Ok, let's get this out of the way up front: this isn't a top ten Philly band album review. I'm sure Philebrity or some blog I don't have linked does that. This here is a long standing tradition
between myself and my proud music snob friends, and isn't limited to one genre, be it hip-hop or New York Garage Hipsters or English wuss rock. It's all of the above and more. I can readily assure
you, though, that you will never find any bands with names as terrible as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on any of my lists. That's a promise, just like there's a promise that these ten records are worth
your money. Buy them if you haven't already.|
10. Neil Young - Prairie Wind
Neil Young is one of my all-time favorite artists, up there with Dylan and Floyd and Radiohead. The reissues of 2003 (including On the Beach and Everybody Knows This is Nowhere) are classic. And this album is in line with them, yet still evolved and reflective of 2005. Maybe it's NY's older shaky voice, maybe it's that you can't listen to it without thinking about the brain surgery NY went through that you read about 400 times. The point is, for an old fart, the dude makes great music.
9. Beck - Guero
Happy Beck is usually better than sad Beck, though Mutations is far and away my favorite. "Que Onda Guero" was my 2005 summer jam. This is a good album, but can you get over the Scientology thing? Beck probably isn't gonna jump on Oprah's couch, but he did make his band eat dinner on stage while he did his acoustic songs in Camden.
8. Calexico & Iron and Wine - In the Reins
Ok, Iron and Wine is that dude who's played The Fire and the TLA and who I've always heard is awesome and who I never really bothered with. And Calexico has a sound I really dig, but I never made the effort to find their music. So this record was the perfect reason to delve into both. Seven songs of (FILE UNDER) Americana bliss. Plus it made for a fantastic soundtrack to a ride on Amtrak's Pennsylvanian along the Juniata River in Huntingdon County in the midst of a foggy snowfall.
7. MIA - Arular
Did you know this Sri Lankan chick is dating Diplo from Hollertronix? Ain't that some shit? (I helped him with his message board in years past.) And she did that weird track with Missy Elliott, and "Galang" is used in that Volkswagen(?) commercial. Great record, this one.
6. Mazarin - We're Already There
Philly entry number one. It's like happy floaty angry political music with a drum machine. (Ok ok, the drum machine's only on the first track "New American Apathy", which is probably the best one.)
5. Doves - Some Cities
Is there any truth to the rumor that these dudes are done recording after this album and its tour? If so, that would be a sad loss to the Manchester music scene, and they'd have to go back to dusting off Smiths/Stone Roses/Buzzcocks/Oasis (just kidding) records. Anyway, this Doves album is good, but their show at the TLA was AMAZING -- the best energy I've ever seen from a Philly crowd, which is historically really lame.
4. Common - Be
Man, I remember a dude named Common Sense asking Can I Borrow a Dollar? and telling the story how "I Used to Love Her" (and the ensuing beef with Ice Cube), and here it is a decade later and this guy's helped put on some other Chicagoan named Kanye West, as did Jay-Z and Roc-a-fella. So Kanye got Common's back and laid down hotter beats on this album than on his own from 2005.
3. Capitol Years - Let Them Drink
Philly entry 2, the record that should have escalated the Capitol Years higher still than just, for example, having songs on MTV spots, touring Spain and opening for the first Pixies show in a dozen years. But perhaps the small label decision postponed that leap, which has got to happen with the 2006 effort from the band. If you haven't seen them live, you're doing yourself and the Philly rock scene an injustice. And if you see that they're playing a Pussyfootin' show, GO.
2. . . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Worlds Apart
These Texans are out of their goddamn mind. They throw stuff at each other on stage, break guitars, smash drums, and play so loud that NOT having earplugs is uncool. This record is loud, powerful, and says FU to the Bush regime and the Americans who made it happen better than any band I've heard do so.
1. My Morning Jacket - Z
Oh boy. Was I ever wrong. When MMJ's name made all the regular cool circuits (read: Pitchfork and hipster gossip web sites), I wrote these guys off as the band du jour no one would like next year. I heard a few of their tracks in 2003-04 and thought they were okay, but that the Neil Young comparisons were ground and what was the point? Enter Z. What an incredibly great, cohesive, sonic album. Jim James' pipes, the driving and rising guitars, the layered beats . . . I am very, very mad at myself for not seeing them FOR FREE back in October (in support of Z), but at least I've got the album. You should too.
Honorable mentions: Radar Bros - The Fallen Leaf Pages, Kanye West - Late Registration, Ween - Shinola, Spoon - Gimme Fiction, Dr Dog - Easy Beat