Thursday, December 22, 2005


Favorite Ablums of 2005 (1-5)

Finally on the home stretch. I had to talk about 25 albums this year, because that's how many I liked. I can't say this was the most spectacular year for music, but it did produce quite a few albums that I will still be listening to in 10 years. So here they are, my favorite albums of 2005:

05. Early Man - Closing In
This band completely embodies rock and roll better than any band I've ever heard. What makes this even more astonishing is that this band is only a duo. These long-haired dudes crank out fast-paced, alcohol-fueled, heavy duty rock and roll. The singer has pipes that rival Ozzy. This album has great production and belongs in the collection of any Black Sabbath or Thin Lizzy fan.

04. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
This is where actual order becomes less important. This album produced some of my favorite songs of the year, but since it has 22 tracks, I feel that it also produced some filler. Stevens is a wonderful storyteller though, and his songs are so alive because they are actually attached to real people and places. I have to admit that I've gone to sleep with "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." on repeat.

03. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Jacksonville City Nights
This is the third Ryan Adams release to make it on my list for this year, and it is undisputedly the best of the year. 29 is too scattered, and The Cardinals are not used to their full potential in Cold Roses. Here, the band fits in perfectly with the upbeat country tunes. Adams uses his full voice, leaving behind the falsetto and Neil Youngish waivering.

02. Bonnie "Prince" Billy/Matt Sweeney - Superwolf
Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) teams up with Matt Sweeney (Chavez, Zwan) for this collaboration of simple tunes. Sweeney wrote the music while Oldham wrote the lyrics and sings. Sweeney opts for an electric guitar most of the time, as opposed to the acoustic guitar that Oldham's voice is used to. What you end up with is songs with minimal instrumentation, Oldham using a hushed voice, and the feeling that both of them are sitting right next to you and playing just for you.

01. Antony and the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now
Something tells me this will be number one on my favorite albums of the decade list. On his second full-length, Antony strips everything down to just his voice and his piano. If music could cry, this album would be weeping. Antony's mournful, cabaret-style voice, full of vibrato, hovers over hauntingly beautiful piano pieces. Guest appearances from Lou Reed, Devendra Banhart, and Boy George don't hurt much either. "Hope There's Someone", the sad, sweeping album opener, is by far my favorite song of the year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Favorite Albums of 2005 (6-9)

09. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Cold Roses
This double-disc set was the first of three releases for Ryan Adams and his new band in 2005. There is really not a bad song on here. This is a more upbeat, roots-rocky album. He doesn't completely dive into the country of Jacksonville City Nights, but there's still elements of it here. The Cardinals add another dimension to the music, making it sound very full.

08. Big Business - Head for the Shallow
This band is made up of one member of Karp, and one of Murder City Devils. They are a bass and drum duo, but the bass is very distorted and he plays power chords on it (somewhat like the sounds Josh Homme produced in Kyuss). The vocals are gritty and very loud, and the drums keep up a fast pace. This is balls to the wall metal, and I had the privilege of seeing them up close and personal this year at Vino's.

07. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
I may actually like this album better than the number seven spot I am giving it. Conor Oberst released two albums simultaneously this year, one was the piece of crap electronic album Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, and the other was this great album. Filled with earnest, country-tinged tunes, Conor has finally written an album that defines his sound. He proved that he doesn't need a 15-member strings/woodwinds section to make a great album. The lyrics are poignant, and background vocals from Emmylou Harris and Jim James don't hurt either.

06. Denison Witmer - Are You a Dreamer?
Denison Witmer is the most underrated singer/songwriter of our time. He writes beautiful songs about love and life that cause the listener to reflect on the world around them. This album is based on dreams as the title implies, and the lyrics are still just as honest and heartstring-pulling (if that is a word). Even if his lyrics sucked, his voice would still draw me in. I can imagine angels singing like Denison Witmer. His voice is so clear and demanding (and he sings perfectly live). But he's not just a singer, he also plays guitar wonderfully, and crafts lovely melodies to croon over. In an alternate dimension, this is my favorite album of the year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Favorite Albums of 2005 (10-14)

14. Thrice - Vhessiu
I have to admit that I miss the metal riffs of Thrice's first two albums. I also didn't like their last album, because I think they were still caught in the transistion from the style of the first two albums and this one. The feeling is very mellow here, but still with intricate guitar work (reminiscent of old Further Seems Forever at times). They still know how to play metal/hardcore though, and belt out some screams every now and then. The lyrics have returned to spiritual subject matter. I think they pull off a very solid album. There is nothing spectacular about it, but the fact that the whole album holds together very well helps it up to number fourteen.

13. Sigur Ros - Taak
I have to admit that I had never listened to much Sigur Ros before this album, but my friend Mark made me listen to this album everytime I was in his car (of course he had pirated it before it was actually released). I was drawn in by the sweeping atmospherics and the other-worldly vocals. The track "Glosoli" did me in though, building up to a climactic outburst that sounds like a car crash between Godspeed You Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky.

12. Starflyer 59 - Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice
I absolutely love Jason Martin. This is the perfect follow-up to Old, more dreamy indie rock similiar to My Bloody Valentine. The keyboard use on this album is perfect, and Martin's vocals are just as hushed as ever. He also continues to expand on his lyrics, making them just as much a part of the song as the mood-setting music.

11. Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth
I realized this year that I really do like NIN, and this album rocks hard. It's much more accessible than previous work, complete with hooks and melodies and everything. Those years of seclusion really paid off on this one.

10. M Ward - Transistor Radio
If I could play guitar like one man, it would be M Ward. His delicate guitar work and somber vocals make for a beautiful gothic guitar-driven folk album. If you can't appreciate Ward's albums, just go see him live and watch his fingers dance.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Favorite Albums of 2005 (15-19)

19. Unsane - Blood Run
Noise metal pioneers finally decided to release a new album via Relapse Records. They've been around since the 80's, but still manage to make relevant hard music somewhere between the epicness of Isis and Neurosis and the stoner tendencies of High on Fire and Bongzilla.

18. Neil Young - Prarie Wind
An aneurysm can't keep Neil Young down, as he returns with the third installment of his Harvest series, an album full of folky roots rock. He can still play the harmonica like the best of them (well maybe not quite like John Popper, but not too shabby) and uses string arrangements beautifully. This album is underproduced and very raw-sounding. For a full review of the album, see my article on

17. Half-Handed Cloud - Thy is a Word, and Feet Need Lamps
This guy just sounds happy. Maybe I'm just assuming that based on his voice, or maybe it's the joy that he sings about. Half-Handed Cloud's John Ringhofer is one of those quirky Christians that graces Sufjan Stevens' Asthmatic Kitty label. He sings jubilant retelling of Bible stories with no instrument left behind. Think the Danielson Famile with a much less annoying voice.

16. Fantomas - Suspended Animation
I had a chance to see this noise band on the tour supporting the release of this album. Comprised of Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle), Buzz Osbourne (The Melvins), Dave Lombardo (Slayer), and Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle), Fantomas is definitely an all-star band. This album is based on Saturday morning cartoons, with cartoonish circus noises amid a mass of other noises and samples, with the rest of the band holding it all together with heavy metal explosions. There is no singing, only Mike Patton making strange vocal noises and then manipulating them. This album is very hard to listen to, but I like to think there is genius underneath it all.

15. Iron & Wine/Calexico - In the Reins
This is a collaboration between Iron & Wine's Sam Beam and the Latino-flared, horn-tooting Calexico. A lot of work was put into this collaboration, as opposed to others where bands just rework their leftover songs. This is still basically an Iron & Wine EP, but Calexico picks up the beat a little bit and adds a little something extra to the basic structure of the songs. There aren't as many horn parts as I was expecting, but when the horns do show up, they sound marvelous.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Favorite Albums of 2005 (20-25)

25. Danger Doom - The Mouse and the Mask
I don't like a whole lot of rap (with the exception of The Streets, Jay-z, and Ghostface Killa), but I really got into MF Doom this year. This album is witty, funny, and filled with Aqua Teen Hunger Force samples. Danger Mouse does a great job with producing the beats, and MF Doom does what he does best, rap aboug weird crap that no one else would.

24. Jesu - Jesu
This is the debut release from JK Broadrick's (Godflesh) new band. It's well thought-out, and heavy as hell.

23. Ryan Adams - 29
By the time this album is coming out, I'm a little tired of Ryan Adams this year. Plus, this album is very scattered and feels rushed. But there are quite a few gems here, and it's still Ryan Adams.

22. The Chariot - Unsung EP
The Chariot re-recorded four songs from their debut album and recorded two brand new songs. The re-recorded songs were actually rearranged, so they sound pretty different, and the production quality is a whole lot better. But what really does it for me is the new song Kenny Gibler, which has a great melodic part near the end of the song. Plus, I think Josh Scogin has one of the best set of pipes in metal (next to Sean Ingram of course).

21. Wilco - Kicking Television
I've seen Wilco live, and I loved every second of it. With this release, they begin to capture the intensity of the live show. The noisy jam moments are all there. Actually, the pure energy at the end of the first track, "Misunderstood", is enough to put this on my favorites list.

20. Black Mountain - Black Mountain
More like Black Sabbath.

Monday, December 12, 2005


New blog (inspired by Chris Jay of course).

I plan on occasionally using this blog to express my views on music and literature. You can also check out my other blog containing my views on current events (

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