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Monday, December 19, 2005

Dale's favorite albums of 2005

1. KAISER CHIEFS - Employment (Universal) - Fun, energetic britpop loaded with memorable sing-a-long choruses and supercharged hooks. It plays like a singles collection and features my favorite song of 2005, the monstrously catchy “I Predict A Riot”.

2. SPOON - Gimme Fiction (Merge) - I was disappointed in 2002’s Kill the Moonlight, which was a poor follow up to Girls Can Tell (my favorite album of the past ten years). But Spoon are back in fine form with an album loaded with hypnotic pop melodies and innovative arrangements.

3. BLOC PARTY - Silent Alarm (Vice) - Bloc Party mix hyper dance-punk rhythms with angular guitar lines and punchy melodies in the tradition of England’s late 70’s post punk scene without being nostalgic revivalists.

4. ROGUE WAVE - Descended Like Vultures (Sub Pop) - Dreamy pop that resides somewhere between Elliott Smith and the Shins. They give their already solid songs even more depth with subtle background instrumentation and creative production experiments.

5. FRANZ FERDINAND - You Could Have It So Much Better (Sony/Domino) - Solid follow up to one of rock’s best debut albums ever. The band stretches out a little without deviating from what made the first the album so great. There are still loads of herky jerky danceable rockers, but this time there are also a few slower songs that are just as strong.

6. HOUSE OF LOVE - Days Run Away (Art and Industry UK) - The reunion of House of Love (and the return of Terry Bickers who left after their first album) seems to have been totally ignored by most, which is a shame, since this album is stronger than the their final two over a decade ago. The shimmering guitars, multi-layered melodies, and timeless choruses of their glory days are all here and the harmonies might be the best they’ve ever done.

7. EDITORS - The Back Room (Kitchenware UK) - Take equal parts Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Interpol and you have an idea of what the Editors sound like. They’re a little gloomy and could come close to being a downer if not for the driving melodies and ringing guitars.

8. PERNICE BROTHERS - Discover a Lovelier You (Ashmont) - Joe Pernice pairs his melancholy lyrics with jangley guitars and lush summery production for his most consistent album yet.

9. The 88 - Over and Over (EMK) - Second album from LA power pop band that mixes mid 60’s Beatles, Arthur-era Kinks, early 70’s AM radio pop, and a bit of glam.

10. The NEW PORNOGRAPHERS - Twin Cinema (Matador) - The pop hooks aren’t as immediate as last time, but ultimately this album is just as strong. They pull audio references from 40 years of rock and pop and turn them into very original pop gems, often cramming several diverse melodies and ideas into one song and making it sound totally natural.

11. HOT HOT HEAT - Elevator (Sire) - Quirky high energy dance pop with manic vocals and host of 80’s musical references.

12. DOVES - Some Cities (Capitol) - More anthematic pop soundscapes that sound at times like a ballsier Coldplay. As with past Doves releases, the songs are propelled by a powerful rhythm section and a sonically large sound. If the second half of this album were as strong as the first it’d be much higher on this list.

13. BRENDAN BENSON - The Alternative to Love (V2) - Straight ahead singer-songwriter pop full of finely crafted feelgood melodies, but somehow not as memorable as his previous 2 albums.

14. CONSTANTINES - Tournament of Hearts (Sub Pop) - Dissonant droney punk with a wall of guitar and rhythms that bring to mind the best Jawbox songs.

15. The GO! TEAM - Thunder, Lightning, Strike (Memphis Industries) - If you poured an entire used vinyl shop into a blender it might sound like this odd, yet fun-as-hell hodgepodge of sounds, samples, and live instruments. It’s an aural party full of guitars, rhythms that dare you not to dance, whistles, horns, scratching, and occasional vocals that sound like they came from a pep-rally. I’m not sure how fresh this will sound five years down the road, but right now there is nothing else that sounds like the Go! Team.

16. The LOST PATROL BAND - The Lost Patrol Band (Burning Heart) - If I didn’t know better I would have sworn that this album came out in 1979.The Lost Patrol Band perfectly recreates the skinny tie power pop of the Beat, the Plimsouls, Scott Wilke, and Dirty Looks. There’s nothing innovative here, but it’s a lot of fun.

17. LOW - The Great Destroyer (Sub Pop) - I’ve always loved the sound of Low records, but not many of their songs. This time the songs are stronger (more focus on melody without sacrificing mood) and more upbeat, which ultimately makes them more interesting.

18. BAND OF BEES - Free the Bees (Astralwerks) - Late 60’s influenced retro pop that’s more enthusiastic than derivative. Extra points for some killer B3 organ riffs.

19. KINGSBURY MANX - The Fast Rise and Fall of the South (Yep Roc) - Subtle folk pop that at times sounds like an American counterpart to the first Belle and Sebastian album.

20. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM - LCD Soundsystem (Capitol/DFA) - Lots of musical references and original ideas and sounds packed into an album of indie rock friendly dance beats.


HER SPACE HOLIDAY - The Past Presents the Future (Wichita) - Laid back electro pop with warm melodies camouflaging the lyrical stories of heartbreak.

STEVE DAWSON - Sweet Is the Anchor (Undertow) - Beautifully soulful singer-songwriter solo debut from Dolly Varden’s leader.

The HOLD STEADY - Separation Sunday (French Kiss) - Although not as catchy or dynamic as Craig Finn’s last band, Lifter Puller, the Hold Steady are an in-your-face bar band full of big ideas. The shouted vocal rants might be an acquired taste (I’m reluctant to recommend the Hold Steady to anyone), but there are dozens of great lyrics and a hell of a lot of energy on this album.

BRAKES - Give Blood (Rough Trade) - Yeah, this British Sea Power side project is really just a bunch of punky throwaway songs bordering on novelty cowpunk, but they’re also pretty catchy.

SUPERSYSTEM - Always Never Again (Touch and Go) - Dancey synth experimentation from the band formerly known as El Guapo.