So Not the Best of the ’00s

 Oh, the list of Best of 00s TV I could write!
What a decade, huh? This one's notable as having been spent entirely in NYC, and entirely of the digital age which changed the way everybody listened to music. (Maybe not my parents but everyone else.) We had more access to everything, and less to to spend with it. That said, there was no shortage of good music, though I don't think anything hit me quite as hard as the previous decade — partly due to age, party due to aforementioned information overload. There's nothing from this year, as I feel it's too close to really tell how a record is gonna hold up over time, and only a couple from the last four years. (Though in 1999 I knew The Soft Bulletin and Mos Def's Black on Both Sides were among the decade's best and that's not changed. Different Times.) There's also way more from 2000 than I woulda thought before I spent the last month trying to figure out this list. 

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a Best of the '00s, because lists like that have to include Important Albums, Influential Albums and the like. I listened to Radiohead, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire, The Knife, The Strokes, Phoenix and whoever like everyone else. (I also listened to Louis XIV and Hot Hot Heat.) But, for the most part, these are a little more buried treasure-ish. I think the records that didn't get played to death in public are the ones you come back to the most. These are mine, in chronological order.
 

Sfa Super Furry Animals - Mwng (Placid Casual, May 2000)
Radiohead Schmadiohead. From 1995 to 2005, no band expanded the boundaries of guitar rock while remaining what you could call "commercially viable" than Super Furry Animals. Released in early 2000, less than a year after their last album (1999's Guerrilla) and the height of their creative peak, Mwng might be my all-time favorite SFA album, a relatively stripped-down affair — not much in the way of electronics, but some of their catchiest songs ever. And it's sung entirely in Welsh. Initial pressings came with a second CD's worth of songs (also all in Welsh) that was nearly as good.

MP3Ymaelodi Â'r Ymylon
MP3Dacw Hi

AislerssetThe Aislers SetThe Last Match (Slumberland, June 2000)
With Henry's Dress and, later, The Aislers Set, Amy Linton was the sound of Slumberland Records in the '90s and early '00s, and has proved highly influential on the label's new crop of bands. Listen to "The Way to Market Station" and you can building blocks of Crystal Stilts sound.  There's a timeless quality it, and I have little doubt it will still sound awesome in 2020.

MP3:The Way to Market Station
MP3: Been Hiding


 
GobetweensThe Go-Betweens
The Friends of Rachel Worth (JetSet, Sept 2000)
Nearly all reunions are worthless, just "we're in it for the money" affairs with new albums merely made to give excuses to tour and play the hits to an aging fan-base. But there was a chemistry between Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, even though they wrote separately, that could never be replicated with solo material. So this understated album, recorded 13 years after their last album — with Sleater Kinney as their backing band — it's doesn't just not suck, it was the best they ever made.

MP3: Surfing Magazines
MP3: Going Blind

Cinerama CineramaDisco Volante (Scopitones, Sept 2000)
David Gedge formed Cinerama as a side project with his then-girlfriend as perhaps wrist relief from The Wedding Present. It wasn't until the band's second album that Cinerama found it's sound: indie rock meets Ennio Morricone. (Lyrically, Gedge only does one thing — endless variations of romantic entanglements.) Disco Volante ties TWP's Seamonsters (both recorded with Steve Albini) as the best record he ever made.

MP3: Your Charms
MP3: Superman
 

Tfc Teenage FanclubHowdy! (Sony UK, Oct 2000)
Scotland's Teenage Fanclub have never broken any ground, musically, but they are remarkably consistent songwriters. I'm not sure that this album is that different than the one before or since but this is the one I tend to come back to a lot. Stick-in-your-head melodies, great harmonies, and really nice arrangements this time. They've mellowed out by this point and it fits them like a favorite sweater. This one barely got released in America.

MP3: I Need Direction
MP3:
Accidental Life

 

Oranger Oranger The Quiet Vibrationland (Amazing Grease, December 2000)
Underrated band from San Francisco, not unlike Teenage Fanclub in that they're clearly enamored with '60s sunshine pop. But Oranger will always a little louder, a little more raucous with a drummer who loved to go apeshit Keith Moon-style. (And appropriately, the album's title comes from Tommy.) Hands down their best record, The Quiet Vibrationland still sounds swell ten years later. Apparently they're still together, though somewhat dormant now.

MP3: Suddenly Upside Down
MP3:
 
Stoney Curtis in Reverse

Tsool The Soundtrack of Our Lives Behind the Music (Telegram, Feb 2001)
There's a lot of '60s psych inspired bands on my list, and TSOOL were like a greatest hits of the era all rolled into one nonstop Swedish Rock Machine and one of the decade's most amazing live bands. 2001's Behind the Music was their third record, the first to get recognition in the States, though it wouldn't get released till mid-2002. Sure, you can dissect the songs into its borrowed elements but why spoil the fun when tracks like "Sister Surround," "21st Century Ripoff," "Keep the Line Movin'," and "Nevermore" sound so great cranked all the way up. 

MP3: Sister Surround
MP3:
 
Independent Luxury

Spoon Spoon Girls Can Tell (Merge, Feb 2001)
You could make a pretty good case for Spoon being Artist of the Decade, a band who made great records all through the '00s. Pretty amazing for a band whose first album is so unremarkable. Maybe like Radiohead, it just took Spoon a bit to figure out what they wanted to be. By Girls Can Tell, they'd figured out that almost minimalist sound, where you hear every instrument clearly. I know a lot of people prefer 2003's Kill the Moonlight, but it's this one that proved A Series of Sneaks was no fluke and grabbed me the most… and still does.

MP3: Anything You Want
MP3: Fitted Shirt
 

Pernice Pernice BrothersThe World Won't End (Ashmont, June 2001)
This is clearly the work of someone raised on '70s AM radio pop before having their worldview (and sense of humor) informed by gloomy '80s Brit haircut music. Meet The Pernice brothers, a band who have t-shirts that say "I Hate My Life." The World Won't End (pretty sure the album's title is not meant to be a good thing.) is a gorgeous mix of those two worlds, with Joe Pernice's honeyed, weary vocals (and the swooning string arrangements) the icing on the cake. All the Pernice Brothers albums are good, but The World Won't End is the classic.

MP3: Working Girls (Sunlight Shines)
MP3:
 Let That Show

Amanset American Analog SetKnow By Heart (Tigerstyle, Sept 2001)
Warm yet chilly, lovely yet sinister, American Analog set on Know By Heart made music that seems to have come from that space between waking and sleep. Like the Austin neighbors Spoon, this is spare music, but methodically put together… and will haunt you like a half-remembered dream. AmAnSet never bettered Know By Heart.

MP3: Punk as Fuck
MP3: The Kindness of Strangers

Notwist The Notwist Neon Golden (City Slang, Feb 2002)
Incorporating the glitchy sound of of the then-current laptop scene, long-running German band The Notwist finally got America to take notice with Neon Golden. Rightly so. Digital manipulation is as evident here as it is on Cher's "Believe" but the Notwist make it sound as organic as blood coursing through veins. It hasn't dated one bit.

MP3: Pilot
MP3: One with the Freaks

Edwyn Edwyn CollinsDoctor Syntax (Setanta, April, 2002)
Before being sidelined by a stroke in 1995, Edwyn Collins was an in-demand producer when not working on solo material. 2002's Doctor Syntax (unreleased in America) might be his best album, slinky funk with a wicked mean streak, mostly aimed at the record industry. The production is brilliant. You could imagine couple of the songs here — "Johnny Teardrop" and "20 Years Too Late" —  reworked to be hits for Beyonce or Girls Aloud. 

MP3: 20 Years Too Late
MP3: It's a Funny Thing 

Bss Broken Social SceneYou Forgot it In People (Paper Bag, Oct 2002)
The start of the new Canadian Invasion, though Toronto never developed into an actual scene the way Montreal did. Seeing Broken Social Scene at Mercury Lounge summer of 2003 was kind of a revelation. Most American bands didn't try this hard, or have this many members. It helped that they were touring for an album as great as this, that echoed the '80s and '90s but fresh and new.

MP3: Cause = Time
MP3Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl
 

Dears The DearsNo Cities Left (MapleMusic, April 2003)
Let's set this straight. Dears frontman Murray Lightburn does NOT sound like Morrissey. Damon Albarn, I can hear that, but not really the Moz. And Lightburn has bigger aspirations, anyway, on No Cities Left, an epic album in every way that might collapse under all the bombast and melodrama if the songs weren't so damn good. And their shows around the time, they were one of the best live bands in North America. One thing Lightburn and Moz do have in common: not getting any enough credit for their sense of humor. 

MP3: Lost in the Plot
MP3: 22: the Death of All the Romance

Radiodept Radio Dept. Lesser Matters (Labrador/Shelflife, March 2003)
Here's a record that I still can't quite put my finger on why it's so good. It was like the sum of everything I loved in the late '80s and early '90s, as played and recorded on shitty equipment. The enigmatic nature of the band helped too, and you could be convinced that the tapes for this album were discovered by accident while cleaning out someone's basement. 

MP3: Why Won't You Talk About It?
MP3: Ewan
 

Newporno New PornographersThe Electric Version (Merge, May 2003)
Canadian Invasion, West Coast Division. I know the tastemakers say their debut, Mass Romantic, is the end-all be-all. But for my dollar, The Electric Version does it better and catchier. Carl Newman and Dan Bejar' songwriting had grown even more confident… and the hooks are undeniable. 

MP3: From Blown Speakers
MP3: Chump Change
 

 

Ulrich Ulrich SchnaussA Strangely Isolated Place (Domino, May 2003)
Laptop shoegaze, beautiful and hypnotic like Slowdive and Cocteau Twins, which are the obvious and admitted influences here. Perhaps my favorite sleeping album of all time, it's also good for walking around the city, road trips and doing the dishes. Dancing, not so much.

MP3: On My Own
MP3: Monday
 

Komeda

Komeda Kokomemedada (Sonet/Minty Fresh June 2003)
Like Stereolab's zany Swedish cousins, Komeda always swung a little too kitsch/novelty for my tastes on their first album so I checked out until hearing Kokomemedada, and my opinion changed immediately. Komeda stayed playful but became more sophisticated about the songwriting, sort of Krautrock with a personality and sense of humor. Also, ridiculously catchy stuff. 1998's What Makes it Go? is pretty great too.


MP3: Blossom
MP3: Victory Lane

Darkness The DarknessPermission to Land (WEA, July 2003)
No, I'm not kidding. At the time, debates raged — RAGED — about whether The Darkness was serious or not. Well, clearly you don't wear spandex cat suits, sing in a Tiny Tim falsetto and write a love song to a genital wart ("Growing On Me") and not understand irony, but it was clear singer/guitarist/songwriter Justin Hawkins loves this stuff. Part Thin Lizzy riff rock boogie, part Queen flamboyance, Permission to Land is all hits, start to finish. (If you can get past Justin Hawkins' falsetto.) And some of the most inspired, melodically-driven guitar solos (some songs have three) on any album of the last 20 years. Plus "Friday Night" which could almost be a Pulp song. And hilariously insane videos (especially "Growing on Me".) It all went up Hawkins' nose on the overblown second album, but Permission to Land is brilliant.

MP3: Growing on Me
MP3
Friday Night

Bs Belle & SebastianDear Catastrophe Waitress (Rough Trade, Oct 2003)
Who'd have thought having Trevor Horn, producer of some of the most bombastic records of the last 30 years, work with twee royalty Belle & Sebastian would be a good idea, let alone a brilliant one. Instead of turning them into Seal (or taTu) he focused the band back to their stong suit: Stuart Murdoch. Where B&S's three previous records had been democratic to a giant fault, letting everyone in the band contribute songs, Dear Catastrophe Waitress was almost entirely written by Murdoch who was up to the task, branching out from his VU safety zone into glam and new wave territory. Their best record since If You're Feeling Sinister and a terrific return to form, that would continue through the rest of the '00s. (Also seek out the 2004 b-side "Your Cover's Blown," one of their best, most ambitious songs ever.)

MP3: I'm a Cuckoo
MP3: Stay Loose
 

LomaxLomax A Symbol of Modern Living (93 Records, Nov 2003)
Of all the bands aping Gang of Four's postpunk in the early '00s (and there were tons of them) Lomax came the closest to feeling like the real thing — the anger, the aggression, the politics. And almost nobody heard this record, which is strange in some ways Lomax's frontman was Paul Epworth, who ended up producing some of the most hyped bands doing nearly the same thing (Rapture, Futureheads, Bloc Party…). Maybe because this record was never shoved down my throat is why I still listen to it.

MP3: Brought to Rights
MP3: Modern Life
 

MoonbabiesMoonbabies The Orange Billboard (Hidden Agenda, Jan 2004)
Sparkling pop music with lovely boy-girl harmonies, chiming guitars and a twinkle of electronics. It's just a lovely lovely record that got almost no attention at all at the time, though that changed somewhat when Moonbabies ended up on one of the Grey's Anatomy soundtracks. This is the musical equivalent to what I imagine Sweden to be like in the Springtime. Defintely one of the '00s unheard gems.

MP3: Sun A.M.
MP3: Forever Changes Everything Now

ThefallThe FallReal New Fall LP (aka Country on the Click) (Action/Narnack, March 2004)
Though 2000's The Unutterable contains perhaps my favorite Fall song of this decade ("Dr. Buck's Letter") I have to give the edge Real New Fall LP for overall quality. Coming off of one of The Fall's worst album's ever (Are You Missing Winner), Mark E. Smith rallied with a tight new band, a focused outlook and generally seeming fairly with it. This was the last great Fall album, though I have no doubt M.E.S. will deliver another to us soon. An album on Domino (a good sign) is due in January 2010.

MP3: Green Eyed Loco Man
MP3: Mountain Energi

Scissorsisters The Scissor SistersS/T (Universal, July 2004)
Originally part of the shortlived electroclash scene, Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears envisioned that extended further than Grand Street in Williamsburg. Their debut album (reportedly recorded in Shears' apartment) is the best bits of 1976 that weren't punk: glam, glitter, and disco. An ode to the fading flame that was the NYC nightlife scene, Scissor Sisters debut has a staggering number of phenomenal songs. Like the Darkness album, it's almost all hits. "Take Your Mama Out" and their Gibb-i-fied take on "Comfortably Numb" may have been the showpieces, it's ballads "Mary" and the stunning "Return to Oz" are the showstoppers.

MP3: Mary

Rakes The RakesCapture/Release (V2, Aug 2005)
In a sea of similar bands to pop up in Franz Ferdinand's wake, The Rakes were the best because they had personality and a point of view thanks to spazzy singer Alan Donahoe. They actually sang about something. "Everything's temporary these days/Might as well go out for the fifth night in a row" — still relevant! Capture/Release's tales of urban 20-something ennui still hold up. Donahoe's a Jarvis Cocker in the waiting, hopefully he won't give up music following The Rakes recent split. 

MP3: Retreat 
MP3:
 22 Grand Job

Elbow ElbowLeaders of the Free World (V2, Sept 2005)
My top album of 2005. Gorgeous melodies, inventive arrangements and musicianship, and some of the most heartfelt (without treacle) lyrics around. And Guy Garvey's amazing voice on top of it all. Elbow finally got some well deserved recognition (and the Mercury Prize) for 2008's Seldom Seen Kid, but this album is better.

MP3: Mexican Standoff

Hotchip Hot ChipThe Warning (DFA, June 2006)
My top album of 2006 and they have yet to better it. (That could change when One Life Stand comes out, we'll see.) "Over and Over" has been played to death, but you know it still sounds great, as does the rest of this album. It’s the sound of real live people playing – not programming – synthesizers, and that human element shines through.

MP3: No Fit State
MP3: Look After Me

SloanSloan Never Hear the End of It (MurderRecords, Sept 2006)
One of my favorite bands of the last 20 years, Sloan had a rough start to the decade trying to grab the brass ring. (The Canadian brass ring at least.) For Never Hear the End of It, they went back to doing what they do best – being themselves. The result was their best album in years; a sprawling, beautiful mess of 30 interwoven songs that never gets boring.

MP3: Fading into Obscurity
MP3: Blackout

 

Electrelane Electrelane No Shouts, No Calls (Too Pure, March 2007)
There is nothing you could call new or groundbreaking about Electrelane's final album. It's a sound echoing of the Velvets, the Pastels, and many other indie touchstones. But they just do it so well, with lyrics so sad and romantic this time, and for whatever reason No Shouts, No Calls really stuck with me. It's kind of perfect. I wish they'd change their mind and get back together.

MP3: To the East
MP3: Saturday

 

MetronomyMetronomyNights Out (Because Music, Sept 2008)
My top album of '08 and it still holds up a year later. Metronomy have a distinct sound that is instantly recognizable whether it's their own tracks or the remixes they do for other artists. It's manic, with a water-damaged quality to it that sounds like what it feels to be up for 36 hours straight, buzzing on espressos (or whatever) but dead tired. In a good way, obviously. It still sounds like nothing else. Metronomy are now a four piece, with a drummer and new bassist, so who knows what 2010 will bring for them, but I can't wait to find out.

MP3: A Thing for Me
MP3: Heartbreaker
 

SoundBites Best of 2005 | Gigs

I saw a lot of shows in 2005, half of which I’m forgetting about. It used to be I had a jar where I kept all my ticket stubs, but between Ticketweb and buying tickets at the door, it’s hard to keep track. But one thing’s for sure…


Live Band of the Year: The Dears

Dearsmercury1
The Dears were the best live band touring in 2005. Period. They were pretty much ignored by the American press (and blogs especially) which is partly their own fault. Their album No Cities Left (released November 2004) just didn’t do any of the songs justice. People heard the album, and Murray Lightburn’s Damon-Albarn-meets-Morrissey vocal delivery, the keyboard-heavy production and decided they didn’t need to see these poseurs live.

This is how I felt when I heard it too. But then I went to see them with the Brian Jonestown Massacre at Mercury Lounge in October 2004 and I was blown away. The dynamics. The musicianship. The love. And their unbelievable stage presence, especially frontman Murray Lightburn. The vocal affectations melt away when he belts it out onstage, selling every note. And what seems fey on the album, absolutely rocks live. The Dears are an absolute powerhouse live. And it made me love the album, too.

I saw them again at Mercury Lounge on my birthday (January 15, if you’re wondering) with Radiohead-wannabes Benzos. This was a minor disappointment, suffering mainly to an oddly-arranged setlist and being a bit too loud for the room (maybe the only time ever at the Merc).

Still, I dragged everyone I could to see subsequent shows. I paid for tickets! And I made believers out of every one of them (except my friend Jenn, who doesn’t like Belle & Sebastian either, so there you go). They make believers out of everyone who sees them.

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SoundBites Best of 2005 | Reissues, Comps, DVDs

More great music-related stuff that came out in 2005, but not necessarily new. Or not necessarily CDs. But all worth owning. If I’d gotten this up earlier, I’d say any of these would make great Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. But if you’re looking for something to spend those Amazon.com gift certificates, any of these will do just fine: 

Onekiss
One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found (Rhino) | Immerse yourself in an undiscovered world of bad boys, crushes, heartbreak and giddy elation. Avoiding any of the big names and singles associated with girl groups, Rhino brings a Nuggets approach to the ’60s pop genre, making for one of the most enjoyable releases of 2005 — new, old or otherwise. (Read my more lengthy review, complete with a few mp3s.)

Fallpeelsessions
The Fall
The Complete Peel Sessions | There is no band more associated with the Peel Session than The Fall and this is perhaps the band’s ultimate career-spanning compilation. You can follow Mark E. Smith and his one zillion lineup changes though radio sessions for his most famous fan, John Peel. In some cases, the Peel Session versions of songs are better than the ones that would end up on albums. If you are a Fall fan, The Complete Peel Sessions is nothing less than essential.

 

Dig_1
DIG!
(Palm Pictures) | Ondi Timoner‘s wildly entertaining documentary tells a familiar rock n’ roll tale, one filled with crazy nights, substance abuse, out-of-control parties, temper tantrums, art-versus-commerce debates, "musical differences," onstage fights, and smashed sitars. But to see it unfold in all it’s horrifying glory before your eyes is what makes this DIG! so amazing. If you loved the movie, the two-disc DVD is a must-have. Almost all of the deleted scenes (of which there are loads) and commentary tracks (the Dandies, the BJM [minus Anton, natch], and Timoner each get their own) are as illuminating as the movie itself.

 

Jenslekman_2
Jens Lekman
 Oh You’re So Silent Jens
(Secretly Canadian) | This almost made my list of 20 Best Albums of
2005 but as it’s a compilation of EPs and singles, I stuck it here.
Somewhere between Jonathan Richman and Stephin Merrit lies Sweden’s
Jens Lekman. For pure listening pleasure this tops last year’s proper
debut, When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog. His lyrics are
funny, romantic and sincere; his songs are catchy; and the production
is clever if hastily recorded. He’d better think about crediting all
those samples though, or someone (members of The Left Banke in
particular) might get mad if this ever sells enough of this CD to give
him a pocketful of money. You should also go see him live — it’s a very entertaining show. Free MP3s from Secretly Canadian: "You Are the Light" and the Left Banke-sampling "Black Cab."

 

Neworderdvd_1
New Order
 Item (Rhino) | Finally, a DVD compilation of New Order‘s arty, weird and influential music videos. While most groups were shooting straightforward performance clips, New Order made short films, in which the band would often make mere cameos. Jonathan Demme, Katherine Bigelow and other then-cutting-edge filmmakers worked on their clips, most of which don’t seem dated at all. Even their ’90s-era videos are pretty amazing, even when the songs are less so. (Though we have the "Crystal" video to blame for The Killers name.) This two-DVD set also includes a gushing documentary made in conjunction with their 1992 album, Republic, that has some rare television appearances that rounds out the package nicely.

 

Circulus
Circulus The Lick on the Tip of an Envelope Yet to Be Sent (Candlelight) | Found in the basement of former Island Records president Chris Blackwell comes this lost nugget of psychedelic Medieval folk from 1971. OK, not really. Circulus are to the hippie freak-folk scene what the Darkness are to glam and hard rock. But they believe it, man! When they perform "Power to the Pixies," they aren’t singing about Frank Black. (According to this feature in The Guardian, they kicked out a member when he admitted he didn’t believe in fairies.) If you can listen past the lutes, transverse flutes, lizards, and songs about wizards, this is a pretty great album. It still won’t make you like mead, though. Here’s an mp3: "We Are Long Lost"

Childrenofnuggets
Various Artists
Children Of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The Second Psychedelic Era 1976-1995 (Rhino) | The Rhino folks score again with this sequel to their seminal garage rock compilation, Nuggets, this time featuring bands influenced by the original. Unless you worked in college radio in the mid-’80s, you probably haven’t heard the bulk of these bands. Which is good, as you’re about to have your mind blown by these unearthed sounds. Many of these songs from UK and European bands (including a nice handful of early Creation Records releases) are seeing their first-ever Stateside release. Highly recommended.

 

Talkingheads_brick
Talking HeadsDualDisc Brick (Rhino) | You’re probably unaware of this, but some of today’s "cool" and "indie" bands (like Clapping Hands Are Saying Yeah and Frank Ferdinand) have been influenced by these New York nerds who got their start way back in 1975. Here’s your chance to catch up with them in this 30th Anniversary big box set that features remastered editions of all their studio albums, all of which are in the new and expensive DualDisc format. There are loads of previously-unheard outtakes, and the DVD side of each disc has the band’s music videos and lots more. If you don’t want to plunk down the $140 for this baby, individual DualDisc editions of each album (the Remain in Light outtakes are fantastic) will be available in early 2006.

 

Orangejuice_glasgow
Orange Juice
The Glasgow School (Domino) | Four young lads from Glasgow, Scotland, send scenesters into a tizzy with their arty m�lange of scrappy guitars, disco beats, witty wordplay, and tailored fashion sense. Does that sound familiar? It’s not who you think. Twenty-five years before Franz Ferdinand took us out, Orange Juice were "The Sound of Young Scotland" with aspirations of becoming the punk rock version of Chic. The Glasgow School compiles the entire output of their early years on influential Scottish indie Postcard — tunes that served as a blueprint for such followers as the Pastels, Belle & Sebastian, and, yes, Franz Ferdinand. Now if someone would just reissue their Polydor compilation, The Esteemed Orange Juice, we’d be in business.

 

Rkelly
R. Kelly
Trapped in the Closet Chapters 1-12 DVD (JIVE) | Maybe "Best" isn’t the right word for Trapped in the Closet, but I recommend it to everyone just because you have to see it to believe it. The narrative is so literal, the music videos are almost redundant, but it only adds to the weirdness. And if I hadn’t watched this, I would’ve never realized that "midget" rhymed with "kitchen." The DVD menu plays the basic kerplop backing track as a loop, so it’s fun just to leave that on and make up your own lyrics to whatever you happen to be doing around the house. "The tea kettle is whistling but I’m out of Darjeeling/So I’ll have to drink this gross Celestial Seasons crap my mother left here last time she visited/Now I’ll check my email…" Also be sure and check out the "Commentary Remix" where you get to watch Kells watch his videos and say things like "See there when I just looked at the camera. I did that ’cause, like, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing." Neither could we, Kells. Neither could we.

SoundBites Best of 2005 | Albums

Don’t let anyone say 2005 was a crummy year for music. I coulda done a Top 50. But that takes too much time. Here’s my Top 20 Albums of 2005, which probably changed more than NME‘s lineup right down to posting.

Elbow_leaders
ElbowLeaders of the Free World (V2) | Elbow‘s third album is not only the best thing they’ve ever done, it was the best thing I heard anyone do in 2005. Gorgeous melodies, inventive arrangements and musicianship, and some of the most heartfelt (without treacle) lyrics around. And Guy Garvey‘s amazing voice on top of it all. Album of the Year by a mile. Best songs: "Station Approach," "The Stops," "Mexican Standoff," "The Everthere."

Artbrut
Art BrutBang Bang Rock and Roll
(Fierce Panda) | The year’s most flat-out enjoyable record. The humor
in singer Eddie Argos‘ lyrics hits you first ("I’ve seen her
naked…TWICE!") but these are songs that are funny, not novelty rock.
(Some may disagree.) And, as Argos sings on their manifesto "Formed a
Band," this is not irony. "We’re just talking to the kids!" The hits
keep coming through all 12 tracks, from "My Little Brother" through
"18,000 Lira."

 

Newporno
New PornographersTwin Cinema (Matador) | Not as immediate and crammed with hooks as either The Electric Version or Mass Romantic, album number three for this mostly-Canadian supergroup seemed like a bit of a dud on arrival. Weeks of play, however, and songs constantly coming up on shuffle on the iPod, have proven Twin Cinema to be another batch of winning songs with perhaps the most staying power of them all. Dig new New breed: "Sing Me Spanish Techno," "These Are the Fables," "The Jessica Numbers."

Ofmontreal
Of MontrealThe Sunlandic Twins
(Polyvinyl) I remember seeing Of Montreal back in 1999, playing with
Ladybug Transistor. There were props and slide-flutes and other twee
type things. I didn’t like them. But somewhere down the line they
transformed from utter whimsy into a band capable of filtering poppy,
’60s-inspired melodies through Eno-esque new wave. I was hooked. One of
2005’s earlier releases (well, April), The Sunlandic Twins has
stayed with me for most of the year. Get some Sun:"Requiem for
O.M.M.2," "Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)," "Forecast
Fascist Future."

Rakes
The RakesCapture/Release
(V2) | These guys have, so
far, been met mostly with shrugs in America (the record’s not out yet here), dismissed as the latest
post-punk whatever. There may be a little disco hi-hat in the drumming,
but The Rakes are miles better than any of the others and actually
remind me of Pink Flag-era Wire with a working-class attitude
and an articulate grasp of late-20s ennui. "Might as well go out for a
fifth night in a row" indeed. Capture/Release is genius from start-to-finish and has some of the year’s
best singles, too, including "Work Work Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)," "22
Grand Job," and "Strasbourg."

Fieldmusic
Field MusicField Music (Memphis Industries) | Despite having ties to both the Futureheads (singer Andrew Moore used to be in them) and Maximo Park (they share a drummer), Sunderland, England’s Field Music sound nothing like them. It’s all delicate, sparse arrangements (not unlike Spoon), nods to ’60s baroque pop, and a cut-the-fat approach to album making. Debut album of the year, rock division. Choice cuts: "If Only the Moon Were Up," "Shorter Shorter," "Got to Write a Letter"

Lcdsoundsystem
LCD SoundsystemLCD Soundsystem (DFA/Capitol) | When LCD Soundsystem‘s debut got two Grammy noms, I began to question my own taste for including this on my best-of list but no, dammit, this is a great album. It still sounds great after having it for nearly a year, and being played at every party, before every show, and on The O.C. It will be interesting to see what James Murphy does next. Killer jams: "Daft Punk is Playing in My House," "Tribulations," "Beat Connection"

Mymorningjacket
My Morning JacketZ (ATO) | Like The Clientele, My Morning Jacket dare to drop one of their calling cards (the gallons of reverb), then drop a key band member and pull a 180 musically. The result being the best album they’ve ever done and the first one I’ve truly liked start-to-finish. And yet they still sound like My Morning Jacket, thanks in no small part to Jim James voice-of-heaven vocals. Prime cuts: "Wordless Chorus," "Into the Woods," "Anytime"

Richardhawley
Richard HawleyColes Corner (Mute) |
Third album’s the charm for this former axeman for Longpigs and Pulp,
who once again leaves indie stylings behind in favor of full-on crooner
mode, a la Roy Orbison, Burt Bacharach, Marty Robbins, or even
Morrissey. Even though it was written about Sheffield, England, Coles Corner
makes a gorgeous soundtrack for NYC too, and sounds even better after
midnight. Swoon: "The Ocean," "Hotel Room," "Born Under a Bad Sign,"
"Coles Corner"

Malcolmmiddleton
Malcolm MiddletonInto the Woods (Chemikal Underground) | If you read the lyrics sheet, you may wonder about the state of mind of Arab Strap‘s Malcolm Middleton
on his second solo album. For example, on "A Happy Medium" he sings,
"Woke up again today/Realized I hate myself/My Brain is a disease." But
Into the Woods is not a dreary exercise in woe-is-me-isms. Like so many
before him, Middleton turns his pain, fear and doubts into something
beautiful. Even those who have never had any time for Arab Strap should
give this one a chance. Get into: "My Loneliness Shines," "You’re Gonna
Break My Heart," "A Happy Medium"

The other 10 after the jump…

Continue Reading

SoundBites Best of 2005 | Singles, Songs, EPs

Some may argue that 2005 was a ho-hum music year, but I found it very hard to narrow down my choices — so much so I went from having a Top Ten to a Top 20 and then to a Top 25. I think only "The Two Sides Of Monsieur Valentine" and "Sing Me Spanish Techno weren’t officially singles (though I think it will be early next year) and while The Futureheads‘ cover of "Hounds of Love" was on the US edition of thier 2004 debut, it was released as a single this year. Also, you may never want to hear "Feel Good Inc." again after that iPod commercial but, admit it, the first time you heard it you probably thought it was awesome. Without further ado, in descending order…

Clor_loveandpain_1

  1. Clor"Love + Pain"
  2. The Futureheads – "Hounds of Love"
  3. Tom Vek – “If You Want”
  4. New Pornographers – “Sing Me Spanish Techno”
  5. Rihanna – “Pon de Replay”
  6. Gorillaz – “Feel Good Inc.”
  7. Rakes – “Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)”
  8. Long Blondes – “Giddy Stratospheres”
  9. The Cribs – “Martell”
  10. Art Brut – “Good Weekend”
  11. Babyshambles – “Fuck Forever”
  12. The White Stripes – “My Doorbell”
  13. Radio Dept. – This Past Week EP
  14. Jens Lekman "The Opposite of Hallelujah"
  15. Bloc Party – “Two More Years”
  16. Battle"Demons"
  17. Guillemots – “Trains to Brazil”
  18. Arctic Monkeys – “Fake Tales of San Francisco”
  19. Lady Sovereign – “9 to 5”
  20. Mystery Jets – “You Can’t Fool Me, Dennis”
  21. Spoon – “The Two Sides Of Monsieur Valentine”
  22. The Shortwave Set"Is it Any Wonder?"
  23. Charlotte Hatherley – “Bastardo”
  24. Amerie – “1 Thing”
  25. The Fall – “Clasp Hands”

Best of 2005 | MOJO

Mojo_bestof2005 I don’t think MOJO is quite at the level of excellence it was maybe four years ago when they could make stories on old bands I never cared about interesting, but it’s probably still the best music magazine in publication. (Actually, WORD is better, but it is more contemporary and though it covers movies and some TV as well.) Despite having at least one of the Beatles on the cover every four issues, they still seem to have their finger on the pulse… even if some of their choices for Best of 2005 seem a bit safe. They didn’t do a singles/tracks list, but they did do Top Tens for different genres.

MOJO’s Top 50 Albums of 2005
1. Antony and the JohnsonsI Am A Bird Now
2. Arcade FireFuneral
3. Kate BushAerial
4. Bruce SpringsteenDevils & Dust
5. My Morning JacketZ
6. Ry CooderChavez Ravine
7. The Magic NumbersThe Magic Numbers
8. Malcolm MiddletonInto the Woods
9. Amadou & Mairam Dimanche A Bamako
10. Richard HawleyColes Corner
11. Franz FerdinandYou Could Have It So Much Better
12. Sleater-Kinney The Woods
13. Bright EyesI’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
14. The White StripesGet Behind Me, Satan
15. The Go BetweensOceans Apart
16. Black MountainBlack Mountain
17. U2How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
18. GorillazDemon Days
19. Robert Plant And the Strange SensationMighty Rearranger
20. Four TetEverything Ecstatic
21. Teenage Fanclub Man-Made
22. Konono No.1Congotronics
23. CirculusThe Lick On A Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent
24. Sufjan Stevens Illinois
25. OasisDon’t Believe The Truth
26. Rufus WainwrightWant Two
27. Sigur RosTakk
28. Devendra BanhartCripple Crow
29. M.I.A.Arular
30. Ali Farka Toure & Toumani DiabateIn The Heart Of The Moon
31. Neil YoungPrairie Wind
32. Paul WellerAs Is Now
33. Vashti BunyanLookaftering
34. Bloc PartySilent Alarm
35. GoldfrappSupernature
36. The Reverend Al GreenEverything’s OK
37. ColdplayX&Y
38. Nada Surf The Weight Is A Gift
39. The Mars VoltaFrances The Mute
40. SupergrassRoad To Rouen
41. Stevie Wonder – A Time To Love
42. Phantom BuffaloShishimumu
43. John Legend Get Lifted
44. Joy Zipper The Heartlight Set
45. SmogA River Ain’t Too Much To Love
46. Roots ManuvaAwfully Deep
47. Death From Above 1979 You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine
48. Six Organs of AdmittanceSchool Of The Flower
49. Nickel CreekWhy Should the Fire Die
50. Kaiser ChiefsEmployment

Best of 2005 | WORD Magazine

Word_jancoverBritish mag The WORD is probably as good as it gets — arts and entertainment-wise — featuring most of the writers who used to work at Q back when it was great. It’s probably 70% music, but there are also features on movies and TV, with a nice section at the back of the magazine on digital culture as well. The only problem is it can be hard to find. Virgin Megastore carries it, but store in Union Square is currently displaying the November issue (the January issue, seen here is the latest). But do search it out. You won’t be disappointed. Here’s there Top Ten Albums of 2005. Remember, this is a UK mag and some records that were out in the US in 2004 didn’t hit over there till this year.

The WORD‘s Top Ten Albums of 2005

  1. The Arcade FireFuneral
  2. Rilo KileyMore Adventurous
  3. Sylvie LewisTangos and Tantrums
  4. Gorillaz Demon Days
  5. Richard Hawley Coles Corner
  6. GoldfrappSupernature
  7. Martha WainwrightMartha Wainwright
  8. Eels Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
  9. The Magic NumbersThe Magic Numbers
  10. Hard FiStars Of CCTV

Best of 2005 | Blender Magazine

Blender‘s "Buh-Bye 2005" issue just hit the stands. Woman of the Year is Kelly Clarkson. There is no Man of the Year or Band of the Year. Just Kelly. I think it was having her name yelled out during the chest-waxing scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin that put her over the edge. The readers poll picked Coldplay‘s X&Y as Album of the Year (barely edging out Mariah Carey‘s The Emancipation of Mimi) and Kelly Clarkson’s "Since U Been Gone" as Song of the Year.

Blender’s Top Ten Albums of 2005

  1. M.I.A.Arular
  2. Fiona AppleExtraordinary Machine
  3. Kanye West Late Registration
  4. Bright EyesWide Awake, It’s Morning
  5. White StripesGet Behind Me Satan
  6. Franz FerdinandYou Could Have it So Much Better…
  7. Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock & Roll
  8. ColdplayX&Y
  9. The Mars VoltaFrancis the Mute
  10. Young Jeezy Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101

Blender’s Top Ten Songs of 2005

  1. Kelly Clarkson – "Since U Been Gone"
  2. R. Kelly – "Trapped in the Closet"
  3. Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx – "Gold Digger"
  4. Fall Out Boy – "Sugar, We’re Going Down"
  5. Mike Jones feat. Slim Thug and Paul Wall – "Still Tippin’"
  6. The Killers – "Mr. Brightside"
  7. Amerie – "I Thing"
  8. The Game feat. 50 Cent – "Hate it or Love It"
  9. Weezer – "We Are All on Drugs"
  10. Franz Ferdinand – "Do You Want To"

Best of 2005 | The A.V. Club

Avclub_logoEverybody loves The Onion but I wonder how many people make it past the staples over to their Arts & Entertainment half, The A.V. Club. (Or, in the internet world, click on the little A.V. Club link on the Onion’s main page.) I have long thought — since I discovered it online when they interviewed Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s Mike Nelson way back in 1997 — that they have some of the smartest, most on-the-ball writers in Entertainment Journalism. Some might call that faint praise in a world of charticles, trend pieces and blurbs, but The A.V. Club is able to convey serious ideas about movies, music and books (and TV) in a way most everyone can appreciate without ever dumbing things down.

They also reassure my own tastes as well. Keith Phipps was about the only other person to understand the genius that is the Josie & the Pussycats moviebesides myself. (It really is good, though it was so in tune with the pop culture zeitgeist of the time it’s bound to be dated now.)

Above almost all other year-end lists, I look forward to The A.V. Club’s the most. There’s no general consensus Top 50 Albums — each writer gets his own space. Editor Keith Phipps picks The Go! Team’s Thunder Lightning Strike as tops; Head writer Nathan Rabin picks Edan’s Beauty and the Beat; and Josh Modell likes The National’s Alligator the most.

Check out the rest of The A.V. Club staff’s choices for best of 2005.

BarbieposhpetsThey have yet to publish their annual Least-Essential Albums of the Year list (I couldn’t find last year’s online, but here’s the 2003 list) but the joy that is the annual Cheap Toy Roundup (which features Barbie Posh Pets, seen at right) can now be perused at your leisure.

Also, The A.V. Club Blog is awesome too.

Best of 2005: NME’s Singles of the Year

Nme_bestof

While you can argue about NME‘s obvious, safe choices (though controversial, for other reasons) for Albums of the year, it’s harder to dispute their Top 50 Tracks of 2005. (It’s not singles anymore, I guess, but that’s what this is obviously — Songs Officially Released in the UK in 2005 — otherwise it might include all sorts of other stuff and probably not The Arcade Fire.) Many of these will appear on my list, whenever I get around to it, though Clor’s "Love + Pain" will be much higher on the chart. And I certainly wouldn’t have THREE songs by the Rakes, but maybe one. And yes I know #50 is missing. Will fill that in when someone tells me what it is.

 

  1. "Hounds Of Love" – The Futureheads
  2. "Rebellion (Lies)" – The Arcade Fire
  3. "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" – The Arctic Monkeys
  4. "Gold Digger" – Kanye West
  5. "My Doorbell" – The White Stripes
  6. "Fuck Forever" – Babyshambles
  7. "Hope There’s Someone" – Antony & The Johnsons
  8. "Somewhere" – Else Razorlight
  9. "Do You Want To" – Franz Ferdinand
  10. "Juicebox" – The Strokes
  11. "Fake Tales Of San Francisco" – The Arctic Monkeys
  12. "Hard To Beat" – Hard-Fi
  13. "Banquet" – Bloc Party
  14. "Neighbourhood #2 (Lakia)" – The Arcade Fire
  15. "La Ritournelle" – Sebastien Teller
  16. "DARE" – Gorillaz
  17. "Daft Punk Is Playing My House" – LCD Soundsystem
  18. "I Predict A Riot" – The Kaiser Chiefs
  19. "Please Stand Up" – British Sea Power
  20. "1 Thing" – Amerie
  21. "Blue Orchid" – The White Stripes
  22. "Oxygen" – Willy Mason
  23. "First Day Of My Life" – Bright Eyes
  24. "Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)" – The Rakes
  25. "Bored and Somewhat Detatched" – Snow White
  26. "Apply Some Pressure" – Maximo Park
  27. "22 Grand Job" – The Rakes
  28. "Munich" – Editors
  29. "Off The Record" – My Morning Jacket
  30. "Forever Lost" – The Magic Numbers
  31. "Lyla" – Oasis
  32. "Hey Scenesters!" – The Cribs
  33. "My Dead Wife" – Absentee
  34. "California" – Low
  35. "Pull Out" – Death From Above 1979
  36. "Hey Man (Now We’re Really Living)" – The Eels
  37. "Strasbourg" – The Rakes
  38. "Love and Pain" – Clor
  39. "Hung Up" – Madonna
  40. "My Friend Dario" – Vitallic
  41. "Zoo Time" – Mystery Jets
  42. "Feel Good Inc." – Gorillaz
  43. "It’s Not The Only Way To Feel Happy" – Field Music
  44. "Love In A Trashcan" – The Raevonettes
  45. "Lose Control" – Missy Elliot
  46. "Freakin’ Out" – Graham Coxon
  47. "Oh My God!" – Kasier Chiefs
  48. "The Great Escape" – We Are Scientists
  49. "Lucky 6" – Lupen Crook