Thursday, February 16, 2006

All Albums Should End With A Bang

Whenever I take some time off from Bloc Party's Silent Alarm, and then come back to it, it always sucks me back in. I've been listening to it regularly for, ohhhh, 6-8 months now, and it still feels fresh. Every time I come back, there's something new I notice... a bass line, or an extra drum fill, or the coordinated dual guitar work. It's not a dense album, exactly, but the combination of musicianship and conception is unparalleled. It's by far my favorite album of last year, and the most important inasmuch as it blazes a trail for so many current bands trying to follow their act.

Here's the problem. Silent Alarm can't go on top of a best-of list, because the last two tracks are so blah next to each other. You can't have a top album of 2005 if nobody bothers to listen to the end of the album. (This is also known as the "Sigur Rós Clause.") If Bloc Party had stuck track 13 somewhere earlier, hiding it between some rockers and giving us a reason to keep listening, I'd feel different about it. This is something Sufjan addresses pretty well by a) putting the least interesting track on Illinois, "The Seer's Tower," immediately before one of its best, "The Tallest Man," thereby negating any "well we can turn THIS off now" sentiments.

If I needed to pick the best albums of 2005 right now, I'd list them like so:

  1. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (and the Nobel Prize for Originality goes to...)
  2. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (And I've Got Psychotic 14-Year-Old Girls Chasing After Me)
  3. The Decemberists - Picaresque
  4. New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
  5. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
  6. LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem
  7. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
  8. Dangerdoom - The Mouse And The Mask
  9. Sigur Rós - Takk
  10. ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Worlds Apart

This list is all well and good, and I think a faithful representation of my current tastes in music. But despite being #5, Silent Alarm is still the album I'd want with me on a desert island. Go figure.

Something else I'm noticing with my list... not exactly a strong year for the hippety-hop when the only album on the list (Dangerdoom) is a borderline novelty album. Usually there's a couple albums each year that mean something to me, but not this year.

Perhaps you're wondering where Kanye is, given that I'm bellyachiing about a lack of crossover rap. He loses out due to the Sigur Rós Clause... I still haven't listened to Late Registration all the way through. His voice is so boring and elementary that I lose interest. It's a shame that Kanye's so commercially viable on his own, because it gives him no motivation to do what he does best, which is collaborating with MCs with actual skills, like past-and-future cohorts Talib Kweli and Common. Either of those two would have made both The College Dropout and Late Registration into hip-hop milestones. Instead, they're just commercial successes whose quality level is blown out of the water by every OutKast album since ATLiens... which came out almost ten years ago.

I'm not saying they're failed albums. But let's be clear. Kanye is serving his own needs by stepping up to the mic, not the needs of his music. If he doesn't have to share the glory, why should he? And frankly, you can't blame him. We as a music-consuming culture don't appreciate producers like we should. Even the best producers are ultimately just flavors of the month. Anyone know what the Neptunes have been up to? Me neither. The point is that Kanye could never have become a star without rapping on his own albums, but it's just not what Kanye is suited for.

Hence, he's not on the list. And I'm out.

1 comment:

  1. This is all fine and dandy, but have you heard Willie Nelson's new cowboy song?