note: if this top five seems a little early to you, that's because it is - as part of canta mgazine's top five page, i had to contribute my picks. they will probably change before the year is out. so this is my "unofficial" top five albums. please post yr own (early) top fives in the comments section at the end of this post. but here's what i wrote, anyway.
Every year, music geeks like myself rejoice at the chance to compile “best albums of the year” lists. And we write these little bits about how we like to compile these lists. It’s getting a little too idiosyncratic, but that’s okay. I’m like High Fidelity - without the irony. This year has been particularly good as far as great albums go, so now that list-assembling time has come, I find myself worried – almost dreading the fact that I have to reduce it to five records. Five! It falls desperately short considering the great amount of music that has come out this year. Torn between my personal favorites (albums that personally affect me and bring me close to them) and albums that are undeniably good on a more universal plain, I find myself somewhat stuck. The following list tends more towards the former, as partially concede defeat against the barrage of fucking terrific records to see release this past year. So here goes:
5. Serena-Maneesh – Serena-Maneesh
Any band can play on influences like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and The Velvet Underground, but few embrace what these groups pioneered the most – noise. They take the densest and loudest elements of all of the above and add even more layers to that. The advantage of this is that the melodies hidden within become even more rewarding in their juxtaposition with distortion. The album is very creative considering their influences. It’s long, sprawling and easy to get lost within, just like the aforementioned classics. Shoegaze is probably the best genre to slot these Norwegians into, but as usual, it’s not enough – they supercede this, and manage to rock out in the process.
4. The Most Serene Republic – Underwater Cinematographer
On the same label as Broken Social Scene, the number two entry on this list, Arts & Crafts, this group have been described as sounding very similar. At times unabashedly happy but at others taking the time to dwell in less cheerful areas, they have dynamics and variance in spades. Their aesthetic is that of ascendant pop with shout/sing-a-long choruses and clever lyrics that ooze energy and vibrancy. It’s symphonic, and definitely a little cheesy, but unashamed. Crafting songs with such beauty is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, and that’s what makes this Canadian group so good. It’s so exuberant and invigorating. And sentimental as well – but these kids actually mean it.
3. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary
This clashes completely with the niceties of the rest of the albums on this list. The hype and anticipation surrounding this release nearly swallowed it whole, but it easily speaks to itself. Even if they encapsulate the fervor and energy of The Arcade Fire and craft beauty from the unattractive like Modest Mouse or Frog eyes, these comparisons fall desperately short. Because that’s only half the sound. The other is made up of pure passion and sincerity – melodies that through contrast are so overarchingly beautiful that the more dystopian sounding moments are either soon forgotten or soon cherished. This is indie-rock at it’s most inventive; at a time where it is clear that reinvention is what is constantly needed.
2. Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
In 2003, these ten kids from Montreal released a record called You Forgot it in People. It’s one of those albums that seemed impossible to ever better, and my personal affliction for that record filled me with anticipation when considering their next effort. And this year, they managed to do just that – make an even greater, even more well-rounded and interesting record. Building on the already passionate, vigorous indie-pop/rock that louder moments of their previous album was renowned for, this new release is even more ambitious and momentous. Joyous girl vocals intermingle with dense, organic guitars and triumphant drumbeats, alongside other diverse ranges of instruments, while at other moments taking time to lay-low. Song structures are particularly interesting and keep the album refreshing. But the best thing about it is how much it grows on the listener. Like it’s predecessor, the sound exhibits so many facets that while it sounds good the first time, it can be cultivated into something all the more rewarding through repeated listen. And that’s exactly what it encourages – one listen after another, no matter what the situation.
1. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! – Clap Your Hands SayYeah!
The do-it-yourself success story of 2005, CYHSY! blew the indie world away by self-releasing and self-recording an album capable of furthering the genre of indie-rock with . Of course, that’s not the reason why this album is number one. This four-piece restore passion to indie-rock in a similar way to how The Arcade Fire did last year. It’s unbridled, but it still works within the indie-rock genre. They have the added edge of real passion, and real emotion – sincerity is what speaks wonders on this album. Of course, there’s the plain beauty of their chord changes and riffs. They’re into the subtitles of music – each of their instruments reflects this. People have dropped some pointless comparisons to Talking Heads (the lead singer’s voice only slightly echoes David Byrne’s, and that’s as far as comparison goes), but otherwise they are hard to reference. If they aren’t as inventive as Wolf Parade, they certainly have the songwriting skills – and the eagerness – to carry themselves more capably than any other band this year.
Other Noteworthy Albums:
The Lucksmiths – Warmer Corners
Architecture in Helsinki – In Case We Die
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
Tom Vek – We Have Sound
Devendra Banhart – Cripple Crow
Sigur Ros – Takk
New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
Edan – Beauty and the Beat
The Decemberists – Picaresque
M83 – Before the Dawn Heals Us
Of Montreal – The Sunlandic Twins
The Phoenix Foundation – Pegasus
The Robot Ate Me – Carousel Waltz
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
Forthcoming Albums of Significance:
Boards of Canada – The Campfire Headphase
Animal Collective – Feels
The Clientele – Strange Geometry
Gang of Four – Return the Gift
1 month ago