8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 30, 2006
Though we're getting to it
a bit late, it's still impos-
sible to sum up 2005, the
year of Pitchfork. The infamous
indie-music website (www.pitch-
forkmedia.com) made millions
throughout the country feel
like music snobs. Their stamp
of approval dictated sales
as if Editor-In-Chief/founder
Ryan Schreiber was Fidel
Castro. Their "Best New
Music" designation broke
groups like Clap Your
Hands Say Yeah and Wolf
Parade - bands that 10
years ago wouldn't have
gotten much press at all.
Pitchfork also stood strongly
behind Kanye "More Righ-
teous than Jesus" West as he
grabbed Time covers and the
hearts of frat boys everywhere
with Late Registration. They cham-
pioned M.I.A. and sent the prices of
Arular promo copies on eBay well
into triple digits. They also helped
turn Sufjan Stevens from your
secret crush to NPR fodder by
exposing Illinois as the instant
American classic it truly is. But
not every indie hit the bigtime:
such as Animal Collective and
My Morning Jacket's excellent
efforts slipped below the radar.
Whether it was the South (Who?
Mike Jones!) overtaking New
York City for the hip-hop capital
of the world or Coldplay tanking
with X& Y things are changing in
our wonderful world of Ameri-
can pop music. Here's our way
of pulling out the albums that
made 2005 memorable for
us. For the rest of our music
writers' lists, check out www.
1 M.I.A. Arular
The woman who makes syntax difficult. Party fire
starter. Revolution music. Sweet lover of Brazilian
funk. Listen to it again.
2 The Wilderness The Wilderness
When a group of intellects and bleak '70s post-
punk zealots form a band, they usually don't rumble
so hard under the radar. Each huge guitar stoner jam
becomes a constellation. Each shouted lyric sounds
vaguely like a hymn.
3 Spoon Gimme FictiOn
I'd try to give Stephen Malkmus's crown to Britt
Daniel, but I've finally realized that he's had it for a
4 The Hold Steady SeparationSunday
I used to think the Midwest was obsessed with
God. After hearing lead singer Craig Finn bliss-
fully howl about the holy trinity of rock - God,
Girls and Growing Up (as a good friend once
taught me) - over polished bar-band rattle, I
think that if God is anywhere, he might be in
5 Lil' Wayne ThaCarterl
Everyone says the South is finally rising again,
but Weezy's been acting like the chosen one since
he was 16. With the most aged and elegant beats of
his career, he gets off on the hate as much as the love:
"With the eye of a tiger, the heart of a fighter, yeah /
Start 'em ignite 'em I walk through fire!"
6 Jamie Lidell MUltiplI
Almost-as-pale-as-this-reviewer Brit falling in
love with Al Green and the Isley Brothers equals
sparks. Waterfalls of electronic tinkering make it a
brushfire. The utter lack of irony makes it a blaze.
7 My Morning Jacket Z
They'll never admit to being druggies, but My
Morning Jacket enjoys stretching their seven-minute
guitar waltzes out with a bunch of fun house bridges
filled with ferris wheel clanks, languid handclaps and
whammy bar makeout sessions.
8 Young Jeezy Lets G IliugM ltoiUeftl01
Seldom does a greenhorn in the rap world sound
both self-assured and drained. He said it best: "The
streets is watchin', the name is warm / The product's
white, a star is born."
9 Clipse WeOttg f OrChpVOL2
The Virginia rap duo who found a thousand
similes for cooking crack just made a pair of
mix-tapes where they steal a bunch of blockbust-
er beats G-Unit and Cassidy thought they had on
lock. Dropped from their label a year ago, the
pair of MCs tear the mic as only men driven by
hunger and pride can.
10 Three 6 Mafia MoStKNOWN UnOWimn
The Memphis horror-core mongers took their
creature-feature sound to the major-label studio
this year and found uses for sound loops (viola,
harpsichord, the Woody Woodpecker voice)
others would deem insane. And if that doesn't
convince you, I can say this: "Stay Fly" will be
played at my funeral.
1Sufjan Stevens Illinois
Michigan was fragile; Illinois is transcendent.
The addition of a string quartet to Sufjan's one-
man orchestra and a unique approach toward writ-
ing songs about a foreign place make this an instant
American classic. Here's hoping that Sufjan can do
the same justice to New Jersey, Rhode Island and
Oregon in 2006 ...
2 Bob Drake Shunned Countri
Let's get this out of the way - you probably
haven't heard this. But you should. Shunned Country
is 52 tracks, 40 of which are less than a minute, with
the longest clocking in at a whopping three minutes.
It's proggy pop with an absurd, gripping narrative
arc, and oh yeah, Drake plays every instrument.
3 Angels of Light Sing "Other People":
Michael Gira has been around a long time, but
no Swans release has ever sounded quite like this
Johnny Cash-meets-Fairport Convention affair. Gira
plays the role of the dark narrator, wallowing in shit
and coming up roses.
debut caught pretty much everyone off guard. With
four-part harmonies and unconventional instru-
ments, they out-psych/folk everyone - even Ani-
5 Black Dice Broken Ear Record
A friend introduced this album to me as "Throb-
bing Gristle meets Autechre." Broken Ear Record is
much different from the Black Dice of yore, but its
cut-up, looped riffs are as astonishing as ever.
6 Caribou Milk 0f Human Kindness
I wonder if Handsome Dick Manitoba knows
that forcing Dan Snaith to change his moniker
from Manitoba to Caribou was the best thing
he's done for music since the Dictators broke up
in 1981. Freed from the lofty expectations set by
Manitoba's spectacular Up In Flames, Snaith as
Caribou was able to meld Kraut rock with driv-
ing pop to create a singular vision.
I M.I.A. Arular
What is there to say about this album that
hasn't been recycled and regurgitated already?
For me, it's somewhat of an enigma; I loved it
when it came out, but now it's hard to listen to.
What does that mean? This could be a brilliant,
and unique artistic statement, or it could be a
novelty that M.I.A. is never able to match. Ask
me in 10 years.
8 Psychic Paramount Gamblan into The Mi i
Gamelan Into The Mink Supernatural is a real
face melter. Raucous guitar grooves and unrestrained
psych-riffing combined with blasts of noise sound
even more stoned than the album title reads.
9 Animal Collective Feels
Cliches about the Beach Boys and acid aside,
Feels is another sun-drenched exploration into the
world of indie's most melodic freaks. It's as if Buddy
Holly's plane crashedinto a lake of LSD and then
Brian Wilson became obsessed with the Incredible
10 Cass McCombsPrtfwCmin
Prefection finds this singer/songwriter fromBalti-
more picking up an electric guitar. The result is clas-
sic 4AD, subtle, moody, yet humorous Echo & The
Bunnymen-esque Brit-pop miles from his stripped-
down debut, A. All the darkness is still here, but simi-
lar to Bob Dylan and his famous foray into the world
of amplification, McCombs handles a Stratocastei
with grace and a great sense of humor.
4 Akron/Family AkronFamihy
Akron/Family gained notoriety as
Gira's backing band in Angels of Light,1
- Lloyd Cargo
Daily Music Editor
Wolf Parade Apologies to the Queen
It's the half-immigrant lovechild of Isaac
Brock and Win Butler after a sleazy night of
whiskey, cow bells and a Fisher Price Mini-
Mellotron. Wolf Parade tackled the hype
machine in 2005 and left it wallowing in its
Bloc Partyed hipster dust.
2 Sufjan Stevens HlilnIS
Say Sufjan will take a break to work
on a children's book in 2006. At least we
have a textbook's worth of Illinois tales
and antidotes to wait while he indulges his
inner author. Why not just play his quiet,
dignified, austere tunes for elementary
3 Sigur Rs Tali
Here are your directions: Drink one large
cup of strong-arse coffee and enter a local
Borders. Commence listening to Takk and
observe other patrons. See if you can pin-
point everyone's hopes and fears, dreams
and dark secrets.
4 The National Alligator
Even the moodiest tunes by Matt Berninger
make this a slowcore masterpiece that touches
on biblical brothers, psychological woes and an
underappreciated Manhattan history.
5 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Clap Your
The need for this incredibly imagined and
innovative piece of indie pop forced a tiny
Brooklyn apartment to be backed up with
orders for months. With a voice on the verge of
annoyingly whiny, Alec Ounsworth has made
the future of smart-kid pop music.
6. M.I.A. Arular
Are any of these obligatory? It's another
insanely talented female Sri Lankan MC with
impeccable vintage beats and a politically
aware conscious? Who picks these things ?
7 Vashti Bunyan 1o100trng
As the oldest mother to make a stunning
folk record this year, Bunyan is in a class of
her own. Fortunately, her choice to abandon
her music career in the late-'60s left her a few
decades to write some of the most intimate
songs of the year.
8. Stars SetYourselOn Fire
Probably the most theatrical album of the
year. Canadian pop collective and honchos in
the Arts and Crafts label explore dream pop
and dual vocal duties somewhat akin to an
9 The Mountain Goats TheSunsetTree
John Darnielle has hidden under the Moun-
tain Goats' mantra for way too long. The Sun-
set Tree is his cautious peek at the outside world
- his irresistibly nasally storytelling fixed
with tales of tortured childhood make for long-
10 Art Brut Bang Bang Rock and Roll
Art Brut, named after art by insane asy-
lum inmates, boast the traditionally boundless
energy, silly lyrics and British ambiance that
shows why they really are that much cooler
1 Bright Eyes I'm Wide Awake,It's Morning
Though Conor Oberst has been praised inces-
santly from the moment he warbled and shuddered
onto the scene, he's still worthy. And when one of
his lyrics hits hard, it feels as if you've had that very
The Sri Lanka-born MC has rightly been atop
many lists this year. M.I.A. takes everything great
about American hip hop and molds it into her own,
powertpackedpolitical bup and grind.
3 Wolf Parade Apologies to the Queen Mary
Remember how awesome the Arcade Fire was?
I do too. Enter Wolf Parade and Apologies to the
Queen Mary. With tight, fused rhythms, kooky gui-
tar licks and growling lyrics, the band beats the pants
off their predecessors any day. ,
4 Gorillaz Demon Days
A true summer album if there ever was one, bass-
laden tracks produced by DJ Danger Mouse such as
"Kids With Guns" and "Dirty Harry" all pulsate with
style and swim with ex-Blur honcho Damon Albarn's
5 Death Cab for Cutie P1aN5S
Plans is more oblique than the Seattle Cuties'
2003 release Transatlanticism, and a few shades
darker. But there's still a matchless emotional power
to songs like "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" and
the shimmery "Brothers on a Hotel Bed."
5 Sufjan Stevens IInois
Stevens's sweet voice captures both the quieter
aspects of places like "Decatur," "Jacksonville" and
the cacophony of "Chicago." He even manages to
make a song about serial killer, "John Wayne Gacy,
Jr.," sound poignant.
-r ^" - -un.4 '--'AtM..Vnn...nd.ae..
how enhances splendor of songs like "Home on Ice"
and "Lost and Found"
8 Beck ero
Beck returns to a Brazilian-influenced record
reminiscent of his earlier sound on Guero. The "Hey,
they've got the new Yanni cassette!" in the middle
of "Qu6 Onda Guero" is reason enough to check out
9 The Go! Team Thunder, Ughining, Strike
The Go! Team's U.S. release bursts with borrowed
samples, blaring trumpets and even cheerleader
chants. It's an undeniably happy record that smacks
of the patchwork funk of The Avalanches. Thunder,
Lightning, Strike makes happiness artistic again.
10 John Vanderslice PixelBevolt
nivo 1?nlti ara--- - - n r~.fn nv
1 Belle and Sebastian Push Barman t0 0UId
The best album released in '05 - and the coilec-
tion of songs that best illuminates Belle and Sebas-
tian's career - is the first disc of this '90-spanning
b-sides collection. Stuart Murdoch's songwriting and
the music's dulcet moonbeams show their impact on
the music of the last decade, let alone 2005.
2 The Decemberists Picaresque
The most compelling aspect of The Decem-
berists' third full-length release is that they've
finally worked their current formula - sea chan-
ties, melancholy period narratives - to its most
powerful incarnation yet.
3 Fiery Furnaces EP
The down-to-earth, pop-driven songs on EP have
the potential to endear listeners like nothing they've
ever released. This is the kind of effervescent, off-
the-wall music every DIY-driven indie chick (or me,
at least) wants to make.
4 New Pornographers TWin Cinema
off day, the New Pornographers still sound better 0 Sleater-Kinney The WOOds
than almost three quarters of the music released S-Kpulls back fromdance-inducing rock anthems
this year. for this one, focusing instead on expressing more
carefully nuanced emotions and working in allego-
5 The White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan
Jack White is back in the business of making
us care about him (in a good way). After a year
of making more tabloid than music news, the
Stripes came back with a blues-inspired album
that foretold a phenomenal new direction. OK,
Jack: We're listening.
6 Silver Jews TangleWood Numhers
While it's not the lit-nerd cowboy story told with
the same painful beauty as American Water, Dave
Berman has finally taken control of his band, and
he's combined his poetic prowess with an alt-coun-
tryish band quite well.
7 Broadcast Tender Buttons
Ever wake up in the middle of an utterly inscru-
ries and first-person narratives. It's mature but can
still kick your ass in a knife fight.
9 Sufjan Stevens IlIlInoI
Michigan's indie native son followed up the ode
to his home state with the whole of his 50 States
project in mind: After the innocent joy and almost
folksy modesty of the banjo-driven Michigan
comes a high-art tribute to the state that holds the
10 Mountain Goats The SunsetTree
John Darnielle is bringing soulful introspection
back into indie music: This stuff sounds so un-
pretty, so real, so emotionally arresting that you'll
be embarrassed to listen to, say, "Dance Music"
with anyone else.
1 M.I.A. Arular
She's from Sri Lanka, her
father was considered a terror-
ist, she moved to England and
she released the best album of
the year. M.I.A.'s disorienting
flows lend themselves perfect-
ly to her sound. Even without
its underlying political mes-
sages, Arular would still be an
2 Animal Collective Feels
It's about time Animal Col-
lective released an album wor-
thy of their talent. Avey Tare's
tribal percussion and Panda
Bear's airy guitar and vocals
finally pinpoint their strengths
and puts together one of the
best psych-folk albums of the
mock, but his ability to make
everything seem personal is
unmatched. Illinois is the sec-
ond installment in his musical
America tour, and he ups the
ante once again.
5 The Hold Steady SPS-
Rock is dead, eh? Tell that
to The Hold Steady. They
return with bombasts of gui-
tars, thunderous drums and
Craig Finn's unforgettable
croons. The Hold Steady is the
doctor; Separation Sunday is
5 My Morning Jacket Z
Less Southern influ-
enced and more straightfor-
Led by John Darnielle's wit
and speak/sing vocal style,
The Goats released another
album of infectious pop songs.
Teenage angst, heartbreak,
drugs: What more could we
8 Lady Sovereign Vert-
Lady Sov went from a
virtual unknown to getting
signed by Jay-Z in a year.
Vertically Challenged EP was
Lady Sov's time to shine and
she did so accordingly.
9 Slim Thug Already
How did a well known
mixtape MC from Houston
1 Mike Jones feat. Slim Thug & Paul Wall hSil TIppin'
My mom knows who Paul Wall is. We all dance a little
slower when the first comatose bars hit the speaker. White
styrofoam cups: the essential item for 2006.
2 Three 6 Mafia feat. Young Buck, 8-Ball & MJG "StayFly"
Like a blunt passed around a big living room, everyone
comes out to get a hit of this monster. 8-Ball and MJG, long-
time vets, come out the hardest, gobbling up the melody like
excess smoke. It truly does "taste like soup when you hit it."
3 Young Jeezy feat. Jay-Z "GoCrazy(Remlx)"
Books will be written about Jay-Z's Mafioso introspection.
For now, let's just be happy Jeezy holds his own. We can't
keep Jigga around forever, can we?
"Trapped" saga is his Here, My Dear:
6 M.I.A. "Galang"
God, we're putting a lot of pot anthems on our list this year,
aren't we? Oh, and another hot, foreign pop star. We're pre-
1 Feist "Mushabem"
A gorgeous girl with a guitar? Can never have too many of