Monday, June 27, 2005

Top 10 of the Half-Year

Spurred on by a recent spate of these (specifically Dodge), I thought I would give the big half-year list for everyone. No more preamble, just here we go...

10. Boom Bip, Blue-Eyed In the Red Room and Final Fantasy, Has A Good Home (tied): In trying to decided between the two of them, I finally came to the conclusion that both have their merits and drawbacks. Boom Bip is a very good album, sounding like a more hepped-up Album Leaf, laying down some really interesting instrumentals, and some great grooves and atmospherice. The album's drawback is that in the middle few tracks, it can tend to get a little repetitive. Final Fantasy is a pretty awesome little album that I haven't quite given enough time to. The songs are good, usually built around Pallett's violin. The drawback is his voice sometimes becomes a bit too much spread over and entire album (Granted, I said the same thing about The Arcade Fire).

09. Royksopp, The Understanding: I'm not sure if this has come out yet, either way, I don't HAVE it, but I HAVE it, if you know what I mean (and I will buy it as soon as I sees it). Oddly, I had somehow avoided hearing anything (save for a few remixes) by Royksopp until stumbling across this. I thought, judging by the remixes, that they would be poppier/dancier/technoier, but they're not. This is a great album, full of atmospheric electronics and dancy poppy ditties. This is what I wanted from the new Daft Punk.

08. Common, Be: I only own one other Common album (that one where he talks about how he wishes he hadn't had his gf get an abortion, no, not Ben Folds Five), that I picked up in a pawn shop. So, I don't remember my exact motivation for wanting to hear this album, but I'm glad I did. This is quite a joyous album right from the get-go, sounding like Common realizes there's a lot of shitty stuff in the world which he will discuss, but he's also going to have a good time. "Be" the short opener of the album, sums it up like a mission statement. It begins with a few slow bass chords before picking up a keyboard and finally some strings. Common talks on it about seeing the world thru his child's eyes. This is uplifting without being cheesy.

07. Sufjan Stevens, Illinoise: I had the distinct advantage of hearing Illinoise before I had heard Michigan, Stevens' previous album devoted to the titled state, the first of Stevens' attempts to write an album for each state (Personally, I can't wait for Oregon). I have heard a bit of criticism that this one is just the same as the last, with the locations changed. But coming to it with virgin ears, I was blown away. Sometimes as soft as a whisper, sometimes joyous like a shout!, this is a thorughly trasncendant little album (actually it's far from little, clocking in at over 70 minutes) that I have a feeling is going to grow on me in the ensuing months.

06. The Wedding Present, Take Fountain: I've heard the complaints, that this isn't really the Wedding Present but Cinerama under another name, that it doesn't sound like the Wedding Present, wah wah, cry cry. That goes all in the one ear and out the other because this is a very good album. It sounds like the natural progression of what the Wedding Present would've sounded like if they hadn't gone their separate ways after Saturnalia. David Gedge is still often disappointed, and write beautiful lyrics to accompany these disappointements ("So he said he wants to meet me/while I'm sure it's genuine/ but how can I just shake his hand when it's been/ all over your skin"), but at other times there's a hopefulness there, and, frankly, that's all I ask.

05. The Decemberists, Picaresque: I waver on this one, sometimes holding it as high as #3, and sometimes it scrapes its toes along the bottom of the top ten, so I thought it appropriate to put it somewhere in the middle today, because I'm not quite sure what to make of it. This album really aspires to a level it can't sustain. When it's on, it's spot-on, beautiful, witty, joyous and mournful all at once. But sometimes it tends to sound the same, sometimes it doesn't quite sound like there is any need for it, as long as you have one Decemberists' album, you have them all. So you could fully expect this album to being skirting the edge of the top 30 by the end of the year, or, possibly making a run at the top 3. Give me some more time with it, and we'll see.

04. The Mountain Goats, The Sunset Tree: I'm just gonna plagarize what I wrote when I first heard this album on a message board elsewhere... "I always kind of dug the Mountain Goats in the past, but I was never a big fan of the bedroom production style. And this one, produced by the great John Vanderslice, sounds AWESOME. It turns out that John Darnielle's voice sounds so much better when it's surrounded by a full band, effects, and strings-oh the strings! This is probably the most personal Goats' album to date, it all deals with Darnielle's relationship with his abusive stepfather, but it's never so depressing you can't go on, actually, it's often oddly uplifting and hopeful." cuz I feel pretty much the same way right now, I have to give it more time, and I may be a tad generous to it today as I'm not sure it's the 4th best album I've heard so far this year, but it's good, and I don't feel bad putting it here, at all.

03. Regina Spektor, Soviet Kitsch: I've heard that this is a re-release or something, but allmusic puts it as 2005, I didn't hear it until 2005, I didn't get it until 2005, so it's 2000 and motherfudgin' 5. I think Spektor was hurt by her connections, apparently she is buddy-buddy with the Strokes, even doing a duet with Julian Casabalancas, so everyone pegs her as trying to be famous by association. So, almost everyone has written this off before they even heard it. I almost wrote it off because of its atrocious cover art, thinking it was going to sound like Peaches (blargh!). But, if anything, Regina Spektor reminds me of Bjork, playing with her voice, going high, going low. This is an amazingly inventive album, often silly, wistful, sad and touching, and even downright emotionally crushing at parts. The songs range from stampeding declartions of love ("Us") to heartbreaking tales of cancer ("Chemo Limo") and sometimes there's a backing band, and sometimes it's just Spektor and her piano. Expect this to be sitting right here at the end of the year, possibly higher, doubtfully lower.

02. Bloc Party, Silent Alarm: Forget the hate, the backlash, the overexposure THIS is so far the rock album of the year. The songs are good, the pace is delirious, it's infectious, it's emotional, it's near-perfect. These guys have been talked up and down all year, so I'm not going to go into detail, but I expect this album to be appreciated more in retrospect over the coming years, when Bloc Party never come close to touching it again.

01. M83, Before the Dawn Heals Us: Come on, was there ever any doubt? (although, apparently, I've never chatted it up too much on here) This album is pretty much letter-perfect. A glorious melding of the guitars off their last album, atmospherics, vocals, strings, everything! At times it soars and at times it weeps. I really can't do it justice, it's just amazing. The one album from 2005 that I know I will be listening in 10-15 years.


Ben Shepard said...

I had never heard "Michigan" before, either. I think that's why it made my list and no one elses.

I still can't make myself concentrate enought to listen to m83, though.

Dodge said...

I've heard all good things about Final Fantasy, but haven't checked it out yet. Forgot about Regina Spektor & Common...very good albums.

M83 is a good choice, nice list.

MerchMikey said...

Hmm some similarities on our lists. Have a look:
Tiny Top Ten
I'm gonna check out some of your picks that didn't make my list. The recent m83 live in studio over at KEXP was frickin' nuts. It's in their archives, check it out.

MerchMikey said...

Hey you really gotta check out "Amusement Parks on Fire. "Venus in Cancer" is a standout from the CD. They are all like 20 years old.
Interesting that you chose m83 over Bloc Party. I truly feel that Silent Alarm will continue to gain momentum and quite possibly become THE album of the year on many critics list. Also have you checked out the Tain Ep by the Decemberists? Good stuff but maybe not from '05.
I hear ya on the MIA though. It seems like my friends either love her or hate her. She made my list due to the sheer "uniqueness" of her work. She seems to own the Dizzee Rascal slot these days.

I'm gonna try my hand at my "top ten singles of 2005-half year" next. Let's compare notes again.


Caley said...

Bloc Party and M83 are both albums I've been rocking since late December. Bloc Party is super fun, and my favourite of the dancy, punky new wavey rock bands to come along the last few years. It will definitely hold onto the top ten by year's end, I suspect. M83 on the other hand, is something that has already moved beyond being a good album for 2005 or anything such as that, and is actually now in the running for one of my favourite albums of all-time. The only things I can see giving it a run for its money at the top is the forthcoming Sigur Ros, and the possibility of a new DJ Shadow.

I have checked out The Tain, I think it is from last year, and it's really good.

And as for Best Singles of of the Half-Year? You've got it! It's on like neck bone!