Every year artists, albums, songs and shows come and go almost at the speed of the wind. One of the great joys many have at the end of 12 months is looking back while enjoying, regretting, and simply reveling in the memories that the previous 365 days thrust upon them and their loved ones. Is it Sentimental? Yes, but who doesn’t do that at the end of the year? Musically, 2005 offered up a wealth good, bad, ugly, and interesting music. While dance rock was inescapable, several unique pop songs were brought forth from worthwhile sources. Some reached for heaven; many found the epic possibilities in the simple and mundane qualities of life and love. From shaky romance, to political observations and agendas, to party songs; these are the songs that rose above all competition. These are mxdwn.com’s 10 best songs of the year.
10. The Spinto Band – Oh Mandy
From: Nice and Nicely Done
Opening with heavenly mandolins and strutting beat, this song reaches for all that is precious in the yearning for what may be just out of reach. A song like “”Oh Mandy”” could’ve been just another love song. While the elements are always right in front of the listener, the power comes from the raw emotion behind lyrics like “”Now I know I’m at the end of my wits / You gotta tell me where this is going / Because I know nothing ever falls apart / Remind me once more where this is going / Before I fling it out into the ocean.”” Not to mention the elliptical structure that surrounds the listener with all that is dreamy, romantic, innocent, and in the end slipping through the fingers of the protagonist. Still, The Spinto Band sings beautifully through the pain.
9. Death Cab for Cutie – Soul Meets Body
ame One thing that Death Cab for Cutie has always exhibited in their songs is a strong sense of need. “”Soul Meets Body”” is one of their most existential and catchiest creations this side of We Have All the Facts and We’re Voting Yes. There’s also no escaping their brand of perfectly enunciated romanticism here or anywhere else. Lyrics like “”I do believe it’s true / There are roads left in both of our shoes / But if the silence takes you then I hope it takes me too / So brown eyes I’ll hold you near / Cuz you’re the only song I want to hear / A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere”” display a longing-desire that most listeners can relate to. That type of need is what keeps Death Cab for Cutie at the top of their game.
8. Of Montreal – The Party’s Crashing Us
From: The Sunlandic
ame Disco may have ‘died’ a good score ago, but that has not stopped several acts from trying to re-kindle the flames. In a way, that’s exactly what Of Montreal has done on “”The Party’s Crashing Us.”” Granted, it’s not something you’d hear at Studio 54. That doesn’t mean that a 20-something with a penchant for Abba or a 50-something with a need to feel young couldn’t be found on the same floor grooving to this hip-shaker. In fact, that’s the spirit behind this swirling synthesizer, Talking Heads-esque dance track. In a way, Kevin Barnes created a well-structured musical hurricane with his vocals, lush keyboard arrangements, and an infatuation with 60s pop. The gentle strumming of a guitar, a focused baseline, and a simple, but danceable drum beat here act as the eye of the storm.
7. Common – Be
One of Hip-Hop’s true believers, Common could definitely lead the masses to the higher ground that Stevie Wonder sang about. “”Be”” is the opener from a back-to-basics album of the same name. What lies within is a wake-up call for listeners and a statement of everything that makes him great: Knowledge of his heritage, belief in the power of one, distaste for the negativity that exists around him, and a need to just simply be. It’s common sense from a not-so-common man.
6. The Decemberists – 16 Military Wives
ame In a world where many like to skew their thoughts drastically in one direction or another, the Decemberists call things like they see them. “”16 Military Wives”” is straightforward comment on the sad-but-true circumstances of this war that shows everyone a few things: While America’s soldiers die, celebrities aim at their next hit, and as the lyrics point out, “”The anchorperson on TV goes ‘La dee da dee da dee diddy diddy da.'”” “”18 Academy chairs / Out of which only 7 really even care is an almost Felliniesque comment on how the majority of the populace chooses to use their rights. The irony here is how much Colin Meloy and company throw into 5 minutes. From the opening chords, one instrument after another seems to show up like guests arriving at a party while the rollicking tempo evokes the rocking back and forth of a ship at sea.
5. Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc.
From: Demon Days
ame Expectations were high when the Gorillaz released Demon Days. On an album that opens with talk of the last living souls and ends with images of fire coming out of a monkey’s head, it’s clear that the Gorillaz have gone apocalyptic since their self-titled debut. The lead single, “”Feel Good Inc.”” is a perfect listener’s intro to 2D, Russell, Noodle, and Murdoc. From the demonic opening laugh, to the hard-hitting beat and grooving bass, this is the Gorillaz’s M.O. Damon Albarn’s (the live-action 2D) chaotic opening verse sounds like a down-trodden hero in a sci-fi film with lyrics like “”You won’t get out the county ‘cos you’re bad and free.”” Then comes the De La Soul verse evoking a maniacal overlord calling out orders to “”laughing gas these hazmats.”” The real story here is how Danger Mouse works as the ringleader throughout the track throwing studio effects, strings, and several other subtleties into the mix, but never letting things grow convoluted or out of control.
4. Broadcast – America’s Boy
From: Tender Buttons
ame Musically, Broadcast’s “”America’s’ Boy”” is a trip down memory lane. Incorporating the noise techniques of My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain to a small degree, Trish Keenan and company deliver a shimmering, tremulous and monotonously beautiful electro-pop song. Partially shielding Keenan’s angelically robotic vocals with a soft layer of fuzziness is a big boost in creating a rather hypnotic and patient musical environment. Verbally, the group calls against the actions of America as of late. Lyrics like “”Quaker toil and Texan oil / Rockets on we’re arm in arm”” condemn the government; “”Gun me down with yankee power / Cockpit Tom with army charm”” display a clear distaste with the imperialist actions.
3. Nine Inch Nails – The Hand That Feeds
From: With Teeth
ame Trent Reznor kept everyone waiting for nearly 6 years. The best certainly came to those who were patient. While Nine Inch Nails has always tried to break new ground, “”The Hand That Feeds”” finds Reznor and company joyously reveling in previously explored territory. This is a hard-rocking indictment of complacency that only Nine Inch Nails could deliver. It’s driven by power-chord guitars and a beat that’ll keep even the stiffest necks bobbing heads. This is a rocker, a raver, and a scorcher.
2. The New Pornographers – The Bleeding Heart Show
From: Twin Cinema
ame The New Pornographers have come a long way without really straying too far from where they began. While the Pornos have, stylistically, always remained in the realm of feel-good, catchy music, they’ve been anything but repetitive. It’s safe to say that, in recent years, few groups have explored a style as thoroughly as they have with indie-guitar-pop. This year’s Twin Cinema met high anticipation and delivered, as one could guess, more of the same: Great music.
ame From the opening lyrics, “”I leapt across three or four beds into your arms / Where I had hidden myself somewhere in your charm,”” A.C. Newman weaves a romantic tapestry that plays like watching “”Casablanca”” for the first time; it might not end the way you’d like, but you’re in for a great ride, regardless. Musically, the group, to paraphrase a DJ Shadow song title, builds steam from a grain of salt. Starting with an acoustic guitar and piano, the building to an incomparable blend of melancholy pop. As tension in the narrative of individuals chaotically coming together builds to infidelity, then the attempt to persist through their faults, Newman and Neko Case’s voices compliment each other flawlessly. The rest of the band follows suit by providing a soundtrack to these circumstances that, when separated from the vocals, could easily evoke images of similar events. By the time one reaches the mountain choir climax, whether it’s the end or rejuvenation of the relationship, there’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel.
ame If anyone were to argue against the songwriting talent of A.C. Newman, “”The Bleeding Heart Show”” could be a gigantic plea in his favor. In the span of about four and a half minutes he delivers a romantic epic of “”Gone with the Wind””-like proportions. Lyrics like “”Our golden handshake has been smashed into this shape / It’s taken magic to a primitive new place”” reveal that this isn’t your average love song, either. This is a song giving emotional depth and intellectual weight to the simplicity of falling in and out of love. Listeners could repeat this song 15 or 20 times before they’ve completely soaked it in. Great songs have a huge replay value and “”The Bleeding Heart Show”” is a bottomless well.
1. LCD Soundsystem – Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
From: LCD Soundsystem
ame Here it is. This is the ultimate party song about the ultimate party. Every kid for miles is there and the neighbors can’t call the police. Questions could be raised about Daft Punk playing at someone’s house being equivalent to the ultimate party, but that would be the epitome of missing the point. LCD Soundsystem are music fans, first and foremost. “”Daft Punk is Playing at my House”” is their realization of a feel-good groove.
ame Catchy and danceable may be the forefront of this instant classic, but it doesn’t stop there. James Murphy has taken the template of a 5-minute dance song and displayed his skill at the boards while simultaneously giving the club-hoppers something to shake to, while not forgetting the audiophiles. One could sit up all night vigorously compiling a list of Murphy’s influences (The Fall, PiL, Gang of Four) and probably never reach an end. James Murphy even took Christopher Walken’s timeless advice and threw in cowbell for good measure.
ame It may sound a bit hyperbolic, but everything coalesces into an unstoppable dance-pop juggernaut. It’s extremely infectious and it may require hypnotism for the listener to finally shake from their head, but who would want a song this grand, fun, and balls-to-the-wall exciting to ever escape their head? Frankly, the best compliment a song could receive is a listener who can’t forget it. No one will soon forget this one, that’s a guarantee.