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Monday, December 12th, 2005

This Year

So here we are, another year-end list in the cacaphony of December retrospectives. Still, if there’s one thing lists do, it allows writers to be lazy and rehash what they’ve already no doubt covered in the past although this has turned out to be one of the most time-consuming posts of the year for me, maybe ever. You’d think that writing short blurbs on the records that one enjoyed the most in the past year would be easy, but really, not so much. I can’t say that 2005 was a watershed year for music, but there was certainly enough great stuff to keep me happy as a pig in a blanket for the past twelve months.

I made a decision at the start of the year to actively seek out more new music outside of my usual comfort zone, and while I must confess I wasn’t as dilligent about that as I’d intended, the fact that four of my top ten albums came from acts I’d never heard (or in many cases even heard of) before this year ain’t too bad. I’ll be endeavouring to carry this trend forward into ’06, mainly by actually listening to more of the CDs, compilations and mp3s that I’m sent. While this will no doubt increase my exposure to bad music, no pain no gain, n’est pas? Though I have to say that looking at the release schedule for 2006, stacked as it is with many new albums from long-time favourites, I wonder if any dark horses will manage to eke their way onto next year’s edition? To do so, some very reliable veteran acts would have to drop the ball… Oh well, time will tell.

Curiously, the Top 5 of The First Half Of 2005 list I posted back in July just preceded my exposure to most of the albums that made the final cut, but a few managed to carry over and the others just barely got bumped down to honourable mention status. The final ten are listed alphabetically – I had considered actually ranking them this year, but after the clear-cut top three positions, things kind of just fell into a constantly-shifting mass that changed from moment to moment. I found it interesting that eight of the ten albums came from American acts, and two from Canadians. No British or European artists at all, though if I expanded the list out to twenty or so, the Old World would be quite well represented. What can I say? The colonies rocked the mic in ’05, yo.

And many thanks to Toronto illustrator Renée Nault for the beautiful frontispiece in this year-end retrospective. For a full-size version of the art (500K), click here – it looks even better biggie-sized. Do check her portfolio out.

So without further ado, my top 10 albums of 2005 (and ancillary lists and commentary)… after the jump.
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Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

Thieves Like Us

With New Order’s latest album Waiting For The Sirens’ Call coming out in North America last week, Exclaim! takes the opportunity to recap the massively influential yet utterly unique band’s history in timeline form. I may be compromising all cred I have by saying I far prefer New Order to their forebears Joy Division, but it’s true. There are times when “Temptation” is simply the best song in the world.

The New Order news cycle brings us a few pieces worth reading, including these interviews with Bernard Sumner by the San Francisco Chronicle (via neworderonline.com) and Rolling Stone and this Chicago Sun-Times interview with Peter Hook. Hookie will also be in Toronto this Friday doing a DJ set at the Mod Club, admission $15.

You can see the first two videos from Sirens’ Call here. “Krafty” is vintage New Order and the video is equal parts snogariffic and vertigo-inducing. “Jetstream” is underwhelming and is probably only a single to capitalize on the appearance of the chick from The Scissor Sisters. And really, they’re not a band that should appear in their own videos…

Video (WMA): New Order – “Krafty”

Video (WMA): New Order – “Jetstream”

And while you’re enjoying all things New Order, check out Peter Saville’s website. The man responsible for the band’s distinctive visual style has a nice online gallery of his work and you can download fonts of the typefaces he used on all the different Joy Division and New Order album covers over the years. Very cool.

Wilco aren’t coming back to Toronto anytime soon, but they will be playing just down the 401 in sunny Buffalo on June 28 as part of the Rockin’ At The Knox festival at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. If it wasn’t a weekday and if I had a car, I’d consider going. But it is and I don’t, so that’s that. Oh, and I really don’t like Buffalo… but I digress. My Morning Jacket support.

But who IS coming to Toronto on July 25 is none other than Bruce Campbell, in town to promote his new book, Learn To Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way. Finally, some tips on how to use that chainsaw for a hand to satisfy the ladies.

Ex-Spinane Rebecca Gates will be at Lee’s Palace May 21 filling in the vacancy left when The Decemberists moved their show that night to the Phoenix.

Popmatters interviews Brendan Benson.

Stereogum brings us “21 High-Quality Albums From The Past Three Years (In No Particular Order)” courtesy of the very funny Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman seems to be a love ’em/hate ’em kind of polarizing figure, and I’m firmly in the first camp. Also happy to see his next book, Killing Yourself to Live : 85% of a True Story, is coming out next month.

24: Truly it does my heart proud to see the Chinese getting their moment in the sun as villains. No one ever gives us enough credit for having the capacity for evil. Granted, so far it’s only bureaucratic evil and they haven’t actually done anything really sinister yet, but it’s coming. Can you say season five? Jack Bauer vs China. But I was a little disappointed that the consulate infiltration was over so quickly. As Juan pointed out via email, it was very Metal Gear in execution – it would have been nice to see Jack have to drag and hide a guard’s body in a locker. A very intense final scene – it’s nice when they let Keifer act. The look on his face was really quite emotive. I tell ya, no one knows how to break up with a woman like Jack Bauer. And Chloe and Edgar are totally going to get it on. It will be the grossest thing ever.

np – Explosions In The Sky / The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place