Best Albums 2005 (21-25)

25. Of Montreal — The Sunlandic Twins


Kevin Barnes always led the most diffuse of the Elephant 6 bands — not experimental like Olivia Tremor Control (ugh, that name) or expressive like Neutral Milk Hotel (id.), just unwilling (unable?) to follow any but the most circuitous route from one hook to the next. And yet, on his way to deciding he led a glam-dance band after all, Barnes’ hooks started falling into place. Androgynous tops twee any day, but I prefer this transitional bit of craft to his later incarnation as (oh, I give up) “Georgie Fruit.” Anyway, don’t let those convoluted song titles fool you — “Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)” was jingly enough for Outback Steakhouse.

24. Run the Road


File under hadda-be-there, sure–“there” meaning not just the London scene itself (where I wasn’t) but its online outposts, which found in grime’s made-for-mp3 squelch their aural ideal. But if you want to hear why we thought the UK’s most exciting hip-hop to date had legs, this cross-sections a scene with a deeper bench than most. One reason Dizzee merely leaps and bounds over all others, rather than dominating entirely, is that he brings his b material. Other reasons include Lady Sov’s greatest hit, Mike Skinner’s greatest remix, and plenty of less lights thrilled at being heard for the first time.

23. Stevie Wonder — A Time to Love


Look, unless you count one symphonic exploration of the vegetable kingdom way back in ’79, the guy hasn’t put out a bad album since wresting creative control from Motown, and only a couple “not-bad”s weren’t actually “pretty good.” That’s something like forty years, a track record no pop musician even approaches. Sure he plays it safe, but set aside comparisons to his own visionary past and there are plenty novel melodic, textural, and rhythmic nooks to enjoy. “If Your Love Cannot Be Moved” calls Christianity’s bluff. “So What the Fuss” has Prince on guitar. “Please Don’t Hurt My Baby” takes a refreshingly moralistic hard line against cheaters. And New Jacks who find his love songs saccharine deserve to choke on R. Kelly’s piss.

22. Africa Remix: Ah Freak Iya


Just one genuine “remix” here, as Diddy would understand the term: Oumou Sangare’s “Djorolen,” tweaked to good effect by some unmentioned producer. But a mix nonetheless, Pan-African in scope without flattening regional differences, setting elders alongside upstarts without pretense to cross-generational continuity. Afro-pop as dance music? Not so strange a concept. Afro-pop as contemporary dance music? A harder sell. Seven of these sixteen cuts are as recent as 2004; just one predates 2000. If you’re still leery of my other African recommendations, check this out and proceed. At least you’ll know what you’re missing.

21. Stars — Set Yourself on Fire


Orbiting the Broken Social Scene center of gravity from a reasonable distance, frost-flecked kewpie-temptress Amy Millan and subdued Smiths fan Torquil Campbell impersonate ex-lovers who reunite for a strained chamber-pop waltz, small-talk their way around “I love you,” and mutter regrets behind each others backsides during a chilly reunion fuck. Their ad hominem against Bush (“He Lied About Death”) fits the mood because their pique seems motivated by personal resentment against his endangering their fragile little world rather than by political principle. All they want is one more chance to be young and wild and free. Is that so wrong?

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Comments

  • Richard Cobeen  On August 28, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    What I love about the Africa Remix album is that it saves the old stand-bys (Sangare, N’Dour, Baobob, etc.) for the middle and end, and leads off with artists I’ve never heard of. There is a great one-two punch near the start of a multi-cultural, multi-lingual rap that really makes me want to know what the non-English rappers are saying, followed by one of my great finds of the decade, Malouma’s “Mreimida”. Every time I play it I get fooled, thinking it is going to be a really good example of desert/middle eastern sounds. Then, a little over a minute in the background singers come in and the song is transported into a Brill Building girl group call and response sound; the Cookies playing Desert in the Festival. This miracle is followed by a buzzing guitar solo (I fall into cliche talking about guitar solos) that sends the accoutrements a few years forward (the Cookies to The Byrds circa 1966) while keeping its feet firmly planted in current Africa. I’m not doing the song justice, but I laugh and melt during each playing.

    And now I have to check out the Stars.

    • Luckie  On January 8, 2015 at 12:49 am

      That’s what we’ve all been waiting for! Great pongsit!

  • usefulnoise  On August 28, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Nicely put Richard!

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