Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The ten popular music albums you should have bought in 2005

I really didn’t set out to make a top-ten list. It just turned out that I had ten albums that I’d give my unqualified seal of approval. Honest, if I'd only had seven, that's what I would have said.

(Listed by artist, in reverse alphabetical order.)

The White Stripes • Get Behind Me Satan
Even though Elephant is still my favorite Stripes set, this is their most listenable album top-to-bottom. Does that mean they’ve gone and sold out? Not at all. Jack White loves to play the blues. He can’t contain his love. It’s infectious and charismatic, and I’ll just keep stepping up to the counter with my cash money as long as he can keep up anything close to this level.

Spoon • Gimme Fiction
Spoon has building up momentum for the last couple years. This is where you can see that they’re really ready for the big time. Pop hooks that are smart as hell.

Louis XIV • The Best Little Secrets Are Kept
Dirty. Filthy Dirty. Fun. Filthy Sexy Dirty. Still Fun. This is good album to put on to test if your girlfriend has a sense of humor. Just be prepared in case she doesn’t. Just to be sure, strut around making Mick Jagger lips while you sing along just to make it very clear.

LCD Soundsystem • LCD Soundsystem
I normally can’t listen to anything inspired by electronica, let alone listen to electronica itself. This one showed me the possibilities. I swear, I’ll be a 50 year-old goofball in 15 years, and I’ll still be dancing around the house to “Disco Infiltrator” and “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House.” (It’s unclear if I’ll remember who Daft Punk were.) (Or how to dance.)

Jack Johnson • In Between Dreams
Am I embarrassed to admit that I love Jack Johnson? Hmmm....I think I am, but I think I do. I’ve never been a big follower of the singer/songwriter genre, but as Burt Bacharach once argued, you should never be ashamed of a good melody. That’s what Johnson brings, and this is a consistently great album, even if it lacks the single song that I can point to as my favorite. He writes good songs, and records them well to get the most out very simple vocals. This is your Sunday morning, wake-up-late and stay-in-your-pajamas music.

Gogol Bordello • Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike
I’ve been a fan of these guys for a while, and if you’re going to cherry pick for tracks, I’d recommend other things from their past as well. But this album is just top-to-bottom solid, proving once and for all that the Bordello can just bring the ethnic acoustic punk anytime.

Blackalicious • The Craft
I’ve already reviewed this. These guys seem single-handedly committed to saving hip hop from itself this year.

Andrew Bird • The Mysterious Production of Eggs
Now for something completely different. Mysterious, lyrical, lovely. Andrew Bird was a random lucky find this year. Eggs is the concept album that defies all classification. Suffice it to say that Bird gets my votes for best songwriting, and most original album of the year. Maybe not for everybody, but the music connoisseur wouldn’t miss it.

Beck • Guero
It’s Beck, yo. He’s, like, a pop genius, in case you haven’t heard.

Fiona Apple • Extraordinary Machine
Fiona Apple did not need to be rescued. Still, thank goodness she finally released this gem. As a personality, Apple is capable of driving me crazy with her self-absorption. As a musician, she can do things with a voice and a piano that literally tickle my senses. I don’t know how the sales figures will turn out in the end. This doesn’t fall neatly into any pop classification. But I don’t care. I think she kicks ass.


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