Two Thousand & Five
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It’s been threatened for a while, but I’ve finally assembled something that resembles a music review of the year. For a while I was trying to build a ‘best of’, but the combined effect of my variable student income means that to be honest, I don’t trust my record collection to include ‘the best’ of anything. Instead, here’s something noncommittal.
Five really good albums of 2005
Nice, eh? Ordinarily, when I stop to think about the best albums of a year, it’s difficult to shrink down the list to something sane. This year was the opposite. For many of the albums I’d bought, I was left doubting their real ‘album’ quality. There have been some great songs, but there’re not many albums that live up to the same standards. Perhaps I’m getting to cynical Perhaps the NME’s awful rag has finally succeeded in its mission to market disposable rock music above all else, and we’ll never hear most of these bands again. Maybe it’s just been a weak year. It’s easiest to have a cheap pop the NME though.
On the plus side, when I did managed to pick out 5 albums for my list, I felt a whole lot better about the quality. In no particular order:
Editors – The Back Room
Colly insists that this band continue to be shipped with the following disclaimer: On receipt of Editors, you may be confused as to whether you’ve received a new band, or if the component parts of many other bands have been munged into the same jewel casing in a data entry accident. Do not be alarmed as this is normal. Instead continue to live with your new band for a week, and you will begin to realise that it doesn’t matter if it’s ‘a bit like Interpol’ or hard to describe in any unique manner. You’ll find that you’ve acquired a bloody great rock album.
At first, my cynicism fought against Editors. I have an inner desire to listen to music that’s different from something else I own. That desire is dead silly, because ‘The Back Room’ is a great record. I still dislike the first few lines of ‘Lights’, but then, suddenly ‘if fortune favours the brave’ and pow… Modern A/V equipment may never make that chorus loud enough.
Choruses are what makes this album. Singalong vocals, fabulous guitar and a bit of pace. There’s also ‘Camera’, which is soaring brilliance. Again with the guitar.
Doves – Some Cities
So yes, they look a bit like plumbers. In fact, the whole ‘beards’ thing might be a step backwards (not least because of my housemate’s imitation of said beards). But ‘Some Cities’ is the best album they’ve ever made, so they could grow facial hair down their ankles and still be folk heroes around Manchester.
Doves are great because they can write brilliant, upbeat pop songs (‘Black & White Town’) as well as brilliant, spine-tingling compositions to shut your eyes and lose yourself in.
I’m trying to describe ‘Almost Forgot Myself’, but it’s really hard. It was recorded somewhere up Snowden, and the delicate guitar through the chorus shines of it. But yet it also incorporates a foot tapping intro and a compelling vocal line. It’s just so good.
All the way through there are tunes dabbed with Doves special touch, a sound which is theirs alone and which they continue to push further with each release.
On their first album (‘Lost Souls’), there’s a song called ‘A House’. It’s got a stripped back, ghostly brilliance to it. In the live shows it’s better still. On ‘Some Cities’, there’s a song called ‘Ambition’. It has a rare 5-star rating in my iTunes library because whilst incorporating a similar feel to ’A House’, it also does something rather special. Every single time it plays and with every line delivered by Jimi Goodwin I get a cold shiver from the top of my head, through my back and down to my feet. There are not many pieces of music that can do that, but ‘Ambition’ is one. It ends the album absolutely perfectly.
Elbow – Leaders of the Free World
I’m living in Manchester for the third year now. I love the place and it often feels like a second home. Elbow’s third album is full of Manchester.
‘Station Approach’ is a song about coming home to Manchester, arriving on the train at Piccadilly station. It’s named after the road outside the station. The song conveys that ’coming home‘ feeling so well. It could be the rainiest, most miserable Mancunian day of the year but if you play this song when you’re walking home it suddenly doesn’t matter any more. Obviously you’re still drenched to the bone, and if you enjoy it too much and go too slow you might get ill, but that’s an important part of living in Manchester. So I’m told.
Guy Garvey is a poet. His lyrics are art, witty art at that. ‘Forget Myself’ includes this gem:
The man on the door has a head like Mars
Like a baby born to the doors of the bars
And surrounded by steam with his folded arms
He’s got that urban genie thing going on
He’s so mercifully free of the pressures of grace
Saint Peter in satin he’s like Buddha with mace
Furthermore, the title track is the best thing that Elbow have ever done.
Gorillaz – Demon Days
I honestly didn’t think I’d like it. I kept expecting something a bit half-arsed from Damon Albarn. Something that might contain a few catchy singles and then not much else. I don’t know why I thought that.
It’s a great record from start to finish. The singles (‘Feel Good, Inc’, ‘Dare’ and ‘Dirty Harry’) are all right, but there are parts of Demon Days which leave me thinking ‘that’s bloody brilliant’. The highlight for me is right at the end, where ‘Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head’, ‘Don’t Get Lost in Heaven’ and ‘Demon Days’ flow into each other over 10 minutes.
It’s varied, inventive and it’s full of incidental moments that make you smile that little bit more than other records.
The Arcade Fire – Funeral
This is a last minute change. I’ve been restricting myself to records that I’ve not only purchased this year, but were released this year. Funeral came out in 2004, so this is cheating. But, the last slot was either this or Sigur Rós ‘Takk…’ and since Funeral got played an awful lot more I’m going to do it anyway. Y’know, a ‘My site, my rules to break’ sort of arrangement.
I bought it on the strength of one song: ‘Rebellion (Lies)’. It builds and it builds and it’s great. Great, building songs are what this album does well: ‘Wake Up’ is perhaps the best of the bunch; most of the song suggests something big is going to happen and then right near the end it does. Wonderful.
Apparently they’re very good live, too. There’s a new album in the works and we’d all be fools to miss them next time around.
As I say, I’m not convinced about a lot of the albums this year. However, that leaves an unusually large pile of stand-out individual tunes.
So, in quick-fire style and in your best Tony Blackburn voice, Ben Ward’s favourite tunes of 2005:
At the 11th hour I finally ‘got’ Arctic Monkeys and ‘Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ is best of the bunch of pre-debut-album demos. ‘Shuffle Your Feet’ is a storming opener for BRMC’s new album ‘Howl’ while ‘Like Eating Glass’, ‘Helicopter’ and ‘So Here We Are’ stand out on Bloc Party’s ‘Silent Alarm’, with the tacked on ‘Two More Years’ really too cool for words. In at C comes Clap Your Hands Say Yeah with ‘Details of the War’ and outside the presence of John Oxton we’ll quietly mention ‘White Shadows’ by Coldplay. Doves ‘Almost Forgot Myself’ and ‘Ambition’ really are special and ‘Leaders of the Free World’ is the best song Elbow have ever recorded.
Another quality album opener is ‘The Fallen’ on Franz Ferdinand’s re-release of their first album… sorry, second album. ‘Decent Days and Nights’ made The Futureheads worth owning and Kaiser Chief’s ‘Modern Way’ will stand the test of time thanks to the absence of ridiculous falsetto screeching. Low open ‘The Great Destroyer’ with ‘Monkey’ and later ‘When I Go Deaf’ is just as good. ‘Apply Some Pressure’ has Maxïmo Park summarised into a single great song.
Oasis have never recording anything else like ‘Turn Up The Sun’, but the guitars in the intro are sublime so it gets the nod above ‘The Importance of Being Idle’. ‘Glósóli‘ is the centrepiece of Sigur Rós explosive beginning to ‘Takk…’ and ‘The Great Escape’ by We Are Scientists is a good ‘n’ proper pop song with a nice tight intro.
Giving my flat-mate a mention is cheeky but the Zeus-factor-5 drums that open PTA’s ‘Born To Get Paid’ wake you up like all the emergency services crashed at the same junction. Finally, Super Furry Animals ‘Love Kraft’ remains a forgettable album but for the beginning and the end: ‘Zoom!’ and ‘Cabin Fever’ may even be the best of this tightly worded bunch.
And with 5 hours left…
It’s worth mentioning that ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’ by Queens of the Stoneage might have made the list, had I listened to it more. I have an inkling I’m going to love it once I find time to actually play it in full. Low’s ‘The Great Destroyer’ needed more time as well.
But there it is. A year in music summed up in what’s probably my longest entry of the year. With 5 hours of 2005 to go, I think it’s a safe bet that I shan’t hear anything else to make me change the list (again). Although if I get left with the TV control, I suspect we’ll see in the new year with Jools Holland, lets not speak too soon.
Happy New Year to you all, and I hope some of the passion I’m feeling for these records rubs off in reading.