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Now in our sixth calendar year
PCR #301  (Vol. 6, No. 52) This edition is for the week of December 26--31, 2005.

The History of Miami International Airport--Part 3....2005 Index
 by William Moriaty
Also see This issue's La Fla supplemental piece
"Brokeback Mountain"
 by Mike Smith
Walking the Fine Line...
 by Mike "Deadguy" Scott
Wow, 2005 Really Did Exist!...Finally Getting Their Due....A Thought for 2006
 by Vinnie Blesi
The Top 20 Albums of 2005
 by Terence Nuzum
One New Life
 by Mark Terry
The Beginning and the End: Ups and Downs From The Year 2005 .... Gaming .... Politics
 by Joshua Montgomery
The Top 10 Things That Pissed Me Off In 2005
 by Nick King
Bush: The Spy....Happy New Year
 by Matt Drinnenberg
The Year That Was....Thank You....Passing On....Coach Dungy....Good Stuff....On Deck....Say What?
 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
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The Audio Philes by Terence Nuzum

The Top 20 Albums of 2005

The Audio Philes is intended to focus on music history, but we're making an exception this week to use this space to review this year's top albums. ---Terence Nuzum

Going in order from #20 to #1, they are:

20. The Decemberists: Picaresque - Adding Ben Hibbard as producer was to some either a blessing or a failure. Actually, though, it's a little of both. Where Hibbard adds polish to Colin Meloy's tales of shipwrecked sailor's revenge and school sports he also dogs the album with a bland sameness that has made Hibbard's own band Death Cab For Cutie so dull lately. But it's Meloy's genius storytelling that shines through which keeps the Decemberists above the pack.

19. Edan: Beauty and the Beat - Where most people go wrong is that they think they know or listen to rap. The watered down thug corporate image that the radio and MTV feeds the public has nothing on this album. Nothing. Using samples like an art collage and attacking Lenny Kravitz credibility (he had that?) Edan proves that you can still be a rapper and not have an IQ as low as 50 Cent.

18. Cleintele: Strange Geometry - On first listen I was undeneibaly unimpressed. I must have been in the wrong mood to have passed up on the simplicit greatness of this english bands take on europop. Evoking Power Curroption and Lies era New Order and even a little Serge Gainsburough they crafted a quiet masterpiece.

17. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: Cold Roses - The first of three albums released by the prolific Adams in 2005. Unvieling his stellar back up band the Cardinals Adams melds Heartbreaker era ballads with Grateful Dead guitar noodling for this double album statement.

16. Stephen Malkmus: Face the Truth - Malkmus & the Jicks last record took along time to settle on me. A year to be exact. There was just something missing about it. This record found it for me. It was missing fun. The kind of devil may care attitude from Malkmus' Pavement days. Except with a dose of full on psychedelic guitar and the immortal line "I want my alka seltzer!"
15. Spoon: Gimme Fiction - Spoon have undegone a miraculous growth period from a jittery indie rock band with Kingsmen influence to barrel house piano garage rockers to the current form a jazzy art ensemble to rival Wilco.
14. The Boy Least Likely To: The Best Party Ever - Melding Beat Happenings nursery ryhme lyrics about papercuts and monsters with California Dreamesque pop Boy Least Likely To produced the best album of the year in the current twee pop revival.
13. Silver Jews: Tanglewood Numbers - Propelled by frontman Bermans addiction problems it still never comes off as a downer. From Berman's Johnny Cash meets Dylan vocal stlyings to ex-Pavement members Bob Nastanovich's quirky percussion all work due to Stephen Malkmus's glorious guitar solos.
12.Sleater-Kinney: The Woods - When the gals go hardcore they really go hardcore. The full on thunder of the opening track "The Fox" has rarely been heard in rock of late. Mixing in pop ditties among the fury works perfectly. And be in awe of the 11 minute psychedelic guitar workout "Lets Call It Love".
11. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Sounding like David Byrne backed by Orange Juice this is like an 80s band that should have been. Grouped in with the loose group of the twee pop revival they transcend that image and are instead something entirely more bizarre.
10. The Hold Steady: Separation Sunday - This kind of rauchy pub rock wouldn't have much weight if it except when its accented by singer Craig Finn's Kerouac like travelouge. Using a loose tale about a born again Christian punk girl and her many encounters the Hold Steadys greatest achievement is how much it feels like you just read a novel. All of us in Tampa can thank Finn for immortalizing our own hive of scum and villiany with the lyric " how did you come to end up here in Ybor City......it seemed like a simple place to score".
9. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: Jacksonville City Nights - While Cold Roses was a little bloated this follow up proves that Adams still has balls enough to release an entire album of true honky tonk. This isn't wussy whiny country ballads but instead grizzled Merle Haggard like love lorn laments. The kind where you just picture the rain on the streets and the smoky haze of a bar.
8. Animal Collective: Feels - Branching put from the freak folk scene that spawned them, The Collective don't so much give up the weird drumming, percussion and vocal stylings as add them to actual pop tunes. Some of the songs sound like downright normal indie rock but it's evident as the awkward drum solo that cuts into the chorus on "Grass" that this could only be the Animal Collective. And there's more than just a hint of '60s girl groups and "Dream Angel" influnces hidden underneath the wierdness.
7. Serena Maneesh: Serena Maneesh - If Kevin Shields legendary band My Bloody Valentine ever though they were untouchable then they need to think again. From shoegazer tracks, ambient pop, to heavy Ministry inspired rave-ups this group shows that legends can be toppled. Maybe now Shields will be forced to hold his own and finish that long awaited follow-up to Loveless.
6. Broken Social Scene: Broken Social Scene - Droppinng the indie pop of their prvious release BSC go back to their first jammier album for inspiration. More of a combination of the two, its organic nature on such tracks as the seeminly could be electroclash "Fire Eyed Boy" make this an interesting hybrid. Kinda like a lo-fi Kid A.
5. Devendra Banhart: Cripple Crow - Golden child of the freak folk movement Banhart went and pulled a Dylan at Newport. Instead of pure acoustic zany folk Banhart and guests (various member of freak folk bands) mix in electric folk rockers amongst the breezy acoustic tunes and the Django Rheinhart like latin numbers. Banhart's greatest album thus far. We know where Dylan went after Newport so keeping an eye on Banhart will be a must.
4. The New Pornographers: Twin Cinema - Power pop is a lost art. Big Star and the Raspberries were the forefathers (and Badfinger too!) but few have sucessfully grabbed the torch. In the '90s we had The Posies but in the new millenium (where Sloan dropped the ball) the throne was acquired by one and one only, the New Pornographers. Where the albums Mass Romantic and Electric Version fell short was in ambtion. On Twin Cinemas, where maybe the songs dont quiet beat Mass Romatic, the Pornos reach for the stars. The power truly comes out in the pop. "Use It" is my vote for best pop song of the year.
3. Okkervil River: Black Sheep Boy - Named after a Tim Hardin tune from the 1960s Okkervils River's latest is an awesome creation to behold. Imagine if you will a mature and tasteful Bright Eyes. Then mix it up with a young Leonard Cohen. You are almost there. Based around themes of lonliness, alienation, and abuse, it is also one of the most honest albums of the year.
2. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois - If punk was against all things bloated and pompous in the '70s and was a back to basics movement then it was only logical that post punk would add more elaborate tunes and keyboards. It comes as no surprise then that post punk's child indie rock has embraced Prog-rock ambitions. From the Fiery Furnaces odd Zappa like experiments to the Mars Voltas unabashed love of Emerson Lake and Palmer there's no hiding it. That being said Sufjan Stevens 50 state project beginning with Michigan has continued with Illinois. Stevens embelishes tales of the state's history from UFO sigthings, Abe Lincoln, to John Wayne Gacy with strings, flutes, a choir and trumpets. Each song is embedded with its own kind of character making the album a tour de force. At 73 mins long its an enormous project that will continue next year with California. 50 state project? Choirs? Trumpets? Urban tales? If that's not Prog rock then what is Jethro Tull and Gabriel-era Genesis?

1. The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan - So why did this beat out Sufjan Stevens perfect not a note missed masterwork? Well just that. Something has always lured us more to raw cavemen rock 'n roll than god-like perfection. Maybe it's that we feel closer to its simplicity or that it's dumbed down and easier or maybe it's that old "I could play that part..." mentality. More likely it's because it's so much more fun. The Stripes' last album was too close to that Led Zeppelin 4 unattainabilty to ever connect with anyone. But on Get Behind Me Satan they pull a genius and dangerous move. They throw out the guitar heriocs and remember that the piano was once a tool of rock 'n roll too. From boogie woogie to sad Gershwinian ballads Jack and Meg have finally brought Tin Pan Alley and their love of marimbas, xylophones, and the 1930s to the mainstream. When a guitar does make an appearance its in weird abstract spurts that appear and just as qucikly dissapear. Except on "Instinct Blues" which is exactly what it says. What, it's not rock enough for you? You can't head bang to the piano rolls? Look Jerry Lee Lewis in the eye and say that. Go ahead, I dare you.

"The Audio Philes" is ©2005 by Terence Nuzum.   All graphics (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.