[Pat Pierson is a guy whose opinion I respect, and whose prose we've featured at Altrok for a while. Now it's just easier to do it. And so, heeere's Pat... -Ed.]
In many ways I'm sick of this waxing reflective of the state of our music (2005's) because it's only my opinion and it gets a bit redundant. And it doesn't do the artists as much justice as it would if you could hear their songs while reading about them.
That said, once I got started, it was like riding a bike, and I was off. This year's Pazz & Jop came out a week ago (check villagevoice.com) and the results were pretty predictable. Kanye, M.I.A. (not the old punk band), and Sufjan Stevens did well. Robert Christgau wrote one of his finest (and still very dense) essays about the current state of pop music and the world of music criticism and modern technology's hand in the matter. Unlike some of the years in the '90s, his choices rang true and clearer with the "writer/critic" I've been reading since 1980. And he finally gave a Pernice Brothers record a slot on his year-end list. This, after years of thinking I've overrated them, which, maybe I do, but then again, I really do like them that much. They don't wear out.TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2005
- PERNICE BROTHERS- Discover A Lovelier You
I like them and they've made four completely perfect inspired pop albums. The live show this past year was their finest yet; edgier and more intense. So they grab my brass ring with little conflict.
- MAGNET- The Tourniquet
I loved Even Johansen's tragically ignored brilliant 2001 solo outing "Quiet &Still" so much I decided I had to find out if he killed himself or maybe made another record. It would be crazy to think that the blog-fuks and netties who think they have a pulse on GREAT indie music would give the boy props; never. And, so, much to my amazement was the fact that Even "Formed A Band" shortly thereafter, stoopidly called it Magnet (there's at least one other one) and virtually took hold of the lost "pop" aesthetic Radiohead lost sight of after "OK Computer."
"The Tourniquet" is a wee bit self-indulgent with too many songs that seem to be written about the same girl who tore his heart out. That said, he's not laying down or flying a white flag. Exploring with thrift intelligence with the aid of Jason Falkner, the first half of the record is a virtual masterpiece, albeit a run of songs that need to be taken out of context and shown the light of day. In 2006, this disc will be out in the U.S. (the band is opening for Stars). And who woulda thunk it: Even's masterstroke cover version of Thin Lizzy's "Dancing In The Moonlight" got airtime on "The O.C." a few weeks back.
- IVY- In The Clear
I like them and they've made four completely perfect inspired pop albums. Since they do it with ease, no one's figured out that they're a zillion times more important and BETTER than Stars. Oh well.
- ED HARCOURT- Strangers
I like him and he's made three completely perfect inspired pop albums. He also put out a 2-disc collection of odds and sods to prove he really is a genius, or at least is in that zone Matt Mac Haffie refers to as "Genius Level." Sufjan Stevens my ass, this is the shit.
- THE TEARS- Here Come The Tears
Like my friend Mike Cimicata pointed out in his run down of the best of 2005, this is more like "Coming Up" part II than a return to the old Suede which saw Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler flirt briefly with UK superstardom. Not released in the U.S. where such blatant romanticism thwarts the buffoonery of the indie contingent and the assorted dumbass who doesn't want any love songs.
- MY MORNING JACKET- Z
Bring John Leckie in to produce and write an even better batch of songs and I'm a sucker for it. A wee bit overhyped in the UK, but nonetheless a solid offering of modern atmospheric rock. Plus, their performance on Conan O'Brien was arguably the most intense TV gig of the year.
- THE 88- Over & Over
Many were ga ga about their debut. I felt the production didn't cut it. Here on disc #2 they NAIL everything they touch. One of the few CDs that can run from start to finish and never sound tired or redundant. Good show. Good pop.
- NADA SURF- The Weight Is A Gift
I like them. And after the mis-step of MTV success and a so-so debut, they've made three completely perfect inspired pop albums. And they're always a great act to catch live.
- THE HOLD STEADY- Separation Sunday
Finally, along with the debut, I caught up with this unique rock band late in 2005. Great to hear someone spew poetic about geography and the assorted female amongst our pop culture consciousness. What a band.
- DRAMARAMA- Everybody Dies
I'm biased. But that said, I wasn't sure this collection was gonna hold up after stops and starts and the initial set-up as John Easdale's 2nd solo disc; which the late Greg Dwinnell blasted as we rode down Sunset Strip all the way through Hollywood down past UCLA and into Santa Monica back in 2003.
Greg died. Shortly after, Dramarama reformed for VH1. Chris Carter and John Easdale fell back into the all-too familiar disagreement which was part of the band's initial break-up in the '90s. (It's Only Money, after all.) Sans Carter (and Jesse Farbman), Easdale decided to keep Dramarama together despite the rift. He had already been doing west and east coast jaunts regularly with Mark and Pete that were de facto Dramarama gigs anyway.
Name back in place. Sound, too. The disc finally saw light of day in 2005 with a perfect running order. John did the radio rounds and did a nice extended on-air performance on my show on WRSU which highlighted some of the songs I wasn't completely sold on. This was where it sunk in. "King For A Day" hit home and made a clearer connection to the opening cut "The Bottle And The Bell" (aesthetically, that is.)
And of course the band rocked in its old glory on the title cut and "Try 5 Times."
- DOVES- Some Cities
I like them and they've made three nearly perfect rock/pop albums in a row.
- MARJORIE FAIR- Self-Help Serenade (U.S. release)
The UK pressing had one less song (no "Empty Room") and made my top 10 of 2004. This pressing gets another mention because "Empty Room" is a classic song which no UK band of note (i.e. Coldplay) could touch in 2005. And all from a guy from NJ. The other reason was because their gig at Mercury Lounge was the best show by a new band that I'd seen all year. Evan Slamka put a unique spin on an all-too familiar sound by never once sounding forced, trite, banal or nice.
On the surface the music is sluggish and the songs sound like the boy needs to get out of the house a little bit more. But for all of us who get the alienated blues and enjoy music that knows how to capture the heart's disenchanted moment, it never gets better than this.
- BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB- Howl
Nu folk rock. Good show.
- PITTY SING - Pitty Sing
(Or)Formed a band. Band broke up. They really like Ultravox. Way better than the Killers.
- FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE- Out-Of-State Plates
Toss out the annoying novelty songs and it's an insanely amazing collection of songs. Great new songs show hope for the future. And they're a great cover band.
- SPOON- Gimme Fiction
More good music.
- ED HARCOURT- Elephant's Graveyard
- TSAR- Band-Girls-Money
Hard to believe no one gets this. It's only rock and roll, but the majority has lost the thread. These kids bring it on home. And they play fast the way fast should be. How did so many people forget?
- FRANCOIZ BREUT- Une Saison Volee
French artful folk/chamber rock. Think Velvets and a language barrier.
- THE GO-BETWEENS- Oceans Apart
More is good.
- LOUIS ELIOT- Long Way Round ('04)
See The Tears.
- OCEAN COLOUR SCENE- A Hyperactive Workout For The Flying Squad
A good record.
- FRANZ FERDINAND- You Could Have It So Much Better
Despite my hesitancy, mainly because the lead singer sounds like he's sticking his chest out and bellowing like a nucklehead, I luv a lot of the songs and the band is good. Kinda reminds me of early Roxy Music.
- HOT HOT HEAT- Elevator
Got songs, too?
- THE WHITE STRIPES- Get Behind Me Satan
Unlike many, I don't like this more than say, the breakthrough album. I do like the production a lot more which is what saves it for me in the end mainly because when he sings about ringing that stoopid little doorbell in that lame whiny voice I want to slap him. But its Meg's drums that suckers me back to my Moe Tucker fascination. It's good. And no one else really does it quite like this. And it should be so easy.
- GORILLAZ- Demon Days
You know what, anything with Damon Albarn is still worth some attention. And despite cries of lackluster this and boo hoo hoo that, I like more than half of it a lot.
- EDITORS- The Back Room
They were so good live at their NYC debut that some think they'll be as big as The Killers. The one drawback is that to sell a million CDs in the states your post-punk better have a sense of novelty or be spun with poppy delight so that the girls will dig it. This ain't that. Think Interpol-lite, which is a good thing.
- BLOC PARTY- Silent Alarm
After the year spun out, this sorta petered out too despite the excitement of its tension and hooks. Nonetheless a good band to have around and break through.
- INTERPOL- Antics
I hate them and I luv them.
- MARK MULCAHY- In Pursuit Of Your Happiness
Quiet unassuming indie rock by ex-Miracle Legion dude. Good songs. Inspired showing.
- SHOUT OUT LOUDS- Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
See Bloc Party.
- LCD SOUNDSYSTEM- LCD Soundsystem
Clever and smart techno for the 21st century.
- MAXIMO PARK- A Certain Trigger
A few good hits and the right idea. They just need the personality and artistic aplomb that made a band like XTC so damn good. Than again, XTC started off iffy.
- THE BRAVERY- The Bravery
Mike Cimicata was also right on this one. By all accounts they shouldn't be of any worth, but like, say A Flock Of Seagulls, I like to hear some of their songs.
- LOUIS XIV- The Best Little Secrets Are Kept
Glam without the heels. Maybe it was seeing them on TV that killed it for me. I still like a good chunk of it, mainly because it is great throwaway glam rock tainted with a little Mark E Smith.
- TRUE LOVE- Wings
Me thinks it's their strongest showing. Keith Hartel is finally giving Ray a run for his money. Tom is always the reliable source.
- THE POSIES- Every Kind Of Light
A few amazing moments. Throw on Auer's Big Star song "Lady Sweet" and it might be closer to a strong comeback.
- SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES- Origin Vol. 1
They still can be quite amazing when they want to. And I'd much rather hear this than many of the dubious things that's passing for hipsterville these days.
- OASIS- Don't Believe The Truth
See above review.
- THE LOST PATROL- Lonesome Sky
Great live band. On record the songs aren't as enigmatic as when they're experienced firsthand, live. Which is why there's a lot of hope for this band. Somebody please bankroll them. P.S. They're playing The Loop Lounge this Friday night! (Feb. 10th).
THE DEPARTURE - Dirty Words
SUPERGRASS - Road To Rouen
STARS - Set Yourself On Fire
BRENDAN BENSON - The Alternative To Love
KATE BUSH - Aerial
BOB MOULD - Body Of Song
THE BLUE VAN - The Art Of Rolling
THE CARDIGANS - Super Extra Gravity
THE CAPITOL YEARS - Let Them Drink
EMILIANA TORRINI - Fisherman's Woman
TIM BURGESS - I Believe
RENO'S MEN - Step Up To The Stereo Slider
HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEARTS - Heels N' Wheels
DAVE'S TRUE STORY - Nature
THE PONYS - Celebration Castle
THE RAVEONETTES - Pretty In Black
ROLLING STONES - A Bigger Bang
SLEATER-KINNEY - The Woods
Good But Overrated
KANYE WEST - Late Registration
SUFJAN STEVENS - Illinois
M.I.A. - Arular
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS - Twin Cinema
Obviously people like these records for whatever reasons. That said, there's a deeper sense of cattle call than of pure greatness. And this has always been a case with rock criticism and its choices for best albums. No one ever seems to question the critic as to whether or not these records hold any true significance to THEIR life the way, say a fan's favorite record does. The critics' dilemma arises while avoiding myopia in the attempt to expand his or her horizons. Why would you vote for a record you would never have listened to othwerwise.
In other words, the life we lead and our own personal needs and heartbeat USUALLY desires something that makes sense with our selves. Where do you go to when you want to rock? Where do you go to when you want something mellow? Where do you go to when you want something adventurous?
Has the critic--who obviously entered the field because he loves music--lost sight of what he likes for the aim of covering all areas of substantial music; to fit in and be part of the so-called zeitgeist? It's always been the critic world's Achilles' heel.
Thusly, the problem with critics' polls is this: Since almost everyone who votes has a pulse that's part of a group of people who rally around certain causes/artists, there's gonna be a tendency and need to "get" the record everyone is talking about. And so, the scales are usually tipped in favor of the record that was talked about the most, not necessarily the best one. And with the current state of blogmania and uber-transient listening habits, it's kinda frustrating to sit and watch.
I need to hear all of Kanye's disc, but judging from the live performances and that retread single ("Golddigger"), I'm not running out the door to get it. I'm still amazed that people praise him as much as they do. He's kinda like the Guns 'N Roses of hip-hop right now. Since there's hardly anyone making great commercial rap and hip-hop records, Kanye gets touted as the second-coming. It's all good mind you, but HOW good is the question.
Yes he was cool and smart enough to work with JB (Jon Brion) which on paper looked like a genius move but in practice doesn't sound like the major coup it should've been. But what the hell do I know, I think Eminem is as worthless as Moby Grape.
Sufjan is good, not great. Nothing close to the genius of Red House Painters or Lambchop at their best. His hype, like that of Bright Eyes and Magnetic Fields doesn't help him any. He needs to be brought down to earth, or away from the UFOs.
M.I.A.'s "Arular" is the stupid useless artcrap twaddle glopfest critics love. Bah. Annoying and basically useless, bar the politics and the unique blending of ideas.
New Pornographers have yet to write a really good song, and I'm being lenient. If anyone thinks that a children of a lesser Sloan is worthy of a place in the hearts of indie rock fans like that of The Pixies, they've been seriously duped. I mean, what the fuk, I've got songs a mile long that wipes them useless in a second. Heard any Warm Jets, Pinko Pinko, Flamingoes, Eggstone, Melony, Popsicle???