Richard Hughes' Top 10 of 2005
So, it's that time of year for the lists of your favourite albums and, unlike my fellow contributor Tobias Rogers, I'm going for a straight rundown of the records that have made me dance, sing and cry (maybe).
I'll also preface this by saying I think it's been a great year for music, though my feeling has been that our American cousins have stolen the march on us in terms of trying something different. This year pretty much consolidated the UK as the centre of skinny guys with guitars and there were a couple of bands that did this very well but there was also some bands that hoped on the band wagon in a vain attempt to make the record companies money. Anyway, let's begin...
Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
This is, by a long shot, my favourite album of the year. It has everything you could want from intelligent, witty lyrics to catchy riffs and songs you can listen to no matter what mood you're in. It's these lyrics that make it listenable at any time, from recounting tales of drunken nights that go your way to times when you've lost your girl and can only think of her with someone else. The Futureheads may have started it, but Maximo Park have raised the bar. With lead singer Paul Smith they have unearthed a new indie icon and maybe even popularised the comb over hair-do.
Editors - The Back Room
Maybe unfairly labelled as Interpol imitators, their debut album shone with more energy than the last 'Pol record. Showing their ability to keep people interested even when they slowed things down, the lyrics are infinitely more interesting than their contempories and they possess a front man with the unique combination of charisma and a little bit of madness. View a live review here.
Martha Wainwright - s/t
A talented family the Wainwright’s, whilst her brother was making gentle, beautiful records hinted with darkness so, too, was his little sister. For a debut album this shows remarkable depth and skill and her voice is an amazing instrument in its own. It helps that there's some humour involved too, but it doesn't detract from what should be a huge talent in the future. Beck Kingsnorth reviewed the record here.
The Decemberists - Picaresque
Didn't really get much press over her, this Canadian group have been making some amazing records and EP's recently and this album distilled what they've being doing over the last couple of years. An album of mini-stories in each track accompanied by organs, guitars and lead singer Colin Meloy's edgy warble of a voice create a unique listen, "The Bagman's Gambit" could be one of the most beautiful Bonnie & Clyde style songs of the year.
Ryan Adams - Cold Roses
Genius or self-indulgent wanker? In all truth, probably a bit of both but you can't take away the fact that he released three records this year, one a double, but this was the record that seemed to distil what was best about Ryan; catchy lyrics and his unique take on the Country music genre that made up for last years lack lustre Rock n Roll. The question is, what's he going to do next?
Deerhoof - The Runners Four
I was lucky enough to review this record earlier in the year and it blew me away. A collection of such varying songs and styles that it was hard to classify, but it felt so original that I've done nothing but lend it and recommend it to friends, sure it won't appeal to everyone, but it's beauty will reveal itself to those who want it!
The Constantines - Tournament of Hearts
With all the hype surrounding Black Mountain's debut album of what, to me, sounded like classic rock covers, I'm surprised this record hasn't been championed more. Maybe a more left-field take on the rock genre, this is a rockin' beast of an album full of foot-taping rhythms and catchy guitar riffs with a lead singer who sounds like he's been smoking since the day he was born. Listen to "Hotline Operator" and let me know if the guitar doesn't want to make you jump round the room like a fool.
Sufjan Stevens - Come on feel the Illinoise!
An amazing and ambitious record that can never fail to leave you feeling lost and awed in Stevens' songs about the American State of Illinoise. Whether he'll ever finish his project of an album about every state in the US (even he's admitted it might be a bit too much) he's made, almost, the great American record here using what seems like every instrument he can lay his hands on to create layer upon layer of music to wash over his lyrically rich songs.
Elbow - Leaders of the Free World
Elbow's third album upped the ante after the lack lustre Cast of Thousands. Taking the intimacy of the lyrics from their debut and pairing it with a more "Wall of Sound" approach to the music, they've created an impressive and moving record. With the songs "Station Approach" and "My Very Best" you can hear the heartache for not just past loves but also for your family and home.
Lou Barlow - Emoh
This album didn't initially strike me when I first played it, but it's worked its way into my head over the past 12 months. The ex-Dinosaur Jnr member has created a lo-fi album of songs that may poke fun at the new "alternative" crowd (the album title being a play on the Emo genre) but there are plenty of his characteristically elegent comments on relationships and love gone wrong.
To narrow this down to ten has been really hard and I have to mention a few albums that have impressed me this year but didn't quite make it:
Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better
Proof that a second album can actually be better than a debut.
Arcade Fire - Funeral
Mad as a bag of badgers, but fun too, "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" could be my single of the year.
The Rakes - Capture/Release
Catchy, clever and intelligent comment on life in 21st century Britain.
My Morning Jacket - Z
Proving they're no one-trick pony, this was a record with an epic vision.
dEUS - Pocket Revolution
They've been around for a while, but these Antwerp-based indie stalwarts returned with an album briming with ideas and riffs.
As a footnote, I also have to mention that there's been no alleged pressure from the Editorial team to influence my choices...