Top 10 CD's of 2005

Hello and Happy New Year everybody. The birth of the Armchair Critic site gives me the opportunity to revive an old annual tradition of posting my 10 favorite albums of the year. I had a pretty good selection to choose from this year, and as usual the list adds some new faces to the fold to go alongside return efforts from recently-made acquaintances and old stand-bys alike.

10. Hurdy Gurdy, "Prototyp": Garmarna's Stefan Brisland-Ferner and Hedningarna's Totte Mattson take two Swedish hurdy-gurdies and a smattering of electronics and produce one of the most groundbreaking albums you're going to hear from anybody in any genre.

9. Richard Thompson, "Front Parlour Ballads": An average album by Richard Thompson's standards will never have any difficulty cracking my top 10 lists. A mere thirty-eight years removed from his first LP with Fairport Convention, he's still as good a songwriter and guitarist as you'll find.

8. Porcupine Tree, "Deadwing": What started as Steven Wilson's one-man-in-his-basement project has evolved over the past decade into a full-fledged, first-rate band bringing modernized art rock to the masses, or at least to their cult following.

7. Frigg, "Oasis": Folk fiddles from Finland and Norway. Their self-titled debut would have made last year's list if I had a chance to post one, and the follow-up is even better.

6. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, "Howl": Grunge band with strong Jesus and Mary Chain influence does about-face with third record and puts out rootsy, mostly acoustic, gospel-tinged effort. Somehow, it still works.

5. The New Pornographers, "Twin Cinema": Formed from the remnants of a couple of popular Vancouver bands, with a helping of (mostly backing) vocals from alt-country goddess Neko Case thrown in for good measure, The New Pornographers spent their first two albums bringing retro power pop into the 21st century. Their third album finds them aiming for a bit more depth and generally finding it. (I'm still partial to Neko Case's solo work, though; she put on a fabulous show in town on Valentine's Day and will have a new CD "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" out on March 7.)

4. "Brandi Carlile": The year's best debut comes from a singer in her early twenties who looks like a teenager but sings with the voice of a woman whose seen enough for several lifetimes. "Closer To You" and "Thrown It All Away" are absolute gems.

3. Paul McCartney, "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard": Paul keeps things simple and straightforward, adopting the same approach that makes his 1970 debut still his best post-Beatles effort, and the result is arguably his strongest album since then, or at the very least matched only by 1989's "Flowers in the Dirt" and maybe one or two others. It's hard to believe that an album from a Beatle could sneak up on people, but here you go.

2. The Soundtrack of Our Lives, "Origin Vol. 1": When I saw them play at the Bowery Ballroom in March, a woman at my table said she described them to a friend as "stoner prog, but in a good way." That's a better description of TSOOL than anything I could come up with, so I'm going with it. They're fun and they rock, so why sweat the details?

1. Pina, "Guess You Got It": I've already reviewed this album in detail elsewhere, so I'll just say that Pina is wonderfully creative and distinct and has my two favorite CD's of the 00's to date. And she was also an extremely cooperative and fascinating interview subject to boot, for which I remain quite grateful.

Check out any and all of these performers if you get the chance. 2006 should get off to a flying start, with the Neko Case CD in March and the return of Värttinä, a Finnish band who've found themselves at or near the top of a lot of my year-end lists in the past, coming up on January 24. I plan on keeping quite busy. In the meantime, peace and good will to everybody everywhere.

Related Post:

The Top 10 CD's of 2006


Will said...

I loved that BRMC album, but it unfortunately slipped under the radar. I thought they made the folk transition quite well, especially on "The Devil's Waiting." The New Pornographers record is amazing, and I cannot wait for the new Neko Case. As for the rest of the eight, thank you for drawing my attention to some great albums that I somehow missed this year. I had kind of written McCartney off but now I feel as if I need to check it out.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting top 10. Deadwing was a sleeper that really needs more attention. I never heard 3 out of the top 10, so I guess I better go take a listen.