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I’m still counting down my top picks for the year 2005 in this space, with brief comments on each. Having done 60-41 last time, here’s 40-21!!! (Again, there will be four categories: New Recordings, Old Recordings/Retrospectives, Singles, and Music DVDS.) Enjoy!
40. TRASH CAN SINATRAS – Fez: Acoustic Performances from NYC—December 2004 (Bobame)
While the ‘unplugged’ or ‘stripped down’ live format has thoroughly lost its appeal for loud rock bands, it proves the ideal presentation of the Trash Cans. Their studio recordings were always about the singing and the songs anyway, and that comes across here so lovingly, catching these likeable Scots at their softest and thus most vulnerable. Beautiful, direct sound, too.
39. PAUL MCCARTNEY – Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (Capitol/EMI)
Not quite Flaming Pie but otherwise his best solo LP in 35 years, since the days of Ram and McCartney, the two LPs it most resembles. A rather enjoyable album with a handful of excellent songs; for a guy who has been making records for EMI for 43 years (!), that he can still make music that’s genuinely worth hearing is pretty darn amazing.
38. IVY – In the Clear (Nettwerk)
New York’s suave but lighthearted [Lighthearted?! Its lyrics are often rather dark and depressing! -ed.] popsters remains a transfixing group—a poised and polished, sonorous little pleasure!
37. ELBOW – Leaders of the Free World (V2)
Imagine that—an English band whose sound and approach gets more modest as they get older, even while they get more flavorful, aromatic, and dreamy. Few people do brooding post-shoegaze, cinematic rock better than these rather pretty sounding, deep, but never overdone U.K. folks.
36. EDITORS – The Back Room (Kitchenware/Sony BMG U.K.)
A treat for those who miss the early ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN, this Birmingham group may be Britain’s answer to INTERPOL.
35. SELDON PLAN – Making Circles (OTP)
Imagine ELLIOTT SMITH singing for a pop-rock band with thick but clean guitars and an indie-pop, original-Dischord-emo exigency you want more of.
34. LOW – The Great Destroyer (Sub Pop)
Who’d have thought it? Loud can be the new quiet!
33. IDAHO – The Lone Gunman (Idaho/Retrophonic)
Having always had a pronounced soundtrack quality to his languorous, dewy soundscapes and vocals, JEFF MARTIN advances an almost BRIAN ENO-esque esoterica that would lend itself brilliantly to a movie score.
32. MAZARIN – We’re Already There (I and Ear)
An ambitious unification of innocent BEACH BOYS pop with the outer limits of studio experimentation and deliberately demanding, inharmonious production.
31. X – Live in Los Angeles (Shout! Factory)
X plays today with even more screaming ferocity than it did when I used to see the group in 1980-1984. I even confirmed that by watching its 1979 Decline of Western Civilization footage after this!
30. IPANEMA – Me Me Me [mini-LP] (Boss Tuneage U.K.)
Has it really been a decade since Farnborough (i.e. nowhere), England’s MEGA CITY FOUR split up, depriving us of one of the best and most honest singer/songwriters from those isles? There have been precious few fixes for fans of WIZ since. Imagine old, punky Megas’ classics like “Miles Apart” and “Me Not You” with a decidedly grungy flavor added to his guitar.
29. THE WEDDING PRESENT – Take Fountain (Manifesto)
At first blush, it’s hard to accept Leeds’s The Wedding Present’s reforming after eight years when leader DAVID GEDGE is the only member from the ‘classic’ original mid-’80s lineup. But on this LP, the new band sounds exactly like The Wedding Present did a decade ago, except it has been refreshed by the time off!
28. THE BLACK WATCH – The Hypnotizing Sea (Pink Hedgehog U.K.)
L.A.’s JOHN ANDREW FREDERICK remains a poetic songwriter, both musically and lyrically, and again arranges some lush seascape-beauty and primrose-scented aroma on this LP. Don’t miss the confident, ticklish cascading title track!!! First rate folk rock and indie pop for literate, intelligent, music-loving fans!
27. THE BOMB – Indecision (Thick)
The music comes flooding at you, in torrents of wide guitars and torching vocals, and once you get a lasso on this bronco, just try not to get thrown. A tons better sophomore LP by ex-NAKED RAYGUN singer JEFF PEZZATI.
26. THE HOUSE OF LOVE – Days Run Away (Art and Industry U.K.)
While this falls far short of what fans hoped and expected for a comeback LP, especially with TERRY BICKERS returned to the fold, GUY CHADWICK still has a couple of killers up his sleeve that I couldn’t stop playing, like “Kit Carter.”
25. CHARLOTTE HATHERLEY – Grey Will Fade (Double Dragon U.K.)
Hatherley is the second guitarist for ASH, the London-by-way-of-Northern-Ireland previously all-male trio that improved immeasurably after plucking her as a teenager out of a London group called NIGHTNURSE. And how wildly catchy her sunny, punky pop is! Ash is erring in not allowing this valuable second spice (she’s the real Spice Girl!) to pen and sing a few songs on every LP.
24. JOHN DOE – Forever Hasn’t Happened Yet (Yep Roc/Redeye)
Wrapping up a pretty incredible year for Doe, who did three separate tours (one each with X, THE KNITTERS, and one solo), his new work is best listened to in backwards sequence! The closing “Repeat Performance” particularly shows Doe’s spellbinding, more soulful indie-pop-folk side.
23. SEXSMITH & KERR – Destination Unknown (Gas Station Canada)
A rather sweet album by Canadian troubadour RON SEXSMITH and his longtime (going back 18 years) drummer/harmony singer DON KERR. Sexsmith’s songs have often suggested some sort of EVERLY BROTHERS vibe to him, and that’s entirely what appears on this affectionate, self-released LP
22. FRANZ FERDINAND – You Could Have it so Much Better (Domino/Epic)
OK, they’ve done it again. Expectations that Franz Ferdinand would fall on its face after 2004’s debut sold a few bazillion ignored the aplomb and zeal with which it handled that sudden fame. Franz is a crackerjack unit with a real ‘pop’ in its sound, smart and nervy lyrics that speak louder for it than the band members’ raffish ways, with songs that drive on speed, economy, and real antagonism, as if celebrity has just kicked their butts.
21. ONCE FOR KICKS – In the Dollhouse (Book)
Sure, we all love blasting, boisterous, big-sounding, roaring, rock, ‘n’, roll with slamming chord changes, bright melodies, chunky guitars, and booming drums. So why do so few bands make it these days? Seattle vets Once For Kicks are immediately good at it. Have you noticed that whenever you get a record like this, the ageless KURT BLOCH always seems to be involved?
The New Recordings finale of picks 20-1 to follow soon!!
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