I realize I'm wayyyyy past due with this list shit, but here it goes anyway...
Best Albums of 2005:
1. Edan BEAUTY AND THE BEAT – This record makes me feel like the giddy 14-year-old that I used to be, when hip-hop was my sole reason for existing. It’s like a lost classic from the New School of ’88 or some shit. In only 34 minutes, BEAUTY AND THE BEAT contains more creativity, melody, and giddy invention than almost anything I’ve ever heard. It’s silly, but this is one of those albums that single-handedly justifies my existence. Corny, but true.
1. Sufjan Stevens ILLINOIS – Sufjan Stevens’s heartbreaking, profound record is this year’s FUNERAL or IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA. Only time will tell if he can keep up his staggeringly prolific pace, but even if he burns out tomorrow, he can rest assured that he contributed more beauty and emotion with this release than most artists ever will. This record makes me feel sadness in the way that I wish CAPOTE had made me feel. I can’t wait for his take on Maryland!
3. Kanye West LATE REGISTRATION – Like Edan, Kanye appreciates the importance of melody in a song. Recruiting Jon Brion was a masterstroke, resulting in a record that is bursting with creativity. But more important than that is Kanye’s refusal to be anything but honest, a risky approach that never fails to fascinate and add genuine emotional impact. Like Sufjan, Mr. West is someone who appears to be climbing and climbing with no top in sight.
4. Richard Swift THE NOVELIST/WALKING WITHOUT EFFORT – Don’t get me wrong, I still love Rufus Wainwright, but listening to Richard Swift’s debut double-release reminds me just how much I loved Rufus’s Jon Brion-produced debut. Each song is a musical carnival, featuring diverse and perfectly placed instrumentation underneath Swift’s sad, haunting vocals. Easily one of my favorite new artists.
5) Eels BLINKING LIGHTS AND OTHER REVELATIONS – E is a sad, lonely man. Thank God for that. I was skeptical diving into this record, for not many double-albums can maintain a person’s interest in this meandering modern era. But BLINKING LIGHTS is different. None of it seems like filler. Granted, I could leave behind four or five songs, but I’ll keep all the rest. Jon Brion and Randy Newman and Beck meet at a dive bar in Hollywood to discuss a possible collaboration. This is the result.
6) Teenage Fanclub MAN-MADE – I don’t know how this record seemed to slip under everyone’s radar. Granted, I’m a sucker for almost anything these guys put out, but this is a really great collection of songs. Raymond delivers his best effort yet, “Only With You,” and Gerry delivers more sugar-powered sweetness. But it is Norman who really shines here. I honestly think that this is the music Kurt Cobain would be making if he were he still alive.
7) DangerDoom THE MOUSE AND THE MASK – Man, only one genuine MF Doom album in the past calendar year? That’s rookie behavior. It’s a good thing that this record is so giddily good. Danger Mouse is definitely a gifted producer, and the guest MCs add even more flavor (especially Talib Kweli and Ghostface). I’m not a Cartoon Network aficionado, so some of the character appearances sound like bad Homestar Runner to me, but I can forgive that because the tracks are all tight.
8) Fiona Apple EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE – I’m referring to the unreleased Jon Brion-produced album here. Not that I’m taking sides, I just didn’t bother listening to the new one, as I had already become to attached to the first version. Whatever her issues, Ms. Apple is talented as shit and this is a record that I can listen to repeatedly without getting bored.
9) Antony and the Johnsons I AM A BIRD NOW – This is an album of breathtaking fragility that deserves all the accolades that are being thrown its way. Antony’s voice is a cry in a dark universe, a whimpering bellow, a tender call to arms in a harsh, brutal world. Everybody, be nice to him, please. He sounds like an abused, terrified puppy.
10) Vashti Bunyan LOOKAFTERING – I guess I’m exposing myself as a bit of a pansy this year (big shocker to those of you who know me), but Vashti’s return to the limelight is a remarkably wonderful one. Thanks to the godly Max Richter, each song is painstakingly, perfectly arranged, allowing Vashti’s timeless songwriting to reach a truly ethereal state.
OTHER WORTHWILE LISTENS (In No Particular Order):
Anom “So It’s Come to This,” Deerhoof “The Runners Four,” Little Brother “The Minstrel Show,” M.I.A. “Arular,” Bloc Party “Silent Alarm,” My Morning Jacket “Z,” M. Ward “Transistor Radio,” The New Pornographers “Twin Cinema,” Silver Jews “Tanglewood Numbers,” Smog “A River Ain’t Too Much To Love,” Aesop Rock “Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives,” Of Montreal “The Sunlandic Twins,” The Oranges Band “The World & Everything In It,” Neil Young “Prairie Wind,” Neil Diamond “12 Songs,” The Clientele “Strange Geometry,” Pyramid “The First American,” Spoon “Gimme Fiction,” The Hold Steady “Separation Sunday,” Wilderness “Wilderness,” David Pajo “Pajo,” Jens Lekman “Oh You’re So Silent Jens”