My Favorite Albums of 2005
After listening to countless records for review and pleasure this year, I have compiled a list of my favorite albums of the 2005. I shared the full list with the email subscribers of the Arjan Writes earlier this week. I decided not to make this a countdown, because I enjoy some records more than others depending on my mood, location, time of day etc. I picked these albums based on originality and the unique flavor they added to 2005.
Happy New Year!
Brokeback Mountain "Original Soundtrack " (Verve Records)
When I met Jake Gyllenhaal in the summer of 2004, he told me he was in the middle of shooting "Brokeback Mountain." At the time, I had no idea the impact this movie would have on mainstream culture. The soundtrack is just as compelling as the movie with Gustavo Santaolalla's dramatic score and songs by Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Rufus Wainwright and Teddy Thompson. If there is one soundtrack to have in 2005 it is this one.(Buy it!)
Girls Aloud "Chemistry" (Polydor)
Good pop is not dirty, and Girls Aloud's "Chemistry" is anything but smudged. At first sight, the group appears to be all about flawless hair and make-up. But after hearing "Chemistry" it is clear that this band is not just another plain girl group. The Girls' producers deserve props for coming up with song arrangements that are well-crafted in Britain's long-standing pop tradition. Clever hooks, cheeky lyrics and catchy harmonies make this one of my favorite albums of the year. Yum! Bring it on, girls. (Buy it!)
Fischerspooner "Odyssey" (Capitol)
Fischerspooner's "Odyssey" is by far one of the most underrated records of the year. Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner collaborated with top tier songwriters like Linda Perry and Mirwais on this CD to turn their eclectic, artsy style in something more radio-friendly. They fully achieved that on this record. Songs like "Happy," "Cloud" and "Kick In The Teeth" belong at the top of every pop lover's playlist. Highly recommended.(Buy it!)
Diplo "FabricLive 24" (Fabric)
This year is most definitely the year of Diplo. The DJ broke out of underground obscurity with his production of "Arular" by indie darling MIA. But there is more the Floridian has accomplished in 2005. Diplo compiled "FabricLive 24," an eclectic mix of hip hop, rap, '80s beats and Brazilian favela funk. I love it when a DJ takes risks to create a pulsating sound that continues to stay fresh. (Buy it!)
Antony & The Johnsons "I Am A Bird Now" (Rough Trade)
Late 2004, I predicted that Antony was "poised to be one of the most noteworthy acts of 2005." After listening to his third album "I Am A Bird Now," I was completely blown away by his melancholic songwriting and inimitable vocals that invoke memories of Al Green and Tracey Chapman. I've spoken with Antony a number of times and I can honestly say that he is one of the most fascinating personalities I've ever met. As far as I'm concerned this album will go into music history as a masterpiece. (Buy it!)
Imogen Heap "Speak For Yourself" (RCA)
I planned not to rank my favorite records of 2005, but Imogen Heap's "Speak For Yourself" definitely ranks near the top of my list. Imogen has the gift of melody and a knack for intricate, pop-electro productions. On top of this, she has a penchant for capturing seemingly small emotions and trivial moments into beautiful songs. Listen to "The Moment I Said It" and "The Walk" to know exactly what I mean. (Buy it!)
Nightmare of You "Nightmare of You" (Bevondshire/EastWest)
I have a thing for simple melodies and clever lyrics. Enter Nightmare of You. The Brooklyn quartet has created an album full of little gems, that reflect wit, heartache and pure passion. Watch out for the band to slowly but surely gain momentum in 2006. (Buy it!)
Goldfrapp "Supernature" (Mute)
Goldfrapp's electro-glam might not be so original as Alison Goldfrapp claims, but it is most certainly a successful interpretation of their musical influences. On "Supernature," Alison and Will Gregory have refined the sound of their previous two albums to create a modern-day disco record that revives the-oh-so-gay glitter ball glory with edgy sounds, Alison's sexy performance and Studio 54 nostalgia. (Buy it!)
Stellastarr* "Harmonies For The Haunted" (RCA)
Some argue that indie rockers Stellastarr* hit the sophomore slump with "Harmonies For The Haunted," but I have been enjoying the album. I must admit that they truly won me over when I saw the four piece perform in Atlanta, GA this October. In the vein of Coldplay and other emo rockers, Stellastarr* pulls together propulsive rock riffs with Shawn Christensen's emotive crooning that is truly invigorating. (Buy it!)
Alison Goldfrapp Confronts Gay Rumors on LOGO
Not sure if I should post this, but I'm going to do it anyways. LOGO is a new cable network in the United States that only features programming for gays and lesbians. Alison Goldfrapp is featured in a short promo that highlights the station's music shows. Alison shows off her queery site and says "I'm supposed to have a relationship with Bjork." Nice soundbyte. I remember asking her about that rumor when I met her. It was the first time she heard it ("really??") and confirmed the affair just to play along. It is interesting how she is now perpetuating that rumor by spreading it on gay TV. And it is sorta cool I turned her on to it.
Kylie Minogue "Over The Rainbow"
Parlophone has released Kylie Minogue's live rendition of the Judy Garland classic "Over The Rainbow" exclusively as a digital single on 7Digital. The song was recorded at London's Earl's Court earlier this year. Even though 7Digital lists its prices in British pounds it accepts all major (U.S.) credit cards if you'd like to get the single. The cover of this song takes on a whole new meaning considering Kylie personal struggles this year. Very touching.
Download Kylie Minogue "Over The Rainbow" [7Digital]
Free Download: Nightmare of You "Why Am I Always Right?"
Head over to AOL Music to download "Why Am I Always Right" by Nightmare of You. The track is taken from the band's self-titled debut album.
This song is b-side material that is worth checking out. It is a
signature NOY jive with Brandon Reilly's emo crooning and an upbeat melody
that put a lighthearted spin on Reilly's bloody, love-gone-sour lyrics:
Stick a fork in a socket. Do you what you like.
Just make sure I'm far out of your life.
Take an axe to your fingers, carve out eyes,
and cut out your tongue.
And then we'll call this a tie.
Download Nightmare of You "Why Am I Always Right" [mp3]
My Favorite Songs of 2005 (Full List)
Tori Amos "Sleeping With Butterflies"- Tori Amos had another great year with a new album and a very successful world tour. This is my favorite track from "The Beekeeper" with Amos' idiosyncratic vocals and soothing piano melody. (Stream the track here)
Kanye West "Diamonds (From Sierra Leone)" - Kanye West turned
me on to his second album with this single "Diamonds (From Sierra
Leone)". Strong melody, powerful lyrics and vintage vocals by Shirley Bassey. (Download this track)
M.I.A. "Bucky Done Gun" - Indie darling M.I.A. brought sexy world beats to the masses together with boyfriend/producer Diplo on her debut album. I can't get enough of this song's insane big bass drum, '80s beats and that hot Brazilian favela funk. (Watch the video here)
Panic! At The Disco "Time To Dance" - Panic! At The Disco's demo track "Time To Dance" is a perfect introduction to this new band from Las Vegas, NV. The band wraps a hooky melody around infectious synths and a neurotic drum machine to create a sound that simply must be danced to. (Download it here)
Tegan & Sara "Walking With A Ghost" - This single was
actually release late 2004, but it wasn't until the summer of 2005 when
I first noticed the song. I saw Tegan &
Sara perform with the Killers in Los Angeles and I was immediately
captured by this song. It is so infectious that it will catch you with
The Killers "Mr Brightside" (Jacques Lu Cont's Thin White Duke Mix) - Okay, you
all know that I completely adore the Killers. You might have
expected more Killers tunes on this list, but I decided to control myself a little. The "Mr.
Brightside" mix by Stuart Price intensifies the drama of the original song perfectly. (Download this track from iTunes)
Mylo versus Miami Sound Machine "Dr. Pressure" - This is a
mash up that was originally done by a Mylo fan who took it to the DJ who then
completed it. This has become one of Mylo's top hits this year. (Download Mylo's "Drop The Pressure" here.)
The Bravery "Unconditional" - I met The Bravery in Atlanta
and Miami this year and saw them perform fantastic live shows. You
might have expected I chose to go with "An Honest Mistake" but I really
dig the fierce bassline in this track. Plus, the song's lyrics hit a
little closer to home. (Download this track)
Royksopp "What Else There" (Trentemøller Remix) - Royksopp's
2005 album "The Understanding" seems to be forgotten this
year. Trentemøller from Copenhagen, Denmark is one of the hottest
techno DJs at the moment. And rightfully so. His production of
Else Is There" is by far one of my favorite remixes of 2005. Get it
while it is hot. (Download this track)
U2 "City Of Blinding Lights" - I'm not a big fan of U2, but I
find this track incredibly energizing. This could have been a
Tiesto production with its subtle trance quality. Recommended for your
long-haul flights. (Download this track)
Nightmare Of You "My Name Is Trouble" - Nightmare Of You is one my favorite new bands this year. "My Name Is Trouble" is a spunky, little pop gem with clever lyrics and an infectious synth loop. You can't beat lyrics like "Don't be so unkind/I know I stole your coat/You can have this song I wrote/I've just crossed the line/From fashion to crime/But it's such a perfect fit/When I am wearing it." Pure wit.
Andy Bell "Crazy" - "Crazy" was the first single taken from Andy Bell's debut solo record "Electric Blue." Produced by the talented guys from Manhattan Clique, this is a fantastic pop tune that will keep you spinning around and around long after midnight. I'm surprised Andy's album didn't perform any better than I did. But then again, this record came awfully soon after a brand-new Erasure album.
Madonna "Get Together" - I was tired of the Madonna hype even before "Confessions On A Dancefloor" hit stores. It was just a little too much Madge all over place. Regardless of the pounding media blitz, "Confessions" is a worthy album filled with outstanding dance tracks. "Get Together" is my personal favorite. Next time I want to see a Diplo and Madonna collaboration. Now that would be really hot. (Download this song here)
Depeche Mode "Precious" - I'm glad British synth rockers Depeche Mode made it back this year with a great new album and world tour. "Precious" is the most radio-friendly track from the CD and one of my favorites for 2005. Its heartfelt lyrics about the aftermath of a divorce and its melodic electro touches are truly haunting.
Erasure "Breathe" - After two rather dull albums, Erasure finally came back strong with "Nightbird." Vince Clarke's effervescent synth production and Andy Bell's emotional, choir boy vocals make "Breathe" a highlight in Erasure's impressive music career.
Girls Aloud - "Biology" - Sassy and chic, Girls Aloud have
produced one of the guiltiest pleasures of 2005. "Biology" is catchy,
clever and a little weird at times. But it is that combination that
makes you want to hear it again and again. The song is a
sophisticated production that packs three different song structures
ranging from a Motown inspired intro to a
it-feels-so-good-that-I-am-alive chorus. Go ahead. Let these girls
seduce you. (Download this song here)
Goldfrapp "Number 1" - Goldfrapp's "Supernature" is filled with
great pop songs. The duo's electro-glam reaches fever pitch on "Number
1" with its deliciously freaky lyrics, such as "Cos you're my Number
1/I'm like a dog to get you/I want it up and on/I'm like a dog to get
you." Fetch that. (Download this track here)
Imogen Heap "The Walk" - Imogen Heap's "Speak For Yourself" is filled with phenomenal pop tracks. I had a hard time deciding what song to pick for this list. I decided to go with the (not so obvious) "The Walk." I lost something very dear in 2005, and I feel that this song captures some of my personal feelings about that very well. (Download this song here)
Antony & The Johnsons "Hope There's Someone" - This heartbreaking song was my introduction to Antony's unique sound. Since then, I have been infatuated with his music. This song is overflowing with pure emotion conveying the singer's feelings about isolation and loneliness.
Kelly Clarkson "Since U Been Gone" - I know, I know. This is
not the most original choice to pick for the number one position, but
this song is simply the most perfect pop production of the year. It is
catchy, it has attitude, it has melody, it has guitars. And, oh yeah,
it has some gay innuendo in its music video that has stirred up a nice gay-or-straight controversy
that is such a sign of the times. For whatever it is worth, Kelly told
me she loves the gays, and that's all that matters. All in all, this
song is great and very 2005. My pick for Best Song of the Year. (Download this song here)