 song cover EP. All of it is simply exquisite. They are also responsible for turning indie kids onto Jazz, which is enough to win a prize in and of itself.
Thank God for Babyshambles, is what. Down In Albion is a beautiful, poetic, fragile, gloriously human record, they’ve released three of the best singles of the year and best of all, they brought unpredictable (sometimes infuriatingly so), raw and, aye, compelling music back onto the radio stations and the chart-based telly. Sometimes they’re woeful, sometimes they touch the very heels a God, so gloriously divine is the performance, but always fascinating, and at the core of it all, Pete Doherty, sometimes a cunt, sometimes the most charmin fella on the planet, sometimes he’ll break a man’s heart, other times he’ll swell the soul to burstin, but whatever mood he’s in, he’s the best British songwriter since Shane MacGowan, and while I’m reluctant to say it, he’s the best rock-star we’ve seen in ages.
4. Al Barger
Besides the White Stripes, I’d pick June Carter and Johnny Cash. These folks are more interesting dead than most people are out walking around. If you want, you can officially post the win to Witherspoon and Phoenix, and their new recordings. I’d much rather listen to Reese Witherspoon sing a 50 year old June Carter song than a new one from Coldplay.
Also, a lot of June Carter stuff was put out just this year. Particularly, the Keep On the Sunnyside collection puts a lot of classic material back into circulation for the first time in many years for some of it. “The Heel” was new to me.
Even just actors singing their songs and honoring their romantic spirits that generated those songs rates as the hottest, most interesting act around.
The White Stripes
By now, nominating the White Stripes for Group of the Year is almost like cheating. Since their breakthrough to the mainstream in 2001, Jack and Meg White have remained the best and most important rock’n’roll act on the planet, bar none. No one can touch them. And this year, with triumphant first tours of South America and Eastern Europe to bolster their already-impressive fifth album, that statement goes double. Get Behind Me Satan may not have the consistently big hooks of 2003’s Elephant, but it’s a tighter and more accomplished record than the ungainly White Blood Cells; the sound of an already established band pushing themselves and stretching their boundaries beyond expectation. It’s quite possibly their best album yet. But all that is just critical drivel…point is, every year when the White Stripes are recording and performing is a good year to be alive. 2005 was a great year.
6. Mark Saleski
This was a tough one. System Of A Down was in the running, but I figured that it’d be a little dishonest to vote for them…considering as to how I never got around to actually purchasing Hypnotize, much less Mesmerize. Still, the tunes that I did hear were stunning.
I had an epiphany about Bright Eyes this year. The mostly acoustic record I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, containing a whole pile of great, great songs, had a lot to do with my inner turnaround.
But, as good as the above records are, The White Stripes take this years prize with Get Behind Me Satan. I’ve heard folks yappin’ about how this album isn’t as ‘focused’ as their others. Well, they’re in great company, as I seem to remember the same kind of thing being lobbed at records such as Exile On Main St. The album’s messy-yet-cohesive sound palette reminded me of another Rolling Stones record: Some Girls. All I know is that Meg & Jack have got it going on. Sure, Meg can’t really play those drums too well but, from what I hear, that’s the way Jack likes it. Plus, Jack appears to have memorized the entire encyclopedia of blues, psychedelic country and film music. That appears to be good enough, at least to these ears.
7. Jon Sobel
(Jon made all of his choices from Indie releases as it is his “stomping ground” on Blogcritics)
Iggy reborn? The Strokes on hash? The Ramones crossed with the Animals? These guys are truly stupid cool.
Better Than Ezra
When I began considering this category, I knew I wanted to pick one that made the biggest impact on me, not necessarily one that had done extraordinarily well on the charts or with record sales.
Though the group has been around for a few years now, I really got a good look at them at a live show this past summer. From there I began buying their CDs, starting with the most current release, Before the Robots and working back. For a relatively young band they have a decent catalogue of great music that fits into the “soundtrack of my life” category. I can put it on, when I’m happy, angry or sad, and there is some song that will touch on my mood and I can say. . .yeah! That’s just how I feel! Whether it’s the poignant “A Lifetime,” the country-rock “It’s A Southern Thing,” the bluesy “It’s Only Natural” or the tantalizing “Juicy” (Being featured this season on Desperate Housewives, and written specifically for the show) Better Than Ezra is better than anything else I’ve heard this year.
My Chemical Romance
I couldn’t pick a best of without including the gentlemen of My Chemical Romance somewhere. They’ve made a few interesting videos. They’ve toured non-stop playing Taste of Chaos and the Warped Tour as well as touring in Europe and opening for Green Day. They’ve influenced countless little emo kids to wear eye makeup in creative ways. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge was one of the best things I bought in 2004 and one of the best live shows I saw this year was MCR’s set on the Warped Tour.
10. Temple Stark
I discovered their music this year when for some reason I thought the foursome were Swedish. Turns out – Chicagoans. This band has fun. It’s that simple. I wasn’t looking for deep this year – my life pretty much overfilled that riverbank. I wasn’t looking for other people’s problems. I found it in a lot of other great music this year, but this band just pumps out, not raw energy, but musically talented energy with influences they add to, rather than steal from.
That they performed on Mad TV, Carson Daly’s Last Call, O.C. Soundtrack (but then who wasn’t?), Good Morning America, with their “Million ways” dance and The Late Show with Leno (and more), showed that this was there year for success and I was happy to listen and discover right before all that.
Plus they’re plugged in with podcast, blogging and making a close connection with people who like ‘em. (At least as close as the Internet allows.) I just saw that OK Go Lead Singer Damian Kulash wrote an op-ed in the New York Times Dec. 6 about Digital Rights Management.
See also Jurassic 5, Jedi Mind Tricks
In the coming days, look for Blogcritics choices for Best Artist of 2005.
Wondering what Blogcritics are picking in the other catagories? Read about Blogcritics on ’05’s Best