Saturday, January 07, 2006

YEAR'S BEST MUSIC: Ann VanderMeer's List

My wife is a huge music fan. She used to work in a record store when they actually sold records and we have a huge collection of vinyl, including some really cool seven inches. There's stuff she hasn't even opened, and a collection of pristine Beatles half-masters that a lot of collectors would die for. Since she's taking a couple weeks off from her duties as a judge for the International Horror Guild Awards and her work on Buzzcity Press projects, I thought I'd hit her up for a list of her favorite music from 2005.


Top Ten Albums of the Year - 2005
Ann VanderMeer

Yeah, I know we don’t call them albums anymore. They are really CDs. But old habits die hard. And vinyl is making a comeback, slowly but surely. Anyway, here are my top picks for 2005...

1 – The New Pornographers: Twin Cinema.

What can I say about an album that is seemingly perfect? This band came into being purely by accident as these musicians came to know each other playing in different bands. And the experiment has been hugely successful. This one has been in my CD player almost continually. A.C. Newman is a genius after my own heart. Helps me to forget that Andy Partridge has abandoned me (and when will he get back to writing his wonderful pop music?). My favorite song? Jackie, Dressed in Cobras. But they are all gems.

2 – The Cloud Room : Self-titled

I was lucky enough to catch this band live. They came to Tallahassee supporting the Pernice Brothers. This was their first show after the Katrina debacle and we were all feeling pretty low. But their music brought me out of my chair. Not too many opening bands can do this for me. This band is from NYC and this was their first visit to Florida. They had a lot of energy and great music. Check it out.

3 – Gogol Bordello: Gypsy Punks - Underdog World Strike

Can’t remember how I first heard of this band, might have been from my husband’s iPod (and what a good investment that was). The title says it all. Gypsy punk music. You can’t listen to this music without wanting to get up and dance. Eugene Hutz, the frontman for this group, is now trying his hand at acting with an appearance in Liev Schrieber’s new film Everything is Illuminated.

4 – Hot Hot Heat: Elevator

I have been in love with this band ever since my daughter had me listen to Bandages off their first album. Jeff and I were in Victoria, B.C. (their home town) when this album came out. I can’t listen to their music without thinking about that wonderful trip! Also, they came here last month and put on a helluva show. And the infectious hooks! “Pickin’ it up and then I put it back down” or “Welcome to the Island of the Honest Man.” You can’t help but sing along. Great pop music!

5 – Graham Parker: Songs of No Consequence

So glad to see Mr. Parker getting back to his old wonderfulness. This album reminds me of why I love his music in the first place. Over the last several years I was not impressed and was afraid he had lost it (whatever it is). But this one truly redeems him. It just goes to show you that you never know what the future will bring and you should never write off an old rock-n-roller.

6 – The Dead 60’s: Self Titled

Jeff turned me on to this one. They’ve been compared to the Clash, but they are so much more. A bit of reggae, a dash of good old-fashioned rock and roll and incredible sounds coming from the guitars. Feel good music all around. Again, we were fortunate to see them at a free concert in Atlanta. They opened for The Bravery and Weezer. And I have to tell you, we left before Weezer even came on. The Dead 60’s blew everyone away that day.

7 – John VanderSlice: Pixel Revolt

I don’t usually go for the singer/songwriter types, but for some reason, this one really spoke to me. I don’t know if it’s his lyrics or the quirky way his music sounds. But there is definitely something special going on here. And I forgive him for being from Gainesville, home of the Gators!

8 – Richard Cheese: Aperitif for Destruction

Step aside Weird Al Yankovic. Richard Cheese and his Lounge Against the Machine band know how to give other artists their due when they cover these songs. Imagine your favorite Hip Hop, Rock and Punk songs done in a Las Vegas Club setting and you have a good idea of what this is all about. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard this version of 2 Live Crew’s Me So Horny and the Beastie Boys Brass Monkey. Or check out The Guns and Roses song Welcome to the Jungle.

9 – AK Momo: Return to N.Y.

I love this album. It is so ethereal to me. I think this comes from the unusual synthesizer instruments this Swedish duo exploits. Instruments such as the Optigan, Orchestran and the Mellotron played by Mattias Olsson. To be honest, I don’t even know what those are but the sounds that come out of them are hauntingly beautiful. Add to this AK von Malmborg’s voice and this can’t be beat. Makes me feel mushy and warm all over. And I mean this in a good way.

10 – The Leevees: Hanukkah Rocks

Yes, I know. It’s a Hanukkah record. How can it be good? Well, let me tell you, it is. This is some of the best pop I’ve heard this year. Kind of a surprise, really. I was in Vinyl Fever (the coolest record shop in Tallahassee, which my daughter manages) and saw their holiday music. They must have had about 1000 Christmas records – all kinds. In the Hanukkah section there were only three CD’s. Three lonely CDs. So I had to buy one. And this was it (one I already had and the other was instrumental). I don’t know where Adam Gardner and Dave Schneider (the two masterminds behind this) came from, but this record was excellent. Cool pop tunes showing a bit of Kinks and Ramones influences. Song titles like Applesauce vs. Sour Cream and Goyim Friends. And I forgive them for the incorrect lyric in the song At the Timeshare; “Maybe Naples, Perhaps Captiva/Or Tallahassee but there are no Jews there!/It doesn’t matter as long as it’s in Florida.” What am I, chopped liver????

And one more for good luck!!!!

11 – Zap Mama: Ancestry in Progress (2004)

Okay, technically not a 2005 pick, but I first heard it in 2005 and since this is my list, I can do what I want (I may be tiny but I’m fierce; just look at my fists). Zap Mama has been around for a number of years, but I was ignorant of their unique sound. Their website describes them as Afro-European music from Brussels. It’s a group of talented women using their voices as instruments and Marie Daulne is the genius behind all of this. The music ranges from gospel to soul to African to pop to (what they call) pygmy song and all things in between; they sing in French, English and other languages as well. This particular album includes guest appearances from Erykah Badu and Tabil Kweli. My favorite song is Vivre. I can’t think of a more diverse and yet universal sound.

So this rounds up my list. Enjoy and Happy 2006!

(Evil Monkey: "So, if your stepdaughter works in a record store, what were her picks of the year?" Jeff: "Oh, she's going to submit a list to me, trust me. In the meantime, on the Vinyl Fever site, if you scroll down, you'll see her pick of the year on the right." Evil Monkey: "You do know that Erin is way cooler than either of you." Jeff: "Yeah--she's too cool for even the likes of you." Evil Monkey: "By the way, Evil Bunny was very tasty.")


At 6:34 PM, Blogger Keith said...

The New Pornographes do indeed rock. I havce all three albums and I can't pick which is my favorite. The only other band I can say that about is the Pixies.

At 6:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gogal Bordello are indeed fantastic.

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Em and I both fully endorse Richard Cheese. His version of Fell In Love With A Girl really swings!

Great list Ann.


At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you remember me bringing home a tape of Zap Mama performing a song live on Arsenio Hall back when I was working at FOX? They were so unique and strange, it was captivating.

Thanks for sending me the CDs - they're all great!

At 11:25 AM, Blogger everlastingblogstalker said...

I have no idea how I blundered into your site, but that's an interesting list you have there.

Several I agree with, and that makes me intrigued with those I don't know. I also have a daughter who is much cooler than I ever was or will be, and who sends me good music ideas.

FYI, Adam Gardner of the LeeVees is from Guster, and Dave Schneider is from The Zambonis.

Also, Andy Partridge has a cowriting credit for one song on the new Pugwash album, "Jollity." He is a big fan of Pugwash, and vice versa. You can hear some Pugwash at

Now I must be off to explore a Gogal Bordello.



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