Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros, The Bridge Gang, The Long Blondes - Best of 2005
Bill Cummings 12/12/2005
Ah 2005 the year of Live 8, the year of the Crazy Frog the year when Oasis and Coldplay came back to reclaim their undisputed crowns of rock. Well er not quite Live 8 was an empty damp squid that promised much and delivered little, The Crazy Frog annoyed half the nation and most of Coldplay by keeping them off top spot. Talking of Coldplay their sqillion selling album "X+Y" was released to much fan faire and a decent lead off single, but on closer inspection it actually failed to deliver any real heart, bloated as it was in the kind of production that propelled U2's stadium balladry. While Oasis retreated back to their traditional rock roots with a unoriginal 60's rehash of an album that was described by Q as a return to form but by us as a piece of crap.
But beneath the mainstream tosh, it was a good year for music that mattered. Whether it was the DIY success of the arctic monkeys and clap your hands say yeah, or the groundswell of opinion that saw the Arcade Fire's Funeral lavished with the praise it deserved. While Pete, Carl and Kate became an increasingly ridiculous drug addled soap opera, some good music was released from the likes of Maximo Park, Luxembourg, Sigur Ros, Bright Eyes and the Decemberists, and newer bands like The Long Blondes and the Bridge Gang.
Here we present our readers top five albums, singles, unsigned demo's and worst bands of the year. Free of editorial control (of the NME kind) these are the bands and records you voted for. Below this by way of balance are the top three singles and albums as chosen by the writers of GIITTV zine. So before you tuck into your turkey and bid farewell to 2005 revel in the quality music that was released this year, and why we were so passionate about it.
Albums of the Year:
1. Arcade Fire- Funeral:
What we said: "This gem has been hyped up to the gills but it's utterly adorable. The Arcade Fire are a seven-piece from Montreal, revolving around newly-married couple Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, a classic vocal double-act. With a lush coating of strings, they sometimes resemble an indie chamber act, supplementing grandiose instrumentation with genuine passion, both in the lyrics and the pair's voices. And even though the title and mood were brought on by the death of several family members, the album is far from bleak: 'Wake Up' is an extravagant battle cry, then transforms into an upbeat, jazzy number that finishes with Win shouting “you'd better look out below!” The songs range from warm love laments (Une Annee Sans Lumiere) to danceable indie (Rebellion (Lies)) and always remain melodic and never pretentious. This is worth forgetting the hype and appreciating it for what it really is: an astounding album. (Mike Mantin)"
2. Maximo Park- A Certain Trigger:
What we said: "Whilst the NME salivates over the countless wannabe poor pastiche peddlers, the Kaiser chiefs and the bravery spring to mind. Maximo Park have steadily grown organically into quite possibly the best art rock prospect in the country. Now its a not a statement I make lightly but on the evidence of this their debut album they have enough swagger, wit, poise and intelligence to knock the rest into a top hat.
The singles "Apply Some Pressure" and the glorious "Graffiti" are a riot of angular guitar shapes, keyboards and a vocal wit and vulnerability last seen with Jarvis in the dying embers of britpop. Elsewhere "Acrobat" is REM's "belong" subverted for 2005, while "Kiss you better" is a gloriously tragic blast of melody reminiscent of the Smiths, and "Gone Missing" builds magically before firing off a chorus of choppy excellence ("I'm going missing for awhile/ I've got nothing left to lose").
If indeed Maximo park usher in the new wave of guitar bands that I have observed below the radar of the mainstream in the past few months (luxembourg, the boyfriends, the long blondes the race, corporation blend) then maybe the assault of intelligent rock on the mainstream wont just be limited to this certain trigger shot alone. (Bill Cummings)"
3. The Decemberists- Picaresque:
"If you've been keeping your ear to the ground Colin Meloy and his “peculiar” alt country/folk five piece The Decemberists won't be new to you (having already produced two albums and a string of great EP's). If you haven't then, their new album 'Picaresque' will be the perfect introduction to their wonderfully wide-eyed and often lovelorn sea shanties. Opening track 'The Infanta' sounds like the charge of the light brigade on horse foot: set to the most thrilling medieval country soundtrack known to man, elsewhere 'We Both Go Down Together' matches wistful folky guitars and playful violin with a doe eyed melody: the romantic tragedy of the song peaking on the final bars as you can literally hear Colin sighing out his loss. Taking things down a notch or two, 'Eli The Barrow Boy' has a hint of Bright Eyes about its solitary melancholic strum, bringing a lump to my throat, whilst 'The Engine Driver' builds deceptively into a glorious paean for the lonely workingman - it's twinkling female backed haunting refrains (including,” I am a writer, a writer of fiction, I am the heart that you call home”) are one of the highlights of this album. '16 Military Wives' has a surprisingly withering and sarcastic anti corporate set of lyrics, “And America does if /If America says its so: and the anchor person on TV goes ladadadada!” There's a sense that the polished production of this album, may lead some fools to write The Decemberists off as just another commercial bunch of folkies, producing a rustic sound in a commercial way. But that would be to miss the point: Colin and his bunch of vagabonds produce, at their ease, bittersweet musical vignettes of great beauty, updating sounds of yore with the words of the present: now there's a trick that's worth hearing. (Bill Cummings)"
4. Bright Eyes- I'm Wide awake its Morning
What we said: "Conor Oberst has been making music since he was 14, and on albums like “Letting Off The Happiness” and “Fevers And Mirrors” the Saddle Creek signing has depicted a rare if somewhat patchy talent. Slated as the follow up to Lifted…, this album has been billed as the acoustic side of the two Bright Eyes releases. The album certainly has a rootsy world-weary feel, bringing to mind the alternative country of Whiskeytown and personal and social commentary of Dylan rather than the emo sound that some accuse him of. Opener “At The Bottom Of Everything” is a delightful country ditty aided by of Jim James (of My Morning Jacket)'s backing vocal that adds a beautiful warmness to the twisted chorus lines. Elsewhere We Are Nowhere And It's Now” is a dreamy, acoustic-led waltz that unravels itself to you in stages before exploding with Conor's quivering voice and lines “I've been sleeping so strange at night/With a head full of pesticide”. Backing vocals by Emmylou Harris add a romantic fragility to this swoonsome lullaby. “Old Soul Song (For The New World Order)” contains a gorgeous alt-country sound that is blessed with heart-tugging strings and Conor's voice, here he is on magisterial form, recounting a protest march, his hushed voice recounting the moment when they went “wild”. This is where Conor showcases his lyrical ability: he is able to shift from the personal and the small scale moment to the larger themes in one line. A very good album that just falls short of being the defining moment of Oberst's career. It's an album where he shows he has the power to communicate personal metaphors with the wider political issues: with a backing that's been honed over years of carving out an alt-country/folk sound. An album where he proves yet again that he has the musical variation and power to connect that mark him out as one of the best contemporary songwriters around. (Bill Cummings)"
5. Bloc Party- Silent Alarm
What we said: "So, the dust has settled, all the hurrah and hype has receded and this debut album from the supposed 'saviours of music' has finally landed in the higher echelons of the U.K charts. But, you know that was always going to happen whether it was any good or not, 'cos Bloc Party are everyone's new favourite band aren't they? I'm sure Fearne Cotton and Cat Deeley love 'em anyway. Alright, enough is enough, have they saved music? Errmm… Not exactly. First of all, the production is poor. Paul Epworth may be the producer of the moment, but a record like this, which is bursting with ideas and creativity, needs some depth to it, not to be recorded on what seems to be one setting - tinny. Not that I'm an expert on these things, but there doesn't seem to be much separation between instruments with the bass especially getting lost in the mix. But at times, 'Silent Alarm' is startlingly original. 'Helicopter' is propelled by twin guitars laced with excitement and youthful vigour and a chorus as catchy as you're likely to hear all year, while 'So Here We Are' shows a more considered yet ambitious side to the band with Kele declaring that he's “Figured it out” over an ethereal and atmospheric 'Post-Rock' backing from the rest of the band. You can almost see him smiling as he shouts “I can see it now” (Liam McGrady)
Singles of the Year
1.Maximo Park- Apply Some Pressure
2. Arcade Fire- Wake up.
3.Luxembourg V GB
4. Bright Eyes- Lua
5. Sigur Ros- Glosoli
The Long Blondes
1.The Bridge Gang
2. October All Over
3. The Black Tulips
5. The Shake
1. Bright Eyes
2. Rufus Wainwright
3. Patrick Wolf
4. Sufjan Stevens
5. David Ford
1. Kaiser chiefs
3. James Blunt
5. Maroon 5
Bill Cummings' Top 3 Albums of 2005
1. Arcade Fire- Funeral
If there was one record that united opinion it was this, quite simply an awe inspiring album from Canadan's the Arcade fire. After its release in the US in 2004, it crept up on the unsuspecting UK music public this year and enveloped them in a warm hug full of hope, warmth and its skyscraping brand of orchestral rock. Against the backdrop of a music scene dominated by the rather disappointingly boring stadium rock of Coldplay's unit shifting X+Y the Funeral story was something special, and heartfelt. Put simply it was the record of the year, a record with enough life changing power to hasten this bands move from indie unknowns into potential big leaguers.
2. Bright eyes- I'm wide awake its Morning.
3. Clor- Clor:
Just edging out the Decemberists excellent Picaresque by a short head is Clor. Quite simply because this story was too good to ignore travelling from obscurity to festival favourites in the space of a few short months. This Brixton based band were spotted signed and released an album "that mashed up influences" (being Devo and Pavement) and spat them out as often brilliant playful angular electro indie pop songs. They showed that electro doesn't have to mean dull and retro (The Bravery and the Departure take notes) and produced two singles of insatiable tunefulness "Love and Pain" and "Outlines."
Bill Cummings' Top 3 Singles of 2005
1. Arcade Fire- Wake up
Wake Up was the last cut from the album and it was perhaps the best: building waves of distorted guitars, soldier drum beats and jubilant rushing melodies sung by a thousand calling birds are weighted by Win's glorious vocal that dips, swoops, and finally soars to squeeze out all of emotion from his beating brave heart. (“If the children don't grow up/Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up!”). Joyous, epic, and splendidly realised, this is music to fall in love to: music to inspire: music to document the highs and lows. At a time when the world is war torn, full of disaster and heartbreak the music of the Arcade fire makes you believe in the power of sound to transcend boundaries, unify and make you believe in life again.
Uniting two of the 90's big musical beasts: Damon Albarn of Britpop days of yore supplies the slinky high pitched falsetto and Shaun Ryder the Madchester drawl. Beneath this the crafty electro beats and squelches that drive along this tuneful pop song are what made it a dancehall classic this year. Gorillaz were quite possibly the best faceless pop band ever.
3. Luxembourg Vs Great Britain
When I interviewed Luxembourg in January they promised they were now in "defining mode" and with LVGB they delivered definition and contrast. A step change musically from the frustrated androgyny of "What the housewives don't tell you" this single was both a two fingered salute to a transient music industry that has thus far ignored them and a song for the underdog. Musically it was Banging keys, driving drums, and twisting guitars complimented by David's vocals that veered between vengeful and achingly beautiful. We'd been very patient and they had delivered.
Mike Mantin's Top 3 Albums of 2005:
1. The Arcade Fire - Funeral
Sorry, I'm almost certain this will appear somewhere else on the page but I simply cannot ignore what I believe is one of the best albums so far this millennium. 'Funeral', which this year propelled Arcade Fire to the success they fully deserve, is non-stop indie-rock joy. We may have seen the grand-indie-rock formula many times before but the Arcade Fire come as close as possible to perfecting it on highlight tracks like 'Wake Up', 'Rebellion (Lies)' and 'Power Out', which, despite their generous airplay, remain as exhilarating as they were when they first made waves on the indie scene late last year. A string of breathlessly good live shows and a re-release of their debut EP only added to their status as the Band of 2005. It's also the best product of Canada's sizeable contribution of good music this year, above stellar releases from Broken Social Scene, Stars and Wolf Parade.
2.The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
Though fellow Canadians the Arcade Fire created what I believe is the finest album of 2005, this is the one I've listened to the most. 'Twin Cinema', the follow-up to 2003's joyous 'Electric Version', defines exactly what indie-pop should be: a sweet cocktail of noisy pop songs and ballads that are charming and catchy enough to avoid descending into tweeness. Once again, Carl Newman holds it all together, providing the high and mighty lead vocals (and, on a couple of tracks, backing vocals to the heavenly tones of Neko Case) and lyrics that veer between understandable and enigmatic. Most of these songs would light up the charts with their infectious hooks if we lived in a fair world. But unfortunately, as will be shown when a song about diggers hits the top 10 this Christmas, we don't.
3. The Decemberists - Picaresque
Smart and original, 'Picaresque' distilled all that's great about The Decemberists into one awesome album. It finds them upping the pomp factor, most noticeably on tracks like the grand opening fanfare 'The Infanta' and epic, 8-minute sea shanty 'The Mariner's Revenge Song'. Like their previous albums, their songwriting remains totally distinctive as they once again opt to create stories and characters. This album's cast ranges from poor, penniless barrow boys to Russian spies to sports stars, all colourfully depicted by The Decemberists both in the music and also amusing photographs in the album sleeves. But, photographs of the band dressed as trees and peasants aside, it's the warm and exciting songs that make this one of 2005's best albums.
Mike Mantin's Top 3 Singles of 2005:
1. Sigur Ros - Glosoli
The lead single from Sigur Ros' astounding album 'Takk' is, and I think I can make a rare exception for this inexcusable cliché, a rollercoaster of a song. It gradually builds up with Sigur Ros' trademark swirls and impenetrable yet beautiful vocals, until they hit the climax, which is a breathtaking onslaught of noisy post-rock beauty reminiscent of Mogwai at their finest. In other words, it was spine-tingling, incredible business as usual, and by far my favourite single of 2005.
2.Stars - Ageless Beauty
Though this year's 'Set Yourself On Fire' was packed with gems, 'Ageless Beauty' was the one with the most, well, ageless beauty. Like the previous album's 'Elevator Love Letter', it flaunted Amy Millan (also a member of Broken Social Scene)'s lush vocals perfectly, while harmonised by Torqil Campbell's impressively high backing and another distinctively catchy bassline supplied by Evan Cranley, easily one of the best bassists out there. It all amounted to a gorgeous pop song.
3.Architecture In Helsinki - It'5!
It's only two minutes long, but 'It'5!' sums up hyper Aussie eight-piece Architecture In Helsinki perfectly, from the a capella opening to the 'ooh's and 'sha la la's to the flutes and brass that crop up in the middle. Sounds like a recipe for sugar-coated disaster, but their charm allows them to get away with the tweeness. Most importantly, though, it's a killer tune. Keep your eye on this lot.
Alex Worsnip's Top 3 Albums of 2005:
1. Buck 65 - Secret House Against The World
For me, this is the album of the year by an absolute country mile. Relatively inconspicuous, I simply refuse to shut up about it until everyone buys it. For those of you that don't know, Buck 65 started out as an underground MC making leftfield hip-hop music, and has been constantly drifting away from those roots ever since. 'Secret House Against The World' sees him in territory that really couldn't be described as hip-hop any more, although it remains an influence. Aided by post-rock experimentalists Tortoise, it's his most ambitious, eclectic, mature and consistent album yet. The album sees him going off in totally new directions, like the buzzing, vivid electro dirt of 'Kennedy Killed The Hat', the almost trip-hop 'Drawing Curtains', the futuristic and angular 'Le 65isme' and the punchy chamber-pop of 'Devil's Eyes'. But it also sees him consolidating the folky, bluesy sound that he developed on previous album 'Talkin' Honky Blues' on gorgeous and aching tracks like 'Blood Of A Young Wolf' and 'Drunk Without Drinking'. Like a cross between Beck, Tom Waits and Jack Kerouac, Buck remains an enigma at the centre of it with his part-rap, part-beat poetry, and for the first time, sometimes sung vocals. At times utterly unclassifiable, this contains some of the most innovative material you're likely to hear in a long time.
2. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
Totally conversely, my second selection is a band that everyone has heard of, and thus now suffer from the opposite problem: the inevitable backlash. I say: fuck the backlash; 'Silent Alarm' is one of the best debut albums of the decade. The instantly recognisable sound, distinct from other bands who get lumped into the same movement, is the mark of a special band: the musicianship on every single instrument is awesome, not to mention the emotive power of Kele's unique vocals, which always contain a hint of gorgeous melancholy even at their most energetic: a combination that works spectacularly. But most importantly, the songwriting consistency is on a level unequalled by any of their contemporaries. Track after track sounds like single material, and when a band have a song as strong as the untouchable 'Like Eating Glass' unreleased you know they've got depth of material. From the sneering, harsher intensity of 'Luno' to the disco-inflected 'Banquet' and the melodic pop chaos of 'Helicopter', it's a near-flawless collection.
3. No selection
Ladies and gentlemen, I don't have a 3rd best album of 2005. It's been a poor year for albums, and I simply don't feel there has been a 3rd album worthy of a spot here. There have been good efforts from bands like Clor, British Sea Power, The Duke Spirit, Cherubs, Super Furry Animals, The Mars Volta, Cut Copy, Four Tet and The Magnetic Fields. But, in my opinion, none of them come up to the quality that is required to be one of the real top albums of the year. Here's to a greater range of brilliant albums in 2006.
Alex Worsnip's Top 3 Singles of 2005:
1. M83 - Teen Angst
Their finest track to date, this is simply one of the most gorgeous things imaginable. Of course, the formula is not only predictable but well-known: My Bloody Valentine with sequencers as well instead of (or, in the case of this track, as well as) guitars. But it sure as hell works when it works, and this is a prime example. The heart-swelling fuzz of the aching chords makes this one of the best combinations of beats and sadness since Underworld's 'Born Slippy'.
2. Clor - Outlines
A close run thing between this and 'Love + Pain', as they're two of the finest singles of the year; shame the album isn't quite as consistent. 'Outlines' is a case in point of how to do experimental pop: the inventiveness never gets in the way of the tune. Like a better, more electronic Franz Ferdinand, this track takes the angular theme in a whole new direction, with buzzing synths and punchy beats punctuating the endless range of hooks in both the vocal and the guitar lines. Unturnoffable.
3. The Mars Volta - L'Via L'Viaquez
Editing this track down to 4 minutes is a feat in itself, being as it is the 12-minute highlight of the frustratingly patchy 'Frances The Mute'. They've always done the Latin thing well, and this is the best distillation of that yet. Punchy, angular guitars interact with hollered Spanish vocals like it's the most natural thing in the world, before it takes off into all sorts of unchartered regions of prog experimentalism that has enough intensity, melody and logic to prevent it from getting too ridiculous.
Sam Wetherall's Top 3 Albums of 2005:
1.The Wrens - The Meadowlands
I found this album three weeks ago in my room the morning after a house party. Left behind by a long departed guest, it was covered in a thin film of stale beer. Be warned, once you start with this album there is no going back. Three weeks later and I am coming through the biggest crisis of my two and a half year relationship, asking whether that crisis was triggered by lyrics such as “she sends kisses/and all at once back doors blow open”, would be like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. So if you're like me this album should contain a disclaimer, it will forcefully prise its way into your life after the second and third listen, and change everything from the inside.
The Meadowlands is so caked in distilled emotion it blisters slightly to the touch. Caught in a tug of war between The Arcade Fire and The Magnetic Fields these guys are so so good at what they do. The lyrics are specific to the extent where whole segments of a conversation are quoted and rendered into song - “why Charles, I found out/wipe that smile off your mouth/I think it's tell-me time...” - yet so ambiguous they can be copied and pasted neatly to fit your own emotional situation. Take the line “I've walked away from more than you can imagine/And I sleep just fine”, not since Morrissey sang the words “I've seen this happen, in other people's lives, and now its happening in mine” have words been so emotionally charged, yet so unspecific! OK, so I'm cheating with this one slightly, this album was released in America two years before it was released here, but is still deserves a mention to say the least. It is terrifyingly subjective force of nature, so be very very careful that once you hit play, it doesn't turn your world upside.
2. The Decemberists - Picaresque
They are perhaps the world's first Indie-Oprah band. With a few exceptions, every track on this album is its own story, complete with its own array of characters, from the two star-crossed and suicidal lovers pondering their fate on the cliffs of Dover in “We both go down together”, to the ambitious father frowning down on his son as lies on the grass after tripping over during the crucial moment of a sports match in “The Sporting Life”.
A series of brilliant, at times saddening, at times heart-warming and often amusing songs and stories. There, is I suppose, nothing particularly profound about Picaresque, its just addictive and a lot of fun.
3. Four Tet - Everything Ecstatic
The other day I heard someone on drowned in sound describe Four Tet as “coffee table”. Renouncing the soothing guitar samples that earned his early work the label of “folktronica”, Everything Ecstatic has evolved into a more accessible sounding Squarepusher, and perhaps it is no surprise that many electronica enthusiasts are beginning to bolt. For me, however, this album is the culmination of a fantastic career, from the dark throaty bass-line on “A Joy”, to that blissful moment three minutes into “Sleep, Eat Food, Have Visions”, where the beat slows down, fragments, and changes into hundreds of little disparate pieces. If Four Tet is the coffee table of the electronica world, then Radiohead is the coffee table of the indie world, for this album, for me, is evidence enough that Kieran Hebdan remains at the very top of his game.
Sam Wetherall's Top 3 Singles of 2005:
1.The C-Jags - Hey Honey
More addictive than heroin flavoured Pringles, this song is what Art Brut sounded like in theory before everyone actually heard them. The lyrics and the vocals of Hey Honey are balanced perfectly between heart-breaking sincerity, and rock-and-roll pantomime. This balance, however, is far from elegant and at first the listener can't help but be sucked into the story of an unfulfilling one-night stand - “I've got better things to do, than go falling in love with you”. Verse by verse, however, the story becomes more absurd, “Hey honey I'm pregnant”, swiftly becomes “Hey honey I'm your brother” and by the final line of the song singer Paul yelps “and even though I thought I missed her, it turns out I'm her sister” presumably with his tongue jammed into his cheek to the point of drawing blood. But there's always a niggling doubt that its not. Its impossible not to be taken in by the earnestness of his voice, and, who knows, perhaps the whole thing is an honest, tragic, and much misunderstood song about accidentally impregnating your sister? Reports that I am hopelessly gullible are yet to be confirmed or denied.
2. Patrick Wolf - Tristan
“My name is Tristan” growls Wolf into the vacuum created by the sudden stoppage of all his instruments, “and I'm alive”. This is followed by four perfectly spaced out explosions of his drum machine, guaranteed to make the very sockets of your eyes quiver. This is the chorus! This indulgent and heart-stoppingly cathartic moment is repeated four times in the space of three and a half minutes! Does it honestly get much better than that? Tristan is Patrick Wolf at his best.
3. British Sea Power - It Ended on an Oily Stage
The ultimate ambition of any miscellaneous group of people with guitars, a drum kit and a bass, should be to create a piece of music like this, something which is clever, fantastically complex, but at the same time deliciously light-hearted. I'm sure we all remember being bored by this song the first few times we heard it, but I'm sure we also remember that moment, for me on about forth listen, where all the pieces suddenly jump out at you like a magic-eye image. Only British Sea Power could ever release a song that gets three syllables out of the word “regions” (“I, I headed for the coastal re… / Regions of mind”), and still have that song considered, by people like me with too much time on my hands, to be one of the best releases of 2005.
Liam McGrady's Top 3 Albums of 2005:
Before I start I just want to say to my fellow reviewers who struggled to find three albums and singles to put forward as the best of the year: where have you been!? In a cave, hidden away from all music? Walking around with ear plugs in? As the late, great, John Peel used to say, this year has been the best for music since last year. It's been a struggle to pick just three of each (there are at least twenty albums good enough to make the list), but here they are.
1. Saul Williams - Saul Williams
Okay so Saul's beats may not be the most amazing in the world; but his conviction and biting lyrics are. Whether berating the current soulless hip hop scene, cutting straight through all the crap and seeing America for the spineless capitalist bullyboy that it is, or conjuring up one of the most engagingly thrilling tracks of the year in the shape of 'List Of Demands', Williams is always aggressively making his point be heard - while retaining the most poetic flow in the rap/hip hop game. This is the sort of record that could trigger a revolution.
2. Part Chimp - I Am Come
Before you start, this is a preposterously loud record. But don't worry too much about if you're stereo, speakers, and ears are really up to the assault of 'I Am Come'. Just nail your speakers down, reinforce your stereo with tape and glue and stuff, and turn the bugger up; worry about your ears later! It begins: a commotion of thrashed cymbals; the heaviest droning guitars imaginable; bass so bloody BASSY it gives you… ah balls to what it gives you, it makes you feel like the king of the world: welcome back PART CHIMP! After, the opening racket of 'Bakahatsu' subsides, leaving only a resonating hum and fragile two chord riff, the relative quiet is shattered with first single 'War Machine' building up ahead of steam and packing one hell of a groove; like My Bloody Valentine if they kind of 'rocked out' a bit instead of being all otherworldly. This record just absolutely batters the listener. One minute it's growling and grinding away inside your head with an army of apocalyptical guitar chops ('Hello Bastards'), the next it's charging along at a dangerous speed, all frantic Sonic Youth/Radiohead melody lines and drums powered by nervous excitement ('Bring Back The Sound' and 'Fasto'). In between these blistering attacks on your senses, the Mogwai influenced 'Bubbles' is the lull in the middle of the storm; which you know isn't going to last. The chiming bass line starts to wind up while sinister vocals call out that, “I can drink your tears like they are whiskey” and eventually the heavens open leaving you drenched in noise.
Now you might want to start worrying about your ears.
3.Million Dead - Harmony No Harmony
Don't be put off by the Emo, Screamo, Post-Hardcore or any other ridiculous tags that have been placed on this band. 'Harmony No Harmony' transcends these limited musical genres and comes across very loud and very clear as a stunning album of many influences. Album opener, 'Bread And Circuses' is a massive statement of intent, being all rampaging drums and huge discordant clanging guitars - laced with the power and fury of Black Flag - and Morrissey esque lyrics like, “The hand that feeds chooses the menu, but I'm a fussy eater.” Basically, it well and truly rips off any labels that Million Dead have had stuck to them. Other highlights come thick and fast with every one of the fourteen tracks having something to love, but the call to arms of 'To Whom It May Concern' and its choral refrain of “I'm only working here because I need the fucking money” acts as the purest form of escapism - melodious rock music played with intensity and passion.
Liam McGrady's Top 3 Singles of 2005:
1. Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
The best bassline this year signals the arrival of the latest masterpiece to come from the mind of Damon Albarn. Love him or loathe him (as many do), but you can't deny that the mix of thumping grooves and melancholy choruses is anything less than a perfect example of modern mixed genre pop music. The fact that he ropes in
2. Franz Ferdinand - Walk Away
I don't usually like Franz Ferdinand. They always seem far too smug for their own good; and far too pompous and theatrical for anyone else's good. But on this recent single they drop the pretention in favour of a pretty, if slightly mournful tune and finely poised lyrics. Their best work so far.
3. Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
It's hard not to be cynical about these Sheffield youngsters, I mean they've got a bit of a crap name, and whether they like it or not they do sound like a northern Libertines. But it's even harder to get this song out of your head after only one listen. An absolute indie disco classic already, 'IBYLGOTD' makes you lose all inhibitions and dance along to the funky punky guitar pop with wild abandon.
Tim Miller's Top 2 Albums of 2005:
1. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
Where Kaiser Chiefs have become the mainstream kings of 2005, and Arcade Fire the more underground kings of 2005, the overall winners, crossing the boundaries with ease and delighting all high and sundry, have been Bloc Party.
Delectable guitar hooks, a raw passion missing from the commerce driven acts such as the Kaisers and Hard-Fi, and consistently brilliant song after song - even lone single Two More Years was right on the nail - these boys could do no wrong. The hectic Helicopter and Banquet coupled with the soaring So Here We Are, with fantastic supporting tracks such as She's Hearing Voices, The Pioneers and Luno, has made Silent Alarm the best album, and Bloc Party the kings, of 2005.
2. System of a Down - Mesmerise/Hypnotise
33 songs, two albums, one year: 2005 was the year that saw SOAD hit the heights of Toxicity, with the bonus of added commercial appeal as Daron Malakian honed his song-writing into an astonishingly good craft. Cementing their status as one of the best hard-rock bands in the world to fans, or capturing millions of new ones, the double album reveals a band of the highest quality at their very best: hard hitting riffs and hooks, perfect harmonies, attentive lyrics and of course a simply great set of musicians, from enigmatic frontman to phenomenal drummer. 2005 saw System of a Down finally stare the world fully in the eye and take them on, and there is no doubt that, this time, they have won.
Richey's Top 2 Albums of 2005:
1.Ulver - Blood Inside
After a handful of albums of music that was used for film soundtracks, the mighty Ulver return in 2005 with Blood Inside.
The band initially started off as a black metal/forest metal band, but in the past few years have changed their sounds significantly to master a huge range of different styles. They have a unique way of writing songs, and are possibly the most atmospheric band out there today, completely obliterating their contemporises such as God Speed You Black Emperor and Sigur Ros. Lead man Garm is considered by many to be a genius, and it is possible that they could well be right. Ulver constantly come out with something completely new, and the only band they can currently draw parallels with in terms of comparisons of diversity, atmosphere and experimentation is the great King Crimson. The songs aren't exactly fluent, and the melodies are often quite difficult to distinguish, but when you're listening to it, you can tell it's something special, and something truly compelling. It is not as unstructured, as say, free jazz, nor is it as impenetrable as say, Fantamos' albums. There are some truly beautiful moments on this album. They have truly mastered electronic influences being blended with rock, and could be seen as a modern variation of Robert Fripp's legendary soundscapes. Garm's vocals are sparse, but very effective - with some very haunting layering of the vocals, and a lot of emotion behind the delivery. The album seems to speed up a little in the last few songs, with more focus on the beats rather than the atmospheric instrumentals, and on In The Red, there seems to be some classical and jazz influences straining to come in. Your Call is a fantastic song, and the atmosphere it creates is executed perfectly. This album is certainly very intense, and just as enjoyable as their previous releases, of all their differing musical styles. This album is highly recommended if you enjoy adventurous, challenging listening. If you take the time, it is certainly very satisfying. To some, this album would be 0/10, as I'm sure that many wouldn't be able to draw enjoyment out of something so different to the norm, but I myself rate this 9/10, as I would feel guilty if I was to rate it less, as this is a piece of art of the highest quality. 10/10
2. Pelican - The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw.
Instrumental rock/metal/post rock from the mighty band. Maybe not their best release, but still excellent from start to finish, and proving they're still as strong as ever. Hard to desciribe to those not familiar with the band, but it's a very interesting listen - imagine post rock beefed up a bit.
Richey's Top 3 Singles of 2005:
1.Freak Kitchen - Speak When Spoken To
Great, fun rocking song, and a fine collaboration between the band and Bumblefoot.
2. Coheed & Cambria - Welcome Home
Almighty progressive poppy emo. I don't know what the hell they are, but they kick ass, and this is a great rocking single.
3. Mars Volta - The Widow
Decent choice for a single, and the edit actually made the song flow nicely, and it made for a really good accessible Mars Volta track.
Emily Tarantella's Top 3 Albums of 2005:
1. Silent Alarm- Bloc Party
All right, I know. It's obvious, they're too sincere, and NME just adores them. But all that aside, Silent Alarm is really a fantastic album. Full of gorgeous, swooning melodies and breathtaking, stomping rock pieces, this is an album for everyone who's willing to listen. Opener "Like Eating Glass," with the defining lines "It's so cold in this house" features a superb rhythm section while depicting a Britain crumbling at the seams: latchkey kids, callous lovers, and insomniacs all playing a pantomime of 21st century life. Elsewhere Bloc Party takes on Bush ("Helicopter") and the war in Iraq ("Price of Gas") with an endearing earnestness that may verge on clumsiness but is ultimately moving through its sincerity. "Something glorious is about to happen!" Kele Okereke announces with "Positive Tension," and suddenly it comes together. The Morrissey-styled, urgent vocals. The Gang of Four guitars. The funk basslines. The sincerity, the wit, the expression of emotions so many are feeling but cannot articulate. Bloc Party translate suburban guilt and anxiety into a glorious tapestry, filled with schizophrenics ("She's Hearing Voices"), jealous teenagers ("Luno"), and young men of conceit in thinking that they'll change the world ("Pioneers"). And I haven't even mentioned the near-perfect post-punk dance exercise of "Banquet" or the piano driven epic of "This Modern Love." Are you hoping for a miracle? You just got one.
2. A Certain Trigger- Maximo Park
In which art rock stops being for the pretentious collegiates and starts being fun again. Distinctive haircut aside, Paul Smith manages to come up with some of the driest, sharpest lyrics about love and the lack of it since his ancestor, Morrissey. Named for a park in Cuba, Maximo Park bring their uniquely twisted view on passion to A Certain Trigger and come up with an utter triumph. Spindly single "Apply Some Pressure" has an edgy dance-rock edge and features some superb throwaway lines ("I hope that I will live to see you undress," "I must confess I'd like to be caught stealing"). Tracks like "Postcard of a Painting" and "I Want You to Stay" showcase the softer side of the Park, with "The Night I Lost My Head" and "Once a Glimpse" bringing the temperature back. And while most CDs come with one incredible song at most, A Certain Trigger features two: "Graffiti" and "Going Missing." In short, Maximo Park can do graffiti and sing to us in French any day.
3. Funeral- Arcade Fire
I'll be honest, the first time I heard Funeral, I was left cold. It was all so lush, so orchestrated. Initially I felt no spark, no true humming center of energy within the album. But then I sat down to write some fiction of my own, and something clicked. I can't exactly explain what happened then, but suddenly songs like "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" gained a swirling majesty that I had neglected. And I realized that "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" has a surprising edge and hits right to the gut with lines like "Ice has covered up my parents hands/don't have any dreams don't have any plans." Besides those numbers, it was "Crown of Love" that really hit me. A gentle, almost awkward ode, it turns last minute into a quick-paced mover that never seems out of place. All of Funeral comes off like a more tuneful Neutral Milk Hotel, and explores the connections between life, death and love. And if that sounds far too dark and far too heavy, remember this is an exuberant album full of joy and hope, and don't let that title scare you. If only all funerals could be this beautiful.
Emily Tarantella's Top 3 Singles of 2005:
1. Strasbourg- The Rakes
From those first hectic chords, this is not your average pop song. Clocking in at 2 and a half minutes, the Rakes manage to cram love, politics, wordplay, and a nice dose of the German language into "Strasbourg." I fell in love with this song for its unabashed romanticism and lyrical surrealism. Not to mention it comes ready-made with slogans to spray-paint on a school wall ("Our children must have rock'n'roll," "Ideas can change the government/But they never listen to our arguments") and a passionate chant of "Eins, zwei, drei, vier." Sounding like the invigorated ghost of Ian Curtis playing with the Buzzcocks, "Strasbourg" is beautiful, bold, and brilliant.
2. Emily Kane- Art Brut
The cleverest band in the U.K. comes out with their best moment yet. A genuinely moving tribute to singer Eddie Argos' schoolhood girlfriend. "Emily Kane" works best on the strength of its lyrics, which range from the poignant ("I hope this song finds you fame/I want schoolkids on buses singing your name!") to the charmingly knowing ("I wish I convinced you you've made a mistake/If memory serves, we're still on a break"). Anyone still suffering from the pangs of lost love can relate. If there was any justice Art Brut would be huge, instead of some quirky art band best loved in Germany. But then again, Coldplay and U2 are the U.K.'s biggest bands, so I'll just keep my fingers crossed and hope that Art Brut makes the big time.
3. Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt- We Are Scientists
A sentimental favourite of mine, partly because they were the first band to give me an interview--and it was hilarious. Everyone who's heard of We Are Scientists knows that they're clever and nerdy, but it's easy to forget their fantastic songs. "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt" is a darkly electric moment of masochism, pumping and charging with all the speed of a jilted lover on cocaine. Not quite pop, punk, or dance, it's a sublime effort by one of the most exciting new bands of 2006. When Keith bursts out into "If you want to use my body/Go for it," I defy you not to move. A perfect song for the dance floor, a perfect band for geeks who get down.
Clark Summers Top 3 Albums of 2005:
1. The Arcade Fire - Funeral
An instant classic The Arcade Fire's “Funeral” stood head and shoulders above every other album released in 2005. Hard to define and hard to put down “Funeral” was an album of hope, ambition and redemption. Win Butler's reedy vocals may not have been to everyone's taste but the string arrangements and ensemble playing were near faultless.
2. Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better
It seemed impossible nay unthinkable to some that Franz Ferdinand could release two albums in two years while maintaining the impeccably high level of quality control evinced on their eponymous debut. A selection box of fizzy pop delights “You Could Have It So Much Better” lived up to the hype and then some. From the giddy anarchic rush of “The Fallen” to the more infectious than ebola “Outsiders” Glasgow's finest made an album that is certain to be regarded in the future as the benchmark by which all pop albums of the decade will be judged.
3. The Rakes - Capture / Release
Initially dismissed in some quarters as a Kwik-Save Franz Ferdinand riding on the coat-tails of the ubiquitous Pete Doherty Londoners The Rakes surprised everyone (myself included) with their debut effort “Capture/Release”. Over incisive guitar playing and a rhythm section so tight they put Jack White's trousers to shame Alan Donohoe gave voice to the anxieties of bored office workers stuck in dead end jobs everywhere across the country.
Clark Summers Top 3 Singles of 2005:
1. The Arcade Fire - Wake Up
A life affirming record that even the coldest heart would struggle to warm to “Wake Up” had it all, a driving rhythm section, epic strings and an anthemic chorus that won them admirers by the truckload. Those with iTunes would be well advised to download the live version (featuring David Bowie) which is even better than the one found on their stellar album.
2. Clor - Love and Pain
They might have looked like the world's most unlikely pop stars with their Pulp-esque charity shop chic but Londoner's Clor re-injected a spirit of joie de vivre into the Top 40 with the astounding “Love and Pain”. It might not have garnered its rightful place at the pinnacle of the singles chart but this song and the attendant video will live in the memory long after the Pussycat Dolls and their ilk have ceased to exist.
3.British Sea Power - It Ended On An Oily Stage
Like a less cryptic Interpol dancing in the open air, revelling in all of life's endless possibilities “It Ended On An Oily Stage” marked the point at which B.S.P. transcended their reputation as English eccentrics to make the finest pop single of their career to date. Over strident post punk guitars, Yan produced his finest vocal performance to date while somewhere in the distance Sergeant and McCulloch doffed their metaphorical caps to the finest Echo & The Bunnymen single never released.
Jennifer Roberts Top 3 Albums of 2005:
1.Arcade Fire - Funeral
With a rush towards ethereal, orchestral sounds, it was Arcade Fire, with their mesmerising display of instrument swapping and haunting vocals both on stage and on record, who got there first this year and just pipped CYHSY and The Decemberists amongst many others to the post, but only just - all garnering mass hysteria and media hype along the way. With the likes of legend Davids counted as fans (Bowie and Byrne) and the legions of converts across the globe, this is my top album of the year. Faultless. Brilliant and beautiful - mysterious in all the right ways.
2. Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
What with the resurgence of northern bands finally being heard (hotly tipped for acclaimed 2006 releases;The Research) Maximo Park don't surrender to the lure of the south, and Paul Smith's drawl is surprisingly pleasing to the ear. Up tempo, foot stomping pieces of pop, the album encompasses the under-rated 'Acrobat' and catchy 'Graffiti' and bounces off the walls like a kid on Christmas eve. Plus, have you seen him live? Stage gymnastics aren't even the half of it.
3. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
They just have all the moves; from the much copied 'Bloc-head', over-publicised rants with Oasis, and 'cracking' America, they are hardly out of the music mags. But remember why they're there - the music. A complete package for all, easily accessible but much deeper on repeated listens. Russel Lissack's artistic guitar work, together with Kele Okereke's lyrics, is revered and unmatched this year. More than just a 'student' band, they will undoubtedly prove themselves in their next release - with much more beyond.
Jennifer Roberts Top 3 Singles of 2005:
1.Editors - Munich
Melancholic lyrics ('People are fragile things/you should know by now') are lifted by the piercing riffs that tremble as much as Tom Smith's vocals are still. Dark and sombre, this track inevitably points to Paul Banks and Ian Curtis, impressive references for a young band (and it must be said, a great debut album).
2. QOTSA - Little Sister
Breaking the mould of stoner-rock, Josh Homme is innovative as he is successful. Side projects stack up around him and he still finds time for this. Little Sister has the sludgy hard-rock imprint but manages to work on many levels. A repetitive beat climbs in through your ears and refuses to budge. Indefinitely.
This track typifies the Queens sound. Dependably fuzzy-edged riffs explode while Homme's velvety croon echos over reverb-drenched power chords, blending them together like another instrument.
3. Arcade Fire - Power Out
Ransacking every available instrument, they crash and collide at break neck speed. Glockenspiels crack against whispering violins, heart-beat drums rip apart distorted bass lines, while Win Butler spits out 'The power's out in the heart of man'. A stunning example of the delights found on their album.
The Arcade Fire constantly astound and amaze in every note and bar. Nothing is simple, everything intricately layered to create this fast paced debut release.