Wednesday, January 04, 2006

top 10 CDs of 2005

1. THE ROOKS – The Rooks
I’m gonna cheat a bit here. This album came out in 1993, and was on such a small indie label that locating it (even in the States!!) is nigh on impossible. Even being in contact with the guitarist of this band (oh Myspace, where will I be without you?) doesn’t help much, as the band broke up a few years back. But alas, the good people of The Rooks found a few copies (from the original first pressing!!) of this much sought after power pop classic when clearing their attic and put some up for sale at at a very reasonable price and autographed by their resident genius songwriter, Mr Michael Mazzarella. Yes, this is supposed to be my Top 10 CDs of 2005 list, and this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a 2005 CD. But this IS the absolute best CD I’ve heard in 2005, hands down!! Their reputation as one of the absolute best of all power pop bands is richly deserved when I heard this debut by them. I have all their other CDs, and loved each and every one of them, but nothing prepared me for the majestic, ass kicking, pop songs I heard here. The mix is outstandingly crystal clear, and packs a major punch as well. The songs rock too, as in early Beatles rock!! I will definitely cherish this CD till the day I die, and I seriously warn all you folks to not even think of nicking this CD if you come visit me!! I will hunt you down!! Now, if only I can persuade them to do a reunion show and let my band open for them when we go tour the States later…

2. THE CRIBS – The New Fellas
Unjustly labelled as knock-offs of The Strokes, I have to say that I enjoy these guys more than I ever enjoyed The Strokes. Great catchy songs, played with great sloppy conviction, with great sloppy production by Edwyn Collins, this is clearly one of the outstanding releases of 2005, if only all you hipsters don’t count too much on what music critics say to pick out the stuff you like.

3. PUFFY – Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi
I’ve been a borderline-pervy fanboy of this cute Japanese duo since 1997, even before there was that cartoon show on Cartoon Network, mainly because of all the great power pop songwriters, producers and musicians they always managed to rope in on every album, like The Velvet Crush, Andy Sturmer (of Jellyfish) and Paul Bevoir. And I can, with a mixture of pride and shame, confidently say that I have all their albums, and can talk Puffy as well as any Trekkies out there can talk Star Trek. This is basically a compilation of their older songs, with a few new ones, and quite a few sung in English. Put this on and I dare you not to want to bop around or bang your head to the ridiculously bubblegummy songs. If you don’t, check your pulse ‘aight, ‘cause you don’t deserve to be here.

4. JASON FALKNER – Bliss Descending
It’s been a long time since his last album, and this is just a 5 song EP. I won’t even say that every song in it is fabulous, but one song, called Moving Up is an absolute stunner for me with its simple, almost embarrassingly obvious lyrics, topped with a gorgeous, gorgeous melody. Actually only one song seem weak to me. So it’s not bad, 4 out of 5, that’s 80%! Favourite romantic lines of the year: “Can I be the one who you give everything to? Oh why do you wait? I swear it’s never too late” – from Moving Up.

5. THE CLICK FIVE – Greetings From Imrie House
Probably the band with the least street-cred (maybe even none whatsoever!!) on this list. Even power pop fans and writers have voiced their fears that this band might inflict even more damage on the already flimsy reputation of power pop than The Knack did in the early ‘80s. Yes, they have dodgily boy-band sounding harmonies and dodgily boy-band slick production. But boy, are the songs catchy or what. They call themselves New School Power Pop, and they drop names like Badfinger and The Raspberries when asked about their influences. And they probably do like power pop, seeing that they chose to use an Adam Schlesinger song, and chose Mike Denneen to produce. Whatever you might want to think, this is still super fun, teeth rotting ear candy to me, especially on songs like Friday Night, Pop Princess, Time Machine and their current single, Catch Your Wave. Resistance is futile.

6. THE PADDINGTONS – First Comes First
Probably the greatest legacy that The Libertines can leave us (apart from their great 2nd album) is this band. Building their name by making friends and spreading out word about their guerrilla gigs on The Libertines forums, The Paddingtons delivered a glorious ruckus of a debut album, reminding us of the glory days of the Buzzcocks and The Undertones, only with an even surer command of anthemic melodies. No one knows how good their 2nd album will ultimately be, but this is one hell of a debut.

7. BRENDAN BENSON – The Alternative To Love
Probably not as jaw-dropping as his previous CD, Lapalco, this is still a solid collection of solid, and sometimes awesome songs, as in the awesome opener Spit It Out and the Phil Spector inspired The Pledge. I may be picky though, as not everyone can write a song as fantastic as Metarie even once in their life, and Mr Benson already did that on Lapalco, so it’s definitely a tough act to follow, and I may have been expecting too much from this CD.

8. HOT HOT HEAT - Elevator
This is a really groovy CD. The Killers may get all the airplay and ink, but these guys are just as good!! Infectious songs you can dance to, it’s really a pity that the hipster crowd again chose to ignore and put this album down, by saying that the band sold out, and failed to improve on the ‘arty’ punk-funk sound of their debut (which, for the record, completely failed to connect with me). Hmmm… is it just me or do you also consider writing tighter, catchier and infinitely more danceable songs a huge improvement over supposedly ‘intelligent’ and ‘arty’ but nowhere near as infectious punk-funk songs with pretentious lyrics? I really can’t see how some stuff can be considered ‘intelligent’ and ‘arty’ while some aren’t. These hipsters!!

9. THE MAGIC NUMBERS – The Magic Numbers
Not a great debut, but filled with a lot of magical pop songs. There’s still a lot of filler and only okay songs to wade through. But the high points soar totally, completely!! The guitar work and lead vocals really remind me of Daryll Ann, a great, great Dutch band that shamefully got lost in the shuffle and never got the recognition they deserved. Let’s hope the same thing never happen to The Magic Numbers, who’ve been getting a very respectable amount of hype and press. And it’s really not hard to see why, as they have truly some of the most gorgeous pop songs of the year, like Forever Lost, Love Me Like You and Love’s A Game. If they keep on writing stuff like these, we’ll definitely have a bona fide great band in our hands, folks.

10. TSAR – Band Girls Money
A true rock n roll monster!! The singer sounds like he’s ready to bite your head off anytime, and the band rocks out like there’s no tomorrow. All of which won’t count for much, if they don’t have the great songs that they do to pull it off. Songs like Wrong and Conqueror Worm will stay stuck in your head long after the CD’s left your CD player. And those 2 songs are definitely some of my favourite rock n roll songs of the year, and I’m already calculating how to best rip off these songs for my own band!!

11. FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE – Out Of State Plates
Okay, I’m cheating again! But I just can’t leave out this 2-disc, 30 plus song B-sides and rarities collection by Fountains Of Wayne, simply because it’s home to what I think is THE best and most complete song of 2005, called The Girl I Can’t Forget. It’s truly a wonder of a song, running through a whole gamut of emotions, from happy to happy-sad, to romantic-happy-sad, and finally to romantic-happy-sad-hilarious!! With the kind of witty lyrics that I can only dream of writing, it’s really the kind of song I wish I wrote. Check it out: “Now that I’m with her, the whole thing seems a bit absurd. But she never fails to tell the tale of the time she had to post my bail. And for giving me a second chance, I’m forever in her debt. Since the night I can’t remember, she’s the girl I will never forget.” Oh so gorgeous!