by Ray Troll
January 01, 2005
So here's how it plays out with our nuclear unit: the kids are endlessly at the family computer with the tunes cranked up or they immediately pop their latest burned mix into our cars CD player. If I ask "Who's that?" more than three or four times about a band over the course of a few weeks, chances are I'll really like them. Eventually they'll loan me a few for the studio. So three of my top 5 this year are cribbed from the kids. Credit where credits due.
It all goes to reinforce my faith in the ever evolving music scene. I bristle a bit when people say there's no good music being made anymore. Not true at all. You have to seek it out though. With that in mind, I can strongly recommend these 5 CDs.
1. Iron and Wine/ Our Endless
At first listen this very mellow, very laid back album sounds super sugary, sweet and light. But once you start paying attention to the wildly evocative lyrics and catchy melodies, you're hooked. The songs sneak up on you and haunt you. The saccharine coating belies many touching tales of death and loss. One standout cut, Naked As We Came, opens with a Simon and Garfunkel type catchy riff, with a married couple happily celebrating their love. The weird twist is that they lovingly promise to spread each others ashes around the yard when they die. The songs are up close and personal with hushed, whispered lyrics, plucky banjo bits and elegant guitar riffs. The songs are written and sung by a fellow named Sam Beam with help from his sister Sarah and 5 other musicians. Sam's a former community college cinematography teacher living in Miami, now making music full time. They're on the hip record label Sub Pop out of Seattle, a small indicator of their indie cred.
2. Broken Social Scene/ You
Forgot it in People
Okay, this one was released in the fall of 2002 but I didn't notice it until this year. This is a musical collective of between 10 and 15 Toronto based musicians with real art house chops that came together to make a sprawling pop music masterpiece. The music is expansive and lush and covers just about every genre imaginable. The songs are extremely original and I dare say you havent heard anything like it before. Standout cuts to me are Anthem for a 17 Year Old Girl with layered looping overdubbed vocals that spiral off in a jillion directions. Lovers Spit is a great dirge of a song that builds to symphonic heights. My absolute favorite line from the album is buried in this song It's time that we grow old and do some shit. My kids and I thought that might make for a nice prom theme somewhere. This is one cool very arty record.
3. Haley Bonar / the Size of
My buddy Lance Bifoss used to own the only record store in town and finally tossed in the towel when the Wal-Mart juggernaut hit our shores. He's a completely dedicated music freak though and continues to track down obscure acts here and there. He's got a real soft spot for female vocalists and stumbled across this under appreciated treasure from 2003. Haley Bonar hails from Duluth, Minnesota now but grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She's in her early twenties now. This is Lances #1 choice for the year and I quickly agreed that she's a force to be reckoned with. Her songs are very heartfelt and just plain beautiful. Her voice is amazing. The emotional epicenter of the record for me is Am I Allowed. Car Wreck has a great opening line: 40 miles outside of Baker I fell out of my car. The surreal imagery of blazing hills and parched landscapes from The Water could only have been written by a midwesterner. A fabulous CD.
4. West Indian Girl/ West Indian
An unabashedly drug friendly group from California named after a particular kind of LSD know for it's hallucinatory powers. Shades of U2 meets Verve with a groovin beat. These are hook friendly songs that'll get inside your head. A couple of the tunes are about California locales ( Hollywood and Monterey). Lush music indeed. Close your eyes and take a trip.
This is the first entire album, by the way, that I purchased online from the iTunes store.
5. Drive By Truckers/ The Dirty
Man oh man this is one helluva an album that hearkens back to the good old days of Lynard Skinner and the Allman Brothers Band. The Drive By Truckers hail from the deep south and write powerful guitar heavy songs about tornadoes, Elvis, Carl Perkins, politics, race cars, Iwo Jima, and so on. With three lead guitars and three songwriters, this group is cranking out a body of work that's mighty impressive. At seventy plus minutes this CD will almost wear you out. Some of the best cuts are buried at the end of the CD. Lookout Mountain is a sonic blast of a song about a guy thinking about his death in very straightforward terms. Here's the chorus:
6. P.J.. Harvey/ Uh Huh Her
What can I say? I think it was good year for music and my list expanded to seven! Much has been made about PJ getting back in touch with her angry punk self on this CD but if you ask me it's all a reaction to the vehement little dittie called Who the F---. If you put that one aside this albums really a pretty evocative and somewhat mellow (at least for PJ) piece of work. Child of Mine is a lilting guitar sing along kinda tune. The Letter is about the simple joys of putting pen to paper. Desperate Kingdom of Love is downright moving.
PJ Continues to experiment with new sounds and new instruments. I love this CD but admittedly shes not your average cup o tea. Buyer beware.
7. Laura Veirs/ Carbon Glacier
I first heard Laura's tune Rapture on the World Cafe radio show and was blown away by it. Very few songs ever describe this strange business of art that I find myself in. This one spoke right to the heart of the creative process. When I found out she was trained as a geologist and lives in Seattle I paid even more attention. You can hear her appreciation for the out of doors in almost every song with landscape imagery informing many of her lyrics. There's some gorgeous instrumentation on this CD as well, with strings and piano complementing Laura's guitar playing.
14 year old Patrick Troll's list:
My Top 5 2003
Top 5 for 2002
Top 5 2001
Top 5 2000
Ray Troll ©2005