More and more lists of the best albums of the year are being posted, and, for whatever reason, I’m finding them all very interesting. So interesting that, with a gift certificate I got from my employer, I got a bunch of the albums mentioned, including:
Black Sheep Boy – Okkervil River
Stephen Malkmus – Face the Truth
The Frames – Burn the Maps
Clap your Heads Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Serena Maneesh – Serena Maneesh
Vitalic – OK Cowboy
The Clientele – Strange Geometry
The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday
Silver Jews – Tanglewood Numbers
The Decemberists – Picaresque
Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock & Roll
Two albums that seem underrepresented to me are Eels’ Blinking Light and Other Revelations and Broken Social Scene’s Broken Social Scene. The Eels album in particular has to be just about the best album of 2005, and it hasn’t been mentioned anywhere I’ve seen yet. I’ve also found myself enjoying Rogue Wave’s Descended Like Vultures several times, and, of course, there’s Rebecca Turner‘s Land of My Baby. Rebecca’s a friend, so I’m not even going to pretend to be objective about her album, but I really do think it’s great.
One album that was well reviewed (though it hasn’t made any best album lists thus far) but that I won’t be buying is the Rolling Stones’ A Bigger Bang. I’m just not going to fall for it anymore. Yes, Rolling Stone says of it:
Let’s just get this out of the way: A Bigger Bang isn’t a good Rolling Stones album considering their age. It isn’t a good Rolling Stones album compared to their recent work. No, A Bigger Bang is just a straight-up, damn fine Rolling Stones album, with no qualifiers or apologies necessary for the first time in a few decades.
But then they also said of Undercover:
By now, the Rolling Stones have assumed something of the status of the blues in popular music â€“ a vital force beyond time and fashion. Undercover, their twenty-third album (not counting anthologies and outtakes), reassembles, in the manner of mature masters of every art, familiar elements into exciting new forms. It is a perfect candidate for inclusion in a cultural time capsule: should future generations wonder why the Stones endured so long at the very top of their field, this record offers just about every explanation. Here we have the world’s greatest rock & roll rhythm section putting out at maximum power; the reeling, roller-derby guitars at full roar; riffs that stick in the viscera, songs that seize the hips and even the heart; a singer who sounds serious again. Undercover is rock & roll without apologies.
Funny, Undercover was released during those few decades when qualifiers and apologies are now said to have been necessary. And a few years later, in a review of Steel Wheels, they said that “the Stones’ last two albums, Undercover and Dirty Work… ranged from bad to ordinary…,” only to go on to say that, no, Steel Wheels is really the album on which the Rolling Stones recovered their former greatness (though it too was released during the decades of qualifiers and apologies). But I don’t think that anyone still believes that anymore either. The simple truth is that the Rolling Stones are never again going to make an album as good as those they made prior to 1973–they’ve stopped even trying. They’re still a remarkable live band, but they just don’t write songs like they used to. Some Girls was the essence of opulent decadence and Tattoo You was as slick an imitation of the Stones’ great albums as you’ll ever hear, but they’ve nowhere attempted the ragged Thanatotic glory of their run of albums from Beggars Banquet through Exile on Main St., and they sound absurd attempting the fresh, libidinal drive of their best work before then. They learned to be an adult rock band, but they couldn’t sustain it, so they’ve retreated to hooks and catch phrases delivered with great vim and vigor.