As you may have noticed, Christmas 2005 has come and gone. And that means that now I (Pop Boy) have heard 'Confessions'
, 'Keep On'
and 'You Could Have It So Much Better'
and I can make the definitive list of the best albums of 2005...
01 - Maximo Park - Certain Trigger
I think even with the Christmas competitors this is still likely to be the winner simply because it stands tall above everything else I've heard this year. By a good mile or two. In a music scene saturated with indie bands all promising something unique, fresh and different, Maximo Park are the only ones who've actually delivered and how? With an album that doesn't want to be unique and rather ironically and modestly, is the sound of desperately trying to fit in with the norm.
This album is brilliant without compromise from start to finish. Garnished with equal parts of poetic insight, energetic vitality and Northern charm, and all the time with tongue firmly in cheek. And live they are the absolute shit!
Best Bits: 'Apply Some Pressure', 'Acrobat', 'Graffiti', 'Postcard Of A Painting'
I want this SO much - Album of the year 2006!!!)
02 - Goldfrapp - Supernature
Electro-pop's greatest hits, the envy of all the other pretenders. Flawless, luscious, exquisite, literally the aural equivalent of eating chocolate Carte Dor
in an aromatherapied bubble bath surrounded with candles, possibly with some rose petals floating on the top, you can't help but dive in and don't want to save yourself from drowning. Helping people learn to dance again. The album to dance like a robot from 1984 to. Bonus points for referencing Baudelaire
. Also the fucking shit live (Being the shit live is a good thing. A very fucking good thing.)
Best Bits: 'Number One', 'Lovely 2 C U', 'Oh La La'
03 - M.I.A. - Arular
Criss-crossing and hopstotching between, into and over several genres, skitting about bananas and curry, coming from both the urban jungle of London and the actual
jungle of Sri Lanka, this album was never going to blend into the crowd. The sound of a tiny girl in a big big world that's full of hate standing up for herself and making her own voice. Love or hate, agree or disagree, M.I.A. has caused more controversy musically than any other music sleb could wish to with bitchy interviews and drunken stupors. Personality oozes from this girl. M.I.A. is a true talent.
Best Bits: 'Amazon', 'Bingo', '10 Dollar', 'Pull Up the People'
04 - Girls Aloud - Chemistry (NEW)
This album ought to be higher, as it is very good. Perhaps in a quieter year it would be number one or two, and number four should not take anything away from 'Chemistry'
but add to the strength of the whole year. A non-stop pop assault on the serious and boring, Girls Aloud stick out their tongues and flick up their fingers on this ode to Britain 2005, the age of the party girl and (most importantly) 'Swinging London Town'
. They also continue the horse trend with a song called 'Wild Horses'
(four albums in the top ten are associated with horses - it can't be a coincidence). The album doesn't have any didactic moral message or any huge amounts of sentiment, it seems to exist solely to make everybody dance, and who am I to argue. Xenomania
come up trumps again with a set of brilliant songs seeping with ace lyrics from every corner. Yet another strong album that makes it impossible to chose any particular highlights.
(And they are the shit live!)
Best Bits: 'Biology', 'Swinging London Town', 'Waiting', 'Wild Horses', 'Racey Lacey'
05 - Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway (NEW)
Yes, Kelly has managed to fight off Madonna
, Will Young
and Franz Ferdinand
to be the second highest new entry. I'm as surprised as anyone. Perhaps it's just a little more instant, but after three listens to each, I find myself wanting to put 'Breakaway'
on. It might help that it has five singles off it (if we include the bonus tracks). Unlike Madge or Will, it doesn't seem to be trying very hard to be a brilliant pop album. It's not recruiting Stuart Price
or Nitin Sawhney
, it's recruiting good old Swedish writers (and some bloke from Evanescence
) that make the album much more 'easy'. Or something. Much like the albums above it in this chart, it sort of keeps you hooked from the opening haze of 'Breakaway'
to the last crush of 'Low'.
Overall an effortless and brilliant pop album.
Best Bits: 'Since U Been Gone', 'Because Of You', 'I Hate Myself For Losing You', 'Walk Away'
06 - Kate Bush - Aerial
An aural orgasm. A sonic masterpiece. A masterclass in how to make great sounds flow together and create a river of noise and flood into the ears of your worshippers. After having waited 12 years, Kate didn't dissappoint with an album featuring Rolf Harris
and songs about her son, a neglected housewife, Elvis
' myth and having sex with her husband that left this little pop boy struggling for breath with his heart beating real fast, coming out in cold sweats. Just... wow!
Still, a reference to horses wouldn't have gone amiss though would it?
Best Bits: 'Mrs Bartolozzi', 'Pi'
, all of 'A Sky Of Honey'
07 - Will Young - Keep On (NEW)
Beautiful, delicious and sumptuous. And that's just Will (guffaw!). No, really, this album has it's moments of undeniable beauty ('Home', 'All Time Love'
) where I dare say, if I weren't made of stronger stuff, would make me a bit emotional. But then it has brilliant pop moments where dancing is simply not an option (lead single 'Switch It On', 'Ain't Such A Bad Place..'
). Then it has it's moments where it turns into a mass orgy of jazz-pop love ('Keep On', 'Save Yourself', 'Happiness'
). But it is flawed in it's beauty as every sentiment seems to be shovelled onto each track with a JCB
and at times it can all become just a tad too indulgent.
Best Bits: 'Happiness', 'Ain't Such A Bad Place To Be', 'All Time Love'
08 - Patrick Wolf - Wind In The Wires
A masterpiece of Bush
proportions. Both bohemic and prophetic, with an almost constant social commentary throughout. Lots of imagery of horses, birds and the sea, which must have some kind of relevance (I suspect the horse-tip may be related to my imaginary pop trend of 2005 supported by Rachel
- but then, I did make that up a bit). It brilliantly seems to stem from the ground like a bitter weed and then gets a shot of electricity and transforms into the beast from beyond, desperately pining for a little bit more electro whilst rooted strongly into the soil. One of Patrick's strongest qualities is that he has no comparison, or no significant comparison. He is unique. I'd love to see how he'd react to some good competition (yes, this is a call to arms all you bohemian artistes to test him and create some more ace music!)
Best Bits: 'The Libertine', 'Tristan', 'Wind In The Wires'
09 - Madonna - Confessions On A Dancefloor (NEW)
I wanted to love this so much. And, hey, maybe I will. Maybe it's a grower. But even then, it's the first Madonna album I've heard in a long while that has been a grower ('Erotica', 'Music', 'True Blue'
and even 'American Life'
became all-time favourites after the first listen). I really wanted to love this album so much, and yet it leaves me with a bad taste in my motuh thinking "Is that it?"
. So much was promised. A 'non-stop all-dance tour de force'
. A record as far away from 'American Life'
as possible. An album that was gayer than Elton John
's stag do. But none of this was true. I hate being negative about Madonna, but I can't help but feel I've been a bit cheated. It is good. It is brilliant. But it didn't make me dance as much as Goldfrapp
, Girls Aloud
or Maximo Park
did. And it's really not that far away 'American Life'
, take 'I Love New York'
for example which, save the dance beat, are outtakes from it.
However, I'll end on a positive note and praise 'Jump', 'Get Together'
which have the potential to become classic Madonna tracks up there with 'Like A Virgin', 'Vogue'
and 'Material Girl'
. Also, any album where 'Hung Up'
lasts 5 minutes 36 seconds can never ever
be a bad one.
Best Bits: 'Hung Up', 'Sorry', 'Get Together'
10 - Beck - Guero
Beck is similar to Patrick Wolf
in so much that he no tonly dominates his field but appears to own it. There are samplers, there are DJs, there are dance acts, but none of them are quite as knowledgable, geeky or brilliant as Beck. 'Guero'
is a flex of Beck's musical muscle as he creates a 'white man' album using traditional black or hispanic styles of music. The sound he creates is like no other, a random burst of electric guitar, followed by an explosion of a drum beat you can't get out of your head and then an earthquaking riff or loop of some kind that finally pulls you in before another random burst of sample that delivers the deadly blow. Simply sensational.
Best Bits: 'Black Tambourine', 'E-Pro', 'Hell Yes'
11 - Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better (NEW)
So here we at the transmission party... Another strong from the Franz, building on the brilliance of their self-titled Mercury Music Prize winning debut. They return with an album that seems a little bit more arty and less commercial than the first, and seem to be a lot more comfortable now that they played it 'safe' on the last album in order to get big (by which I mean fucking huge). Alex Kapronas seems to think he's the devil with songs like 'Evil And A Heathen', 'I'm Your Villain' and 'The Fallen' when really he all know he's just a beautiful dancewhore on 'You're the Reason', 'Do You Want To?' and 'Well That Was Easy'. Much like Maximo Park, this is almagamation of all the best bits of the British indie scene but it's all been re-arranged in a way that doesn't suit me quite as nicely as Maximo Park (but really, what does?). Following in the tracks of La Park and La Aloud, Franz have some truly amazing lyrics all over this album ("if we were feckless we'd be fine"). These guys are the shit live too (as I'm sure Indie Girl will agree).
Best Bits: 'The Fallen', 'Do You Want To?', 'Evil And A Heathen'
12 - Ordinary Boys- Brassbound
My album of the summer probably. The one-man call to arms to make summer 2005 the summer of ska. I'm unsure as to whether or not they actually pulled it off, I certainly ska-ed it up. I bought a straw pork pie hat and everything. Irony of ironies, I had it [the hat] stolen at V Festival and thrown around whilst watching The Ordinary Boys. It must have been the hottest day of the year and Preston and co. were the perfect soundtrack to the hot sticky moshings. And I think that's what this album requires: straw hats and hot sticky moshings. Followed possibly by a jug of Pimms.
Best Bits: 'Life Will Be The Death Of Me', 'Boys Will Be Boys', 'Thanks To The Girl', 'Rudi's In Love'
13 - Martha Wainwright - Martha Wainwright
Daughter of Louden III, sister of Rufus. The last in her family to make an album, following the footsteps of her dad and her brother as well as her mother and aunt Kate & Anna McGarrigle. And she doesn't dissappoint. The writing is just as spectacular, theatrical, complex and heartbreaking as you'd expect from a Wainwright with equally cutting realism. The album is grounded though, but that's to be expected in a debut. It doesn't quite make the stretch I feel it really could. This is very much a warm up, the silent coffee before she really breaks your heart. If Martha realises her potential, her next album could well eclipse 'Want'. FACT!
Best Bits: 'Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole', 'Factory', 'Ball & Chain'
14 Editors - The Back Room
Hailed as the new Joy Divison with dark, industrial guitar-weilding electro-rock. Joy Divison comparisons before they'd released an album left the Editors with an awful lot to live up to. It's way too early yet to judge, but they made a good strong bash at it with 'The Back Room'. Dark, moody and broody snarling away with vitriol like a wolf in from a kill with an innocent lamb that got in it's way caught in it's teeth. Don't stand against the wave of noise here, ride it and enjoy. The new Joy Divison? Let's see in a few albums time.
Best Bits: 'Blood', Bullets'
15 - Ambulance LTD - LP
I can't remember where or when I heard of Ambulance LTD, all I know is I told they were really good and that I should get the album. So I did. And whomever or whatever told me was right. They are really good. I'd like to think Ambulance LTD's is the album for the boyfriends of girlfriends who like Busted. This album is ultimately cool chillout to dance to, indie, pop album that is more New York than King Kong climbing the Empire State Building wearing a Yankees baseball cap. This is effortlessly cool and although it sweeps effortlessly from sub-genre to sub-genre (it's pretty static on that indie point), it lacks a brilliant stand out track to really take it to the next level.
Best Bits: 'Primitive (The Way I Treat You)', 'Stay Tuned', 'Young Urban', 'Yoga Menas Union'
NOTE: The chart could potentially look quite different if we were counting 'Anniemal' and 'Want (Two)' as 2005 albums. But I don't think we are. And yes, I know I missed off 'Silent Alarm' and 'Employment', but they were shite. And yes, I know I missed off 'Dangerous & Moving', but this isn't a top 16 is it? Let's blame 'Gomenasai' and 'Craving'. And I haven't heard 'I'm A Bird Now' because I'm a cunt, so I couldn't place that.