Best Albums of 2005
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Lists, Music.
There is a disclaimer and/or explanation and/or rant which is needed for this list. I have a lot of distaste for most other people’s favorite albums list, as a matter of fact, I’m not even sure that mine is the truth. As I went through it, again, and again, I kept wanting to reorganize the order, and introduce new albums. If I could, The Go! Team would be on the list, in the top 5 for sure, but I don’t believe it’s proper as I listened to it a lot last year; in its release year. Funny I mention that now, because the albums I listened to most, probably aren’t from this year at all. I keep trying to find new bands (from the now) without giving up on discovering music from times gone by. As the saying goes, you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. Well, something like that. This urge to fit in with both the “classic rock” fans and the “new rock” fans, while still trying to explore hip hop, electronica and even some country makes it hard to come around to making a list. It’s impossible to listen to every good album out there in a year, but here’s the stuff I listened to and liked a bit. If you read this, I thank you.
#1) Sufjan Stevens Illinois
I was recently at a wedding, and the best man was giving a speech, “I don’t really know what to say, maaaan, so…” All the while I thought to myself, “If you don’t know what to say, then don’t say anything!” I might find myself following similar suit in this situation. There was a great deal of backlash, and for good reason, against this album. Sufjan Stevens, a known-but-still-relatively-unknown artist puts out a fantastic album. The problem is, people really, really start paying attention. As I am not one of the people who are dogging this album, I can only speculate as to why it wouldn’t be a favorite of theirs. 1) Going back to the “I liked them before they were popular” thing. I understand, there have been bands, and most certainly will be more in the future, that I’ve stopped liking because of their soaring popularity. I can see this being the case. 2) People don’t get it. I really, really understand this. For instance, I love metal. With that being said, it make little to no sense that an album as soft as this would be my favorite for the year when I absolutely despise Bright Eyes, Death Cab (though I “hear” that not all their stuff is sappy sad bastard music), and others like them. Strange, but I can see it.
#2) Sleater-Kinney The Woods
Unlike Sufjan, this makes sense to me. I can see this working out as far as favorite albums go. Sleater-Kinney, an all female trio, rose out of the ashes of grunge and into the watered down “alternative” genre. This album takes them to a place that I call “niiiiiiiiice.” The track “Modern Girl” reminds me of where they’ve been, but introducing the album with “The Fox” reintroduces the band as sonic rawk gods.
#3) The White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan
Though I am growing increasingly sick of the number unjust and undefined lists (note: my list defines why I like these albums, and…if that doesn’t work for you, there’s free music, YAY!) I have seen a few, and to my surprise, this album is missing. How, I must ask, does this album differ from White Blood Cells and Elephant? Both of those were received with general acclaim, critical acclaim, and Chris acclaim. I find myself looking at some of the music I find myself listening to from time to time, Hendrix, Sabbath, Zeppelin, and wondering… “Self, what current bands do you see listening to for the next 20 year?” Though there are some cool mid-90’s bands like Collective Soul that made some RAD albums…for the most part, they’ve all but died out (when you put out a greatest hits album because it might sell more than a release of new material…). The White Stripes might be this band for me. Yes, I understand that I haven’t even been listening to music for twenty years (wait…OK, yes, I do in fact understand this), but I love the band. If I was to continue this meaningless “lists of things” time-waster they’d probably be in my “top 10 bands of all time.” “But when He had turned about and looked on His disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying ‘Get behind me, Satan: for though savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men’.” Well, in this case, I’m going to go on a limb and say that this music is for men…nonetheless, I’m all about it.
#4) Clutch Robot Hive: Exodus
Clutch is awesome! Clutch are awesome! We’ll work out the semantics later, but I love Clutch. Jam Room was amazing, Pure Rock Fury RAWKED, and last years Blast Tyrant ANNIHILATED FACES OFF OF SKULLS. But without me liking Clutch beforehand, I’d still like this album. There’s a subtle blend between the rocking tones, (this is going to sound like a joke, but it’s mostly true) rock-to-rawk-to-hard rock-to-soft metal-to-hard rock-to-rawk-to-rock. Plus, if nothing else, lead singer Neil Fallon’s beard is B-E-A-utiful.
#5) The Raveonettes Pretty In Black
Even worse than the absence of The White Stripes, might be the complete lack of The Raveonettes on “The Kids’” lists. One of the main trends this year, that I’ve noticed, was reintroducing country music into rock n’ roll, and furthermore, introducing country roots into the mainstream. Johnny Cash’s movie came out, (re)introducing Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Orbison, and Elvis as possibly, maybe, kinda having country-ish roots. It was this era in music in which The Raveonettes call back to. “Somewhere in Texas” brings this reflection to the past (with a dash of country) to the forefront of what I’m getting at here. As they’ve been building momentum with past albums, it’s my opinion that The Raveonettes have succeeded in finally blending past and present into something that can completely succeed. But…by the looks of things, not too many agree with me on this.
#6) Dropkick Murphys The Warriors Code
A quasi-punk album in the top 10? Whaaaa? Understandable, but with the exception of the Dropkick’s last album, Blackout, I’ve been a huge fan of the band for years. During my first listens to the album, I had to question whether or not I was REALLY enjoying it because it is good, or was I enjoying it because it simply sounded better than their last album? The answer: it’s a great album. It hits where Blackout missed, touching on some slower, (gasp) sensitive songs, while mixing in the type of songs that both the boys on the docks and the skinheads can dig. I didn’t get too much into punk this year, as the only other album mildly resembling the genre that has nothing to do with emo, scream-o, or anything “core,” was a release by Lagwagon; but I’m going to presume this was the best out there this year (for now).
#7) The Dandy Warhols Odditorium or Warlords of Mars
With the release of the Anton Newcombe infused Dig! The Dandys, in general, took a lot of heat. Furthermore, with the release of Dig! The Dandys Odditorium took a lot of heat. Many called it further copying of a Newcombe’s unique style, or following trends that have already run their course. This is SO following a trend, but in the past, I’ve had no beef with the band. In fact, I might have had a little something for them, collectively. To say that I don’t see the Dandy Warhols trying to sound like The Brian Jonestown Massacre would be wrong. To say that I don’t see how this album’s long, draining songs, mixed amongst short poppy songs about drugs doesn’t sound like the BJM would be a lie. BUT, this is a great album in my opinion. When listening to it in its entirety it’s enjoyable to follow the flow. With its highs and lows, the Dandys are still my cute adorable, rockin’ Dandys.
#8) Bloc Party Silent Alarm
This is the first “new to me” bands on the list, The Bloc Party. I tried for the longest time, holding out, gritting my teeth, not clicking the related links…but I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I needed to know what the Bloc Party were about. Here’s the band playing the Opera House in Toronto. Here’s the band playing numerous hip late night shows (presumption). Here’s the band raping my dreams with thoughts of what their music might sound like. Fortunately, they sounded nothing like they did in my dreams (a German synth-Gwar-ish type sound…God-awful). If you replace the screaming you find in most bands with a more tolerable voice, and the cheap, indistinctive guitars of most modern bands with riffs that actually stay in your head, there you have it…you’ve got The Bloc Party. Despite the original hesitancies, the band has quickly grown into one of my favorite new bands in the last few years.
#9) Animal Collective Feels
When listening to last years “Sung Tongs” I really wasn’t impressed. I’d like to use a comparison as to just how much I like this album. I think this album might be a long term favorite of mine for multiple reasons. The main point though, is that it is a fun album. It is fun to listen to. It is fun to play when there’s nothing else going on. It makes me feel (God, that is corny, I’m sorry).
#10) Danger Doom The Mouse and the Mask
I love Adult Swim. I love Sealab 2021, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Space Ghost. To be honest, I didn’t have any clue that there was affiliation with between this MF Doom, Danger Mouse collaboration and Adult Swim until just before its release. I heard of its release months before, but no information on this collab. Simply the idea of teaming one of the hottest MCs with the hottest producer (can I call him that?) interested me to no end, but with just days to spare before its release, learning that there was an AS connection nailed it for me. To be honest, I’m rambling because I’ve never “reviewed” a hip hop or rap album before. I’m still in that immature stage of my relationship with the music, it’s blossomed from a mild enjoyment into something greater, and I’m trying not to discourage it from hanging out with me by saying things like “phat beat.” Oh, but Kanye can still sit on it, Danger Doom had the best Hip Hop album of the year.
#11) Atmosphere You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having
Yes, Danger Doom had the best hip hop album of the year, but Atmosphere was a close second. In continuation of this years “relationship” theme; despite him not knowing, Slug and I have a long history together. I heard some tapes of his back (in tha day) when I was in high school in Calgary. Little did I know that I’d move to the great state that is made famous by Atmosphere. Atmosphere only. Nothing good has ever come from this state…I’m looking at you Robert Zimmerman.
#12) The Decemberists Picaresque
Solid album. Hey, not all of my descriptions have to be all that insightful or revealing. If you’ve read any of them, you’re probably in agreeance with me when I say that none of them are all that insightful or revealing.
#13) System of a Down Mezmerize
I want to make clear that this is no “bundle deal.” I’ve seen a lot of people put SOAD’s Mezmerize & Hypnotize together in a sort of “they were released in the same year, so why not” type thing. Not I said the Chris. This is a hybrid of other criticisms and reviews previously mentioned. I desperately tried not to listen to this album although I’ve loved everything the band has released in the past. This is a solid album. If you remove yourself from mainstream modern rock radio stations I’m sure that you’ll experience the same feelings I have towards it. If not, one can only presume how stale it must seem by now. So, for 2006, if you remember one thing, remember this Mezmerize not Hypnotize.
#14) Wu-Tang Meets Indie Culture Think Differently
To further my critical angst, I’ve included another hip hop album in the mix.For those who do not recall Wu-Tang’s Iron Flag, I suggest that there is no need to run out and buy it. Rather, check out any Ghostface album…period. Because since the “Triumph” Wu-Tang Forever blazed, with the exception of a few tracks on The W, Wu-Tang, as a group have been lackluster. There is a reason I’m bringing this up, as I know that this is a collaborative effort, and not a “group thing.” Method Man had a sitcom on FOX, Wu-Tang Clan have given their name to a clothing company, Wu-Wear, and various members haven’t released an album in years. In my opinion, without RZA, GZA and Ghostface, there would no longer be any Wu-Tang (and that’s coming from a Method Man fan!). Fact is, by releasing this album, including many of today’s best unknown (well…yes, I’ve now come to understand that MF Doom, might just be known) MCs their taking hip hop back to what it was for them before they hit big. Yes, Enter The 36 Chambers was released independently. When it comes to street credibility, it seems I was wrong for ever questioning the Clan, as this album has some music that needs to be seriously paid attention to on it.
#15) Kaiser Chiefs Employment
This is a pop album, no getting around it. I read in a local paper last summer about how roughly 300 people showed up to the Kaiser Chiefs show at the historic First Avenue club when they came to town, and the journalist was disappointed. “They are a band deserving of more,” he wrote. I suppose I might agree. They do deserve more than 300 people, but in a landscape which is overpopulated with Brit rock these days…who has the time, really?! These skeptical words can be eliminated when taking some times and listening to the band though; the similarities to other bands are there, but more than not, you will hear the Kaiser Chiefs and the Kaiser Chiefs only. Similar to Feels, this album brings a sense of fun to it. Listening to the album now, it sounds a little dated; like a memory from the distant past. I’m not sure that I’ll have a long term fancy for Employment because of that; as while it is a great, fun album, it’s only had a few months of listen-ability and already it’s getting tired. But for these last few months, this has been a keeper.
#16) The New Pornographers Twin Cinema
How am I supposed to follow an argument about the Kaiser Chiefs, saying that they’re wearing thin on me, with anything about The New Pornographers? It’s hard! Twin Cinema is an amazing album, full of great tracks that emotionally bounce me all over the place. I’ve noticed many other lists including the album quite high in rank, as it should be. This album is going to grow on me. I know this. Why, then is it only #16 on my list? Simply, because as of right now it’s simply a good album to me. Knowing my allegiance to Canada, and all things there of (with a handful of exceptions…like, let’s say, everything from Quebec), this should be a no-brain long term, top of the record stack album for me. But one must start somewhere, and this is starting at #16 of 2005 for me.
#17) Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation Mighty Rearranger
#18) Neil Young Prairie Wind
I seriously had my doubts before listening to these albums. Robert Plant, for the sheer fact that he was charging a minimum of $50 for tickets to his show (no Jimmy Page) and Neil Young because of the fact that even with the help of Booker T and the MGs, he hasn’t made a completely solid album for years. Thankfully, I was wrong on both accounts. I’ve decided to include these albums not simply because they’re wonderful and I enjoy every minute listening to them, but because they’re special, they from men old enough to be my grandfathers. To not include the Rolling Stones’ effort in this mix is simply because of stubbornness. That too was a fine album, but I didn’t like it near as much as Mighty Rearranger. As someone mentioned to me, it might have been their best album since Exile on Main St., but I just don’t care. Whether it be that Neil Young is a sentimental favorite of mine, or the Led Zeppelin have had a far greater impact on me than the Rolling Stones have, so be it. Cheers to these albums, as they prove something that is often mentioned whenever Metallica releases anything, “So what if they’re old albums are excellent, this new stuff is still better than 99% of the music put out these days.”
#19) Boards of Canada The Campfire Headphase
This album doesn’t fit into the mix at all. Not a single guitar or MC appears on it. But, knowing that I’m a crazy Aphex Twin fan should help the understanding as to why I enjoy this album. It’s smooth along the lines of Richard D. James’ Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2, but it doesn’t hesitate to touch on some of the great electronic mayhem that made Drukqs what it was.
#20) Queens of the Stone Age Lullabies to Paralyze
QUOTSA are the best hard rock band of the last 10 years. There is no doubt in my mind that this is true, and Lullabies doesn’t make me think any differently. To be honest, I was looking for another Songs for the Deaf, but I didn’t find it. I did, however, find the perfect follow up to that album. Again, with great transition between the soft slow and the hard and fast, the Homme lead queens have picked up where the Homme/Olivieri lead Queens left off.
#21) Buckethead and Friends Enter the Chicken
This album is precisely why “best of” lists should be left to be made until the last minute. I didn’t listen to it until mid December, and it obviously made an impact on me. I remember trying to listen to Buckethead a few years ago; it was a short lived affair. Hearing things like “virtuoso” in terms of the man’s playing, I was expecting something similar to Joe Satriani, I was off. This time around, whether it be his short lived stint backing up Axyl Rose, or whatever, Buckethead (and his friends) has shown me the way of my errors. “Waiting Here” is a perfect display of what I’m talking about. Serj Tankian (aka friend) leaves me wondering if Buckethead should take up shop as a member of SOAD. Ranging from absolute metal to this moderate rock gem, Enter The Chicken shouldn’t be overlooked.
#22) DJ Muggs and GZA Grandmasters
#23) Nada Surf The Weight is a Gift
What concerns me is how seemingly everyone was on the Nada Surf train when this album was released. It concerns me, because just as the album was released and the fan-fare reigned, it left. No year end critical acclaim, no fan-fare. When Rolling Stone glorifies your band, then includes the Foo Fighters instead of you in their year end list, it must burn (not saying anything bad against the Foo Fighters…just making a comparison). Continuing the running trend of “historically been a fan of them,” historically, I’ve been a fan of Nada Surf. This album’s “Blankest Year” is an overlooked pop-rock gem, as is the entire album.
#24) Wolf Parade Apologies to Queen Mary
#25) DJ Spooky and Dave Lombardo Drums of Death
This album’s premise seems more like a sitcom than something that should be in any “best of” list; Slayer and the DJ. Dave Lombardo, the drummer from SLAYER mixes it up on Drums of Death with DJ Spooky. Just as Danger Doom spurred my interest months before its release, this team-up interested me to no end. Think of peanut butter and jelly. What was the first person thinking who made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? “I love peanut butter; I love jelly, LET’S DO IT!” Well, along those lines, “I love metal; I love electronic music, LET’S DO IT!” The addition of Chuck D. and Vernon Reid on various tracks doesn’t hurt much either.
#26) Devendra Banhart Cripple Crow
#27) Deerhoof The Runners Four
#28) Soulfly Dark Ages
To me, 2005 saw the year that I got back into metal. Dark Ages probably isn’t the best metal album of the year, but it is representative of this trend. I tried out Exodus, fell back into Children of Bodom, and even gave Limp Bizkit another chance. There is a disclaimer to that last mention: I tried it because the seemingly bi-polar Fred Durst refused to market the album. And with only 7 songs, it wouldn’t be much time wasted if it sucked. Funny thing is, it didn’t, it was OK. The other albums I checked out were good too. And even after missing with Prophecy, Soulfly sounded great. Credibility aside, as long as there’s hard music still going, I think it’s a good thing.
#29) Kanye West Late Registration
#30) Audioslave Out of Exile
[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]