Heads On Sticks & Ventriloquists

The prodigious writings of a tortured genius.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Best Albums of 2005 (because you care what I think)

I hate putting these things in some sort of numerical order, because I always regret putting things in absolutes until a lot of time has passed*. Sure I liked some albums better than others and listened to others more than others I claim to like more. But then again, maybe I just take music more seriously than I should. It’s not like 2005 was the greatest year in music history -- no albums came out that I would call one of my favorite albums ever, but maybe I just need more time. Here are my top 15 albums released in MMV. Don’t take the numerical listing of their goodness too seriously, because I’ll probably change my mind in a week.

15. Architecture In Helsinki - In Case We Die
So this year I learned that they call this sort of music "twee-pop". What a fucking stupid name. But this album is good. I kinda got tired of it after too many listens, so maybe it’s not as durable as other albums, but has some of the best pop hooks I’ve heard in awhile. I saw AIH at the Trocodero in October and they were fucking awful. Maybe they can attribute it to being at the end of a long, long tour, but Jesus Christ, it was terrible. Ignoring their live show, this album is very enjoyable. Best album from Australia in 2005 for sure. I still can’t get enough of the song "Maybe You Can Owe Me".

14. Horse the Band - The Mechanical Hand
Nintendocore’s finest release their most consistent album to date. It flows like a hilarious concept story about all video games great and small. Sure it’s dumb, but it’s really, really fun. Stand out favorites are "Birdo" and "Black Hole". For the most "Top Gun" moment of the year listen to "Soaring Quails".

13. Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak
I don’t care that this album came out in 2004, I didn’t hear it until 2005. Plus it came out in December of 2004, so cut me some slack. Great driving music, even better chilling music. Their singer is great too. Standout track: "King of the Rodeo".

12. The Game - The Documentary
I’m not the biggest fan of the G-Unit or Shady crew, but this album is solid west coast rap all the way. Game has way better flow than parter/ex-partner/partner again (?) 50 Cent, and better lyrics. Playing "No More Fun and Games" on my way to my retail job at the mall reminded me of my days as a gangbanger down in Compton.

11. Between The Buried and Me - Alaska
Simply shreds. I know when people hear "metal" they think of the terrible slow heavy romping of bands like Godsmack and whatnot, but this is the real deal. Adding huge prog elements to hardcore breakdowns and some of the most gorgeous guitar licks to come this way in a long time, makes a heavenly (satanically?) beautiful metal album. Seriously, these guys have some chops. For the second most "Top Gun" moment of the year listen to the last 2 minutes of "Selkies: The Endless Obsession". Tracks like "All Bodies", "The Primer", and "Alaska" make me have to shit my pants.

10. M83 - Before The Dawn Heals Us
The cover of this album reminds me of those cheesy Bacardi-Cola commercials and Blade Runner. These are pretty over the top theatrical synth jams, but maybe I like that sort of thing. Everyone pulls the My Bloody Valentine/Kevin Shields card on M83, which I would say isn’t inaccurate. When I hear "Don’t Save Us From The Flames" & "Teen Angst" I have to put on a silver suit and hop on my hovercraft for a little while.

09. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
Say what you will about the hype, I still say that this is a very solid album. Every song is pure pop-dance-rock gold. Everything that can be said about this album has been said, so I’ll just leave it at that. Weirdly, "Blue Light" is my favorite song.

08. Dr. Dog - Easy Beat
Came recommended from my friend Paul, and it is beautiful. While it certainly sounds like the Beatles, it isn’t derivative like all those other modern psych-pop bands. Dr. Dog brings the jam to dinner. Live they are even more awesome than on record. "Oh No" and "Wake Up" are gloriously happy sounding songs – not that the rest of the album isn’t. Try and not be happy hearing this music... it might be impossible.

07. Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
Like Bloc Party, certain people hate the shit out of Bright Eyes. And also like Bloc Party, there is an absurd amount of hype surrounding Mr. Oberst. But then again, this album is pretty awesome. This album reminds me of Paul Simon’s "Graceland" so much that I find myself listening to the albums back to back -- not that they sound terribly alike, but they have the same spirit to them. I really like "At The Bottom Of Everything" and love that he made a video that features 1 minute of spoken word. Also, forget about that "Digital Ash..." album.

06. Bear vs Shark - Terrorhawk
I’m a huge BvS fan, so there is a definite bias here. These guys are taking punk (ahem, excuse me, "post-punk", whatever that is) the direction it should be going. This album dominated my summer, hardly ever leaving my car’s CD player. There is a clear maturation and progression from their debut all over this disc, despite titles like "I Fucked Your Dad". Although they have a slight air of goofiness, this band is all business, avoiding cliche hardcore lyrics and cliche punk riffage. Standout tracks: "Baraga Embankment", "Entrance of the Elected", "Heard Iron Bug, They’re Coming To Town", and "Rich People Say Fuck Yeah Hey Hey".

05. Sufjan Stevens - Come On Feel The Illinoise!
Part two in Sufjan’s nearly unrealistically ambitious album-for-every-state project, but so far so good. He can turn the relative mundane areas of life in each state and turns it into beautiful theatrical folk. And hey, if NPR likes him, then I do too. The title track and "The Seer’s Tower" are both incredible songs.

04. Sigur Ros - Takk
Sure it’s more conventional than previous work, but sometimes Sigur Ros got a little too unconventional in the past, so it works. This is a welcome break from the good but very slow and meandering "( )", letting Sigur Ros take better advantage of their ability to start songs out small and make them explode in epic fury. "Glosoli" gets my vote for top track of the year. Beautiful.

03. Kanye West - Late Registration
One of the best producers in rap somehow manages to make an album even better than "College Dropout". Equally artsy as it is booty-shakin’. While Kanye seems to phone-in his guest appearances most of the time, when he’s working on his own stuff, he brings his A-game. His flow is average for a big-time rapper, but he works it like none other. His production and collab with Jon Brion turned out beautifully. Nearly every track is great, like "Heard ‘Em Say", "Touch The Sky", and "Gone", so I’m just gonna list the songs that are less than amazing: "We Major" (would be an okay Steely Dan song, but is too long), "Hey Mama" (sweet, but kinda boring), "Celebration" (nice beat, but the lyrics are fairly dumb), and all the skits (are skits ever good?).

02. Animal Collective - Feels
Not a huge fan of their earlier more experimental albums, but as soon as they made the transition to glorious folk-pop I was hooked. I’m not gonna say it’s better or worse than Sung Tongs, let’s just say if you took the best songs from both albums and put them together it would be one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard. It’s hard to pick a favorite song, which is definitely a good thing. I’m a big fan of "Did You See The Words" and "Banshee Beat". Did I say this was glorious?

01. The Decemberists - Picaresque
This album just makes me happy to hear. Colin Meloy’s lyrics are brilliant (gotta love that thesaurus). As theatrical as the songs are, the album has a clear heart to it, and it simply exudes mass amounts of joy, despair, and all that other good stuff. The sequencing is perfect as well --listening to this album is like watching a movie. So many good tracks, like "The Engine Driver" and "On The Bus Mall". Perhaps the best song is the 10 minutes of folksy rock about lust, whales, and payback: "The Mariner’s Revenge Song". They are also responsible for the best live show I saw this year.

Feel free to tell me where I’m wrong. It’s what I’m thinking looks right as of this moment. Here's to 2006!

*Case in point: this has already been edited once pretty significantly. Just rest assured that all these albums are worth listening to.


At 2:09 AM GMT-5, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Architecture In Helsinki was good when they played at the church this year.

At 6:41 PM GMT-5, Blogger Bill said...

Well they were terrible when they played at the Troc. Dr. Dog was awesome though.



Post a Comment

<< Home