A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

WHO'S BETTER, WHO'S BEST:

TOP MUSIC 2005


It seems a fitting time to enter in this meme.

Your 2005 Song Is

Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani

"This shit is bananas B-A-N-A-N-A-S)"

For you, 2005 was the Best Year Ever.



All men have lists, and here is mine, so let it be known! We have been through hell and high tide and I think you can rely on me.

This year seems to have been dominated by boys with guitars, as well as the re-emergence of several '80s synth faves. There is a notable, but unintentional, absence of hip-hop, as well.

Albums



1. The Tears - Here Come The Tears: No surprise that this turned out to be my favorite album of the year. This record was almost too good, full of sonic fury and pleasure from start to finish. Granted, for me there is a bit of a nostalgic attachment, taking me back to 1993-94 when Suede were at their heyday, but this is more than a reunion of that band's songwriting partners where they try to relive something beyond their grasp, this is something new and more accomplished, like they returned to where they left off with plenty of lessons learned. I'll never tire of Here Come the Tears.



2. Erasure – Nightbird: People forget how good Erasure are as songwriters. They think of Andy Bell's flamboyance or get hung-up on the often retro sounding keyboard sounds, and they miss the amazing melodies, the devious hooks, and the pure emotion of Andy Bell's singing. A perfect pop record, rife with drama and passion that's been chewed with the sweetest of teeth.



3. Antony & the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now: Antony sings from someplace far beyond rational thought, in a zone of pure feeling. This record is dark without being depressing, and it's unafraid to swing its mood with great, arching gestures. Achingly gorgeous.

4. My Little Airport - because I was too nervous at that time...: Twee in all the right places, this second disc from the Hong Kong-based boy girl duo is like a teenage Stereolab with only an Atari 2600 to soothe their broken hearts.

5. Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel: The old guard is back, and on this long player, they found a way to wed their more mature recent output with the dance-floor pop of their first decade, creating music for a new era. The motto is "Pain & Suffering in Various Tempos," and as that would suggest, the classic Depeche Mode themes have returned for this disc. Love, pain, sin, and sex.

6. Kaiser Chiefs - Employment: Maximum R&B moved through an '80s prism, a lineage from The Kinks to The Jam and forward. Poptastic rock moments, guitars laced with sugar, and something bitter and sneering lurking in between.

7. Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better With...: A perfect example of how to follow up a highly successful debut. More of the same while being different enough not to be repetitive without alienating more fickle fans. The polish has been stripped down for more propulsive, dirty rhythms, while songs like "Eleonor Put Your Boots Back On" reveal a knack for charming melodies.

8. The Raveonettes - Pretty in Black: Like if Phil Spector didn't hold back, if his murderous tendencies got all mixed up with his romantic heart and then created this massive sound--which, really, is what Phil did when you think about it. And apparently The Raveonettes already did think about it, because they made a record that sounds scary but feels tender. It's like The Jesus & Mary Chain took off their leather jackets and put on tuxes to take me to prom.

9. Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine bootleg & retail editions: An interesting example of how an album might be released in the days of the internet. Early in the year, Fiona Apple's "finished" album leaked, presumably by the artist herself, and rumors that it was because the record company was holding it back, saying it wasn't commercial enough. Fans freaked out, we all loved it. It was polished and emotional and the most consistent effort Ms. Apple had produced so far. Eventually, virtually the same album came out legitimately, but re-recorded with a different producer. Debates ensued, which is better, which is worse? Fiona declared it was she who was unhappy, not the label. All fun drama, all unimportant if the record wasn't so punchy and good. Either version works fine, but they work best together--the title track nearly closing the original and then repeating as it opens the second, both running together.

10. Gorillaz - Demon Days: I didn't like this at first. Some of it felt unfinished, Danger Mouse's production didn't have the sass of Dan the Automator, and so many other reasons. But I kept listening, and listening, and suddenly I was part of this amazing concept album, hoodwinked by Damon Albarn's uncanny musical sense, and now I can admit what a fool I was.

11. The Coral - The Invisible Invasion
12. New Order – Waiting for the Sirens' Call
13. Idlewild – Warnings/Promises
14. M.I.A. – Arular
15. Paul Weller - As Is Now
16. Girls Aloud - Chemistry
17. Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock & Roll
18. The Cardigans - Super Extra Gravity
19. Garbage - Bleed Like Me
20. Neil Diamond - 12 Songs
21. House of Love – Days Run Away
22. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
23. Brian Eno - Another Day on Earth
24. Oasis - Don't Believe The Truth
25. Madonna - Confessions on a Dancefloor



The year's greatest disappointment had to come in the "Super" category. As mentioned on this blog before, both Supergrass and Super Furry Animals turned in less than good efforts. Robbie Williams, Missy Elliott and Starsailor should thank them for making their mediocre records look better. The most overrated bands of the year are easily The Magic Numbers, Kanye West, and Babyshambles. Forget Pete Doherty's drug use, I hope he goes back to jail so he can't record anymore. The music is the real crime.

I don't include best-of compilations on this list, so I'd like to single out the best collection of the year: the three-disc Luke Haines retrospective, Luke Haines is Dead, covering his career as part of The Auteurs, its spin-off Baader Meinhoff, and his solo records. Despite its sprawling length, every track is a gem, and after going from one end of it to the other, I always want to start it over again. Runner-up is Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' equally huge B-Sides & Rarities, chronicling the band's more experimental, often thrilling parallel career. A must for anyone who loves the albums.

Singles



1. Paul Weller - "From The Floorboards Up": I don't know where it came from, but Weller found a blistering riff at the bottom of an old suitcase and cracked it into the best single of his solo career. Two minutes and twenty-seven seconds that always sound like they happened right then for the very first time no matter how many times you hear them.



2. New Order – "Krafty": I don't normally look to New Order for entries in the "seize the day" song genre, but this ditty makes me feel giddy. I want to jump around and go start a rumble with some teenagers.



3. The Tears – "Refugees": Brett Anderson perfected this sort of you-and-me-against-the-world anthem on Suede's last three records (and not coincidentally, they are always the first single and the first track on the album). Little did he know that when he put his formula together with ex-partner Bernard Butler's McAlmont & Butler production style, they'd have the greatest candy chewable since Reese's married chocolate and peanut butter.

All of my top 3 make me feel like it's great to be alive, which is exactly what a great pop single should do.

4. Girls Aloud - "Biology": Saloon piano, pleading and insistent, gives over to an expressway rhythm, breathlessly spitting out the maximum of words, breaking back into a cruise for the pre-chorus, then back to the shouty insistence with a little call-and-response, and we've only hit the first chorus and we're back at the start to do it all over again.

5. Depeche Mode - "A Pain That I'm Used To": I love the way this starts all harsh. If you're not ready for it, and if the stereo is turned up loud, it will likely scare the shit out of you. But then it settles and begins to prowl, Dave Gahan all sexy swagger. He tells us what he needs by way of seduction, playing on our worst emotions like he wants to lick them off our chest. Or is that just me?

6. Kaiser Chiefs - "I Predict a Riot": This wins as the song you swear you heard before, sometime back in high school, but no, really it's brand new, and it's rip-snortin' good. It sounds like what it predicts.

7. Gwen Stefani - "Hollaback Girl": Well, The Neptunes apparently had a little kick left in them. Handclaps and drumlines and the goofiest phrasing of the year (see the above meme). You have to give it to Gwen. Have to. (It must be the uncensored version, though.)

8. The Coral - "In The Morning": The only thing remotely Caribbean-sounding on this list. Damn if this song just isn't breezy. It's kind of about nothing, about feeling good when you wake up, it's-a-fresh-day crap, and yet it does the trick. Try it tomorrow at 6 a.m.

9. Gorillaz - "DARE": Oh, mighty Shaun Ryder. You were a cartoon before the Gorillaz were cartoons. You know it, I know it, and so it fits that you would join them and show them how it's done. "It's comin' up, it's comin' up...!"

10. Kaiser Chiefs - "Everyday I Love You Less and Less": Seriously, I had a bad day this past week and it involved someone else and I wanted to be mad and not be sad, and this song saved my goddamn life. Congrats to the Chiefs for being the first repeat offenders on this year's singles list!

11. Idlewild – "Love Steals Us From Loneliness"
12. The Killers - "All These Things I Have Done"
13. Erasure – "Don't Say You Love Me"
14. The Tears - "Lovers"
15. Franz Ferdinand - "Do You Want To"
16. Saint Etienne - "Side Streets"
17. Garbage – "Why Do You Love Me?"
18. Gorillaz - "Feel Good Inc."
19. Antony & the Johnsons - "Hope There's Someone"
20. Depeche Mode - "Precious"
21. Madonna - "Hung Up"
22. Gwen Stefani - "Cool"
23. Franz Ferdinand - "The Fallen"
24. The Ordinary Boys - "Boys Will Be Boys"
25. Kylie – "Giving You Up"



The Tears are also the champs for the best B-sides of the year. "Breakaway," "The Primitive," "Feels Like Monday," "Southern Rain," "Song for the Migrant Worker," etc. Seven songs in all, themselves all good enough to be on the album. (Well, maybe only if "Because You're Worthless" is placed in exactly the right spot....)

2005 wasn’t so bad. There were a lot of records I really, really liked. And if advance leaks of Cat Power, Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell, and Belle & Sebastian are any indicators, and with Morrissey, Brett Anderson, and Jarvis Cocker all promising new solo reords, 2006 has a lot of potential.

Lists from Previous Years: Only 2003 appears to still be online since the Oni redesign dumped all my old columns, and 2004 was a skip year since my computer crashed right when I was planning to do it and put me out of commission. Still, interesting to see where I was two years ago and how some names keep popping up.

Current Soundtrack: a playlist of the singles listed above

Current Mood: cold

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication



[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich

5 comments:

Chris Tamarri said...

Alright, so maybe you were right about that overlapping record collection thing. From your list, I've only got four: Antony & the Johnstons, Fiona, M.I.A. and Bloc Party.

Apropos of nothing, Silent Alarm Remixed may be (maybe) better than the actual album. I'm just sayin'.

By the way, I just saw Fiona last night, and you should absolutely go too if you like EM (or either of the previous two, for that matter). She knocked me on my ass. I feel kinda guilty saying that I enjoyed the show, since it seemed like she was having a nervous breakdown from, like, the third song on; I was afraid it was going to be one of those Fiona Apple shows. But it turned out all right. With the exception of a charming version of the title track, there wasn't much musical variation from recording to performance. But live, she really emphasized the conversational phraseology of a lot of the lyrics, renewing the emotional center of these songs, many of which I've heard hundreds of times. Afterwards, I bought a t-shirt, which I never do at shows anymore.

And I'm disappointed to hear you call Kanye overrated. Have you heard "Gone", off the new record? It's the sort of song that makes me thank God for ears. It's probably the most prominent appearance of Jon Brion on the record, but the nice part is that the two really compliment each other, both right at the front of the stage but neither trying to shove the other towards the wings. Honestly, I could take or leave much of the rest of Late Registration, but that song's totally indespensible.

Shawn T Lippert said...

I have come about your blog while doing a search for Antony And The Johnsons. Thank You for the Review.
Daily Impressions

Jamie S. Rich said...

Chris, I'll listen to that song again on its own. I've listened to the Kanye album a couple of times and find it overlong and indistinct. I would post, though, if even you feel that he has one great song and the rest you can take or leave, doesn't that make him pretty much overrated to you, too? :)

And welcome, Shawn!

Anonymous said...

Erasure's Nightbird most certainly should win for one of the best album covers of the year. Absolutely beautiful!

Chris Tamarri said...

Yeah, I guess, if you wanna be all literal about it and shit.

Rassum frassum logic...