I hope ya’ll ain’t tired of this shit, cos it just keeps on coming. This is list 3 in the series of end of year, best of lists; and with this list, I will illustrate what I believe to be the best albums that were released this year. In fact, it will be the 10 BEST albums I believe were released this year, cos after all, I own them all! Like I have said before, this is not the end all be all of lists; there is a ton of stuff that was released that I have never even heard of. So, that is where you get to leave a pretty little comment mentioning said left out album; word? Unlike the other lists, I am not going to rank these, so I guess you could kind of consider them tied. The only way an album made this list, was because the entire thing is consistently good. For it to be included, you can be that all, or almost all, of the tracks were thoroughly enjoyable.
Now on with the show! (There are reviews for each album, but if you just want to see the list, there are pretty album covers to accompany each entry on the list.)
The Cardigans – Super Extra Gravity : First let me start by saying that it is a complete and utter travesty that this CD was not released in the US at the same time it was released in the rest of the world (and for the record, it hasn’t been released here as of today, 12/29). With that being said, I must say that the Cardigans are one of the most consistently talented and amazing bands on the planet. They continually reinvent and mold their sound; all while holding on to the spark that makes them the Cardigans in the first place. This album, much like its predecessor, Long Gone Before Daylight, is a more serious effort than their previous work; only in the way that it is less poppy and more serious sounding. For those that know little of the Cardigans, tend to remember that one song Lovefool, which, while it was the delicious epitome of pop ecstasy, it is unfortunately the only thing people think the Cardigans are all about. While they have been more pop in the past, this album shows that they have the ability to take themselves very seriously, matching their sound with the serious nature that has always been present in their lyrics. Nina Presson’s vocals are haunting and magnificent. The band takes her voice and wraps the sometimes dark subjects of the songs with striking and warm melodies. The Cardigans are not only magnificent musicians, they are also talented writers and performers; something I find refreshing, but all too rare in the current music scene.
Weezer – Make Believe: When I bought this CD, it was due to the obvious love of the super-catchy hit single, Beverley Hills. While I didn’t think that I would care too much for the rest of the disc, I was glad to be instantly proven wrong. Not only is this CD one of the best pop-rock efforts of the year, it is easily one of the best albums of the last couple of years; and perhaps one of the best Weezer has put out to date. Interestingly enough, by getting this CD, I reawakened my love for Weezer (I used to LOVE Weezer, no seriously), and I ended up picking up the CDs that came after Pinkerton; which I had never given a chance. Not only did this CD fulfill and delight me with its catchy lyrics, rock hard rhythms, and classic Weezer sound; it made me sit up and take notice of a band that I had almost forgotten. It reconnected me with a band that I love, and showed me that the love I have for Weezer is still strong, and should be fostered and allowed to grow. By making this CD, Weezer has regained all of my attention and adoration; there is much love for all things Weezer, and if Make Believe is any indication of the direction they are going, I am looking forward to the ride.
Death Cab For Cutie – Plans: I was pretty late the to Death Cab game, having only heard of them about 6 months prior to this album coming out, but I have to say, even in that short time, this was probably one of my most anticipated albums of 2005. Ben Gibbard’s warm and inviting vocals, bathed in catchy and melodic harmonies is sheer pop gold. Every song on Plans is well thought out, well produced, well received. The first single Soul Meets Body, will have you singing the chorus and bridge in your head for weeks; and don’t worry, that is a good thing.
Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine: What can I say about a new disc from Fiona Apple; other than it is LONG overdue. I have been waiting for this CD since When the Pawn… dropped, because musicians as talented as Ms. Apple don’t come along very often; and they always leave me hungry for more. Even though she waited so long to release this album, it shows that not only does Fiona Apple have a mastery of song writing and producing, she has a master of defining her feelings and expressing them effortlessly through song. Intense vocals, engaging pianos, and heart-heavy lyrics; this album has it all. Thank you Fiona for finally bringing us this wonderful work of art; and keep them coming. (My only complaint about this release, is the re-recording of songs previously leaked on the internet. The ones that were leaked carry a bigger emotional burden, and give the listener a more raw and unstable glimpse at the pain and emotion she actually felt when she wrote these songs. I felt that it was a robbery of her own emotion that she plotted and carried out herself.)
Kanye West – Late Registration: I NEVER like hip-hop; but I do make an exception here. This CD is tight, and is not only a good listen, but isn’t about raping/slapping/hating hoes/bitches/sluts. Kanye even has a few songs that are socially responsible, and raps about things he cares about (like his mother!). Just based on principle alone, it makes me like Kanye, and it doesn’t hurt that the beats are fresh!
Dane Cook – Retaliation: I know what you are thinking, this isn’t an album! But, that would be where you are wrong; this album was on the top of the billboard, and it is on the top of my 2005 list. Dane Cook is a phenomenon, and should not be stopped; he is probably the funniest motherfucker alive. This CD is a MUST HAVE. I have never laughed harder than when I am listening to this. My favorites include the Nothing Fight and Turn-ons. “I do enjoy a nice seabreeze from time to time”. Oh Dane!
Nickel Creek – Why Should the Fire Die?: I don’t listen to this nearly as much as should; because this album is wonderful. With their own blend of bluegrass, these 3 kids are unstoppable, and only grow better with age. They have mastered their instruments (fiddle, mandolin, etc), and have the vocals to match. I am not a huge fan of bluegrass, but anything that sounds this good is worth more than one listen. Well produced and well made, this album is definitely a winner.
Ben Folds – Songs for Silverman: Ben Folds is back with his second release without the other “Five”; and much like the first, is true Ben Folds, and does not disappoint. His clever lyrical style and jamming piano rock take “dork” to a new level of cool. Ben Folds may be a dork, but if listening to rock this good makes me a dork by association, then so be it. A must have.
Brokeback Mountain Official Movie Soundtrack: I know what you are thinking, “duane has gone Brokeback crazy!”; and while you may be right, just know that I NEVER like soundtracks, no matter how much I like a film (albiet the one notable exception, Clueless). Soundtracks are usually fluff that they put out in order to make as much money as possible from a release, but in this case, I feel like they gave us something to take home and keep us warm. The album has all of the score, which is haunting and beautiful. It will recreate the imagery and beauty that is Brokeback Mountain, and may even make you cry it is so powerful. The songs are equally emotion-stirring, and allow you to immerse yourself into the story of Jack and Ennis again. The songs truly captured the essence of the movie, and that is not only rare, but something I don’t believe I have ever seen in a soundtrack. I love this CD.
RENT Official Movie Soundtrack: I know I just said that soundtracks aren’t usually my favorite, but I look at this as a little more than a soundtrack; after all, it came out almost ten years ago as an accompaniment to the on-stage show. BUT, they re-recorded all of the songs for the film adaptation, and I totally feel that they took the care and love to revitalize the classic recording. These new versions of the old songs update the movie and bring you closer to the story. This is one redo that I am glad to see.