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December 14, 2005

Top Albums for 2005

Greetings everyone. As the end of the year approaches, I thought I would start listing out what were my favorite things about the year including favorite music, movies, books, TV shows, etc. Today I'll start with my favorite albums. And just to be clear, these aren't always albums that were released in 2005. These are albums that I listened to heavily and enjoyed the most throughout the year of 2005. Of course, I would love to hear what your favorite albums were in the comments below. I love to find out about new music.

  1. Illinois -- Sufjan Stevens
    I know what you are thinking, "I don't care about Illinois. I don't even like that state. How can this be the top album of the year for Shane?" Who cares about the subject matter, this album is hands down the best of the year. It is so phenomenal, so perfect, so beautiful ... if you haven't heard it yet you are missing out. I can't say enough good things about this one. And it doesn't matter if you have ever even been to Illinois. The state is just a vehicle for Stevens' muse. The highlight of the album is without a doubt "Chicago," but that is hardly where the goodness ends. Man! I will be listening to this one for a long while.
  2. American III: Solitary Man -- Johnny Cash
    Most people consider this to be the weakest of Cash's American Recordings work, but it is without a doubt my favorite of the four. The first two songs, a cover of Petty's "I Won't Back Down" and a cover of Diamond's "Solitary Man," set the tone for the album as it flows from one standard classic to the next. Other highlights include "I See a Darkness" and "Field of Diamonds" (a duet with his wife June). Just a wonderful piece of work that I thouroughly enjoyed this year. Thanks again to freealonzo for introducing me to this masterpiece.
  3. American Idiot -- Green Day
    Believe the hype people. Green Day nailed it with this one. I've talked a little about this before, but this is one of the finest rock operas ever produced. The story is thought provoking, yes, but the music is out of this world. Truthfully, if the album only contained "Jesus of Suburbia" it would probably be enough, but the good times don't end there. This is their Sgt. Pepper's, their Tommy, their Led Zeppelin IV. I doubt they will ever create anything quite as good as this.
  4. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb -- U2
    What can I possibly say about this album that hasn't already been said? It is a fine piece of work and a great follow up to All That You Can't Leave Behind. Beautiful music and beautiful imagery abound in this effort from the boys from Dublin. Of course, one of the main reasons I love this album so much is that it was the backdrop for my first U2 concert, which I attended in September. The best concert I have ever attended, and I think my concert mate Curt will agree.
  5. American IV: The Man Comes Around -- Johnny Cash
    Not quite the same impact as American III for me, but the strength of the album comes from the song "The Man Comes Around" about the return of Jesus. Just an eye popping good song that I seriously think they should sing in my church some time. Quite frankly its honesty just blows me away. The rest of the album falls into line nicely after that one.
  6. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan -- Bob Dylan
    Wow. I can't believe it took me this long to discover this masterpiece. After viewing Scorcese's biopic of Dylan on PBS I decided to listen to more of his music and this album is, for me, his absolute crowning achievement. "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall" ... can this song be topped? Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. If you've never listened to Dylan before, start with this one, and be prepared to enter a very reflective mood. In other words, don't listen to this one to get hyped up for a football game.
  7. X and Y -- Coldplay
    I certainly don't think they are ready for the passing of the torch for best band from U2, but this is a great album nonetheless. My favorite off the album is by far "Fix You" but I am also partial to "The Message." Good stuff. I look forward to more from these guys in the future. (One of the funnier parts of The 40 Year Old Virgin was when two of the characters were suggesting reasons why the other one was "gay" when one of them said, "Know how I know you're gay? You like Coldplay." Funny stuff.)
  8. Now Here is Nowhere -- The Secret Machines
    This band has a lot of potential. The album is awesome, but there are some inevitable stinkers which knock this album down a little bit for me. Having said that, however, this band could be the second coming of Led Zeppelin. Their sound rocks, but what puts it over the top for me is the drumming ... yes the drumming. Powerful stuff. Their crowning achievement may be "The Road Leads Where it is Led." Are they trying to sound like Zeppelin? Maybe ...
  9. The Blue Album -- Weezer
    Still their best and again, I can't believe it took me so long to listen to this one as a whole. Just a phenomenally good piece of work. The highlight of this album is without a doubt "Undone (The Sweater Song)." In fact, this song is just pure genius. It may even rank on my list of songs to take with me to a desert island. It is that good. The rest of the album is also great, of course.

So there you have it, my top albums for the year 2005. If I've forgotten any please let me know. Tomorrow I'll probably tackle books (or movies). TTFN.

Posted by snackeru at December 14, 2005 8:21 AM


Good list. If you like American Recordings 1-4 you should check out the unfortunately named Johnny Cash Unearthed which has outtakes from the American Recordings sets. Although it doesn't have the redemption theme running through it and there are a couple of clunkers, it is by and large an amazing set. It also includes a whole CD of old-timey gospel songs. Hard to find, may have to get it via e-bay.

Here are my album picks.

Green Day-American Idiot: No need to add anything else.

Yo La Tengo-Prisoners of Love: Best of double album plus a third of outtakes, demo's b-sides, etc. Great songs, great band.

Hypstrz-Live at the Longhorn: This is the old Hypstryzation album from way back plus the 4-song ep and other songs. If you love garage rock, you need this disc. Play real loud.

Weezer-Make Believe: Forgot about that dumb Beverly Hills song, this is the best Weezer Album since Pinkerton and the (1st) Blue Album. In fact it's a perfect bookend to Pinkerton. The album contains the most achingly poignant song about celebacy ever released by a big name band. "Best Friend" should have been blasting out of every car window this summer.

Finally I was really disappointed with the White Stripes album. Granted it would never meet the expectations generated by Elephant, but Get Behind Me Satan was the let down of the year.

Posted by: freealonzo at December 14, 2005 10:50 AM

I've really been drawn to Sufjan Stevens. It's up there with the Arcade Fire on albums to which I cannot stop listening.

Posted by: Will Young at December 14, 2005 11:42 AM

Hey, on the subject of the Blue Album, what in the world is the song "My Name is Jonas" all about? Any ideas?

Posted by: chapman at December 14, 2005 1:26 PM

Thanks for the list, freealonzo. I shall check out more of these. And I tried to get into Arcade Fire. I really tried. I just didn't like it. I don't know why. But Sufjan Stevens ... wow! Can't wait for Oregon and Rhode Island.

I haven't a clue what My Name is Jonas is about. My guess would be something to do with drugs. It is pretty loopy. Anyone else have an idea? I also would be interested if anyone really knows what this is about.

Posted by: Shane at December 14, 2005 1:40 PM

Just did a little research into "Jonas" and I found this on this web site: http://home.pacbell.net/wepeel/weezer101/weezer1.htm

According to Rivers: “’Jonas’ explains how The Plan is reaming us all, especially my brother.?

Sigh. Not very helpful.

Posted by: Shane at December 14, 2005 2:01 PM

Here are my favorites for this year (like Shane, not necessarily released this year):

Decemberists - Picaresque: Their best effort yet - they write literary songs with big melodies.

Arcade Fire - Funeral and the re-released EP

The Stars - Set Yourself on Fire: I just got it last week, and I can't help but smile when I listen to it. They have a male and female singer, and this disc is back-loaded with good songs by the female singer.

Sondre Lerche - Two way monologue: I'm not sure when this came out, but he's a singer-songwriter from Norway with an amazing voice. Sort of a less-gay Rufus Wainright.

Death Cab for Cutie - Plans: There's a few amazing songs on here - "I will follow you into the dark" and "Soul meets body" for example.

Posted by: Tim M at December 14, 2005 4:02 PM

I've heard a lot about that Decembrists album. I am definitely going to have to check it out. And The Stars album sounds very intriguing. I mean, I like to smile so I should probably give it a listen. Thanks Tim!

Posted by: Shane at December 14, 2005 4:16 PM

I am the camp that loved the Arcade Fire record. Shane, good call on the Secret Machines. Did you check out their EP with covers of Dylan and Van Morisson? Their next release in the spring is on the watch list. I know I have mentioned The Hold Steady before but you will be seeing thier name and CD, Separation Sunday, popping up on many 2005 top 10 lists. Finally I want to give a nod to my favorite live band to see, Marah. They never give less than 110% whether it is 10 people or 100 and their last CD, If You Didn't Laught You Would Cry, has been criminally overlooked. Plus they have a Christmas CD that should be in everyone's rotation this holiday season. That is another good topic; best Christmas records.

Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at December 14, 2005 4:30 PM

Re: My Name is Jonas. I never got it either. But the Weezer freaks love that song. When they played it in concert this fall, apparently it was a big deal because Weezer never play it live. Whatever.

On a related note, Weezer have two extremely funny videos for "On Drugs." One is the video with the words On Drugs replaced with "in Love." Other than that it's the same video and the same words. The other video is the song but with a cheesy "devil video" from some 80's hair band that Beevis and Butthead used to mock. It is hiliarious. Maybe I'll find the link and Shane can put it in his links of the day.

Posted by: freealonzo at December 14, 2005 9:44 PM

I would be shirking my duty if I didn't mention Ben Folds' new album, "Songs for Silverman."

Posted by: bjhess at December 15, 2005 12:24 AM

Anybody else think the beginning of "Soul Meets Body" sounds exactly like the beginning of "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi? Think about it.

Posted by: chapman at December 15, 2005 9:38 AM

Yes! Chapman I think you have nailed it on the head there. I knew there was something familiar about that.

And Jim in St. Paul, I definitely have to check out The Hold Steady's Separation Sunday. I know you have recommended it before and I am seeing it on other "best of" lists. And no, I didn't know the Secret Machines covered Dylan and Van Morrison! What songs?

Other albums I will have to check out include The National's Alligator and My Morning Jacket's Z. Maybe they'll make next year's list.

Posted by: Shane at December 15, 2005 9:46 AM

Astral Weeks and The Girl from North Country.
Separation Sunday has an underlying religous bent that makes it very interesting.

Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at December 15, 2005 6:21 PM

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