Friday, January 06, 2006

My Top Albums of 2005

For me, 2005 has been the best year in music of my entire life. I have found so many amazing new bands and want to share them with as many people as I can. So, this list is by no means an entire compilation of what I have listened to this year -- in fact, it is just the start. But the bands listed here are the best of the best. Some of them are newcomers that you may not have heard of, while others are mainstays who came out with decent albums this year. In any event, I hope you enjoy them.


10. Bright Eyes, "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning"Song to listen: "Road To Joy"Nebraska boy goes to big city, writes music, gets wasted a lot and pens two new albums that create a massive stir and connect with what many think is the new "Dylan." All connections to famous folk icons aside, his style of unique voicing and alt-country stylings coupled with his experiences singing back up for Emmylou Harris really make this album a fantastic edition to your shelves. Check out Maria Taylor and others on the Saddle Creek label and you will be surprised what you hear.

9. Sigur Ros, "Tak"What else can be said about this Icelandic band? Their music is created in an entirely different/made-up language. After taking quite a hiatus, this most recent effort shows that Sigur Ros was not just a momentary success, yet their music still has a vast impact on their fans and the new album will surely create a whole new found popularity.

8. Sun Kil Moon, "Tiny Cities"Song to listen: "Exit Does Not Exist" and "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes"Seeing Mark Kozelek or one of his concerts in person is a religious experience. Whether he is playing solo, which he frequently does prior to a tour in support of a new release, or if he is fully backed by two guitars and a string section, the music is an unbelievable experience. This album is head-scratching at first for novice Kozelek fans, but it pays homage to Indie mainstay, Modest Mouse and strips down songs from their catalog to their most pure and simple form. Where previously one may not have understood the lyrics or aim, Kozelek takes them to a previously unattainable place and creates an entirely new dimension where shimmering acoustic rock molds with country to form an allegorical and strikingly beautiful album.

7. Matt Pond PA, Several Arrows LaterSong to listen: "Halloween"Matt Pond PA is a chamber pop group based in Brooklyn, NY. This is their fifth album in as many years. It's emotional and melodic with strong hooks and a fine balance between angst and beauty.

6. Stars, "Set Yourself On Fire"Song to listen: "Your Ex-lover is Dead" (tied with Ageless Beauty)Yet another Canadian band that has made giant strides in the music industry, especially south in the United States. They have been listed as one of the best albums this year by Rolling Stones and a recent opening slot for Death Cab has firmly entrenched a whole new sea of fans in the US.

5. Iron & Wine with/ Calexico, "In the Reins"Song to Listen: "He Lays in the Reins"When Iron & Wine and the songs of Jim Beam created a stir in the folk movement a few years ago, many latched on for the exciting ride. His lyrics are amazing and beautiful comprised of touching guitar riffs. Last year's album, "Our Endless Numbered Days" made Iron & Wine players in the burgeoning scene followed by an appearance in the Garden State soundtrack cemented their abilities. Now they combine their efforts with Arizona icons, Calexico for a memorable album that combines the quiet folksy tunes created by Beam with the uptempo alt-country and latin beats of Calexico. If you have a chance to see them on tour, it is highly advised. On their San Francisco stop, an encore of "Wild Horses" saw Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon & Red House Painters) join the nearly eleven members on stage for an amazing end of a great concert.

4. Death Cab For Cutie, "Plans"When I heard Death Cab was coming out with a new album, I was a treaded on a bit of trepidation wondering what would be in store lyrically and musically. After being treated with well-created albums in the past four years, I felt like their time was coming to and end, mostly due to their surprising popularity and appearance on the teen love-fest OC. I felt for sure that had sealed their fate, and in fact, it has slowly built an entirely new fanbase that most hardcore Death Cab fans from years past would have never imagined...Ever. Nonetheless, Plans was also a delicious treat that has kept the same sounds lyrical genius of Death Cab relatively intact and in greater form than ever before. What sold me on Plans and remaining a diehard fan was seeing them live in concert at the Warfield in San Francisco. While teen girls sitting behind me constantly sang only to the new songs and bragged about their OC appearances, Death Cab forged on and continued to play a dynamic setlist of songs from many of their earlier works. Death Cab is not going anywhere soon and I actually am excited to see what lies next for their second mainstream label release.

3. Great Lake Swimmers, "Bodies & Minds"I stumbled upon this group opening for Feist in New York City at the famed Knitting Factory. The crowd was jammed into a section of the theatre that barely fit 200 and the sound emanating from the stage blew me away. After a bit of research into this Canadian newcomer, I found they are making quite the wave in the sadcore genre. While the music they create is nothing that we have not seen before, the production element and the lyrics that lie within their latest album thrust them to become one of my most treasured CDs of the year. Their first album was recorded in an abandoned grain silo while this disc was produced and recorded at St. Theresa's church in Long Beach Ontario. One of the most goosebump inducing songs I have heard all year is track three, "When it Flows" which displays beautiful lyrics and the lush rise of violins and cellos to back lead singer Tony Dekker's endearing and shy/reserved sounding voice.

2. Imogen Heap, "Speak For Yourself"For those not sure who this unusual name belongs to, just listen to the melodic sounds that punctuated the Garden State soundtrack from last year. Once the duality of Frou Frou, she has since spent the past year locked in her London home to create from scratch her newest single CD. Much like her Frou Frou song, "Let Go" which entranced an entirely new stateside audience, her current album features sweeping electronic textures and the best track has got to be, "Hide & Seek" which in is simplistic in its appearance. Heap sings a capella through a vocoder (voice processor) and creates multiple tracks of the same lyrics that make quite the catching song.

1. Sufjan Stevens, "Illinois"There are various reasons why Sufjan Stevens captures the number one spot for me this year. The concept of creating a CD about each state of the Union seems to be a flashy idea, but if there is any indication of what lies next solely based on the first two, than I am sold. The Illinois album richly connects a variety of musical themes and almost becomes a yearbook of derivatives from music past. Combining both his meaningful and well-resarched lyrics and his sensitive voice create an album that is sure to be enjoyed by many types of music lovers.


At 5:49 PM, Blogger Casey Dorrell said...

It's weird. When I first bought Sufjan Steven's Michigan I was secure in the knowledge that I was one of very, very few people on my island that owned it - and now a few years later, and ... well, yeah. He deserves it, though.

I'm a bit disapointed that no one liked Bright Eyes' other album. I always gravitated toward digital ash though I know it wasn't as well reviewed.


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