Holly's 2005 Musical Charts – Albums
Ooooh, I love a good end of year collection of lists.
I intended to write a top ten albums and a top twenty tracks. In the end I couldn't contain myself and wrote a top twenty albums and two top twenty track lists (which get their own entry avec explanation). Was it a particularly good year this year? Well yes and no. As has been often said, I err towards guitar bands but never intentionally close an ear to other stuff. But there were no rap albums that particularly inspired me, very little really consistently good dance (I think Mylo's album came out last year but I could be wrong) and a general sloppiness in pop. It's been the case that the boys and girls with guitars have been consolidating the bizarre takeover that dates back to roughly the middle of 2001.
Much as I dislike bowing to NME unconditionally, it probably was largely due to their obsessiveness over the Strokes, White Stripes and (dare I say it) the Libertines which is responsible for this state of affairs. Bands are being signed which would not otherwise have had a look in. Think back to 2000 and which of the albums of the year from the list below would have been released in that environment? Possibly Kaiser Chiefs as it is the most unashamedly 'pop' of the bunch, and probably Elbow, Doves and Sigur Ros if only because they make a sort of music which exists outside of fashion, more mature and thoughtful. But that's four out of sixteen. Even the token dance album, The Go! Team, is so much better and so different to the generic, dull trance craze of 2000 that it's unlikely it would have made it. In their case we can thank the Avalanches not the Strokes but what year did Since I Left You come out? 2001.
Anyway, four years later we're in a state where intelligence in music is no sin (a personal bug bear, I hate anti-intellectualism) and a bit of ambition is now allowed and justifiable. A place where, I think anyway, it's more relevant music. The songs are speaking to me in a volume which I've not really felt since the mid-nineties when stuff like 'Design For Life' and 'Waking Up'* was lyrically pertinent and musically brilliant.
So shut up 'cos I'm right and you're not. And if you'll believe that, you'll believe anything, nothing is more important than having your own opinion and I'll probably only get angry if your list is identical to mine or contains crap. And we all know who I mean when I say that…
Ten Twenty Albums
- Arcade Fire - Funeral
Could anything more perfect be imagined? From the moment Housemate:Katie barged into my room and forced it into my CD player it has been love. I almost never fall in love with a song first time. But I did with all ten. Recorded in a bucket by angels from Texas, Canada and Haiti. Often I um and err about my annual favourite. This year, no arguements.
Sheer Beauty Award
- Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
NME hype band in justified accolades shock. Yes, it is as good as they think. Possibly better. Those are damn fine lyrics and it's nice to see one of these new arty rock bands having some sonic ambition beyond sounding like they were recorded by a half deaf moose on crystal meth. Sounds and lyrics explode across the room. Very very danceable.
Intelligent Music Award
- The Rakes - Capture/Release
Funny? Oh yes, it's in the way he sings, like he's terrified of the modern urban graduate experience, but can't escape. Slightly worrying for a soon-to-be-graduate but shit happens, eh? Loving the spikiness.
Spiky Music Award
- British Sea Power - Open Season
Bonkers. Utterly bonkers. Who sings elegic songs about icebergs? Seriously. Well these nutters do, and do so with bug eyed passion which is always helpful. Ace bass (always important).
Madmen Loose Award
- Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better
I do think this is as good as the first. No, I think it's better. So that's a minority view but everything is bigger here. Bigger soundwise, more ambitious, more adventurous. Could we really have had it better? Maybe… but not this time.
We've Not Cocked Up The Follow Up Award
- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The weirdest, most outright insane album of the year. Scary man sings inaudible paranoia about modern life to the most inventive explosion of conventional instruments I've heard recently. Like Arcade Fire only in that you can't really compare them to anyone else.
What The Actual? Award
- The Go! Team - Thunder Lightning Strike
Ok, so it was sort of released last year (I am a cheat) but this was it's year. Excellent album in that you can give to anyone as a present and they will enjoy it. Or at least they will if they've got a soul and the desire to smile once in a while. Something new on every listen.
Smile Like You Mean It Award
- Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
Literate pop (yes, it is pop) continues to flow free and happy throughout the western hemisphere and Maximo Park are contributing. Even the more generically "indie" sounding songs on here have, after a few listens, more depth than the Indian Ocean. And regional accents are cool!
It's Dead Good Like - Geordie - Award
- Editors - The Back Room
The British Interpol, which is a bit rich considering how desperate Interpol are to be British themselves, this lot are the gloomy yet curiously optimistic masters of echoey guitars and pragmatic doom-mongering for 2005. Dance is a jerky but mopey way.
Doomy But Roomy Award aka, Hear My Guitar's Echo Pedal Award
- Elbow - Leaders Of The Free World
These songs burned so slowly into my brain that I almost didn't realised how much I loved them. A tribute, warts and all, to Manchester and its many and varied foibles. Occasionally induces homesickness, but in a good way.
Ay Up Our Kid Award
- Hard Fi - Stars Of CCTV
Disparagingly referred to as chav indie in the Boar, this is better than that name suggests. The snobbery is misplaced as this is not an unabashed celebration of the modern working class life, but an attempt to find the good and accept the bad in it. At times it sounds like the score to a film on the matter rather than a rock album. This is a good thing.
Urban Soundscape Award
- Kaiser Chiefs - Employment
Palls a bit in large doses but in smaller ones it is pure pop perfection from people who aren't ashamed to be both clever and dumb. A more detached version of the Britain which so terrifies Bloc Party and Hard-Fi, but the detachment doesn't mean you cna't imagine what it must be like on a Friday night in town.
Blurry Vision Award
- Doves - Some Cities
Another ode to Manchester but with the added melancholy dictated by having lived in its
bitchcommuter towns and the desperation to get out that inhabitants of lively places, like London, just cannot understand. Optimistic and bruised is a good description. Pushing at the boundaries of what can be done with guitars and a bloke who can only really sing a little bit, is another. Both are relevant.
I Remember Why I Left Home Award
- Sigur Ros - Takk
As my brother (who I would never have had down as a Sigur Ros fan three years ago) said there are two ways of enjoying this album. Either let it wash over you as a background noise which genuinely does calm the savage beast. Or actually listen to it in which case the evocative wooshes and pings drag the listener to somewhere altogether more spooky but reassuring.
Ice Cave Award
- LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem
Dance music is dead, long live music you can dance to! As arch and funny as most music is flat, here was a chance for indie kids to actually shake those arses. Infectious and generous, you get two good albums for the price of one with this.
LCD Soundsystem Are Playing At My House Award
- Sons And Daughters - The Repulsion Box
Scary Scots do songs about murder and sleazy sounding encounters in dark dark alleyways. Perfect for those who want to feel a little bit wrong. Also the best use of a mandolin since R.E.M. and possibly ohne of the sexiest sounding singers around.
Don't Look Behind You Award
- The Departure - Dirty Words
Preening and a little calculating with erratic single choices… but still a promising debut. The most overtly early 1980s sounding of the new post punk bands but they had the charisma to carry it off. Also get bonus points for playing Warwick.
Looking Good For Album Two Award
- The Features - Exhibit A
Almost totally overlooked, this was angsty but self assured indie which lashed breakneck tunes to a decent keyboardist, something which a lot of the other albums of the year lacked. The singer sounds like he can't decide whether to cry or scream which is always good.
No One Else Cares About Them (Wrongly) Award
- Hot Hot Heat - Elevator
Nothing as brilliant as bandages but few can match that, this was more hysterically vocalled stuff with a danceable beat driving it on. They've also, it seems, learned how to do the slower songs well which has opened up some interesting new avenues and some good tunes.
Best Canadian Band Which Is Actually Mostly Made Up Of Canadians Award**
- Mercury Rev - The Secret Migration
More conventional than their last effort but no worse for it. Ever-so-slightly off kilter pop shot through with enough self awareness to save it from being po-faced mumbling.
Tree Huggers (cos trees hug back in our world) Award
As ever there are albums which just missed out. The National's Alligator is nice and mellow but lacks a killer track; Clor's Clor was very funky and promising but only really came alive in concert; System Of A Down were quite unlucky to miss out with both albums but this could be because I came to them late in the year; and Athlete's Tourist was coasting albeit on the back of a couple of wonderful flashes of brilliance.
And then there were those bands who messed up. What was with the new Idlewild album? The lead single, 'Love Steals Us From Loneliness' was really really good, possibly one of their best ever. But by-and-large the rest was a let down, all wannabe R.E.M. when Idlewild were better because they weren't trying to be R.E.M., merely influenced by them. And The Bravery were a letdown after a couple of good singles, their album turned out to be no substance and not as much style as they thought. Their spat with the Killers was hilarious though as the Bravery are a more exaggerated Killers, more eyeliner, more preening and more painfully average away from the obvious singles on the album. Though I reckon the Killers might be able to pull off a good second album, I really doubt the Bravery can.
So it was a good album year in which I once again caused my mother to ask "Don't you think you have enough CDs?"
*By Manic Street Preachers and Elastica respectively, these are also my favourite and second favourite song of all time.
**The main Arcade Fire members are Texan and Haitian.