Saturday, January 14, 2006

Best of '05 - The Music (REVISED 01/29)

Back for the third and final chapter - Music was a mixed bag for me in '05 - this list was, again, very difficult for me - as, being an old school rock n roller and metalhead at heart - there wasn't a great deal of stuff for me to dig on this past year. So i managed to narrow it down and here's the list. Again - don't bother flaming or calling me crazy - particularly where music is concerned - this is by far the most subjective of the art forms. Enjoy!

- Top 10 Music -

1. Oasis - Don't Believe the Truth

I know it certainly isn’t trendy or cool to dig on Oasis these days – what with their fire having gone out sometime around 1997 if you listen to mainstream music magazines. I’m here to tell you that not only do Oasis still rock the joint – but “Don’t Believe The Truth” is also quite possibly the most consistent and brilliantly executed album of their career. It’s not something that immediately grabs you, but it burrows in and takes root – and before you know it you can’t pick a favorite. From the opener “Turn up The sun” with it’s typically Oasis jangle and backbeat – to the heartfelt closer “Let there Be Love”, featuring the first duet between Noel and Liam to appear on an official album (No, Acquiesce doesn’t count…). Each and every track is a valuable addition to the Oasis catalog – not one is a skipper or a filler track – and the band demonstrates a maturity and cohesive fullness that was only slightly hinted at on “Heathen Chemistry”. It’s the best album of 2005 for me – a larger than life rock record with no dead weight. And “Keep the Dream Alive” has become one of my absolute favorite songs…

2. Matt Mays & El Torpedo

The sophmore effort from Canadian talent Matt Mays, this time backed by his band, El Torpedo, Is a rollicking trip from start to finish. Matt takes all of the best elements of Tom Petty and Niel Young, serves them up with a slice of country-fied guitar and folk rock hooks and presents a solid rock album that stands head and shoulders with the classics of his inspirations. Each and every tune on this one is a real gem, from the hard driving rock vibe of "Cocaine Cowgirl" to the wispy majesty of "St. George's Lane" to the Petty-like groove of "On The Hood". While my #1 disc is a strong recommendation to Oasis fans, this one i strongly recommend to absolutely anyone! Mays is a wonderful songwriter, his band is tight, and the album shines from start to finish. Highest possible recommendation and all that jazz, as Allmusic states in their review: "It's a one hour album that'll take you three hours to listen to".

3. Sheavy - Republic?

Yeah, Sheavy are local boys – But they compete on an international level. Their latest (fifth) album finds the band rejuvenated – after a few years of start-stop meetings and one off recording, the crew is back together – living in the same area, and with Republic, they took their sweet time piecing together one hell of an aggressive rock and roll album. There’s a savage bite and a downright crushing low end that hasn’t been heard from them before – they sound downright hungry. The album kicks off with the buzzsaw riff of “Spy vs. Spy” and just careens through it’s runtime at breakneck pace. One part fury, one part groove – Dan Moore’s guitar work is the finest stuff he’s done yet – and Steve Hennesey’s vocals are as strong (and reminiscent of a sober, more talented Ozzy) as always. Highlights include “Imitation of Christ”, “Phone Booth in the Middle of Nowhere”, “Last Chance… Gremlin X”, and the epic, “Standing at the Edge of the World”.

4. Starsailor - On the Outside

Starsailor are band that have always resided on the fringes of popularity in North America. Their first album generated one or two radio songs, and had a track featured in a high profile 2004 Video game release, but out and out mainstream success has all but eluded them, which is a damn shame. On the Outside is a strong album from start to finish – It recalls larger bands like Coldplay or Travis, but is more masterfully crafted, and features more guitar and rock hooks than it’s contemporaries (and James Walsh’s vocals are vastly superior in my opinion). The opener, “In the Crossfire” is a solid representation of things to come – prominent, though not overstated guitar complement a driving rhythm section and some soulful vocals. Highlights include the anthem “Faith, Hope, Love”, “Get out While You Can”, and the closer, “Jeremiah”.

5. Amiee Mann - The Forgotten Arm

Few female singer-songwriters perform music as beautifully as Amiee Mann. Her latest album is a concept album – it tells the story of a washed up boxer and his love, making a cross-country journey. Where the subject matter came from I have no idea, it does strike me as a little oddball (which should be no surprise). Mann executes the album with skill, these songs are an emotional journey, they obviously mean a lot to her. The entire album was recorded live in the studio, the performances are lively and assured – though I do miss the presence of Michael Penn. Highlights for me are “Going through The Motions”, The opener, “Dear John”, and the closing track, “Beautiful”, though the entire album is a collection of solid songs and really works best if you listen to the whole album in one go.

6. The Trews - Den of Thieves

The Trews wowed me with their collection of solid rock n roll on their debut album, House of Ill Fame, and I waited very anxiously for this one. It was most certainly not a disappointment. Hard driving guitar boogie and rocking beats permeate this collection of barroom rock and roll, from the awesome start-stop groove of “So she’s Leaving”, to the sing-a-long catchiness of “Ishmael & Maggie”. Colin’s vocals echo guys like Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, and his brother Angus echoes the sentiment with his guitar style. The Trews are like a breath of fresh air – providing us with some easily accessible driving rock. They’re an Atlantic Canadian version of the Crowes – and for me that’s a damn good thing.

7. Wolfmother

What the hell is with Australia? First Powderfinger, then Jet, now these guys. One part Led Zeppelin, one part Ac/Dc, and a twist of Floyd trippiness – Wolfmother bring old school Rock n Roll to lofty heights with their first full length album. This sucker packs a punch, and at the same time can take you on some sort of trippy cosmic journey. The opening rumbler, “Colossus”, brought flashes of Kyuss level desert fuzz to the table – followed by the raw rocker, “Woman”, and the trip that is “White Unicorn”. Blow for blow, every track is a winner. This is one album that no rock fan should be without!! So what if they channel the ghosts of rock bands long dead – their execution is flawless – and they rock like few can.

8. The Wallflowers - Rebel Sweetheart

A fantastic collection of Folk rock as is typical of the Wallflowers. This album takes them a little further afield of their usual radio friendly folk pop, and into a more earthy guitar driven direction. Highlights include "God Says Nothing Back" complete with driving wrold-music styled percussion, and the awesome uptempo anthem, "Back To California". The band hasn't lost a step, and remains one of the strongest straight ahead rock acts on the go.

9. Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill Accoustic

What a great way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of an album! JLP-Accoustic is a resoundingly successful experiment on Alanis’ part, a retrospective on a classic pop album from the headspace of the present. The songs are definitely farmiliar, yet they’ve never sounded so good in my opinion. There’s something about songs like “All I Really Want”, “Hand in my Pocket”, or “You’ll Learn” that just seems to work better in the warmer acoustic vibe. Other songs like “You Oughta Know” and “Right Through You” surprise in how fresh and effective they sound – stripped of their glam-pop electric guitars and howling mad vocals. I’d love to see more artists try something along these lines! You needn’t be an Alanis fan to enjoy this one (god knows I’ve never really been – despite an intimate familiarity with her music), if you appreciate a good singer-songwriter folk style album – it’s worth a listen.

10. Bruce Springsteen - Devils in Dust

Devils in Dust is Nebraska to The Rising’s Born in the USA, if that makes any sense. It finds Bruce very much in the same mindset he was in when he recorded The Rising a few years ago – but instead of the highly produced, full band – we get Bruce practically on his own – acoustic guitar in hand. The album does bear a darker sound, almost melancholy at times – and yet the lyrics are largely positive or at least spiritually uplifting. Highlights include the title track, “Maria’s Bed”, “Long Time comin’”, “Jesus was an Only Son” and “Reno”.

Honorable Mention #1. Jeff Greene - Build-Ups and Breakdowns

Jeff Greene’s first album, Time To Heal (2003) was a collection of Bar-room country rock in the vein of Blue Rodeo with a twist of the Tragically Hip. This one, his sophomore effort, finds things in a very different place. His sound is still identifiable, You can still hear Blue rodeo, or The Hip in here, but the sound is much more textured, more layered, and the production much more meticulous. While time To Heal may have been radio crossover material, Build-Ups and Breakdowns is much more of an experience album. The opening track, “Movin’ On” is the first and last song on the album to really hearken back to his debut – everything else goes into new territory for Jeff. The country influence is still there, while songs like “Runaway” channel classic blues, and the sweeping “Slow To Fade” layers guitars and vocals with a U2-like majesty. Overall the album is a laid back and mellow affair, with a few upbeat moments – but it all works remarkably well. The album’s overall production is polished and of extremely high quality as well.

Honorable Mention #2. Weezer – Make Believe

I was never a huge Weezer fan, I’ll be first to admit – but upon hearing the first single from this album, a catchy little tune called “Beverly Hills”, I figured I’d take the plunge on the album. Overall the disc is a very pleasant surprise – Weezer continues to churn out their brand of radio-friendly pop rock, though I can honestly say they’ve never done it with such style and finesse. Gone are the sour chords and off-key vocals, replaced by some lean playing and some skillfull songwriting. Weezer still wave the Emo flag – but things are far more upbeat and lyrical this time around, and the catchy hooks of Beverly Hills pretty much soak through the entire album, making this one damn enjoyable listening experience. Highlights are “Beverly Hills” (of course), “We are all on Drugs”, “Freak me out” and “My Best Friend”.

- Honorable Mentions -

- Bruce Dickinson - Tyranny of Souls
- Franz Ferdinand - You Could Do So Much Better
- Coldplay - X&Y
- The Darkness - One Way Ticket to Hell and Back
- Beck - Guero
- The White Stripes - Get Behind me Satan
- Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth


Laura said...

Hey great blog, i love the theme

Mitch said... You just need to move #4 up three spaces.

Despite the fact that it was featured in the worst movie Kevin Smith will ever make, "That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart" makes me want to cry like a little girl.

(Don't tell anybody I said that.)

SteveTP said...

Hey thanks Laura - i gave yours a shot - but alas i don't know Italian... :(

Mitch - glad you like the choices - if there's something there you're unfarmilar with, give em a go :)
I was gonna mention "Break my heart" but, y'know, ;) Love that album though - it might have scored a little higher if i'd enjoyed it as much as Lost in Space (my fave Mann)

Mitch said...

I'm gonna borrow a note from you and say The Forgotten Arm is to Lost in Space as Animals is to Wish You were Here.

Wish You Were Here and Lost in Space=Brilliant the moment I heard them.

Animals and The Forgotten Arm=I like them more and more every time I listen to them.

If that makes any sense. :)

I already got the Springsteen and Beck discs, and the Weezer one's high on my must-buy list.

Why don't you try one of the web page translators? I got this Brazilian chick who likes my blog, and I use one to translate hers. They're not perfect, but at least it's something.

Anonymous said...

I was glad to see some Wolfmother love ;)


SteveTP said...

Mitch - that's a pretty good analogy that i can get behind...

M (which i'm gonna assume is Mark) - Wolfmother is awesoem shiznit man - i must thank you again for introducing me to them...