Music Features

Top 50 Albums of 2005 (Part One)


"Dignity And Shame" (Merge)

"From the bold trumpet and decidedly Spanish mariachi guitars on the opening instrumental Islero to his trusty lap steel and sparse, captivating piano notes, Eric Bachmann and his Crooked Fingers continue to redefine a sound that simply cannot be pigeonholed. Lou Reed, Neil Diamond and a handle of scotch hitch a ride on The Partridge Family bus perhaps." - Chris Conti


"Sunset Tree" (4AD)

"I'm not sure why, but next to Illinoise, this probably got the heaviest rotation on my iPod this year. Maybe it was John Darnielle's strange voice, or his obvious commitment to the intensely personal material, or maybe it's just that these were great songs. Whatever the case, if you missed it you should go back and check it out, if only to hear the best line of the year - "St. Joseph's Baby Aspirin, Bartles & Jaymes, and you". If that phrase means anything to you, then you'll love the rest." - Alan Shulman


"Wilderness" (Jagjaguwar)

"Wilderness was a breath of fresh air in an early 2005 dominated by twee-pop and "meta" music. But who to compare Wilderness too? 1000 critics with 1000 type-writers came up with: The Talking Heads, Echo and the Bunnymen, and "Discipline" era King Crimson. The truth is that what all three of these bands have in common, is they took elements existing before them and stylized them into an important new form. The dense atmospheres and paranoid stutters of Wilderness are one such form." - David Ferris


"For Screening Purposes Only" (Domino)

"In my bitter old age, I don't expect many good post-hardcore albums to come around. I especially don't expect them to come out of anywhere but Washington, Long Island and the small hand-full of remaining locations containing post-harcore hold-outs. Armed with 1001 Blood Brother comparisons and a bag of hooks, Test Icicles have proven me wrong. If straight-edge hardcore verses were this accessible, nobody would ever do drugs." - David Ferris


"La Foret" (5RC)

"Jamie Stewart is one of the best lyricists around today. People often compare Xiu Xiu to the Silver Jews, or any other lyric-centric project, in that even though the music may be awkward at times, the words always carry the show. The difference though, is that Xiu Xiu's music is SUPPOSED to be awkward. Each pause between simple strums and "please" in Yellow Raspberry, raises the awkward tension to almost unbearable heights. The lyrics are so good in fact, that Stewart could have collaborated with his grand-mother, and this album still would have been great." - David Ferris


"The Mysterious Production Of Eggs" (Righteous Babe)

"The Mysterious Production of Eggs is a gorgeous, sleepy record. Equal parts folk and orchestral, it's filled with haunting melodies and the acidic lullabies that are Bird's disturbing but poignant lyrics. Even a few vestiges of his Bowl of Fire pepper this beautiful album with their gypsy fiddles. Tremendously satisfying." - Gabbie Nirenburg


"Everything Ecstatic" (Domino)

"Hats off to Hebden, you might say, for so consistently ploughing a furrow entirely of his own making; for inventing a genre (I shudder to say it, folktronica) and still pushing it; for making music that's both easy and pleasant to listen to and at the same time fantastically complex and rewarding. Everything Ecstatic is a very Four Tet record, but there's still no one else to touch him if you're looking for electronic music that will at every step of the way inspire and entertain." - Simon Briercliffe


"Le Fumeur de Ciel" (Type)

"Very little is known about the reclusive M Neto other than that he's produced a debut album of quite outstanding authority. All credit to Type, the little UK label with the great heart, whose championship of this kind of beautiful, enigmatic, slightly disturbing music that creeps into your heart by a side door that you never knew existed until you heard it creak is absolutely typified (sorry) by this wonderful album." - Paul Roylance


"Noah's Ark" (Touch And Go)

"Dishing out syrupy irony and barbed-wire boho in equal measure, the Casady sisters' fast follow-up to last year's cult success of La Maison de Mon Rêve was more polished but no less faux-diffident and scratchy-screechy - something that really gets up some people's noses, for some reason. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're one of the more distinctive sibling acts of the moment, and keep über-cool collaborative company - Antony, Sufjan Stevens, inter alia - to boot." - Paul Roylance


"Minimum Maximum" (EMI)

"Two discs, one of the most influential outfits of the last thirty-plus years, and every one a thriller - it's clear that Kraftwerk wanted their definitive live album to be the business. So what if they're done really very little in recent years? These guys built their studio from scratch and The Man-Machine offers a blueprint for commercial dance, electropop, the works, quite frankly. The recent stuff, like the Tour de France soundtracks, is sparkling; the older works - The Model, The Robots, especially - dusted down, fresh and vivid. I try not to get carried away: you have to have this album." - Ben Bollig


"Coles Corner" (Mute)

No comment submitted.


"Laughter's Fifth" (Sub Pop)

"This was my pick for album of the year. Say what? That's right, I know you never heard it and you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who agrees with me, but I'm sticking to my guns. Why? Because this is the album that best achieved what it set out to do, which was to have fun, kick back and rock it old school. It's not in love itself, its not trying to be cute, and it's not trying to impress you; it's trying to reach you through the universal language of rock and roll, and it makes no apologies for doing so. It could have been put out in 1966 and it'll still be frickin' awesome a hundred years from now because it's as pure an expression of its genre as you're likely to find, and a rarity in these fractured times." - Alan Shulman


"Awesomer" (The Social Registry)

"The beauty of Awesomer is how familiar it sounds, even to first timers. You might think of Sonic Youth, of Pavement, of Yo La Tengo or maybe even the Pixies. It's a melange of early 90's lo-fi greats, tugging on nostalgic heartstrings without having to compromise originality." - Gabbie Nirenburg


"In Case We Die" (Bar/None)

"If there is one music trend worth hailing this past year, it's this whole jigsaw mish-mash of eclectic styles jammed into one album. And Melbourne eight-piece Architecture in Helsinki, with their hyperactive, multi-coloured approach to melody-making, have probably done it best. That's eight different instruments, eight voices, and some truly gorgeous sounds. In Case We Die is their second album, and it's just as nutso as the first one - emphatically twee, inventive and surprisingly dark in places. Dark as only childlike voices and toy-like instruments can sound. It's twinkly and clunky and sparkles like an over-decorated Christmas tree. Can you dig it?" - Sally Pryor


"Wind In The Wires" (Tomlab)

"The precocious boy wonder has died his hair black and returned to present us with more Boho anthems. Praise however, must be attributed to Beck, Vek and Gough for creating a market for this over-indulgent, under produced, pseudo-folk melancholia. At times trite and immature, this is an album of guilty pleasure. Yes, he is a pubeless wonder. Yes, he is juvenile in his approach but no, I can't think of a single reason to dislike Wind in the Wires. Patrick, take a bow." - Ian Simpson

35. BECK

"Guero" (Interscope)

"It took three albums worth of waiting, but Beck has given fans another album of trashcan beats and geeked-out rhymes. The first few seconds of listening and the energetic, walk-tall riff of E-Pro sums up the album: Play this really loud and dance around, preferably in summer weather. Yeah, it's a fun album. As usual, there's slacker wisdom in the man's words; "Shoot your mouth off if you know where you're aiming." And Beck's aim is so true. " - Jason Endress


"EP" (Rough Trade)

"How can a band release both their most accessible and inaccessible albums in one year? I have a theory that the Fiery Furnaces, still bitter about the White Stripe comparisons which followed Gallowsbird's Park, decided to follow up each accessible album, with a beast. At least we have some consolation that for each collaboration they do with their uncles, nieces or grandparents, we will get a blast of pure accessible, often nonsensical, bliss, such as the EP." - David Ferris


"The Woods" (Sub Pop)

"The band's first record on Sub Pop, The Woods is quite a departure from typical Sleater-Kinney. A foray into classic rock and even psychedelia, this album is a playground for epic guitar solos and powerful, smack-in-the-face lyrics marking, some say, the pinnacle of riot rock that the band has been working so hard to reach." - Gabbie Nirenburg


"The Mouse And The Mask" (Epitaph)

No comment submitted.


"Leaders Of The Free World" (V2)

"Some bands embrace the normality and the boredom of day to day life that they hope to kick out against to such an extent that they become as dull and pedestrian as those that they are out to knock. Not so with Elbow. Leaders Of the Free World mixes moments of lyrical bleakness about world events and everyday life with a shimmering musical patchwork that is proof positive that Elbow are not quite the spent force that so many people suggest they are. More gas fire than log fire, but all the more interesting and just as cockle-warming for it." - Ben Stroud


"Z" (ATO)

"Though still buried under a haze of reverb, this effort was yet another step forward for the band that blends soundscapes and Skynrd. Jim James' haunting vocals propel these tunes forward on gossamer wings, occasionally landing to kick out the jams. While I may never forgive them the judgmental lapse that allowed them to close the album with the rambling Dondante rather than the transcendent Knot Comes Loose, or their tendency to hide a little too much in reverb's shadow, I have to admit that these were as solid a set of tunes as you were likely to get this year." - Alan Shulman


"Get Behind Me Satan" (XL)

"In which Meg and Jack go back, back, back in search of an authentic American voice and find it hiding in a dark alley, lurking under the covers, or dancing on a crumbling porch. Though augmented slightly by the occasional piano or marimba, the Stripes still make the most out of the least, which is about as ballsy a manoeuvre I can imagine for a band actually competing for chart space with today's overproduced corporate swill. Talent, intensity and sheer chutzpah win the day, and if The Denial Twist doesn't kick your ass, then you don't have one." - Alan Shulman


"A Certain Trigger" (Warp)

"This year, more than any I've known, has been a year of 'hype' - some deserved, some not so. A Certain Trigger is most certainly of the former. Paul Smith perches his lanky body clumsily atop his Novo-Castarian soapbox and commands attention. His working class tales of woe are undoubtedly something to shout about... and shout he does. Maxïmo Park are the bona fide saviours of this country's much ridiculed rock and roll persona. I wasn't alive for Nevermind the Bollocks..., All Mod Cons or London Calling but I sure as hell am glad I was around to witness the long overdue arrival of my generation's My Generation." - Ian Simpson


"Nashville" (Rykodisc)

"At first listen, you could be forgiven for dismissing Josh Rouse's farewell to Nashville as another polished slice of easy Americana. Dig a little deeper, however, and you'll realise that Nashville packs a far greater emotional punch than fans of Rouse's unashamedly retro 1972 album would dare to expect. Songs like Sad Eyes and My Love Has Gone are polar opposites to the call and response shenanigans of Love Vibration, and all the better for it." - David Coleman


"Pretty In Black" (Columbia)

"For a record that seems so unashamedly in love with it's influences (Phil Spector, The Everly Brothers, The Jesus & Mary Chain), Pretty In Black is The Raveonettes making good on the promise shown in their first two albums. Mixing teen-pop anthems (Ode To LA) with sleazy, dark-eyed grooves (Love In A Trashcan) to stunning effect, The Raveonettes make you realize that whilst fads and fashions in music may come and go, there is nothing quite as stunningly simple and exciting as three chords and both eyes trained towards the gutter." - Ben Stroud

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Click here to discover our top 25 albums of 2005