Introduction by Brian
I recently pored over the "Best of 2005" lists to compile an overall one that takes the records that appear most frequently and (subsequently) highest in the ranks. Consequently, here it is...
#20. The Suicide Machines - War Profiteering Is Killing Us All
August 9 on SideOneDummy Records
Scott's Testimonial: This politically charged ska-punk combo return with another blistering set of, well, politically charged ska-punk. And the result is yet another awesome album in this band's catalogue (4-for-6 ain't bad at all, guys!).
Tie - #18. Teenage Bottlerocket - Total
April 12 on Red Scare Records
Adam's Testimonial: Maybe it makes me a musical conservative, but it's remarkably reassuring that there's new bands emerging to carry the torch of the Ramones and Screeching Weasel. This is solid meat & potatoes punk rock, charmingly free of whatever today's trends are yet still youthful and vibrant.
Tie - #18. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday
May 3 on French Kiss Records
Matt Whelihan's Testimonial: A little 70s rock, a little bar rock, and one big tale of a girl who is trying to find religious salvation while fighting drug addiction, doesn't exactly sound like a formula for success, yet it is exactly what makes Separation Sunday such an engrossing listen. Craig Finn's psuedo-spoken word vocal style coupled with his literary approach to lyrics make him one of the most compelling front men in indie, while the band's big riffs and twinkling pianos don't seem ironic, but surprisingly fresh.
#17. Smoke or Fire - Above the City
March 22 on Fat Wreck Chords
Justin's Testimonial: Smoke or Fire put out an album that appealed to the 14 year old in me who discovered this music, as well as the 24 year old who often gets disillusioned with it. It's an album full of earnest, critical, well thought out songs that aren't repetitive, but not so varied that it loses your interest. On a more real, guttural level, Fire Escapes caused me to learn how to weave in and out of Market Street traffic on my bike. The album "gives me faith" in the progression of punk rock, without ever losing sight of it's roots. Maybe I'm wrong, but come fall of next year, these guys are going to be on the tips of everyone's tongues.
#16. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
March 22 on Vice Recordings
Aubin's Testimonial: Despite being burdened by endless comparisons to Gang of Four and Mission of Burma, Bloc Party set their own path with the rhythmic, eclectic Silent Alarm; one of the few times where hype undersells a band.
#15. Boys Night Out - Trainwreck
July 26 on Ferret Records
Brian's Testimonial: An ambitious, masterfully crafted, not-so-easily pigeonholed followup from a band who many likely thought were to fly the flag Grade once soared high. Boys Night Out write a cohesive, obviously metaphorical but well-connected story of a man trying to exercise his musical -- and psychological -- demons inside his head, told against a creative, experimental, drawn out and still catchy affair. Read more...
#14. The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree
May 10 on 4AD Records
Greg0rb's Testimonial: After so many releases of focusing on the fictional and last year's We Shall All Be Healed focusing on real people other than himself, John Darnielle finally points his pen at his younger self. What we get is all the more compelling because we can truly picture our main character. It's not all whiny and hateful towards his abusive stepfather; Darnielle uses his narrative prowess to paint a very broad yet detailed picture of his young life and the hope that he had throughout it all. [review]
#13. Bear vs. Shark - Terrorhawk
June 14 on Equalvision
KirbyPuckett's Testimonial: It is a shame that BvS just broke up.Terrorhawk smoothed out the bumps from their stunning unveiling Right Now You're In The Best Of Hands. And If Something Isn't Quite Right.... They really hit their stride with these fifteen tracks that pulled from nearly every genre for one of the most intriguing albums in recent memory.
#12. Constantines - Tournament of Hearts
October 11 on Three Gut Records (Can) / Sub Pop Records (US)
Jesse's Testimonial: This release blindsided me. I always really liked Shine A Light, but I never ended up listening to it much. They've always been hailed sort of as a punk/indie Bruce Springsteen, and on this release the influence couldn't be more flushed out. But at the same time, Constantines managed to strip this album down to only the bare essentials each song needed, a huge jump away from Shine A Light where both guitars, keys, and bass were used to their full potential for layered harmonies and melodies. But while having a huge Springsteen influence, Tournament of Hearts couldn't sound more different than anything I've ever heard.
#11. Propagandhi - Potemkin City Limits
October 18 on G7 Welcoming Committee (Can) / Fat Wreck Chords (US)
Sickboi's Testimonial: Intelligent, aggressive and thought-provoking.
#10. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
May 24 on Sub Pop Records
Adam's Testimonial: Every time a track from The Woods shows up in the shuffle I tend to stop what I'm doing and just listen. While I liked a lot of records this year nothing came even close to capturing my attention like this has. Sleater-Kinney's always quality songwriting is mixed with an impossibly loud and imposing set of instrumentals, captured by a brutally raw production style. The band's vocals, guitars and drumming are all pushed to the breaking point and the results are staggering. The Woods is one of the most confident albums of the decade, and the band's command over this material is breathtaking.
#9. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
July 12 on Asthmatic Kitty
Dan Perrone's Testimonial: I wish I had the words to say just how much I love, adore, and appreciate this album. This is music as an art, in it's finest form: beautiful, honest, and caring. No one has done what this young man has done in his short career. There's nothing that can compare to just how good this album really is. Who thought folk music could be so catchy and accessible? With the use of countless instruments, backup vocalists, and, of course, his own talent and amazing voice, Sufjan Stevens has created a masterpiece. There's not a dislikable thing about Illinois. This kid has one hell of a future ahead of him, and I for one will be a fan all the way. Nothing that has been released in the past year can possibly touch this. Hands down the best album of 2005.
Tie - #7. The Decemberists - Picaresque
March 22 on Kill Rock Stars Records
Sally_Field's Testimonial: Britpop has never sounded so solid. Picaresque is nearly an hour of dreamy, charming rock laced with pianos and Colin Meloy's distinct vocals. The album is addicting and unique from the upbeat tracks such as "The Infanta" to the more mellow, emotional tracks in the likes of "From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea.)" To put it simply, this album is a gem and, without a doubt, my favourite release of 2005.
Tie - #7. Comeback Kid - Wake the Dead
February 22 on Victory Records
Dan Perrone's Testimonial: My review of this was pretty controversial, and ended up being pretty awesome because of that. While I still stand behind everything I said, it is obvious (being that this is #6) that this is not the best album of the year, although it is damn close. It's the best album Victory will has and will put out in a long time, and this is just the beginning for this young group. They've got the world by the balls; now it's just time to wait and see what they do with it.
#6. Death Cab for Cutie - Plans
August 30 on Atlantic Records
Sally_Field's Testimonial: After I first downloaded this album, it sat in my hard drive for weeks before I'd worked up the courage to listen to it. When I like an album as much as I liked Transatlanticism, a let-down was essentially imminent. Yet, when I finally worked up the courage to listen to Plans, I wasn't disappointed. Sure, the album is different than past Death Cab releases, but it still encompasses the mellow charm that makes the band so appealing in the first place. "Soul Meets Body" and "Summer Skin" remain my favourite tracks.
#5. Modern Life Is War - Witness
June 21st on Deathwish, Inc.
Aubin's Testimonial: A seething, vicious demonstration of the power of restraint in hardcore.
#4. Latterman - No Matter Where We Go..!
August 9 on Deep Elm Records
Justin's Testimonial: Where the hell did they come from? It simultaneously makes me want to ride my bike, sing along, and move back to the east coast. It makes me feel good inside, which is a hard task. I think that we only have good bands like this once in a very long while. Feel-good album of the year is the wrong term, but fits nonetheless.
#3. A Wilhelm Scream - Ruiner
August 16 on Nitro Records
KirbyPuckett's Testimonial: A "Wilhelm Scream" is a generic sound clip used in several films, made famous throughout the Star Wars films. Although, the band's name is derived from a common audible noise there is nothing broad about their music. With Ruiner AWS have compiled a smarter and more aggressive record than Mute Print, but the biggest surprise is perhaps the cunning lyrical department. Also, the song "Me Vs. Morrissey In The Pretentiousness Contest (The Ladder Match)" is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
#2. Against Me! - Searching for a Former Clarity
September 6 on Fat Wreck Chords
Scott's Testimonial: Every album Against Me! released has been better than the one prior, and this is no exception. Tom Gabel's lyrics continually cut to the core of whatever issue he feels like addressing, whether it be personal or social-political. It excites me to know I'll be able to witness every single step of Gabel's maturation as a musician, and to know that every single one of those steps is in the right direction. Gentlemen, take a bow: You are the most important band in punk rock.
#1. Paint It Black - Paradise
March 8 on Jade Tree Records
Brian's Testimonial: Melodic Hardcore 101 is now in session, with your long-time professor Dr. Dan Yemin. Paint It Black deliver a mindblowingly good twist on their style of no-frills, no bullshit hardcore with pangs of melody and plenty of spots to catch your breath, only to have it torn from your mouth and choked to oblivion. Whatever that means. Dr. Dan is outraged at the state of the world today, and he wants to let you know through song. Being pissed off never felt so good. My favorite album of 2005.