The Decemberists – Picaresque (Kill Rock Stars)
This is my favorite record of 2005. If “Eli, the Barrow Boy” and “The Engine Driver” don’t make you feel something, then you should check your pulse. What I really like about this record, though, is its sense of fun, even when it deals with love, longing, death, sea-shanty murder ballads, rhimes of ancient mariners and current politics.
The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema (Matador)
This is their best record yet, as the Neko Case-sung “Bones of an Idol” and “These are the Fables” prove, along with the more straightfoward power-pop of “Use It” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno”.
Jens Lekman – Oh You’re So Silent Jens (Secretly Canadian)
Technically this is a compilation of previously released singles that originally came out in 2003 and 2004, but since I first heard this in 2005 and it includes some rare and previously unreleased tracks, I’m including this here. It’s great, melancholic, heart-on-sleeve songwriting that recalls the best of Jonathan Richman, but clearly exists in its own universe.
Maximo Park – A Certain Trigger (Warp)
Beyond all the misguided comparisons to Franz Ferdinand, the naysayers overlooked the great, heart-on-sleeve songwriting found throughout this entire record. “Apply Some Pressure”, “I Want You to Stay”, “Going Missing” and “The Coast is Always Changing” were some of my most-played songs this year
Antony and the Johnsons – I Am A Bird Now (Secretly Canadian)
A lot of ink has been deservedly spilled over this record and Antony’s otherwordly voice, so all I’ll add is that it’s the 2nd Secretly Canadian record on this list (they must be doing something right) and that this record is my Top 10 for the year because of incredible songs such as “Hope There’s Someone”, “For Today I Am a Boy” and “Fistful of Love”.
The Go-Betweens – Oceans Apart (Yep Roc)
This is definitely the strongest of the 3 records that they’ve made since their return in 2000 with The Friends of Rachel Worth. In fact, working with producer Mark Wallis, who manned the boards for their 1988 swan song masterpice 16 Lovers Lane, seems to have rubbed off on them as this is their strongest record since then. My favorite songs on it are “Born to a Family”, “Darlinghurst Nights” and “This Night’s for You”.
The Pernice Brothers – Discover A Lovelier You (Ashmont)
For the life of me, I can’t understand the underwhelming reaction to this album and the subsequent small turnout at their most recent show here at Southpaw. One day Joe Pernice will be truly recognized as the pop genius that he is and this astounding record will be as highly regarded as his past ones. “Saddest Quo”, the instrumental title track, the deceptively simple “Dumb it Down” and “Amazing Glow” are some of my favorite songs of the year.
Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock and Roll (Fierce Panda)
“I’ve seen her naked…TWICE!” has to be one of the best lines of the year. This is one of the boldest, most audacious, catchiest, enthusiastic and fun records of the year.
The Fall – Fall Heads Roll (Narnack)
I have to be honest here. At first, I was disappointed with this record and while I still don’t think it’s as strong as their previous album The Real New Fall Lp (formerly Country on the Click), it’s still a terrific effort from one of my favorite bands of all-time. Check out “Pacifying Joint”, “What About Us”, “Assume” and their excellent cover of The Move’s “I Can Hear the Grass Grow”.
Kaiser Chiefs – Employment (Universal)
OK, so they’re young, good-looking (well mostly) and the NME hyped them up to no end early in the year, but this is one of those cases where the band’s music justifies that hype. When it comes down to it, I’d bet that Arctic Monkeys and their ilk would give their left nuts to write a song as catchy as “I Predict a Riot”, “Na Na Na Na”, “Everyday I Love You Less and Less”, “Oh My God” or “Born to Be a Dancer”. Oh and they sound way more like Blur than any ‘80s band, too.