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Best of 2005  Preview
18 February 06 from Ian Mathers 13
Embarrassing but mandatory self-advertisement:  

www.stylusmagazine.com is pretty good. If you were thinking of reading a multi-writer site, I'd start with us. We have podcasts too.
17 February 06 from glenn mcdonald 9
Day jobs are just a fancy way of avoiding writing new songs.
17 February 06 from JosefK 6
Excellent, that sort of reading list is exactly what I wanted! I'm flipping through McCall right now and liking it.  

I decided a long time ago, too, that Mark Prindle, in his own words, RULES SO MUCH ASS! HE IS QUITE LITERALLY THE KING OF A COUNTRY FILLED WITH ASS!!! etc. but in spite of all that, I don't learn new things from him.  

I'll get to the others soon. Cheers, Brian!  

ps> Is it glaringly obvious that my day job is not my primary source of excitement?
17 February 06 from Brian Block 3
Who do I read now for music criticism? Well, if your tastes run to glenn and Christgau, you're obviously up for the philosophical sorts. Mine too.  

None of my favorite critics write nearly often enough, or are reliably timely, except for Mark Prindle (www.markprindle.com), who's a risk -- his sense of humor and erratic quality might completely alienate you, although once I got used to him I decided he's often brilliant. Tris McCall is abrasive sometimes and hasn't done proper reviews since August, but he's funny, insightful, and his proper reviews are fair-minded and written with the knowledge of a working musician: www.trismccall.net for homebase, www.nj.com/weblogs/music/ for the reviews alone.  

The rest, excellent and maybe easier to stomach, hang out at Epinions and include  

Jonathan Keefe: www.epinions.com/user-omophagia (he writes shorter, less distinctive pieces for Slant magazine)  

Mike Schiller: www.epinions.com/user-shilmafone (he writes shorter, still somewhat distinctive pieces for PopMatters)  

Drew Ratliff: www.epinions.com/user-stairway2drew  

Jer Fairall (retired): www.epinions.com/user-cryptosicko  

I also kind of like me: www.epinions.com/user-voxpoptart
16 February 06 from JosefK 6
Would the vote disparity between them have been the same if the dates had been the other way around?  

Bingo, that (sort of thing) is the question. There's probably enough of an archive of music criticism available online that someone with the patience could try to find cases where controls like that could be applied. What the results would or wouldn't prove is hard to say, of course.  

So, vFers, whom do you people read for music criticism these days? I've only ever read two people faithfully: glenn and Christgau, so now I'm (pretty much) down to one. Gimme some names.
13 February 06 from glenn mcdonald 9
The net speeds everything up, but in doing so shortens the duration of the present. I'd love to see each P&J ballot annotated with when in the year each voter encountered each album. The Beekeeper came out in February, Aerial in November. Would the vote disparity between them have been the same if the dates had been the other way around?
9 February 06 from Brian Block 3
"Never before has rock criticism been so into three of its ancient sins: cooler than thou, instant gratification, and what have you done for me lately." "[...] paying the logical price for having promoted musicians as interchangeable cartoon figures, and thus bred shallow, fickle listeners with no sense of ethical responsibility."  

While I think Christgau's very much onto something - not a regular habit of his, necessarily - I have a hard time seeing the mess as being purely about shallowness, and I think it's silly to claim indie rockers and critics are more shallow than normal music listeners. The problem, if anything, is caused by two things that themselves are very good:  

1) There's an ever-increasing overabundance of excellent music out there, in all the old styles and a constant supply of new ones. Even the most ambitious and distinctive album, one built to deepen steadily over many dozens of listens, is fighting for survival against ten other new releases from the same week that would also deepen steadily over many dozens of listens.  

2) The blogosphere's honestly been rather good at picking some of them out and appreciating them anyway (Blueberry Boat, Illinois, Mezmerize/Hypnotize, Medullah, a Grand Don't Come for Free, presumably Aerial and Kanye West's albums whether I like them or not), but then there's only so much time and attention to spend. I think it's awfully disloyal to toss Tori Amos -- or whoever's been good to you for years -- aside in favor of some debuting buzz band, and I don't even think the choice makes sense, but I agree that something's got to give.  

Fact is, what Christgau calls "cooler than thou" looks an awful lot, at a micro-level, like "trusting the friends who've steered you right before". Every time I plunge ahead and buy some zero-coolness album by Ford Pier or New Model Army or Pedestrian or Fluid Ounces or Count Zero (who? exactly!), or glenn fills up on the obscurities of his choice, we're using money we could've spent trusting our friends' instincts. You can see why not everyone would follow that lead ... and follow each other's, making fast-rising trends, instead.
6 February 06 from JosefK 6
Speaking of P&J 2005, I find my experience of listening to new music very much as described in Christgau's essay:

"The blogosphere eats up music so fast that whole backlash cycles are over in weeks. On Metacritic, the enthusiasm of the Pitchfork rave that got the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah thing rolling is now exceeded by, I kid you not, that of Billboard—and also, just barely, that of me, which took months to formulate, after I dismissed a borrowed EP and then decided to buy the album and ran it through my head on cassette (right, cassette, stole that music myself) and finally woke up from a nap one day saying, "Gee, whatever this is it moves." By this time, CYHSY were a cliché. They're a nice little band who will enjoy a profitable alt-circuit run. But with bloggers and listserv geeks joking about their name, their hot moment is permanently over. Never before has rock criticism been so into three of its ancient sins: cooler than thou, instant gratification, and what have you done for me lately."

It reminded me of glenn's opening remark in his RIAA vs Napster piece: "[...] The major labels are really now just paying the logical price for having promoted musicians as interchangeable cartoon figures, and thus bred shallow, fickle listeners with no sense of ethical responsibility."

Perhaps the bands are paying the price too, and perhaps the fault lies in ourselves (creators and consumers of web criticism) as well.
4 February 06 from Michael 12
Re: the singles ballot, the Pazz and Jop singles list is the most ludicrous thing imaginable, since no one releases singles anymore other than dance mixes, but my singles list would have been:  

Natasha Beningfeld, "These Words"
Lucksmiths, "The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco"
LCD Soundsystem, "Daft Punk is Playing At My House"
Damien Marley, "Welcome to Jamrock"
Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone"
Bloc Party, "Banquet" (Phones Disco Edit)
Bright Eyes, "I Woke Up With This Song in My Head This Morning"
Clientele, "Since K Got Over Me"
Of Montreal, "So Begins Our Alabee"
Michael Penn, "Walter Reed"  

Usual rules - the singles list is for a great song from an album that I didn't think merited inclusion on the albums list, or a radio single like "These Words" or "Since U Been Gone".
2 February 06 from Aaron 11
I don't think that at this point Dose One is much of a draw for a down-the-line hip-hop fan, even one that's into other Anticon records.
2 February 06 from glenn mcdonald 9
I was genuinely stunned that 13 & God didn't get more album votes, and even surprised that nobody but me voted for "Men of Station" on the singles list. Three total mentions for a project that seems almost suspiciously devised to appeal to an indie/hip-hop crossover audience.  

But my "singles" ballot has so little to do with commercial singles that I cheer when anybody else votes for any of mine. This year one other voter picked Juliana's "Send Money" and one other voter picked my song of the year, the Lucksmiths' sublime "The Music From Next Door". Victory!
1 February 06 from jer 10
Some trivial personal notes:  

1. Despite some fairly popular picks on my ballot (Bright Eyes, New Pornographers, Bloc Party, Go! Team), 50 Cent still managed to rank higher than half of my list.  

2. I was the only voter for Christine Fellows, and Youth Group and 13 + God only got one other vote each.  

3. The only song on my Singles list that got any other votes besides mine "Dance Music," by The Mountain Goats.  

Beyond that, I always find these lists to be much like the Oscars: kinda fun and discussion-worthy, but ultimately pointless, as it doesn't really represent anyone's taste in particular but rather affirms what the kinds of things like music critics (or the Academy) are supposed to celebrate. The Top 3 albums were easy to call well in advance, though I would have expected the #1 single spot to go to Kelly Clarkson.
1 February 06 from glenn mcdonald 9
The big dull compilation of sometimes-interesting individual ballots is up now, as is my yearly geeky quantification of "dull" and "interesting".  

44 people voted for Kate, which pleases me. But only two (2!) people thought Tori Amos belonged even in the top 10, and both those people are in this discussion topic right here.
21 January 06 from Karl Boman 8
My list of the best music released in 2005:  

1. Keith Jarrett: Radiance
2. Nine Horses: Snow Borne Sorrow
and Nits: Les Nuits
4. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
5. King Crimson: Neal And Jack And Me (DVD)  

Radiance is so much better than anything released last years it's almost ridiculous - despite the fact that Snow Borne Sorrow contains some David Sylvian's best work and the fact that Nits haven't been this good since c. 1990. One of my top three favourite records of all time.  

Added to my ever growing shopping list were Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, Neil Young, Regina Spektor and the Calexico/Iron & Wine collaboration. And that's just five I could think of in as many seconds!  

KB
14 January 06 from glenn mcdonald 7
Here's mine:  

1. Kate Bush: Aerial & Tori Amos: The Beekeeper
2. Low: The Great Destroyer
3. Waltham: Waltham & Tommy heavenly6: Tommy heavenly6
4. Imogen Heap: Speak for Yourself
5. L'Arc~en~Ciel: AWAKE
6. Regina Spektor: Soviet Kitsch
7. Yokota Susumu: Symbol
8. Zapruder Point: It's Always the Quiet Ones & The Frames: Burn the Maps
9. Tullycraft: Disenchanted Hearts Unite
10. 50 Foot Wave: Golden Ocean  

Or, with annotations, in TWAS.
5 January 06 from JosefK 6
To make petrarch feel better, I decided to post my own top "ten" list for 2005. Of everything I heard last year, these turn out to be the only records that were actually released in 2005. I'm horrified. I've become old and boring!  

- Kings of Leon: Aha Shake Heartbreak
- Kaiser Chiefs: Employment
- M.I.A.: Arular
- The House of Love: Days Run Away  

(The new House of Love isn't even that good; it's on the list because the phrase "the new House of Love" has an especial frisson for us old fans. But even with Terry Bickers, it's just not what it should have been.)
5 January 06 from petrarch 5
I didn’t listen to much music in 2005 and thus (no surprise) I found less interesting music than I often do. Even in my more active years, I don’t feel like I listen to enough music to label any list I make a “Best of” in any sense other than “Best Of What Was Released This Year That I Listened To.” So that is what follows (in no order):  

Fiona Apple-Extraordinary Machine
Queens of the Stone Age-Lullabies to Paralyze
Juliana Hatfield-Made in China
The New Pornographers-Twin Cinema
James Blood Ulmer-Birthright
Otis Taylor-Below the Fold
Echo and the Bunnymen-Siberia
White Stripes-Get Behind Me Satan
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club-Howl
Calexico/Iron and Wine-In the Reins
The Mountain Goats-The Sunset Tree
Jens Lekman-Oh You’re So Silent Jens
Chris Whitley-Soft Dangerous Shores
The Frames-Burn the Maps  

Judging from my ignorance about much of what has been posted here, my musical knowledge and exposure is probably (currently at least) a bit more limited than most of you who visit vF. Nonetheless, there is a good bit of overlap with the lists already posted, but hopefully also a few other things people might find interesting.  

I am struck by how quiet a lot of this music is. The last five in particular are pretty mellow (The Frames can churn out some noise, but they pick their spots). Any thoughts about that from anyone?
2 January 06 from Bertson 4
Got it done:  

1. Bloc Party- Silent Alarm
2. Andrew Bird- The Mysterious Production of Eggs
3. Wilderness- Wilderness
4. Low- The Great Destroyer
5. Maximo Park- A Certain Trigger
6. Mountain Goats- The Sunset Tree
7. A Silver Mt. Zion- Horses In The Sky
8. Thunderbirds Are Now!- Justamustache
9. National- Alligator
10. Pernice Brothers- Discover A Lovelier You
11. Antony & The Johnsons- I Am A Bird Now
12. Wolf Parade- Apologies To The Queen Mary
13. Books- Lost And Safe
14. New Pornographers- Twin Cinema
15. Constantines- Tournament of Hearts
16. Wedding Present- Take Fountain
17. Sleater-Kinney- The Woods
18. Art Brut- Bang Bang Rock N Roll
19. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
20. Six Organs of Admittance- School of the Flower
2 January 06 from Ian Mathers 2
I'm not denying P&J's usefulness as a resource, and the ability to look at individual ballots is great. But all it is is a big consensus machine, and it seems off to me that there's never anything that's surprising. It's kind of like our version of the Grammys or something.  

I guess what annoys me is people acting like it's something important and weighty?  

(not that I'm accusing jer of doing this, mind you)
31 December 05 from Brian Block 3
But you're overlooking the two things that are uniquely valuable about the Pazz & Jop poll. For a small thing, the poll never surprises you or me because we're hyper-aware of the critical community -- but to normal people, the critics' consensus will include lots of surprises and "Who?"s, and give much room to explore.  

The more unusual virtue of Pazz & Jop, though, is that its consensus is endlessly searchable online, and that hundreds of quirky, individual expressions of taste are there for the click of a mouse. All such polls should be built that way; i know of no others, however, that are.
30 December 05 from Ian Mathers 2
Some year I'll break down and submit something to Pazz & Jop, I'm sure, but something about the whole structure of it rankles me. As you add more and more writers, more and more votes, you approach total mediocrity asymptotically. It happens on a smaller scale too, of course, but it's more managable there - there's still room for idiosyncrasies.  

The big mass count for P&J has literally never suprised me. I think that says something a little disturbing about the modern North American critical community.  

Your ballot, on the other hand, I quite like. I've had that Shout Out Louds record sitting on my shelf for months, and I'm increasingly getting the impression that when I get around to it I'm going to feel stupid for letting it sit.
26 December 05 from jer 1
The Village Voice wanted the lists early this year, so I spent much of my Christmas finalizing mine. A little earlier than I like to do these, normally, but I'm pretty happy with this list:  

Top 10 Albums  

1. Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
2. Youth Group, Skeleton Jar
3. Regina Spektor, Soviet Kitsch
4. Bloc Party, Silent Alarm
5. The Go! Team, Thunder! Lightening! Strike!
6. Stellastarr*, Harmonies for the Haunted
7. Shout Out Louds, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
8. 13 + God
9. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema
10. Christine Fellows, Paper Anniversary  
 

Top Ten "Singles"  

1. Cursive, "Ten Percent to the Ten Percent"
2. The Weekend, "Into The Morning"
3. The Mountain Goats, "Dance Music"
4. Final Fantasy, "This is the Dream of Win + Racine"
5. Russian Futurists, "Paul Simon"
6. Bright Eyes, "Hit The Switch"
7. Sarah Harmer, "Escarpment Blues"
8. The Mendoza Line, "Settle Down, Zelda"
9. Maria Taylor, "Leap Year"
10. Sloan, "Try To Make It"
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