January 08, 2006

The Best of 2005: 6-10

6: Beck - Guero
Reuniting with the infamous Dust Brothers that produced Beck's defining album "Odelay" was a monster success for his latest release "Guero". Following the acoustic ballad album "Sea Change", Guero takes us back to the old Beck days. Rapping about popsicles and Yanni cassettes, sound effects taken straight from video games, Spanish ramblings, distorted guitars, riffs that get in your blood and beats being dropped left and right. Guero has everything you could want from a Beck album. Not to mention a song written about Elliott Smith (Broken Drum) and Jack White on bass guitar (Go it Alone). The singles "E-Pro" and "Girl" were the singles that got some play from the radio stations, but tracks like "Farewell Ride" and "Black Tambourine" really bring to light the magic of Guero. Money Mark adds his musical insight to the intense keyboard song "Earthquake Weather". If you listen to Beck and are a fan of his work, you already have this cd. Guero is truly an album you will enjoy time and time again.

7: Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams
Hawaii native Jack Johnson scores again with his 3rd album "In Between Dreams". Keeping with the chill out, sitting on the beach sing along theme that his previous 2 albums had, In Between Dreams offers acoustic ballads that have the power to either put you to sleep at night or keep you awake and entertained at a campfire. Johnson's light voice and easy going guitar strumming are irresistible for any music fan. The best part about Jack Johnson's laid back style is that his music is simple enough to listen without straining or boring you to death. Considering himself a surfer and filmmaker before a musician is, what I think, makes In Between Dreams so great. Jack doesn't seem to take his music too seriously, he has fun making it which in part makes it fun to listen to. His lyrics are another story, writing about love and our egotistical society. The lovely "Breakdown" was originally made for The Handsome Boy Modeling School's album "White People" but was remade to capture it's true meaning in the acoustic way it was intended. "Better Together", "Never Know", "Good People", "Banana Pancakes", and "Sitting Waiting Wishing" make Jack's latest attempt just as wonderful as his last two. A serious must have of 2005.

8: David Gray - Life In Slow Motion
After releasing the mediocre album "A New Day at Midnight", David Gray stepped up his game for the first full studio album of his career " Life In Slow Motion". Gray has been an established singer songwriter known for his inspiring songs and compelling voice. With an entire studio at his fingertips, Gray took his time making Slow Motion. Taking a more musically moving path than his previous lyrically driven records, this album has a lot more strings and orchestra work in it. That's not trying to depreciate his quality of songwriting at all. Gray still delivers his message with picturesque writing. The mood is almost visible in the cover art. Slow Motion has such an intense sound for being such a gray (no pun intended), quiet yet moving album. In an album full of highs, lows and a beautiful sound only captured by Gray, it's hard to pick favorites. Although if I had to recommend a few, I'd have to say "Slow Motion", "From Here You Can Almost See the Sea", and The One I Love" are the best qualified to represent such an amazing album.

9: Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake It's Morning

Some will say that Conor Oberst does nothing more than whine with that nasal sound in his voice, crying about the one that got away. The truth is yes, he does sing about the pitfalls of love. Who doesn't? What sets Conor apart is the poignant lyrics he creates in every song he writes. Whether it be about love, politics, drugs, loneliness, friends, alcohol, family or god, Conor puts thought and soul into everything he writes. I'm Wide Awake It's Morning is just one of many albums Bright Eyes has released, but what sets this apart from his earlier works is the commitment Conor has to his country rock roots. From the first song "At the Bottom of Everything" you can't help but notice the Dylan comparison. Writing poems and putting folk guitar and harmonized singing into the mix is what Conor does best, especially in his masterpieces "Landlocked Blues" and "We Are Nowhere And It's Now". Conor has been a talented singer/songwriter creating music since age 12, but Wide Awake puts him on the map as a rising talent that gets better and better with each song he writes.

10: Death Cab For Cutie: Plans

After releasing 4 albums on the Seattle based indie-rock label Barsuk, Death Cab For Cutie decided to make the jump to the major label world by signing with Atlantic. Some indie fans will lose respect for a band for making the switch, but what Death Cab has done in it's 2005 release Plans makes it hard to resist. Plans is not an album that should be cast aside because of it's label, this cd is truly a sign of Death Cabs ability to write catchy songs that are irresistible to most fans. This album is a little more produced than their previous album "Transatlanticism", and with that comes a little less raw emotion. But Plans is a solid album none the less, with songs like "Crooked Teeth", "I'll Follow You Into the Dark", and "Marching Bands of Manhattan" to push on the blissful pop sound that this album is full of. Is Plans different from other DCFC albums? Yes. Does it sound more polished than other DCFC albums? Sure does. Is that because they signed with Atlantic? You betchya. Does it still capture the essence of DCFC? It certainly does. If you're a Death Cab fan, and you're not buying this album because of it's label, you've got a serious problem. Plans is the next step for DCFC, like it or not... And I like it.

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