Top Releases from 2005, listed in order of hours listened.
Mars Volta – Frances the Mute. As explained here, along with Deloused, an obsession during the late summer stoner months. L’via l’viaquez is the essential psychadelic cuban rockout, and Cassanda Geminni ascends to epic hallucinogen heights.
Bright Eyes – Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Connor Oberst’s pathos and philosophy is stronger here than his twin release I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. He’s also somewhat of an inspiration for a similarly named denizen of Spire City. Angst, big city, drug habit, etc. I Believe in Symmetry, Arc of Time, and Easy/Lucky/Free encapsulate his “acquiesced mortality” thesis.
M83 – Before the Dawn Heals Us. Lush nature motifs, terror and melodic digitized chaos. The Ellipsis Mag story drew a lot from this, both in title and aesthetic. In the Cold I’m Standing, Teen Angst and Car Chase Terror! are accessible highlights.
Tiesto – In Search of Sunrise 4. I yawned with apathy initially, but the latest from brilliant powerhouse Tiesto has been wearing out my iPod hard drive. Perfect soundtrack when I needed to hack out a lengthy scene or chapter.
The Bravery – The Bravery. Unabashedly pop, the pristine production and driving 80s percussion was key for 20-mile bike rides. Fearless, Swollen Summer and Unconditional are tops when I’m pounding the spokes.
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois. Folk-Indy opus, Stevens masters both sadness and sing-along joy. Chicago combines the intimacy of a church confessional with the boisterous grandeur of the choir. Casimir Pulaski Day and John Wayne Gacy are near tear-inducing with still minimalist reflection.
Kanye West – Late Registration. Aside from his media-whoring and planet-sized ego, West can actually put together some good beats. Drive Slow, Addiction and Gone are still favorites of my limited hip-hop library.
Doves – Some Cities. Last Broadcast is one of my top albums ever, so this was an obligatory purchase. It’s a bit short, but what’s there is amazing, try Sky Starts Falling driving through a summer thunderstorm.
The Decemberists – Picaresque. We need more historical ballads. These lads live up their album title, assembling an anthology of musical vignettes – child rulers of the British Empire, shipwrecked mariners, cold war g-men and their wives, Ivy League footballers and dirty New York punk runaways.
Death Cab for Cutie – Plans. Ben Gibbard’s voice transfixed in the Postal Service, and this is the major label follow-up to Transatlanticism. They trim some of their Indy excesses, but still put together a very listenable record. Different Faces shows they can still do the repetitious trance thing explored so well on the title track of their previous.
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm. Post-punk brits, meticulous danceable drumming, Guy Ritchie accents. Check out the fun, bouncy Banquet and Interpol-ish recursive melodies on This Modern Love.
Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have It So Much Better. The follow-up to their acclaimed debut contains no less potential hit-singles; the Beatles-comparisons are fitting, especially on Do You Want To and Eleanor Put Your Boots On.
Wolfmother – Wolfmother. Mix the White Stripes with Led Zeppelin and you’ve got Wolfmother. They even have Jimmy Page’s lyrical obsession with things old and fantastical – just read the song titles (Colossal, White Unicorn, Pyramid, Joker & The Thief).
Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth. After a five year hiatus, Reznor decided to abandon the high-tech production of The Fragile and return to the rawness of his 1989 debut Pretty Hate machine. A bit poppy in parts – the industrial genre he spawned has surpassed him. The last three tracks (The Line begins to blur, Beside You in Time, Right Where it Belongs) meld well together. Still though, The Hand that Feeds is no Head Like a Hole.
Sigur Ros – Takk. Scandinavians are masters of icy and haunting experiments, these boys the obvious epitome. Doesn’t top the masterpiece of (), but there’s a bit more urgency (M83 style) in this record. Check out Glosoli and Saeglopur.