2005: The year in review
I can’t say that I was feeling very impressed with
the musical landscape at the beginning of this year. The really groovy releases
seemed few and far between. However, as the months rolled on, plenty of fine
discs emerged. All in all, it was a pretty good year, although not the greatest
of the new decade thus far. At any rate, here’s ten
of the grooviest from ’05 that you should definitely check out and enjoy.
Ten Best Albums of 2005
1. They Might Be Giants: Here Come The ABCs (Disney)
What’s this? A kid’s album at number one?! You’re damned right. TMBG have put
out their best album in a few years with this, a disc of unbearably catchy pop
songs about different letters of the alphabet and other delights. “Fake Believe”
and “Who Put the Alphabet in Alphabetical Order?” will lodge themselves into
your brain permanently, along with “The Alphabet Lost and Found” and “Flying V.”
You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this terrific album, although my son and
nieces can’t get enough. A DVD filled with puppets, animations, and the Johns
themselves playing in the studio was released in tandem with the CD and is just
as essential. Fun for all ages, and plenty rockin’, to boot.
2. The Darkness:
One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back (Atlantic)
Having not been a fan of the Darkness’ debut, this one came as the biggest
surprise of the year. On their new album, the band explores ripping off classic
rock bands brilliantly while adding their own spin on top. Where else are you
going to hear Cheap Trick, Slade, ELO, and Queen all done better? Only right
here, my friends. “Knockers” and “Girlfriend” are but two tracks you’ll want to
hear again and again.
3. Jandek: Khartoum (Corwood)
Don’t know who Jandek is? Good, do a search on him, and check out Seth Tisue’s
excellent site on the man, the myth, and his continued legend. This is Jandek’s
third album of 2005 and finds him going back to the haunting nature of some of
his earlier work. “What Things Are” is classic Jandek, with the man moaning such
things as “I don’t know where things are / It’s so dark I have to feel my way
around / And listen to some little sound / What’s that / Oh, but I’m in my cave
/ It’s true, I can’t get out / But also they can’t get in.” Yes, the man is
still isolated and creepy. We wouldn’t have him any other way.
4. Fiona Apple:
Extraordinary Machine (Sony)
"'Please Please Please' is the
best song...with Fiona knocking out all the despair
about getting fucked over by the record companies."
The album that was delayed time and again and finally got a full reworking, save
for two tracks. Jon Brion’s original mix is certainly rawer, but Mike Elizondo’s
new version brought out all sorts of other goodness creeping about the same
songs. Both versions are highly enjoyable, but the official one is probably the
take most folks are going to hear. Extraordinary Machine is every bit as
grand as When The Pawn…, while turning in a few new directions as well.
“Please Please Please” is the best song on either version, with Fiona knocking
out all the despair about getting fucked over by the record companies.
5. Paul McCartney:
Chaos And Creation In The Backyard (Capitol)
McCartney stuns the entire world by recording an intimate and lush album devoid
of his usual faults that he’s been slipping into his albums for way too long
now. Credit producer Nigel Godrich for making Paulie play most of the parts
himself and actually telling him his shit stank. It’s the exact kick in the
balls that McCartney has needed for a long time. It even got him to change his
best song in years, “Riding To Vanity Fair,” from an uptempo rocker to an eerie,
slowed down and vicious tune. Let’s hope Macca keeps things moving this nicely.
6. Mattias IA Eklundh:
Freak Guitar The Road Less Traveled
Swedish guitar freak Mattias Eklundh wins the award for best album out of left
field this year. I’ve never been one for guitarist albums, save for Frank Zappa,
so I was ready to not be wowed when this one fell into my lap. The problem is,
Eklundh isn’t just a guitar stroker. He’s a talented musician with a knack for
wonderful melodies and playing guitar in ways I guarantee you’ve never heard
before. The “Fletch Theme” still kicks my ass. Guitar zaniness hasn’t sounded
this fresh in forever. More, please.
There’s A Fire (RCA)
Longwave received my first five-star album review on Bullz-Eye. I still think
it’s a great listen. High on atmospherics and musical experiments that pay off.
Another one with a bunch of songs that all have their own qualities to keep
things fresh and exciting. Some other folks didn’t get as into this one as me,
but that’s OK. If you recall, I refused to pray at the Kanye West altar, so I
know I still won in the end. You betcha.
8. Liz Phair: Somebody’s Miracle (Capitol)
Liz continues her pop queen career with this follow-up to Liz Phair. In
my opinion, it’s a much better album (though I did enjoy the former as well).
I’m just sick of her oldest fans – and I might as well count myself as one – who
do nothing but bitch about her old indie glory days and want her to keep making
Exile In Guyville. Stop whining already. She herself has said that’s
never going to happen, so take it or leave it. I’ll gladly take it, as I always
preferred Whip-Smart to Guyville, anyway. But Somebody’s
Miracle has many a fine moment, so kudos to Liz for doing what she wants.
9. Diamond Nights:
I liked this album because it made me feel like cherry pie, fireworks on the 4th
of July, a mermaid's tail, and the belly of the whale. While Diamond Nights
don't have the retro-'70s thing down pat, they do have a clutch (and you know
that's gotta be good) of groovy songs on this album. Those goofballs at MySpace
decided this stuff was Folk/Alternative on the band's profile. Folk? I'm thinkin'
Joan Baez when I hear that term. This ain't no Joan Baez. This is better. This
is pumpkin pie and cheesy fries. Amen.
10. Blusom: The Metapolitan (Second Nature)
This was the first album in 2005 that really perked up my ears. What Blusom does
is kind of hard to describe. Every song on this album is different from the
next, making it one of those sleeper indie pleasures. Suffice it to say, though,
that “Mayday” and “The Ticks: Tick, Tick, Tick” are two of the best songs you
undoubtedly didn’t hear this year. Oh, and this is the album whose final rating
got tinkered with at the old rag I used to write at, causing me to Hulk out in a
review over here. Praise be to Blusom.
Best Single of 2005
“Be My World,” Milky
Dance music has found its catchiest hit in a long time.
“Be My World” doesn’t wear out its welcome and has plenty of na-na-nas to keep
your feet a-tapping for full replay satisfaction. Thank you, XM satellite radio,
for grooving me so relentlessly. It was much enjoyed.
Best Reissue of 2005
Billy Joel: My Lives (Sony)
This is Billy Joel’s new box set, but don’t be fooled. Though there are expected
hits here, the bulk of this box is made up of alternate, demo, and live
versions. This is also Billy’s first complete career-spanning box, which means
you’ll also get tracks from his pre-solo bands the Hassles and Attila. Some of
these tracks have been available on bootlegs for years now, so it’s nice to
actually have them in cleaned up audio. It’s four discs in all, plus a fifth DVD
of a live concert during his River of Dreams tour. In all, a fantastic
treat for the Billy Joel fan and a much more interesting box set than his
The Best DJs Radio Has To Offer
Opie and Anthony on XM satellite radio. Forget Howard Stern and Sirius. Opie and
Anthony are far funnier, far more original, and far more entertaining pound for
pound than Howard Stern and his lame lineups of stripper guests and constant
bemoaning of his lack of penis size. You think he’s actually going to be better
over on Sirius? Wake up, people. Half a billion bucks isn’t going to make for a
good show. The Opie and Anthony Virus is the only thing that matters.
Most Overrated Goofball of 2005
Kanye West, undoubtedly. Some would have you believe this guy can do anything.
As I predicted, his obvious statement against the president was turned into
fodder for every year-end TV show out there. Gee, Kanye, what’s going to be your
next trick? Telling the US government that it needs better funding for its
education system? Man, you’ll really be the Second Coming if that’s the case.
Seriously, dude, your rap to Barbara Walters was pure gold. You really can do it
Worst Album of 2005
Storyteller – The Chronicles of William Osborn (Eastside Muzik)
A no-talent white boy makes a dim-witted rap album. No one cared who William
Osborn was or what happened in his chronicles. Can you say, “I gave away more
copies than I sold?” I knew that you could.