December 20, 2005

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…

Top Ten Twenty Albums

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. Doves - Some Cities

    Another ode to Manchester but with the added melancholy dictated by having lived in its bitch commuter 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

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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**

  20. 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?"

No.

*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.


- 28 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Simon

    A decent list Holly, but I felt that there were many glaring omissions. Firstly, where was 'Don't Believe the Truth'??? Yet another excellent album from Oasis which has been disregarded because of their 'un-coolness.' Secondly, 'X&Y must merit a place in the top 20 – even if it is simply because of 'Fix You.' I was also shocked to see that 'Down in Albion' is missing until I realised that in a previous blog you had said that Pete Doherty can't sing in tune. Given that the frontmen of the Rakes, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, and the Arcade Fire can barely be described as singers it seems a little odd to discount the lyrical genius of Pete Doherty. Also, how did Bloc Party manage to get into the number 2 position?! It seems to me that they have become the natural successors to the Manics with their 'trying to be political – actually sounding stupid' lyrics. Apart from those comments, I actually think it was a good list.

    20 Dec 2005, 14:03

  2. Yes, go healthy debate!

    Oasis Never been a fan but I will give credit where it's due DBTT sounds better than most recent stuff, and 'The Importance Of Being Idle' is a good song. Still, not enough to dislodge any of the top twenty.
    Coldplay Again, not a massive fan, and 'Fix You' is a top tune, but it seemed less diverse than previous efforts. I can imagine most of the tracks would be better live as I've seen them live and that's where they are amazing.
    Babyshambles I'm a fan of the Libertines and some Babyshambles is good but he's just too sloppy for my liking. Yes, he is a good lyricist and that's the problem. He's capable of better hence he's not here.
    Bloc Party as the new Manics Suits me. It'll be uncool to like Bloc Party in a few years I reckon but I've put up with being mocked for being a Manics fan for a while now so I don't care. I'm glad someone else has made that link though, and intrigued that it's negative. People are forever comparing bands favourably, but when they get compared unfavourably as well, that's when an argument seems somewhat more valid.

    Would I be correct in assuming Oasis, Coldplay and Babyshambles constitute a major part of your top albums list? If so, it's a damn good thing we've got the state of affairs where there is so much guitar music worth arguing about. I love a good debate on music… roll on 2006.

    20 Dec 2005, 14:54

  3. Simon

    So the fact that Pete Doherty is capable of better means that he's automatically taken out of contention?! Doesn't that mean that any band which fails to live up to past glories – and as you commented Hot Hot Heat have done – should be ruled out?

    I personally dislike the Manics. Not only do I feel that their Socialist lyrics try just a little bit too hard to be controversial (I'm thinking about the shooting fascists line in particular) but I also think that after the disappearance of Richie Edwards they lost their edge and became mediocre.

    You're right in saying that Oasis, Coldplay and Babyshambles would constitute a major part of my list but I agree with you that the Arcade Fire's album has been the best of this year. Another artist which I think could have made it onto your list is Devendra Banhart – who delivered a touching album.

    20 Dec 2005, 15:14

  4. Starbuck

    Wot no Gorillaz?

    20 Dec 2005, 15:33

  5. why should i sign in?

    there is stuff missing i would say definitely but thts just because i listen to what is in anyone elses ears total and utter shite. but oh well. it disturbs me that i have heard of only 7 of these bands and heard music by about two. oh well. hides in a corner from holly's rock music wrath

    20 Dec 2005, 16:01

  6. So the fact that Pete Doherty is capable of better means that he's automatically taken out of contention?!

    No, apologies for not being clear, I think he's capable of better but that has no bearing on the fact that Down In Albion isn't Top 20 material. Didn't hear Devendra's album (aside from 'Like A Child' which I liked) so that's my bad for not getting round to it. Ditto Gorillaz.

    And #5, I don't think Tori Amos released an album this year. Sorry.

    20 Dec 2005, 18:00

  7. Solid choices there :)

    I'm not sure what to make of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. I gave them a listen after someone told me there was a clear Radiohead influence, but I'm not convinced!

    20 Dec 2005, 20:59

  8. 22nd february cruise and a sold out world tour off the back of it so ner :P

    20 Dec 2005, 22:08

  9. Moz

    Still got 4 albums to buy from this year, so can't do my 2005 albums yet, but the Northern Quarter in Manchester's getting hit when I next get paid…

    A bit of an 'indie' list there- the Elbow album is excellent (there's something cool about listening to Station Approach and Forget Myself while strolling round the capital of the North), but the Sigur Ros one didn't impress me as much as (). Probably need to give it another listen.

    Albums to look forward to next year- Tool, Mogwai, Pixies (I think they're recording), Muse, Pearl Jam (you know it Carter), Jurassic 5.

    20 Dec 2005, 22:31

  10. Christopher Rossdale

    Largely agreeing with you there Holly, no arguments to start, for once :)

    21 Dec 2005, 17:33

  11. Hi, I kind of randomly stumbled across this entry and just thought it was good enough to deserve a comment. Just wanted to compliment you on what is on the whole a great list of albums. Particular mention to Arcade Fire, Maximo Park, Editors and Hot Hot Heat, all great albums for various reasons.
    Just to add my own few points though. Depsite trying really really hard I just don't get the fuss over Bloc Party. Banquets a great track but I'm struggling with large parts of that album.
    Also how about a mention for The Subways album, Young for Eternity, and Bright Eyes with I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. Both fine examples of albums in thier respective fields, particularly Bright Eyes (standout singles being First Day of My Life and Landlocked Blues).
    Finally, you mention there has been no great rap albums this year, how about Kanye West, Late Registration? Although it probably wouldnt be in my top ten, or maybe even twenty, i think it's worth a mention.
    And just to let you know, you're right saying Mylo was last year, otherwise I'd be appauled if he wasn't way up there.
    Just my thoughts, hope you appreciate them. Once again, generally a fantastic list.

    21 Dec 2005, 17:47

  12. KANYE WEST!!!

    Bangs head on table for forgetting...

    22 Dec 2005, 00:24

  13. I've never really felt that Bloc Party are anywhere near as good as everyone makes out that they are. Rest of list seems pretty varied and valid though, and your reviews/comments are pretty interesting to read, nice one!
    One question though, where's Ordinary Boys, I would say that BrassBound is actually one of the best albums this year, like Kaiser Chiefs (whom i love btw) but MUCH better!

    22 Dec 2005, 12:27

  14. Sounds like a fair list; at least the stuff I've heard of :)

    I downloaded Funeral (from iTunes, really!) a couple of weeks ago and I have to admit it's pretty good. Bloc Party would probably be my number two, but I'd have to put the Subways in the number one spot. A really good album for a debut, with only really one dodgy track on it (Young for Eternity). The only thing I really disagree with is Employment; some brilliant singles but the rest of the album is seriously shite.

    Great list. I almost feel inspired :)

    23 Dec 2005, 09:00

  15. Yey! Another 2005 Albums list.
    Spot on on the Bravery thing. There are some awful tracks on that album, same as the Killers beyond the singles. It would make a decent EP.
    Good to see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah getting some recognition.
    Franz Ferdinand were characteristically unlistenable.
    Kaiser Cheifs one of the worst things 2005 did.
    There seems to be one general style of music in your list.
    I'd say the stand out on Alligator is the opener Secret Meeting, but you're correct, it lacked bite. Certainly top 20 material I reckon.
    Yet another list maker give the hi-hat to the Coral, Kings of Leon, Van Morrison, Beck. Unbelievable.

    24 Dec 2005, 22:17

  16. Have been meaning to search out the Coral but didn't have the chance (though they were very good live). Kings of Leon is a good album but it was released in 2004.

    This is now the bit of the year where I try and listen to those albums I missed or that get recommended to me. Not Westlife though. I know that sucks without having heard it (hehehe).

    25 Dec 2005, 11:38

  17. link

    what say?

    Download darling, download. Or borrow. I see that you have the proper cases and cds and everything for your cds. That is admirable. I havn't bought new popular music in a very long time.

    25 Dec 2005, 13:04

  18. Must be the American release date. Came out 1st November 2004 in this country… how odd.

    25 Dec 2005, 16:08

  19. Carter

    Not to be a complete Grinch, but I'm afraid I must disagree that it's been a good year for music; on the contrary, it's been really rather shite. There have been some great singles across a wide range of genres, but most of the albums that I've bought this year are ones which weren't released in 2005. As a huge music fan and massive album-buyer that's pretty sad; as far as guitar music goes (generally my main area of interest), as far as I can see we largely had a series of overhyped and over-rated bands peddling generic repatchings of older acts who were much better than them.

    Editors managed to somehow out-Interpol Interpol by tacking together the most forgettable moments of their two albums to the entire back catalogue of Joy Division (that said, 'Munich' was admittedly a great tune – but that's only because it was in fact EXACTLY THE SAME SONG as Interpol's 'Obstacle 1'). Franz Ferdinand confirmed my initial suspicion that they're all sheen and no heart; Maximo Park were a lot of bluster and no real substance; Hard-Fi were nothing much to shout about; Kaiser Chiefs were 4 great singles holding together an atrocious album; The Rakes (with the VERY honorable exception of the magnificent '22 Grand Job') sound like an indie version of the theme tune to 'Only Fools and Horses', and The Departure are quite simply one of the most depthless bunch of preening twonks we've had in years. The less said about the sorry likes of The Ordinary Boys (one of the most aptly-named bands in the history of music), the better.

    As far as British bands go, the most notable of the new bunch was of course Bloc Party, who managed to pull a smart move in releasing a debut album that was good but not brilliant (in addition to a few absolutely blinding tracks it was an album of IDEAS more than anything, and one which hinted that they have a shelf-life of more than just 2 months' coverage in the NME and a Jo Whiley endorsement). There WAS some fantastic stuff to emerge in 2005 – Arcade Fire is admittedly pretty special (though of course I already owned it this time LAST year, darlings!), and you're right to single out The Features' LP as it was criminally overlooked and deserved much better. However, there was precious little which really excited me this year and alternative music seems to be getting more and more mired in flavour-of-the-month image and style politics at the expense of heart, soul and content.

    I will post my Top 10 of 2005 here in a few days once I've finalised it!

    27 Dec 2005, 13:37

  20. Carter

    PS - What on earth are you talking about with regard to The Features' supposed "angst"?! Their album is the most joyous and life-affirming thing I've heard in ages! Rollicking three-minute pure-pop nuggets of optimism and hope are the order of the day here – check out 'The Idea of Growing Old' and 'Blow It Out' for proof. The singer's a happily-married family man with two kids, and it shows – the whole thing is like listening to an outburst of uncontainable love. Best LP of the year, hands-down (though of course I had this one last year as well, as I am both a smart-arse and a bastard).

    27 Dec 2005, 13:49

  21. The Rakes sound like an indie version of the theme tune to 'Only Fools and Horses'

    Damn you Carter, that's true! Hadn't occurred to me (and won't spoil the album) but I can hear that now, most on 'Retreat'.

    And where did you hear about The Features and Arcade Fire before the rest of us? I want to tap into this node for more musical goodness. It's a feature of certain music obsessives to want it all before everyone else, then to moan when everyone else starts to listen to 'their' bands. I just want the good music now now now so I can stop hearing all the crap on the radio (why are Westlife still here?).

    And, though I didn't make it clear, I don't think The Features are angsty, just that his voice is on the verge of cracking most of the time. You can cry or scream in happiness, I've done the latter often and (nearly) done the former a few times, usually as a result of some amazing musical moment. I think I shall go and listen to it now…

    Wanders off

    28 Dec 2005, 21:01

  22. It's a feature of certain music obsessives to want it all before everyone else, then to moan when everyone else starts to listen to 'their' bands. I just want the good music now now now so I can stop hearing all the crap on the radio (why are Westlife still here?).

    MP3 blogs are fertile ground for finding good new indie/electronic/hip hop stuff. Popular choices are Stereogum, Fluxblog, Largeheartedboy, Brooklyn Vegan, Gorilla vs. Bear.
    Loads of them around.

    More established review websites such as Pitchfork Media, Stylus Magazine, Pop Matters and Metacritic are good too.

    Yeah, you shouldn't let the views of any one person/group dictate your taste and opinions, but if you have limited cash and can't be bothered to sift through demos on band websites, the above sites are a great filtering mechanism.

    29 Dec 2005, 12:17

  23. Moz

    Iyobosa, just had a quick peek at your blog- nice to see there's someone else out there who knows who Venetian Snares is! You into your electronica then?

    29 Dec 2005, 15:09

  24. Don't listen to much, but enjoy Autechre, Squarepusher + a few others on the Planet-Mu label :)

    29 Dec 2005, 16:55

  25. Moz

    Always good to hear someone else out there likes good electronic music. Not got much Planet-Mu stuff, except the last albums by Frog Pocket and Leaftcutter John, which are both good (especially the former). It's all about Warp Records though- Autechre, Boards Of Canada, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, etc. Their artist roster is like reading a list of electronica legends. Except Maximo Park of course…

    29 Dec 2005, 19:02

  26. Boards of Canada are well good.
    Oh God, I'm just remembering that I saw the Rakes doing 22grand job on Jools. I was just one line over and over. Fucking awful I thought.

    29 Dec 2005, 22:40

  27. Vincent, I think I need to apologise for neglecting to put 'In The Morning' by The Coral on the top tracks list. Had totally forgotten it until it burst onto the radio earlier and made me smile.

    Iyobosa, a few minutes on those sites and I found a pair of really great songs by Mates Of State and The Knife. This could be the end of any meaningful plans to do essays over the rest of the holiday… damn you!

    29 Dec 2005, 23:53

  28. how u can all think bloc party are worth mentioning and not evern discuss ordinary boys is far beyond me, yes it borders on chavy, but the stuff is amazing.
    however to discredit all of my opinons so far i ahve the following statements to make,
    I have the James Blunt album, and if you get over the lovey dovey tracks, and his tendancy to whine on a bit, there are some excelent sentiments hidden there, with clever lyrics, these are granted only really on album tracks, most of the released singles are fairly poor, and are released as they are palitable to the mainstream and don't say anything too hurtfull, songs like No Bravery are possibly a little too, i don't know, gd, to be released.
    And if you're not wanting to kill me already, i have some other comments, I quite like the Magic Numbers album, and, this really is gonna get me some serious hatemail, cos the new darkness album is excelent.
    Now, i was always gonna love this, cos i love cheesy rock music, and noone does it like the darkness. But they've also tried some new stuff on this album, not that you'd be able to tell from the singles they're releasing, but some of the album tracks are beauts, hazel eyes is fantastic, dinner lady arms is genious, and seemed like a good idea at the time is fast becoming one of my favourite albums of the moment. If you forgive them for "Girlfriend" which worryingly sounds like a status quo track (don't get me wrong, Quo are cheesy, and hence i like, but darkness should not be doing stuff that sounds like quo, tis wrong), it's really not bad, i challenge all you die hard music fans with actual taste (i say that cos i appreciate my taste is questionable) to give it a go, it's a good un, in places.

    01 Jan 2006, 14:00


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