Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rock & Roll All-Star Break 

I'm the type of guy who always stays at the game until the last out is made. Like Yogi said, "It ain't over till it's over."

So when it comes time to wrap up the year and make those annual best-of lists, I tend to lag behind much of the crowd. Certainly it's more forgivable to tally the 10 best albums of the year a few weeks before New Year's than it is to choose the top 10 news stories of the year before December is out; witness last year's tsunami. But even when it comes to rating and ranking music as us geeks love to do, I hold out a little longer than most, certainly always until the time period being evaluated has completely elapsed.

No matter how long I wait to make any top-however-many list, I know I'll end up wanting to change its order and contents within months after making it. Despite that knowledge, I'll always delay the submission of any such lists as much as I can, usually until right before the deadline. So it's not out of character that it took me until mid-July to get around to a short and informal mid-year list, a solid couple weeks after estimable peers like Brooklyn Vegan, Anthony Is Right, and Rajeev and Jason at One Louder offered their interesting takes on the best of the first half of 2005.

I want to add to the conversation, but it feels too early for me to put forth a ranked list of favorites from the past six months. Oh, I have a super-tentative top 5 in my head, but I'm just not ready to spill that onto the screen. Besides, I'm saving up a year's worth of wit and wisdom for my annual January roundup. What I will share now is a fast and dirty listing of 2005 albums I haven't heard yet but that I want to hear.

Every year I keep a running list of CDs I want. I keep buying them, and nice publicists and industry friends send me them, but more new ones come out every damn week. The futile truth is that there are always dozens of albums still on that list at the end of every year. Some I'll get eventually, some I won't. Hey, I listen to a lot of stuff—already close to 100 albums and reissues released in 2005 so far—but there's always more out there.

The current fantasy is that making this list at the mid-year point will motivate me to wrap my ears around these particular records in the next five to six months. I'm restricting this list only to albums that were released before the end of June, though though not all of them have hit shelves yet in the U.S. These may not be the five best albums of the year I haven't heard yet, but they are the five I'm most interested in hearing. And so...

Mike C.'s Top 5 Albums Of 2005 I Haven't Heard Yet

1. Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Fierce Panda)
The almost-shambolic-sounding South London five-piece's debut album begins with "Formed A Band," their classic Fall-esque first single that I probably underrated when I ranked it the 14th best song of last year. But other than the "Band" b-side "Bad Weekend," I haven't heard any of the other tracks on their first full-length effort, which came out in the U.K. in late May.

2. The Vanity Project - The Vanity Project (Flagship)
Barenaked Ladies co-frontman Steven Page and The Lilac Time's Stephen Duffy have been writing songs together on an occasional basis for more than a decade now, but this is their first album as a duo. I'm hoping the collaboration that gave birth to "Jane," "Everything Old Is New Again," and "I Live With It Every Day" returns to form here. (Also peep the hyper-literate Page's "Music You Should Hear" on Amazon.)

3. Esthero - Wikkid Lil’ Grrrls (Warner)
Her Breath From Another was one of the most tuneful trip-hop albums of the late-'90s, but she's barely been heard from since. Guests here including Andre 3000, Cee-Lo, and Sean Lennon hint that this may be a rather different sounding affair.

4. Idlewild - Warnings/Promises (EMI)
Like Glenn McDonald said, there is absolutely no good reason why this has not been released domestically yet.

5. The Chemical Brothers - Push The Button (Astralwerks)
I figured these guys were done, but the single with Q-Tip and the many word-of-mouth recommendations I've gotten on this record have me thinking I gave up on them too soon.

Bonus: 10 More I Need To Hear

Shelby Lynne - Suit Yourself (Capitol)
The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree (4AD)
Mundy - Raining Down Arrows (Camcor)
Ed Harcourt - Strangers (Heavenly/EMI)
Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm (SuperEgo)
Eels - Blinking Lights And Other Revelations (Vagrant)
Buck 65 - This Right Here Is Buck 65 (V2)
Emma Bunton - Free Me (19/Universal)
Fischerspooner - Odyssey (Capitol)
The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (Frenchkiss)

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