Not only I am a bandwagon jumper, this week I am a lazy bloggist. But what of it? Everyone else spends this time of year making vaguely spurious lists of Things That Were Good In The Last Twelve Months, and why should I be any different? I always do what the cool kids are doing. Therefore, before I light up another cigarette and go and deface some public property, pray allow me to present you with my own top ten items. Tim has already made a damn fine inventory of bitchin' books, so here is some music what I done listened to this year. It's not necessarily a definitive list, mind you, as I tend to a) forget half the stuff I've heard, and b) change my mind fairly often. I would invite you to disagree with my choices as you see fit, music being a broad church with many altars and all that; I would, if I actually gave a damn about your opinions. So: settle back and be told what was good, philistines.
In no particular order, other than numerical -
10. Lullabys To Paralyze, Queens of the Stone Age
I'd dismissed the Queens' latest offering almost out of hand after comparing it to its predecessor, Songs for the Deaf. Such a contrast is rather unfair, though, given that scientists have since proven it can actually be harmful to your health to rock any harder than than Songs did. On subsequent listenings, LtP improves quite a bit: there is still a good deal of filler material, and I miss Nick Oliveri from the line-up, but otherwise it's good, fun, sweaty, stoner rock.
9. Takk..., Sigur Ros
Sigur Ros told a great big fib in the PR lead-up to the release of Takk..., saying that it was going to take the band in a new, more contemporary direction. I for one am pleased about the lie. Takk... is more of the same (i.e. hypnotic counter-tenor wailing about sad trolls), but the same is pretty good stuff. It's far more accessible (and pronounceable) than ( ), and has some great rock moments. For melodic, trippy Icelandic post-rock like mother never used to make, you can't go past this one.
8. Silent Alarm, Bloc Party
It's tres chic to hate Bloc Party, them being very 'of the moment' and 'derivative' and all that. Don't let their critics put you off, though - nothing I've read or heard changes the fact that they are a well-oiled, dance-punk playing machine: hell of fun to listen to.
7. Picaresque, The Decemberists
Literate, lyrical pop-folky songs about lovelorn spys, lovelorn ghosts, and lovelorn whalers and the whales they hunt (who may or may not be lorn of love).
6. The Mysterious Production of Eggs, Andrew Bird
How many rhymes can there possibly be for 'formaldehyde'? Andrew Bird knows, and makes full use of them. Like Picaresque, this is another storybook sort of indie album, full of wit and surprising musical combinations, which manages to be both frivolous without being annoying, and emotional without being sentimental.
5. Z, My Morning Jacket
A little bit country, and rather more rock and roll, Z lurches through a series of highly eclectic styles. Now raucous and bombastic, now smoother than a velvet buttock, My Morning Jacket's latest opus is filled with twitchy licks, dream-like Calliope organ keyboards, and some decently bitchin' hooks. Listening is an experience somewhat akin to being lost in a fairground filled with toothy, bearded carnies offering if not good times, then at least interesting ones.
4. Broken Social Scene, Broken Social Scene
So good, they named it after themselves. Completely self-indulgent, over-the-top, and clamouring, BSS nevertheless comes together very satisfyingly. Fans of My Bloody Valentine should enjoy this one. It's complex, spontaneous and chaotic fun, although the last few tracks lose coherency a bit.
3. Illinois, Sufjan Stevens
Concept albums, like hurried lovers, usually come and go, but Stevens has promised 48 more in the same vein with his 'write an album about every state in the Union' project. Imagine Paul Simons crossed with Wilco, or Jack Johnson if he was actually good, and you should get the general idea: it's postmodern folk music, but apparently shorn of the irony and archness usually associated with all things postmodern. Illinois is about the Chicago World's Fair, Superman, Lincoln, John Wayne Gacy, dead friends, unappreciated stepmothers, musical epiphanies - all dwelled upon in Steven's gentle, sincere tones with full orchestral backing; it really shouldn't work, and it really does, and does so well.
2. Funeral, The Arcade Fire
Some may say I'm cheating, because this album was released first in the States in 2004. To them I reply, "Fuck you, pedants". The Arcade Fire do not put the 'fun' back in 'funeral', because I doubt any of its members have had fun, ever. This is a band who spends their time being angsty and Canadian, and that is no bad thing. These insular, urgent, structurally complex post-folk punk tunes about the way we perceive the world as children rock out pretty damn hard. Buy this album and keep front-man Win Butler in the Strepsils he must surely require.
1. Twin Cinema, The New Pornographers.
Twin Cinema just makes you want to jump up and down and enjoy yourself, and then sit down and try and work out what in the hell the lyrics are all about. It's all so upbeat and fast-paced that one can easily miss how much work has been put in to make each track appear effortless - as if the band was just sitting around jamming, and somehow managed to insert a series of breathtaking key changes and a maddeningly catchy chorus without noticing it themselves. It's friendly, exciting, and incredibly clever without needing to show off. Much like me.
Well, that's it. I was also going to post a list of enemies I intend to ensure don't see the new year, but that would be spoiling the surprise. Should you not be on that list, let me join my good wishes to Tim's in the post below; here's to an entirely nifty 2006, and many thanks to those who didn't feel the need to run off and wash their eyeballs after reading.