Wednesday, December 21, 2005

MY FAVORITE CDs OF 2005

Blackfield – Blackfield: Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson gets together with Aviv Geffen from Israel, and they cook up a beautiful album. There are lush vocal harmonies, pleasant melodies, and a feeling of melancholia throughout. This is easily one of the best rainy-day albums I've heard in a long, long time. The songwriting is beautifully done, and sad/dreamy cuts like "Glow" and "Scars" evoke a sense of longing.



Porcupine Tree – Deadwing: I love just about everything Porcupine Tree does. They are hard to categorize, as they move effortlessly from metal-influences to prog-rock to art-rock to pop. My favorite cuts are the album's two longest: the title track and "Arriving Somewhere (Not Here)". PT leader Steven Wilson enlists Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth and King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew to help with these tracks. While not as intense as its predecessor (the amazing "In Absentia"), "Deadwing" is nonetheless an interesting album, one that includes enough styles under one tent to draw in many listeners.


Opeth – Ghost Reveries: This Swedish "death metal" band continues to define the genre. At times, Mikael Akerfeldt's amazing voice sounds tender and haunting, and at others he sounds like a lost soul riding the cold, howling wind of death. Opeth blends acid rock, metal, art rock, and prog rock into something truly amazing. They do not deal in excessive bombast; they keep things tasteful. I believe they are truly representative of how appealing "metal" can be when played by the right people... and Opeth are those right people.


Sigur Ros – Takk…: This band seems to be abandoning its epics for songs that are shorter, more compact, and more structured. There is less of an ominous tone, and more of a feeling of playfulness than on their previous releases. Whereas earlier Sigur Ros purveys a sense of stark beauty, tending to evoke glaciers, ice, and coldness in my mind, "Takk..." makes me think of meadows, flowers and bright yellow sunshine. Every Sigur Ros CD is a work of art, and "Takk..." is no exception; it just shows us a side of this band we haven't heard until now.


Dandy Warhols – Odditorium or Warlords of Mars: This is a disc which has been bashed by a lot of folks, but I think it's unfair to bash it, especially if the bashers do so just because it is a different kind of record than expected from this band. The Dandies reinvent themselves with each CD, and this time they appear simply as... themselves. This record has a very loose feel, and I think it is a snapshot of a band that believes it owns the rock and roll world. While some of you probably don't like that kind of cocksure attitude from a band, I find it refreshing in this case. They seem to be telling us they know they are good, that they're going to relax and goof around a bit, and that listeners who don't like it can f*ck off! My standout "Odditorium" tracks are the acoustic-guitar-driven "Holding Me Up", the dense wall-of-sound stoner-symphonic "Love Is The New Feel Awful" and the final track "A Loan Tonight", on which singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor sounds like XTC's Andy Partridge on large doses of quaaludes. This is a masterfully druggy album, and it's a great one to kick back with.

HONORABLE MENTION:

M83 - Before the Dawn Heals Us: This is excellent atmospheric electronica, highly evocative, the kind that pulls all kinds of emotional strings in yours truly.


Coldplay - X & Y: I think it's unfair to criticize this CD because it isn't "A Rush Of Blood To The Head"... I think very few albums could ever match up with that one as far as overall consistency of excellence. I believe that on its own merits, "X & Y" is a very good record. I think the title cut is absolutely outstanding, and I also like "White Shadows" and "Talk".


Beck – Guero: stoner electronic/guitar rock at its finest. Check out the highly atmospheric "Scarecrow"... actually pretty edgy to listen to while driving along a dark highway!


Arcade Fire – Funeral: possibly not deserving of so much hype, but still a very solid alternative rock album. The vocals may be an acquired taste; the instrumental arrangements are interesting, not run-of-the-mill. This is a band with lots of potential.

AND A COUPLE OF MY MUSICAL DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2005:

My Morning Jacket – Z: Even though I was disappointed with this one, I still think it is a good CD. Like trying to compare Coldplay's "X & Y" with its predecessor "A Rush Of Blood To The Head", it is almost unfair to compare "Z" with MMJ's last one, "It Still Moves". "Z" seems to be more on the surface to me, that is, it doesn't have as much depth of emotion as their last one... but I still return to it, mainly for "Gideon" and "It Beats 4 U".


U2 – How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb: I was just about totally disappointed with this one. Before it was released, Bono was hyping it by saying "This is our first rock and roll album." My thought was "Wow, maybe they're regaining some of the fire from early in their career!" Alas, there were not a lot of moments here that could be considered "rocking out", and I prefer hearing The Edge playing in a more stripped-down manner than hearing him overdubbed dozens of times. I love "Vertigo", but I find the rest of the tracks on HTDAAB to be quite unmemorable.

2 Comments:

Blogger J. Marquis said...

You've got some interesting picks. I think I need to give the Beck cd another listen.

I totally agree on U2. In my opinion, their last really good album was Rattle and Hum (and even that didn't really rock that hard).

5:18 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

I agree about U2, J.... I liked most all of their stuff up through "Unforgettable Fire", then about half of "The Joshua Tree", about half of "Achtung Baby", maybe only a few cuts off of "Zooropa", and since then mostly just "Beautiful Day" and "Vertigo"...

6:08 PM  

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