Well, here, finally, are my “Listenin’ Favorites”. If you’ve been reading me all year, then I don’t think you’re going to find any surprises here. As I’m writing it out, I think “yeah yeah, who DOESN’T know how I felt about this one?” but perhaps you will enjoy it anyway! (And if not – keep it to yourself, y’hear!)
And if you can’t figure it out in context, some of my favorites were released in 2005, and some may have been released a different year, but turned out to be something I listened to in 2005…
Favorite Albums of the Year
Lou Barlow “Emoh” – I’ve been a Lou Barlow fan since the first time I heard “Together or Alone” (Sebadoh)…but I never expected THIS. Emoh was by far my favorite album of 2005. I got it in April and listened to it over, and over, and over again. Hey – I’m STILL listening to it! Amazing lyrics, simple yet unforgettable melodies, a mix of happy/sad, slow/fast. Honestly – what more could a girl want? Now you have to wonder: Why haven’t I checked out Dinosaur Jr.? There must be something wrong with me. Favorite songs “If I Could”: “But I know my lack of grace continues to turn you off, and this could be my fate here: never to be touched…”; “Mary”: Immaculate conception, yeah, right! Crazy Mary, good that you lied!…”; and “Puzzle”: I think you’re funny and you love my smell… That inbetween my shadow and your light, I did lose you…”
Athlete “Tourist” and “Vehicles & Animals” – Both these albums are great, and it was impossible for me to choose between them. I got the first one from my No. 1 UK music source Michelle (You rock, Lady!), and bought the second on iTunes a few days later when I wondered how I had lived without this band in my life. (I am sooo not dramatic!)
Death Cab for Cutie “Plans” – In the past, I was only “vaguely” a Death Cab fan. Sure, I knew Seth Cohen loved them, and I knew a few select songs, but nothing had grabbed me to the “listen to this over and over” point. Nothing, until Plans, that is. Holy crap. Some albums are great even if they don’t work “as an album” because they have 5 or 6 great songs; this album is great AS an album. “Marching Bands” may be the best “first song”/CD opener of the year, and the lyrics to “Someday You Will Be Loved” and “I Will Follow You into the Dark” both literally take my breath away.
James Blunt “Back to Bedlam” – Every year, there’s a melancholy boy in my life. One year it was Damien Rice. One year it was David Gray. Sometimes it’s Ryan Adams. This year it was James Blunt. (Thanks again to Michelle. Can I ever repay you?) A couple of the songs have gotten so much radio/TV play that one might begin to get sick of them (“one” very much NOT being me). But listen to them on their own merits, not on the “how sickeningly popular are they” scale, and I think you will see their merit. My favorite, if you’re wondering (come on, now, people, give me some love) is “Wise Men”: Look who’s alone now, it’s not me, it’s not me… Gotta ask yourself the question ‘Where are you now?’…; with “Tears and Rain” a close second.
Great Lake Swimmers “Great Lake Swimmers” and “Bodies & Minds” – Ah, another “twofer.” So thinking of melancholy music that I can’t get out of my head leads me right to Great Lake Swimmers, crazy Canadians who I have now TWICE MISSED at Schuba’s. (Where in the fuck are my priorities, I ask myself.) Once, I didn’t buy tickets because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get there due to work schedule that day. And once I had tickets but was leaving for NY at 6 a.m. the next day, didn’t get home until 10 minutes before the concert, and still had to pack. IDIOT. This is slow, melancholy, thickly layered music… Think Low. Or cast your mind back, back in the day to “Automatic for the People”. Very orchestral feeling. Dense sonic clouds. Lovely, lovely, lovely music. Sad, perhaps. A little lonely. Unforgettable.
Sufjan Stevens “Come On Feel the Illinoise” – Sufjan Steven is crazy. Item No. 1: He’s doing a 50-state album arc. He’s two albums in. You may ask yourself some logic questions, such as: “If he is x years old now, then what age will he be when he finishes?” Item No. 2: He (and the band) do cheerleading chants between songs. Item No. 3: Hello, there is a song about Jacksonville (my birthplace, dudes) on this album. And a song about Mary Todd. And a song about Casimir Pulaski day (Go polacks everywhere! I’m a polack, so I can say that, right?) He is crazy, but he is sooo good. Despite the obvious many moments of humor on this album, it is really lovely and lyrical, and sweet. Very very sweet. AND – if that’s not enough – his was the BEST concert I went to this year. It was like getting a big shot of HAPPY right in the ass. Walking home in a smiley glow…
Carla Bruni “Quelqu-un M’a Dit” – Maybe if I wasn’t in my you-would-laugh-to-know-based-on-my-abilities semester of studying French, this wouldn’t have made the list – I can’t be sure. She’s got a soft, husky voice; as if someone was whispering soft French secrets in your ear… There’s a “you say tomAHto, I say tomAYto” offering (Le toi du moi), there are slow ballads, there are upbeat “jazzy standards”… It’s quite nice. And even if you knew no French at all, you might enjoy the overall sonic experience.
Uh oh…only one spot left…
This is a tough one…but I’m gonna go with…A THREE-WAY TIE! Ringside; Youth Group “Skeleton Jar”; and The Magic Numbers. I started listening to Youth Group around the same time as Death Cab “Plans”, and in some ways it’s always sort of a “companion album” to it in my mind. A couple weeks after I got this album, they had a cover of “Forever Young” on the OC and it’s quite nice, I recommend it as well. Ringside’s amazing “Strangerman” was (also! Surprise surprise!) on an episode of the OC (and I also really love “Miss You”). Ringside and Youth Group both fall more on the “rock” side of the equation – say, with Athlete. They’re not as quirky as Sufjan or Death Cab, not as melancholy as James Blunt or Great Lake Swimmers; in fact, sometimes they are even reminiscent of 80s rock bands. Shocker! The Magic Numbers, on the other hand, is a much “pop”pier band/album… Beatles/Oasis/Mamas and the Papas/Beach Boys-esque. I listen to this all the time.
I really loved these albums, too, so technically I probably should have just gone for 15 instead of 10…but then I would have had to settle on one more…and no, I could not solve the problem the easy way and commit to a list of “14” favorite albums. That’s crazy!
Hold Steady “Separation Sunday” – A far more than “satisfactory” sophomore album. Every bit as crazy, ranting, and awesome as their first effort. And they are AWESOME in concert. Totally nuts.
Mike Doughty “Haughty Melodic” – Wow, I spent a LOT of time listening to Mike Doughty this year. I saw him…in…April? Eh – spring sometime. I’m going to see him again this March. He’s really a great musician. And so much more alone than Soul Coughing really ever came to. (And he did an encore of “The Gambler.” Hilarious cover encores are one of my favorite things. [Like the time FigDish did “Big Balls” with the bunny on stage, ‘member that, Nanders?])
Fall Out Boy “From Under the Cork Tree” – I’m not happy if I don’t have a little PUNK ASS-KICKIN’ in my life and these boys fit the bill quite nicely. AND they’re from Chicago. AND 12-teen, living at the ‘rents, yet ROCKING OUT. Awesome.
Franz Ferdinand “You Could Have It So Much Better” – The only reason this one didn’t make the favorites list was I got it in October and I just didn’t listen to it enough before year-end. I’ve probably listened to it more in January than in Oct-Dec combined. I think it’s a great sophomore effort. There are a couple songs I can’t get out of my head. Maybe that’ll make it one of my favorites in 2006!
Close…but No Cigar
Kanye West “Late Registration” – Liked it. But just didn’t listen to it THAT much. Not as much as his first album. I do, however, really like a lot of the singles..
Twin Atlas, of which I listened to a bunch of different albums – I’ve become a big fan of this band this year. But couldn’t really pin it down to a particular album. Or even two.
You may notice a trend here… A melancholy trend… A) Do you not know me at all? (And if not, why are you reading this?) And B) 2005 = not one of my favorite years, yo. Better luck next time.
- “Hide and Seek” Imogen Heap – if you don’t have this yet, what the fuck is wrong with you. Best song of 2005. Hauntingly beautiful.
- “No Illusions” 78 Saab – I’m under no illusions now, how can I see when I am blind to all the same old faults now? You sure do make it kind of tough – [but] you’re not going to make me change my ways, I’ve come too far for that now…
- “You Are My Joy” Reindeer Section – Don’t have anyone to say this to. But love it just the same. It makes me dream about who that could be.
- “Salvation” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Insistent. Heart…pounding. Demanding. Thundering, softly.
- “Wandering” Ben Folds – Why didn’t I listen to Ben Folds before 2005? Got his new album, then got some old stuff too. And all this wandering…got you nothing…
- “Circles” Bob Mould – New Bob Mould. And it’s damn good.
- “On Your Porch” The Format – Be careful with this one: brings tears to my eyes EVERY TIME.
- “Exodus Damage” John Vanderslice – So now we’re talking about this, I’m starting to lose my confidence, and no one ever says a word about so much that happens in the world…
- “Something in You” the Orange Peels – Oh! Here’s a happy one! Goofy happy shiny people!
- “I Burn Today” Frank Black – Over and over and over.
- “Into the Fire” Thirteen Senses – Come on, come on, put your hands into the fire…
- “Faded Beauty Queens” The Thrills – Love all their songs. But listened to this one the most.
- “Scar” Missy Higgins – Painful. But good.
- “Someday” Flipsyde – So fun. How fun? They’re-using-it-in-Olympics-commercials fun.
- “Heartbeat” Jose Gonzalez – Love this song. But the rest of the album? Eh.
- “A Day” Inara George – same issue here. Like the song – Eh the album.
“The Gambler” Mike Doughty
“Wildwood Flower” Reese Witherspoon
“It Ain’t Me Babe” Reese & Joaquin
“True Love Will Find You in the End” Beck
Most Beatlesque (And that’s the way I like it)
The Bees “Free the Bees”
The 88 “Kind of Light”
The Magic Numbers
Franz Ferdinand (ESPECIALLY “Eleanor Put Your Boots On”)
Sounds of the ’70s
Josh Rouse “Nashville”
Kings of Convenience “Riot on an Empty Street”
Music to Cheerlead To
So occasionally I listen to happy music. Sue me.
The Go! Team “Thunder, Lightning, Streak
Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah! “
Still Getting to Know You
Antony & the Johnson’s “I Am a Bird Now” (and his name really is ANT-ony)
David Poe “Blood is Red”
Jason Mraz “Mr. A-Z”
Tried…But Couldn’t Commit
Luke Temple “Hold a Match for a Gasoline World”
Thomas Dybdahl “That Great October Sound” – he was hyped to me as Damien Rice/Ray Lamontagne/etc. I’ve never felt “it” with him.
Do NOT Understand the Hype
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead “Worlds Apart”
My Morning Jacket “Z”
Trying to Fool Myself
I was pretty sure these “weren’t for me” when I bought them…but for some unknown reason I felt the $10 need to give them a chance… In the end, however, they are not for me.
Leela James “A Change is Gonna Come” – Fluff, you might like this. Very “Ring my Bell.”
Masha Qrella “unsolved remained” – too “electronica.