Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Best of '05

A friend recently sent around an email asking for our top album picks of 2005. All in all it was a good year in music, but not a great one. If pressed to pick a "great year in music" in order to establish some context I don't think I could do it, but let's just say that some of the albums that kicked my ass this year, were released prios to 2005. But of this year's crop, here are my top 3 in no particular order:

Josh Rouse - Nashville

This album just feels right. While his lyrical material hasn't changed much over the course of the last three albums, Rouse's knack for writing good pop hooks has really flourished. "Sad Eyes", "Carolina", and "Middle Class Frown" are particular standouts. It would take a lot of will power to keep from going back to this album again and again. You feel better after it's done spinning.

New Pornographers - Twin Cinema

I've already written about this album but it's worth repeating. Not their most visceral but certainly the band's best album to date. Everyone wondered where Carl Newman's indiepop Wall of Sound could go next and I think he surprised a lot of people by taking a giant step. The fun, power, and harmonies of the past are all present on this album but it is the tension he's able to develop on some of these tracks that stands out. Where on previous albums the payoff would come right away, Twin Cinema has a lot of teases that won't play out until the end.

The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday

I can't get enough of Craig Finn's storytelling. Delivered in a sneering monotone they tell tales of scenesters, The Scene, hipsters, and What is Hip. In the end none of it matters because heroes and villains alike get washed away in a tide of big Les Pauls and even bigger Marshall amps. Musically there isn't much difference between this one and the last but the stories are just as engaging. A great album to play over and over again.

Now, there are two notable albums which didn't make this list for different reasons. The first is Bob Mould's Body of Song which heralded a return to his trademark guitar power-pop. This album was welcome relief from his previous effort but for me the greater significance was that Bob returned to playing live with a full-band. He also "recaptured" his old material by pulling out Husker Du and Sugar hits that hadn't been heard live in a long time. There are some great songs on this album but I think they have the adverse effect, for me that is, of happily turning me back to his old stuff rather than creating a desire for something new. But that has more to do with the way I'm wired than what Bob is actually writing.

The second album is Come On Feel the Illinose by Sufjan Stevens. I do agree with almost every critic that it is one of the best albums of the year. The arrangements, instrumentation, subject matter and frank delivery all contribute to a unique piece of work that outshines anything similarly inclined artists (read: Bright Eyes) attempted. But it didn't beat out the albums on my list because ultimately those are the albums I listened to repeatedly.


At 12/23/2005 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where's Keif Urban, yo?


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