Friday, June 20, 2008

It Was A Very Good Year

I was setting up a playlist of music to listen to as I fell asleep yesterday, and it struck me how much good stuff was released in 2005. It was kind of like the Rays' farm system - great at the top but also a lot of quality depth. I still find myself listening to a lot of these albums. I couldn't find the song I wanted for all of them, but I put something up to give an idea of each artist's sound. [They're videos by the way, and I don't know for how long the links will work.]

25. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & Matt Sweetney - Superwolf
"Soft and subtle, Superwolf is the kind of record that unwinds slowly, and is best enjoyed over multiple listens and, unsurprisingly, many glasses of wine." - Pitchfork
Very soft and subtle.
Notable Tracks: My Home Is The Sea - Lift Us Up - Rudy Foolish

I Gave You

24. Clem Snide - End Of Love
"End of Love is.. as whip smart, goofy, and satisfying" - All Music Guide
The first Clem Snide album I listened to, and I only bought it because it had a sticker that said "Try if you like the Silver Jews" and some other bands. They're a lot more pop oriented than the Joos, though.
NT: End Of Love - The Sound Of German Hip-Hop - Jews For Jesus Blues

This is from a previous album, but gives an idea out what they're about

23. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
"The disc is disjointed, lacks much in the way of cohesive musical character, and ultimately never really reaches to be anything more than a bunch of decent songs held together in the semblance of an album." - Coke Machine Glow
I agree with that assessment. I think they went over board with the production, as it kind of drowns out the music. Still a decent bunch of songs.
NT: 7/4 (Shoreline) - Major Label Debut (though the more rock oriented version of the song from the To Be You And Me [EP] is better) - Fire Eye'd Boy

Fire Eye'd Boy

22. Magnolia Electric Co. - What Comes After The Blues
"Molina's retro-countrified songs of American redemption are not academic and studied, but human." - New Musical Express
I didn't really start to appreciate this album until I saw Molina in concert. It's not his best, and it's a bit inconsistent and short, but there are still some good songs on here. Most of the album is fairly mellow, but opener is pretty rockin'.
NT: The Dark Don't Hide It - Leave The City - Hammer Down

Leave The City

21. Jens Lekman - Oh You're So Silent Jens
"The real glory of this record resides in the way in which Lekman blends his bottled sunshine melodies with droll and romantic word play." - musicOHM
There are some boring lulls, but overall it's quite good and he has a very enjoyable voice.
NT: Maple Leaves - Black Cab - The Wrong Hands

Black Cab

20. Immaculate Machine - Ones And Zeroes
Fun, energetic, power-pop. Not really anything more than that, but I find it very catchy.
NT: Broken Ship - No Such Thing As The Future - Statue

Broken Ship

19. The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree
"It's a gloves-off catharsis occurring in real time for the gifted singer/songwriter, and it leaves a mark on the listener as well." - All Music Guide
An acoustic guitar and and emotional (though well crafted) lyrics.
NT: Your Or Your Memory; This Year; Lion's Teeth

This Year

18. Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins
"The Sunlandic Twins is a dizzying, exhilarating, and almost endlessly fun ride, breezy almost to a fault, romantic and lighthearted." - Delusions of Adequacy
Fun, slightly off-kilter, pop music.
NT: Requiem For O.M.M.2 - Forecast Fascist Future - So Begins Our Alabee

Requiem For O.M.M.2

17. Iron & Wine - Woman King [EP]
"Woman King subtly opens the sonic palette up to include more percussion, piano, and wait is that an electric guitar?" - Amazon
This EP started the shift from his lighter folk sound (Our Endless Numbered Days, for example) to the richer folk-rock on his latest album (The Shepherd's Dog). It's only six songs, but they're all good to great.
NT: Woman King - Jezebel - Freedom Hangs Like Heaven


16. John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt
"Some might wish this gift for fastidious arrangements would carry over to the lyrics, which feature a bevy of look-it-up references and descriptions that might stymie attempts at easy listening. It doesn't hurt to do a little research or, like, pay attention to lyrics worth a damn." - Pitchfork
There's a reason this guy is known for his studio work. Another album that got a bump after seeing him live (he was great both times).
NT: Exodus Damage; Continuation; Angela

Exodus Damage

15. Silver Jews - Tanglewood Numbers
The more I listened to this album, the less I liked it, relatively speaking. It's still has David Berman's songwriting, but there is a little too much twang and not enough memorable songs for me. Stephen Malkmus' guitar work on the opener is what keeps it this high.
NT: Punks In The Beerlight - Animal Shapes - The Farmer's Hotel

Punks In The Beerlight

14. Animal Collective - Feels
"Feels is a highly rewarding journey into pop music's most primal, earthy, esoteric and ultimately beautiful places. And it's unlike anything else you will hear this year." - Pop Matters
I can see why people think this is a really great album, but it's still a little too weird for me to like it that much.
NT: Did You See The Words - Grass - The Purple Bottle


13. Voxtrot - Raised By Wolves [EP]
Top to bottom, front to back, song-writing to instrumentation, this is very good (though rarely great). If only they could make a full album like this.
NT: Raised By Wolves - Start Of Something - Missing Pieces

Start Of Something

12. The Lucksmiths - Warmer Corners
"The Australian band's trademark winsome optimism, clever heartbreak and bittersweet cuteness are in classic form here, only lusher and more layered." - Splendid
Witty lyrics and warm pop music makes for a very enjoyable listen.
NT: A Hiccup In Your Happiness - The Music Next Door - Sunlight In A Jar

Sunlight In A Jar

11. Architecture In Helsinki - In Case We Die
"Think what you want about its theatricality, its twee --- at base, it’s a technically accomplished album, and if you’re willing to give yourself over to it, or do lots of drugs, a charming ride." - Coke Machine Glow
It might actually be too cute, but boy is it fun and catchy.
NT: It's 5; Wishbone; Do The Whirlwind

Do The Whirlwind

10. The National - Alligator
"Tonally and lyrically somewhere between L. Cohen, Aidan Moffett and David Berman, Berringer’s cynical, world-worn love-letters and resigned croon work perfectly with the band’s rock steady rhythm-section." - Coke Machine Glow
They were just warming up for 2007's fantastic Boxer, but this album is almost is good, if not quite as consistent.
NT: Karen - Friend Of Mine - Mr. November

Daughters Of The SoHo Riots

9. My Morning Jacket - Z
"It's hard to argue with any album that possesses the virtues Z does: James' voice, one of the most astonishing instruments in rock; a band who, turnover notwithstanding, play like they've been doing this for decades; a sense of delight that often eludes young men with guitars; and songs that let you use the descriptor “rocks” without fear or shame." - Stylus
They were fantastic live - it was Columbus Day, and they had been partying hard (as they told us several times throughout the show). It's a little less straight-forward than previous albums, but might be all the better for it.
NT: Wordless Chorus - Off The Record - Anytime

Wordless Chorus

8. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
"Is it their best album? Maybe not. Is it still the best pop album of the year? Of course." - Coke Machine Glow
The super-group takes full advantage of Carl (AC) Newman's knack for catchy hooks, but somewhat less so Neko Cases' amazing voice and Dan Bejar's song-writing. Still, having three such talented people working together is kind of unfair.
NT: Twin Cinema - Jackie, Dressed In Cobras - Sing Me Spanish Techno

Use It

7. Spoon - Gimme Fiction
"Even the most direct songs here have a precision craftsmanship rarely heard in something that is still, at heart, a rock album." - Pitchfork
The end of the album sags a bit, but this is what it is - another Spoon album. The thing that amazes me about Spoon is that (now) five albums into their catalog, each one is very good (not just good, though not really great) and sounds exactly like Spoon, without them all sounding the same.
NT: The Beast And Dragon, Adored - The Two Sides Of Monsieur Valentine - I Summon You

I Summon You

6. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
"With Black Sheep Boy, Okkervil River have made the kind of minor classic that will inspire obsessive-compulsive love affairs with the lucky people who stumble upon it." - Coke Machine Glow
Will Sheff's song-writing is very good, and while his voice isn't the best, the conviction with which he sings more than makes up for it.
NT: For Real - In A Radio Song - Black

For Real

5. Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary
"On paper this all could sound average, but Wolf Parade's true talent is transforming the everyday into the unprecedented." - Pitchfork
"Each song is either a seismic death rattle or aftershock." - Coke Machine Glow
This is the only thing Spencer Krug has ever done that I really like - it may be because he doesn't go to far overboard. Catchy, rockin', and kind of weird; what's not to like? Plus, some of the song-writing is really top-notch.
NT: We Built Another World - Shine A Light - Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts

Shine A Light

4. Sufjan Stevens - Come On, Feel The Illinoise
"These are adventurous pop songs with intricate arrangements and sophisticated chord structures." - No Ripcord
That is a low-key way of saying this album is fantastic. This is the second in his 50 part series of albums about each state. The word "beautiful" actually springs to mind. Plus, who can't love an album with song-writing like "Stephen A. Douglas was a great debater, but Abraham Lincoln was the great emancipator"?
NT: Come On! Feel The Illinoise!; Jacksonville; Decatur, Or, Round Of Applause For Your Step Mother!


3. Stephen Malkmus - Face The Truth
"Malkmus has the same fractured pop sensibility, but his music is more expansive than it’s been before." - Dusted
You know, objectively, it's probably not nearly as good an album as several that come before it. It's the Malk though, so the catchy lyrics, rockin' guitars, and a little bit of added weirdness are all there - and that's what keeps me coming back to it time after time.
NT: Freeze The Saints - No More Shoes - Post-Paint Boy

Baby C'mon

2. Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production Of Eggs
"It's a densely melodic place composed of layered instruments so intricately intertwined with each other and Bird's lyrics that repeated listenings inevitably reveal a hidden but grandiose vision of what a pop record can be." - Pop Matters
It doesn't often happen that I'll listen to something for the first time and really like it. It took about 2 1/2 songs with this album. The voice, the lyrics, the violin, and that whistling makes for a truly exceptional listening experience.
NT: Nervous Tick Motion Of The Head To The Left - Measuring Cups - Skin Is, My

Nervous Tick Motion Of The Head To The Left

1. The Decemberists - Picaresque
"For fans of chiming, literate, lovelorn pop, Picaresque is an absolute treasure trove." - Gaurdian
Every song is a different story that draws you into it. There's a couple from opposite sides of the tracks that take the (literal) leap (We Both Go Down Together); failure on the (soccer?) field (The Sporting Life); espionage (The Bagman's Gambit); politics (Sixteen Military Wives); and an epic tale of revenge by a sailor on an old "friend" (The Mariner's Revenge Song). I'll be honest - I don't know a lot of the words Meloy uses. That makes listening to the album a learning experience too.
NT: Eli, The Barrow Boy - The Sporting Life - The Mariner's Revenge Song

The Mariner's Revenge Song

The half-way point for 2008 is coming up soon, and I'll look at some stuff form this year. It pales in comparison to '05 though.

No comments: