04 February 2006

The Music of 2005

Last year, I made a list of my favorite music from 2004. This year, I will continue the tradition and talk about the music of 2005. For various reasons, I decided not to create a "playlist" that happens to be as long as an integer multiple of the length of a CD. Instead, here are what I think are the best albums of the year, and anyone who doesn't have them in their collection should re-evaluate their priorities and scoot over to the nearest library and take a listen-hear (kind alike a look-see but with ears) to these.

1) The year started off unquestionably great. The wonderful German band "Wir sind Helden" (We are Heroes) released their 2nd album, "Von hier an blind". I was quite impressed with their 1st album (see last year's list), I was afraid they might not be able to continue the greatness. The fact that there was a 2-year gap between albums was a good sign (meaning they had time to really create good music, rather than churn something out to make a record company happy), and sure enough, they pulled off a winner. There is not a track that I dislike on the album, and in the last several months "Nur ein Wort" has been played on the radio, as background music for various things on MTV, etc. and it still has not become annoying to me (which is probably a first). "Gekommen um zu bleiben" and "Wütend genug" are also amazing tracks on a 100% wonderful album.

2) I got the second solo album of Farin Urlaub (of Die Ärzte), "Am Ende der Sonne" the same day I got the above album, and I was also quite pleased. Herr Urlaub has been making excellent music for 20 years, and he didn't stop in 2005. I really like the song "Dusche" (no, really, it means shower), and I don't think it is because it starts with a nice rhythmic whacking on a piece of not-normally-considered-a-musical-insrument metal, ala Einstürzende Neubauten. I am a real sucker for that. And the song "Wie ich den Marilyn-Manson-Ähnlichkeitswettbewerb verlor" (How I Lost the Marilyn Manson Look-Alike Contest) makes me laugh. Every song is good on this album, too.

3) "Shinola (vol.1)" by Ween. Considering this album is actually a bunch of outtakes, I am quite blown away by it. It is very addictive. Word of warning, however, if you listen to this album, you will never get the song "Big Fat Fuck" out of your head. But just about every song is a winner. If you want to have a song stuck in your head without the naughty word in the title, try "Gabrielle" or "Monique the Freak".

4) "You and Me Against the World" by Apoptygma Bezerk. I am not sure what to say about this one other than it is really good. And that I can't stop singing "Shine On" or "Into the Unknown", which is pissing off a lot of people, since I have a horrible singing voice.

5) I first heard The Chemical Brothers 10+ years ago on the "WipeoutXL" videogame, and thought the music made a great background for racing levitating rocket sleds (or whatever they were), and every once in a while I would see the name pop up in music stores. So I am not sure why I picked up their latest work, "Push the Button" at the library, but I am glad I paid the €1.50 (our library charges to check out new-release CDs) to hear this. The Chemical Brothers seem to have evolved quite a bit from that video game soundtrack, and somehow they remind me of what the Beastie Boys with less rap & more electronic stuff. The tracks "Left Right" and "Marvo Ging" are my favorites, and all but one of the remaining tracks are really good too. (For some reason, the song "Close Your Eyes" just doesn't work for me).

These were in the running (by nature of being from 2005 and heard by me)

* Franz Ferdinand's "You Could Have it So Much Better"
* Seeed "Next!"
* Rammstein "Rosenrot"
* Funker Vogt "Navigator"
* Project Pitchfork "Kaskade"
* They Might Be Giants "The Spine" (OK, maybe this was 2004)
* Bloodhound Gang "Hefty Fine"
* Juliana Hatfiled "Made in China"
* 311 "Don't Tread on Me"
* Bob Mould "Body of Song"
* Liz Phair "Somebody's Miracle"
* Westernhagen "Nahaufnahme"

Worth Noting:
Not long after "Debil" was first released by Die Ärzte in 1986, the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Schriften (Germany's Federal Inspection Authority for Youth-Endangering Writing) banned it saying it was "Socio-ethically disorienting". In October 2004, nearly 20 years later, they realized that the objectionable songs were satirical and removed the album from the banned list. This year, die Ärzte re-released it as "Devil" with some bonus material. One of the objectionable songs, "Schlaflied" (sleep song) is my favorite. It is a lullaby, basically saying "go to sleep little child, go to sleep. but once you are asleep, a monster will come and kill you in nasty & gruesome ways". The rest of the album is good too, but some of the references are from German society & politics of 20 years ago, so I don't always get the full meanings. But still a great punk album.

So there you have it. 5 Really good albums, and several pretty good ones. Like always, it is best to try before you buy, because I know my tastes can be out there sometimes. But really, you can't go wrong with the first 5.

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