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Will Harris music year in review, a-ha, The Bravery

2005: The year in review
by: Will Harris

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The best bit about being a music critic is that you get…and I’m going to use an industry term here, so I hope I don’t go over anyone’s heads…a buttload of free CDs. Unfortunately, that’s also the worst bit as well. It means that you listen to a CD, you go, “Right, well, that’s quite good,” or possibly, “Ugh, that’s awful,” then you scribble down a few words about it, and, bam, it’s off to the next disc. I miss the days when I actually had the time to put on a disc and listen to it more than once without feeling guilty about getting behind in all the reviews I still have left to write. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to compile a top 10 list of albums that, when no-one was looking, I managed to spin several times over. The bubbling-under selections which follow are, in some cases, just as good as the discs that made the proper list, but, as with any top-10 list, any and every selection contained within could be tossed out at any time in favor of another album altogether. And as a final caveat, had I the money to pick up the new album by the Darkness before Christmas, I can just about guarantee that it would’ve made my list…because they rock.

Top 10 of 2005 (in alphabetical order)

1. a-ha: Analogue (Universal, UK import)
Anyone who knows me will be unsurprised to learn that, although I’ve only had this disc for just over a week, it’s still managing to find its way into my top 10 of the year. These poor Norwegians haven’t had a US record deal in a decade, which is absolutely inexplicable. Analogue was mixed by Flood, features backing vocals from Graham Nash on two songs, and even includes production work from Max Martin on the title cut. If you liked “Take on Me” but secretly thought that “The Sun Always Shines on TV” was actually the cooler song, then spend the extra money and buy this import; you won’t be disappointed.

2. Paul Anka: Rock Swings (Verve)
It reads like a novelty – faded pop star records rock and alternative hits in a jazzy style – but, honest to God, it really holds up as a proper album, with interesting adaptations of songs from everyone from Survivor to the Pet Shop Boys. Plus, you haven’t lived ‘til you’ve heard Paul Anka croon “The Lovecats.”

3. The Bravery: The Bravery (Island)
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: there are a half dozen (or more) new wave revivalists who could make the list. But this is the album that proved to have the most replay value for me, anyway. (The only real competition in the field was Elkland’s debut.)

Echo and the Bunnymen: "Ian McCulloch remains in solid voice, and Will Sergeant remains a post-punk guitar god."

4. The Click Five: Greetings from Imrie House (Lava/Atlantic)
It’s as substantial as cotton candy under a running faucet, but better people than you have tried and failed to keep their toes from tapping while this album is playing. Plus, Adam Schlesinger wrote a song, so did Paul Stanley, and Eliot Easton of the Cars guests on a few songs. Catch their wave.

5. Rob Dickinson: Fresh Wine for the Horses (Sanctuary)
Lead singer of ‘90s British alt-rock gods Catherine Wheel lightens up slightly and releases a stellar, if still decidedly melancholy, solo album.

6. Echo and the Bunnymen: Siberia (Cooking Vinyl)
Who would’ve believed that, after drummer Pete DeFrietas passed away, Echo and the Bunnymen still would’ve been a viable entity? Produced by Hugh Jones, this might not be quite as strong as the material from their ‘80s glory days (despite the gushing claims from the UK press), but it’s still really great. Ian McCulloch remains in solid voice, and Will Sergeant remains a post-punk guitar god.

7. Hal: Hal (Rough Trade)
Borrowing equally from the Beach Boys, Harry Nilsson, and Teenage Fanclub, this is the sunniest collection of harmony-laden pop songs in recent memory. Lead singer Dave Allen’s amazing falsetto puts him right up there with heavyweights like Frankie Valli and Barry Gibb, but it’s the melodies of his songs, co-written with keyboardist Stephen O’Brien, that really sell this album.

8. Paul McCartney: Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (Capitol)
Best McCartney album since [insert your favorite McCartney album here]. No, really, I swear.

9. Oasis: Don’t Believe the Truth (Sony)
It’s been a long, uphill climb since Oasis blew their rep with the cocaine-flecked Be Here Now, but, finally, they’re back. If you liked (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, you’ll love this.

10. Jimmy Webb: Twilight of the Renegades (Sanctuary)
Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but this melancholy collection of pop songs from an undisputed master in his field just gets better and better with each listen. The lead track, “Paul Gaugin in the South Seas,” is almost seven minutes long, but it glides by with the assistance of its soaring chorus, where the narrator is “searching for paradise.” “Spanish Radio” is also a classic, with Webb remembering the days when Jose Cuervo was his friend. It is, as the Brits say, a bit of a grower…but when it finally does grab you, you won’t want it to let go.

Bubbling under

James Blunt: Back to Bedlam (Atlantic)
The Dead ‘60s: The Dead ‘60s (Sony)
Kaiser Chiefs: Employment (Universal)
New Order: Waiting for the Siren’s Call (Reprise)
Erasure: Nightbird (Mute)
Longwave: There’s a Fire (RCA)
Hickey Necklace: Got Used to Lonely (Shanty Town)
Teenage Fanclub: Man Made (Merge)
Paul Weller: As Is Now (V2)
Various Artists: Lowe Profile (Brewery)
Neil Young: Prairie Wind (Reprise)
Depeche Mode: Playing the Angel (Reprise)
Ben Folds: Songs for Silverman (Sony)
Bob Mould: Body of Song (Yep Roc)
Harvey Danger: Little by Little (Phonographic)

Top 10 Songs of 2005 (which will change within 5 seconds of this list being sent to my editor)

1. “Catch Your Wave,” Click Five
Sure, the fact that Adam Schlesinger wrote their big hit single, “Just the Girl,” was common knowledge...and it was also used to offer claims that these pretty boys couldn’t even write their own material. Turns out, though, that the best song on their debut was all theirs. It’s so catchy that I downloaded it for use as my cell phone’s ringtone.

2. “Mind on the Road,” Rev. Run
Even if he hadn’t had his own reality show, Rev. Run would’ve been remembered in 2005 for this song. Take the riff from “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” rap over top of it, and you’ve got the best blending of rock and rhymes since “Walk This Way.”

3. “You’re Beautiful,” James Blunt
Oh, it’s beautiful all right. Sadly beautiful.

4. “This Is Such a Pity,” Weezer
The album didn’t really hold up, but this song features a keyboard solo that could’ve come from Geoff Downes circa Asia’s debut album. It’s over the top, but it’s still awesome.

5. “Play the Hits,” Hal
Maybe this song was just too twee to catch the ear of America’s alt-rock crowd, but that chorus really should’ve made it the summer single to beat.

6. “English Tea,” Paul McCartney / “Fading In Fading Out,” Ringo Starr (TIE)
Ringo’s album doesn’t hold up for the long haul the way Paul’s does – same as it ever was – but both these songs have just the right blend of Beatle-isms to demand repeat listenings.

7. “I Predict a Riot,” Kaiser Chiefs
Take a Clash song, polish the chorus to a pure pop sheen like you’ve never seen, and, voila!

8. “Precious,” Depeche Mode
A la Weezer, we have another case here where an album not firing on all thrusters didn’t stop the band from producing a song to rank among their best ever.

9. “White Wall,” Mando Diao
I had almost forgotten that this even came out in 2005, since I had received an advance of the album (Hurricane Bar) at the tail end of 2004, but these guys produced the best Britpop song in about 10 years...despite being Swedish.

10. “Ever Since,” Lesley Gore
I don’t care what you say; the layered harmonies on this song make it the purest, most unabashedly emotional lament about unrequited longing in recent memory.






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