Thursday, February 02, 2006


You wanted the best. You got the best.

Every year, for the past 5, I have run a Top 10 list - of anything. Music - Movies - Misteps - Marriages. You name it and you rank it.

It isn't terribly original and there is less than stellar participation, however it is fun. Anyone wanting to add their choices to the post, please feel free. If you want to be added to the email simply drop me a line.

TOP 20 CDS FOR 2005 - just to be different (sans comments)

1. Death Cab for Cutie - Plans

2. The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema

3. Spoon – Gimme Fiction

4. Anthony and the Johnsons – I Am A Bird Now

5. Martha Wainwright – Martha Wainwright

6. Decemberists - Picaresque

7. James Blunt – Back to Bedlam

8. Coldplay – X & Y

9. Fiona Apple - extraordinary machine

10. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake and It Is Morning

11. Sufjan Stevens – Come On Feel The Illinoise!

12. Madonna – Confessions On A Dance Floor

13. Kate Bush - Aerial

14. Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary

15. The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers

16. Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have Had It So Much Better

17. David Usher – If God Had Curves

18. LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem

19. Metric – Live It Out

20. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cold Roses (Double Disc)

Honourable mention: Kaiser Chiefs – Employment and Bloc Party – Silent Alarm

First update: Dawg is in - in reverse order and with lots to say.

10. Coldplay, "X+Y"

Coldplay still haven't improved on their first album, and they still haven't learned how to write a 3-minute song ... in fact, they only really know how to do two things—the slow bit and the fast bit of the song. But they do them really, really well—so much so that despite being disappointed on first listen, this ended up in high rotation on my home cd player, the songs soon sounded as if they'd been with me forever, and one of the tracks made the shortlist for music considered for my wedding. Overhyped, grandiose arena rock that you can't help but like anyway—I guess they really are the new U2.

9. Of Montreal, "The Sunlandic Twins"

The sunny, whimsical indie popsters follow up last year’s outstanding Satanic Panic in the Attic with this lesser, but still satisfying, effort, again embellishing their trademark guitar pop with new sounds, from electronic beats to strings to multi-tracked operatic backing vocals. The lack of time between albums is evident in the experimental, half-finished feel of several songs, but this is made up for by the 4-song bonus disc, which is pure Of Montreal—catchy, ebullient music which, in a sane world, would be topping the charts and inspiring arena-sized singalongs.

8. Blue Rodeo, “Are You Ready”

At this point in their career, Blue Rodeo don’t offer many surprises—the only new sound here is the uileann pipes which make a memorable appearance on one track.

The remarkable thing is that after 20 years and 10 albums they can still make music that sounds fresh, passionate, and exciting without really deviating from the roots rock that they had already mastered on Outskirts. They stick to what they do best—the old-fashioned virtues of unflashy musicanship and songwriting—and as long as they don’t get tired of it, neither, it seems, will I.

7. Franz Ferdinand, “You Could Have It So Much Better”

Critics tend to pounce on exciting new bands like The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand and crush them under the weight of excessive expectations—with one solid album under their built, they must make quantum leaps forward in style and songwriting or be deemed failures. It would be far more reasonable to expect them to continue in the same vein, refining and mastering the sound that made them interesting in the first place. And that is exactly what Franz Ferdinand have done here, with an album that is at least the equal of their debut, and with several songs that can square up to the anthemic Take Me Out – The Fallen, What You Meant, and I’m Your Villain being standouts.

Rather than being a disappointment, this album proves that Take Me Out was no fluke.

6. Bloc Party, “Silent Alarm”

Speaking of exciting new bands, Bloc Party step right up. This English quartet have something in common with Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes – it’s guitar rock, after all – but they substitute agit-prop and ambition for swagger and attitude. In other words, they are more about substance than style, and their debut shows a band flexing its muscles and learning what it is capable of—which is a lot. There are some flat moments, but when it all comes together, as in the tense opener “Like Eating Glass” or the searing “Helicopter,” you can hear the sounds of a future masterpiece, bastard child of The Clash and Joy Division, in the making.

5. "The Invisible Invasion," The Coral

This one doesn't reach the heights of their electrifying debut, but it offers a dozen well-crafted, catchy, carefully and intricately arranged tunes, and shows that The Coral are equally adept at barnstorming rockers (The Operator), foot-tapping pop-rock (In the Morning, which gets my vote for hook of the year) and atmospheric ballads (Leaving Today).

4. Robyn Hitchcock, “Spooked”

Robyn Hitchcock may have largely fallen off the radar since his commercial heyday in the 1980s, but he hasn’t stopped making brilliant music, nor has he become any less eccentric. As his earlier Eye and Moss Elixir show, he is at his best stripped down to basics—voice and acoustic guitar, as he is here (with sensitive, subtle support from Union Station’s Gillian Welsh and David Rawlings). So much is made of his cryptic, skewed, surreal lyrics that his musical ability is often overlooked—but he is in fact an extraordinary guitarist and songwriter, as the eleven offbeat, haunting originals (plus an excellent Dylan cover and a goofy spoken-word piece) demonstrate, each of them opening a window into a world slightly askew to our own.

3. Van der Graaf Generator, “Present”

This album might as well be called Time Warp—reunited after almost 30 years, the members of the classic VdGG line-up sound so much like they did when they last recorded an album together that the effect is uncanny.

Ranging from tender to manic and rarely pausing in between, their sound melds Gothic organ, saxophone, virtuoso drumming and the impassioned vocals of Peter Hammill to create a sound which now, as then, is unique. Rather than trading on past glories, they have recreated them.

2. The New Pornographers, “Twin Cinema”

What makes a great rock album? Compelling hooks, clever arrangements, good musicianship, a distinctive band sound, songs that are integral to the album as a whole but which can also stand by themselves, interesting lyrics, production which enhances the music without overwhelming it, no filler or excess.

Twin Cinema has all of these—enough said.

1. "Picaresque," The Decemberists

The third album from this intelligent folk-influenced indie pop outfit is their best yet. Combining literate, unusual subject matter—bandleader Colin Meloy sings about Cold War spies, whalers obsessed with revenge, barrow boys mourning lost loves, child monarchs, and other themes far removed from the usual rock staples—and an ambitious musical palette, running the gamut of emotion from sombre introspection to murderous passion, this release marks The Decemberists as not just a band to watch, but a band who have arrived at greatness.

Honourable Mentions:

Art of Fighting, “Second Storey”

Michael Penn, “Mr. Hollywood, Jr., 1957”

Super Furry Animals, “Love Kraft”

California Guitar Trio, “Whitewater”

Jack Johnson, “In Between Dreams”

Sleater-Kinney, “The Woods”

Ten 10 Songs – 2005

“Devils and Dust” – Bruce Springsteen

“The Engine Driver” – The Decemberists

“Frequency” – Super Furry Animals

“Helicopter” – Bloc Party

“In the Morning” – The Coral

“On Automatic” – Michael Penn

“The Party’s Crashing Us” – Of Montreal

“Sing Me Spanish Techno” – The New Pornographers

“Sixteen Military Wives” – The Decemberists

“What You Meant” – Franz Ferdinand

Top Compilations/Re-Issues/Pre-2005 Music

1. The Tragically Hip, “Yer Favourites”

2. Super Furry Animals, “Songbook”

3. Talking Heads, “The Name of This Band is Talking Heads”

4. Fairport Convention, “Unhalfbricking”

5. The Decemberists, “Castaways and Cutouts”

6. Mercury Rev, “Deserter’s Songs”

7. Robyn Hitchcock, “Robyn Sings”/“Queen Elvis”

8. The Olivia Tremor Control, “Black Foliage”

9. Horace Silver, “Serenade to a Soul Sister”/“The Cape Verdean Blues”

10. The Arcade Fire, “Funeral”

Top 10 Books

1. David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

2. Graham Joyce, The Facts of Life

3. Kim Stanley Robinson, Pacific Edge

4. China Mieville, Iron Council

5. M. G. Vassanji, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

6. Kim Stanley Robinson, The Gold Coast

7. Pico Iyer, Sun after Dark

8. Robert Silverberg, Downward to the Earth

9. Balzac, Colonel Chabert

10. Russell Hoban, Kleinzeit

Update II - Phoff does it the unconventional way - as usual.

Top 14 discs of 2005

1. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights
2. Bright Eyes – I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
3. Neil Young – Prairie Wind
4. Wolf Parade – Apologies to The Queen Mary
5. Martha Wainwright – Martha Wainwright
6. Coldplay – X&Y
7. Blue Rodeo – Are You Ready?
8. White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan
9. Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak
10. James Blunt – Back To Bedlam
11. Feist – Let it Die
12. Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have It So Much Better
13. Beck – Guero
14. Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams

Bumf is in and his list is great and the comments are witty.

Did you read any of the books?
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