While I began this blog in 2003, it didn't become a focused music blog until 2006 (I used the word "focused" loosely!) . My "Best of 2006" post was my first detailed year-end list. At that point I have continued to write detailed year-end lists annually, and they are easily the most-read posts in my blog.
Eventually I went back in time, and over the past couple of years have been writing year-end lists from 1991 to the present. This post finally brings me full circle. I did publish this original "Best of 2005" list sans-details in January of 2006, and all 12 of those albums are in the top 20 below.
What's next? "Best of 2015" later this month, but then I am going to "fix" my best-of lists from 2006-present (both in content and design) and then start at 1990 and go backwards (as 1991 is currently my oldest list).
Introducing the list below, I really struggle with the order of the top three. All three are potential #1 albums. Eisley was #1 at the time, but at least for today I am putting Sufjan's masterpiece in the top spot.
Top 20 albums of 2005:
1. Sufjan Stevens- Illinois(e)
First heard: I downloaded a leak of it online a couple months before it was released. I pre-ordered the CD (which has the Superman on the cover) and unfortunately didn't buy the vinyl until later (mine has the balloons instead of Superman). The final cover seen on the right is the 10th Anniversary "Blue Marvel" edition. Marvel was apparently willing to work with Sufjan, but DC Comics was not.
First heard: Pre-ordered and heard it on release day after falling in love with the many Moss Eisley and Eisley EPs that came before it. Got the CD early and then eventually the vinyl release (which is now OOP and goes for over $100 on eBay). I adore this album, and the 3-year wait for it's release was painful. I originally had it ranked #1 for this year, but the band has improved so much it is hard to still think of it that highly.
First heard: Also a pre-order that I got on release day. My wife later bought me the vinyl version (with the alternate cover below) for my birthday. Last year I sold that vinyl version for around $200 (crazy!), which enabled me to buy a re-press of Vheissu on vinyl along with two other rare LP's I had been looking for for years.
As time goes on, this seems to be the most critically-acclaimed and the fan favorite of most Thrice followers. Understandably, as this was the album in which the band broke out of it's punk roots and began amazing experimentation.
Tracks 3 to 5 are a perfect display of the sounds that Thrice would continue to use in the years to come: the brutal heaviness of "The Earth Will Shake" to the quiet electronics of "Atlantic", to the piano intro and eventual epic, sonic-explosion of "For Miles".
|First vinyl pressing alternate cover|
First heard: This album took years and years to be written and recorded. Some of the songs Amy Bozeman (wife of Lee) sent me on a CDR while I was in Zambia in a trade for some negatives of photos I took of Luxury at the EARL. Sadly, there was a pre-order for the vinyl, but not enough people wanted it, and the vinyl release was canceled. At times everyone--including the members of the band--thought this would be the final Luxury release but thankfully we have been blessed with Trophies (which was released to Kickstarter supporters last December, and was my 2014 album of the year, but the official release is still upcoming).
First heard: I downloaded the Jon Brion-produced leaked version in late 2004. Then In October 2005 I bought the final Mike Elizondo-produced version on vinyl. For a long time I greatly preferred the Brion version, but now I actually like the Elizondo version better. This is Apple's masterpiece, and by far my wife and my favorite release from her. Probably helps that is is by far her most positive album.
First heard: Got on eMusic the year it was released. This is actually one of two New Pornographers albums I still haven't bought on vinyl (but will eventually if it fits into my budget). All of the New Pornographers' work is excellent, but this is near the best. "The Bleeding Heart Show" is my single favorite song from the band.
First heard: Pre-ordered the vinyl from Barsuk. Was initially disappointed by this release but has grown on me greatly with time. Part of that growth is due to the band's decline to the soul-less Narrow Stairs, but amazing bounce-back to this year's excellent Kintsugi.
First heard: Also pre-ordered the vinyl from Barsuk. The first edition vinyl artwork is a cutout, with the buildings able to be folded up from the black background; really nice touch! A couple days ago Nada Surf announced You Know Who You Are, their new album releasing March 4, 2016. Here is the first single:
First heard: My wife and I saw Over the Rhine in concert at least twice a year for the first few years of our marriage, and worked their merch table twice in Atlanta around the time of this release. This is potentially my wife's favorite Over the Rhine album, and unfortunately the final Over the Rhine album that I truly enjoy. All of their work since does not connect with me in the same way.
First heard: Not as early as I should have. Getting albums from this awesome Dutch band was always a challenge when living in the US. Lead singer/songwriter Lydia van Maurik deserves fame and recognition, but chances are most readers are hearing about her for the first time.
First heard: Downloaded on eMusic near the time of it's release. At the time was the first Jenny Lewis-related release I owned. Since though I have bought most all her solo and Rilo Kiley albums. Jan. 14, 2016 edit: A reader notified me this is actually a 2006 release, and a 10th anniversary tour is about to start.
First heard: Bought on vinyl near the time of its release. Jason Martin is thankfully insanely prolific (this is studio LP 9 of 13), but has slowed down in recent years. 2015 only saw a single on a split 7", but there is a new slow-core Starflyer album rumored for 2016:
.@nprmusic @totalvibration Thanks for the mention. PS If you like lounge-gaze, there's more where that came from on the next LP— Starflyer 59 (@starflyer59) September 25, 2015
First heard: I discovered Metric with 2009's Fantasies, and it wasn't until a year or two later that I went back and got this album. Writing about Metric now mainly reminds me that I have work to do in hearing their work that was recorded prior to this album!
First heard: Bought this on CD soon after it's release. This was Rosie's third and final Sub-Pop album and featured a much fuller sound (and honestly possibly over-produced). It has now been three years since Rosie's last release (2012) as she is busy having children!
First heard: This album was my introduction to Spoon, and downloaded it on eMusic at some point in 2006 after seeing it on so many year-end lists.
First heard: My wife has always loved Nickel Creek and kept me in the loop about them. They went their separate ways for almost a decade following this album, but returned with a bang last year's A Dotted Line.
First heard: This is one of the few iTunes purchases I have ever made. (I buy plenty of digital music, but 95% of the time through Bandcamp or Amazon.) The reason I got this one on iTunes is because it was the only way to get this Denmark release. Hepburn originally performed with the band Glorybox before a short solo career. I recently discovered she is currently performing with the band Blood on a Feather and the Kloster "musical workshop". This solo album of hers is by far her greatest work, and makes me wonder why she hasn't put out any other solo releases.
First heard: Not until 2014. I discovered Gemma Hayes in 2008, and as much as I liked Hollow of Morning, I didn't research her catalog and forgot about her until 2012. Let it Break blew me away, and between its release and 2014's Bones + Longing I finally went back and got all her older work. The Roads Don't Love You is before Hayes really found her sound or hit her stride, but it is still excellent song-writing.
First heard: Another eMusic download. Wasn't until 2010's The Five Ghosts that I fell in love with this band and starting buying their physical releases.
First heard: I heard the mostly bland singles "Talk" and "Speed of Sound" on the radio in 2005 like everyone else. But I was curious enough based on the band's first two albums to buy this CD, and blown away by "Fix You" and "'Til Kingdom Come." Yesterday I got the new Coldplay album A Head Full of Dreams on vinyl. The artwork is elaborate and fun, upon first listen the album couldn't be more bland.