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Staff Picks (Part 4 of 5)

 

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Click here for Prefix's Best of 2005 / Prefix Best of 2004 / Prefix Best of 2003

 

Staff Picks Page 1Page 2, Page 3, Page 5

 


Josiah Hughes


20. Bloc Party
: Silent Alarm [Vice]

 

19. Thunderbirds Are Now!: Justamustache [French Kiss]

Detroit's
Thunder Birds Are Now! knows how to party, and they certainly don't let
up on their French Kiss debut. Both original and unassuming, the
quartet pulls off a stunning release based around frantic guitar
interplay and jittery synths.

 

18. Edan: Beauty and the Beat [Lewis]

 

17. Headphones: Headphones [Suicide Squeeze]

Recently endorsed on Horatio Sanz's T-shirt at the end of Saturday Night Live,
the side-project of Pedro the Lion frontman David Bazan, alongside
Pedro the Lion collaborator T.W. Walsh and Starflyer 59 drummer Frank
Lenz, is a subdued and tasteful treat based on simple synthesizer
melodies.

 

16. Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better [Domino]

Arguably stronger than the group's debut, You Could Have It So Much Better proved Franz Ferdinand deserving of the hype.

 

15. Art Brut: Bang Bang Rock and Roll [Fierce Panda]

Unabashedly
raw and hilariously sarcastic, the debut of London's Art Brut will kill
you with its punk rock while the band members mock your trendy haircut.

 

14. Daniel Lanois: Belladonna [Anti]

Though
mostly famous for producing bands such as U2 and Peter Gabriel, Daniel
Lanois's solo album for Anti- is a lush, instrumental dreamscape.

 

13. Extreme Animals: I Gotta B Me [FrequeNC]

One
of the many musical projects to stem out of the incredible Paperrad.org
project, Extreme Animals takes the best elements of noise rock and
translates them through pseudo-rave dance music on this vinyl-only
release. Sort of like that Aqua/Yellow Swans collaboration we've all
always dreamed of.

 

12. Lightning Bolt: Hypermagic Mountain [Load]

Recorded live on two tracks, Hypermagic Mountain
is the most visceral and terrifying Lightning Bolt record to date. With
mind-blowing artwork by drummer Brian Chippendale and actual liner
notes (a Lightning Bolt first), this was a must-have record in 2005.

 

11. Soul-Junk: 1937: Soul-Junk Remixed [Sounds Are Active]

Toted as the last Soul-Junk record, 1937 is
somewhat of a remix record, enlisting the likes of Aelters (from DAT
Politics), Themselves and Leafcutter John. Loaded with ideas and
brilliant production, 1937 is an important aural experience.

 

10. Gospel: The Moon Is a Dead World [Level Plane]

Produced by Kurt Ballou (Converge, Old Man Gloom) and carving a niche between hardcore and '70s prog, The Moon Is a Dead World is a stunning debut from one of the most important bands in hardcore.

 

9. 13 & God: 13 & God [Anticon/Alien Transistor]

Destined
to be incredible, this collaboration between the Notwist and Anticon's
Themselves was one of the most challenging of 2005. Without feeling
contrived, the record combines indie rock and hip-hop unlike anything
before it.

 

8. Black Mountain: Black Mountain [Jagjaguwar]

It
was a huge year for Vancouver's Black Mountain. From the band's North
American tour with Coldplay to having all of its gear stolen in New
York, it all started with this incredible record.

 

7. The Evens: The Evens [Dischord]

Often
coming across as a cranky old man, Ian MacKaye can still put out
fantastic records with seeming ease. The first record from a new band
with his girlfriend Amy Farina, the Evens take a subtler approach to
similar ground that Fugazi once tread.

 

6. Animal Collective: Feels [FatCat]

 

5. Fun 100: Hit It & Quit [Hockey Dad]

Though
the band still hasn't broke, Fun 100 is a hidden treasure in the world
of post-pubescent punk rock. Combining all that is good about Blink
182, Gary Numan and Iggy Pop, Fun 100 is destined to dominate arenas -
and the CD players of dads' Acuras.

 

4. Wolf Parade: Apologies to the Queen Mary [Sub Pop]

 

3. Akron/Family: Akron/Family [Young God]

Along
with their equally impressive split with Angels of Light, Akron/Family
released its startling debut in 2005. Combining heartfelt songwriting
with transcendent instrumentation, Akron/Family's significance will outlive most of this year's releases.

 

2. Architecture in Helsinki: In Case We Die [Bar/None]

 

1. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois [Asthmatic Kitty]

 


Lee Fullington


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
: Howl [Red Ink]

So
they've left behind the Jesus and Mary Chain-isms and embraced country.
A change of direction is sometimes not a great idea, but Black Rebel
Motorcycle Club totally pulled it off in this, the band's best album
yet.

 

Morrissey: Live At Earls Court [Attack/Sanctuary]

Live
versions of Smiths songs? Yeah, we miss Johnny Marr, but we'll take
what we can get. And Moz's new solo work is stunning live. But the best
thing about capturing Morrissey live is we get to hear the patter and
barbs he tosses between songs and the impromptu changes he makes to his
lyrics. It gives new meaning to songs we already love.

 

Vervein: The Weather Inside [Scenery]

Four
women with guitars and no gendered agenda who get on with writing
amazing songs that are complicated and lush. Though they take some cues
from the shoegazers, their songs go bigger, louder and more intense.

 

The Duke Spirit: Cuts Across the Land [Universal International]

We
haven't heard much about them here in the States, but if you love dirty
rock 'n' roll served up on a wall of noise, this album is worth every
penny on import. Seeing their show reminds you how great live music can
be, and Leila Moss is a siren. Her voice cuts through the guitars and
pierces your heart.

 

John Parish: Once Upon A Little Time [Thrill Jockey]

'Glade
Park' captivated me so much I left it on repeat for days on end in my
car. These are the kind of songs that make you feel like you're inside
a music box, safe and happy knowing you'll always be immersed in the
wonderful sounds.

 

American Analog Set: Set Free [Arts & Crafts]

"The
Green Green Grass" is 2005's "Hard to Find." The kind of song you find
yourself humming because it's on repeat in your head.

 

Black Mountain: Black Mountain [Jagjaguwar]

For
those of us who love Black Sabbath, garage bands and dive bars. Black
Rebel Motorcycle Club asked a few years ago "whatever happened to my
rock 'n' roll," and Black Mountain found it. Gritty, immediate and
loaded with riffs.

 

Mark Gardener: These Beautiful Ghosts [UFO]

Though
his songs with Ride were layered and effects-driven, Gardener's solo
work is shimmering acoustic guitars and as melodic and gripping as ever.

 

Warlocks: Surgery [Mute U.S.]

Sinister,
murky and heavy. They pay their respects to the Mary Chain, the Verve,
My Bloody Valentine and Spiritualized filtered through a druggy L.A.
haze.

 

The Stooges: Fun House [Deluxe Edition] [Elektra/Rhino]

Yeah, it's a cop-out to put a reissue on the list, but when it's something as amazing as Fun House remastered,
it's bigger and louder and way more exciting than most new releases.
Multiple versions of "Loose" - the tightest Stooges riff ever - is
enough reason to get this.

 


Matt Liebowitz


1. Spoon
: Gimme Fiction [Merge]

Dancing in the mirror or hypnotized with headphones, Gimme Fiction's attention to groove and pop sense is only outdone by its perfect simplicity. John Lennon would be so proud.

 

2. Kings of Leon: Aha Shake Heartbreak [RCA]

Southern
rock 'n' roll with no pretension, just the cocksure swagger and
enticing vulnerability of four kids with loud guitars and a sound
behind - and way beyond - their years.

 

3. Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs [Righteous Babe]

Astounding,
both lyrically and musically. Bird plays almost every instrument
himself, and yet you still want more - more words, more songs, more
albums.

 

4. The Mars Volta: Frances the Mute [Universal]

Prog-rock, thrash, Latin-jazz, funk, ambient instrumental, punk. Frances the Mute aspires to be everything. It gets there.

 

5. The Decemberists: Picaresque [Kill Rock Stars]

Literate story-songs sung in Colin Meloy's distinct plea, Picaresque
is the rare album that takes you to a time and place lodged in the
history and literature books you never read, and makes the journey as
good as the reward.

 

6. The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan [V2]

They
can do it with guitars. They can do it with drums. They can do it with
marimbas and shakers and tambourines. And in the last song, all they
need is a piano to take the past and make it the future.

 

7. Bright Eyes: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning [Saddle Creek]

Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst ditches his emo-wordiness and matures, making one of the tightest, most cohesive albums of the year.

 

8. Sleater-Kinney: The Woods [Sub Pop]

Loud guitars, loud drums, loud singing. Like an updated In Utero. Passion + No Restraint + Rock-Sense + Production Quality = The best loud rock album of the year.

 

9. Low: The Great Destroyer [Sub Pop]

In speeding up a little (and turning up a lot), The Great Destroyer aims
to do just that; they're not a "slo-core" band anymore, they're just a
band. Sometimes they play slow, sometimes a little faster. Either way,
they dominate.

 

10. Wolf Parade: Apologies to the Queen Mary [Sub Pop]

"I'll Believe in Anything" makes the case for best single of the year, but the songs surrounding it on Apologies to the Queen Mary
are great in their own right: spastic and frenzied, melodic and tender,
raucous and heavy; a debut album that already sets the bar.

 

11. The Hold Steady: Separation Sunday [French Kiss]

Hyper-wordy,
literate tales of drug and drink, failure and salvation, sung in some
shitty basement dive near your house. Pabst Blue Ribbon and your old
religion textbooks never had it so good together.

 


Norman Mayers


M.I.A.
: Arular [XL]

That
new shit. Sci-fi world music for the multi-culti generation. Scathing
political lyrics backed by the freshest beats this side of Timbaland
and the Neptunes.

 

Dwele: Some Kinda [Virgin]

Sexy, smooth, flowing. One of the few neo-soul artists to create a distinct vibe and sound.

 

L'il Kim: The Naked Truth [Atlantic]

Finally
moving beyond the bling and flossing, Kim drops a record of emotional
depth and creative productions just as she goes off to prison.

 

Missy Elliott: The Cookbook [Goldmine/Atlantic]

This
is Missy's most schizophrenic album to date, but she continues to
deliver and develop her sound. Raunchy hip-hop and heartfelt R&B
shake hands in Missy's world, and we just accept it with a smile.

 

Mozez: So Still [Apace]

Otherworldly soul from Zero 7's vocalist.

 

Amerie: Touch [Sony Urban Music/Columbia]

Yes,
"1 Thing" is the most played-out track of 2005, but this collection of
Rich Harrison-produced up-tempo soul shines with creativity and
bravery. Manages to stand out with funky soul, clever hooks and a
contemporary approach.

 

Lisa Shaw: Cherry [Naked Music NYC]

The house anti-diva drops a soothing solo effort of electronic soul, tripped-out beats and dripping sensuality.

 

Storm & Trevor Rockwell: The Future Sounds of Breaks [Droppin Science Media]

Electro and break-beats both futuristic and funky. Forward-thinking yet nostalgic.

 

Mark Farina: Mushroom Jazz 5 [Om]

Sun-kissed beats perfect for that lazy summer day or late-night session.

 


Patrick Coffee


1. Colleen
: The Golden Morning Breaks [Leaf]

The
slinky chimes of daylight bells, the dawn light peeking over the sound
of wet fingers rubbed around the rim of a well-tuned drinking glass.
For inspiring sappy poetics with subdued grace, the best album of the
year.

 

2. Various Artists: Run the Road [Vice]

British
MC's outvamp those played out tugs across the pond? And all with Reason
4.0, beats as cheap as bagged oregano in London's Soho? Save me a spot
in the back of the bandwagon babe, I can't quite catch up but I'm on it
this time fer real!

 

3. Optimo: How to Kill the DJ, Part 2 [Kill the DJ]

I
once dismissed the deejay booth as a bully pulpit for no-talent hacks
who get paid to give the crowd what they think they want and score some
occasional lonely groupie love. But here we have Suicide over
Villalobos, the Meters and Mutantes, the Cramps and Soft Cell, all
within thirty minutes? House and punk cohabitate, and even the Rapture
somehow sounds amazing. Forgive me Lord, for I am a humble man and I
learn quickly to recant.

 

4. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois [Asthmatic Kitty]

Is
it over-orchestrated? Frustratingly self-indulgent? Guilty of
unbearably drawn out song titles? Absolutely, incontrovertibly
brilliant? Yes, yes, yes, all of the above.        

 

5. Keith Fullerton Whitman: Multiples [Kranky]

This collection of mismatched patches doesn't approach the lazer-beam consistency of Playthroughs, but when Whitman hones his minimalist focus to a fine enough point, I'd let the loops spin for hours on end.

 

6. Animal Collective: Feels [FatCat]

7. Eluvium: Talk Amongst the Trees [Temporary Residence]

8. Arthur Russell: World of Echo [Audika]

9. Four Tet: Everything Ecstatic [Domino]

10. The Books: Lost and Safe [Tomlab]

 


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