To all of you shameless, pop-cult addicts out there...you know who you are...each and every one of you are undoubtedly looking forward to the infinite number of "Best of" lists rolled out this time of year. Am I right? Come on. Tell me I'm not the only one. Nearly every newspaper, magazine, webzine, independent critic and lowly blogger will soon be rolling out their definitive choices, and this being my first opportunity to publish such a list, do you think I'm gonna pass this up? Lucky you, all three of you.
As I'm writing, the more I'm realizing this will have to be a series of postings. For example, there are far too many movies this year I haven't seen yet to compile any sort of self-respecting film list. And I have some other "Best of" categorical ideas to toss around as well. Fun, fun!! So Part One will be solely dedicated to music released in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Five. Of course, just to the right you'll see I've already been running a list of my favorite albums of the year, so you can't expect too many surprises. But do read on, as this list will be in sequential order and feature brief, critical commentary!!
And so begins the 1st Annual JTM's Best of 2005.
10. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
The only debut album on the list wins the prize for highest percentage of catchy pop songs (see #5 for close second). I dare you not to tap your finger! The release was preceded by the British media's standard parade of hype, but they were pretty much on target this time.
Favorite track: Price of Gas
9. Gang of Four - Entertainment! (Re-release)
Originally released in 1979, Entertainment! continues Rhino Records excellent run of re-releases by putting out this re-mastered version of the Gang's highly influential post-punk (funk) album. The sound is fantastic, the extra tracks are worth a new purchase, indeed the entire album holds up amazingly well...perhaps even more so considering how so many of the current crop of indie bands completely ripped 'em off (see #10 as well as Franz Ferdinand, et al.)
Favorite track: Anthrax
8. My Morning Jacket - Z
Z marks a significant move in a new and exciting direction for My Morning Jacket; much more varied in style than prior releases and all the better for it. But their trademarks such as Jim James' otherworldly voice remain front 'n center and a few of the tunes climax in mesmerizing guitar jams, though much more abbreviated. A huge step forward for an already great band.
Favorite track: Lay Low
7. Antony & The Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now
That Voice!! What else can you say? Sparse songs, sorrowful yet hopeful lyrics, and that fucking amazing voice. A slew of guest stars including Boy George, Rufus Wainwright and Lou Reed! This album was my first exposure to Antony and I was blown away. Missed him when he came to town, but I won't next time.
Favorite track: Fistful of Love
6. Devendra Banhart - Cripple Crow
More produced than his previous efforts and the songwriting keeps getting better and better. Comes across as a bit more rockin' than his usual low-fi folk tunes and as such, is probably all the more accessible for those unfamiliar to his music. I've been playing this one non-stop since its release and seeing Devendra perform many of these songs live only increased my adoration.
Favorite track: Long Haired Child
5. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
The supergroup from across the border has released yet another album of hook-filled pop epics. As infectious as pop music gets. Every member, including my personal favorite Neko Case, makes a strong contribution while not letting their influence overwhelm. Alternate title: "Pop Hooks for Dummies." If only they hadn't canceled their show in Minneapolis!!
Favorite track: Sing Me Spanish Techno
4. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday
They may call NYC their home base now, but Craig Finn (formerly of Lifter Puller) isn't shy about his Minneapolis roots. Raucous rock 'n roll guitars combined with Finn's distinctive talking-in-stream-of-consciousness singing style...it all sounds remarkably fresh amidst other current rock acts. Plus, its always fun to identify as many Twin Cities references as possible.
Favorite track: How A Resurrection Really Feels
3. The Fiery Furnaces - EP
I'm still trying to warm up to the Furnaces'...shall we say difficult, 2005 release Rehearsing My Choir. But in the meantime, I can't stop playing their EP from earlier this year. In actuality, EP is a full-length compilation of older songs including leftovers from the Blueberry Boat sessions. LEFTOVERS?! Regardless of the context, this album plays like a greatest hits that never were and is by far the most user-friendly of their catalogue.
Favorite track: Single Again
2. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
Sure to be seen on many "Best of" lists this year, and deservingly so. How to best describe? Lets try : grand, epic, folk vaudeville by multi-talented singer/songwriter/intrumentalist. These types of brazen concept albums can often result in nothing but a swollen ego gone wild, but then again, they can also produce instant classics such as this. He can't do all 50 states, can he? If anyone can, Sufjan can!
Favorite track: The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!
1. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
Already legendary in the world of indie music, with several great albums to their credit, Sleater-Kinney wasn't expected to surprise anyone at this point, right? They had already established an outstanding style of invigorating and politically charged, punkish tunes. So it goes. Along comes their Sub Pop release, The Woods, produced by David Friedman (of Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev fame among others) and reportedly influenced by the like of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix. Is that a classic rock influence?!?! Is that an 11 minute song?? Are worlds colliding? But still, the chicks from Washington state somehow still sound so much like themselves, the fury and passion they bring to the table here is incredible. I was already a big fan but for me, this came out of nowhere, shook me by the collar and frankly, hasn't let go ever since. And that is what makes it THE best album of 2005.
Favorite track: Jumpers
Honorable Mentions: Animal Collective - Feels; Spoon - Gimme Fiction; Stephen Malkmus - Face The Truth; Silver Jews - Tanglewood Numbers; Lucinda Williams - Live @ The Fillmore; Iron & Wine - Woman King (EP); Deerhoof - The Runners Four; Wilco - Kicking Television: Live in Chicago; Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary; Mogwai - Government Commissions (BBC Sessions 1996-2003); M83 - Before The Dawn Heals Us;