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 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."
Art Brut – Bang 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
New Pornographers – Twin 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."
Of Montreal – The 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
The Rakes – Capture/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."
Field Music – Field 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"
LCD Soundsystem – LCD 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"
My Morning Jacket – Z (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"
Richard Hawley – Coles 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,"
Malcolm Middleton – Into 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…