Bob Mould – Body of Song (Yep Roc)
Less claustrophobic, dour, dark, and gloomy than his four other solo LPs, Body is instead Mould’s first to tap into the fortifying energy of Sugar and his older hallowed band Hüsker Dü. And unexpected or no, Body is a total roar of triumph, 2005’s unlikely album of the year.
Rogue Wave – Descended Like Vultures (Sub Pop)
Having wowed fans with a stellar, self-released debut in 2003, Out of the Shadow, Oakland’s Rogue Wave’s second LP was bound to be different. After all, Shadow was a de facto solo LP by leader Zach Rogue with engineer Bill Racine. Not to fear; Descended Like Vultures is a second triumph, with a band this time.
Death Cab For Cutie – Plans (Atlantic)
Plans, a beautiful LP sealed with a meticulous bow, more crisp, pretty, and finely detailed than Transatlanticism’s more cacophonic approach, went Top 5 upon release, a shocking but deserved culmination of this Seattle by way of Bellingham quintet’s steady rise since their 1997 debut cassette LP, You Can Play These Songs With Chords. One listens to Plans like one continuous rapture, enjoying the ebullient hues.
Various Artists – Vancouver Complication (Sudden Death)
I’ve long called Complication the best scene compilation ever and in 25 years out of print, nothing has passed it. Thankfully, after so long missing, it’s reissued on D.O.A.’s Sudden Death. The Vancouver, B.C. recorded here between Fall 1978 and Spring 1979 was the ultimate expression of 1970s punk as an open-ended, open-minded, loose collective where no band had the same approach let alone sounded alike.
Teenage Fanclub – Man-Made (Merge)
Surprisingly only their second LP in eight years (really!), a Teenage Fanclub album is a becoming an increasingly rare as well as valuable thing. Here they finish up a (heavier) Big Star to Byrds progression that began with 1997’s toned-down, gorgeous Songs From Northern Britain and continued through 2000’s still more spare Howdy; You won’t hear a more mellifluous LP this year.
Various Artists – Warfrat Tales (Avebury)
If Vancouver Complication was the best city scene compilation ever, Warfrat Tales might have been the best sub-scene one, 1982 L.A.’s burgeoning garage-pop/psych scene. Great songs, great singing, real camaraderie, and shared convictions, sweat, enthusiasm, joy, and powerful rock ‘n’ roll still make this a blast, 22 years later.
New Model Army – Carnival (Attack Attack/Redeye)
Twenty-one years after their debut with Vengeance, Bradford, England’s New Model Army are still going strong. Their ninth studio LP and first in five years is their most direct, mainlined energy since 1993’s The Love of Hopeless Causes. The music sometimes takes you by force, but just as often is content to tease and beckon to you at the foggy, wintry, slower, preoccupied pace that saturates the second half.
Supergrass – Road to Rouen (Capitol/EMI)
Hailed a decade ago as teenaged stars of the British new wave of the new wave—yes, there was a revival before the current one!—Oxford’s Supergrass are the only one of that scene still standing, on their fifth good LP out of five—and one much more fully realized than and just as eccentric as 1999’s Supergrass and 2003’s Life on Other Planets. Rich organic textures support memorable songwriting.
New Pornographers – Twin Cinema (Mint/Matador)
Another great LP by Vancouver indie supergroup sensations the New Porns! Twin Cinema expertly expands on the blueprints of their milkshakes-and-sodas 2000 debut, Mass Romantic; 2003’s sophomore Electric Version LP; and leader A.C. Newman’s smashing 2004 solo album, The Slow Wonder. It’s all a buoyant, joyous assault on your power-pop-loving senses.
The Lucy Show – Mania (Words on Music)
I was thanked on the sleeve of Mania in 1986 and wrote the liner notes for this new, great reissue with bonus tracks. It’s got big slices of boisterous ’60s pop, minor psychedelia, and power-pop to form a brighter, snappier, more exuberant record than this London four’s other album, 1985’s Undone. Now we can all finally rediscover this ace old record with its undertones of enchanting magic.