Thursday, December 22, 2005

Best Albums of 2005

Not long after Pitchfork came out with their Top 50 Albums of 2005, I started working on my own list. Well, actually, I just put it together in the last ten minutes. So I don't know if I will wind up absolutely standing by the particular rankings I've made. But mostly, I can't entirely believe that I bought, borrowed, streamed and/or downloaded this many albums this year.

In case long-term readers of Short Schrift are wondering, I'm sticking with my premature claim that Andrew Bird's The Mysterious Production of Eggs is the album of the year. Bird got ignored by Pitchfork and lots of other critics' list this year, and if nothing else, that convinced me to come down heavy in his favor. It really is a phenomenal album, and I lived with it this year like nothing else I heard.

In general, I think albums released early in the year -- particularly albums released to some fanfare (although on this count, I don't think Bird qualifies) -- tend to slide farther down the lists than they'd appear if they were released later in the year. For example, if Bloc Party's Silent Alarm had been released in October instead of January, I think it would have been in more top tens instead of 25s, and would definitely have beaten less potent releases by Franz Ferdinand and Maximo Park. Franz Ferdinand actually had the same problem in 2004.

Not only is there a problem with eventual critical backlash, but I think critics tend to get tired of listening to some albums, and musical trends that seemed vital at one moment begin to wear thin later. If anything, my list has the opposite prejudice. Albums released in the last four months of the year had a harder time breaking into my rotation of favorites, both because earlier albums had already secured their places and because I just had less time to concentrate (and money to spend) on music, at least until the very end of the year. (Plus, I made my first best-of-2005 mix CD way early, which locked out albums released later.) So albums like Animal Collective's Feels and even Kanye West's Late Registration (which I heard in entirety on release but didn't pick up until much later) are probably lower on this list than they deserve to be, or at least as they would if I listened to them on repeat four or five more times.

But I don't pretend that this list is anything but subjective. Its quirks and vagaries are mine, too.

1 Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs - Andrew Bird
2 Illinois - Sufjan Stevens
3 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
4 Silent Alarm - Bloc Party
5 In Case We Die - Architecture in Helsinki
6 Gimme Fiction - Spoon
7 A River Ain't Too Much to Love - Smog
8 The Sunset Tree - The Mountain Goats
9 Apologies to the Queen Mary - Wolf Parade
10 Separation Sunday - The Hold Steady
11 Twin Cinema - The New Pornographers
12 Late Registration - Kanye West
13 Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
14 Feels - Animal Collective
15 Picaresque - The Decemberists
16 The Woods - Sleater-Kinney
17 Tender Buttons - Broadcast
18 Strange Geometry - The Clientele
19 I Am A Bird Now - Antony and the Johnsons
20 Alligator - The National
21 Bang Bang Rock n' Roll - Art Brut
22 Pixel Revolt - John Vanderslice
23 You Could Have It So Much Better - Franz Ferdinand
24 Arular - M.I.A.
25 Z - My Morning Jacket
26 LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem
27 Let It Die - Feist
28 Lost and Safe - The Books
29 Transistor Radio - M. Ward
30 Get Behind Me Satan - The White Stripes
31 Oh You're So Silent Jens - Jens Lekman
32 Cripple Crow - Devendra Banhart
33 Superwolf - Bonnie Prince Billy and Matt Sweeney
34 Chaos and Creation in the Backyard - Paul McCartney
35 Face the Truth - Stephen Malkmus
36 A Certain Trigger - Maximo Park
37 EP - The Fiery Furnaces
38 Thunder Lightning Strike - The Go! Team
39 The Best Party Ever - The Boy Least Likely To
40 Wilderness - Archer Prewitt
41 Nice and Nicely Done - The Spinto Band
42 Extraordinary Machine - Fiona Apple
43 Set Yourself on Fire - Stars
44 The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers
45 Plans - Death Cab for Cutie
46 Who's Your New Professor - Sam Prekop
47 The Runners Four - Deerhoof
48 Year of Meteors - Laura Veirs
49 The Alternative to Love - Brendan Benson
50 Guero - Beck


Gavin said...

Holy smokes. I'm not even sure that I listened to 50 albums this year.

I'd be interested to see what albums didn't make the list. (Or in other words, if this is really an inventory of what you've been listening to this year, or this is really a best-of, and your listening has been even broader.)

Tim said...

This is where albums are really different from singles. It's hard to evaluate albums that I didn't hear in their entirety.

Usually if I download a song or two, or hear a single on the radio, and it doesn't strike me as being particularly interesting, then I don't bother with the album. Others, including probably some terrific ones, didn't even cross my radar.

And it's not uncommon for me to borrow or download an entire album, but dislike it or be nonplussed enough to delete it from my hard drive. I did this with Common's Be, for example, which I'd heard good things about and had high hopes for. Apart from the occasional thrill from saying "Hey, I know that street in Chicago!", it wasn't as compelling as I'd hoped.

But here are at least some of the albums that didn't make my list:

Bear vs. Shark -- Terrorhawk
Bright Eyes -- I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
The Fiery Furnaces -- Rehearsing My Choir
Foo Fighters -- In Your Honor
Hot Hot Heat -- Elevator
Lou Barlow -- Emoh
The Most Serene Republic -- Underwater Cinematographer
OK Go -- Oh No
Portastatic -- Bright Ideas
Rogue Wave -- Descended Like Vultures
The Silver Jews -- Tanglewood Numbers
Xiu Xiu -- La Foret

I have no real beef with any of these albums -- well, maybe with Tanglewood Numbers, which at least for me ranks as the most disappointing release this year -- and most of them could probably be easily exchanged for the bottom ten albums on my list. And some of them I haven't really listened to yet more than maybe once.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list dude. I've been using Pandora ( and I think I'll make a station using some of these artists and see what pops out.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.