The second installment in our Best of 2005, here is a small sampling of the regular music reviewers on Blogcritics picking the best song of 2005. Everyone is invited and encouraged to share their choices in the comment section.
“Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood” — Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The self-released debut album from this Brooklyn/Philly five piece is an exhilarating indie pop romp that demands multiple listens. The gem of the album, though, is its closer, and my choice for song of the year, “Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood”. The frantic guitar strumming is led by lead singer Alec Ounsworth’s biting commentary on post-9/11 Bush war policy. When seeing CYHSY live this is the song the indie kids want to hear. In a perfect world this song would be top 40.
2. Robert Burke
“Blood Machine” — Chad VanGaalen
My pick for best song took some time as there were so many great songs created this year. I had a pool of hundreds that could have made the cut. In the end however, I chose the song “Blood Machine” by Chad VanGaalen. Chad was discovered by Sub Pop Records up in Canada where he was quietly recording song after song in his bedroom. His debut album Infiniheart includes the very best of his self-produced work. “Blood Machine” is a beautiful, melancholy track complete with cello. It tells the story of a community of people living underground who are all connected to a central “blood machine” that keeps them alive.
“The people had their hearts plugged into a giant machine that could circulate blood. Please, please, please help us escape from the blood machine.”
Far out, creative stuff.
“I Ain’t Going Nowhere” — Rick Moranis from the album The Agoraphobic Cowboy
Yes, that’s right, the same Rick Moranis of Bob and Doug Mackenzie and Honey I Shrunk The Kids fame released an album this year. An album that will fly so far under the radar that it will run into parked cars, but one of the best collections of satirical songs published since the hay days of Tom Lerher.
“I Ain’t Going Nowhere” appropriates the tune from the old Tom T. Hall song “I’ve Been Everywhere” and replaces the lyrics with ones that keep the tenor of our times. A peon to the joys of staying at home and all our fears of leaving the house, “I Ain’t Going Nowhere” is side splittingly funny and painfully true all at once.
From the high-speed itemization of the drugs, gadgets, and simple comforts that make a man’s home his bunker to the absolute perfection of the musicianship (this album has some of the best country picking I have heard in a long time) it’s not only funny but musically a great song.
Satire is difficult to master most of the time, musical satire even harder. “I Ain’t Going Nowhere” gets my nod for song of the year for its successful accomplishment of both goals. For a full review of Agoraphobic Cowboy go here
“Welcome To Jamrock” — Damian Marley
First time I heard “Welcome To Jamrock”, it’s fair to say, I shat half my body weight out my face. “The hell is this wonder?” I got to screechin, this brilliant, socially-conscious, insanely intoxicatin burst a reggae / hip-hop / punk abandon? Turns out it was the work of this Damian “Jnr. Gong” Marley, one a Bob’s youngsters, and the very first to not only be listenable, but also to produce a track that is easily as good as even the best a the old fella’s work. It’s incendiary, reekin a anger an rebellion, an it makes the The Duke bop in the sortsa ways should by all rights be illegal.
5. Al Barger
“You Like My Song” — Geoff Reacher
This dude from Athens, GA that no one ever heard of made the best record all year. This electronic folk song comes out sounding like sugar coated pop music. The freaky stuff he’s doing with the guitars by the end almost would qualify this song for the Dr Demento show.
But the meditation on mortality is quite serious. He’s got a really cute promo poster for this with the grim reaper conspiring against him. Still, “Hearses circling your house.” That rings real.
Perhaps the author will disabuse my interpretations of his art, but I take it to be a “life’s too short” theme addressed to an ex. “The world broke your heart baby, I’m just chimin’ in”.
Geoff Reacher conjured up a rootsy electronic novelty that is just the prettiest, cleverest pop treat going- with some real spiritual substance.
Let’s conclude with this interesting note from his website describing the careful and specific artistic discipline that served him very well here. ” ‘You Like My Song’ sounds live because it is: a heretofore unrealized amalgam of raw country folk with the DJ arts, sequenced and variously twisted in real time using a foot pedal rig”
“Fistful of Love” — Antony & The Johnsons from the album I am a Bird Now
To record a breakthrough album with a bevy of guest stars and still end up with one of the most riveting personal records in recent memory takes a great artist indeed. Case in point: Antony has the balls to open “Fistful of Love” with a spoken-word poem by no less a personage than Lou Fucking Reed – and damned if we don’t all but ignore the old guy the moment our heroine’s unmistakable voice thrusts itself firmly into the mix. With its Southern soul flavorings and Antony’s passionate vocals, “Fistful” is a genuinely affecting song. But pay close attention to the lyrics, an unsettling mix of black humor and heartfelt confessional where fists take the place of lips and bruises are “symbols of devotion,” and the effect is just devastating. Is this a paean to sadomasochism, domestic abuse, or something else entirely? At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is this emotionally intense, thrilling love song, about the same kind of frightening love that made Sada Abe strangle and castrate Ishida Kichizou. A remarkable song from a truly remarkable record.
7. Mark Saleski
“Poor Little Rich Boy” – Regina Spektor
Probably flying beneath most people’s radar, Regina Spektor fairly well dropped me to my knees with the crystalline pop goodness of Soviet Kitsch.
When records like this come along, I have the urge to buy up a bunch of copies and hand them out on the street. Comparisons to Tori Amos are too easy (and a little bit unfair) but if you take the power of Little Earthquakes and add a high degree of quirk, you’re on your way.
“Poor Little Rich Boy” shows off Spektor’s vocal charms as well as her penchant for the unusual, in this case it’s the added element of percussion via a board whacked with a stick.
Read my Review here.
8. Jon Sobel
(Jon made all of his choices from Indie releases as it is his “stomping ground” on Blogcritics)
“I Don’t Know” — Nicola from the album What’s the Point
In addition to putting on a killer stage show, Nicola writes some of the most captivating songs out there. This one rocks, it has passion, and it’s super-catchy.
“Clyde” – Eric Himan, from the album Dark Horse
This category was the hardest one for me to pick. There are so many great songs out there, but I kept coming back to “Clyde” over and over.
Himan is a young independent artist who caters to the college audience, but this offering is that of an aged soul. It’s a poetic masterpiece, full of metaphoric language and backed up with a beautifully orchestrated piano. Singing of a painful break-up, he delivers the lyrics with a wailing that is in perfect pitch and enough to leave me awestruck.
“I have been waiting here,
For you to fetch the getaway car,
You took the money and the jewels,
I’m thinking I’m no prize at all,
Cause I’ve been replaced.”
My review of Dark Horse, done earlier this year, can be found here.
“15 Beers Ago” – The Deaf Pedestrians
Mostly, I read these things and song of the year is always something that everyone else absolutely adored and that I’ve heard so many times it makes me want to stick sharp, pointy things in my ears. So, instead of picking something that is technically flawless and the work of angels or that was at the very least popular, I’ve picked something that makes me smile every time I hear it. The Deaf Pedestrian’s 15 Beers Ago is straight forward “I hate you, you fucked me over” rock. It’s bitter, it’s cynical, and it’s funny. I dig it.
11. Temple Stark
Paul McCartney – This Never Happened Before, from the album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.
I didn’t want to pick anything off this album. I’m not really a McCartney music fan. I liked CACITB, wouldn’t have bought it myself though (and would have been disappointed if someone had bought it for me). But I’ve listened to it and I still love how its chords and depth fills a room.
It’s stuck with me and if there was a Top 25 list I had the time to create the album would be somewhere in there. But this song, in particular, has embedded itself in my conscience. It keeps on popping up and I find myself whisper-singing it under my breath in moments of stress. It’s a gentle tune about love. But because the song seems to be lifting and moving towards a big flourish, it also seems to hint at missed opportunity, somewhere, somehow because it doesn’t quite get there, and ends in plucked harp strings.
Of course, that could just be me waiting for the big bass drums and the shredding guitar riff to kick in.
“I’m ve-ry sure, this never happ-ened to me before.
See also Nina Gordon’s acoustic Straight Outta Compton (I would have picked this but from what I could tell it was released at the end of 2004.)
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