013006: tiptop of countdown mountain, the. ze big 1!1!1! of 05 part 5.
originally aired 2-4am January 31, 2006 on CFMU
One last kick at the can…
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.
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.
Wilco – Kicking Television: live in Chicago (Handshake Drugs)
Kraftwerk – Minimum Maximum (Tour de France)
A pair of live double albums that are notable for their high quality and notability.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.