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Top 20 Albums of 2005 
5th-Jan-2006 03:16 am
home taping
Here it is, after weeks of preparation, flip-flopping, discovery, and shuffling, my biggest year end album list yet. In the past, I've stuck to a top ten list, mostly because I couldn't adequately fill up a list any larger than that. This year, however, my musical journey has continued to develop along the course I began a few years after re-discovering my passion in music (albeit in different genres than the past), leading me to discover more music than ever. Which is a little ironic, given that my previous two years were spent working in a music store, whereas 8 months of this year I was not working at one. I guess it's the difference of going out and finding music I want to hear rather than subjecting myself to the albums I have to hear. If anything, working at a mainstream music chain should really damper someone's joy when it comes to music. Being subjected to Black Eyed Peas, Nickelback, Canadian Idol winners, and Jack Johnson all day does tend to make one crave silence.

This year, I could easily do more than 20 albums, but I wanted to limit the number so that I was forced to leave out albums that I truly enjoy. That makes it more difficult, instead of simply listing all the albums I like, I have to make hard choices. Like any year-end list, this captures this particular moment in time for me, and would no doubt look very different were I to re-visit it in a few months time. Looking back at my Top Ten of 2004 list, makes me long to re-do it to add Funeral, Set Yourself on Fire, Let It Die, and More Adventurous, but at the time, I was just digesting the first two albums, had not discovered the third, and only discovered the fourth after reading a different year end list posted here. Which is the best part of these types of lists, and why I like perusing them every year at this time. I have already begun to discover new 2005 albums not on this list as a result of other year end lists (none posted here, mind you, but there's still time).

I choose to believe that the water means they were exiled in Haiti.

20. Audioslave - Out Of Exile: Truth be told, there were three or four albums all in contention for the last spot on the list, which is always the hardest decision to make. Out Of Exile beat the others out, all of which could have easily been in this spot, because it was the least like the others. The only real hard rock album on the list, it is an album I don't regularly listen to, but when I do, I truly enjoy. It seems I took twistedyouth's advice on this one, "If you're only buying one in the genre this year, Out of Exile is hands down your best bet", you know, without the "buying" part.
Best song: "Drown Me Slowly"

This doesn't look like a machine at all to me. Ohwaitasec... do you think she's using machine as a metaphor here? Oooooohhhh, clever.

19. Fiona Apple- Extraordinary Machine: I wasn't a Fiona fan before this album, as she was always a little too precocious for my tastes. But after this one got so much pre-release hype from its leak on the net, I figured I'd give it a shot. It seems as though Fiona has grown into her precociousness, no longer simply another voice amongst the Lilith crowd of the late-90's, and instead putting out an album obviously influenced by the likes of Aimee Mann and Lucinda Williams. You know an artist might be on to something when their label is hesitant to release the album because it lacks a radio-friendly single. Instead, she chose a mature, risk-taking, musically-diverse release, and the world is better off for it.
Best song: "Please Please Please"

I promise, these won't all be linked to reviews done by someone else. Some will actually be done by me...

18. Supergrass - Road To Rouen: Like other albums on this list, I can't compare Road To Rouen to the rest of Supergrass' catalogue, because it was my introduction to the band. Sometimes, this is an advantage for me, since I'm not burdened by expectations and can judge the work objectively on its own merit. By itself, I really dig this record. It's a nice change of pace for me hearing a band with a 70's influenced sound, as even I may be tiring of all the 80's influenced bands (although, obviously not too much judging from albums farther down this list).
Best song: "St. Petersburg"

Not yet though...

17. Doves - Some Cities: This album was a slow-burner for me. When I first discovered it, I put "Black and White Town" near the end of a mix, but kinda ignored it otherwise. I would keep it in rotation, and always enjoyed it when it came up, but didn't truly appreciate it until I really embraced "Snowden". Part of it is that it is not an attention-grabbing album (the best ones often aren't), the other part is that I needed to ready myself with other music before I could appreciate Some Cities. I needed to evolve from the guy who ranked Taking Back Sunday third a year ago, to one who had listened to more Coldplay, Echo & the Bunnymen, and The Beatles that I am now.
Best song: "Snowden"

This review was stolen right from under me. Couldn't be helped, I swear.

16. Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better With Franz Ferdinand: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. From number two to sixteen in 12 months. Obviously, these are two different releases, but the reason for the fall (other than perhaps over-valuing Franz Ferdinand the first time around), is that this new album isn't different enough of a release. I'm not a firm believer that bands need to change their sound with every album, instead believing that they can allow themselves eras of a few albums before needing a change. From the perspective, the new Franz offering is satisfying. It had most of what I enjoyed the first time around, enough that it's number 16, after all. The problem with releasing the same album but with different lyrics is that they weren't gone long enough for me to crave more of the same. Release this album in two years when I've been missing that Franz sound, then I enjoy more. But now? I'm still getting over the hype over the last one. In this respect, the title of this album is almost advice, in that you could have it so much better with Franz Ferdinand, their self-titled debut.
Best song: "The Fallen"

I really, really dig this album cover. The actual cover is even better than this image, as the buildings are cut out and fold away from the booklet.

15. Nada Surf - The Weight is a Gift: Discovering music can be such a matter of serendipitous circumstance sometimes. As with Supergrass, this is the first Nada Surf album I've listened to, through the beauty of torrents, without which, I'd still be living a Nada Surf-less existence. The album then sat in rotation, a reliable listen, but not a beloved one. Then, my car breaks down right around the time I'm exclusively listening to 2005 albums for the purpose of making this list. So I listen to The Weight is a Gift via my new iPod a little more intently than I had before, in the ultra-personal method of earphones and transit-induced loneliness, and the album grabs me and has yet to let go. If my car doesn't break down at that time, after I get my iPod and while I'm thinking about this list, I might not have paid proper attention to this album, one I did not at the time own other than digitally. Because it did, I go out and buy it and it gets ranked at fifteen. Ahhh... musical discovery, how I love you so.
Best song: "Do It Again"

.... sorry, didn't want to spoil the moment there with a bunch of yammering. Carry on...

14. The Cardigans - Super Extra Gravity: This was a highly anticipated release for me, following The Cardigans sublime 2003 release, Long Gone Before Daylight. While not as haunting as that album, Super Extra Gravity plays very well on its own and given the time, could climb its way up this chart. Not as somber as Long Gone, this release finds Nina Persson and company in brighter spirits, taking some of the best traits from their past two releases (Long Gone Before Daylight and Gran Turismo), creating a good mix of fast and slow, heartbreak and laughter.
Best song: "I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need To Be Nicer"

Dammit, I really should have written more reviews this year. To be fair, Matt got three of these albums from me, so at least I'm not just a follower here.

13. Eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations: A sometimes difficult album to digest, and a bit overwrought at 33 tracks, this dark album of depression and pain isn't always something I want to listen to. But, while it is truly a moody affair, I find it oddly calming and soothing by the same token. While lyrically dark, the arrangements are often light, dare I say, optimistic even. This album has been a top twenty contender since I got it, but recently shot up the charts when I had it in my car stereo during the Christmas rush of retail. I'd leave work utterly exhausted and frustrated, only to find my frustrations melt away along with Mark Oliver Everett's musings, discovering that this was the absolute perfect album for that particular moment in time in my life. I almost didn't want to leave my car when I arrived home, so perfect a musical moment I had captured. So let other critics and lists have their I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and their Illinoise. I'll go with Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, both discs, over those any day of the week.
Best song: "I'm Going To Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart"

I wonder who would win in a death match between them and The Killers? The lack of drummer could really hurt them there. Luckily, Brandon Flowers is probably a pussy.

12. The Kills - No Wow: As a two-person garage rock revivalist band comprised of a man and a woman, I suppose White Stripes comparisons are inevitable. But the key difference is that instead of eschewing the bass, the chick plays the bass and they go with a drum machine... which still manages to outperform Meg White. This is my art rock, lo fi album of the year, which always grabs me with the persistent percussion at its very beginning that builds throughout, hits me with the bass line of "No Wow", and keeps a hold of me throughout. But, I really need to stop finding things out about this band. I was happier just listening to the record than when I discovered that they choose to call themselves "VV" (singer and bassist Alison Mosshart) and "Hotel" (guitarist and sometimes-vocalist Jamie Hince). Stage names? Really? It's almost enough to make me consider dropping them down the list, but then I remember to separate the art from the artist, and let the bassline grab me again.
Best song: "No Wow"

Presenting, 2005's best female tree-o. Get it? TREE-o? Hello? Oh wait, there's four trees there, aren't there. Aw crap.

11. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods: I've been a big fan of this album since I first heard it not long after it came out, but never once considered reviewing it. Why not? Because I'd never be able to come up with a line better than "obviously, producer Dave Fridmann has helped them out a wee bit by supplying an '11' on all the amplifiers". In fact, I'd say twistedyouth's review of The Woods is the best topfive_reviews album review of the year. Leave it to a grrl indie rock trio to release the best rock with your cocks out album of the year. Hmmm... nope, still not as good a line.
Best song: "Modern Girl"

I told you I wrote some reviews myself. Even if it is 'review 2'.

10. Hot Hot Heat - Elevator: The battle in doing year end lists is the one between "best" and "favourite". I avoid both distinctions by naming this a "Top 20" instead of "Best 20" or "Favourite 20", because the truth is, it is a bit of both. It's an attempt to be more of a best of list, but I recognise that I have my own biases and tastes. Why do I bring this up now? Because while I objectively recognise that Elevator is not as great an artistic achievement as The Woods, or Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, I personally enjoy it more. Objectively, I originally scored it as a 3.5 in my review, a score I stand by, but one lower than I'd give the other two albums I just mentioned were I to review them. So what wins out in the list, head or heart? I went with heart here, asking myself, if I only had room to pack this album or one of those others, which would I pack? The answer, is Elevator, so Top Ten it is.
Best song: "Jingle Jangle"

'No Mos, No Mos!'. This alt comment is brought to you by the T5R alt comment recycling centre.

9. Eisley - Room Noises: It's tough to judge an album for a yearly list whose best tracks are ones recycled from EPs from 2003. Doesn't that give the album an unfair advantage? Doesn't it mean that I'm still waiting for their first album of all-new material? Well, yes and yes, but neither changes the fact that this is a fabulous album that was one of my favourites since its release in February. Of course, maybe I've just been waiting to put Eisley in one of these lists for two years now, and am now happy to finally get that chance. We'll see how well their next album does in the 2006 to answer these oh-so-pertinent questions.
Best song: "Marvelous Things"

Chicago's Finest?

8. Common - Be: Perhaps no album of 2005 gave me more personal satisfaction than Common's triumphant return after the failed-experiment of 2002's Electric Circus. You see, before I was an elitist indie snob, I was an elitist hip-hop snob. It is the music of my youth, which I devoured with the intensity and voracity that I know do a wider range of music. But then I outgrew hip-hop a bit, a little because I could no longer connect with the themes of the music, and little because it just wasn't as good as it used to be. It had transitioned to pop, and lost me along the way. Oh sure, I recognised the brilliance of Kanye West as much as the next guy, but for the most part it didn't speak to me anymore. Then I listened to Be, and I remembered what I used to love so much. Since my musical tastes have changed so much in recent years, I've been hesitant to ever do a list of my favourite all-time bands. But if were to do one, Common would definitely be on that list. His previous efforts, One Day It'll All Make Sense and Like Water for Chocolate are two of the favourites from my youth, and in 2005, he managed to eclipse them both with Be. A true instant classic.
Best song: "Faithful"

Or... Chicago's Finest? You decide.

7. Kanye West - Late Registration: Some reviewers have said that Late Registration is not as good an album as West's debut, The College Dropout, and I will admit, that I initially had the same reaction. Now, I know that they're right, it's not as good; it's better. "Heard Em Say" is as good a relaxed single as "All Falls Down", "Roses" is as revelatory as "Through the Wire", and "Gold Digger" is a better fun single than "The New Workout Plan" (with a better Jamie Foxx assist than "Slow Jamz"). Basically, the only place that Late Registration suffers in comparison to The College Dropout is that it lacks a track as otherworldly good as "Jesus Walks", which is probably why I underestimated Kanye's sophomore effort the first time around. Until I realised that "Jesus Walks" is a once-in-a-career moment of sublime genius, and judged Late Registration for what it is: the best hip-hop artist in the game today releasing an album making him worthy of the title.
Best song: "Heard Em Say" featuring Adam Levine of Maroon 5

Released in May, this album has since managed to go 8 rounds to make this list. Hey, coming up with 20 alt comments isn't easy. Gimme a break, alright?

6. Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm: It's funny, most of the reviews for this album are fairly lukewarm, giving faint praise to the album as a whole for its concept nature, but claiming that the individual tracks are underwhelming. For me, I've yet to really clue into the concept behind the album, a story set in the '70s about two lovers who meet at the Virginia state fair and are now on the run. Instead, it's the songs that always grab me. It may not be the best offering in Mann's catalogue, but it's still better than most.
Best song: "Dear John"

Believe me, it does not please me that this falls in a similar spot on the other year end albums list posted here. What can I say? Sometimes people stumble into quality. At least I didn't rank Kanye at 20.

5. Kathleen Edwards - Back To Me: Not quite as good as her sublime debut, Failer, Back To Me is still an excellent collection of melancholy and sensuality proving Edwards a songwriter of the highest order and Canada's best kept musical instrument. Do yourself a favour and check either album out. Or, at very least, the track below.
Best song: "Pink Emerson Radio"

Insert requisite O.C. remark here.

4. Death Cab for Cutie - Plans: This is the album that had Death Cab poised to make it big, riding a wave of newfound popularity thanks to appearing on a few soundtracks and the popularity of lead singer Ben Gibbard's side-project band The Postal Service, resulting in the band leaving their indie label Barsuk for Atlantic. They responded to all the hype and attention by doing what they've always done, making personal, low-key music... and got branded sell outs for their efforts anyway. Well, maybe they weren't out and out branded, but there definitely was a bit of unwarranted backlash against DCFC by some of the elite this year. Which is why those other sites suck, and T5R is where it's at! Cause as much as I loved this album when I reviewed it upon its release, I'm a much bigger fan of it now, especially after being blown away by the superlative power of "What Sarah Said", perhaps the band's best song yet.
Best song: "What Sarah Said"

Another stand-out album cover, which are the best arguments against downloading I can offer. Not that I'm actually against downloading, mind you.

3. Metric - Live It Out: This one puts me in a bit of a bind, as I've been planning on reviewing it in full since its release, and still intend to. So I don't want to give too much away now and then struggle for new stuff to write later (like I've struggled here with my previously reviewed albums). Obviously, the cat's out of the bag a bit in that I've ranked it third overall for the year. Safe to say, the final score will be good. So it'll less be a review than a discussion, a preview of which I'll provide now: with this album, the band has improved in leaps and bounds over their debut album, Old World Underground, Where Are You Know, an album I assigned a score of 4.5 stars.
Best song: "Monster Hospital"

Does anyone know where I can find the Coldplay album cover generator?

2. Coldplay - X&Y: Coldplay came into this release with the weight of the "best band in the universe" title, and not only managed to not wilt under the pressure, but also managed to release their best album to date. The very definition of a slow-burner, X&Y doesn't reach out and grab the listener by announcing its presence with authority, instead, it lets the astute listener come to it, and when you do, I promise you that it holds nothing but treasures to behold. My eureka moment with this album came after a month or so following its release, when I was driving alone at night on a nearly-empty highway, which is pretty much my absolute favourite time to listen to music. I decided that I wanted to listen to "Fix You", a track I had started to take notice of in my casual listens at home, but had not fallen in love with (this was prior to its release as a single). This was the perfect setting for discovery of this track, figuratively stopping me dead in my tracks until nothing else in the world existed but this song. By the time the guitar riff leading into the bridge hit, I swear to God that I was nearly in tears, such is the power of this song. The thing about X&Y is that the beauty and majesty of "Fix You" continues throughout every track. While it is my pick for Song of the Year, I'd listen to and understand arguments for other tracks on this album being better. If any album of 2005 will be talked about ten years from now as one of rock's classics, this is it.
Best song: "Fix You"

Brought to you by the kids from school.

1. The Decemberists - Picaresque: Anyone who read my review of this album really shouldn't be at all surprised by its Album of the Year status. I pretty much telegraphed it. The album continues to be infinitely interesting for me, full of more pathos, adventure, and diversity as any album released this year, and has been criminally overlooked by critics. Which brings me to the point of contention of my review, that this album hadn't received its due attention. Well, I've read dozens of Top Ten lists for albums so far, and this has only appeared in two of them. Which is what I was getting at, and I don't care what the kids at your school think. Unless they happen to write for Pitchfork or CokeMachineGlow or some other site ignoring this work of brilliance while they trip over each other to heap praise on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. If, however, the kids at your school do happen to write for those sites, then... FUCK THEM. This is the album of the year, case closed. Moving on to 2006.
Best song: "The Mariner's Revenge Song"

Top Five Albums I'm Most Likely To Regret Having Left Off of This List in a Few Months Time

First off, this isn't a honourary mentions list. If I wanted to tack on five more albums, then I would've made this a Top 25 list. Some of these albums were in contention, sure, but this list is more a list of titles I've just recently discovered and haven't had the time to consider for this list, or are albums I suspect of being slow-burners that I'll grow to love in time.
5. The Fiery Furnaces - EP
4. Super Furry Animals - Love Kraft
3. Neil Diamond - 12 Songs
2. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
1. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
5th-Jan-2006 01:51 pm (UTC)
5th-Jan-2006 03:12 pm (UTC)
So, what do the kids at your school think of the Decemberists?
5th-Jan-2006 04:10 pm (UTC)
I honestly wouldn't have any idea. I don't actually talk to the kids at school, since they'd think I was their grandpa and all. Amongst the people I do talk to at school, I'd be shocked and awed if any of them had even heard of The Decemberists, or really anyone on this list other than maybe Coldplay, Audioslave, or Fiona Apple.
5th-Jan-2006 08:13 pm (UTC)
by the way, the download links are much appreciated.
5th-Jan-2006 11:50 pm (UTC)
Great list. I love end of year lists, because I'm usually not that up to date with current music, so it gives me a whole load of stuff to download.
You sound like you've gone through the same kind of musical renaissance I have this year. I'd say 80% of the music I know and love I've heard for the first time this year, and all thanks to broadband.
You've compelled me to give X&Y another try. It didn't do much for me the first few times. Nothing will compel me to listen to more Death Cab For Cutie though. I'm totally lost about their popularity. Gibbard's voice makes me want to strangle him.
I like the "Top Five Albums I'm Most Likely To Regret Having Left Off of This List in a Few Months Time" idea. I assure you you'll regret The Fiery Furnaces and Wolf Parade.
P.S. No Siberia (Echo & The Bunnymen)?
5th-Jan-2006 11:57 pm (UTC)
Siberia was in contention, but narrowly missed the cut. Perhaps another slow-burner for me.
6th-Jan-2006 03:46 am (UTC)
I'm already regretting leaving Ladytron off of my regret list.
7th-Jan-2006 02:45 am (UTC)
You do realise that this list means you'll never be 1337 enough to write for cokemachineglow, right?
7th-Jan-2006 04:49 am (UTC)
I suppose it does. Damn.
12th-Jan-2006 10:47 pm (UTC)
Did someone tell you where to find the Coldplay Album Cover Generator? I noticed your new icon.
13th-Jan-2006 07:26 pm (UTC)
Nah, I just used this little thing I like to call "Google". INGENIUS!
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