Thursday, January 05, 2006

Top 20 Albums of 2005

Right lets get a few small matters out of the way first. Jem and KT Tunstall don’t count towards this list, as they were in my 2004 list, despite “re-releases” of the albums in question. “I Confess” by Holly Palmer would certainly make it in the list if I thought it was only released in 2005, but I’m sure I only discovered it this year and that it was out in 2004. Ditto for “Let It Die” by Feist and the Nouvelle Vague album. The Greatest Hits collections by Shakin’ Stevens and Basement Jaxx were ineligible (the old “Greatest Hits compilations don’t count” rule). Other than that, let battle commence! And let it be known this list was an absolute bugger to come up with. Oh, and those of you with time on your hands may notice that the marks “out of 5” I gave these albums upon their initial reviews may not necessarily correlate with the order in which they are ranked here, but as we all know, time changes opinions and some things grow on you whereas others don’t seem quite as good in retrospect.

BUBBLING UNDER – These couldn’t quite squeeze into the top 20, but deserve mentions nonetheless. Confessions On A Dance Floor (Madonna), Wayward Angel (Kasey Chambers), Fisherman's Woman (Emiliana Torrini), Super Extra Gravity (The Cardigans). The Dark Room (Editors).

20. Howl Howl Gaff Gaff (Shout Out Louds) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “perfectly formed collection of pop-rock tunes. Get it now, before they become massive.” WHAT I SAY NOW: Ok, so as of yet they’ve not become massive, but they were in the NME best albums of the year list (shudder), so that must count for something right? Anyhoo, I still have faith that this is going to break huge in 2006 and I shall be very angry if it doesn’t. I mean this beats the pants off album releases this year from Kasier Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand, although admittedly it probably doesn’t have the killer single to sell it to the masses. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; 100, A Track And A Train.

19. Pretty In Black (The Raveonettes) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “a 50's pop feel… and often the feel that the songs would play off wonderfully in a David Lynch or Quentin Tarrantino production” WHAT I SAY NOW: This really is the kind of stuff that the Everley Brothers might come up with today if they were a hot new band. It’s certainly not for everyone, but anyone with a liking for the old Phil Spector sound will find much to admire in here. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Ode To LA, Love In A Trashcan

18. Everything Is (Nine Black Alps) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “Much like Cobain, Nine Black Alps probably wont appreciate talk of pop "sensibilities", but that's exactly what they have.” WHAT I SAY NOW: They aim for Nirvana-esque sounds and that’s what they deliver. It’s hardly “new and fresh” sounds, but when what they do is as good as this, who cares? Whether they have the advancement in them for a propserpous career is debatable, but that shouldn’t detract from the album. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Not Everyone, Unsatisfied, Ironside (which even if it hadn’t been any good would have got massive brownie points just for the title).

17. Set Yourself On Fire (Stars) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “Stars never lose sight of the fact that it is the melodies that make a great pop song. And the result is a charismatic, energetic set of tunes” WHAT I SAY NOW: Ok, so they weren’t quite ready to challenge Arcade Fire for the “Best Band In Canada” award (if such thing actually exists in the real world) but this is still a fantastic album which gives us the kind of intelligent pop that has been missing for far too long. Pity about the abysmal cover though. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Your Ex Lover Is Dead, Reunion.

16. Songs For Silverman (Ben Folds) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “Ben's still on form, but now he's playing a different game.” WHAT I SAY NOW: I’m still ever so slightly disappointed that this is more “Rheinhold Messner” than it is “Whatever And Ever Amen” but you cannot deny the quality of this album which has led to something of a career renaissance for Mr Folds. Landed should have given him a long-overdue chart smash, whilst Bastard harks back to the “glory days” of Ben Folds Five . Add in the likes of Grace, a potentially mawkish song about his daughter which is actually quite touching, and Late and you have a quality album, although I do still think the album does meander out towards the end. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Landed, Grace.

15. The Repulsion Box (Sons And Daughters) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “a stunning collection which will enchant all those that listen to it.” WHAT I SAY NOW: Of course it failed to propel Sons And Daughters to super-stardom (as I sadly predicted it wouldn’t) but then sometimes, the record buying public just simply don’t get it do they? Or perhaps smart intelligent pop by one Scottish band (Franz Ferdinand) is enough for most people. Still, it’s the public’s loss isn’t it? RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Dance Me In, Medicine, Choked

14. Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking? (The Like) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “this is a great album and bodes well for a long and prosperous career” WHAT I SAY NOW: Ok, so the single tanked in the UK charts (failing to even crack the top 250), but I don’t care. This is still a quality album which WILL be a success when it gets it’s UK release. I sort of guarentee it. They should really clear up the charts because the music is great and they’re not bad to look at are they? RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Too Late, What I Say And What I Mean, Under The Paving Stones.

13. Young For Eternity (The Subways) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “it’s brash, it's cocky and it's hormonal” WHAT I SAY NOW: This is one of those that has grown in stature over the months. Initially I was slightly disappointed by it, but it quickly began to eek its way into my conscience and pretty soon I was loving most of it like a long-lost child. There is an energy to this that is, quite simply, infectious and you just hope that there is more to come in this vein and that “maturity” doesn’t set in any time soon. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Mary, Holiday, Oh Yeah

12. More Adventurous (Rilo Kiley) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “One listen through is all it takes for most of the delicate melodies to lodge inside you brain” WHAT I SAY NOW: Whilst it certianly wasn’t all that “more adventurous” from their previous albums, there was a definte swing upwards on the quality-o-meter with this release. The catchy melodies hides venemous, biting lyrics, and this juxtaposition is a huge part of the band’s appeal. There is an occasional tendency to lay on the schmaltz just a little too thickly for my liking, but that doesn’t detract too much from what is a great pop album. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; It’s A Hit, I Never, Portions For Foxes

11. I'm Wide Awake It's Morning (Bright Eyes) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “music making stripped down to it's rawest form. It's unadorned, naked, and beautiful” WHAT I SAY NOW: Wow I was being slighly pompous when I wrote that wasn’t I? Anyway, the sentiment is still true. People still argue that this album is simple rather than simplistic, but it has an effortless charm that is hard to ignore. It’s the one album from Connor Oberst that I can return to time after time. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; The First Day Of My Life, At The Bottom Of Everything

10. Chemistry (Girls Aloud) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “this is quite frankly one of the best pop albums EVER. No seriously, it is.” WHAT I SAY NOW: Well, it still is you know. Many “worthy” musical magazine have snottily given this album 2 or 3 out of 5 which really just means they can’t look past their own snobbery and recognise a fun and innovative album if it’s not in their preferred genre. But I understand that; our musical tastes take many forms. But if you’ve ever liked a pop song then you really shoul have this album in your collection. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Wild Horses, Biology, Swinging London Town

9. Maximum Minimum (Kraftwerk) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “a superb collection from one of the most influential bands in history” WHAT I SAY NOW: What is there to say? An astounding live album, featuring most of their best work and it still sounds as fresh today as it did all those years ago. All the pretenders to the throne take note, the bar has been raised again! RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; The Model, The Robots, Autobahn

8. Martha Wainwright (Martha Wainwright) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “at times hauntingly beautiful and at others filled with raw, flamed propelled, energy” WHAT I SAY NOW: Another album that grew on me over the year. Whlist certain tracks did jump out straight away, others took their time to work their magic, but most of them did in the end. You’d expect the weight of a musical family would weigh on her, but it doesn’t show. Straight off the bat she has her own voice, and if her form continues like this, she’ll end up with a legacy to match her brother Rufus. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole, Ball & Chain, When The Day Is Short

7. Lullabies To Paralyze (Queens Of The Stone Age) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “rock as it should be. Dark, edgy and, above all, sexy.” WHAT I SAY NOW: If there was one album to rock out to this year, this is the one! Its heavy, its sweaty, its loud…It’s a classic! It’s even better than previous albums, which could be patch in parts. Looks like the Josh Homme roadshow is ready to run on and on, and long may it continue to do so. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Little Sister, You Got A Kiler Scene Man

6. Year Of Meteors (Laura Veirs) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “Constantly knowing, articulate and hauntingly beautiful throughout, always drawing the listener in deeper and deeper with each play.” WHAT I SAY NOW: Another nice discovery this year. Her previous albums had completely passed me by, but this was quite the gem. Veirs paints the picture of a world rammed full of eels, snakes and homing pigeons and whilst it is loosely a “folk” album, there is enough variety to enchant anyone who just happens to like great music. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Galaxies, Black Gold Blues,

5. LCD Soundsystem (LCD Soundsytem) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “a must have CD from a man more interested in producing genuinely exciting and exhillarating music than by the notion of being cool and/or hip." WHAT I SAY NOW: A classic trio of singles in years past had made the wait for a full-on LCD album a tense one indeed. Could James Murphy really match those, never mind beat them? Well I’m glad to say that he indeed came up with the goods. This is dance music, without ever limiting itself to the boundaries placed upon that genre. There’s a sheer wealth of reference points to be heard, but the striking thing is just how fresh it all sounds. A truly unforgettable experience. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Daft Punk Is Playing In My House, Tribulations, Too Much Love

4. Fires (Nerina Pallot) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “This is just full of great track after great track with memorable tunes, and great lyrics.” WHAT I SAY NOW: An album I thought I’d never hear after Nerina’s long absence from the scene following Dear Frustrated Superstar…but it was worth the long wait. After this album was brought to my attention ,by the woman herself I might add, I was just so made up that there was finally a second album that I would have probably have loved it no matter what it sounded like, but there was no need for that as it really is a fanstastic album and you just knew that it would lead to bigger and better things (which it seems to have done in terms of a new record deal). The comeback of the year! RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Geek Love, Sophia, Damascus

3. Funeral (Arcade Fire) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “its underlying message is that love truly can conquer all. Let this album conquer you.” WHAT I SAY NOW: I was in a pompous mood when I wrote that review too I see! Either that, or I was drunk. But still, this is a bloody fantastic record, which is so good that its difficult to imagine that this really is a long-player debut. As I point out, some have labelled this an album of despair, but whilst it has its dark moments, ultimately this is an uplifting album which is a delight from start to finish. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Neighbourhood #2 (Laika), Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out), Rebellion (Lies)

2. Blinking Lights And Other Revelations (The Eels) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “this {collection} is a thing of rare beauty.” WHAT I SAY NOW: This is without doubt E’s masterpiece, the second disc especially. In fact if it wasn’t for the slightly inconsistent Disc one this might just have sneaked the top spot. Given the fact that E has lost most of his family to illness one way or the other its not surprising that there is a slightly dispairing feel to the album, but whereas Electro-Shock Blues was relentlessly dour, this has its moments of relative joy. It’s not easy listening, but it does reward any listener with the perseverence. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; I'm Going To Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart, Ugly Love, Trouble With Dreams.

1. Extraordinary Machine (Fiona Apple) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “There isn't a duff track on the whole album.” WHAT I SAY NOW:In the end, this had to be THE choice as my favourite album of 2005. From start to finish this is superb and to my lovely ears there isn’t a track I would want to skip past. It took six years, and prolonged record label wranglings, for this to reach the shelves and it was everything you could want it to be. Unmistakably Fiona Apple, but with renewed vim and vigour. I just hope I don’t have to wait six years for the follow up to this! RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Get Him Back, Extraordinary Machine, Window, Better Version Of Me.

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