Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Best of 2005 | 2004 Redux

I figured a good way to start talking about my favorite albums of 2005 would be by updating the list of my favorite albums from 2004. The reason for this is also one of the reason I struggle with year-end lists. The fact is that I didn't stop buying 2004 albums when Dick Clark dropped his ball (although I guess, technically, Dick wasn't there last year due to his stroke) and I'm not done buying 2005 albums yet.

So, while we all call our lists "The Best of 2005", the real titles should be "The Best Albums of 2005 That We Bought in 2005". But that title is unwieldy so it's easier to just post an update a year later when I've had a chance to hear more 2005 albums.

Last year, here is what I posted on BigSoccer regarding my top albums of 2004:

1 Arcade Fire - Funeral
2 Ambulance Ltd
3 Of Montreal - Satanic Panic in the Attic
4 Old Crow Medicine Show - O.C.M.S.
5 Magnetic Fields - i
6 Giant Sand - All Over the Map
7 Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days
8 Hanalei - We're All Natural Disasters
9 Animal Collective - Sung Tongs
10 Tie - Wovenhand - Consider the Birds / Chris Stamey & Yo La Tengo - V.O.T.E.

I'm not touching the top four albums nor I&W's Our Endless Numbered Days but everything else is being wiped off that list. Not because they aren't good albums but because I discovered eight other 2004 albums this year that I liked more.

The other thing I'm changing is the numbering. A wise man named Chad visited me in the middle of the night during the holiday season and spun some sound logic about the foolishness of worrying about which album is #5 vs. #6. So, rather than ranking the albums, here is just a list of other 2004 albums that I really enjoyed this year:

Eux Autres | Hell is Eux Autres
Why They Made the List: I came upon this album late this year but it's dominated my iPod ever since. It's chock full of cool guitar riffs and singable pop hooks. That western-twangy riff in The Sundance Kid is worth the album alone but there is so much more to this album. I've gone a whole week with the line from "The Things They Carried" stuck in my head..."Fourteen hours a day. Ninety-five degrees in the shade."

Mitigating Factor:
That song "Carolina" is ponderous. A musical speed bump to the album. Plus, I don't understand why two people from Omaha feel compelled to sing in French.

Eux Autres - The Sundance Kid

The Black Keys | Rubber Factory
Why They Made the List: If the only good song on the album had been "10 A.M. Automatic", then I probably still would have included the album on this list. The song is that damn good. However, the album is packed with many rocked-up blues riffs that sound spanking fresh next to a lot of the smoother pop crap I play. Plus, their live show completely fulfilled my high expectations. More energy than Hydro-Quebec.

Mitigating Factor: While "The Lengths" is a highlight of the album, they seem to lose their way when they downshift for the slower songs. They start sounding like an ordinary neo-blues band. Thankfully, tracks like "Act Nice and Gentle" and "Keep Me" are exceptions to the greatness of this album.

The Black Keys | 10 A.M. Automatic

Les Breastfeeders | Déjeuner Sur L'Herbe
Why They Made the List: Les Breastfeeders perfectly nail the frantic pre-punk sound of 60's garage rock. The album somehow feels sophisticated and fun at the same time which is a tough combo to pull off. While they don't get the press that other Montreal and Canadian bands are getting these days, they are another cog in a cool Montreal music scene.

Mitigating Factor: Their whole website is in French without an English equivalent which makes it a pain in the ass to keep up with them. Plus, I think they lost their Québécois minds with the last track of the album. I have no idea what the hell they were thinking with "Concerto Pour Rien du Tout".

Les Breastfeeders | Mini-Jupe et Watusi

The New Year | The End Is Near
Why They Made the List: Before meeting New Year bass player, Mike Donofrio, earlier this year, I didn't know the Kadane brothers had formed a new band. So, having been a Bedhead fan in the 90's, I was jazzed to discover this album. Their sound is a continuation of Bedhead's earlier work but the quality of the tracks is more consistent from track to track than it was in the 90's. You can read my full review of the album for Seven Days here (however, right now, the links to all the reviews seem to be down).

Mitigating Factor: Geez, that bass player is a train wreck. Ha!

The New Year | Chinese Handcuffs

The Legends | Up Against the Legends
Why They Made the List: Imagine The Jesus & Mary Chain (circa Psychocandy) using tambourines and handclaps to tweak the poppiness of their songs and you get an idea of what The Legends sound like. Fuzzy guitars and that Swedish knack for writing hooks makes this album a fun listen.

Mitigating Factor: The fact that I could easily digest the songs and the lack of variety in the tracks allowed me to burnout on the album after a month or so. However, I'm listening to it right now after a long absence and it sounds great.

The Legends | Call It Ours

Bonnie "Prince" Billy | Sings Greatest Palace Music
Why It Made the List: This album is a wonderful combination of Bonnie "Prince" Billy's best songs and that beautiful sweeping studio sound that made Nashville famous. I hate the crap that gets passed for pop country these days but I have a soft spot for that older Nashville sound which BPB wrapped his catalog in for this album. I also love it when artsits rework their own songs into new creatures. It shows great musicianship.

Mitigating Factor: The album is BPB' equivalent of Yo La Tengo's Fakebook. A great stand alone album that non-BPB fans can easily embrace. However, it doesn't sound anything like his other albums so it doesn't work well as a gateway to his other albums.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy | Gulf Shores (follow the link)

Blanket Music | Cultural Norms
Why It Made the List: I don't know why I never blogged about these guys. I was turned onto them by the old Cranky Sales Clerk feature at Insound and it was a great suggestion. There aren't many indiepop bands that use jazz undertones for their songs. Therefore, the album has a nice fresh feeling. The quartet is from the thriving music scene of Portland, OR but have failed to gather the attention they deserve.

Mitigating Factor: The last three songs on the album stink the joint up. In the vinyl era, the album would have been released with only nine songs and it would have been fine. However, it's a good example of how the larger storage space of CDs leads bands to include superfluous crap.

Blanket Music | You Shouldn't Have Said That

The Hidden Cameras | Mississauga Goddamn
Why It Made the List: I didn't know about these crazy Torontonians until I heard Jens Lekman cover one of their songs at his Bennington show. Lekman described them as a very good band that is horrible at selling records. That seems to be an accurate description. Lush hooky chamber pop melodies combine with sing-along lyrics has made the album one of my favorites since October.

Mitigating Factor: The sing-along nature of the lyrics works against them at times when the lyrics are about cleaning out your boyfriend's underwear. Since reviewers tend to focus on those lyrics, as Lekman said, they are horrible at selling albums.

The Hidden Cameras | I Believe in the Good of Life


Jim said...

Nice list.

I think that Les Breastfeeders aren't/weren't hyped along with other Montreal bands because (a) they're a garage rock bands, and the garage rock revival is "passe" according to most indie kids, and (b) they sing in French. I've got to get around to ordering the CD from them. All I have are the tracks that I downloaded from their website, and every time I listen to those songs, I'm left thinking, "Damn, I want more!"

Flatlander said...

Those are good points; particularly the French vocals and packaging. That's probably why when you search on their name at The Hype Machine (http://hype.non-standard.net) you don't get a single match. Bloggers probably haven't picked up on these guys because they can't surf Les Breastfeeders site to find their free tracks. Or they just dismiss them because they have a silly name.

Plus, I also think their distribution stinks. The only place I can find to buy their album is via Bonsound which took a while to get the CD to me. If they were available via Insound or iTunes, perhaps it would be easier for folks to get the album. But people still have to hear about it before they are interested in buying it.

Anonymous said...

a train wreck huh?
watch it pal.

-that bass player