THE BEST MUSIC OF 2005: Ben Peek's List
I think Ben Peek is one of Australia's most exciting new writers, with a novel out from Prime soon and a second just completed. His blog is also quite good. I like Ben's nonfiction because he isn't afraid to speak his mind and he backs up his ideas with logical arguments and analysis. I wouldn't be surprised if Ben pisses off some people, but it is invaluable to have people in the field who are willing to speak up.
Anyway, Ben has been kind enough to give me his list of 2005's best music (see below).
As for me, I'm almost done with George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. I won't be blogging again until I finish it--and I may not blog again until well into the second. It's pretty addictive stuff.
BEN PEEK'S BEST MUSIC OF THE YEAR
The Herd, The Sun Never Sets.
The Herd's third album was released in October of 2005, and I haven't had a copy for long, but I'm going to list it as my choice for favourite album of the year. This might change some months down the track. It might be number two. At any rate, the Herd are a local hip hop act who produce, record, and put out their albums through their Elefant Tracks label. The Sun Never Sets, their third album, is an uncompromising tour through political and social concerns with their gritty, real world hip hop that is devoid of the shallow sparkle that can be seen in big name hip hop acts from the States. The band love their pop culture, too, and you find a snippet of Orson Welles from The Third Man, as well as references to Casablanca and William Shatner while they attack the Australian Prime Minister, the war in Iraq, and the soulless nature of working in corporations. Do yourself a favour and check it.
And now, nine other albums, which are in no particular order except alphabetical:
A Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band, Horses in the Sky.
It's a long band name, but everyone calls them A Silver Mt. Zion. I suppose it's unfair to say that the band is an offshoot of Godspeed You Black Emperor now that they have released their fifth album, but I typed that line, so there you go. After two mixed outings after the band's second (and best) album, Born into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward, A Silver Mt. Zion have finally found the right mix of vocals and beat to accommodate their new lyrical based sound, and the result is a matured, seasoned album. Easily equal to the second album.
Bettye LaVette, I've Got my Own Hell To Raise.
I must admit, I have a secret love for cover albums. I just love it when a musician takes songs and remakes them as her own, as LaVette has done. The opening track, a cover of Sinead O'Connor's 'I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got' isn't much to my taste, but after that, it's flat out joy. LaVette has one of those rare and beautiful voices. Her version of 'How Am I Different' is superb.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Howl.
On their third album, the band, with a new drummer, find what I refer to as pop cowboy gospel. I don't know if I would buy an album that someone promoted to me as pop cowboy gospel, but, strangely, it works, and works well. Indeed, the biggest disappointment of the whole album is that it is called Howl. Still, if you can get beyond that, this is a great album. I loved the harmonica. Any time they used the harmonica, I was right there.
Bloc Party, Silent Alarm.
You know, when I first heard this album, I wasn't so impressed by Bloc Party. The album kinda passed me by, to be honest. But then slowly, slowly I kept returning to it. Without a doubt it was my of my top spun albums this year, especially in the winter. Silent Alarm is really a winter kind of album. There are a few down points, such as 'The Price of Gasoline', but strong showings at the opening and end, especially 'Like Eating Glass' the opening track, hold it together.
Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning.
It's the indie folk rock album choice. Heh. Yeah, I know, I know, but Bright Eyes manage to capture an intimate atmosphere on this album, perhaps through the simple act of having it start with the sipping of a drink and the casual story of people in an airplane crash. Sometimes, when I play the album, I wave my arms in the air, just for the hippie feel. Then I go find some mescaline to take. That's my Bright Eyes experience.
Broken Social Scene, Broken Social Scene.
The Broken Social scene are the Godspeed You Black Emperor of indie rock. Their new album is just superb, and if you can snag a copy of it with an extra EP, you're doing yourself a favour. The standout of the album, I reckon, is the final track, 'It's All Gonna Break'.
Cog, The New Normal.
Cog's debut album is fine hard rock by the three piece. It even comes with anti-authority leanings, which is always welcome. The only misstep on the album is the pseudo spoken word track, 'The River Song', about the Ironic Factory, which no one needed to hear, and is a bit unintentionally funny, as all pseudo spoken word tracks by hard rock bands are. Tracks like 'Anarchy OK' and 'Silence is Violence', however, more than make up for this.
The Drones, Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By.
The Drones have easily the best album title of the year. That title is more than enough reason to buy this album, really. Should you do buy the album, however, you'll find a guitar heavy blues-rock-punk band that reminds me, in part, of the Beasts of Bourbon (others have also said The Birthday Party). The Drones do a lot of things right on this album, but easily the best thing they do is on 'Sitting on the Edge of the Bed Cryin'' where they show up Chris Isaak's only good song, 'Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing'. There's no studio smoothness to this album: it's spiky and digs into your skin and forces you to listen. It's not the kind of thing you can put on in the background and zone with while doing something else. This album forces you to listen.
Mercury Rev, The Secret Migration.
Mercury Rev's new album is a beautiful thing. You play it when daylight is dying and the night is starting to come on. It's for those in between hours.