The Wednesday Countdown: 2005

In conjunction with my Great Years In Music: 2005, I have a 2005 Wednesday Countdown. Pretty much just my top ten albums from 2005.

That’s all you need to know.

Top 10 Albums Of 2005:

10. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm

9. Kasabian – Kasabian

8. Elbow – Leaders Of The Free World

7. Andrew Bird – The Mysterious Production Of Eggs

6. Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene

5. LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem

4. Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary

3. My Morning Jacket – Z

2. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning

1. The National – Alligator

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Tell me better 2005 albums in the commenter below.

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Great Years In Music – 2005

The 2nd Great Year in Music is celebrating a year very much close to home. If the past is a foreign country, then 2005 would be a bordering land, one we affectionately mock and have rivalries with in a variety of sports. Unlike 1997 there was not a great broadening of genres, or progression of mainstream attitudes. What occurred in the middle of the recently-deceased decade was a specific genre from a specific country producing a number of excellent records, the volume and quality of which are astounding considering the mere 52 weeks that bands had to release them. Yes, yet again I turn to perhaps my favourite music movement, the great American Indie-Rock scene.

At the time I was just 15, slowly feeling my way into music geekery, content with the bare minimum Radiohead, Muse and The White Stripes, who released “Get Behind Me Satan” in June, a record which was down on their best work but still had the band’s classic pulsating power and addictive simplicity in spades. I’ve been catching up on 2005’s treats for the last few years, and given that I was a depressed teenage outcast at the time, maybe some of the downtrodden lyrics that typified the core of the scene would have hit home a little more.

That feeling of wishing I had poked and pried a little more behind the obvious choices when I was younger is no more acute than with The National, who I have spent the last 18 months listening to with growing awe and a mounting suspicion that I could have used their baritone magnificence earlier in life. Though their first album on a label that wasn’t their own, “Alligator”, didn’t cause much of a buzz when it was released in April of this year, it has swelled to become almost the definition of the term “a grower”, not giving away all its secrets too early and savouring the cerebral, the joyously inventive yet immature. It celebrates the adolescent mind trapped in an adult body, paranoid (“Secret Meeting”), drunkenly invincible (“All The Wine”) and abrasively neurotic (“Abel”) in equal measure, dripping in gorgeously obtuse lyrics and spidery Smiths-esque guitar lines. Easily my favourite album of 2005, probably the pinnacle of its genre and a serious contender for one of my all-time top five albums, it bears many similarities to its competitors in terms of style, but none match it for quality.

The majority of said competitors that were released in 2005 came from the same stable of American narrative-weaving indie. The one most commonly mentioned is Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois”, although personally I find it flat and extravagant. This may be a little to do with the expectations which surround it, as it certainly has moments of quality and surprising profundity, but these moments are hidden behind irritating smarm. Still, it is one of the best critically-received albums of all time, and transformed Sufjan Stevens, deservedly or otherwise, into the indie darling he is today.

Whilst Stevens was blowing folk out of proportion, there was a background resurgence in a more intimate and compelling style of folk, courtesy of Andrew Bird and Conor Oberst. Oberst’s band Bright Eyes simultaneously released two albums “Digital Ash In A Digital Urn” and “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning”, with the latter being particularly worthy of note. At times haunting, from the insecure spoken-word opening of “At The Bottom Of Everything” to the Beethoven-infused “Road To Joy”, “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” is consistent and shows Oberst’s capability at mixing simple, single-guitar folk with more monumental fare without making the record feel too scatter-gun. Andrew Bird’s “The Mysterious Production Of Eggs” is less consistent, but it hits similar highs, especially on “Fake Palindromes” with its rising strings and rhythms and its central call of “she’s got blood in her eyes, in her eyes for you”.

The wave of complex indie-rock that sailed through the decade was spearheaded, some might say, by collectives as opposed to static bands. Few bands have a line-up as fluid as Broken Social Scene, who released a self-titled album this year, which alongside “You Forgot It In People” formed one of the decade’s most lauded one-two combos. Another collective, Wolf Parade, (whose lead singer Spencer Krug has become a less visible version of Jack White amongst the indie landscape) upstaged this record, however, with their debut “Apologies To The Queen Mary”. Though it followed in the footsteps of much of the early decade of indie music, Modest Mouse in particular, the individual tracks hit a high enough quality to really make it stand out in the crowd, and the emotion worn by both the frantic guitars and Krug’s mournful vocals shot the album straight into the hearts of thousands. It would be a stretch to refer to My Morning Jacket as a collective, despite Jim James’ often erratic personal work, but it would not be a stretch to call “Z” an exceptional album that took on board enough prog to accommodate their talent but balanced it with classic rock skilfully enough to avoid alienating the audience.

The other ever-shifting band of note, although at the time they were not at all of note, as life-long fans are at pains to point out, are Animal Collective, who converged often enough in 2005 to release “Feels”, which went under the radar of many until “Merriweather Post Pavilion” last year, when suddenly all manner of hipsters were claiming it had always been their favourite album.

Other American indie bands were churning out excellent albums at the same time, the ever-reliable Spoon released “Gimme Fiction”, The Decemberists cemented their oddball persona with “Picaresque”, Beck put out the steady (if unspectacular by comparison) “Guero” and Okkervil River announced themselves fully with “Black Sheep Boy”, as unnerving as it is beautiful. Most other years these would be riding high in memory and in stature, but for 2005, this was merely the B-material.

And as this wealth of high-quality but narrowly-genred albums came about, there was going to be someone who came along to dig a little fun at it. And aren’t we all glad it was James Murphy who decided to do that? LCD Soundsystem’s self-titled debut infused electro-rock with a shock of danceable delights, daring the introverted indie kids to let loose to the pounding “Tribulations” or the emphatically swaggering “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”.

It would be churlish to completely overlook the British influence on the year, miniscule as it was in comparison. There arrived in 2005 two debuts which borrowed (read: stole) many ideas from bands from the past, often quite blatantly, but nevertheless caused a great sensation not just because they harked back to past masters but because they really brought them tearing into the new decade with aplomb. Kasabian’s self-titled debut gave Stone Roses’ fans a more relevant Second Coming, showcasing a viral swagger and making themselves known with forceful persistence and the odd controversial NME interview, whilst Bloc Party introduced themselves with “Silent Alarm”, a selection of classic rock shout-outs that, at its best, were powerful, smart and moving.

Outside my personal genre of preference there was more to discover. Kanye West almost lived up to his own hype with “Late Registration”, Sigur Ros had critics frothing at the mouth yet again with “Takk”, Kate Bush made a welcome return, her “Aerial” was close (but not close enough for some) to her best. But I must admit that it isn’t because of these albums that I put 2005 in my series of Great Years. It is because this year represented the undoubted height of a tidal wave of American indie records that has engrossed me ever since my discovery (which, alas, came a couple of years too late). It is my great wish that half a decade on some of these bands, and their successors, can coalesce to reproduce this fantastic year. And looking at some of the anticipated 2010 albums, that wish might not be so far-fetched…

Top 42 Albums Of The Decade (5 – 1)

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5.

Radiohead – Hail To The Thief

Radiohead - Hail To The Thief

Length: 56 minutes

Key Tracks: There There, A Wolf At The Door, Backdrifts

Lyrical Quality: 4.6 / 5

Melodic Quality: 4.7 / 5

Track Quality: 4.9 / 5

Album Quality: 4.2 / 5

Total: 18.4 / 20

Recommended Albums:

Muse – Origin Of Symmetry

Elbow – Asleep In The Back

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4.

Arcade Fire – Funeral

Arcade Fire - Funeral

Length: 47 minutes

Key Tracks: Tunnels, Wake Up, Rebellion/Lies

Lyrical Quality: 4.7 / 5

Melodic Quality: 4.8 / 5

Track Quality: 4.6 / 5

Album Quality: 4.6 / 5

Total: 18.7 / 20

Recommended Albums:

The Decemberists – The Crane Wife

Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

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3.

The National – Alligator

The National - Alligator

Length: 47 minutes

Key Tracks: All The Wine, Friend Of Mine, Mr November

Lyrical Quality: 4.9 / 5

Melodic Quality: 4.5 / 5

Track Quality: 4.9 / 5

Album Quality: 4.7 / 5

Total: 19.0 / 20

Recommended Albums:

Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

Various Artists – Dark Was The Night

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2.

Radiohead – Kid A

Radiohead - Kid A

Length: 49 minutes

Key Tracks – How To Disappear Completely, The National Anthem, Idioteque

Lyrical Quality: 4.8 / 5

Melodic Quality: 4.9 / 5

Track Quality: 4.8 / 5

Album Quality: 4.9 / 5

Total: 19.4 / 20

Recommended Albums:

The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin

Beck – Sea Change

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1.

Portishead – Third

Portishead - Third

Length: 49 minutes

Key Tracks – Threads, Machine Gun, We Carry On, Hunter, Plastic

Lyrical Quality: 4.8 / 5

Melodic Quality: 4.9 / 5

Track Quality: 4.9 / 5

Album Quality: 5.0 / 5

Total: 19.6 / 20

Recommended Albums:

Massive Attack – Mezzanine

My Brightest Diamond – Bring Me The Workhorse

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(Somewhere on the south coast a man has just spat out his coffee in disgust).

So there you have it, Third is my favourite album of the decade.

What is it about Third? Its the bleak mood, coupled with Gibbons’ harrowing voice. The way every track is essential, even Small. The way it doesn’t seem to matter that it just went from a light ukelele interlude to abrasive electronic drums. Threads. The darkness. The beautiful sound of despair. We Carry On, the official war song of the robot armies when The Revolution comes. The turn of phrase, words that sound so wounded, vocals that sound so naked.

One day I will write a proper review of this masterpiece, and I shall properly put forward all the ways that I love Third. It is Portishead’s finest achievement. And my most loved album released this decade.

Nothing can touch us my love

This is nothing like it was in my room

In my best clothes

Trying to think of you

This is nothing like it was in my room

In my best clothes

The English are waiting

And I don’t know what to do

In my best clothes

This is when I need you

The English are waiting

And I don’t know what to do

In my best clothes

I’m the new blue blood

I’m the great white hope

I’m the new blue blood

I won’t fuck us over

I’m Mr. November

I’m Mr. November

I won’t fuck us over

I won’t fuck us over

I’m Mr. November

I’m Mr. November

I won’t fuck us over

I wish that I believed in fate

I wish I didn’t sleep so late

I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders

I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders

I’m the new blue blood

I’m the great white hope

I’m the new blue blood

I won’t fuck us over

I’m Mr. November

I’m Mr. November

I won’t fuck us over

I won’t fuck us over

I’m Mr. November

I’m Mr. November

I won’t fuck us over

I wish that I believed in fate

I wish I didn’t sleep so late

I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders

I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders

I’m the new blue blood

I’m the great white hope

I’m the new blue blood

I won’t fuck us over

I’m Mr. November

I’m Mr. November

I won’t fuck us over