It's That Time of Year again, when everyone who's a character out of High Fidelity - or just really into pop culture - starts making lists, trying to evaluate the past year's achievements in music/books/movies/celebrity meltdowns (I guess we have a good candidate for the latter category, don't we, fellow browsers of the Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes thread? ) or whatever it is that gets you going. I always love reading these lists, but not half as much as I love making them. Since I know for a fact we're quite a few avid music fans here at the FORT, I thought I'd start a thread where we can share our favourite - and for, that matter, least favourite - albums of 2005. Which albums were on repeat on your stereo this year? Which ones made you cry? Which ones made you want to give up civilization altogether and move into a teepee out in the woods? I'll start, although I feel a bit silly doing so, as 2005 will go down in geek the girl history as the year I almost gave up buying CDs. Well, almost. Coming from someone who used to average maybe three or four CDs a month, 2005 has been a weak year in terms of quantity. I guess this is a natural consequence of my having spent all my time, efforts and cash on books instead. The CDs I did buy, however, have been amazing. So, all in all, a great year for music lovers. Here are the albums I loved the most this year:
1. I'm a Bird Now - Antony and the Johnsons
No competition there. In fact, I think I can almost single-handedly blame my non-consumerist ways on this diamond of an album: it's so addictive, I haven't had the need to listen to anything else. I remember very clearly the first time I heard it back in early spring. My boyfriend was over at a party at a friend's house and called me up in the wee hours of the night, telling me he'd just heard the most amazing album ever. Now, since my boyfriend is even more of a music freak than I am and tends to be quite passionate about it, I didn't think much of it. Until the next morning, when I was standing in the shower and these haunting, eerie vocals hit me like a rock. Many have tried to describe Antony's voice and while a description like "Nina Simone's and Boy George's love child" certainly comes closer to the truth than "Cher meets a sheep", no one has truly managed to pinpoint exactly what it is about his voice that results in such extreme reactions. Be prepared: this is the kind of album you'll either love or hate. I have yet to meet someone who's lukewarm towards it. It's an all soul, all heart kind of album. It will made you cry, it will make your heart soar with love and loss and bittersweet melancholy. The fact that Lou Reed, Devendra Benhart, Rufus Wainwright (who's probably a good reference point for those of you who want something concrete to go on) and - what do you know - Boy George all participate on this album certainly doesn't hurt, either.
2. The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers
Mamas and the Papas meets the Thrills. Sort of. Infectious melodies and gorgeous harmonies of a kind you thought was made extinct by the late 60's. This album always puts a smile on my face.
3. Back to Me - Kathleen Edwards
Her debut album, 2003's Failer, made her the fastest-rising star of the alt.country scene. This one secures her position as one of the most gifted young songwriters out there. At just 26, Canadian-born Kathleen Edwards is right up there with the giants. If you're a fan of Lucinda Williams and Neil Young's Crazy Horse days, do yourself a favour and pick this one up.
4. The Forgotten Arm - Aimee Mann
Speaking of gifted songwriters... Admittedly, this isn't quite as brilliant as Bachelor no.2 - the album filled with songs that made Magnolia an even better, more moving film - but it's still pretty darn good. Solid melodies and beautiful vocals. The idea of writing a concept album really appeals to me, especially one about a former Vietnam veteran struggling with addiction. A very consistent and solid album. Not her best, but certainly good enough.
5. Prairie Wind - Neil Young
Easily Neil Young's best album since 1991's glorious Harvest Moon. Actually, Harvest Moon is an excellent point of reference since Prairie Wind has a similar feel to it. Beautiful stuff. If you're a Young fan, you've probably already picked this one up, but I'd love for a younger audience to become aware of just how great a songwriter he is. To me, he's right up there with Lennon/McCartney as far as musical impact goes. He scared me big-time with that aneurysm this summer. Here's to hoping he'll be around to make lots of other amazing albums. If this one is anything to go by, he has at least a few minor masterpieces left in it, although I doubt he'll produce another After the Goldrush at this point in his life.
These are the five albums, all released in 2005, that have had the biggest impact on me. Of course, they weren't the only ones to come out with a stellar album this year. Here are a few honorary mentions:
Takk - Sigur Rós
Here Come the Tears - The Tears
Jacksonville City Nights - Ryan Adams
Martha Wainwright - Martha Wainwright
Chaos and Creation in the Backyard - Paul McCartney
A Bigger Bang - The Rolling Stones
... and a few retro faves I haven't been able to keep my hands off this year:
Blue - Joni Mitchell
Tapestry - Carole King
Jackson Browne - Jackson Browne
Chelsea Girl - Nico
Cycles - Frank Sinatra
Now it's your turn. How was your 2005 in music?