OTG's Top Ten (and Other Commentary) For 2005


OPENING GIBBERISH

2005 was a particularly full year for good music, with the release of long awaited albums from Big Star, Kate Bush, and Bob Mould (and even a Cream reunion), this was definitely a tougher year to nail down a top ten ... I had fifteen to twenty serious candidates, and I'm still not all that sure I got it right.

Enjoy the list ...


CATALOG REISSUES

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John Entwistle



John Entwistle Reissue Review page.


REISSUES

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Manic Street Preachers
The Holy Bible - 10th Anniversary Edition



Finally released in the US, Manic Street Preachers' The Holy Bible is the Manics' loudest, most aggressive album, with the despair in Richey James' bleak lyrics foreshadowing his disappearance (and presumed suicide) early the following year. This sounds absolutely nothing like the latest Manics' album, Lifeblood, and it was a giant step forward from their inconsistent first two albums. Highlights include the roaring first single "Faster", "4st 7lb" (a chilling portrait of anorexia), "Ifwhiteamerica..." (an indictment of American conservatism and American morality in general), and "Yes" (an anti-capitalist rant). Brutal, intense, and a must-hear.

The 10th Anniversary Edition is a triple disc set. Disc one is the album as it was released in the UK (with some bonus tracks). Disc two is the previously-unreleased US mix of the album (with more bonus tracks). To be honest, the "US Mix" isn't radically different from the UK. You'll hear a difference, but it's not a jaw-dropper. Disc three is a DVD of various TV appearances.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Yes", "Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart", "Of Walking Abortion", "She Is Suffering", "Archives Of Pain", "Revol", "4st 7lb", "Mausoleum", "Faster", "This Is Yesterday", "Die In The Summertime", "The Intense Humming Of Evil", "P.C.P."

bonus tracks (Live): "The Intense Humming Of Evil", "4st 7lb", "Yes", "Of Walking Abortion"

bonus tracks (Demos): "Die In The Summertime", "Mausoleum"

bonus tracks (Radio 1 Evening Session): "Of Walking Abortion", "She Is Suffering", "Yes"


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The Move
Message From The Country



The Move's final album is basically the transition point between The Move and ELO. At this stage, both bands share the same lineup (Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne, and Bev Bevan). The songs don't have ELO's strings, but the feel is very similar to ELO's self-titled debut with Roy Wood adding in the oboe, recorder, clarinet, bassoon and saxophone into the mix. On the whole, the songs here are better than Electric Light Orchestra (although there's nothing to match "10538 Overture"). Songs like "Message From The Country", "Ella James", "The Minister", and "The Words Of Aaron" are some of the best in The Move's catalog. The bonus material for the reissue are the singles that followed Message From The Country, and they're even better. "Do Ya", "California Man", and "Down On The Bay" are gems that rock harder than anything on either of the two albums. If you're a Move fan, or a fan of early ELO, you really need this one.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "It Wasn't My Idea To Dance", "The Minister", "Message From The Country", "The Words Of Aaron", "Ben Crawley Steel Co.", "Until Your Mama's Gone", "No Time", "Ella James", "Don't Mess Me Up", "My Marge"

bonus tracks: "Tonight", "Chinatown", "Down On The Bay", "Do Ya", "California Man", "Don't Mess Me Up", "The Words Of Aaron", "Do Ya", "My Marge"


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XTC
Apple Box

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XTC
Apple Bite



XTC's last two albums, 1999's Apple Venus Volume and 2000's Wasp Star have had demo versions released (as Homespun and Homegrown), and two instrumental versions released. The time out they're packaged together, along with the two demo discs into a very nicely packaged 4 CD box, complete with a real peacock feather like the one pictured on the Apple Venus cover. If you already have all 4 CDs, there's not much reason to pick it up, unless you want the fancier packaging or you order it from XTC's web site (Idea Records). The web version gives you the box, two T-shirts, and a bonus eight-song CD sampler called Apple Bite that combines six tracks from the box with two brand new XTC songs, their first new release in five years. Andy Partridge's "Spiral" is a catchy tribute to the long-lost 45 RPM record, and Colin Moulding's "Say It" is a laid-back plea to tell people how you feel. Lovely. In addition to these two, XTC has an exclusive track on iTunes (Colin's poppy "Where Did The Ordinary People Go?") which is another winner. I hope a new XTC album's in the works. These songs make it clear that they haven't lost their touch.

[ Idea Records ]
tracks (Apple Venus Vol. 1 and Homespun): "River Of Orchids", "I'd Like That", "Easter Theatre", "Knights In Shining Karma", "Frivolous Tonight", "Greenman", "Your Dictionary", "Fruit Nut", "I Can't Own Her", "Harvest Festival", "The Last Balloon"

tracks (Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2) and Homegrown): "Playground", "Stupidly Happy", "In Another Life", "My Brown Guitar", "Boarded Up", "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love", "We're All Light", "Standing In For Joe", "Wounded Horse", "You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful", "Church Of Women", "The Wheel And The Maypole"

tracks (Apple Bite): "Spiral", "Say It", "Easter Theatre", "Frivolous Tonight", "Greenman", "Stupidly Happy", "In Another Life", "The Wheel And The Maypole"



LIVE ALBUMS

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Cream
Royal Albert Hall, London, May 2-3-5-6, 2005



Twenty-seven years after their farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall, rock's first "supergroup" returned to the Royal Albert Hall and pretty much picked up where right they left off. The set has a nice mix of Cream's signature blues workouts (like "I'm So Glad", "Spoonful", and "Politician"), their FM radio staples (like "Sunshine Of Your Love", "White Room", "Crossroads" and "Badge"), lesser known album cuts like "Deserted Cities Of The Heart" and "N.S.U."), oddities like "Pressed Rat And Warthog" and (unfortunately) Ginger Baker's overlong "Toad" drum workout. I'd love to see them take this on the road in the US (although "Toad" could stay behind).

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "I'm So Glad", "Spoonful", "Outside Woman Blues", "Pressed Rat And Warthog", "Sleepy Time Time", "N.S.U.", "Badge", "Politician", "Sweet Wine", "Rollin' And Tumblin'", "Stormy Monday", "Deserted Cities Of The Heart", "Born Under A Bad Sign", "We're Going Wrong", "Crossroads", "White Room", "Toad", "Sunshine Of Your Love", "Sleepy Time Time" [Alternate Version]


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Doves
Live At Eden



A limited release mini album from the Last Broadcast tour. Killer live versions of six of Doves' best from the first two albums. Amazingly, the live versions have the same deep, complex sound that the studio versions have. Wonderful.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Pounding", "Words", "Catch The Sun", "Caught By The River", "Satellites", "There Goes The Fear"


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Eels
Sixteen Tons (Ten Songs)



A great sampler from Eels appearance in 2003 on KCRW, available only from the band's web site. The two covers are the album's real highlights: a great take on the Beatles' "I'm A Loser" and the killer cover of the oft-covered country classic "Sixteen Tons". Excellent.

[ Eels website ]
tracks: "I'm A Loser", "Packing Blankets", "Saturday Morning", "Lone Wolf", "Numbered Days", "Last Stop: This Town", "Rock Hard Times", "Sixteen Tons", "Grace Kelly Blues", "My Beloved Monster"


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Richard Thompson
Live From Austin, TX



This album captures Richard Thompson's appearance on "Austin City Limits", backed by Danny Thompson and Michael Jerome, and Thompson and company are in dazzling form. "Persuasion" is absolutely gorgeous, "Crawl Back (Under My Stone)" absolutely cooks, and the set closes with a blazing version of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning". A must.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Cooksferry Queen", "Uninhabited Man", "Walking The Long Miles Home", "Al Bowlly's In Heaven", "Mingus Eyes", "Dry My Tears And Move On", "Easy There, Steady Now", "Persuasion", "Bathsheba Smiles", "Mr. Rebound", "Ghosts In The Wind", "She Twists The Knife Again", "Shoot Out The Lights", "Crawl Back (Under My Stone)", "1952 Vincent Black Lightning"


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The Waterboys
Karma To Burn



Recorded on the Universal Hall tour, Karma To Burn only includes one track from that album and instead focuses on the whole Waterboys (and Mike Scott solo) catalog, and the result is a tremendous live album that shows off what the band can do live. Highlights include a powerful version of "Open" (from Scott's '97 solo album Still Burning) and a gorgeous, lengthy cover of the Everly Brothers' "Come Live With Me". The Universal Hall album was a big disappointment for me, so it's good to hear Scott and company sounding so good on this live album. Check it out.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Long Way To The Light", "Peace Of Iona", "Glastonbury Song", "Medicine Bow", "The Pan Within", "Open", "The Return Of Jimi Hendrix", "My Dark Side", "A Song For The Life", "Bring 'Em All In", "The Whole Of The Moon", "Fisherman's Blues", "Come Live With Me"



COMPILATION ALBUMS

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Roger Daltrey
Moonlighting: The Anthology



Roger Daltrey's solo career has always been a mixed bag. Because he's not a songwriter, he's needed to depend on outside material for his albums. His voice is really best with song with Who-style power, but early on, he went for very different material on his solo albums, ranging from the songs Leo Sayer wrote for his debut, to dabbling with R&B. There is some great work in Roger's solo canon, like the charming "One Man Band", "One Of The Boys", "Free Me", the gorgeous ballad "Without Your Love", "After The Fire" (written by Pete Townshend for The Who to perform at "Live Aid"), and the tribute to Keith Moon "Under A Raging Moon". Moonlighting is a nice overview of Roger's side career, coupling the main album tracks with some rarities. Certainly not on a par with Roger's work with The Who, but definitely worth hearing.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "One Man Band", "The Way Of The World", "Thinking", "There Is Love", "Giving It All Away", "Come And Get Your Love", "World Over", "Proud", "Dear John", "Avenging Annie", "One Of The Boys", "Martyrs And Madmen", "Say It Ain't So, Joe", "Bitter And Twisted", "Free Me", "Without Your Love", "Waiting For A Friend", "Parting Would Be Painless", "After The Fire", "Under A Raging Moon", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Quicksilver Lightning", "Lover's Storm", "Mack The Knife", "The Pig Must Die", "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me", "Rock And Roll" - McEnroe & Cash, "Who's Gonna Walk On Water", "Love Is", "Blues Man's Road", "Baba O'Riley", "Pinball Wizard", "The Real Me", "Child Of Mine", "Born To Run", "A Second Out"


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John Entwistle
So Who's The Bass Player?: The Ox Anthology



So Who's The Bass Player? is a decent overview of Entwistle's underrated solo career, covering his solo albums as well as his side bands (The John Entwistle Band, John Entwistle's Ox and The Rock). Who fans really ought to hear songs like "My Size", "Apron Strings", "Made In Japan", "Cell Number Seven" (about the Who's arrest in Montrél in 1974), "Try Me" and "Back On The Road". No real rarities on this one, except for the tracks from the soundtrack to Flash Fearless Versus The Zorg Women, Parts 5 & 6. Of those only one, "To The Chop", has John on vocals. A good introduction to John's excellent solo career, although not a prize for collectors.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "My Size", "Pick Me Up (Big Chicken)", "What Are We Doing Here?", "Heaven And Hell", "Ted End", "Ten Little Friends", "Apron Strings", "Thinkin' It Over", "Who Cares?", "I Wonder", "I Was Just Being Friendly", "Do The Dangle", "Made In Japan", "Roller Skate Kate", "Peg Leg Peggy", "Lady Killer", "Mad Dog", "Cell Number Seven", "Whiskey Man", "Boris The Spider", "My Wife", "I'm Flash", "Space Pirates", "To The Chop", "Blast Off", "Try Me", "Talk Dirty", "Too Late The Hero", "Love Doesn't Last", "Life After Love", "The Real Me", "Success Story", "905", "Had Enough", "Bogey Man", "Back On The Road", "When The Sun Comes Up", "Don't Be A Sucker"


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The Flaming Lips
VOID - The Album (The Songs From The Videos)



An iTunes-only release, VOID - The Album (The Songs From The Videos) is officially the all of the songs used on the recent VOID DVD, but it's basically a Flaming Lips "greatest hits" album (focusing mainly on the more recent lineups of the band), with a new track "Mr. Ambulance Driver" thrown in for good measure. An excellent intro to the band's range, from the later part of their noisy pop phase through their newfound elegant (but strange) pop. The Flaming Lips have evolved into one of the best bands in the world (their last two albums, 1999's The Soft Bulletin and 2002's Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots topped my list for those years). This is a good way to get a taste of what the Lips have been up to.

tracks: "Mr. Ambulance Driver", "SpongeBob & Patrick Confront The Psychic Wall Of Energy", "Fight Test", "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1", "Do You Realize??", "Race For The Prize", "Waitin' For A Superman", "This Here Giraffe", "When You Smile", "Bad Days" [Aurally Excited Version], "Christmas At The Zoo", "Be My Head", "She Don't Use Jelly", "Turn It On", "Frogs", "Talkin' Bout The Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants To Live Forever)", "Phoebe Battles the Pink Robots", "Are You A Hypnotist??"



TRIBUTE ALBUMS

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Petra Haden
Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out



A bizarre but fascinating album, Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out is exactly what the title says. Petra Haden recreates The Who's 1967 classic The Who Sell Out from beginning to end, fake commercials and all, with nothing but her voice overdubbed over and over on top of itself singing the vocals and instrumental parts. It's a kick to listen to the first few times, but eventually, you just want to hear the real thing. Certainly worth a listen, especially for Who fans.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Armenia City In The Sky", "Heinz Baked Beans", "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand", "Odorono", "Tattoo", "Our Love Was", "I Can See For Miles", "I Can't Reach You", "Spotted Henry (Medac)", "Relax", "Silas Stingy", "Sunrise", "Rael"



OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

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Douglas Adams
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: The Quandary Phase

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Douglas Adams
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: The Quintessential Phase

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Douglas Adams
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: The Complete Radio Series



Finishing off the five-part Hitchhiker's trilogy, The Quandary Phase and The Quintessential Phase dramatize the the last two books in the series: So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish and Mostly Harmless. Both of these phases are a shorter (four episodes instead of six), but for these last two books, the slightly shorter length works. Long-time Hitchhiker fans will generally tell you that books four and five were much weaker than the first three, but the radio shows are outstanding: there's something about hearing these stories in this form that really makes them work. Absolutely worth hearing. Oh and one other note: each episode is a few minutes longer than what was aired on the BBC, so a few scenes that I really missed on the BBC streaming version are here.

The Complete Radio Series is a UK-only fourteen-disc box that includes all five radio series and a bonus CD of some previously unreleased BBC radio documentaries about the series. The bonus material included on the 2001's eight-disc Collector's Edition (that just held the first two radio series) is not in this box, so while it is the complete series, if you're a total completist, you'll still want the eight-disc set as well.

[ Amazon - The Quandary Phase ]
[ Amazon - The Quintessential Phase ]
[ Amazon (UK) - The Complete Radio Series ]


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Big Star
In Space



Big Star's first studio album in thirty years starts out with three songs that sound like they could be leftovers from #1 Record or Radio City. "Turn My Back On The Sun" playfully quotes the beginning of The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" before starting in with some pretty, laid back pop that still fits Big Star. After that, it all goes wrong. "Love Revolution" is a goofy piece of funk-pop that's frankly a little embarassing (hearing Alex Chilton sing "shake that funky thing" or "get up and groove, y'all" just doesn't work). "February's Quiet" is back on the money, but the rest of the album just sounds half-baked to me. It's too bad too - from that beginning you'd figure that Big Star was back, but it really sounds like they kinda phoned-in the second half. However, if you're a fan, that first half is worth hearing. If you're not, go pick up the CD that combines #1 Record and Radio City on one CD.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Dony", "Lady Sweet", "Best Chance", "Turn My Back On The Sun", "Love Revolution", "February's Quiet", "Mine Exclusively", "A Whole New Thing", "Aria, Largo", "Hung Up With Summer", "Do You Wanna Make It", "Makeover"


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Lewis Black
Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center Blues



Lewis Black's latest CD has him in his usual form, ranting about everything from Super Bowl halftime shows to the current state of US politics. He's sharp, caustic, brilliant, and right. If you've seen him on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, you've got an idea of what Black's style is about. If you like "Back In Black", you'll love this.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Superbowl Redux", "MTV", "Halftime '04", "What Sex...........Are They?", "Gay Marriage", "Justin and Janet", "America Loses Its Mind", "Nipple Clamps", "One Nation Under God", "Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan", "Voting (A Flashback)", "Iraq, An Idiots Delight"


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Kate Bush
Aerial



It's been twelve years since Kate Bush released an album (1993's The Red Shoes), and the result is definitely an improvement over The Red Shoes, this is still nowhere near her 1985 classic, Hounds Of Love. The music picks up where she left off, mixing dreamy pop, off-kilter rhythms and her etherial voice with lyrics that run the gamut from the mundane to the mystical. Disc one, subtitled "A Sea Of Honey", has lyrics dealing ranging from obsession with numbers ("π"), household chores ("Mrs. Bartolozzi"), vanishing ("How To Be Invisible"), to her son ("Bertie"). Disc two, a suite of songs titled "A Sky Of Honey", loosely follows a day from the morning ("Prelude") to the afternoon ("Prologue") to sunset ("Sunset" and "Somewhere In Between") to the evening ("Nocturn"). A very welcome return, but still a little disappointing.

[ Amazon ]
tracks (A Sea Of Honey): "King of the Mountain", "π", "Bertie", "Mrs. Bartolozzi", "How to Be Invisible", "Joanni", "A Coral Room"

tracks (A Sky Of Honey): "Prelude", "Prologue", "An Architect's Dream", "Painter's Link", "Sunset", "Aerial Tal", "Somewhere in Between", "Nocturn", "Aerial"


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The Dandy Warhols
Odditorium Or Warlords Of Mars



On Odditorium, the Dandies wisely head back to the sound of their first three albums and dump the changes from 2003's Welcome To The Monkey House; however, the songs aren't quite up to the level of Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia (my pick for 2000 album of the year). Odditorium begins with frequent A&E host Bill Kurtis documenting how the Dandy Warhols invented rock and roll (clever and funny), and then slides into the long, moody opener "Love Is The New Feel Awful", which wouldn't have been out of place on Urban Bohemia, except that it's about 4-5 minutes too long. "Easy" is another longer track that drags a bit, but the next track "All The Money Or The Simple Life Honey" is a great single in the mode of "Bohemian Like You". Overall, a welcome return to their old style, but draggy at points and not quite up with the older songs.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Colder Than The Coldest Winter Was Cold", "Love Is The New Feel Awful", "Easy", "All The Money Or The Simple Life Honey", "The New Country", "Holding Me Up", "Did You Make A Song With Otis", "Everyone Is Totally Insane", "Smoke It", "Down Like Disco", "There Is Only This Time", "A Loan Tonight"


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John Doe
Forever Hasn't Happened Yet



John Doe's latest teams him up with Dave Alvin, Neko Case, and Grant Lee Phillips (amongst others). Doe's powerful voice is in excellent form, and he's written his best set of songs in years (including a real highlight - "Hwy. 5" written by Doe and Exene Cervenka). John Doe's best album since 1995's Kissingsohard.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "The Losing Kind", "Heartless", "Mama Don't", "Twin Brother", "Hwy. 5", "Worried Brow", "Your Parade", "There's A Black Horse", "Ready", "She's Not", "Repeat Performance"


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Bill Hicks
Salvation: Oxford, November 11, 1992



Released overseas in an edited form as Shock And Awe, Salvation is a complete, double-CD length Bill Hicks concert and it's a masterpiece. If you're a Hicks fan, you've heard a lot of this material before (in different forms), but it's so much more satisfying to hear it as part of a single performance.

If you've never heard Bill Hicks before, he's described himself as "Noam Chomsky with dick jokes". He's somewhere between a philospher, a commentator and a vulgar standup. Denis Leary (who I think is a brilliant stand-up, but no match for Hicks) modeled most of his style after Hicks. To quote Bill: "I have a scoop for you. I stole [Denis Leary's] act. I camouflaged it with punchlines, and to really throw people off, I did it before he did."

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Intro", "Ding Dong", "Puppet People", "Kennedy & The Warren Commission", "Smoking", "Polls", "Dick Jokes", "News / Movies / Religion", "Religion / Drugs", "Film", "Kids", "Fries", "Backed Up", "Sleep & The Message"


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Robyn Hitchcock
Obliteration Pie



Obliteration Pie is a Japanese-only CD of outtakes, live tracks ("My Wife And My Dead Wife" with a great intro monologue about Frank Sinatra and "Chinese Bones"), and a few new re-recordings of older songs ("Madonna Of The Wasps", "Arms Of Love", and "Queen Elvis") and it's his best album since 2000's A Star For Bram. "Funkytown" is exactly what you're thinking: a bizarre cover of the Lipps, Inc. hit. The new material is generally in Robyn's recent quiet acoustic mode, although "My Dreams Are Scars" is the heaviest thing he's recorded in ages. Terrific stuff.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Madonna Of The Wasps", "City Of Women", "I Fall Into Your Eyes", "Arms Of Love", "A Man's Gotta Know His Limitations, Briggs", "Madelaine", "Let The Sun Begin", "My Dreams Are Scars", "My Wife And My Dead Wife", "Chinese Bones", "Funkytown", "Butterfly", "Queen Elvis"


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Stereophonics
Language. Sex. Violence. Other?



Stereophonics' latest, a collection of eleven-tersely named tracks, turns the amps back up and gets back to the sound of their early albums, although the songs aren't as strong. A very good album, with only "Dakota" and "Rewind" hitting the peaks of their previous albums. Solid, but not classic.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Superman", "Doorman", "Brother", "Devil", "Dakota", "Rewind", "Pedalpusher", "Girl", "Lolita", "Deadhead", "Feel"


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Richard Thompson
Front Parlour Ballads



Richard Thompson finally delivers what a large portion of his fan base has wanted: an all-acoustic studio album. As you'd expect, Thompson's voice and playing are in fine form, but for me, only a few of the songs have that certain spark. "Let It Blow" is tremendous - full of life, a killer opener. From there, only "Miss Patsy" and "A Solitary Life" really moved me. The rest are very pretty and very well done, but there's something intangible missing. I really expected to love this album, but I'm disappointed.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Let It Blow", "For Who's Sake?", "Miss Patsy", "Old Thames Side", "How Does Your Garden Grow?", "My Soul, My Soul", "Cressida", "Row, Boys, Row", "The Boys Of Mutton Street", "Precious One", "A Solitary Life", "Should I Betray?", "When We Were Boys At School"


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Paul Weller
As Is Now



Paul Weller's latest is a bit of a mixed bag. The first two singles, "From The Floorboards Up" and "Come On / Let's Go" are fabulous rockers that make you think Weller is back in prime form after last year's disappointing covers album, Studio 150. Well, he is - sort of. The album starts out very strong, "Blink And You'll Miss It", "Paper Smile" and "Come On / Let's Go" are vintage Weller. "Here's The Good News" is a catchy piano track, and then things drop off sharply. With the exception of "I Wanna Make It Alright", "Savages", and "From The Floorboards Up", the rest of the album really drags - reminding me of the weak sound of Studio 150. "Bring Back The Funk (Pts 1 & 2)" is especially ill-advised. Weller does a lot of things very well, but funk isn't one of 'em. Basically, if you cut about half out, you've got a top-notch Paul Weller album.

[ Amazon - Deluxe Edition]
tracks: "Blink And You'll Miss It", "Paper Smile", "Come On / Let's Go", "Here's The Good News", "The Start Of Forever", "Pan", "All On A Misty Morning", "From The Floorboards Up", "I Wanna Make It Alright", "Savages", "Fly Little Bird", "Rock Along Summer", "Bring Back The Funk (Pts 1 & 2)", "The Pebble And The Boy"


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The White Stripes
Get Behind Me Satan



On Get Behind Me Satan, Jack White streches out, moving away a bit from his guitar of the first four albums and instead goes with piano (and occasionally marimba). When it works (like on "My Doorbell"), it's a blast, but this new sound isn't firing on all cylinders yet. For me, it's the weakest since their debut.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Blue Orchid", "The Nurse", "My Doorbell", "Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)", "Little Ghost", "The Denial Twist", "White Moon", "Instinct Blues", "Passive Manipulation", "Take, Take, Take", "As Ugly As I Seem", "Red Rain", "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)"


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Neil Young
Prairie Wind



Completed before and after Neil Young's recent brain aneurysm, Prairie Wind returns Young to his folky, mostly acoustic Harvest/Harvest Moon sound with one notable exception. The lone song completed after his surgery, the gospel-flavored "When God Made Me" has Young on piano backed by a choir singing a powerful lyric attacking people who use faith as wedge to divide people. A stunner. The rest of the album is very good as well, with the light-hearted "He Was The King" (about Elvis) and the gorgeous opener "The Painter" as standouts. The deluxe edition of the album also comes with a DVD with the album recorded in high-definition stereo and a movie showing a "session" for each song. In general, I prefer Young's work with Crazy Horse to his folkier stuff, but this is a really good album. Definitely worth a listen.

[ Amazon - CD/DVD ]
tracks: "The Painter", "No Wonder", "Fallin' Off The Face Of The Earth", "Far From Home", "It's A Dream", "Prairie Wind", "Here For You", "This Old Guitar", "He Was The King", "When God Made Me"



THE TOP TEN FOR 2005
(in my exasperatingly less-than-humble opinion)

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#10
Super Furry Animals
Love Kraft



Love Kraft is Super Furry Animals' seventh album, but the first I've heard and I'm very impressed. The album is atmospheric, dreamy alternative rock with an occasional foray into general weirdness. "Zoom!" is a majestic opener, and the shuffling "Ohio Heat" and "Back On A Roll" are just irresistable. "Lazer Beam" rocks out, but mixes in strings as well as bleeping synths, and "Oi Frango" is both strange and a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to checking out the rest of their catalog.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Zoom!", "Atomik Lust", "The Horn", "Ohio Heat", "Walk You Home", "Lazer Beam", "Frequency", "Oi Frango", "Psyclone!", "Back On A Roll", "Cloudberries", "Cabin Fever"


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#9
Foo Fighters
In Your Honor



In Your Honor is a double-CD, split between an electric CD and an acoustic CD. The electric disc is tremendous: "Best Of You" is a classic Foo Fighters single, "Resolve" is a nice change-of-pace, "The Last Song" roars, and the rest of the first disc sounds amazing. The acoustic disc is a interesting change-of-pace, but only "Miracle" really stands out to me. Worth getting for the electric disc.

[ Amazon - DualDisc ]
tracks (electric): "In Your Honor", "No Way Back", "Best Of You", "DOA", "Hell", "The Last Song", "Free Me", "Resolve", "The Deepest Blues Are Black", "End Over End"

tracks (acoustic): "Still","What If I Do?", "Miracle", "Another Round", "Friend Of A Friend", "Over And Out", "On The Mend", "Virginia Moon", "Cold Day In The Sun", "Razor"


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#8
Doves
Some Cities



Some Cities picks up where 2002's The Last Broadcast leaves off, but adds in a few twists, like the Motown-flavored "Black And White Town", and the start-stop chorus of "Almost Forgot Myself". "Some Cities" adds some punch to the album, "Snowden" and "Walk In Fire" are beautiful tracks that could have fit with The Last Broadcast. An amazing album.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Some Cities", "Black And White Town", "Almost Forgot Myself", "Snowden", "The Storm", "Walk In Fire", "One Of These Days", "Someday Soon", "Shadows Of Salford", "Sky Starts Falling", "Ambition"


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#7
Coldplay
X & Y



I'd heard about Coldplay over the last few years, but never heard anything until I saw their performance at "Live 8" last summer. The gospel-flavored "Fix You" just floored me, so I had to check out the album, and now I get what the hype's about. Elegant and dramatic, X & Y is an amazing album from top to bottom. "Speed Of Sound" is the lead single, but it's only one of the gems on this album - "The Hardest Part", "Talk", "White Shadows", and "Fix You" are every bit as good. OK, so it's not weird, it's not aggressive, it's not "in your face" - doesn't matter. The sound may be smooth (although Coldplay does turn it up occasionally), but this is not MOR pap. The songs and loaded with hooks and the performances are great. Check 'em out.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Square One", "What If?", "White Shadows", "Fix You", "Talk", "X & Y", "Speed Of Sound", "A Message", "Low", "Hardest Part", "Swallowed In The Sea", "Twisted Logic", "Til Kingdom Come"


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#6
Teenage Fanclub
Man-Made



Man-Made is Teenage Fanclub's first new studio album in five years, and it was definitely worth the wait. There aren't a lot of surprises here - Teenage Fanclub still has the crystalline harmonies, the chiming guitars (with a little bite to 'em), and tons and tons of Big Star-influenced hooks. The highlights include the classic TFC power-pop of "Slow Fade", the delicate "Only With You", and the insistent opener "It's All In My Mind". Superb.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "It's All In My Mind", "Time Stops", "Nowhere", "Save", "Slow Fade", "Only With You", "Cells", "Feel", "Fallen Leaves", "Flowing", "Born Under A Good Sign", "Don't Hide"


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#5
Amy Rigby
Little Fugitive



Amy Rigby continues to put out albums loaded with great tunes and witty lyrics. "Dancing With Joey Ramone" couples a witty lyric about a dream dance with Joey in the exactly kind of song that the Ramones could have covered perfectly, and Rigby even throws in a "1! 2! 3! 4!" and a blast of high-energy rock at the end. "Trouble With Jeanie" is a brand new type of relationship song: how are you supposed to dislike your spouse's ex if they're really nice? Another superb album.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Like Rasputin", "Trouble With Jeanie", "Dancing With Joey Ramone", "That's The Time", "So You Know Now", "Needy Men", "It's Not Safe", "I Don't Wanna Talk About Love No More", "Year Of The Fling", "Girls Got It Bad", "Always With Me", "The Things You Leave Behind"


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#4
Eels
Blinking Lights And Other Revelations



Completed over the last several years, Blinking Lights And Other Revelations is a sequel of sorts to Eels' masterpiece Electro-Shock Blues. E mixes the kind of deeply personal songs that would have fit on Electro-Shock Blues (like "Suicide Life", "Railroad Man", and "Ugly Love"), with a few upbeat songs (like "Old Shit / New Shit", "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)", and some pretty instrumental themes to round out the album into a whole. Like Electro-Shock Blues, Blinking Lights And Other Revelations feels more like a single work rather than simply a collection of songs. A second masterpiece.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Theme From Blinking Lights", "From Which I Came / A Magic World", "Son Of A Bitch", "Blinking Lights (For Me)", "Trouble With Dreams", "Marie Floating Over The Backyard", "Suicide Life", "In The Yard, Behind The Church", "Railroad Man", "The Other Shoe", "Last Time We Spoke", "Mother Mary", "Going Fetal", "Understanding Salesmen", "Theme For A Pretty Girl That", "Makes You Believe God Exists", "Checkout Blues", "Blinking Lights (For You)", "Dust Of Ages", "Old Shit / New Shit", "Bride Of Theme From Blinking Lights", "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)", "I'm Going To Stop Pretending", "That I Didn't Break Your Heart", "To Lick Your Boots", "If You See Natalie", "Sweet Li'l Thing", "Dusk: A Peach In The Orchard", "Whatever Happened To Soy Bomb", "Ugly Love", "God's Silence", "Losing Streak", "Last Days Of My Bitter Heart", "The Stars Shine In The Sky Tonight", "Things The Grandchildren Should Know"


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#3
Oasis
Don't Believe The Truth



If 2002's Heathen Chemistry was essentially the debut album of the new Oasis, then on Don't Believe The Truth the new lineup has jelled. For the first time in Oasis' career, the best tracks on the album aren't all Noel Gallagher's. Andy Bell's "Turn Up The Sun" and "Keep The Dream Alive" sound like vintage Oasis, and Gem's chiming "A Bell Will Ring" is the best song on the album. Noel's "Part Of The Queue", "The Importance Of Being Idle" and "Lyla" (the lead single) show that he hasn't lost his touch, and "Our Kid" Liam continues to progress: "Guess God Thinks I'm Abel" is his best one yet. The album also closes on a big note with the dramatic, Beatlesque "Let There Be Love" with Liam and Noel trading choruses. An amazing album.

[ Amazon - DualDisc ]
tracks: "Turn Up The Sun", "Mucky Fingers", "Lyla", "Love Like A Bomb", "The Importance Of Being Idle", "The Meaning Of The Soul", "Guess God Thinks I'm Abel", "Part Of The Queue", "Keep The Dream Alive", "A Bell Will Ring", "Let There Be Love"


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#2
Supergrass
Road To Rouen



The lighter side that Supergrass explored on Life On Other Planets comes to the fore on Road To Rouen, and the results are brilliant. Piano, horns, and strings are a much bigger part of the band's sound, and that adds an elegance to the songs that really works. The delicate "Fin" is unlike anything they've ever done, as is the goofy, charming, and surfy instrumental "Coffee In The Pot". The majestic opener "Tales Of Endurance (Parts 4, 5 & 6)" is almost a snapshot of the album: starting out with a long moody instrumental, before a cool mid-tempo rocker breaks out. "Low C" is elegant piano pop. "Road To Rouen" and "Kick In The Teeth" provide a little rock and roll punch (although certainly mellower than their early albums). Supergrass keeps evolving and getting better and better, and Road To Rouen is their best album yet.

[ Amazon ]
tracks: "Tales Of Endurance (Parts 4, 5 & 6)", "St. Petersburg", "Sad Girl", "Roxy", "Coffee In The Pot", "Road To Rouen", "Kick In The Teeth", "Low C", "Fin"


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#1
Bob Mould
Body Of Song



In 2002, Bob Mould was planning to release a trio of albums to get away from the electric power trio rock he'd done since his Hüsker Dü days and reinvent himself. The synthy two of the three, modulate. and Long Playing Grooves were released, but an acoustic album, Body Of Song wasn't. Now in 2005, Mould finally released Body Of Song; however, it's not the album that he talked about in '02. The electric power trio sound is back in a big way. Body Of Song mixes a little of modulate.'s synths (especially on "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope"), some "Hardly Getting Over it"-style acoustic balladry on "Days Of Rain", "High Fidelity" and "Gauze Of Friendship", and a big helping of Sugar's signature heavy-duty power-pop. The first single, "Paralyzed", is classic Mould: catchy, but thick with power guitar. "Circles", "Missing You", "Underneath Days" fit right into the same style. Mould released Body Of Song in two forms, a single CD and a deluxe double-CD. The second disc is a combination of remixes of songs on the main album, plus a few leftovers. The rocking "Surveyors And Cranes" and the gentle "Lowdown Ground" are as good as anything on the main album.

I know I rave about Mould's work in these reviews (I gave 1989's Workbook and 1996's Bob Mould my top spot for those years), but this really is another classic. I'm so glad that Bob has "unretired".

[ Amazon - Deluxe Edition ]
tracks: "Circles", "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope", "Paralyzed", "I Am Vision, I Am Sound", "Underneath Days", "Always Tomorrow", "Days Of Rain", "Best Thing", "High Fidelity", "Missing You", "Gauze Of Friendship", "Beating Heart The Prize"

bonus disc tracks (Deluxe Edition only): "Castor And Pollux", "Surveyors And Cranes", "Love Escalator", "Lowdown Ground", "My Old Friend", "Nihil", "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope" [Morel's Pink Noise Mix], "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope" [Morel's Pink Noise Dub], "Paralyzed" [LoudBomb Club Mix]



PAST YEARS' BESTS

Just click on the album cover to see that year's reviews.

2004: The Polyphonic Spree - Together We're Heavy2003: Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Greendale2002: The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots2001: Manic Street Preachers - Know Your Enemy2000: The Dandy Warhols - Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia1999: Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin1998: Eels - Electro-Shock Blues1997: Paul Weller - Heavy Soul1996: Bob Mould - Bob Mould1995: Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory?1994: Paul Weller - Wild Wood1993: Pete Townshend - Psychoderelict1992: Roger Waters - Amused To Death1991: Richard Thompson - Rumor And Sigh1990: Lou Reed and John Cale - Songs For Drella1989: Bob Mould - Workbook1988: R.E.M. - Green1987: Marillion - Clutching At Straws
Comments? Send 'em to me.

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