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David Medsker music year in review, New Pornographers, Kaiser Chiefs

2005: The year in review
by: David Medsker

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2005 was easily one of the best years in music the decade has seen yet. England is pumping out new music by the truckload, and unlike the Wuss Wave of 2000 (Travis, Coldplay, David Gray), these new bands actually want to rock, and sometimes even dance. Remember that, when rock bands made dance music? Ah, it was a sweet time. Also, some old friends came back around, and unlike other times, when they cleared out our liquor cabinet and puked all over the front lawn, they brought a bottle of the good stuff, left it behind, and went home early. Can’t beat that with a stick.

I tend to overanalyze the place that certain albums should be on my Top 10 list, as in, “This is an important record, it should be higher.” Then I realized what pretentious crap that is to say and think, and chose an entirely different, completely radical method for ranking my albums: in order of how many times I played them. So simple, it’s brilliant. We can only hope it catches on.

Top Albums of 2005

1. New Pornographers: Twin Cinema (Matador)
Not since Blur’s Parklife has an album so completely dominated my life the way that Twin Cinema does. It’s funny, it’s beautiful, it’s dark and mysterious, and with any luck, it will change the world.

2. Kaiser Chiefs: Employment (Universal)
Although it was probably the last thing on their minds, this Leeds quintet’s debut is like a Now That’s What I Call Britpop compilation. There are bits of Elastica (“Everyday I Love You Less and Less”), Pulp (“Born to Be a Dancer”), and a healthy dose of Blur (“I Predict a Riot,” “Saturday Night,” “Modern Way”). I wish I could take my harsh review back and rewrite it. I heart this album.

Franz Ferdinand: "Someone needs to explain to me the reason for the nasty backlash this album is experiencing. This blows their debut out of the water in every imaginable way."

3. Dissociatives: Dissociatives (Astralwerks)
Erstwhile Silverchair singer Daniel Johns makes a groovy electronic pop record with his buddy Paul Mac. A little bit Radiohead, a little bit 10cc, and a lot good.

4. Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better (Domino/Sony)
Someone needs to explain to me the reason for the nasty backlash this album is experiencing. This blows their debut out of the water in every imaginable way. It’s more fun, it’s more danceable, and it’s a hell of a lot catchier. I’m chalking it up to the hipster elite, upset that their little discovery from a year ago suddenly became so popular, and they had to find a way to prove that they were still cooler than everyone else. Their conclusion: the new FF just isn’t that good. Nonsense.

5. Jack’s Mannequin: Everything in Transit (Maverick)
This piano-driven breakup concept album is easily the best album Something Corporate’s Andrew McMahon has ever made. In fact, if he dissolved SC and put his efforts into Jack’s Mannequin full time, it would be fine with me.

6. Beck: Guero (Geffen)
Ahhhh, he’s back again. Hell yes.

7. Aimee Mann: The Forgotten Arm (SuperEgo)
Ahhhh, she’s back again. Hell yes.

8. Marjorie Fair: Self Help Serenade (Capitol)
Props to Mr. Farley for introducing me to this band of California dreamers. It’s mellow, but it’s lovely, and anyone who remembers the Waltons, a Canadian band from the mid-‘90s, will be blown away by “Please Don’t.”

9. Gorillaz: Demon Days (Virgin)
Ubiquitous iPod commercial aside, Damon Albarn’s “other band” is actually making better records than his day job.

10. Rob Dickinson: Fresh Wine for the Horses (Sanctuary)
Catherine Wheel frontman makes splendid, all-grown-up debut. “My Name Is Love”? Try “My Chorus is Velcro.”

Honorable Mentions

World Leader Pretend: Punches (Warner Bros.)
Doves: Some Cities (Capitol)
Go Betweens: Oceans Apart (Yep Roc)
Swirl 360: California Blur (Atenzia) Note: This will be released in the States in 2006, under the band name…wait for it….Killing Sky.
Supergrass: Road to Rouen (Capitol)
Chemical Brothers: Push the Button (Astralwerks)
Stereophonics: Language…Sex…Violence…Other? (V2)
The Darkness: One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back (Atlantic)
Neil Diamond: 12 Songs (Sony)

Ten songs I loved from albums I…well, I liked some of them more than others

1. “Mind on the Road,” Rev. Run
So mind-bogglingly simple, it’s brilliant. And you have to love a producer named Whiteboy.

2. “Hospital Food,” David Gray
Soaring pop from a guy who’s known for anything but.

3. “Brighter Than Sunshine,” Aqualung
Matthew Hale’s Frankensteinian US debut (it contains songs from two albums he released in the UK) yielded a bunch of pretty gems and this sparkling diamond in the rough.

4. “Cash Machine,” Hard-Fi
Like a Manchester descendant of “This Is Radio Clash.”

5. “Galvanize,” Chemical Brothers
World, the time has come to shake your Indian bootie.

6. “X&Y,” Coldplay
Forget the U2-aping songs like “Fix You.” This is what Coldplay does best, something otherworldly and irresistible.

7. “Chewing Gum,” Annie
With that thumpin’ Tom Tom Club beat, you probably won’t even notice all of the innuendo.

8. “My Doorbell,” White Stripes
The rockers were all bummed out over Meg & Jack’s new platter, but no one ever likes change, do they? But change is good. Don’t ever forget it.

9. “Different Names for the Same Thing,” Death Cab for Cutie
For one moment, the shy Seattle kids break out of their shells and show that they’re still capable of stirring things up a bit. Well, for the last half of the song, anyway.

10. “I Turn My Camera On,” Spoon
I totally thought this was the Stones circa Some Girls when I first heard it. Couldn’t believe that sweet falsetto was coming from raspy Britt Daniel.

Other Songs I dug
“King of the Mountain,” Kate Bush
“Under the Covers,” Village Green
“Gangsters and Thugs,” Transplants

Five good cover versions

“Seven Nation Army,” Hard-Fi
From the band’s Cash Machine EP, this Clash-ified dub take on the White Stripes is the ultimate cover, both a radical departure and a loving tribute.

“The Trooper,” featuring Lemmy Kilmister and Phil Campbell
From Numbers of the Beast: An All-Star Tribute to Iron Maiden, this is proof positive that everything goes better with a little dash of Motörhead.

“Good Ole Fashioned Lover-Boy,” Jason Mraz
If you must download one song from Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen, it’s this frighteningly spot-on version from Mr. Wordy Wordpecker himself.

“It Ain’t Me, Babe,” Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon
Surprise, the kids can sing, and this duet of the Dylan song is “Walk the Line’s” finest moment.

“Lies,” Click Five
The hipster press hates these guys, but I’m not going to get into that. I can see why the cooler-than-thou writers hate them, but there are far greater menaces to music society (My Chemical Romance, anyone?) than Click Five. And when the boys are on, like they are on this Thompson Twins cover, they’re hard to hold down.

Reasons to be cheerful for 2006

Hard-Fi: Stars of CCTV (Atlantic) Have I pimped them enough yet? Bumped to 2006, Stains’ finest (that’s right, their hometown is called Stains) has made one groovy rock record, landing somewhere in between the Clash and Daft Punk, of all things. One last time; go check out the Cash Machine EP in the meantime. It’s worth every penny.

Simple Minds: Black & White 050505 (Sanctuary) Originally slated to come out in September, Black & White was pushed back to coincide with a US tour. Whatever the reasons, it is easily the best album Simple Minds have made since Once Upon a Time, and possibly even better.

Other new releases on the horizon: Scissor Sisters, Delays, Cowboy Mouth, Mylo (at long last), Guster, Robert Pollard, Saint Etienne, William Orbit, Beth Orton, Neko Case, Bloc Party, Happy Mondays (!), Flaming Lips, Pet Shop Boys, Massive Attack, the Pixies, Roxy Music (!!), Travis, the Shins, Underworld, and many, many more.

Thank heaven for MySpace: Cool bands that I have found. Or, more accurately, have found me

Barfly. Any fan of the Delays should hit their page right now.
Village Green. Fun Portland quartet that does that ‘60s thing without sounding trapped in time
Meeky Rosie. Hard to explain these UK cats. The vocals and melodies are tender, but the band can bring it. They say they like Elliott Smith and Radiohead, but I hear something closer to Idlewild and Bloc Party.

Other random thoughts

The part of Ben Folds will be played by Abraham Simpson.
Anyone still listening to Songs for Silverman with any regularity? My God, what a miserable old crank he’s become.

Now that the year is over…
Is there anyone who still thinks X&Y is Coldplay’s best album?

Gone, but not forgotten
Kirsty MacColl: From Croydon to Cuba…An Anthology. This 3-disc set, available as an import only, is a fantastic collection of one of England’s finest. Most fascinating is the material from the “Real” sessions, an electronic pop record that certainly would have produced a hit or two, just when she needed one the most. The very fact that she was forbidden from making records for three years is a crime against humanity.





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