Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Now that Pazz & Jop is out, paradoxically enough, I feel fit to comment on my albums list. For the first time since I began voting, in 1998, I didn’t send in any comments. This is for much the same reason that I took down the 2005 keeping-track blog in October: things just seemed too dire to track that closely. I’ve said elsewhere that 2005 was a dispiriting year, and looking back I know I have no one to blame but myself. Metal’s in a renaissance stage, according to my metal friends, so much so that even I can see/hear it (there’s a reason Decibel is the practically the only U.S. music mag I actively look forward to reading these days, and it’s not only the writing)--except I never listen to the stuff, partly because I’m clueless without signposts and partly because even when I like it I find myself in admiration-not-love mode. (Many of my metal friends probably feel the same way about the dance stuff I enjoy, and that’s completely understandable.) The worst thing about 2005 as a pop year for me was that I found myself in that mode for things that, normally, I actively enjoy. Is that my fault or the music’s? Both, I’d say. Maybe if I were more confident in my jazz ears or metal ears I’d have felt differently--certainly jazz and techno were the two genres-as-genres I got the most pleasure from in 2005, and Rod Smith opened me up to Opeth and Pelican in a way that felt serious at the time but that I never really followed up on. Maybe if I had, my albums list would look different.

1. M.I.A., Arular (XL) I hear her father’s really a baker in Brighton. Don’t tell anybody, though.

2. The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday (Frenchkiss) I hear he’s really Jewish. Don’t tell anybody, though.

3. The Mountain Goats, The Sunset Tree (4AD) I hear he was actually talking about himself on all the other albums and made this one up. Don’t tell anybody, though.

4. Kanye West, Late Registration (Roc-a-Fella) I wonder how long it took to light that Rolling Stone cover, not to mention which grade of plastic they used for the crown of thorns, and whether the spray-paint they also used for the crown of thorns washed off easily.

5. A Frames, Black Forest (Sub Pop) I didn’t think too much of this until I put it on after about two months away and it smacked me in the face. I could use more of that from records. Not people, please. (Thanks.)

6. DJ Koze, Kosi Comes Around (Kompakt) A perfect arc--like Triple R’s Friends, which is the only Kompakt album I like more than this one, it lopes so casually and masterfully from mini-epiphany to mini-epiphany you think it could just as easily drift away as stay grounded--until the next-to-last track. On Friends Dntel/Gibbard/Superpitcher stirred song into the stew as a peaky nightcap; here, Koze brings in “Brutalga Square” to unsettle everything. It works every bit as well--maybe more.

7. The Go-Betweens, Oceans Apart (Yep Roc) Because I am only fitfully familiar with their ’80s work, and because I liked Bright Yellow, Bright Orange a whole lot more than The Friends of Rachel Worth (and am not inordinately fond of either), this completely blindsided me; it may be the only album on this list I am underrating. Not only does every song finds its pocket immediately, every song has a pocket--in its tweedy, charcoal-grey way, the rhythm section owns this thing as much as the songwriting. And as someone who’s always privately caviled about their voices, I’ve never heard either man sound so warm, approachable, or comfortable in their own skin. Right, because I am only fitfully familiar with their ’80s work, I have no idea what I’m talking about--fair enough. But I’ll be amazed if they’ve made a better album than this one.

8. Crazy Frog Presents Crazy Hits (Universal/Next Plateau) No, I’m not kidding, but they are, which is why I love it. “They” meaning the (cough) “creative team” behind this ridiculous concept album about Europop, which because it’s about Europop does us the favor of not bothering to include any songs we haven’t already heard a zillion times. The exceptions are the “atmospheric” intro and the closing “Crazy Frog Sounds,” a duet for ringtone and echo chamber that (I said it before, I’ll say it again forever) would make the artist a Wire mag cover star if it lived in its mom’s basement. Those bookends basically make this a dead-perfect send-up of every other single-artist, non-breakbeat-oriented album in the Generation Ecstasy discography as well. Did you like LCD Soundsystem? Then you have no excuse for not “getting” this.

9. Kiki & Herb Will Die for You (Evolver) I hear they’re not really gay. Don’t tell anybody, though.

10. Run the Road (Vice) As some of you may have noticed, I switched this in for my originally-posted number-ten, DangerDoom, which I enjoy a lot but whose placement was the result of my committing a cardinal listmaking sin--settling for something you like but don’t love because you figure everyone else is going to as well so why fucking not? I’d overlooked this in part because I’d originally heard it in September 2004--I used three cuts on my 2004 year-end mixes, all 368 of them--and in part because around mid-year I stopped checking MP3 blogs and the like and started listening to more jazz and more techno, the two genres I liked the most this year, not that you can tell from this list. (That’s “genres,” not “albums.”) Plus if grime hasn’t exactly fell off (I sense it has but really have no idea), the sequel to this album sucks, which is close enough. Nevertheless Run the Road thrilled me at the time and while my opinions alter like anyone else’s I generally respect my earlier passions as much as my newer ones, even if I haven’t played the album in probably nine months.