erasing clouds

My Favorite 10 Albums of 2005, and Other Ruminations

by dave heaton

Every year I hear more music than the year before. This year I considered doing a Top 100 list, but then realized how ridiculous that would seem, plus that it would basically be repetition. Considering that I mostly choose to write about the music that I love, like, or at least am intrigued by, and let the rest of the music I hear fall to the side, doing a massive year-end wrap-up would be like re-writing all the articles I've already written this year...not the best use of time when there's so much great current and future releases to write about. So my Top 100 list became a Top 50, and then a Top 20, and then I decided that I just needed to get down to it, to pick 10 even though it's sort of arbitrary, and stick with them. So here they are, with links to my original reviews of them, minus the one that I haven't written anything about (My Morning Jacket's fantastic fourth album Z):

1. Architecture in Helsinki, In Case We Die (Bar-None) - review
2. Kanye West, Late Registration (Roc-a-Fella) - review
3. My Morning Jacket, Z (ATO)
4. The Lucksmiths, Warmer Corners (Matinee) - review
5. Of Montreal, The Sunlandic Twins (Polyvinyl) - review
6. Nada Surf, The Weight Is a Gift (Barsuk) - review
7. Jason Anderson, The Wreath (K) - review
8. The Go! Team, Thunder, Lightning, Strike (Sony) - review
9. The Rosebuds, Birds Make Good Neighbors (Merge) - review
10. Colin Clary, Sweater Weather or Not, These Are the Songs That I've Got (Asaurus) - review

As always, choosing one favorite album of the year was easy. There's always one that truly blows me away, and this year it was In Case We Die, where Architecture in Helsinki took their already great little songs and blew them up into bright, hyper, dynamic, complicated numbers filled with color and energy. It's one of those albums that makes me feel so lucky to be alive to have heard it.

Kanye West followed up an entertaining and occasionally quite thoughtful debut album with an even better one: funnier, more infectious, musically much richer and deeper, yet still in moments quite touching. Actually my 2005 was filled with past favorites making albums that really took their personal styles and sounds to new levels, interestingly while also bringing them closer to the mainstream, daily paper-reading audiences. I'm thinking of My Morning Jacket's Z, Sigur Ros' Takk, and the two Bright Eyes albums in particular, though I suppose it also applies to Of Montreal's The Sunlandic Twins (a really brillant re-invention of their sound), The Mountain Goats' The Sunset Tree, Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy and Death Cab for Cutie's Plans.

And while it didn't take them to the top of the charts, The Lucksmiths' Warmer Corners was possibly their best yet, which is saying a lot considering how smart, affecting, and infectious their music always is. It felt in part like a break-up album, as did Nada Surf's The Weight Is a Gift, one of the year's big surprises for me. They've always been better than their one-hit-wonder status would lead you to believe, but this album is really powerful, taking what could have been cliched Hallmark sentiments and power-driving them straight into your heart. I'm always a sucker for songs that feel honestly open-hearted, where someone's poring his heart out and the emotions really come through as authentic and heartfelt. That was the case with The Rosebuds' awesome Birds Make Good Neighbors (a sort-of concept album about love in the face of greed and hatred), with everything Colin Clary put his hands on, including The Smittens' A Little Revolution and his own, sweetly home-made Sweater Weather or Not, These Are the Songs That I've Got. And some of the most moving and inspiring music of the year again came from Jason Anderson, both on his melancholy, ultimately hopeful winter album The Wreath and through his truly amazing concerts (he came to town a handful of times this year, and each performance felt in the moment like the best I've ever seen).

I'm trying to somehow summarize a year, which is always impossible. I've ignored so much: Eluvium's ambient epic Talk Amongst the Trees, the dynamite party album that was the US release (finally) of The Go! Team's Thunder, Lightning, Strike, The Clientele's gorgeous Strange Geometry album, the myriad of great releases from DIY one-man-band The Capstan Shafts, P:ano's dizzying pop tapestry (and its just-as-good smaller follow-up), If Thousands' most fulfilling album yet, the spectacularly playful Toothfairy album, all the great Darla releases (Aarktica, Piano Magic, LD & the New Criticism, and Manual, especially), the birth of exciting new labels like Tell-All Records and Chez Moi, Voxtrot's singles, the Spinto Band, The Caribbean, The Trembling, Darren Hanlon, Damon and Naomi, The Stairs, Tangiers, Paul Duncan, some great Audio Dregs releases, great Matinee releases, great Words on Music releases, Ponies in the Surf, The Consultants, The Pathways, The Snow Fairies, the first three volumes of the amazing Complete Motown Singles boxset series, the reissues of the first four Run-D.M.C. albums, LTM's Field Mice reissues, and so on and so forth. I've still left out so much. And I could write and write and write, and then write some more, and still I will have left out so much. That's the beauty of it all, you can never get your head around it all, there's so much great music out there to discover...

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2005 erasing clouds