Wednesday, December 07, 2005

2005's Best of the Rest

It's that time of year again--time to unveil my choices for the best music of the year. The top ten albums list will appear on Friday; today I'll note my choices in some special categories. A similar list appears on Paul Allen's music blog, PopLife.

Best Soundtrack:
TV Series: Six Feet Under, Volume 2: Everything Ends
TV Movie: Bob Dylan, No Direction Home
Motion Picture: Brokeback Mountain

Six Feet Under, Volume 2: Everything Ends: An excellent collection of songs from the last three seasons of a great show. If you’ve seen the final season, you’ll want to own this just for the recording of Sia’s “Breathe Me,” though songs from Radiohead and Arcade Fire that closed pivotal episodes in the show are also included, as are the songs used in the show’s stylish pre-season promos.

Bob Dylan, No Direction Home: A great portrayal of Dylan’s growth during the most “important” part of his career. The most accessible of the seven volumes of the Bootleg Series, though volume 4 is also indispensable.

Brokeback Mountain: A very recent album, and haunting to hear even without seeing the movie that it accompanies. The tender “I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye,” sung by Teddy Thompson, will put tears in your eyes. Original songs written by Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin, including that one, add to the experience of an album that conveys a remarkable amount of emotion. Gustavo Santaolalla’s acoustic contributions are also excellent, as is Rufus Wainwright’s “The Maker Makes.”

Best Greatest Hits:
Melissa Etheridge: Greatest Hits--The Road Less Traveled

A strong retrospective of Melissa’s career that focuses most of its attention on her early work, much to its benefit. A few too many brand-new songs mean a few too few old ones, including none from the underrated Skin, but if you were to have only one CD from her in your collection, this would definitely be the one to get.

Best Reissue:
Belle & Sebastian: Push Barman to Open Old Wounds

I’ve taken quite a liking to B&S recently, and this neat double album gave me a cheap and easy way to get seven of the band’s EPs for less than $15. Not quite If You’re Feeling Sinister, but still well worth having!

Best Live Album:
Morrissey: Live at Earls Court

I feel bad for the new Bob Dylan bootleg recording, Live at the Gaslight 1962, and for the new Wilco live album that is still growing on me, but this Morrissey album is incredible and would probaly win this category no matter what the competition. It gives new life to a bevy of songs from his most recent album and revives several old Smiths songs as well. Indeed, while I’d usually push a studio album over a live one any day, this might be the best way to really get into Morrissey. It’s done the trick for me!

Biggest Disappointment:
Weezer: Make Believe AND Dave Matthews Band: Stand Up

When I saw these two albums scheduled for release on the same day this spring, I thought, “Wow! It’s a late-‘90s revival!” Turns out it was a chance for two artists who did great work and attracted great followings in the ‘90s to put out some less-than-stellar stuff that almost immediately found itself sitting on the shelf.

Best Cover Art:
Aimee Mann: The Forgotten Arm

This isn’t cover art—it’s a book! Complete with painted illustrations of the story told by this concept album, this is the most attractive CD package of the year. And the music isn’t half-bad, either.

Best Album Title:
Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better

Considering that the band initially planned to call this Franz Ferdinand, just like their last album, this certainly wins the award for most-improved!

Best Surprise:
Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine

The surprise isn’t that it’s good, it’s that it exists at all. After all the record company drama surrounding this album, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that it would finally see the light of day a few months ago. How pleasant a surprise? Find out Friday!


Paul Allen said...

I was soooo close to picking Aimee Mann for my Best Cover Art. I love it, but I don't think the actual cover image represents the music very well. And do we ever hear about him being a boxer in the lyrics?

Richard said...

Glad you approve! I see that we have the same favorite live album, too...which I find gratifying.

Not be a hectoring nitpicker, but yes, we do hear about the boxing. To wit: The third line of the album is "When I saw you in the ring on the lawn." And this lyric from "Video" strikes me every time I hear it:
"Tell me why I feel so bad, honey
Fighting left me plenty of money
But didn't keep the promise of memory lapses." The references to prize mnoney won from fighting and to memory lapses (from being punched in the head) are boxing references.

Paul Allen said...

That's not nitpicky! I asked because I know you are a much closer lyrics-scanner than me! Thanks for the info. I'll have to pay attention next time.