The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

December 31, 2005

Record review of 2005, part 5: Finally, the favourites

I'm not really sure what happened to music this year. A couple of strange developments, both in terms of retro movement, hystericism and stripping down to bare essentials occurred this year, which is why much of this year's music is more reminiscent of late 1960's/early 1970s than anything else. Whereas chart music has mostly turned into forgettable trash, the indie/alternative fringe seems to have grown older with most of its listeners and critics. Not a bad thing at all, but a record like Sufjan Stevens' Illinois or Devendra Banhart's Cripple Crow would have been inconceivable five years ago.

Anyway, let's cut the crap and talk about my favourites:

Man-MadeTeenage Fanclub: Man-Made. Neither particularly surprising nor particularly innovative nor overly ambitious, Teenage Fanclub's new album is simply a logical progression from their previous albums. Recorded in Chicago with John McEntire, they have recorded their best album ever, 12 songs without a single dud, just beautiful music from start to finish. Along with Wilco's A Ghost Is Born, this is the record that had the most rotation on my stereo and iPod this year.

IllinoisSufjan Stevens: Illinois. Certainly the most ambitious album of the year, and probably the one that with the most cult potential. With its compelling, at times eccentric storytelling, Illinois expands like a cinemascope movie in front of your mind's eye. It may be a bit too long and occasionally a bit overindulgent, but it's simply impossible not to acknowledge the effort.

EmohLou Barlow: Emoh. After an extensive discography with Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion, Lou Barlow's first solo effort turned out to be a fairly pleasant surprise. While all the trademark elements of his previous works are still there, this largely acoustic set is more consistent than any of his previous albums and based on stronger melodies and lyrics than ever before.

In the ReinsCalexico - Iron & Wine: In the Reins. Considering that I'm usually not the kind of person who is attracted to Country Music, this collaboration by Calexico and Iron & Wine took me completely by surprise. Again, this is beautiful music that immediately grabs your attention, and the sentimental moments are either few, or they simply feel so right that you can't complain about them at all.

Apologies to the Queen MaryWolf Parade: Apologies to the Queen Mary. At first I thought they were too hysterical, then I thought they sounded too much like the Arcade Fire, but then I started to like both the hysterical, tormented singing and found that they were actually better than the Arcade Fire because they seem to have a wider musical range and less inhibitions.

Honorable mentions:

Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs
Sleater-Kinney: The Woods
Wilco: Kicking Television - Live in Chicago
The Fall: Fall Heads Roll
Archer Prewitt: Wilderness

For more great albums, see the special awards posted earlier.

Posted by Horst on December 31, 2005 10:15 PM to reviews | Tell-a-friend

Gibarian said on January 2, 2006 05:23 PM:

Whatever happened to Arcade Fire's honorable mention?

Horst said on January 2, 2006 07:36 PM:

It got lost. For a longer list of recommended records, click here.

ibert said on January 3, 2006 04:44 PM:

You can see, read, listen and download Calexico with Iron & Wine at npr music for free.

laura g brown said on January 6, 2006 04:02 AM:

Very fun reading your comments, Horst. I enjoy reading Dan Neil's auto columns in the L.A. Times, too, though I know little about that subject, either. The writing conveys authority, which is attractive. Maybe you should consider turning the blog into "The Aardvark Listens," and make it all about music. It's a topic you approach with enthusiasm!

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