After making this year’s list, I went back and found my year end lists of the last 5 years. I think I started geeking out and making a best of list back in 1996. In 96 and 97, I did a show on WCDB and counted them down. In 98 and 99 I wrote them down on scraps of paper and told anyone that would listen. So this starts with 2005 and goes back to 2000. The 2000 list really isn’t a list so much as a rant against how bad the year was for music. Although looking back on that rant, I want to take back everything I said about the band Moose. I really like High Ball Me and actually think it is one of their better records. I’d also like to retract the bad things I said about Babybird‘s Bugged album, because I’ve since come around to that record as well.
There are likely a bunch of albums on these lists that I no longer like and never listen to…Razorlight comes to mind.
Anyway, Click the link to check out my best of lists for 2000 through 2005, the pre-blog days.
…and here’s my annual bs about what I liked this year.
Supergrass – Road to Rouen
Best Supergrass album, hands down. From the epic opener Tales of Endurance all the way to the Fin you’ve got a record that is umm…all killer no filler. There are a couple great singles in St. Petersburg and Low C, a goofy intermission in the middle. What more could you want?
Ponys – Celebration Castle
Their second album is a huge improvement, better songs, better crisper production. These guys are channeling Television and Voidoids into the 21st century and it rocks out like nobody’s business. Cranking Get Black to 11 makes me feel cool (and hearts my ears).
Rakes – Capture Release
Take some Wire and cross it with the Warm Jets and you’ve got a band I’ve dreamt about. At first I thought 22Grand Job was about robbing a bank, because Strasbourg was about spies, but it turns out these guys writ songs about being single young professionals living in the big city, not making enough money, having sucky jobs and falling in love with computers…cool.
Rosebuds – Birds Make Good Neighbors
North Carolina husband and wife band turn up the sound, production, and overall quality on album #2. A little surfy guitar crossed with an English pop sensibility really open up the songs. At first I was really disappointed with this one but, I found out it was one of those that really grows on you.
Decemberists – Picaresque
Often compared to the Smiths, but the only similarity I see is Colin Meloy’s story-like songs. His characters really come to life, whether he’s singing about prostitutes, his high school sports career, or a war protest song. The only other comparison I can draw is to that of Magnetic Fields, Meloy is that good with the word.
Richard Hawley – Cole’s Corner
Hawley has a voice from another time. He’ll take you back to the 40’s and 50’s before Rock and Roll ruled and make you feel like your grandparents when they were young, hip and cool…If you can imagine that?
M Ward – Transistor Radio
Like Richard Hawley, Ward sounds like he was born in the wrong time. Maybe he’s Hawley’s American brother. Ward has a bit more of an AM radio sound to Hawley’s FM one.
Go-Betweens – Oceans Apart
The Robert Forester songs on this one are simply amazing. The manic opener of ‘Hear Comes a City’ the nostalgic Darlinghurts Nights with it jazz ending, and the beautiful Lavender made me go back and rediscover Robert Forester. Throw in Grant McLennan’s usual pop gems and you’ve got one of the best Go-Betweens albums….ever.
The Evens – The Evens
Old punks don’t die, they turn into folkies. Ian MacKay of Fugazi and Amy Farina of the Warmers created an album of sparse melodic songs, who knew Ian could actually sing?
Acid House Kings – Sing Along with the Acid House Kings
It’s twee, kinda silly, but really catchy. Sweden has more good bands per capita than any other country, hands down.
The Bats – At the National Grid
What a pleasant surprise from a band I thought I’d heard the last from back in 1995. This one returns to the jangly sounds of Daddy’s Highway and Law of things. Here’s hoping that they make the trek over from New Zealand for a tour of the states!
Patrick Duff – Luxury Problems
Strangelove never seemed to get any recognition, maybe they were a bit too over the top or a bit too goth, dunno. Strangelove albums were always hit or miss affairs, with 3 or 4 great songs and the rest filler. Patrick Duff’s first album since the break-up is a bit more understated and all the better for it. He even gets a bit silly with refrigerator, which is something Strangelove could never claim.
Portastatic – Bright Ideas
If Superchunk never makes another album I won’t care as long as Mac still puts out Portastatic albums this good. There are songs on this one that you know would have been on a new Superchunk album. He also pushes the envelope a bit and even rips off The The with song Truckstop Cassettes. Steal from the best, is what I say.
Tom Vek – We Have Sound
This one sound nothing like anything else released this year. It’s got that weird echo of the 80’s that you just can’t place. I believe Mr. Vek wrote and played everything on here, and he’s a really young guy (early 20’s). With singles like C-C and If You Want I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Brakes – Give Blood
Probably on no one’s year end top whatever list but found this little record endearing. Funny short songs like Cheney and CommaCommaComma full stop are throwaways, but a couple cool cover songs in Jackson and Sometimes always and a handful of originals are worth the price of admission. ‘Heard about your band….whatever dude’ lyrics are a bit juvenile and off the cuff but they make me laugh. I’m lowbrow that way.
Stars – Set Yourself on Fire
Another one probably missing from many year-end cuz it got released in the Great White North last year. I got the US release which came out this year. No band has a guy/girl combo that sound as good as Stars. Amy’s kinda angelic voice perfectly offsets Torquil’s devil in loafers one. Add in some great bass lines and awesome flourishes of noisy guitar and you’ve got it.
The National – Alligator
They definitely have a Tindersticks, Waits and Cave thing goin on, so how could they be from Ohio?? It’s a sedated sound that verges on depressing, but Matt Berninger seems to be an optimistic downer and the chiming guitars keep you from getting too bummed out.
Elbow – Leaders of the Free World
Third time’s a charm for this UK band. Not that the their first 2 records were bad, but they didn’t capture their live sound. Leaders does just that spot on. Forget Myself is a tidal wave of a song and Mexican Standoff is no slouch either.
Songs – not necessarily singles
Lucksmiths – The Chapter In your life entitle San Francisco
Joy Zipper – One
Clor – Love + Pain
Doves – Black and White Town
Editors – Fingers in the Factory
Raveonettes – Love in a Trashcan
Low – California
Sambassador – Between the Lines
Merideths – Marmalade Maggie
British Sea Power – Larson B
Math and Physics Club – Weekends Away
Art Brut – Moving to L.A.
Shortwave Set – Is It any Wonder
Departure – Lump In my Throat
Field Music – It’s Not the Only Way to Feel Happy
Fall – Clasped Hands
Swervedriver – Juggernaut Rides
Lucy Show – Mania
In my opinion, this year was a good, not great year for music. I think there were some standouts, and the first four records in my top ten were easy, because they were in my player (cd&mp3) more than anything else. The weird thing is, if I had to redo last year’s top 10 I would probably put Mando Diao’s ‘Bring ‘Em In’ as one or two. I didn’t hear that record until this year. So what I’m saying is that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. These were the ones I heard this year that I liked.
The Futureheads – The Futureheads This record just continued to amaze me. It’s hyper punkish energy and the amazing harmonies are a total breath of fresh air compared to so many of todays’ calculated releases.
Graham Coxon – Happiness in Magazines His previous 3 records have been spotty at best. This one is produced by Stephen Street, (Smiths & Blur producer) and I think it definitely pays off! There’s only one track that is so abrasive you go for the skip button. The rest is brilliant pop from the former Blur guitarist with no filler, well almost.
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – Shake the Sheets Mr. Leo benefits from having one of the best rhythm sections in rock. This is another set of politically charged, post punk songs make you want to get out and dance, shake, and maybe make a difference.
The Open – Silent Hours I like guitars, the kind that use lots of effects. I like 80’s alternative like Chameleons, Icicle Works and U2. This one has elements of all of the above as well as a little bit of Doves and Cocteau Twins thrown in. Produced by former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymond.
Trashcan Sinatras – Weightlifting By no means prolific, but you can count on them for a quality album every 5 or 6 years. This one has grown on me since its summer release. The title track and ‘Welcome Back’ are the most immediate, but if you keep listening you realize there are a lot more hidden treasures.
The Legends – Up Against the Legends These guys are my token Swedish band for the year. They write songs in vein of last year’s top teners Radio Dept, and have elements of the Wannadies and the Raveonettes thrown in. I am continually amazed at how such a small country can consistently be the home of so many bands I like.
Interpol – Antics They got their sound down on the first record. On this one they wrote songs to back it up. I could listen to the cold, edgy lead-off track ‘Next Exit’ over and over again. For my money one of the best lead off tracks on a record in a long time. The rest of the record is no let down either.
Adem – Homesongs A propos title, cuz this is a sit-at-home-on-a-Sunday-morning-and-hang-out kind of record. It has a very warm feel to it, both from the production and Adem Ilhan’s voice. It also has elements of Badly Drawn Boy’s first record with bits of Jim O’Rourk thrown in. Now I’m being too obscure…
Razorlight – Up All Night A mindless, I just wanna turn it up and have fun record. This one is soo derivative, to the point of being too obvious and you forget about it and just want to turn it up and rock! I’m really surprised Lou Reed hasn’t sued these guys. (I guess I have 2 token Swedish bands this year)
PJ Harvey – Uh Huh Her Her last album (Stories from the Sea) was, I thought, amazing. This isn’t as good, but it reminds me of why I initially liked PJ when she first came out with ‘Dry’ …She can be so direct and raw in both music and lyrics. Courtney Love wishes she had one little itty bitty piece of what PJ has coursing through her.
The Bees – Free the Bees – Count the genres….3 or 4 really good songs here.
Morrissey – You are the Quarry – If the whole record would have been as interesting as ‘I’m not Sorry’ it coulda been a classic. Sigh.
Pinback – Summer in Abaddon – From my San Diego days. These guys do emo very well.
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand – Teenage girls think I’m cool cuz I like Franz Ferdinand
The Album Leaf – In a Safe Place – more from my San Diego days. I listen to this a lot at work. Mellow mellow electronica.
The Divine Comedy – Absent Friends – Scott Walker has totally possessed Neil Hannon. But Walker never wrote ‘The Wreck of the Beautiful’ and the ‘the Happy Goth’ will bring a smile.
Rogue Wave – Out of the Shadow – I think I missed this last year, but so did everyone else. Good acoustic Shins like stuff.
Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose – Like Johnny Cash’s American CD, this made me want to go back a find out about all the stuff that lead up to Jack White producing this.
A.C. Newman – The Slow Wonder – Since there was no new Neko Case album this year, New Pornographer Newman puts out a killer power pop record to distract us.
Pavement – Crooked Rain Crooked Rain à LA’s Desert Origin – Thank you Matador for yet another exhaustive reissue. This truly is a classic American record.
Animals that Swim – Faded Glamour – In case you missed them when they were together (which most people did), here is a retrospective that really does give you the best of. This band was criminally overlooked by everyone, and I don’t know why. Knowing that bands like this exist, is why to this day I still scour the pages of music mags and web sites and listen feverishly to new music, to find bands of this caliber that I would otherwise never know about or hear of.
TV on the Radio – Staring at the Sun
Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! – In Green
New Rhodes – I Wish I Was You
French Kicks – One More Time
Bobby Bare Jr – Strange Bird
Jason Falkner – They Put Her in the Movies
Magnetic Fields – I – Too many songs with the work I in them.
Arcade Fire – Funeral – Repeat after me: I will do what Pitchfork says. No really, there are a few good songs, but this is not earth shattering…
Here’s what I’ve got on my list. This was a very good year for music, the best in a long time. This is the best of what I’ve heard…
A. British Sea Power – the Decline of British Sea Power – These guys rock! Carrion, Remember Me, Childhood Memories; all future classics that will be included on their best of “Songs to Trompe le Monde”
B. Electric Soft Parade – the American Adventure – This is so much better than their debut. The first single “Things I’ve done before” is my favorite song of the year, the rest of the record is nearly as wonderful. These guys are still teenagers?!
C. the Shins – Chutes too Narrow – This is so much better than their debut…the songs, the production, the singing, everything. Catchy as hell!
D. Radio Dept. – Lesser Matters – apparently Scandinavia is stuck in the 80’s and this group is no exception. Think “Some Kind of Wonderful” soundtrack and you’re there.
E. Ladybug Transistor – Ladybug Transistor – Psychedelic meets western desert, and definitely not something you crank out of your car at the red light, but damn if these guys aren’t beguiling. The cover of Splendor in the grass is the icing on the cake.
F. Belle and Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress – It’s about time this band lived up to its potential. where their classic “if you’re feeling sinister” was steeped in 60’s folk nostalgia, this one is going for the new wave thing. Stay Loose could have been a Joe Jackson song.
G. New Pornographers – Electric Version – this is one fun record, bright poppy songs with killer harmonies provided by Neko Case.
H. Ted Leo and the Phamacists – Hearts of Oak – This record is what Fugazi could have done if they hadn’t gone off experimenting after repeater.
I. Richard Hawley – Lowedges – this guy can sing and play the guitar. Why aren’t women swooning after this guy? He’s got a great baritone voice and the guitar chops to put one in the mood.
J. Pernice Brothers – Yours, Mine & Ours – Scud mountain man and the only Pernice Bro in the band Joe Pernice has outdone himself again this time injecting a little more adrenaline into their sound.
K. I am Kloot – I am Kloot – Introspective moody sophomore effort.
L. Four Tet – Rounds – block rockin’ beats, or something like that.
M. Postal Service – Give Up – Vive la synthesizer! Singer from Death Cab for Cutie sounds a whole lot better being backed up by the Synths of Dntel than when he’s fronting his own band.
N. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot it in People – Canada seemed to produce a lot of quality music this year and these guys were definitely at the front of the class. Melodic, provacative and all over the place stylistically.
O. Clearlake – Cedars – awesome brit guitar work, singer can kill you with his lack of range though. But if your into that moody shoegazer type stuff this will endear.
P. Super Fury Animals – Phantom Power – they’re back and wearing gorilla suites this time, super and fury.
Q. Starlight Mints – Built on Squares – who said the elephant 6 sound was dead?
R. Stars – Heart – Elevator Love Letter should be single of the year. Excellent Male/Female harmony from this Montreal group
S. the Tyde – Twice – what if Felt were from SoCal? This answers the question.
T. American Analog Set – Promise of Love – more post rock with a twist.
U. the Coral – Magic and Medicine – they’ve eschewed some of the strangeness of their debut and gone more for the 60’s garage sound…more focused.
V. the Stills – Logic will break your Heart – moody english style pop a la house of love via Toronto
W. Zephyrs – A Year to the Day – Coming across like a more organic Grandaddy, this Scottish band’s third album also has some slow core elements. The songs have a warmth about them is reminiscent of Spiritualized first cd.
X. Raveonettes – Chain Gang of Love – the Raveonettes love the Jesus & Mary Chain, they also love the Supremes.
Y. Grandaddy – Sumday – songs about cutting edge technology and paranoid fears of the future written on analog synthesizers
Z. Lucksmiths – Naturaliste – kinda downbeat for these guys, but then they always were a little bit too happy.
I know a lot of you have been waiting for this (yeah right). So here is what’s caught my attention this year.
Spoon – Kill the Moonlight (merge) – This will be looked at as a classic record in a few years. The sound is stripped down to bare bones, you could call it sparse. This effect gives the listener the chance to totally absorb each song. This is their third excellent album in a row. Pop sensibilities but presented in new fresh way, easier said than done these days.
Ikara Colt – Chat and Business (fantastic plastic/epitaph) – This record rocks in the combined way a Fall, Girls Against Boys, and a Sonic Youth album would. Killer bass and drum licks with a singer that could be a cross of Mark E. Smith and Thurston Moore. Finally a fresh face in the UK that’s worthy of attention.
Graham Coxon – The Kiss of the Morning (transcopic) – So Graham Coxon left Blur (or he was booted). He took some really good songs with him. The bluesy sound gives a background to lyrics that are an open book into what he thinks of his ex-band, and his battles with alcohol. This record is miles better than any of his other solo releases, not all that surprising since he can now keep all the good songs for his own releases.
Wannadies – Before and After (intrecords) – The “You and Me Song” band comes back after being maligned by Rik Ocasek. The one problem with this record is song sequencing, all the up-tempo one’s that rock are at the beginning and the second half is all slow songs. Not a problem with a little programming on the listener’s part. This is classic Wannadies stuff, very catchy 3 minute pop songs that you can’t help singing along to.
Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights (matador) – I’m not sure what to make of the entire NYC music scene of late with it’s early late 60’s early 70’s garage rock influences. Although from NYC, Interpol take their inspiration from an entirely different era and sound. Think England in the mid 1980’s guitar bands, Joy Division with some Kitchens of Distinction thrown in. Atmospheric, dense and moody.
Cornelius – Point (matador) – Cornelius has been listening to Neu! and Can and gone a made a killer groove oriented album. You feel like you’re in some kinda cartoon while listening to this; Sesame Street shorts, Starblazers, and Princess Mononoke come to mind. Leave it to Cornelius to create such animated music and not come off (ahem) cartoon-ish.
Mendoza Line – Lost in Revelry (misra) – This one’s my “No Depression” album of the year. Vocals alternate between the sexes with the girls sounding like an amalgam of Belly and Mazzy Star with the boys maybe sounding like Jay Farrar if he wasn’t so damned boring. These guys are batting way above the Mendoza Line.
Elf Power – Creatures (spinart) – A concept album about, umm, creatures. Whatever. This is such a step up from their previous releases. Instead of copping the Elefant 6 sound, they’ve injected hints of southern-ness into their sound, giving it a much warmer and inviting feel. Excellent use of accordions and cellos, I’m a sucker for that kinda thing.
Hot Hot Heat – Make Up the Breakdown (subpop) – After getting over the fact that these guys sound a lot like Chisel, I have really gotten to like this cd. Singer also sounds an awful lot like Bob Smith of the Cure without being as whiney.
Lali Puna – Scary World Theory (morr) – It’s the new electronic music everyone. These minimalist Germans have created a clean, spacious sound that provides the perfect opportunity to sit back and just veg. Ice cool female vocals a la Broadcast. If you’re into this record you should also check out the Morr Music compilation called Blue Skied an Clear. It’s morr of the same but here bands are covering Slowdive songs.
10.5 Britt Daniel/Bright Eyes – Home Vol. IV (post-parlo)
11. NoTwist – Neon Golden (city slang)
12. Enon – High Society (touch and go)
13. Darron Hanlon – Hello Stranger (drive-in)
14. Doves – the Last Broadcast (heavenly)
15. Brave Captain – Advertisements for Myself (witcha)
16. Edwyn Collins – Dr. Syntax (setanta)
17. Neko Case – Black Listed (bloodshot)
18. The Bees – Sunshine Hit Me (we love you)
19. Monster Movie – Last Night Something Happened (clair)
20. Polak – Rubbernecking (one little indian)
Here was what was on my radar in the year 2001….
The American Analog Set – Know By Heart This record is so smooth and clean you could eat from it. It starts out with a song called “Punk as Fuck” that sounds nothing like you might imagine and that’s what is so wonderful about the entire record. The songs are more poppy and catchy than ever.
I Am Kloot – Natural History Best way to explain this record is to say it is a cross of Crowded House and the La’s, except a bit darker. Not typical of the sound coming out of the UK at this moment.
Goldfrapp – Felt Mountain I thought I was listening to a James Bond soundtrack when I first heard this. There have been comparisons to Portishead, but this is more of a retro-60’s groove with the beats buried way deep in the mix. The voice, the yodeling, the way-out guitar…mesmerizing
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – B.R.M.C I was a non-believer of these guys until I saw them live. Immediately I saw them more as a modern day Love and Rockets instead of Jesus and Mary Chain rip-offs. “Whatever happened to my rock and roll” could be the song of the year.
Nicola Conte – Bossa Per Due This is a great cd to put in at a party. It reminds me of the music playing during the party scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The songs are spliced together by this Italian maestro, giving the feel of a live performance by real players instead of tape loops.
The Clientele – Suburban Light This came out near the end of last year in the UK, but didn’t show itself until 2001 over here. The vocals are whispered over some very early eighties influence guitar. The album is really a collection of singles, but it fits together so well. Each little pop gem is glistening like raindrops on your windshield.
Jenny Toomey – Anitdote Finally, after nearly five years of silence we hear from the former Tsunami singer. It’s a double cd, one of those hi-falutin’ kind where all of the songs could have fit on a single disc. The fist one called Chicago (cuz that’s where it was recorded) has pieces of the Chicago post-rock sound done up with a lounge act angle. The Nashville disc is not countrified by any means but does have a somewhat rootsy feel to it.
The Lucksmiths – Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me I’m a Lucksmiths freak, but I still think that this album is their most fleshed out, mature release yet. Some say they’re a little too cleaver for their own good. Maybe so, but it I like clever.
Stephen Malkmus – Stephen Malkmus This album has a Creedence feel to it, but I still can’t stop listening to it. The Ballads are beautiful in an angular way and the rockers definitely rock. “The Hook” and “Pink India” kept me coming back to this cd over and over.
The Shins – Oh, Inverted World Equal parts Love, Beach Boys, Kinks and early Pink Floyd. This album has so many hooks you are gonna get caught by one of ’em.
Others that I listened to a lot:
Divine Comedy – Regeneration, Snow Patrol – When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up, Pernice Brothers – Ther World Won’t End, The Tyde – Once, It’s Jo and Danny – Lank Haired Girl To Bearded Boy/Thugs Lounge, Stereolab – Sound-dust, Alfie – If You Happy With You Need do Nothing, Animals That Swim – Happiness from a Distant Star, Stars – Nightsongs, Pinback – Blue Screen Life, Beachwood Sparks – Once We Were Trees, Sing-Sing – The Joy of, Spoon – Girls Can Tell, Turin Brakes – The Optimist LP
Boyracer – Boyfuckingracer, House of Love – 1986-1988 the Creation Recordings, Pixies – Complete B-sides. Neu! – Neu!, Love – Forever Changes, the Siddeleys – Slum Clearance
gotta say that this year was a big let down for me at least in the music
department. there were so many cd’s that i was looking forward to, then
when i finally heard them it was mostly disappointment after monotonous
disappointment. here’s a list of the biggest.
*Belle and Sebastian – fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant
– god what a terrible title. this band continues to be brought down by
stuart murdock letting other people write and sing songs. the third song
nearly made me vomit each time it came out the speakers.
*Radiohead – kid a – i certainly hope they were only kidding. this album
is like the movie tron guest starring charlie mingus, brian eno, the aphex
twin, and charleton heston.
*Polak – swansongs – former adorable and bardots members, which in my book
= potential, fail to deliver. whole record is pretty much a bummer
especially when you have adorable’s against perfection to compare it to.
*Moose – high ball me – after 5 years wait this is what we get? an 10 song
album that includes one 2-minute instrumental and a rehashed
*Thievery Corporation – mirror conspiracy – after a cool dubby first cd
and a killer dj kicks cd we get…elevator music- good god!
*Babybird – bugged – how can someone who released 4 brilliant low-fi
albums no be able to write an interesting pop song any longer?