The top 111 Albums of 2005

So, I listen to a lot of music. Everyone who knows me knows that. I compulsively download, compulsively read about and compulsively listen to music for about 75% of my free time. Luckily music is such that one can listen to it and do other things at the same time. That doesn’t really matter, though.. it’s just trivial information that might lead you to put some small stock in my opinions.

I started working on this list in December 2004 when the 2005 crop started leaking out into netlandia and since then I’ve been constantly tweaking, adding, removing and rearranging. Until airtime, at which point it all gets set in stone. The actual list that this was culled from goes up to 180, which represents all the albums I heard this year that I enjoyed enough to consider them list-worthy. There are plenty of others that were never considered. The ones that made it on I have heard and enjoyed and usually multiple times, with increasing as you get nearer to the top.

As with all lists, it is inherently wrong. I disagree with several parts of it already, and have for a while. Most annoyingly, Bright Eyes is too high and I don’t know why the hell I pushed Beck off at the last minute. As unrevolutionary as Guero might have been, I quite enjoy it from time to time and it deserves to be here. So there, now that I’m not fully behind this list, you shouldn’t even give two and a half craps about what’s on it. But if you do anyway, more’s the power to ya!

This was originally aired on CFMU on my radioshow. The songnames in parentheses with each album correspond to the song that I played on the show. You can listen to the 5 parts (2 hours each) by dealing with the following links as you see fit: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

111: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – The Proposition Original Soundtrack (The Proposition #1)
Atmospheric, at times pretty and others creepy as Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (a violinist who has worked with Cave on several albums) are so good at. It has a real character, and though I haven’t seen the movie yet, it builds a mood quite clearly and effectively on its own.

110: Maxïmo Park – A Certain Trigger (Acrobat)
Another in the parade of British nu-wave seemingly cashing in on the success of Franz Ferdinand. This is a cut above the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs and The Bravery, though. Maximo Park take the sound and make it theirs.

109: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Howl (Shuffle your Feet)
A huge departure for the band; turning from somber and gritty guitar-rock to gospel-tinged blues. Good to see a band progressing somehow, but this one was close. At first I hated it, but the craft is there and I eventually found myself actually wanting to listen to the album.

108: Why? – Elephant Eye Lash (Crushed Bones)
An intriguing blend of indie rock and indie hip hop. Valuable, if only for the interesting sound it exudes, but listenable beyond that as well. Worth a listen.

107: Boards Of Canada – The Campfire Headphase (Satellite Anthem Icarus)
Ambient electronicery by Scotland’s famed duo. Can feel a bit repetitive and uninspired at times, but there’s some beautiful stuff going on here.

106: Metamatics – 3 Jak and Dive (vlokal)
Glitchy ambience almost in the style of BoC.

105: Jason Collett – Idols of Exile (Fire)
Folk rock from the lead singer of Broken Social Scene. Pleasing to the ears, and some brilliant melodies.

104: Xiu Xiu – La Foret (Ale)
Eerie minmalist and sometimes hard to listen to rock. Lead singer sounds pretty bent out of shape sometimes. A difficult listen, but let it weasel its way in and you may well find something valueable.

103: Lemon Jelly – 64-95 (’64 aka Go)
A bit of a departure for the group. Each song uses a sample from the year in the title. Sounds a little more traditional than previous Lemon Jelly offerings, but at the same time mature and accomplished. The DVD that comes with videos for every track is a treat.

102: Pendulum – Hold Your Colour (Fasten Your Seltbelt Feat. The Freestylers)
Wicked drum and bass from Australia. Shades of Apollo 440. A ripping good time.

101: Thomas Brinkmann – Lucky Hands (THIRTY2)
Delicate ambience. Sounds both natural and heavily computerized at the same time. Beautiful and subtle.

100: Ry Cooder – Chavez Ravine (Poor Man’s Shangri-La)
A concept album from the veteran performer about the destruction of the titular community, a sort of commemoration of their unique way of life. Many different styles and very rich, Chavez Ravine has a lot to offer and it’s definitely one I feel would place a higher given some more time to sink in.

99: M83 – Before the Dawn Heals Us (Teen Angst)
Bombastic synthesizer anthems. If you excuse how seriously it seems to take itself, very fun and at times profoundly beautiful.

98: The Clientele – Strange Geometry (Since K Got Over Me)
Gentle guitar rock. Not much else to say. Quite well crafted.

97: Espers – The Weed Tree (Rosemary Lane)
Medieval sounding psychfolk covers of everything from traditional ballads to Blue Oyster Cult, and an original.

96: The Lucksmiths – Warmer Corners (A Hiccup in Your Happiness)
Sunshine and simple catchy pop melodies.

95: The Rosebuds – Birds Make Good Neighbors (Hold hands and fight)
Not so different from Warmer Corners, a little more airy and straightforward.

94: Common – Be (Testify)
Straightforward but certainly high quality hip hop from one of the genres notables.

93: Stephen Malkmus – Face The Truth (I’ve Hardly Been)
Fun, catchy all-over-the-place light indie rock.

92: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! (Details Of The War)
Nice arrangements. Get a new singer.

91: Keith Fullerton Whitman – Multiples (Stereo Music for Acoustic Guitar, etc – Part One)
Nice experimental ambience. Surprisingly complex and easy on the ears though it sounds strangely mathematical.

90: The Herbaliser – Take London (Song for Mary)
Hiphop, reggae, soul and electronica flounce together in this rather lovely bit of music. Electronic music played on live instruments.

89: Of Montreal – The Sunlandic Twins (The Party’s Crashing Us)
No Satanic Panic in the Attic, but there’s certainly some delicious gems here. Fantastic as a quantitative judgement (as in, the realms of fantasy), but not so much as previous offerings, and much more disco involved.

88: Robyn – Robyn (Be Mine!)
A variety of styles and speeds, but all well-crafted electropop as always seems to be big in Europe.

87: Menomena – Under an Hour (Flour)
A set of three extended tracks created for a dance performance. Repeating arrangements weave in and out, build, denoue, and make for great listening

86: Kate Bush – Aerial (Somewhere in Between)
Kate’s first album in 12 years is a double one, though it could fit on one CD. Exhibits the fanciful, lush, dark atmosphere of her best work, but more restrained and not quite as sharp.

85: Ladytron – Witching Hour (Destroy Everything You Touch)
Hard-hitting, brooding electro, a little bit gothy. Gets a bit repetitive after a while, but a very worthy effort.

84: Roots Manuva – Awfully Deep (colossal insight)
One of hip-hop’s best and most distinctive voices comes out with a pessimistic, worried album tinged with techy elements of the booming UK garage scene.

83: Gang Gang Dance – God’s Money (Egowar)
Pygmy children locate whistles, helium, and a variety of drums and crunchy things. The result is somehow very appealing (at least to these ears). Psychedelic, insane and a little bit spastic.

82: Busdriver – Fear Of A Black Tangent (Reheated Pop!)
Extra-speedy rapper Busdriver delivers a disc of cynical rhymes backed with loopy, chirpy production. If you can decipher what he’s saying there’s good stuff in there!

81: The Kills – No Wow (No Wow)
Grimy guitar rock with male and female lead voices. A little reminiscent of Damon-favourite PJ Harvey.

80: Out Hud – Let Us Never Speak of it Again (How Long)
Sharing some members with !!! (and that’s what you get when you capitalize the number of albums in this here countdown), Out Hud delivers an album of whacky indie disco psych techno riddled with some excellent songnames.

79: Serena Maneesh – Serena Maneesh (Selina’s Melodie Fountain)
Murky guitar rock that drones at times and sometimes learns to fly—in an anthemic, epic sort of way. M83 for those who like to rawk? No. But I just name-dropped, so I am elite.

78: Matias Aguayo – Are You Really Lost (De Papel featuring Max Turner)
Some goshdarn excellent micro-house. Subtle in its way, it creeps along with a steady rhythm and buries itself inside you.

77: Kelley Polar – Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens (Here in the Night)
The Junior Boys have already spawned an Imitator! Monsieur Kelley, though delivers great variety on this disc, expertly crafted productions back succulent and surprisingly complex pop cherries, crooned over with a sweet voice.

76: Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine (Extraordinary Machine)
Caused a little bit of controversy when Fiona abandoned producer Jon Brion for . No one can definitively decide which version is better, but they’re both good. It sounds a little bit out of its time but it all fits together quite beautifully.

75: The Drones – Wait Long By The River And The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By (Baby²)
Australian band delivers longest album title of countdown! One of best also! Manly, dense and dirty rock and roll. Grrr.

74: Richard Hawley – Coles Corner (Just Like The Rain)
Some lovely and warm tunes involving lush instruments and melodies, with Richard’s pleasant croon to make you smile. This is an album you can play for your parents. Good, old fashioned songcraft.

73: Cage – Hell’s Winter (Stripes)
Chris Palko’s troubled life gets the focus on his album. Cage explores how his abusive, heroin-addicted father, violent upbringing, and time in a mental institution (etc) made him who he is. Dark stuff, finely produced by Def Jux regulars like Blockhead. And Eminem thought he had it bad…

72: Buck 65 – This Right Here is (Bandits)
Canadian rapper’s big label debut collects some of his previous tracks and some new ones and re-jigs them for a theoretically larger audience. That audience includes me, so I won’t complain about any of that selling out crap. He could almost come from the south, probably the most un-urban hiphop I’ve run into.

71: esem – scateren (dispehrse)
A free web-release that breaks from traditional albumic conventions. Beautiful electronic ambient music of various types.

70: Blackalicious – The Craft (Ego Sonic Wardrums)
Independent hip-hop’s flagship (Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel) delivers their third album, and it’s a much more polished affair. More consistent in sound than previous offerings and therefore less noticeable, but expertly put together and there’s some delicious offerings within.

69: Devendra Banhart – Cripple Crow (Chinese Children)
Sad-voiced Devendra delivers another long, dusty album of folky songs, sometimes Mexicanally affected, sometimes straight ahead strum. He knows how to write some fine lyrics and tunes.

68: Thee Silver Mt. ZionMemorial Orchestra& Tra-La-La Band – Horses in the Sky (Mountains Made of Steam)
The ex-Godspeed You Black Emperor side project (too big to be a side project now, i’faith) delivers number 4. Unfortunately a step down from other albums, but brilliant, moving and honest nonetheless, if you can get used to Efrim’s voice (cause oh boy does he like to sing now!) Still no substitute for their mindboggling live show.

67: Castanets – First Light’s Freeze (A Song is Not The Song Of The World)
Unique spare electronic indie folk rock… or something. Clackety beats, building atmospheres of organic sounding synths create the bed for dramaric dual-voiced lyrics.

66: John Vanderslice – Pixel Revolt (trance manual)
Following up Cellar Door with another album of pleasantly catchy often beautiful melodies, a variety of narrative lyrics and extremely eclectic instrumentation.

65: Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy (For Real)
Ragged voiced folk-rock. I don’t want to say emo, but this guy doesn’t sound happy. He still manages for some excellent lyrics and a true emotional punch now and then. It often gets pretty intense.

64: Caribou – The Milk Of Human Kindness (Yeti)
Formerly Manitoba, Dan Snaith (a Dundas native!) doesn’t let Handsome Dick cramp his style, delivering a superb set of wild and psychedelic songs that stretch the mind with sounds you’ve never heard before.

63: Iron & Wine – Woman King EP (In My Lady’s House)
Sam Beam presents a collection of 6 songs backed by his unique and utterly wondful voice. The arrangements are much expanded from the simple palette of his sparser previous offerings, now offering various layers of rattling and dinging, but still in that dusty back forty sort of way.

62: Deerhoof – The Runners Four (Spirit Ditties Of No Tone)
A sprawling, strange collection of lopsided, loopy somewhat psychedelic indie rock. With 20+ tracks to choose from there’s a lot of variety.

61: Danger Doom – The Mouse and the Mask (A.T.H.F.)
Danger Mouse and MF Doom team up with Adult Swim to create a rather interesting collection of raps about immature adult cartoons. Dark and layered yet spare production and MF Doom’s weathered sounding raps create a murky atmosphere and the Adult Swim samples make it rather demented. Cool.

60: Yann Tiersen – Les Retrouvailles (Kala)
A collection of sparkling and gentle decidedly French sounding melodies from the man who brought us the Amelie soundtrack. Guest spots from Liz Fraser (Cocteau Twins) and Stuart Staples (Tindersticks) give a few of the finest songs of the year, and the rest of the album is infinitely listenable, if a little repetitive

59: Cuff The Duke – Cuff The Duke (I Really Want To Help You)
Oshawa natives deliver a highly enjoyable album of countryrockbluegrass. A simple album, and not even deceptively simple: You’ve got your catchy hooks, jangly instrumentation, and lyrics about the travails of working class life. An album for the common people.

58: Calla – Collisions (So Far, So What)
New album is fortunately much less aimless than previous offerings. There’s louder guitars and more straightforward melodies, and it’s all pretty bleak. Most of the music ends up being processed into a haunting, uneasy delivery. Quite good, but doesn’t fully realize its potential.

57: The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers (Mornings Eleven)
British popsters recall the days of the shiny pop tunes of the sixties where harmonizing voices lament the complexity of relationships. Simple, but delightful.

56: Røyksopp – The Understanding (Someone Like Me)
Follow up to 2001’s spectacular Melody AM sees this Norwegian production duo straying away from ethereal chill-out to more traditional Euro Electro, or something. They definitely know their way around a pair of synthesizers and the result is lovely. The live show is definitely notable.

55: Gorillaz – Demon Days (O Green World)
The animated dudes are back with another album, and it is just as fun and eccentric as their first. The formula remains basically the same – hip hop and alternative and rock all filtered together into a batch of catchy, danceable tunes.

54: Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel (A Pain that I’m Used to)
A comeback of sorts for these dudes who are primarily associated with 80s nu-wave movement. They sound like themselves, and may be accused of rehashing, but they are pretty near the top of their game. The electronic beats sound manufactured and vicious as they should, matching David Gahan’s voice perfectly.

53: Sage Francis – A Healthy Distrust (Agony in Her Body)
Some very fine hip hop from the Sage. Songs both political and personal generally communicate an atmosphere of anxiety, mostly thanks to Sage’s voice and lyrics (there’s some awesome lines in here). The production is fittingly dark, lurking in the dark streets and slamming us with intensity as required.

52: Cristian Vogel – Station 55 (Neon Underground)
Electronic pioneer monsieur Vogel operates on his own terms, and it’s rather hard to place him in any specific category. As is often not the case on full length electronic releases, there’s a huge amount of variety here and a healthy dose of bizarre, dark, infectious and jazzy productions.

51: The Boy Least Likely To – The Best Party Ever (Be Gentle With Me)
A rather lurvely little collection of unabashedly hyperhappy indie-pop. “I’m happy ‘cause I’m stupid.” Well, we’re happy you’re stupid then, because my day is made that little bit more bearable by your chirpy, chipperness-inducing melodies.

50: The Books – Lost And Safe (An Animated Description Of Mr. Maps.)
A more conventional album from one of the least conventional groups going. Some melody and sometimes logical lyrics get added to the reversed guitars and mangled samples from here, there and everywhere. For some reason all these strange sounds sound really excellent together, and this is certainly a highly unique album.

49: Edan – Beauty and The Beat (Rock and Roll)
Edan reminds us of the classic hip hop of the mid or even nearly 90s. A more organic production style, though it’s very layered and a little bit psychedelic. For some reason I feel this album should be tie-dyed.

48: Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have It So Much Better With (Walk Away)
Sophomore release from the indie bozos that split the world in half in 2004. They progress somewhat with fuller productions, and some (more accurately one) slower ballads (done quite well, too), but the formula remains largely intact; but it’s a rather infectious and successful formula so that’s no reason to complain.

47: Architecture In Helsinki – In Case We Die (Do The Whirlwind)
At times goofy, but incredibly tight little bits of pop. There’s a couple songs on here that just won’t get out of your head, even if you beat it with a stick (your head I mean). Horns, synths, even sitars, guitars and sound effects create a sort of carnival atmosphere like an incredibly colourful acid trip.

46: Animal Collective – Feels (Banshee Beat)
More acid! Yay! I think they call this psychfolk. A bit like an acoustic Four Tet with lyrics; all sprawling, textured, untraditionally structured bits of this and that. It’s all quite complex and compelling and these guys clearly have leet skill; I just can’t quite get it to give me an emotional connection

45: The Eels – Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (Railroad Man)
A double album from the band that managed one mainstream hit. Remember Novocaine for the Soul? This is a really wonderful listen. Not all the songs are gems, but there’s 33 of them and there’s a whole wealth of interesting things to discover; from country, to happy pop, to folky approaches, and yet it all hangs together pretty well.

44: Black Mountain – Black Mountain (Druganaut)
Gritty bluesrock from Jupiter. Actually it’s from British Columbia (that’s where I’m from!) This album is one I often enjoyed significantly while listening to and then forgot about until a few months later when I would appreciate it again. An intriguingly different collection of songs.

43: Fiery Furnaces – EP (Sing For Me)
Not exactly sure this fits my own criteria for inclusion, but I put it on back in February and after so long one can’t cut it. This is a sort of collection of odds and ends from the Fiery Furnaces previous, overlong albums. I find this concise picture of their unique sense of melody and arrangement much more listenable than their rather overwhelming LPs. And 40 minutes sure ain’t bad for an EP.

42: Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene (Superconnected)
Hotly anticipated followup to 2002’s You Forgot It In People. There’s some awesome guitars and tunes here no doubt, and I find it more immediately accessible than their aforementioned hypemachine, but it is lacking some of its subtlety. The barrage of 50 odd instruments can be a bit overwhelming, but there’s some wicked songs at the core.

41: The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan (Take, Take, Take)
A radical departure from Elephant. When you’re one of current popular music’s most well regarded guitar players, recording an album largely on marimba and piano is a … well, Jack White thing to do. It works quite well, though. Their signature style remains intact, but it’s lovely to see it from a rather different angle.

40: The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday (Stevie Nix)
Badass dirty guitar rock backs half-sung tirades about growing up and being a part of the music scene. Clever lyrics and quite excellent music combine for a rather unconventional but engaging and really quite awesome experience.

39: Mew – And The Glass Handed Kites (The Zookeeper’s Boy)
An all-out progrockathon with guitars spidering in and out and elevated vocal melodies soaring above with rambunctious joy. All the tracks flow into one another and despite a few overwrought moments it’s all fun as hell.

38: Doves – Some Cities (One Of These Days)
Third time’s the charm? Not quite, but given what they were putting themselves up against, we don’t expect them to necessarily surpass past genius (Lost Souls, Last Broadcast), but what we get is an evolved, very solid offering of power-hungry anthemic Britpop.

37: Sigur Rós – Takk (Saeglopur)
Another third album, if we choose to ignore the oft-ignored Von, and it functions in a similar way to Some Cities, offering us with the power, delicacy and beauty we have come to expect from Icelandic twins Sigur and Ros. It gets a tad bit predictable in patches, but it’s a wonderful journey nonetheless.

36: The Deadly Snakes – Porcella (Gore Veil)
Toronto natives give us a delightful modern cross between Tom Waits and Nick Cave. There is plenty of variety here, and a whole bucket of songs which are fantastically catchy in their own untraditional way. Just very well done, really.

35: M. Ward – Transistor Radio (Fuel For Fire)
Matt Ward is a seemingly rather dour fella, and he lets his disenchanted outlook bleed through his music. Well he can’t really help it because his voice is just so beautifully ragged, but the bluesy tunes he spins certainly compliments very well and creates a beautiful atmostphere. Not notably different from previous albums, but that’s a good thing.

34: Camille – Le Fil (Ta Douleur)
French electronic folk or something like that. Most of the sounds on the album seem to come from Camille’s lips and be mussed up somehow or other. But mostly it’s a collection of diaphanous melodies that bob around and hang together like a bit of cheery abstract tapestry.

33: 13 + God – 13 + God (low heaven)
A quite successful collaboration between The Notwist (dreamy German electronica) and Themselves (murky American hip hop). The bands’ sounds suit each other surprisingly well, and there’s definitely some marvellous tracks in here. Not for all, though, it can easily be a little strange. Themselves have a knack for that.

32: Sons and Daughters – The Repulsion Box (Rama Lama)
Another entry that might only be on here as a result of its similarity to Nick Cave. But seriously, a rip-roaring batch of… rock, I guess. Very Scottish, quite fierce, and a covered in a nice caking of dried mud. This ain’t the music of the sleekly polished innercity, but rather… pirates, I guess.

31: Go-Betweens – Oceans Apart (Here Comes A City)
Juicy British guitar pop with an occasional sprig of folksy leanings (and remember, folk is not a dirty word!). The Go-Betweens were big in the eighties, disappeared for a stint, but now they are back! It is exciting to see older bands at the top of their game. They pound out quite a few killer riffs and tunes and certainly keep us interested. It has a bit of the bright jangle a la Unforgettable Fire era U2. That is a good thing.

30: Sleater-Kinney – The Woods (Entertain)
Grrr. L. Grimy and a little angry. Sleater-Kinney are back for another helping of distorted rawk. This is all pounding drums and words in a not particularly pleasant singing voice, but the fever is infectious and seductive. Ragged and rough, but in all the right places.

29: Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock And Roll (Formed A Band)
I keep thinking of Art Brut like a Rock n Roll version of the Streets, but they’re much more than some version of something else (though a comparison to The Hold Steady might be more apropos). They have their own very unique style, and even if you don’t get into the hilariously simplistic talky lyrics, the music itself should have you rocking in no time.

28: Underworld – RiverRun Project (Food A Ready)
Underworld is back! After their quite disappointing 100 Days Off back in ’02, they’ve started releasing internet only Eps of sorts, and they are delightful to the ears. A great variety of sounds, all intriguing, moving, or relaxing, just like the excellent old days. It’s much like meeting an old friend after 5 years, and got this little radio DJ very excited.

27: Patrick Wolf – Wind In The Wires (Teignmouth)
A collection of airy, violin-driven pop-tunes, run through the electro/glitch filter. A cloudy day in spring, a strong, fresh wind blowing in from somewhere else, beckoning you along with it… this album captures that certain reflective, pregnant mood that is one of my favourites, and so it’s rather difficult to not like it quite a bit.

26: System Of A Down – Mezmerize (Revenga)
I’m no metal-head. If I was, perhaps I’d hate this album. But damn if it doesn’t just push a few great buttons. A wide variety of soaring melodies, frantically hammering guitars, and even something like polka in there somewhere. These guys are a little unhinged, but if you can tolerate their mainstream oddness, quite a listen.

25: LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem (Too Much Love)
James Murphy gives us a fine collection of dancefloor friendly, indie-rock-dance. You don’t realize how indie-rock this album is until you hear Never as Tired as When I’m Waking Up. Also, his voice sounds a lot like Ted Leo to me, which is good, but not in a particularly noteworthy fashion. Some of the year’s finest dance beats all on el CD..

24: British Sea Power – Open Season (It Ended On An Oily Stage)
Sophomore album from British Sea Power sees them abandoning a lot of their quirkiness and focusing those wonderful elegiac choruses that made Carrion one of my favourite songs of ever. This is a bit disappointing in a way, but in the end largely successful, I just hope they switch it up for the next album or I might find myself not caring. Like ‘Wind in the Wires,’ it creates a certain mood. That expectant lethargy brought on by the pre-dawn black summer sky-tinged dark blue. Prowling at night when your mind and body tell you you should be sleeping, but another bit of your mind and body disagree. And again, a lovely mood.

23: Vitalic – Ok Cowboy (La Rock 01)
Easy to lump in with that European electro trend, but Vitalic has a character their own. Their grinding, obviously processed synths have a certain down to earth feeling that makes them feel deceptively organic. And it definitely has that French sound, which gives it a lot of life. Lush, in a sparse sort of way… which is a contradiction, but that’s just how I see it.

22: Super Furry Animals – Love Kraft (Atomik Lust)
A delightful and somewhat whacky dish of muuusic. Not sure what all to say about this here. There’s lots of very catchy summery melodies, and some strangeness. I dunno. I like it.

21: Isolée – Wearemonster (Schrapnell)
Some latenight textured house beats. Some more acoustic sounding instruments are thrown into the mix and mangled, along with some samples and none of it seems out of place. It’s a largely dark piece of work but full of intriguing eccentricities and immaculate production. Just get in the right mood and get some nice speakers and enjoy.

20: Vashti Bunyan – Lookaftering (Turning Backs)
Vashti’s last album came out more than thirty years ago, so she’s been out of the loop for a while. What we get here is a collection of delectable delicate strains of folk melody. They are charming in their quiet pastoral beauty, something of Keren Ann or Espers. This is sunlight dappling over a field swelling in the gentle breeze music; the sweet melodies calming like the bite into a perfect apple.

19: Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (We Are Nowhere And It’s Now)
I was originally wary of Bright Eyes. I didn’t give Conor Oberst a chance because he was lumped in with emo and that whole scene (along with metal) is one that I generally give a pass despite my attempted inclusiveness. I realise eventually that this is really indie-folk, not emo. And that is one of my favourite genres of all. One of Two 2005 Releases by Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake… is a fairly straightforward, rootsy affair with beautiful melodies, notable guests and young Conor’s notably distressed sounding voice

18: Antony & The Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now (Man Is The Baby)
Antony’s unique, beautiful voice haunts the lush string arrangements of these beautiful melodies, well, beautifully. There aren’t a lot of albums these days that sound exactly like this, or really anything at all like this unabashed soulful crooning. It’s just beauty, dudes, take it or leave it.

17: Kanye West – Late Registration (Gone (Feat. Consequence & Cam’Ron))
Second album in as many years from the new star of hip-hop. Kanye is everywhere. The media loves him, the radio loves him, even the indie kids are buying in. Not without reason, this one is a doozy. Late Registration, produced with some help from Jon Brion, is a more fleshy, direct doozy of an album. Highlights galore, and while Kanye’s rapping is very commendable, the lush arrangements take centre stage.

16: M.I.A. – Arular (Bucky Done Gun)
Maya Arulpragasam is the daughter of a Sri Lankan Tamil, a revolutionary group that sometimes uses violence as a tool to affect change. Considering the climate of the world these days, Maya has a very unique view of the world, even if she does not embrace the views of her father. “I’ll fight you just to get peace” she proclaims. Mean, gritty, born of the jungle and transplanted into an immaculately produced beast of a dancefloor album, Arular is not for all ears… it is abrasive and frenetic more than it is melodic, but it is technically and ideologically ahead of almost any competition.

15: Bloc Party – Silent Alarm (Positive Tension)
2005’s flagship band of the British press, Bloc Party deliver a mean rocking album. A subtly synthetic sheen over its hard-rocking exterior, the Bloc deliver catchy and compelling riffs from tip to tail. The base sound of these songs is intense and paranoid, coiled up around your leg with a snarl. Many move toward more delicate territory, but they never leave home completely.

14: Elbow – Leaders Of The Free World (An Imagined Affair)
Elbow hit the 3rd album masterstroke with this fine collection of songs. Alternating between fast and slow for much of its duration, Leaders… consistently delivers. Guy Garvey’s wispy lyrics are personal and effective; the arrangements either fist mashingly intense or plaintive and simple. Though there are better things about Cast of Thousands and Alseep in the Back, Leaders… is more cohesive, direct and passionate.

13: My Morning Jacket – Z (Wordless Chorus)
More produced than previous albums, which were quite sparse, Z is a joyful collection of sunsoaked melodies that bleed out through the instruments and singing. Every song is catchy and remarkable in its own way. It is always wonderful to see such remarkable craft on display for all to see. This is more accessible than older albums, which were perhaps more personal, but here it really works.

12: Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary (Dinner Bells)
The next Arcade Fire. Hailing from Montreal, produced by Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock (and it shows), these world worn youngsters deliver a murky, grimy arrangements with ragged lead vocals that are counterracted or maybe contradicted by soaring anthems of melodies and stir-the-populace lyrics. It doesn’t work as well as it did for the Arcade Fire, but it sounds to me like it’s coming from an honest place, and it’s a very wonderful experience to hear them trying.

tournament of hearts

11: The Constantines – Tournament of Hearts (You Are a Conductor)
Third album from Guelph based rockers. And this is rock. The where, how and why of rocking. It comes from the travails of the street and is channelled into searing, roaring cries. This album past by most critics, and even disappointed a large number of devoted fans. Well, I pity the fool. I love this thing start to finish. It’s not as immaculate or as experimental, or as brutally raw as the first two albums, but it delivers, and it rocks.

gimme fiction

10: Spoon – Gimme Fiction (The Beast And Dragon, Adored)
5th album from Britt Daniel and his Cronies, well, 4th if you don’t count Telephono (which no one does, really) is more of the same and more on top of it. Indie rock with an uncharacteristic zip and fuck added to the rhythm section. Stylistically, it’s easily to tell a song that Brit has had his paws on, but these songs are often excellent and earn their high place in Spoon’s utensilarian pantheon.


9: Jamie Lidell – Multiply (Multiply)
Jamie Lidell made aname for himself in the electronic world as one half of Super_Collidor (with Cristian Vogel). On multiply, he somewhat abandons his electronic leanings and turns his eye to mo-town… with much success. I often complain that what these days we call R&B, is largely a load of crap and doesn’t have half the soul of the “black” music (for lack of a better term) of the 70s did. Maybe that’s a strong argument for synthesizers taking the soul out of music. I respect this album a whole lot because it does a lot to revitalize and modernize a genre without killing it. James goes back to the source material, and proves very soulful indeed (and includes a whole whack of synthesizers anyway!)


8: Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (Jacksonville)
The objective album of the year. For my tastes however, it is a bit too saccharine to be at the top of the heap. It is heaps of awesome, though. From the bleak heart-rending beauty of John Wayne Gacy, Jr to the hyperactive broadway musical bliss of the title track, there are a whole whack of stupendous songs on this album. Clever turns of phrase, and twinkly turns of ivory and strings. Cut out 20 minutes and you might get into the top 5 of my subjective list.

twin cinema

7: The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema (Use It)
Despite two very solid albums coming before, the third album from the Pornos is their best yet. In my mind there is no hint of a question about it. These songs are so tightly wrapped, so deliciously filled with hooks and bubbling with melody; it just goes hard and never lets up until the end. Leaving you wanting more. Pop/rock is the biggest, least defined genre at most CD stores. This (Canadian!) album comes close to a definition.

in the reins

6: iron and wine | calexico – in the reins (he lays in the reins)
When 2 of my favourite artists get together to do a collaboration, it is an exciting thing. When it turns out that together they are even better than individually, it is great cause for celebration and hollering. This 7 song EP is chalk full of spanishly influenced country folk narrated by Sam Beam’s incomparable voice. Every song is notable, and it is over much to quick, but sometimes it’s nice to hear such a succinct statement made and not belaboured.


5: The National – Alligator (Daughters of the Soho Riots)
Maybe this is just straightforward indie-rock. A collection of slow and fast songs, with lyrics, driven by guitar.. acoustic for the slow songs, distorted for the fast songs. Not particularly interesting, right? Well maybe I fuckin’ love it! It is a beautiful meeting of country-rock, Britpop, and alternative, just keeping the best parts of each. Matt Berninger’s deep voice caresses the occasionally jaw-dropping lyrics that accompany these consistently brilliant songs.

ruby blue

4: Roisin Murphy – Ruby Blue (Through Time)
When one of my favourite bands breaks up, it is a sad thing. When the lead singer goes on to make a solo album that’s better than any of that band’s albums, it is great cause for celebration and “oh yeah”ing. Such is the story of Moloko and Roisin Murphy. After the demise of Moloko, (when she and …, whose romantic partnership basically formed the band, broke up) Roisin teamed up with famed (in some circles) producer Matthew Herbert, whose warm, jazzy, electronic yet startlingly organic productions fit Roisin’s sultry voice beautifully. A perfect variety of subtly gorgeous jazz numbers and rambunctious and delightfully strange experimentalism. Also look out for the delicious live show.


3: The Decemberists – Picaresque (The Bagman’s Gambit)
Colin Meloy’s Decemberists are the band that made me go from thinking it would be cool to play guitar, to picking one up and learning about 8 or so chords badly. Hey, it’s a start, alright? Their story-driven songs are expansive and delightful, whetting the imagination and the emotions with moving tales from all walks of life, though mostly the downtrodden (which is usually more interesting anyway). Picaresque is more boisterous and garish than its predecessors, with the layers of violins, stand-up basses, 12 string guitars being applied liberally. Somehow, it stands an equal alongside their previous completely brilliant albums. It is joy to behold.

sunset tree

2: The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (This Year)
John Darnielle is quite a prolific writer of music. The Sunset Tree is something like his 13th album since 1995, depending on how you count them. Only on the last couple albums of his, though, has he turned his lyrical eye inwards where, thanks to his abusive stepfather, there resides a wealth of poignant material. Using professional production techniques instead of a Kmart boombox is also a new development, and to these ears a very welcome one. These songs are delicately haunting at times and often painfully true. Darnielle’s lyrics stay to smaller details that paint a more complete picture (running to his room to escape an outburst.. “so this is what the volume knob’s for”). Honest and compelling.

mysterious production of eggs

1: Andrew Bird – The Mysterious Production of Eggs (Measuring Cups)
Andrew Bird is somewhat of a virtuoso. He is a classically trained violinist, whose first releases were straightforward classical and folk songs. He also whistles and sings and plays guitar, and his newer releases have expanded into some sort of mostly mellow indefinable amalgam of any musical style you can make on his instruments. His awareness of music convention is acute and you can tell from the first few notes that everything on this album is put together precisely and expertly. Whether you like it or not is then up to you. Bird fills the album with a generous helping of wit, unpredictability, and at the core great tunes. The Mysterious Production of Eggs is a unique creature whose song is truly delightful to hear.

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