favorite albums of 2005

20.Buttersprites – Buttersprites (Dionysus)

Take the music stylings of Shonen Knife and mix in the sunshine of Puffy AmiYumi and you have the Buttersprites. They are a Seattle band made up of Asian-Americans woman with of their many songs sung in Japanese. Fun & infectious.

Favorite songs: Panic Attack; Happy Birthday; Yellow Peril

Favorite lyric: “Now is the time to try a new flavor/It’s time to learn and know the words that I say/Chinese, Japanese…” from Yellow Peril


Buttersprites

19.Ok Go – Oh No (Capitol)

Guitar pop that was supposed to make a come back, but alas never did. The second album is full of the same hooky song writing that made their debut so fun.

Favorite songs: Invincible; Oh Lately It’s So Quiet; A Million Ways

Favorite lyric: “When they finally come to destroy the earth/They’ll have to deal with you first” from Invincible


Oh No

18.Gorillaz – Demon Days (Virgin)

The best cartoon band since the 60s is back with their follow-up. A darker affair, this one is produced by Danger Mouse to nice effect. There aren’t as many strong songs as their debut and Damon’s vocal sound phoned in (literally and figuratively) at times, but still worthy of a few spins. If you got the special edition, check out “The Swagga” bonus track – nice & retro.

Favorite songs: Feel Good Inc.; D.A.R.E.; Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey’s Head

Favorite lyric: The entire story of Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey’s Head as read by Dennis Hopper


Demon Days

17.Kate Bush – Aerial (Columbia)

The woman who started the modern-day wave of artistic and talented women musicians is finally back. A mixed bag, but it’s incredible to sit and listen to an artist who does exactly as she wants; the rest of the world be damned.

Favorite songs: How To Be Invisible; Nocturn; Aerial

Favorite lyric: “Take a pinch of keyhole/And fold yourself up/You cut along the dotted line/You think inside out” from How To Be Invisible


King of the Mountain - Single

16.Death Cab For Cutie – Plans (Atlantic)

As a big fan of The Postal Service, I never found Death Cab to be as engaging or having the emotional impact that the Service delivered; however, it seems that Ben Gibbard took the lessons learned and applied them to the band that got him started. Beautifully melancholy.

Favorite songs: Marching Bands Of Manhattan; Someday You Will Be Loved; Crooked Teeth

Favorite lyric: “And the memories of me will seem more like bad dreams/Just a series of blurs: like I never occurred/And someday you will be loved” from Someday You Will Be Loved


Plans (Bonus Video Version)

15.Ben Folds – Songs For Silverman (Epic)

At first, I was very disappointed by this album, but after repeated listens I finally find the groove that Folds was going for. No where as good as Rockin’ The Suburbs, but still a few very strong songs.

Favorite songs: Landed; Give Judy My Notice; Sentimental Guy

Favorite lyric: “I knew/If I made it easy for you/You’d settle for me/Eventually/But Judy/I won’t be your bitch anymore” from Give Judy My Notice


Songs for Silverman

14.Erasure – Nightbird (Mute)

After all these years, they are still writing outstanding electronic pop music. While there are a couple of clunkers here, the majority of the album is catchy and a modern update of the Erasure you knew in the 80s. Plus “Breathe” is their best single in years.

Favorite songs: Breathe; Don’t Say You Love Me; I Bet You’re Mad At Me

Favorite lyric: “But don’t say you love me/Strange things that make me die” from Don’t Say You Love Me


Nightbird

13.eels – Blinking Lights And Other Revelations (Vagrant)

Mark Everett, better know as E, has been the better American songwriters for the past decade and this is probably the culmination of his deep exploration into his family. Not as much of a bummer as Electro-Shock Blues, but still it’s a 2 disc cycle into his past and where he came from and who he is. And while most songs may be of the ‘slit your wrists’ variety, there are actually a few songs in the middle of all this that showcase his sense of humor such as “Going Fetal” and “Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living)“. His instrumentals on here are extremely beautiful especially the Blinking Lights theme and its variations.

Favorite songs: Mother Mary; Going Fetal; Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living)

Favorite lyric: “‘Cause my kind of love is an ugly love/But it’s real and it lasts a long, long time” from Ugly Love


Blinking Lights and Other Revelations

12.Beck – Guero (Interscope)

There have been many comparisons to Odelay with Beck’s newest and while they are legit, this is a Beck who has found the balance between the uber funk of Midnite Vultures and the break-up depression of Sea Change and come up with an album that is both meaningful and, at times, joyful. I will love to hear a sequel to Midnight Vultures, which I feel is his most genius, but this is a great stop along the way of Beck’s healing.

Favorite songs: Girl; Go It Alone; Rental Car

Favorite lyric: “Please enjoy/Hell yes” from Hell Yes


Guero

11.Kylie Minogue – Ultimate Kylie (Capitol)

What a career! This is the woman who, world-wide, has outsold Madonna. And she hasn’t done it with shock, but with great choices in material and producers. Four albums ago she took control of her own sound once her 80s sound was passe and started to experiment to great critical acclaim. Much of this music has not been heard inside the US, so those here in the states give it a chance. Plus there are two new, fantastic songs on here including the Grammy nominated “I Believe In You“, written and produced by my favorite band of 2004, Scissor Sisters. This is smart dance/pop. And, yes, my Guilty Pleasure Of The Year.

Favorite songs: Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi; I Believe In You; Breathe

Favorite lyric: “What you want is what you don’t need/Stand up when you’re talking to me” from Giving You Up


Kylie Minogue

10.The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan (Third Man/V2)

When you first start Get Behind Me Satan, you are bombarded by a kick-ass 70s rock song with Jack White singing in falsetto. We’ve been down this road before, right? Wrong! The next track starts and you hear a marimba. A marimba! On a White Stripes album! From then on you will not know what the next track will be like and I feel the Stripes want it that way. This is certainly their most experimental album. There is also a lot of piano here. There is nothing better than a talented musician expanding and pushing to see what they can do. Here, The White Stripes do that and succeed.

Favorite songs: Blue Orchid; The Nurse; My Doorbell

Favorite lyric: “The nurse should not be the one who puts salt in your wounds” from The Nurse


Get Behind Me Satan

09.Fountains Of Wayne – Out-Of-State Plates (Virgin)

This is B-side material? Two discs worth of music. Most of it A-side material. This in itself is another outstanding Fountains from the heartfelt “I’ll Do The Driving” to the 60s-inspired “Today’s Teardrops” to typically hilarious material such as the new “The Girl I Can’t Forget” or “Half A Woman“, this is a set that all Fountains fan must have. There is a couple of Christmas songs and even a Chanukah song. Plus the remakes of “Trains And Boats And Planes“, “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” and oft pirated “…Baby One More Time” are worth the price of the album.

Favorite songs: I’ll Do The Driving; The Girl I Can’t Forget; Today’s Teardrops

Favorite lyric: “Coz she never fails to tell the tale/Of the time she had to post my bail” from The Girl I Can’t Forget


Out-Of-State Plates

08.Goldfrapp – Supernature (Mute) [IMPORT]

“Oh La La” is right. This was a surprise. Their other releases were okay with a couple of good songs, but this constancy was just unexpected. Oh, sure, it’s a collection of hot dance tracks, but with a great dark pop twist. Are these songs about love, sex, drugs or all of the above? Who cares! Just get out on the dance floor! One of the best dance albums in years. Sexy, sensual and a bit raunchy. Look for US release March 7, 2006.

Favorite songs: Lovely 2 C U; Slide In; Number One

Favorite lyric: “You’re my favorite moment/You’re my Saturday” from Number One


Number 1 - EP

07.Stars – Set Yourself On Fire (Arts & Crafts)

Stars has always been a critics’ darling band, but this is the first time I’ve actually purchased an album by them and am I glad I did! They have a nice, independent sound that’s part New Order, part R.E.M., part Modest Mouse, yet unique enough to know that you are listening to Stars. Credit for this goes mostly to the two vocalists Torquil Campbell & Amy Millan. This is great artsy pop.

Favorite songs: Set Yourself On Fire; Ageless Beauty; One More Night

Favorite lyric: “When she’s breaking his heart/She still fucks like a tease” from One More Night


Set Yourself On Fire

06.Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (Asthmatic Kitty)

What intrigued me most about my introduction to Sufjan Stevens was hearing about his 50 States project. I immediately went out and got Michigan and this incredible concept album. While Michigan got to be a repetitive near the end its cycle; Illinois is a constant discovery. Anything and everything that is strictly Illinois is sung about here with some great instrumentals thrown in plus I’ve never heard a more beautiful song about a serial killer than “John Wayne Gacy, Jr“. And lucky me got one of the few copies printed with Superman on the cover before they all sold out.

Favorite songs: Concerning The UFO Sightings near Highland, Illinois; Come On! Feel The Illinoise; John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

Favorite lyric: “The neighbors they adored me/For his humor and his conversation/Look underneath the house there,/Find the few living things rotting fast” from John Wayne Gacy, Jr.


Illinois

05.Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production Of Eggs (Righteous Babe)

There is nothing quite like listening to an Andrew Bird song and hearing his violin kick in. His whistling is even better. This is collection of mostly soft, melodic songs are only Bird can do. They are a bit odd both in their lyrics and in the musical arrangement, but in such a good way. Plus it contains my favorite song of this year, “Fake Palindromes” about a woman who is a bit sadistic in her love – it’s both creepy and pretty. This is a great album to throw on, sit back and just relax. Plus I just love the title, “A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left“.

Favorite songs: A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left; Fake Palindromes [Winner Best Song Of Year]; Masterfade; Skin Is, My

Favorite lyric: “She says I like long walks and sci-fi movies/You’re six foot tall and east coast bred/Some lonely night we can get together/And I’m gonna tie your wrists with leather/And drill a tiny hole into your head” from Fake Palindromes


The Mysterious Production of Eggs

04.Martha Wainwright – Martha Wainwright (Zoe)

Yes, Rufus Wainwright’s sister. She’s been on his albums enough to full an entire album, but it turns out she is a damn fine songwriter herself. This long, overdue debut is full of folksy whimsy and gorgeous melodies. Her voice is of the rough but smooth variety where she slides into the songs, yet sounds like she had enough whisky and life lessons to be confident of the disses she dishes out. Songs like “Who Was I Kidding?” and obviously “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” simply reek with hurt. Yet she will turn on you and tell you how much love she has in “G.P.T.” or that she’s just looking for some company as in “When The Day Is Short” or just questioning existence in the lovely, “Far Away“. It’s quite a mess of emotions, but a journey worth taking.

Favorite songs: Far Away; G.P.T.; These Flowers; Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole

Favorite lyric: “Poetry has no place for a heart that’s a whore” from Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole


Martha Wainwright

03.Tracy Bonham – Blink The Brightest (Zoe)

I think this was the best study in melancholy of the year – an album full of longing that no one seemed to notice. You probably remember her screaming “Mother Mother” from her debut album. This is her third in a string of great albums that take forever to be released. Yes, she probably still belongs in the early 90s of women rockers, but Blink The Brightest is a superb example of being place out of time. The single and first track, “Something Beautiful” simply aches. It can probably be said now that I’m a sucker for a violinist that’s gone pop. Tracy is similar to Andrew Bird in that she loves to incorporate bits & pieces of the stringed instrument throughout her arrangements – making them that much better.

Favorite songs: Something Beautiful; I Was Born Without You; Eyes; All Thumbs

Favorite lyric: “I lied too much when I stood at the altar” from Did I Sleep Through It All?


Blink the Brightest

02.Aimee Mann – The Forgotten Arm (Super Ego)

And now for the one-two punch. Pun intended (forgotten arm is a boxing term). Aimee’s latest (and people know how much I adore her) is another masterful pop album that just happens to be a concept album. The beauty of this is that The Forgotten Arm works also as a simple collection of bittersweet love songs, but as intended, it’s the sorrowful story of a strung-out boxer and a beautiful small-town girl. They’re relationship is not the most healthy, but, like all story-telling, it isn’t interesting unless there is conflict. Then there is the artwork – incredible and deservingly nominated for a Grammy ergo it gets the Album Cover Of The Year award. Plus it was released on my birthday. A very nice present indeed.

Favorite songs: I Can’t Get My Head Around It; Video; That’s How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart; I Can’t Help You Anymore

Favorite lyric: “So, like a ghost in the snow/I’m getting ready to go/Because, baby, that’s all I know/How to open the door” from That’s How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart


The Forgotten Arm

01.Michael Penn – Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947 (Mimeograph)

To further explain the “one-two punch” comment earlier, Michael and Aimee are married, so it was cool the list ends this way mostly because no one is more surprised than I am about Michael ending up at number one. I never thought he would ever be able to come close to his first album March, but here you go. His last album, MP4, came close, but this one is actually better than March. There was about a month and a half that this was the only thing I was listening to. He spent 5 years between releases and it shows. This is more than, as many have described it, his “Beatle-esque” song stylings. Yes, those are here; however, his soundtrack writing has clearly influenced him as well. There are intermissions and transitions that are simply layered soundscapes, but surrounding these instrumentals are outstanding pop songs. “Room 712, The Apache” is one of the best songs he’s ever written – full of loss and hooks. It’s fantastic. This is another “concept” album that is a wonderful cycle of strong writing and production. A great album that you can’t help but get involved in.

Favorite songs: Walter Reed; Room 712, The Apache; Mary Lynn; You Know How; A Bad Sign

Favorite lyric: “Baby, bet everything/You’re going to lose/But believe it or not/You’ll be highly amused” from Room 712, The Apache


Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947

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