Monday, January 02, 2006

Show Post: In House #1525

On the second day of the new year, it's one final look back at last year as we name our Top Five releases of 2005. Once again, it's not exactly scientific, and we're not claiming that we actually had the time or ability to spend ample time with every single full-length released this year. Nevertheless, these are the five that stuck with us as most accomplished, repeatedly listenable and particularly important-- and it was far from an easy cut.

5- Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs
(Righteous Babe)

Bird's sound is at last finally realized as he rises far above being a talented violin-playing novelty act who used to play with the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Perhaps the most beautiful sounding album of the year.

(MP3) "Fake Palindromes"
(MP3) "Masterfade"
(MP3) "Skin Is, My"

4- Sufjan Stevens: Illinois (Asthmatic Kitty)

Without question, Sufjan appears to be everybody's all-american this year and we can't really quibble. Musically and thematically, Illinois is an incredibly original album as Stevens covers much uncovered territory. Ronald Reagan, John Wayne Gacy, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Carl Sandburg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Stephen A. Douglas and then some are all touched upon in a highly unlikely hybrid of 8th grade Social Studies and populist indie pop bound to launch a whole new wave of Edgar Lee Masters obsessives.

(MP3) "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."
(MP3) "Decatur"
(MP3) "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!"

3- New Pornographers: Twin Cinema (Matador)

Musical supergroups are never supposed to be greater than the sum of their parts because they simply never are. The New Pornographers ice that notion and make it a hat-trick (they're Canadian), actually improving upon their previous release, Electric Version. The music simply never goes through the motions as the band plays to the various strengths of the individual members, be it Neko Case's pipes, A.C Newman's songwriting chops, or Dan Bejar's bejar-ness. Plus, more hooks than a pirate convention.

(MP3) "Use It"
(MP3) "Streets of Fire"
(MP3) "These Are the Fables"

2- The Decemberists: Picaresque (kill rock stars)

Yeah, speaking of pirates and hooks, the Decemberists are no stranger-- but they're so much more than accordions and seafaring tales. Colin Meloy expanded his storytelling palette this go-around to include male prostitutes and bookish failed athletes, not to mention a current events political jab that is nevertheless not out of place. If Sufjan Stevens is Social Studies, then the Decemberists are a Literature class bursting with Dickens and Melville. The smart kids are the cool kids.

(MP3) "16 Military Wives"
(MP3) "On the Bus Mall"
(MP3) "Eli, the Barrow Boy"

1- Mountain Goats: The Sunset Tree (4AD)

John Darnielle's latest, and magnum, opus has, frankly, not gotten near the credit it deserves. Full of personal tales unlike anything the Mountain Goats had done before, The Sunset Tree appears to have been festering in Darnielle's head for years-- it seems he was just waiting for his stepfather, the album's central tormentor, to die to write it. Even out of that context, songs like the anthemic "This Year," with its chorus of "I am gonna make it/ Through this year/ If it kills me" can ring true for anyone anywhere any year, particularly the last few. In the end, this is punk music: defiant, sometimes hopefully, sometimes not-- would that today's tortured kids could hear it.

(MP3) "Dance Music"
(MP3) "This Year"
(MP3) "Up the Wolves"

In House #1525.
Airdate: 1/02/06
Focus: Best of 2005: The Top Five

Last Year's Top Five


In House PODCAST #38