Orac's picks for the Top 10 best albums of 2005
Unfortunately, this year wasn't as good as last year as far as music goes. There was nothing as fantastic as the Arcade Fire's Funeral (which is still sitting in my car CD player even now, a year later), as coherent and angry as Green Day's American Idiot, or as satisfyingly, thumpingly loud and Zeppelinesque as Secret Machines. Nonetheless, this year, I've found almost as much that I've really liked. So, without further ado are my picks for the best albums of 2005, in no specific order:
- Worlds Apart (...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead). Released early this year, Worlds Apart is full of exhilirating anthems that seem custom-made to fill stadiums, even before this band can fill a stadium. Yes, it uses a lot of classic rock tricks, but avoids classic rock cliches.
- Free the Bees (A Band of Bees). I have a soft spot for neopsychedelia, and that's why I like this rollicking romp through the 1960's. It sounds almost as if it could have come from the Summer of Love, but something about it makes it sound contemporary. With echos and influences of The Byrds, The Beatles, and the Small Faces, this is still not just an exercise in nostalgia. These guys borrow from their influences, but fuse them into a sound that's all their own.
- Some Cities (Doves). My initial impression of this album was that it was a comedown from their previous effort, The Last Broadcast, but repeated listenings revealed an evolution to a less highly produced sound that is more direct and more visceral, without sacrificing the shimmering layered sound that I came to love in 2002. Doves are one of my favorite bands.
- The Magic Numbers (The Magic Numbers). Straightforward, softer, harmony-driven, vaguely folky-sounding rock that's impossible to resist. This band, a combination of two brother-sister duos, has been compared to a fusion of the Mamas and the Papas and Flaming Lips. I'm not sure if I agree, but I like their sound.
- The Great Destroyer (Low). Full of slower songs that build to satisfying crescendoes, this represent's Low's most polished and melodic effort yet.
- A Bigger Bang (The Rolling Stones). Sometimes old warhorses still have life in them and can still surprise you. No, the Rolling Stones haven't suddenly gone rap. They still sound like the Stones. But they have released their best album in at least 24 years, as I described when I reviewed the album a couple of months ago.
- Takk (Sigur Rós). I definitely have a soft spot for post-rock, and the biggest, baddest post-rock band of all is Sigur Ros. With a singer with an otherworldly voice who sings songs in a made-up language over layers of synthesized goodness, Sigur Rós doesn't dissapoint. They even find room for horns this time around, which was a bit jarring at first but soon sounded natural.
- Get Behind Me Satan (The White Stripes). Sadly, Get Behind Me Satan was not as good as their last outing, Elephant, but, even so, no band last year did stripped-down garage rock as well as Jack and Meg White. Even though they've expanded the instruments in their armamentarium a little bit this time around, they still retain that simple, urgent sound.
- Frances the Mute (The Mars Volta). What other form of rock do I have a weak spot for? Well, prog rock, for one, and The Mars Volta definitely does prog rock, their protestations otherwise notwithstanding. However, this isn't your father's prog rock, like Jethro Tull, Yes, or Emerson, Lake, & Palmer. Rather than grafting symphonic noodlings onto a more conventional rock core, the core of much of Mars Volta's prog rock is borderline speed metal in some places. Besides, any band that can do multi-movement suites of rock songs, some of which have Spanish lyrics can't be all bad. (Well, maybe they can be, but Mars Volta can't.)
- Employment (The Kaiser Chefs). Just straight ahead working class bar rock, and we all need some of that every now and then. (At least I do.)
Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the Second Psychedelic Era 1976-1995. I don't know how Rhino Records does it, but the producers of the Nuggets series just keep putting out fantastic collections of psychedelic garage rock. In the third release in their Nuggets series of compilations of psychelia and garage rock, Rhino has for the first time gone beyond the 1960's into bands from what is described as the "second psychedelic era," a period from 1976 to 1995. Compiling, as the liner notes say, "the good tracks from all those albums that have only one good track," this album covers garage, ska, surf rock, country punk, and the paisley underground. The song choices are outstanding (although with a little overlap with their recent Left of the Dial and No Thanks boxed sets). Nonetheless, this is the best collection of the year.
Well, that's about it. After the bounty of 2005, 2006 was a bit of a letdown, but still produced a lot of good music. Now that they've performed with Bowie, here's hoping Arcade Fire puts out a new release this year. Or, even better yet, now that Bowie has recovered from his angioplasty and been seen performing with Arcade Fire, maybe Bowie will finally put out a new album. (The last I read, in December he said he was working on some new songs in preparation for another "period of experimentation." If that's true, I can't wait.)