J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Playlists, podcasts and music from WQFS Greensboro's J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

j's indie/rock mayhem - 21st december 2005

[so here we are, yet again. the cream of the crop. they rise to the top. none of these are played out as if their name were sega. these are the 25 best albums of 2005 that you heard on this show over the past year.

to be fair, there are some records omitted from this list simply because i didn't have a chance to hear them before making the list. if, for instance, i had heard the national's alligator album earlier than, oh, yesterday, it would've definitely been on my list. but that's the nature of doing this as a hobby. you don't have all the time in the world. i don't let it bother me.

we're trying something new tonight. at the top of posts tonight and in the future, there will be direct download links to download podcasts of this show. in other words, mp3 files of the radio show. they will be split up into each hour so that you can burn them to cd if you so choose. it's an experiment. give me feedback on how it sounds and what i can do to improve it. i appreciate it.

finally, in the comments, let's hear your new years resolutions. i'm taking next week off, so j's indie/rock blog is going on a holiday hiatus until my next show on january 4th, 2006. lots of exciting new things coming up for the show in the coming year, so stay tuned.

and now, my friends, onward.]


J's Indie/Rock Mayhem Top 25 of 2005 Part 1 (right click to save to harddrive)

J's Indie/Rock Mayhem Top 25 of 2005 Part 2 (right click to save to harddrive)

25. Nickel Creek - Why Should the Fire Die? : Darlings of the new-grass movement make their first really outstanding album. Attention genre-purists: is it any wonder that the best albums in rock history transcended description and charged through styles like a chain smoker in a Waffle House? Nickel Creek has talent to burn, although they need to watch their backs. Had the Avett Brother’s Mignonette been released this year, they might not have made it. But as it is, welcome to the fold. Now keep moving forward. Played: “Helena”

24. The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree : John Darnielle’s third release for the 4AD label is an absolute triumph. I remember when people worried that the move to better production and fuller band would actually ruin Darnielle’s songs. When you’re a good songwriter, the format is the least of your worries. The strength comes through. And on this record, the production and band help make this the best of his 4AD albums thus far. The amazing songs don’t hurt either. Played: “This Year”

23. Brendan Benson - The Alternative to Love : Power-pop had its champions this year, thank goodness, as Semisonic hasn’t released an album in awhile and that Fountains of Wayne 2-cd odds and sods collection just didn’t cut it. But here was Brendan Benson’s quite hyped album. I saw ads for this things on nearly every on-line music rag I read and some print ads to boot. However, the bottom line is this is a great, great piece of pop songwriting. It’s not the highest ranking album in this genre on the list, but it’s definitely worthy. Played: “Spit It Out”

22. Richard Hawley - Cole's Corner : Crooning often appears as a kind of joke, a way of singing so out of touch, so out of date, so overly emotive (and not in a cool, whiney way) that its very appearance anywhere is a laugh. But Hawley croons and his music goes right along with it. Orchestrated, soft and intricate, a man who a handful know mostly as a touring guitarist for Pulp (and most not even for that) has released a gorgeous, audaciously classic record of structured pop music. This record is not for everyone. But those who find it, will find it and hold it close. A true rainy day record if there ever were such a thing. Played: “Just Like the Rain”

21. Little Brother - The Minstrel Show : I’ve had a certain belief in North Carolina hip-hop ever since I met a guy named Charles in my senior AP English class and since my friend Andrew began making his own kitchen sink hip-hop. That fervent hope has finally hit its apex in The Minstrel Show. Lucid, sharp, and infectious, Little Brother has thwarted the sophomore slump and topped their firebrand debut with a stunning shot across the bow of over-hyped, over-materialistic, over-stereotypical commercial hip-hop. Played: “Beautiful Morning”/”The Becoming”

20. The Finks - More Songs About Robots and Black Things : The second North Carolina artist on my list is no stranger to it. The Finks debut was #25 last year and on first listen I honestly didn’t think this year’s entry would make it. But something happened as I listened recently. The post-punk deconstruction of song structure, the way vocals and guitars grind in ebbs and flows, sharp peaks and low valleys, the album grows. The Finks are becoming a truly ferocious band and there’s definitely more to come. Played: “Wake Up”

19. Archer Prewitt - Wilderness : If there’s an album on this list that Wilderness has the most in common with, it’s probably Cole’s Corner. Prewitt is not a crooner. His voice is very soft, plaintive, coercive. His music, however, is just one masterfully arranged piece after another. His ties to his band alma mater, the Sea and Cake, are obvious when you compare them, but his music takes a more organic approach than the last band albums. The result is one of most comfortable listens of the year. Played: “O, KY”

18. The Clientele - Strange Geometry : The man who sold me this album described it as one of the perfect sunny day driving albums. Thankfully, on the way home from my purchase, it was a crisp, sunny fall day. I put Strange Geometry on and settled back. The floating feeling one gets listening to it doesn’t go away with repeated listens. Played: “Since K Got Over Me”

17. John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt : What a year for change. I was very decidedly not a fan of John Vanderslice when 2005 began. That all changed with Pixel Revolt. Wisps of electronic flutterings over top of some of the most subtle and intricate guitar and the words of a sincere storyteller. Small bits of a larger tale. John Vanderslice, I apologize. Played: “Trance Manual”

16. Nada Surf - The Weight is a Gift : The one-hit-wonder-as-indicator-of-talent meme has long been eradicated. Add to the list of great, talented bands with one-hit to their name this one: Nada Surf. Their sophomore effort showed promise and 2003's Let Go showed real accomplishment. The Weight is a Gift is the icing on the cake. Alternative power-pop that goes down sleek, hearts shining on sleeves and eyes locked to the sky. Played: “Do It Again”

15. Supergrass - Road to Rouen : Is this Supergrass’ finest hour? Possibly. Of course, I, personally, only count their self-titled album as any sort of mis-step. Every one of their other four albums is a tremendous effort. Ramshackle pop, Beatles tomfoolery, Kinks collision. Road to Rouen is their record of maturation, one sly, earnest wink at a time. Played: “St. Petersburg”

14. Spoon - Gimme Fiction : Do I take up the mantle to argue that this record trumps Kill the Moonlight? That’s the question that has rattled me since really tearing into this album. Spoon really expands (much to their benefit) on this album and it soars. “I Turn My Camera On” is the shining gem, but the whole album moves to a different beat. There’s something purposeful in every note. Played: “Two Sides/Monsieur Valentine”

13. The Perceptionists - Black Dialogue : Hip-hop took a bit of a year off with only a handful of really strong releases spotted throughout a year of mindless commercial excess. The exceptions to the rule were amazing. “Memorial Day” is the protest song of the year, without a doubt. The most easily chantable chorus and unabashed name-taking on the part of Mr. Lif and Akrobatik. ‘Frostbite funk,’ as it was so cleverly dubbed in an earlier review. The beats are cold and relentless. The rhymes are sharp and acidic. The music is great, the lyrics are topical and on top. Why isn’t this giving Kanye a run? Played: “Memorial Day”

12. The Decemberists - Picaresque : The flip side of “Memorial Day” was “16 Military Wives,” the more subtle, yet equally eviscerating protest track. As an English teacher, I live for lyrics like Colin Meloy’s. Small, epic short stories in every song and the literate details of a writer, not a lyricist. And the music lifts every word to its absolute height before letting it settle in the sea. On their way to Capitol Records for their next album, it’s no surprise the Decemberists are bound for bigger things. Played: “16 Military Wives”

11. Citified - Citified : The third North Carolina artist on the list. Citified roared, to me at least, out of nowhere, even if they were there all the time. Even if Chris Jackson came from Lookwell, another wonderful NC band, and it really wasn’t a shock that this self-titled debut was as good as it was. How it was good is another story. Short songs that connect and leave, barely giving time to recoil from the hazy chords. The Smiths, My Morning Jacket, Echo and the Bunnymen. All these things come to mind, but Citified is not a facsimile. They are the logical extension. There are great things afoot. Played: “Secret Knock”

10. Devin Davis - Lonely People of the World, Unite! : Really, I’m almost sad that I heard “Iron Woman” before I heard anything else. Easily my favorite song of 2005, it set an impossibly high standard for the rest of Davis’ debut album. But he managed to deliver. Nothing on this album is as immediate as “Iron Woman,” which also is the lead track, but there’s nothing that disappoints. Like any great power-pop record where some tracks will naturally engage more than others, Lonely People of the World, Unite is a blitzkrieg of brilliant pop production, hooks galore and clever, rollicking wordplay. Mr. Power-Pop 2005, you’ve earned your crown. Played: “Iron Woman”

9. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Cold Roses : It’s been awhile. Since Heartbreaker, actually, but I think it’s safe to say that 2005 was Ryan Adams’ year. Three, count ‘em, three albums released in one year is not usually a good sign for Adams, but each one was stellar in its own right. So why then, J., is only the first one, Cold Roses, included on your list? Jacksonville City Nights certainly deserves its dues. 29 came just a bit late in the year (Dec. 20th) for me to be able to fairly take it into account. Cold Roses is where Ryan dug up the bones of Whiskeytown’s full band work and made it happen again. It’s loose, it’s warm and inviting and most of all the songwriting really, really connects. Adams is great at being a chameleon, a wearer of many coats and styles. This one fit him better than any in quite some time and it showed. Played: “If I Am a Stranger”

8. Crooked Fingers - Dignity and Shame : North Carolina artist number 4. This is Eric Bachman’s crowning achievement. This is the best Crooked Fingers record to date. “Twlight Creeps” is a song for the ages. “Call for Love” is the Springsteen rocker we’ve been aching for him to really nail. The whole album is a yearning, bursting beast of americana, roots-rock, and spanish influence. And the closing title track is as good as it gets. Simple, reluctant, begging. Dignity and Shame is the real deal. Played: “Twilight Creeps”

7. Common - Be : Common, welcome back. Listen, man, Electric Circus was cool and everything but you were everywhere. I have to give you props for proving you can reign it in. Be is one of the tightest, most focused hip-hop records I’ve heard in ages. The production sizzles (thank you, Kanye) and the tracks feel and flow seamlessly. And not only did you come up with one of the year’s absolute hottest songs (“The Corner”), you came up with two (“The Food”)! Common, you are in charge this year, my friend. Sincerely, J. P.S. “Chi-City” won’t leave my head for days. Please make another record next year so I can resolve that. Played: “The Food “ (live)

6 (tie). Iron and Wine - Woman King EP / Iron and Wine and Calexico - In the Reins : You want to really mess a reviewer up? Release two albums in the same year, one featuring you paired with another excellent artist, make them both transcendently remarkable and then make people choose between them. Well, the joke’s on you, Sam Beam. I refuse. Mainly because the Woman King EP and the In the Reins EP are equally brilliant. There is no one over the other. Sam Beam stepped up with the Iron and Wine moniker this year and took it places he hadn’t explored before. The bluesy, electrified shuffle of “Woman King” was a jolt to the system. On the other end, the southwestern malaise of Calexico that covers “Sixteen, Maybe Less” was a godsend. Both records are the winner of many a night in my cd player, softly winning me to slumber. And that’s a very high compliment. Played: “Woman King” and “A History of Lovers”

5. Josh Rouse - Nashville : It’s a bold thing when an artist says ‘goodbye’ to a city or location that so nourished and raised him. Josh Rouse’s au revoir to Nashville is no exception. Rouse has spent his last few records refining and defining a sound, even reveling in the terminally uncool sounds of some of his 70s influences and making them into the tremendous 1972 album. Nashville is the album where everything from his first four albums gels into the final, finished product. Revisiting one old song, channeling old themes, and bursting out my second favorite lead track of the year (the near flawless “It’s the Nighttime”), this is the album that could win whole legions of people in his wake. I said it last time and I’ll say it again: if you haven’t caught Josh Rouse yet, you’re letting him slip by. American singer/songwriters don’t get much better than him. Played: “It’s the Nighttime”

4. Kathleen Edwards - Back to Me : Kathleen’s previous release, 2003's remarkable Failer, was my number one of that year. Back to Me is every bit as good if not better than that record. But it’s still a holding pattern. And that’s what keeps it out of number one contention again. But, this is a remarkable record. Kathleen Edwards is a superb, unique and detailed songwriter. “Summerlong” is one of the most melancholy songs I’ve heard in ages, mining the rich fields of regret and desire equally. “Independent Thief” burns with a slow, raging desperation that explodes across the canvas. Even the “Six O’Clock”-news revisited of “In State” is a move forward. There is nothing not to like about this wonderfully crafted piece of roots rock. Played: “Independent Thief”

3. Tiger Bear Wolf - Tiger Bear Wolf : North Carolina artist number 5. And this is the one that really floored me. Post-punk is such a wide, sometimes barren expanse of modern music. The high points are so few and far between that it becomes tiresome, a seeming waste of time. Then you get saved. You are converted from the despair. Tiger Bear Wolf converted me this year. Classic rock, blues, post-punk. It all goes into a blender that churns out massive songs that pay no heed to conventional self-consciousness about image or going too far. The vocals sometimes fall back in the mix, strangled, fighting for every inch of turf above the guitars and drums. When the words emerge it’s in cluttered, fractured phrases. From opener to finish there’s not a moment to breathe and that’s exactly what makes a great rock and roll record. “I Bed Down” and “I Think I Heard Her Body Sing” are the best closing songs on an album this year and any record that can go pole to pole without slackening is a rarity indeed. This is what making music is all about. Played: “I Bed Down”

2. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema : The crafters of the only song to contend with “Iron Woman” this year, the remarkable “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” the New Pornographers are indeed crafting a new type of porn. Songs that are a guilty, almost dirty pleasures to listen to infest this entire record. “Listening too long to one song,” goes the refrain from the aforementioned “Sing Me Spanish Techno” and indeed, that sums up nearly the entire album. “Jackie, Dressed in Cobras” shows off Dan Bejar’s impressive work, piano driving home the shifting, pounding, percussive hits of guitar along the way. Make no mistake that this is the best Pornographers record to date and the mere fact that it would not leave my cd player is proof enough of its earned place near the top of the list. Played: “Jackie, Dressed in Cobras”

1. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods : I made a comment back in 2002 when Sleater-Kinney’s previous album One Beat was my number 2 of that year that I felt like it was a great record, but not what they could do. I felt there was something waiting to come out. Their records had been too similar for too long, even as they fine-tuned their unique and driving formula. It took until 2005 to find the answer, but The Woods is the definitive statement from, possibly, America’s best rock band. The classic, arena rock influences of the Who run wild on this album. Big, distorted tidal waves of songs. Even the deceptively sunny “Modern Girl” begins to fuzz out into hazy, blissful disillusionment towards the end. There is no mistaking this album for any band but Sleater-Kinney however. This is the sound of an independent band taking everything they learned from years as indie-darlings and finally combining that with the big time rock and roll themes that they were desperate to expose. “Entertain” calls all the would-be post-punkers that clog MTV and commercial radio at their own game, berating them with the all too precise lines: “You come around looking 1972, you’re nothing new, 1972. Where’s the ‘fuck you?’ Where’s the black and blue?” Indeed, where is that ‘fuck you’ spirit? It’s right here in an album called The Woods. Congratulations, ladies. Played: “Entertain”

Other Artists Whose Albums I Really Enjoyed This Year (In Word Perfect's Idea of Alphabetical Order): Andrew Bird, Ani DiFranco, Autopassion, Blackalicious, Blind Boys of Alabama, Bloc Party, Bob Mould, Dawn Chorus, Denison Witmer, Dwight Yoakam, Glen Phillips, Greg Dulli, Idlewild, John Doe, M. Ward, Mando Diao, Marah, Medications, Michael Penn, My Morning Jacket, Portastatic, Rogue Wave, Ryan Adams (his other two released this year), Smog, Son Volt, Stephen Malkmus, Surfjan Stevens, Teenage Fanclub, The National, The Rosebuds, The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up, The Everybodyfields, The Tears, The Darkness, The Kills and Vashti Bunyan.



  • At 7:53 PM, December 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Jay, nice picks a years worth of wendsdays at six, outstanding. So........ how do we get com radio to even glimse the energy and dedication that QFS brings to the electrons at hand?? untill then wendsdays at six you are on. Mark on the parkway.

  • At 4:59 PM, December 31, 2005, Blogger Satisfied '75 said…

    great list!

  • At 8:45 AM, April 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey, I know I'm three years late but I was just checking over your old top 25 lists and was wondering if you listened to any of the stuff by Wolf Parade, CYHSY, Sigur Ros, Sufjan Stevens, Stars, or Broken Social Scene.... All of those bands put out albums that I really love in 05.

    Great list! Keep up the good work - your blog is awesome!

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