By Michael Petitti
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
1. The Arcade Fire - Funeral
Guitar, bass, drums, piano, sleigh bells, violin, glockenspiel, cello and a variety of other instruments capture the perfect mix of emotional purging and artistic binging. With a group of raw, emotional musicians from Canada, The Arcade Fire can do it all, from the upbeat barnburners ("Wake Up". to crawling tearjerkers ("Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)"). Funeral has the rare ability to make many other albums look ridiculously overwrought and overproduced. This is not merely the best album of the year, but among the best albums of the decade so far.
2. The Decemberists - Picaresque
Colin Meloy may be the most articulate and literary songwriter in music, but with his crew of talented musicians he can craft a pop song that's as accessible as it is brilliant. Meloy and bandmates take themes and lyrics that could be seen as cold, distant and obscure and make them resonant for every listener. A Victorian suicide pact doubles for a wonderful violin-wrapped romance song ("We Both Go Down Together"), while elsewhere being swallowed in the belly of a whale becomes a fantastic, accordion-fueled adventure song ("The Mariner's Revenge Song"). Few bands can attempt such wit without distancing their listeners and that is the true gift of Picaresque.
3. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
Poor Connor Oberst. After being condemned to making good, introspective albums for the rest of his life, he decided enough was enough and came up with this collection of 10 perfect alt-country tunes. Whether its uplifting the spirit and making us smile with sly humor ("Road to Joy". or just crushing our spirits while generating thoughts ("Poison Oak"), I'm Wide Awake is a treat, spin after spin.
4. Doves - Some Cities
Finally, a group of depressive blokes from Manchester who opted against using electronics to express their misery. The results? Success, as Some Cities capitalizes on the potential hinted at on Doves' previous albums. The album runs the course of moods from poppy piano-guitar bounce ("Black and White Town". to meager, reverb blotches ("Ambition"). Some Cities manages to convey the true emotion and passion many similar albums can only mime.
5. Eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
E returns to form a la 1998's angsty, depressive Electro-Shock Blues with a double album's worth of sad-happy dance and drudge numbers. The album tracks a life cycle from birth to old age, and the songs track a music hipsters dream cycle from jingly pop ("Old Shit/New Shit". to sparse weepers ("The Last Time We Spoke"). As strange as it is enjoyable, it demands to be played again and again.
6. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
This group of London rockers proved influence does not have to be overwhelming on Silent Alarm. Borrowing the edginess of their favorite bands like XTC and Gang of Four, Bloc Party add their own spice with two guitar assaults ("Helicopter"), somber electronics ("This Modern Life". and remarkable tempo-shifts ("Like Eating Glass"). This albums comes off as fresh as the influences that created it.
7. Interpol - Antics
Oh, Rosemary, while the name may be etched in the pantheon of overplayed female names, Antics need make no apologies for being so ridiculously excellent. With naysayers waiting with bated breath for Interpol to drop a sophomore bomb, the band played it smart and got even better. There's enough guitar fury ("C'Mere". and drugged indifference ("No Exit". to make Turn on the Bright Lights a distant memory. That's right, I said it.
8. Death From Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
There's enough noise coming from this Canadian two-piece, drum and bass band to put 12 hair-metal bands to shame. Listen as guitars go missing and drums and bass create kaleidoscope funk ("Black History Month". and barreling thrash ("Romantic Rights"). Likely to be one of the loudest and noisiest albums to have an immeasurable shelf life.
9. The Black Keys - Rubber Factory
Another two-piece band, this one decidedly American and bluesy. These Akron boys prove that Jack and Meg are bit too slick when it comes to playing the blues. Recorded in an abandoned rubber factory (hence, the title. there is an eerily open sound to the distorted guitar moan ("10 A.M. Automatic". and a strangely metallic sound to the slide guitar-fueled sadness ("The Lengths").
10. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Shake the Sheets/Spoon - Gimme Fiction
Boo. I cheated, but it was like Sophie's choice here. Ted Leo made a decidedly stripped-down and wonderful album full of guitar, bass and drum propulsion with easily one of the catchiest songs of the decade ("Me and Mia"). Meanwhile, Britt Daniels and boys have continued their mission to make smart, sexy and sparse tunes that bounce ("Sister Jack"), crawl ("I Summon You". and noodle ("The Beast and Dragon, Adored").