Monday, December 19

Top 20 Albums Of 2005 - Part 4 Of 4.

After more than a week of posts, general banter and chit-chat, we've finally come to the end of the countdown. Here are my top 5 albums of the year, for your consideration and approval.

Each of these 5 albums are breakout performances in one way or another. For 3 of the bands listed, it was their debut album. For the other 2, it was their career-defining moment. In either case, these 5 bands represent the hopeful present and future of indie music in all facets and sounds. Good for them; they make me want to never pick up an instrument again.

Let's go.

Image hosted by #5 - The Decemberists - Picaresque

"The Decemberists are what Arcade Fire wants to sound like when they grow up," sniffed an indie critic when Picaresque came out. He's right, too. Where Funeral's main topic of conversation was the death of youth and rebellion to the monotony and acceptance of adulthood, Picaresque embraced the freedom and wonder of a fleeting adolescence. From another era altogether, the Decemberists travel the high seas and remember their travels and accounts via troubled sing-along. Led by the brilliant Colin Meloy, we're offered a glimpse of a well-established and respected band simply adding to their legacy.

Image hosted by #4 - The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike

Thunder, Lightning, Strike is the Paul's Boutique of the new millennium. When asked to describe the cut-and-paste sound of the Go! Team's debut album, I'd say, "Pretend that you're listening to the radio. One station is playing 70's soul. Another station is playing hip hop. Station three is playing theme songs to 70's TV shows. Still another station is playing hopscotch and cheerleader jams. Take the dial and spin it from right to left for 45 minutes, and you'll get Thunder, Lightning, Strike." Breathlessly energetic and full of non-stop action, the Go! Team will have to move heaven and earth to out-do themselves when they enter the studio again next year.

Image hosted by #3 - Architecture In Helsinki - In Case We Die

You'd assume that with a name like Architecture in Helsinki, the 8-member collective would hail from Finland. Not true, smartass. Actually, this multi-gendered group comes to us from Australia, single-handedly apologizing for Silverchair and Paul Hogan in one fell swoop. In Case We Die is non-annoying twee at its absolute finest; a hand-clapping cuddle party with countless instruments and multiple vocalists. If one track doesn't suit you, the next one will bore a hole into your skull until the next time the Democrats take office. Diverse and brilliant, In Case We Die is a textbook example of indie done perfectly right.

Image hosted by #2 - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

This is how an album is supposed to be made. The New York quintet recorded, produced and released their self-titled debut without any label or manager assistance. Through live shows and word of mouth, they gained a cult following, leading to a glowing review on Pitchfork. Much like Funeral, CYHSY! became an internet phenomenon, causing the band to run out of merch and start a sold-out headlining tour without any booking agents or press kits. They have since signed to a label that re-released this debut to a wider audience.

I don't know what I can tell you about this album that would do it justice. It's an indie rock album. It has guitars, bass, drums and vocals among other things. It's warm and nostalgic, yet new and trendsetting. It's abraisive and gentle, reminding you of the best moments of your past without having actually been there at all. Just purchase it and give it a try. You'll be amazed at how something so simple can grow on you.

Drumroll please...

Image hosted by #1 - Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins

Oh, Kevin Barnes, you magnificent bastard. You've done it again. Last year, Satanic Panic In The Attic nearly took home CDP Album of the Year honors, but Of Montreal just couldn't be stopped in 2005.

My story with The Sunlandic Twins starts in April of last year. I got an advance copy to review for the newspaper, and didn't enjoy it much. After SPITA, it didn't seem like Sunlandic could hold a candle to it. My review reflected this, and I sort of slammed the record. However, as is the case with critics with deadlines, I didn't have enough alone time with the album. Like a fine wine, Sunlandic blossomed and bloomed with psychedelic melodies, danceable beats and insanely deep production. To break from what Of Montreal was known for and create something like this took...well, it took a lot of balls, and Kevin Barnes is the undisputed master and king of testicular girth.

I had the pleasure of interviewing this genius months down the road as they brought their tour into Madison. We talked about critics and reactions to the new album; for me a silent apology to him for not appreciating the record on first listen. He was shy and soft-spoken. Brilliant and thoughtful. My interview made up for the dismal critique, and their live show was one of the best times I've had all year. Barnes sheds all inhibitions when he takes the stage, breathing new live into his already textured beats and complexities. It was amazing.

The Sunlandic Twins pulls off the impossible, in that it's a wonderful album about wonderful things. Normally, depression and despair write the best music, but in the case of Barnes, starting a family was the topic of conversation for the new record. Tracks like "So Begins Our Alabee" and "The Party's Crashing Us" may have sounded disposable upon first listen, but they are still two of the best tracks I've heard all year. This album leaves me positively giddy in wait for the new one, which is about the nicest compliment I could give to a working musician.

The Sunlandic Twins is the CDP's Album of the Year. What do you have to say about it? Sound off in the comments section, and thanks for checking out my list.


(If the comments aren't working for you, feel free to comment in the previous post.)

I think you are quite right.
Woah. I'm glad you typed that, just so everyone could see it for themselves.

Vindication, fools!
Is it too late to move "Are You There God? It's Me, Juiceboxxx" to #2?

Just wonderin'.
Why wasn't that on my list? I love that album. That kid is ridiculous.
We saw him on Saturday, and he tore the joint up.

Actually, he struck the Missus in the neck accidentally when he tried to tackle me for the 10th time. Now THAT'S a show!

Actually, he's lucky I didn't whoop his ass. I bought a CD instead.

That, coupled with me slow-dancing on stage with Mr. Ben Benjamin during "Dr. Frank Was Right," was a night worth discussing.
That Juiceboxxx person terrified me beyond words. Seriously. I hated every minute of being there while he was performing.
Within 30 seconds of performing, he had his shirt off and his shiny pants at dangerously low levels.

He was running headlong into the crowd, tackling and falling over and stuff, so Sherry and Missus were cowering behind me and Ben as we laughed and bobbed our heads.

Mr. Boxxx had my attention.
Haha. I was at the show as well. I liked how the Juiceboxx threw inspirational messages into his lyrics one minute, then was saying "fuck you" to the crowd the next. I'd support a move to number 2.

Did you see any of us there, Andrew? I was the one who was on stage with Ben during "Dr. Frank."

A friend of ours was behind Mr. Boxxx in line at the video store in Milwaukee one day. The clerk asked him what his name was, and he said, "It should be under 'Boxxx'." Sure enough, it was. That kid brings his A game 24/7.

Andrew dropped an F-bomb, so he has to put a quarter into the CDP's collective swear jar. Don't feel bad. Sherry's got about 18 bucks in there.
I thought I recognized you on stage, but you were so clean cut that I wasn't sure.

I had two interactions with the Boxx that night. First, he watched me play Donkey Kong, commenting that I had reached a level he never had before. At the time I didn't realize the significance of the compliment. Later, when I was sitting with my friend by the bathroom, he asked if I would watch his stuff. As my friend and I pondered if that could possibly the Juiceboxxx, he came out completely transformed. And the rest is history.
That's very true; I was straight rocking the dapper look on Saturday. I was considering wearing the blazer, but I figured that would be too much class for Milwaukee.

Hey, wait a minute. You're making fun of me!

Wow, you're better at DK than the Boxxx? You must be pretty good, because you know darn well that he rules at it.
Of course that Boxxx is good at DK. He terrorizes people in REAL life, so why not terrorize people in monkey life?
Only you would be afraid of someone like the Boxxx. If you can beat me up, you can beat him up.
I am not quite sure about that. While I am playing Donkey Kong in my free time, he's making beats and he's making rhymes. I guess you just have to pick your battles.

If I ever see you at a random place again, I will make an attempt to better recognize and talk to you.
Make sure that you do. Maybe I'll get on stage again when the Benjamins have their reunion show in December of 2006.

I hope they played better during the 21+ show, because Jon couldn't drum to save his life on set #1.

As much as I don't want to admit it, the Boxxx actually has some decent beats on his album. If you look past everything else, he does have some creative backbeats.
"if you look past everything else"...I like that.

You're reaching, my friend, you're reaching...
I mean, I'm not going to do a critical analysis of a novelty act, but there actually are some bright spots on the album.

It's just like Grand Buffet. They're not meant to be taken entirely seriously, but sometimes they're too good not to be. Only in Grand Buffet's case, they're a lot better than the Boxxx.
I love the tracks when it's supposed to be female vocals and it's just his voice run through some pitch effects.
It's the white hip-hop version of Prozzak.

Do you wanna hear some Juiceboxxx? (YEAH!)

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