12/10/2005

 

Top 20 Albums of 2005

Best of the year lists. Once a year, we do it. We hate doing it, and we hate when other music freaks do it, but we can't help it. That's just who we are. We are addicted to such things. We spend all year obsessing, trying to make sure we've heard just about everything possible (at least everything that might cross our Pitchfork radar), so that we can feel good and well-rounded about our choices. Actually, I must say I enjoy reading these lists, so when you get yours done, let me know, alright kids? 01 50 Foot Wave Golden Ocean (4AD) Every set of speakers I know lives in fear of its cataclysmic distortions. The first few times through, it's a wild blur of hard, fast rawk and that voice. That voice rips a bloody gash through the fabric of every song. Slowly, with each lsten, details emerge and it becomes quite clear that this is the most gorgeous, surreal, melancholy, and just plain riveting noise that Kristin Hersh has ever claimed responsibilty for. In an alternate universe, all the kids woship her like Cobain. 02 Antony & The Johnsons I Am A Bird Now (Secretly Canadian) When Nina Simone died last year, her spirit must have decided to enter the body of a young Warholian genderfuck called Antony, who makes the most of his supernatural, spine-chilling abilities by keeping the music slow and sparse and the emotions plaintive and pure. This is not a party record. 03 Kraftwerk – Minimum-Maximum (Astralwerks) Electro doesn't get any better than when performed by the original fab four, each tune sounding pert and refreshed for last year's world tour. This really is the best live album I've ever heard, taking the flawless originals and pumping them up a bit, adding just enough improvisation to create joyful surprises. The robots actually sound like they are having fun! 04 M.I.A. Arular (XL) Exotic and appetizing, like the lunch buffet at A Taste of India, but with better beats. The young and talented Miss Maya from Sri Lanka got into some Missy and Peaches and got herself a noisemaking thingy-box, cooked up some totally cuckoo flow, and created the most original, un-classifiable, fun record of the year, right there in the corner of her little damn bedroom. 05 LCD Soundsystem LCD Soundsystem (DFA) Like some hip mad scientist took the best bits of all my favorite alterna-disco records of the past 25 years and genetically engineered this swirling, addictive double CD set of electro-rock brilliance. 06 Beck Guero (Geffen) Jumping back from one of his depressing folkie periods, our Beck returns with an upbeat, catchy album that contains few real surprises but draws the best elements from his back catalog to do a great job of reminding us all the reasons we loved him so much in the first place. Also worth a mention (since I just got it today) is the remix album Guerolito which keeps the original tracklist but puts a rather odd experimental spin on each track, giving the album a more sinister vibe. 07 Adult. Gimme Trouble (Thrill Jockey) Taking a step away from the terror-filled Liquid Sky bleakness of Anxiety Always, here Adult. has gone bit more "pop" while still remaining wildly experimental. Imagine a young but less gloomy Siouxsie Sioux fronting Freedom of Choice-era Devo and you're almost there. It's a helluva lot of fun, actually. 08 Depeche Mode Playing The Angel (Sire/Mute) I don't know or care which album it's thier best one since, but I do know that they have brought back some raw edginess and heartpounding melodies back into the equation and the results are truly rapturous, especially for us DM old-timers. And I don't care what all those pissheads say, I LOVE the Martin-sung songs, they are among my favorites, so there. 09 Velella Velella The Bay Of Biscay (Big V) My Spokane homeboys have done pretty well over in Seattle town, and deservedly so. Thier blend of fresh beats, disco fever, Stereolab jazz, and wacky song titles was custom made for rainy-day KEXP afternoons. 10 Broadcast Tender Buttons (Warp) This is perhaps what the Carpenters might have sounded like if they had emerged in the early 80's instead and were signed to Mute or Factory and made experimental arty synth-pop. 11 The Fall Fall Heads Roll (Narnack) On thier 2,073rd album, the band is as tight as Mark E. Smith's clenched teeth and thin British lips. I think he fired everyone and got a new Fall again, because they were starting to drag a bit on the last few records, but here they sound energetic and full of an absurd amount of catchy tunes. Love it-ah! 12 Edie Sedgwick Her Love Is Real But She Is Not (DeSoto) This record is so totally odd, yet highly loveable. Edie Sedgewick is the alter ego of young Justin who as Edie dapples on some god-awful blue eyeshadow and black eyeliner, then stomps around to thunderous electro-punk beats, squeals and squelches, yammering on cryptically about the Hollywood elite. Song titles include "Sigourney Weaver", "Martin Sheen", and "Michael J. Fox". 13 Sleater-Kinney The Woods (Sub Pop) They said it was supposed to be the girls' "classic rock" record, but I have no idea what that means. It certainly does rock, and it is a classic, but it doesn't really remind me of Led Zeppelin or whatever. But with longer song structures and more complex arrangemnets, it does point the band in an exciting new direction. "Jumpers" was my favorite video of the year btw. 14 Bloc Party Silent Alarm (Vice/Dim Mak) It took a few listens to grow on me, but when I finally got it I was hooked. This album was played probably more than any other on this list over the year, and suffers a bit from burnout. But turn it up loud and I remember why I fell so hard for this chugging early-Cure pastiche in the first place. NME's album of the year, and how could it not be? A classic.The remix album was equally as brillant. 15 Sigur Ros Takk (Geffen) I've always been a sucker for sweet CD packaging, and Sigur Ros has never let me down. This time around, its what's inside that is worth getting excited about. Swooping and swooning melodies that wordlessly stick in my head for weeks and provide the desolate soundtrack to my snowy Idaho 4am. 16 Madonna Confessions On A Dancefloor (Warner Brothers) Nothing controversial or shocking this time around. No choppy beats, no farty French experimentalism or pissy anti-war existentialism here. Nope, just a good old fashioned disco dance record, a return to form by the divine mistress of forward-thinking pop. 17 Celebration Celebration (4AD) This is like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs but with more organ and less pep. Instead, Celebration dooms it up a bit, meandering hauntingly through the 4AD back catalog to evoke legends like Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins and Pixies. Katrina Ford's wild caterwauling was nearly as catastrophic as her hurricane namesake. 18 The Mendoza Line Full of Light and Full of Fire (Misra) This was a last-minute entry into my top 20, and probably should be up there somewhere higher. These New York cats cover the spectrum from Indie Rock to Noir Folk to New Wave making it seem like a great lost mix tape. Each song is a greatest hit, instantly catchy, and the lovely Shannon McArdle dons a different singing style for each tune. Intriguing. 19 Franz Ferdinand You Could Have It So Much Better (Domino) Like some olde geezer said "If it ain't broke why fix it?" Here, our favorite Scottish Gentry sticks with the same recipe they used to cook thier delicious first album, and smokes up the whole kitchen in the process, settiing off all the smoke detectors. 20 Mu Out of Breach (Manchester's Revenge) (Output) She's this year's most fab ranting Japanese bitch and this album getsall the way up to 11 on the bananas-o-meter. The pulsing, slightly outdated acid house and electro sounds that back up barely comprendable tracks like "Stop Bothering Mischael Jackson", "Paris Hilton" and "Throwing Up" make this like nails on a blackboard to some, but to me it's 2005's Trash Classic. The list could go on for at least another 20: My Morning Jacket, Metric, New Pornographers, Kate Bush, Shakira, Stereo Total, The Tears, Colder, Xiu Xiu, Tom Vek, Magnetophone, Minotaur Shock, Laura Viers, Lady Soveriegn, Dengue Fever, Brian Eno, Ellen Allien, to name a few. Not a bad year, eh? 2005's Biggest Disappointments: New Order - Waiting for the Siren's Call - Except for lovely single "Krafty" this album was a miserable bore. Goldfrapp - Supernature - Not nearly as fabulous as Black Cherry. Why is she re-copying herself? Ladytron - The Witching Hour - Not terrible, just no fun. Where did thier wry sense of irony go? This is just depressing. Tori Amos - The Beekeeper - What a total snore. This fluff breezes by and just doesn't stick. I used to think she was pretty hardcore. Maybe she needs to get back into the hallucinogens. Tori's on a swift and slippy slope toward Olivia Newton-John land. Sucked so bad, Kate Bush herself had to re-emerge (with the much much better "Aerial") and reclaim her title. Fischerspooner - Odyssey - To these jaded ears, this one just fell flat. I did semi-enjoy it at first listen. It just seems too forced and unnatural. The exception: the pulsating single "Just Let Go."

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