Thursday, December 01, 2005

Top Ten Albums of 2005

As previously mentioned, I am something of a listophile. I will take any subject and spontaneously compile a list of my preferences in order just to satisfy my own stupid urges. So, in the spirit of controversy and provoking debate, here are my top ten records of 2005:

1. Arcade Fire - Funeral

Debut albums don't come much better than this. Dramatic, powerful, the dark subject matter (see the title) actually serves to enhance the quiet triumph of vocalist Win Butler over the grief of losing those close to him. Of the rash of bands emerging recently to cite new wave bands, Arcade Fire is the only one to truly imbue their music with a sense of drama, pathos and genuine importance, rather than dancefloor rock. Majestic.

2. Doves - Some Cities

After the wonderful 'The Last Broadcast of 2002, Doves have come back with a more refined sound, and boy does it work. Drawing on Motown influences to complement the present Mancunian moods and textures, 'Some Cities' hits all the right notes, from the gorgeous pop melody of 'Snowden' to the richly layered rock of 'Sky is Falling' and 'Black and White Town', Doves have created their most soulful, concise and beautiful record yet. Great

3. Little Barrie - We Are Little Barrie

Grooves don't come much groovier than this. Little Barrie, discovered by British underground musician and one hit wonder Edwyn Collins, have, on the back of some exceptional musicianship, created some of funkiest blues heard since 1965. This one is a sleeper, and if you haven't heard of them, go out and have a listen. Your feet will still be tapping next week.

4. Sufjan Stevens - Come On!! Feel the Illinoise!

With ridiculously long song titles, and the ambition to create an album to represent each of America's 50 states, Sufjan Stevens could be accused of being pretentious, but when you make music this good, pretentiousness and self indulgence are very welcome. Beautiful, sweeping song construction, stories told with just the right combination of local knowledge and personal introspection, Illinoise is a masterpiece.

5. Antony and the Johnsons - I am a Bird Now

The voice. My God, the voice! Hearing Antony (a transgender who controversially won the Mercury Award despite living in New York most of his life) sing is one of those moments that will stop you in your tracks, like hearing Jeff Buckley sing for the first time. An androgynous falsetto, Antony's voice swirls around the gorgeous accompaniments he has also provided. This is the album for 2005 that throws the book out the window.

6. Spoon - Gimme Fiction

Intelligent, artful pop music at its absolute finest, Gimme Fiction is brimming with creativity and spark. Dense where 2002's 'Kill the Moonlight' was sparse, Spoon's latest is a rewarding experience, particularly on repeated listenings.

7. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm

Bloc Party's debut rings out like a clarion call in the night. Full to the rim with intent and purpose, Silent Alarm marries 80's dance floor beats and staccato guitars with a seriousness and currency that somehow complement each other in a perverse way. The best of the crop of new new-wavers.

8. Sigur Ros - Takk.....

Unbelievably, Sigur Ros have been accused of selling out! This may be because second single 'Hopipolla' has a runtime of less than 5 minutes. However, have Chris Martin sing that song in English and you would have (other than a much weaker song) the best and most wildly creative Coldplay song ever. By a mile. Sigur Ros have abbreviated their approach to song construction without compromising their integrity. If only all bands could sell out and be this unique.

9. Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger

What sets Maximo Park apart from the other New Order-inspired young bands at the moment is their attention to melody. In amongst the post-punk beats and thickly accented, somewhat obtuse lyrics, ("I'll do graffiti if you sing to me in French") lie some truly beautiful songs, such as 'The Coast is Always Changing', with it's gorgeous 2 guitars and keys coda through the bridge. The fourth of 5 debut albums on this list.

10. The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike!

The Avalnches on crack. The Go! Team's superfluous exclamation mark is the best adjective possible for this eclectic UK group. Combining samples with instrumentation to create a singular musical experience, TLS is the party album of 2006.

Honourable mentions:

Beck - Guerro, Lior - Autumn Flow, The White Stripes - Get behind me Satan, Super Furry Animals - Love Kraft, Hot Hot Heat - Elevator, The Bees - Free the Bees, BRMC - Howl, Ambulance Ltd. - Ambulance Ltd.

Well, there you have it. Feel free to rip my musings to pieces.


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