Herein lies the music from last year I neglected in my Top Albums of 2005 list. This was either due to me not partaking in said listening activities until 2006, or my temporary senility when composing said rankings. So let the games continue, in no particular order!

The Constantines - Tournament of Hearts

The Constantines

Tournament of Hearts

I’m a jackass for omitting this from my original best of 2005 list since I had listened to it dozens of times throughout the last few months that year. They manage to balance working-class anthems and quiet introspective pieces without sounding contrived or pretentious. Compared to their previous album, Shine a Light, the songs have many more hooks that simply don’t get tired with multiple listens. The themes and singer’s voice both recall Springstein, as most Constantines’ reviews seem to always mention so I will too, out of obligation. This release is beautiful from start to end – a definite Canadian indie rock classic.

Sleater-Kinney - The Woods

Sleater-Kinney

The Woods

I completely skipped this one as I never liked Sleater-Kinney due to them being attached to the Riot Grrl fad and I found vocals to be lacking. Well their final album turns that around to a point where the singing is with a snarl, guitars are more distorted, and drumming with bombast. These tracks remind me of the best parts of Led Zeppelin due to their immediacy and over-the-top riffs. More showcase stadium act than a nondescript lo-fi garage punk gig. It’s rare to find such female-led music that can pull off aggression and vulnerability without sounding awkwardly masculine. In my top 5 of 2005.

Wintersleep - untitled<

Wintersleep

untitled

This is my token entry for Canadian east coast music. I find the music scene in Nova Scotia and surrounding provinces to be completely rubbish. Most acts are derivative or lack the chops to be world-class entertainers. Luckily Wintersleep has enough talent to cover up the cultural tattoos on their inner forearms. Like most North American white males now in their twenties, they have obviously listened to a fair amount of Seattle grunge. Singer Paul Murphy’s voice is straight up Eddie Vedder/Chris Cornell (without the screaming).

The eighth track, “Listen, Listen (Listen)” sounds like it’s directly from Pearl Jam’s 1996 release, No Code. You would think continuing this thread will only lead to Default Theory of a Nickelcreed, and we don’t want that, now do we? Well Wintersleep also manages to mix in slowly-plucked and aggressively-strummed pedal-delayed electric guitar found in many post-rock and post-hardcore acts which adds kick to the mix. I’m not going to claim greatness here, but it’s nice to see an act separating wheat from the chaff.

Winter Equinox - Safe and Sound

Winter Equinox

Safe and Sound

I saw these musicians back in November 2004 when they opened for a friend’s band in Guelph. They recalled post-rock bands such as Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, leading me to enjoy the show enough to buy their second demo.

I didn’t find out their debut album came out until more than a year after its release. On disc, their sound is more low-key and eclectic, with a wide range of instruments leading to comparisons with Chicago’s Tortoise or Toronto’s Do Make Say Think. Every track is instrumental, with the exception of “Seeing Stars” and “Skies Over Smokestacks”, which contain some minimal (amateur) male vocals. In addition to the usual guitar, bass, and drums, they also incorporate flute, clarinet, keyboards, and some programmed beats and ambience. The tracks are fairly jazzy with the occasional groovy flourish.

I see this release as fairly necessary in the archives of post-rock due to the talented mix of acoustic compositions combined with electronic excerpts that add to the sonic and emotional depth. They’re also from SoOntario! Unfortunately, they disbanded in early 2006 to pursue other projects.

Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase

Boards of Canada

The Campfire Headphase

In the electronic music arena, these guys need no introduction. Music Has the Right to Children and Geogaddi are both considered classics in their own right. Their tracks of warm, off-centre analogue synth, found recordings, and subdued hip-hop beats recall low-budget 35mm recordings of a calm summer lake in the shade of a pine forest. At least for me, this connects to nature shows such as Lorne Greene’s New Wilderness which I used to watch as a child. Their namesake does come from the National Film Board of Canada, so my Jump to Conclusions mat usage is obvious.

All you need to know for this album is the addition of acoustic guitar which will provide the visual of, surprise, a campfire. The warped but comfortable atmosphere is still there, however I wouldn’t rank this beside their first two major albums as the overall picture is not as transcendental as their past work.

Kent - The Hjärta & Smärta EP

Kent

The Hjärta & Smärta EP

A handful of songs from the Swedish group sound like they could be from any of their previous albums. You’ll recall The Cure, U2, and Radiohead for the background synths and tight rock production. Many of the songs don’t have the strong pop hooks of the 2005 album Du & Jag Döden, making the release sound more like a b-side dump (which it was not). One welcome addition is the children’s choir on the finale song, “Dom Som Försvann”. Even if it’s all in Swedish, I can still get the gist of the ideas, yeah? Not really, since according to Release Magazine‘s review, those kids are singing “You scare us/You need help/Your goddamn whining makes me sick”. I can relate to that.

Miocene - A Perfect Life With a View of the Swamp

Miocene

A Perfect Life With a View of the Swamp

Stylistically, this album is completely all over the place. NĂ¼ metal to drum’n’bass to fusion jazz to hip-hop back to prog metal. Think Candiria, but not quite as hard… or interesting. Unfortunately a fair amount of tracks include some rather dated use of the Amen Break, but at least they treat the samples a bit. The instrumental and programmed bits are blended fairly seamlessly. Noteworthy from the smorgasbord are the Tool-ish songs “The Fall” and “Dionysus”. The former also reminds me of Cog’s early EPs for the heavy voice and rolling tom-tom drumming. Too bad the whole is a mess, but some of the parts can be pleasurable. The album ends with a folk song- the hell?

Queens of the Stone Age - Lullabies to Paralyze

Queens of the Stone Age

Lullabies to Paralyze

I really don’t know why I can’t get completely into this one. Maybe due to Someone’s in the Wolf having this sweet jamming section, but it’s just pounded into your skull for over seven minutes. [R] and Songs For the Deaf were both brilliant, with the former using low-end metal, recalling Kyuss, to create these tight, catchy songs. The latter was more accessible art rock, with the strength of Dave Grohl’s drum work and Hommes’ melodic guitar used to actually get the band on the radio (where God resides, or so I heard). Lullabies also has some strong points, such as the Bruce Dickinson-approved “Little Sister” or the start/stop dynamics of “Burn the Witch” which remains memorable without annoying (see: first comment).

Yndi Halda - Enjoy Eternal Bliss

Yndi Halda

Enjoy Eternal Bliss

A British post-rock that takes direct nods from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions From the Sky for both the epic music and hand-drawn artwork. Some claim these copycats acts are just flogging a dead (flag blues) horse, but I think this release makes a claim to be held up on its own. The album contains only three tracks, ranging from eleven to seventeen minutes each. Swells of guitars, martial snare drums, violins, and other string instruments crescendo and fall away to folk-inspired guitar passages, all with a type of positive outlook you catch glimpses of in each Sigur Rós composition. It’s quality music to lift you up on a rainy day and still feel authentic about the whole experience.

Mew - ... And the Hand Handed Kites

Mew

… And the Hand Handed Kites

I’ve gushed about these Danish mofos since hearing 2003’s Frengers months after it came out. Their usage of angular guitarwork, sweet piano, thick synths, and sugary falsetto create a sound that’s both happy and sad at the same time. I would classify them as Sigur Rós with faster beats per minute. For this album, Mew made the songs a bit more proggy, with sudden time signature shifts and double-bass drum bursts that make the post-punk/indie pop have a harder edge. Each songs blends into each other, making this more a full-length listen than a single-driven affair. I’ve tried to get a couple people into these guys, but few can get past the high vocals. If you can accept that all music doesn’t have to be overtly masculine, I guarantee you’ll dig this disc. Recommended to fans of Sunny Day Real Estate’s final album, The Rising Tide.

Dead Hollywood Stars - Smoke and Mirrors

Dead Hollywood Stars

Smoke and Mirrors

Whereas the initial two CD releases focused on spaghetti western themes composed electronically, this album adds some clearly played electric guitar, dub bass, jazz drumming, and brass instrumentation on top of the existing harmonicas, slide guitars, and sci-fi sound effects to find a fusion of a moving image created by Sergio Leone and David Lynch. 100% instrumental, even without any voice samples, and clocking under 23 minutes, this is the most diverse release out of John Sellekaers’ extensive catalog. Whereas he usually explores post-industrial and IDM soundscapes, this embraces Americana’s mystery and beauty.

My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult - Gay, Black, and Married

My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult

Gay, Black, and Married

They’ve been around for two decades, but My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult have managed a release that’s fairly different from their other material. Gone is the sample-fueled industrial rock of the past that drew comparisons to White Zombie and Pop Will Eat Itself. The focus stays on kitschy, sexually-charged lyrics but added are obvious disco beats, house-ish synths, funky Wah guitar, and vocoders with repeated minimal lyrics. There are issues with tracks going two minutes beyond their expiration date, but many lead themselves to be suitable for a party where people wish to get retarded without listening to tacky hip-hop. Instead, listen to tacky disco revival! I think it also sets a new record for the usage of the word “freak” on an album.

Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise

Sufjan Stevens

Illinoise

Sufjan Stevens composes the caliber of tunes that makes me embarrassed to listen to. For serious, I wear headphones and don’t dare to tell people The Truth. He is a representative of the general preciousness movement permeating pop culture since the late 90s, exemplified by Scottish group Belle & Sebastian and Wes Anderson film soundtracks. You can hear it characterized with folksy acoustic guitars, some bright toned background instrument such as a xylophone or melodica, and vocals closer to falsetto than alto.

Putting self-awareness aside, the songs all have fucking pop hooks, which is why I can’t resist. You may have heard some of the tracks from this album littered through 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine, which had a whole Wes Anderson vibe on its own, beyond music, but I digress. I can forgive Sufjan for the front cover’s Quiet Riot pun since he somehow manages to write a sweet song centered on serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The tracks go from quiet and intimate acoustic passages to epic choirs and string sections that recall The Polyphonic Spree.

Overall, I suggest you shut your bedroom door, throw on some Sennheiser’s, mess about your bed-head shaggy hair, further tighten those hip-hugging jeans, and just accept that we can’t be cynically ironic all the time.

Boris - Pink

Boris

Pink

I see this list popping up in the best of lists for 2006, however it was originally released in Japan a year earlier. Simply imagine The Melvins + My Blood Valentine. It’s a wall of overdriven guitars with some melody thrown in. It may be grating on initial listening sessions, but you’ll likely adapt to it even if you don’t listen to harder music. Since S.P.K. and Einstürzende Neubauten don’t take any sweat off my bag, I immediately accepted it as a pleasant recording. And how!