Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Favorite Albums of 2005

2005 was quite a year. I became a man in more ways than one (Bar Mitzvah, kissed a girl), I went to the state Geography Bee (didn't do too well), and discovered LCD Soundsystem. Music was good in 2005, but not spectacular. There were many fresh releases that my 13-year old self (and my current self as well) gobbled up. I was a little more exposed to electronic music, which, by 2006 became a favorite of mine. (Discovering Kraftwerk didn't hurt that process.) Per usual, I enjoyed many of the blog favorites, but I also found a couple hidden gems, from an early Gang Gang Dance record to a crazy Australian avant-garde joint (Substation). Enjoy.

1. LCD Soundsystem--LCD Soundsystem
The second disc may be a collection of previously released singles, but I had never heard them at the time, and, in the simplest terms possible, they blew my mind. "Losing My Edge," "Beat Connection," and "Yeah (Crass Version)" are three of my favorite all-time singles. James Murphy is able to combine post-punk and disco without being "dancepunk," and his Jonathan Richman-y vocals make it more personal than most disco. (It's harder to connect with Giorgio Moroder's vocoder.) Oh, and Disc 1 is great, too.

2. Antony & The Johnsons--I Am A Bird Now
Talking about interesting vocals... Antony's voice is clearly the centerpiece of this album. Reminiscent of Arthur Russell and Klaus Nomi and yet completely original, his singing glides beautifully and hauntingly over really well arranged baroque-y pop-y folk-y tunes. It may feel kind of like a novelty at first, but the all the songs prove to be completely captivating and all-around excellent. From "Hope There's Someone" to "Fistful of Love" (featuring Lou Reed himself), I Am A Bird Now is a beautiful work.

3. Animal Collective--Feels
Recording a follow up to a magnum opus can't be easy. (At least it means you recorded an opus.) But Animal Collective did quite a nice job. Feels changes their sound a little, putting more emphasis on vocals and using often quicker tempos, while maintaining much of what made Sung Tongs so unbelievable. It's more psychedelic, but could still be thrown into the folk genre. (But not really.) It feels like a more mature Animal Collective (which is both good and bad.)

4. Deerhoof--The Runners Four
Deerhoof finally made their best album with The Runners Four. They had hinted at greatness with Apple O' and a couple others, but Runners used their big riffs and high-pitched vocals better and more consistently than any previous release. It's a little more restrained than the Deerhoof of old, but it still provides neverending fun and showcases far more interesting songwriting. It's loud, chaotic, ridiculous, messy, fun, and smart. A rare (and welcome) combo.

5. Wolf Parade--Apologies To The Queen Mary
I loved this album. I still do, mind you. But when this came out, I became engrossed in it. And why shouldn't I have? Here is a collection of super intelligent pop songs with an appropriate mixture of electronics and guitars behind them. Not to mention sung by two singers, each with a squeakily unique voice. If Funeral was "indie rock" (shudders) in 2004, than this album was it in the same way in 2005. Must be a Canadian thing. Eh? (That was bad. Sorry.)

6. Isolee--We Are Monster
They call it house, but it bears much more resemblance to Berlin than it does to Chicago. Nonetheless, this is a very intricate, very minimal (but not too minimal. It's not Gas (I love Gas, though.)) collection of synth-pop inflected dance tunes. There are certainly elements of the house and techno we Americans love, but there is a slick complexity to it that makes it feel uniquely European. This is a good thing because, well, I tend to ignore European music.

7. Art Brut--Bang Bang Rock & Roll
Sometimes an album rolls around that is just perfectly sarcastic, snarky, fun, and relatable. The 60s had The Stooges's debut, the 70s had The Modern Lovers's debut, the 80s had Violent Femmes's debut... You get the point. While Bang Bang Rock & Roll is not as amazing as any of those albums, Eddie Argos does his best to portray young adult life in all its sweaty, uncomfortable glory just like Pop, Richman, or Gano. And there's some nifty guitar playing.

8. M.I.A.--Arular
I didn't really like this when I first heard it. It was too chaotic, the singer was too whiny. But then I listened more carefully, and I found a collection of songs that were expertly produced to sound chaotic to match the vocals. Because that whiny singer was whining about how unjust the world is in the vein of Chuck D. Albeit a female, Sri Lankan Chuck D. These songs are wild, unkempt, insanely catchy, and different in all the right ways.

9. The Books--Lost and Safe
It's not The Lemon of Pink. That's for sure. There's singing. Actual singing. Not just sampling. But that's okay. The sleek sound collages over the beautifully cluttered acoustic guitar and cello are still intact, but the album is far more approachable than (but maybe not quite as good as) Lemon or Thought For Food. Like I said, the main difference here is the vocals, and they provide a sense of personality that the previous albums failed to (for better or for worse).

10. Dirty Projectors--The Getty Address
I burned a CD with "The Boys of Summer" and then The Getty Address to give the album some context before delving into its fiercely experimental, fiercely conceptual attempts at pop music. This, of course, is because the album is about Mr. Don Henley--the boy of summer himself. The concept is certainly a bit hard to follow, but knowing that this glitchy songs are about Henley makes the album even more enjoyable.

11. Sunn 0)))--Black One
My first impression of Sunn 0))) was that they were kind of silly. Here are two guys dressed in robes just holding low guitar notes for a really long time and putting satanic talking over it. But that's their image. And those low guitar notes that are held for a long time are hypnotizing and beautiful. Black One is very heavy, but it is also very smart. It's a metal album that's deep, distorted resonation is actually soothing and captivating as opposed to silly.

12. My Morning Jacket--Z
Z showcases the biggest and strongest hooks of the year. This is a big rock album that, were it not for all the dub and the psychedelic guitar noodling (which are very good things), could sound like U2. It is clearly influenced by Jamaican music, but it isn't bro music (Sublime, et al) at all. It was a critic favorite in 2005, which makes sense. It's certainly My Morning Jacket at their most accessible. It's also, however, My Morning Jacket at their best.

13. Gang Gang Dance--God's Money
This, like Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes was Brooklyn before anyone knew what that was. Its primal, experimental percussion couples beautifully (if bizarrely) with the squeaky vocals, and the psychedelic guitars and electronics continue to beg the question: "What effects are they using?" God's Money is a continually intriguing listen because it truly sounds like little to nothing else. And it paved the way for the even awesome-er Saint Dymphna.

14. Devendra Banhart--Cripple Crow
Cripple Crow finds Devendra Banhart with a lot more ambition than before. Many of the songs are big, poppy, electric. His lyrics are still weird and funny, and his voice sounds the same, but these songs are very different from those on Rejoicing In The Hands. Which is not to say they aren't good. They are certainly good. Songs like "I Feel Like A Child" and "Chinese Children" are funny and catchy, and "Santa Maria de Feira" is still very beautiful. Different, but good.

15. The Juan Maclean--Less Than Human
Another great DFA release, Less Than Human is definitely different than LCD Soundsystem. It's a spacey, robotic disco album that is good for dancing, but better for headphones. John Maclean may use the vocoder to keep you at a distance, but it still is able to sound approachable. The songs are short for dance songs, which can be good or bad--some are well-edited, and you wish some were ten-minutes, but they're all still good.

And roundin' out the top 30...
16. Edan--Beauty & The Beat
17. Sufjan Stevens--Illinois
18. Boris--Akuma No Uta (American release)
19. Bloc Party--Silent Alarm
20. Sleater-Kinney--The Woods
21. Hot Chip--Coming On Strong
22. The New Pornographers--Twin Cinema
23. The Boy Least Likely To--The Best Party Ever
24. Broken Social Scene--Broken Social Scene
25. Opeth--Ghost Reveries
26. Robin Fox & Clayton Thomas--Substation
27. Gogol Bordello--Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike
28. Sigur Ros--Takk...
29. Queens of the Stone Age--Lullabies To Paralyze
30. Lord of the Yum-Yum--Yum-Musique

That's what I think. Feel free to tell me that I'm an idiot for not including whoever.

1 comment:

  1. I don't understand what Illinois is doing at 17. That is modern folk at its greatest.