Saturday, July 16, 2005

Best, Most Disappointing, Worst Albums of 2005 (So Far)

Andy Whitman posed this question over at the Arts and Faith board: With 2005 halfway over, what are the best, most disappointing, and worst albums you've heard all year?

My votes:

BEST:

Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs-- A masterpiece of imagination and creativity. As a writer of melodies, Bird deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Brian Wilson; as an arranger, he has made an impressively eclectic album out of surprisingly few instruments; and as a writer of funny, touching, and riddlesome lyrics, he is completely in a league of his own. This one's already a classic.

Sufjan Stevens, Illinois-- Sufjan and his small army of musicians and singers turn a road trip through Illinois into a moving, complex study of humanity. Who knew that a midwestern state could be so much fun?

Over the Rhine, Drunkard's Prayer-- As intimate as anything in the OtR canon, this album may not be as consistent as Good Dog Bad Dog, but it's still dazzling in its beauty and the focus of its poetry. And, it makes me swoon.

The Ragbirds, Yes Nearby. A dynamite new band that's destined for the same kind of cult greatness as OtR and Bruce Cockburn. Mysterious, poetic, and infinitely eclectic.

MOST DISAPPOINTING:

The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan-- Somehow, the Stripes took a set of excellent songs and made them into a merely decent album. Ah, what a difference some focus makes!

Coldplay, X and Y-- I had hoped that this album would signal their leap from U2-lite compositions to real invention and art. Instead, it just signals the fact that they're pretty much out of ideas.

WORST:

John Davis, John Davis-- Trite lyrics and Brian Wilson ripoffs aplenty. I'm glad the guy converted to Christianity, but I wish it hadn't led him to make such an uninspired album.

I'll also add a category of my own... MOST UNDERAPPRECIATED:

Aimee Mann, The Forgotten Arm-- For me, this is one of the most rewarding song cycles of the year, a subtle, insightful concept album about the inadequacy of human love and why we need it anyway. Some has accused this of being one of Mann's weaker albums, but the complaints I've hard about it have all been rather vague-- "the songs just aren't as compelling," "the individual tracks aren't as strong as the whole," etc. If someone can give me a reason for WHY the individual songs aren't as compelling then perhaps I'll reconsider; for now, though, I think it's a well-played, melodic throwback to the rock and roll of the 1970s, masterfully produced by Joe Henry.

So... what are your picks for 2005's best and worst?

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