Questionable Content's Top 20 Records of 2005

2005 was a good year for music. There's a ton of really good stuff from this past year out there for you to check out, and for that reason I've decided to expand my end-of-year list from 10 to the heftier 20 picks. Bear in mind that these are just one man's opinions, and that you may agree or disagree with them as you wish. If you disagree, why not make a list of your own and put it up on your site? That is what the inter-tron is for, after all. Anyway, here goes. I'll add album art as I get the chance, for now you'll just have to content yourself with band names and album titles.


Isolee- We Are Monster
Minimal Euro-techno with strong Poker Flat/Ricardo Villalobos influences (or if not influences, similarities- I'm too new to the techno game to track artists chronologically). My main beef with most "minimal" electronic music is that the two things dance music is best at- rhythm and melody, often get shafted to varying extents. Not so with this album and its precise balance of tunefulness and tricksy programming. If you're interested in hearing what electronic music sounds like these days, this album is a good place to start.


Pelican- The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw
Pelican turned down their amps and ramped up the dynamic shifts for this album. It doesn't have the crushing bombast of Australasia, but it displays a band more confident in its compositional skills and more adventurous in its instrumentation and timbre. "Track Four" is the standout here- if Hum or Isis had ever done an MTV Unplugged appearance, this is what it would have sounded like.


Opeth- Ghost Reveries
"What the hell is Swedish prog-metal doing on this list?!" the indie purists ask. Well for my money, Opeth have pretty much the best guitar playing in the metal world right now, and as a guitar geek this is like honey for my ears. It's not as good a record as Blackwater Park or My Arms Your Hearse, but it's still damned good. Ghost Reveries sags a little bit in the middle third, but the first and last couple tracks make up for it. Definitely worth checking out if you enjoy technically challenging metal.


Yob- The Unreal Never Lived
If you crossed Rush and High on Fire, you'd get Yob. I don't like most doom/stoner metal, but this is some good shit. That galloping guitar riff in "Quantum Mystic" could go on forever (and nearly does) and I wouldn't get tired of it.


Poker Flat- Poker Flat Volume 4
The fourth (duh) in a series of compilations by the seminal German house label. Dark, minimal techno with a knack for melody and a yen for swing. Highly recommended if you like clicks and beeps.


The Juan MacLean- Less Than Human
Echoey, melancholy dance music from the DFA's ace in the hole. That goofy-ass keyboard line in "Love is in the Air" is my favorite bit of the whole album. If sea turtles made porn videos, that song would be their soundtrack.


Sigur Ros- Takk
Sigur Ros don't suck anymore! I'm so relieved! Sounds like everyone's favorite Icelandic babblers have been listening to a lot of Mogwai of late. Better that than Brian Eno, if the differences between this record and () are to be believed.


Serena Maneesh- Serena Maneesh
Yeah, it pretty much sounds like My Bloody Valentine and the Velvet Underground had a baby. Regardless of their classics-mining, these guys have put out a solid collection of dreamy rock songs that would make Kevin Shields proud, if not a little jealous.


The Hold Steady- Separation Sunday
If Bruce Springsteen were a schizophrenic homeless alcoholic, this is what the E Street Band would sound like. Film noir and revivalist Christianity set to a backdrop of woozy bar-rock and meth-addled craziness.


Bell Orchestre- Recording A Tape the Colour of the Light
Arcade Fire pseudo-side project plays some of the best orchestral post-rock since Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Lift Yr Skinny Fists. Hey, that guy CAN do more than just bang on a drum!


The Decemberistsi Picaresque
"Mariner's Revenge Song". That is all I have to say about why this cracked the top 10. Also, my IndieClick ad rep is convinced that she and Colin Meloy are fated to be together. Uh, I think he just had a kid, Julie. Hate to break it to ya.


Spoon- Gimme Fiction
Spoon took everything I liked from Girls Can Tell and everything I liked from Kill the Moonlight and mixed it all together and this is the result! Britt Daniel is probably my favorite singer right now.


Vitalic- OK Cowboy
Best techno of 2005, hands down. Vitalic have picked up the torch dropped by Daft Punk after Homework and carried it to acid-soaked heights and pounding square-wave valleys never before seen. If you buy one album with keyboards on it this year, make it OK Cowboy.


Clor- Clor
The best spaz-pop since Enon's High Society. Whether it's the 80's-fied buzz and click of "Good Things" or the Prince-miming smirk of "Magic Touch", Clor have a knack for infectious, playful pop that has become an increasingly rare commodity in today's smirk-and-wink indie scene.


Clap Your Hands Say Yeah- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Neutral Milk Hotel meets David Byrne in a hotel lobby and they go get drunk together. This album is the result. Possibly the one good thing to come out of the "blogosphere" this year.


Broken Social Scene- Broken Social Scene
There's a brilliant pop album hidden under this record's overwhelming instrumental and vocal wash. Whether you love or hate the mixing of this record (having seen most of it played live, I'm of the opinion that a lot of the immediacy is lost in the wall of sound), there is no denying that this is a worthy followup to the must-own You Forgot It In People.


Deerhoof- The Runners Four
Deerhoof go Led Zeppelin? Hell yeah! I'm pretty sure their guitarists are the best working in indie rock today, and their drummer is amazing as well. Unlike your typical Guitar Center shredders, they take what is obviously a lot of technical ability and translate it into a batch of rock songs that are alternately rollicking, surreal, psychedelic, and HEAVY. Seriously, "Seriustar" is the best song the Zep never wrote.


Animal Collective- Feels
Animal Collective are WEIRD. But you probably already know that. What you may not know is that they are incredibly talented songwriters working from a pallette of sounds almost entirely removed from "typical" modern indie rock. This is their most accessible and pop-oriented album to date, and to my mind refines all their scattered brilliance into a single brilliant document.


Wolf Parade- Apologies to the Queen Mary
"I'll Believe In Anything" is the best song of 2005, hands down. I haven't heard a single track this affecting since I saw the Arcade fire play "Wake Up", every band member screaming the wordless chorus straight into my soul. "I'll Believe in Anything" takes the force of that wordless chorus and gives it words. This one song alone is enough to get Wolf Parade on my top 20 list, but what puts it at #2 is the impressive quality of the rest of the album. Mining vintage Bowie and early Modest Mouse (only with singers who can actually SING) to great effect, this is the freshest indie rock I've heard all year.


Sufjan Stevens- Illinois
Confession time: I really didn't want to give this record the top spot. Honestly, something about Sufjan annoys the hell out of me. Maybe it's his earnestness. Maybe it's the ridiculously-long song titles (the thought of a Sufjan/Minus the Bear split CD is terrifying) or just how smug this album is. It knows it's a fucking incredible record. It's fully aware that each song sucks you in and holds your complete attention before finally letting go, only to trap you with yet another beautifully crafted pop gem. Maybe it's that the album is perfect- there's not a single thing I hear, upon listening, that I'd change were I behind the mixing console. It's flawless. The fact of the matter is, though, I'm a little burned out on Tha Sufjan. I don't listen to this record nearly as often as the other stuff on this list. That being said, when I sit down and ask myself "what is the best record to come out this year", Illinois is the only reasonable answer. I might personally like other stuff on this list better, but when it comes down to sheer talent, quality of execution, and approachability, Sufjan Stevens nailed 2005 shut. Out of everything released this year, this is the album that you are most likely to enjoy no matter WHAT bands or genres you prefer. Sounds like a fitting choice for number one to me.