Here they are — the selections for Best Album of the year from a small sampling of the regular music reviews on Blogcritics. Everyone is invited and encouraged to share their choices for the Best Album of 2005 in the comment section.
Silent Alarm by Bloc Party
As if I didn’t already have plenty of reasons to like Franz Ferdinand lead singer Alex Kapranos (specifically for both FF albums), he also was responsible in part for bringing Bloc Party to the general music audience, and fans of post punk found a new band to get all sweaty over. Silent Alarm is a versatile long player with raucous tunes like the schizophrenic “She’s Hearing Voices” and the politik of “Helicopter”, and introspective slow builds like “Luna” and “Modern Love”. My favorite moments of the album are at its hardest—on songs like “Like Eating Glass”, “Helicopter”, and “Banquet”. The guitars are so angular, like the jagged edge of a steak knife, with the vocals of Kele Okereke serving as the meat they cut through.
2. Robert Burke
Illinois by Sufjan Stevens
My “Best Album” pick was the easiest one in years. Most will agree that Sufjan Stevens is the hands-down winner with his tremendous effort “Illinois”, which is the second installment in his plan to create a record for all 50 states. Illinois is one of a handful of albums that can actually live up to the hype it has created. The production and songwriting is fresh and original, it’s moving, lyrically brilliant, and tied together by a common subject. This album is so good that a better question is “What was the second best album of 2005?” My answer to that is Spoon’s Gimme Fiction.
Greetings From Cairo Illinois by Stace England.
It’s not often that a pop musician sets out on as an ambitious a project as detailing the history of a city through song. With Greeting From Cairo Illinois Stace (sounds like Stacee) England has created a song cycle which carries us from early days of settlement up to the current state of economic disaster of Cairo Illinois.
Each song focuses on a different era or epoch in the town’s history, but as this city was the demarcation line for the color barrier, race is an issue that crosses the years. From the twenties, “Equal Opportunity Lynch Mob”, to the late sixties, “Jesse’s Comin’ To Town” Stace covers all aspects of the issue in a mixture of musical styles.
In fact the album can be seen as overview of American music, the traditional choral opening song “Goin’ Down To Cairo”, slide blues on “Cairo Blues”, funk on “Jesse’s Comin’ To Town”, straight ahead southern rock on “Buy My Votes”, and bluegrass style blues on “The North Starts In Cairo”
Cairo Illinois may have been bypassed by the sands of time, but Stace England has created an album that will ensure it’s not forgotten any time soon. For more details on Greetings From Cairo Illinois see gypsyman’s review
Digital Ash In A Digital Urn by Bright Eyes
There ain’t anything in the Bright Eyes discography that gets anywhere near to being even “average”, so consistently awe-inspiring are the glorious musical tapestries wrapped round Conor Oberst’s labyrinthine, introspective, increasingly politicised songs. Digital Ash, though, is most likely the very best of the bafflingly brilliant bunch thus far. It’s a record I get lost in, transfixed from that beautiful, yet deeply unsettling, soundscape intro to the last notes a “Easy / Lucky / Free”. The subject matter bounds breathlessly from the confessional to the metaphysical, from the existential pondering of “Arc Of Time” and “I Believe In Symmetry” to the disarming, naked honesty and morning-after self-disgust of “Hit The Switch”. It’s consistently fascinating, moving, a work a damn genius. Mike Moogis’ production is astounding, the musical arrangements more impressive even than those in 2002’s Lifted, all driving rhythms and sweeping electronica, shades a flamenco, jazz, punk, folk and ambient techno. I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, the other studio album released on the same day, is similarly brilliant, but, like the loves of a fella’s life or those poor bastards in Highlander, in the end, there can be only one.
5. Al Barger
Get Behind Me Satan by the White Stripes
This album is head and shoulders the best album of pop music put out by anyone this year. Jack White wrote a hell of a batch of songs. These are the most sophisticated and experimental sounds Jack and Meg have ever conjured, judiciously overdubbing themselves to carefully expand their sound. “The Nurse” in particular doesn’t sound like any other record you ever heard. He’s really broadened the palette with that marimba stuff.
Even songs that are more like genre exercises such as “I’m Lonely” have a uniquely personal stamp. Plus, Jack does significantly service my guitar jones with “Blue Orchid” and the “Instinct Blues.”
“Little Ghost” features one of Jack White’s best ever lyrics, describing the tender and frustrating relationship with his ghost girlfriend. She sounds hot.
Twenty years from now, Get Behind Me Satan will be a perennial on best of lists.
Illinois by Sufjan Stevens
Yes, I’m well aware this is gonna top a lot of other year-end lists – including the dreaded Pitchfork and all manner of other tunnel-visioned indie rags. But there’s a reason behind the adulation. With Illinois, Sufjan brings together everything he does best – sweeping indie pop, banjo-plucking folk, an ebullient sense of humor and a painterly attention to lyrical detail – and he does so with more confidence and unfettered enthusiasm than he’s ever done before. “Casimir Pulaski Day” is all at once heartbreaking, poignant, beautiful, and the best short story I’ve read all year. The other tracks are never less than comparable in quality. Bottom line: even without the “50 states” conceit, this just might be the best collection of songs to hit the shelves in 2005. It really is that good.
7. Mark Saleski
The Way Up by The Pat Metheny Group
People don’t read books anymore. Nor do they congregate around the family radio each night. They don’t listen to jazz much either. Well, I do. The Way Up is the kind of recording, a set of interwoven instrumental suites, which rewards the repeat listener. A prescription for stretching the attention span from one of my favorite guitar players.
8. Jon Sobel
(Jon made all of his choices from Indie releases as it is his “stomping ground” on Blogcritics)
Presenting The Great Unknowns by The Great Unknowns
Unfortunately, still mostly living up to their name, this band infuses their weather-beaten Americana sensibility with an unusual poetic lyricism.
The Vanity Project by The Vanity Project
It takes a pretty grounded person with a very rich sense of humor to label their first solo effort a Vanity Project. It takes a pretty talented musician and songwriter to deliver a CD that is as finely executed as it is conceived. Deeper and better constructed musically then pop, more poetic then rock, the album transcends with humor, satire, and just plain talent.
Best known for his songwriting and performing with the Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page offers this under the pseudonym and is at his best here. Most of the songs are collaborations with his frequent writing partner, Stephen Duffy. The Vanity Project is a solid album. Whether it is the whimsical “So. Cal.” of the profound “Here Today and Yesterday,” the music is strong and the lyrics are meaningful. They can at times be a puzzle but are always poetic.
I reviewed The Vanity Project earlier this year.
Nuclear Sad Nuclear by The Number Twelve Looks Like You
I’ve been lying on my back for the last twenty minutes eating cookies and wondering why I didn’t review this CD in the first place. It’s dynamic. It’s lively. It’s creative and interesting and fun. The Number Twelve Looks Like You are an experimental metal band from New Jersey. Nuclear Sad Nuclear came out in June. It’s complex. It’s beautiful. The guitar riffs are intense. I love it.
11. Temple Stark
Those Were the Days by Dolly Parton
Like the Red Hot and Blue (or Country) albums, I love it when worlds collide. So what’s better than this sugar and snot cocktail of Dolly and Dead Kennedy’s. … Wait, that’s What the World Needs Now – Big Deal punk rockers covering Burt Bacharach tunes.
I have ALWAYS grooved as well as been comforted listening to women’s voices most of all in music. I used to think it started with Blondie and Juice Newton (I bought their tunes as singles), but more and more I remember my Tennessee-born mom playing Janis Joplin and Dolly Parton songs first.
This one, like The Burt album, is covers. Dolly Parton and Roger McGuinn sing “Turn, Turn, Turn”. Dolly Parton with Nickel Creek adding another amazing Dylan cover for the world, with “Blown’ in the Wind.” “Imagine” (with David Foster), “Crimson and Clover” (with Tommy Jones), adding a whole new shimmer to the rock classic. And a song, “The Cruel War,” that somehow escaped my attention over the years, with Alison Krauss, Mindy Smith & Dan Tyminski.
Ms. Parton was on The Daily Show and there seemed to be a hint of political rebuke, with the choice of songs.
It’s easy to lean back in the pillows and enjoy this one.
In the coming days look for the picks for best artist.
Wondering what Blogcritics are picking in the other catagories? Read about Blogcritics on ’05’s Best