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The Top 10 Albums of 2005

Observer Scene | Thursday, January 19, 2006

2005 brought new artists and old favorites to the airwaves. With an ear for innovative and unique sounds, Notre Dame’s WVFI created a list of their top picks for the year.

10. Beck – Guero”Gameboy Variations” and multiple remix EPs for several tracks on “Guero” indicated that Beck was an artist’s artist. A master of everything from blues to dance music, he combined elements of his mellower tendencies from his earlier masterpiece “Seachange,” while echoing the fun and catchiness of his most successful release to date “Odelay.” The opening track, “E-Pro” was one of the best singles of the year with its instrumental, guitar-driven chorus.

9. Broken Social Scene – Broken Social SceneEvery indie rocker’s favorite Toronto dectet released the long-awaited full-length follow up to 2002’s “You Forgot It In People.” The first single “7/4 (Shoreline)” tore up college radio charts and GAP store sound systems beginning last fall. Just like “You Forgot It In People,” the album featured conventional as well as out-of-bounds songwriting, emphasizing messages through heavy repetition and a wide range of tempos.

8. The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, StrikeAlthough other parts of the world discovered this album in 2004, “Thunder, Lightning, Strike!” didn’t find a U.S. release until 2005. A whirlwind of energy, horns, handclaps and self-centeredness earned the British group attention worldwide. The album featured a combination of instrumental tracks and more poppy dance tunes that would be just as appropriate on a mainstream pop album as a college rock release.

7. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen MaryPart of the contemporary Indie explosion to come out of Montreal, Quebec, Wolf Parade bumps elbows with the likes of The Arcade Fire, with whom they have toured throughout the United States. Having been “discovered” stateside by Modest Mouse’s Issac Brock the quartet recorded their first full length Apologies to Queen Mary, full of quirky pop melodies that have the power to make you stamp your feet, pump your fists, squint your eyes and delightfully shriek along.

6. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake It’s MorningConor Oberst and the men from Omaha returned early in 2005 with the release of two albums – “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning” and “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.” Oberst’s delicate voice drifted above gentle and moody acoustic tunes. Often melancholy with southern influences, “I’m Wide Awake” was the better structured album with more interesting stories, notably “Old Soul Song” and “We Are Nowhere and It’s Now.” Bright Eyes is an acquired taste, but in comparison to previous releases, “I’m Wide Awake” might be their strongest to date.5. Kanye West – Late Registration”Late Registration” was the clear standout last year in major label hip-hop. Just like on Kanye’s debut, “College Dropout,” he wore his political beliefs on his sleeve (as he did in his notable TV appearances) on tracks such as “Black Music” and “Diamonds From Sierra Leone.” He showed off his pop appeal on tracks such as “Gold Digga” and “Touch the Sky.” We also saw Kanye’s sentimental side for the first time on “Roses,” but he still wants a “prenup.”

4. Decemberists – PicaresqueThe term “Picaresque” can be loosely defined as pertaining to rogues and scoundrels, particularly in a literary context. As of late a lot of ink has been spilt about this term in reference to the third LP by The Decemberists. Frontman and primary songwriter Colin Meloy, who holds an MFA in creative writing, spins fantastical tales of the underworlds of society in an oddly timeless and unforgettable manner. These tales are then complemented by an often mellow, often poppy soundtrack of accordions, guitars, mandolins, keys and the like.

3. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say YeahClap Your Hands Say Yeah went from no-name to big time in 2005 with the release of their self-titled debut. With the help of hype from Pitchfork Media as well as exposure in the New York Times, the band eventually landed a record deal at the end of the year and played New York’s Irving Plaza for a New Years Eve show (after making a stop at Notre Dame). Alec Ounsworth’s warm voice and breathtaking songwriting led the band to surprising success.

2. Death Cab For Cutie – PlansGreat expectations were met by the Pacific Northwest outfit’s major label debut this fall. After a handful of albums and EPs, Death Cab finally earned long deserved attention when the hit single “Soul Meets Body” hit radio. The band gained exposure to wider audiences, even attracting older demographics for the first time. They appeared on soundtracks for “The O.C.” and “Six Feet Under” and performed their single live on Saturday Night Live. Any concerns that the band would compromise its sound for commercial success were silenced with the emotional “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” and the lengthy “What Sarah Said.”

1. Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise”Illinoise” was the clear champ of 2005. Copyrighted art troubles aside, Sufjan Stevens’ second state album was a spectacular arrangement that spanned folk, rock, and even alt-country genres. From the accessible “Chicago” to the more rustic-sounding “Casimir Pulaski Day” to all the bizarre instrumental tracks in between with titles that were longer than the tunes themselves, to say “Illinoise” was impressive from top to bottom is an understatement. A definitive musical opus ought to be at the top of the chart, and no album stands out more than “Illinoise.”