Friday, July 08, 2005

RT20 Special Report: The Best of 2005 (So Far)

It’s hard to believe that half of 2005 has slipped out of the hourglass already. There’s been a lot of crazy shit this year, and perhaps nothing is crazier than the amount of good music that’s landed on my desk. Some years by the halfway point, I’m struggling to find even 10 albums that are contenders for the year end Top 20. In 2005, I have 30 albums to consider. (And I have advances of a few more due out in the next two months that I know will battle for a spot.) So since lots of people have done their own lists at the halfway point, I thought I’d join the in crowd and put it up (in alphabetical order) on ye old site. And for those wondering what singles have been spinning in the radio in my brain (and have Itunes) check out my Top 20 singles playlist here. Enjoy, and happy shopping!

Aqueduct - I Sold Gold (Barsuk)
I admit it—hearing these guys on The O.C. made me dig out this album from the pile in my desk. Please accept my apologies for being more cliché than usual. Check out: “Growing Up With GNR,” “Hardcore Days and Softcore Nights”

Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock and Roll (Fierce Panda)
Gloriously stupid, yet somehow wickedly smart at the same time British rock that is highly unoriginal, buy highly entertaining. Check out: “Emily Kane,” “Good Weekend”

Beck - Guero (Interscope)
The latest from Mr. Hansen almost seems like a career-spanning greatest hits disc that touches upon all of the styles of music he’s dabbled in since Odelay. Check out: “Girl,” “E-Pro”

Brendan Benson - The Alternative to Love (V2)
Likely best known for his friendship with The White StripesJack White, Benson is just as strong a songwriter as his Detroit compadre. He makes catchy songs about love--well, a lack of love--that stick in your brain for days. Check out: “Cold Hands (Warm Heart),” “The Pledge”

Bloc Party - Silent Alarm (Vice/Atlantic)
Yet another UK band that somehow lived up to its buzz. I think these guys have a few 80s albums in their collection. Check out: “Helicopter,” “Banquet”

Brazilian Girls - Brazilian Girls (Verve Forecast)
With only one girl and no one from Brazil (as far as I can tell) this band name is pretty much a lie. However, this quartet does make fun, danceable music that I think could only happen in New York. Check out: “Pussy,” “Lazy Lover”

Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (Saddle Creek)
I was way late to the Conor Oberst party, but I glad I caught on. One beautiful folk-rock song after another, with great vocal help from Emmylou Harris. Check out: “Road to Joy,” “Land Locked Blues”

Bright Eyes - Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (Saddle Creek)
The electronic side of Mr. Oberst isn’t as powerful (or personal, if one looks at the lyrics) as I’m Wide Awake, but it’s rare nowadays for an artist to put out two high quality albums in one year, let alone one. Check out: “Gold Mine Gutted,” “Easy/Lucky/Free”

The Decemberists - Picaresque (Kill Rock Stars)
Yet another band that just popped up on my radar in 2005. Frontman Colin Meloy pairs up well-crafted melodies with lyrics that tell a complex story in each and every song. The album that never fails to make me feel somewhat happy. Check out: “We Both Go Down Together,” “16 Military Wives”

Mike Doughty - Haughty Melodic (ATO)
The ex-Soul Coughing singer always had a great way with words, and this disc is no exception. Check out: “Looking at the World Through the Bottom of a Well,” “Busting Up a Starbucks”

Doves - Some Cities (Capitol)
This British trio is three for three in compelling albums. Check out: “Black and White Town,” “Snowden”

Kathleen Edwards - Back to Me (Zoe/Rounder)
Canada’s answer to Lucinda Williams delivers an even better set of songs with her second album. Check out: “In State,” ”Back to Me”

eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (Vagrant)
Mastermind e has served up a two disc masterpiece of songs about death, life…and stoplights? Check out: “Losing Streak,” “Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living)”

Eisley - Room Noises (Reprise)
The singing Dupree sisters have the best harmony blend I’ve heard in years. And they write pretty songs to boot. Check out: "I Wasn't Prepard," "Marvelous Things"

Electric Six - Senor Smoke (Warner Music UK)
Detroit’s best band returns with another dose of rock songs that make you laugh and pump you fist at the same time. (Alas, it’s still available only as an import.) Check out: “Dance Epidemic,” “Jimmy Carter”

Garbage - Bleed Like Me (Geffen)
Welcome back Shirley Manson and company, we’ve missed you. Check out: “Why Do You Love Me,” “Bad Boyfriend”

The Gentlemen - Brass City Band (TGRC)
A long-time RT20 favorite returns with their most diverse album to date. This disc single handedly kicked off my Stones rediscovery phase earlier this year, it’s that good. Check out: “Flame for Hire,” “Three-Minute Marriage Proposal”

Hot Hot Heat - Elevator (Sire)
Here’s another band not afraid to plumb material from the ’80s. And being from Canada is always a plus in my book. Check out: “Running Out of Time,” “You Owe Me an IOU”

Ivy - In the Clear (Netwerk)
Cool, sophisticated, female-fronted pop never sounded so good as it does in this Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) side project. Check out: “Thinking About You,” “Tess Don’t Tell”

Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak (RCA)
Are they southern rock crossed with The Strokes? Some say they are. I say I enjoy the album, but like the Strokes, have no idea what the singer is saying in any song. Check out: “The Bucket,” “Taper Jean Girl”

Ben Lee - Asleep Is the New Awake (New West)
Perhaps more singer-songwriters need to date and then break up with Claire Danes to improve their songwriting. Check out: “We’re All in This Together,” “Catch My Disease”

Louis XIV - The Best Little Secrets Are Kept (Atlantic)
The best tribute to--or ripoff of?--T. Rex I’ve heard in years. Check out: “Finding Out True Love Is Blind,” “A Letter to Dominique”

Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins (Polyvinyl Records)
Here’s one more group that was under my radar until this year. One quirky pop song after another that will take me another six months to digest and write about. Check out: “The Party’s Crashing Us,” “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and other Games”

Graham Parker & The Figgs - Songs of No Consequence (Bloodshot Records)
Finally, after three great tours together, these guys team up in the studio with incredible results. Check out: “Vanity Press,” “Dislocated Life”

Queens of the Stone Age - Lullabies to Paralyze (Interscope)
No Dave Grohl on drums this time, but still damn powerful. Check out: “Tangled Up in Plaid,” “Little Sister”

Josh Rouse - Nashville (Rykodisc)
Yes, the world does need another great divorce album. And it’s this one. Check out: “It’s the Nighttime,” “Carolina”

Spoon - Gimme Fiction (Merge)
Finally, an album that lives up to all the critical buzz heard months before its release. Check out: “Sister Jack,” “My Mathematical Mind”

System of a Down - Mezmerize (American/Columbia)
Perhaps the hard rock album of the year, and maybe this century. Check out: “B.Y.O.B.,” “Cigaro”

Martha Wainwright - Martha Wainwright (Zoe/Rounder)
Hey, Rufus’s little sister can write some good depressing songs too! Check out: “BMFA,” “These Flowers”

The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan (Third Man/V2)
It doesn’t rock as hard as Elephant, and it doesn’t need to. Marimba never sounded so heavy. Check out: “My Doorbell,” “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,
This is a really great site. Sorry it's taken me so long to check it out. You must continue your "self-promotion" emails.