Off Key With Eric D Presents: Top 25 Albums of 2005

Eric D'Orazio

25. Oasis, “Don’t Believe The Truth”

Oasis’ latest album should have been called “Don’t Believe The Hype,” because it falls significantly short of the expectations given by the British music press. In no way did it usher in a new era for the band, and it certainly did not overtake their 1994 debut, “Definitely Maybe,” as their finest record. The album did, however, restore Oasis’ credibility as a force in British rock, thereby allowing the brothers Gallagher to save their careers from crashing into a wonderwall.

Key tracks: “Lyla,” “The Importance of Being Idle,” “Love Like A Bomb”

24. Brakes, “Give Blood”

What happens when you take one-fifth of British Sea Power, one-fifth of The Tenderfoot and two-thirds of The Electric Soft Parade? You get Brakes, that’s what. Coming across as the mother of all Brit-rock side projects, the band’s debut, “Give Blood,” is a powder keg of energy, with the explosive songs to prove it. Though most of those tracks are under two minutes long, they range amidst such topics as answering the telephone, falling in love and Dick Cheney. That, along with outstanding musicianship, proves nothing can stop Brakes.

Key tracks: “All Night Disco Party,” “Ring A Ding Ding,” “Jackson”

23. The Coral, “The Invisible Invasion”

It seems as if 2005 was the year for invisible invasions. Take “War Of The Worlds” for example: outsiders arrive lightning fast and try to take over the planet with devastating machines that sound like bowel movements. Coincidentally, The Coral have done something similar, sans the bowel machines. They came out of nowhere in 2001, gained a decent following and managed to release four albums, the most recent of which is called (surprise surprise) “The Invisible Invasion.” Packed with infectious melodies and ’60s pop-tones, the album doesn’t really set out to conquer you, but it is out-of-this-world.

Key tracks: “The Operator,” “In The Morning,” “Arabian Sand”

22. Franz Ferdinand, “You Could Have It So Much Better”

Ah, the sophomore slump. That time honored tradition in music where bands think they are moving forward with a follow-up, yet end up going in retrograde. With that in mind, Franz Ferdinand put the retro in retrograde, thanks to their new album, “You Could Have It So Much Better.” Contrary to the title, Franz’s latest is actually worse than their classic eponymous debut. It’s as if they have cashed in their Duran Duran-esque persona to become Kajagoogoo, recording songs that are less riffy and more iffy. However, the album’s first six songs redeem it just enough to stay on this list. They’re lucky, lucky, oh so lucky.

Key tracks: “Do You Want To,” “This Boy,” “Walk Away”

21. Stellastarr*, “Harmonies For The Haunted”

Like Franz Ferdinand, Stellastarr* also fell into a sophomore slump in 2005, but for different reasons. Whereas Franz decided to rush-release their second effort, Stellastarr* worked their tails off for the better part of two years to perfect theirs. Needless to say, it only worked moderately well. Only half the songs fulfill the promise held within the band’s first record, while the other half spiral into the New York hipster scene that has claimed the likes of Longwave and Morningwood. Yet, all is not lost. As a whole, the album is about as refreshing as sitting on a bidet.

Key tracks: “Love And Longing,” “Sweet Troubled Soul,” “Lost In Time”

20. Foo Fighters, “In Your Honor”

Foo Fighters are probably the last great alternative rock band of the ’90s, making bigger and better records in chronological succession. So, it was no surprise they set out to make a double-album with “In Your Honor.” One disc took care of the loud, fast Foo songs, whereas the other went for an acoustic, pensive tone. Overall, the results were lukewarm. What was supposed to be the best of them almost left the record D.O.A., in that the Foos made two okay albums instead of a single, stunning one. It could have been their best release had they cut out a couple songs, re-ordered the tracks and threw it all on one disc. Despite this slight setback for the Foos, they’ll stick around.

Key tracks: “DOA,” “In Your Honor,” “Miracle,” “Virginia Moon”

19. Coldplay, “X&Y”

After the massive success of “A Rush Of Blood To The Head,” everyone and their mom was waiting for Coldplay to wow them with a follow-up. Well, just such a follow-up came in the form of “X&Y.” Coming across as 13 more songs for soccer moms and their daughters to swoon to, the album’s first seven songs (and hidden bonus track) show the band at their full potential, both musically and lyrically. However, the five remaining tracks are clear-cut examples of a band that is trying too hard to impress. In the end, it is obvious “X&Y” would have made for an outstanding EP.

Key tracks: “Fix You,” “White Shadows,” “Square One”

18. Editors, “The Back Room”

Contrary to popular belief, Interpol frontman Paul Banks does not sound like the late Ian Curtis. However, Editors frontman Tom Smith does, and that shines through onto his band’s debut. Though Editors display a dark demeanor via their lyrics, their songs are so packed with guitar riffs and synthesizer hooks that they border on synth-pop. The end result is so enticing that they come across like New Order being fronted by Ian Curtis. And no, that wouldn’t make them Joy Division.

Key tracks: “Blood,” “Munich,” “Bullets”

17. The White Stripes, “Get Behind Me Satan”

The White Stripes are rock and roll royalty. There’s no way to get around that fact now. Thanks to 2003’s instant classic, “Elephant,” the band has hit fame and fortune head on. But what have they sacrificed to become so well-known? Absolutely nothing. A testament to this is their latest album, “Get Behind Me Satan.” As opposed to simply following “Elephant’s” formula, they made a bluesy, piano-driven piece that fit their fancy. The result is their most ambitious album to date, bringing about more fun with Jack and Meg.

Key tracks: “Take, Take, Take,” “My Doorbell,” “Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)”

16. Maximo Park, “A Certain Trigger”

With the rise of new bands into the mainstream, many of their counterparts are forced to take second banana. Such is the situation with Maximo Park. Though some may see them as a lesser incarnation of Bloc Party or Kaiser Chiefs, they actually come across as a spunkier version of The Futureheads. Their debut, “A Certain Trigger,” supports this idea. Comprised of 12 driving songs and one of astounding emotion, the album exemplifies the better aspects of the current British rock scene. If Maximo Park is to be the future of that scene, they’ll have to apply some pressure to get there.

Key tracks: “The Coast Is Always Changing,” “Kiss You Better,” “Limassol”

15. Eels, “Blinking Lights and Other Revelations”

When Foo Fighters were recording their double-album, they were probably trying to make something like Eels’ latest. After all, it’s not everyday you see a 33-track, double-disc set from a band that released a record only a year-and-a-half ago. Still, the man behind Eels, E, made sure his proficiency went above and beyond the purview of his previous work. Hence, “Blinking Lights and Other Revelations” stands out as a masterwork for the ages, focusing on the duality of happy and sad situations that surround everyday life. Calling it novocaine for the soul would be an understatement.

Key tracks: “Railroad Man,” “Suicide Life,” “Losing Streak,” “Things The Grandchildren Should Know”

14. Spoon, “Gimme Fiction”

It’s been nine years into Spoon’s career and only recently have they released an album that supersedes “Telephono,” their stunning debut. This is not to say that their subsequent albums are in any way inferior; it’s just that they pale in comparison to “Gimme Fiction.” Spoon’s latest is the catchiest collection of songs they’ve ever done, taken to new heights by legendary frontman Britt Daniel’s strongest vocals on record. What else would you expect from the greatest band named after a utensil and premarital display of affection?

Key tracks: “The Beast And Dragon, Adored,” “I Turn My Camera On,” “They Never Got You”

13. Doves, “Some Cities”

Fans of “The O.C.” unite! You’re latest musical obsession is awaiting in the form of Doves. Though these mild mannered Mancunians have been around since 2000, they really came into their own with the release of their third album, “Some Cities.” Filled with songs about English satellite towns and losing oneself, the record finally establishes a signature sound for Doves, somewhere between alternative and electronic. Electro-alternative perhaps? While “Some Cities” may not be as daring as 2002’s “The Last Broadcast,” it is still something special.

Key tracks: “One Of These Days,” “Almost Forgot Myself,” “Walk In Fire”

12. Kaiser Chiefs, “Employment”

Almost a decade has passed since the peak of the Britpop era. Though it never caught on across the pond, the movement spread across Europe and the UK faster than the Bubonic Plague, sending the careers of bands like Blur and Oasis to stratospheric heights. But after 1997, Britpop burned itself out. Only recently have Kaiser Chiefs revived the genre in all its glory. Following in the footsteps of Blur, these lads from Leeds effectively brought back the jumpy sing-alongs and proper attitudes of Britpop with their debut, “Employment.” Thanks to that record, the genre has been given a modern way to live on.

Key tracks: “I Predict A Riot,” “Caroline, Yes,” “Modern Way”

11. Bloc Party, “Silent Alarm”

So here we are, almost a year since the release of Bloc Party’s stellar debut, and it is still running on with bravado. Half of its songs have been released as proper singles, while most of them have been licensed to more commercials, films and video games than any other record in 2005. It’s funny, because the band started off with little thoughts about making a popular album, only to see their plans turn towards a banquet of success. Compliments aside, they promised the world they’d tame it, and they did just that with “Silent Alarm.”

Key tracks: “Banquet,” “This Modern Love,” “So Here We Are”

10. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “Howl”

When a band changes its sound, there’s a good chance it won’t be to positive results. When that band is Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the stakes are even higher. Having already released two albums in the vein of The Jesus and Mary Chain, B.R.M.C. chose to take down their wall of sound and cash into something more like Johnny Cash. Their latest, “Howl,” is an accomplishment in alternative country, driven by slide guitars, harmonica solos and the occasional tambourine. Though the album is a pleasant change, it may leave longtime fans wondering, “whatever happened to their rock and roll?”

Key tracks: “Howl,” “Open Invitation,” “Sympathetic Noose”

9. Idlewild, “Warnings/Promises”

Unbeknownst to many, Idlewild started out as a punk band, and a vehement one at that. But over the course of four albums, the band has taken their fervor into a more florid direction. “Warnings/Promises” continues that trend to an even greater level. The fast-paced songs of their past are gone, replaced by ballads about life, love and sleep. Sure, that may sound unexciting, but it actually stands for much more. With the new record, Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble has become a master of elocution, poetic but experimental, as if he and his band are putting classic 20th century literature to music. Gertrude Stein would say that’s enough.

Key tracks: “I Understand It,” “Not Just Sometimes But Always,” “El Capitan”

8. Supergrass, “Road To Rouen”

There are a lot of “super” bands in rock (Superdrag, Supertramp, Super Furry Animals, etc.), but none of them seem to be as spontaneous as Supergrass. Once a bombastic Britpop outfit, the band has spent the past 11 years refining their sound on every record. However, their recent “Road To Rouen” sees them ditching their Brit-rock background in favor of an American sound from the ’70s. Though such a change on their part would indicate a “road to ruin,” it proves to be a street to success and the pinnacle of their career thus far. Don’t be too surprised when you hear the record pumping on your stereo.

Key tracks: “Roxy,” “Tales Of Endurance, Parts 4, 5 & 6,” “Low C”

7. Sufjan Stevens, “Illinois”

If you haven’t heard, singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens is trying to make one album for every state in the U.S. Starting out with a somewhat ephemeral album about Michigan, he has since moved southerly with the second release in the series. Entitled “Illinois,” the album is about, well, Illinois. Its 22 tracks meander amidst a variety of topics, from the World’s Columbian Exposition to Chicago, even to Casimir Pulaski Day. The end result is not only innovative, but enjoyable beyond borders. As sure as My Chemical Romance is the emo Smashing Pumpkins, Sufjan Stevens is the mainstream Matt Sharp.

Key tracks: “Chicago,” “Come On! Feel The Illinoise!,” “Jacksonville”

6. Engineers, “Engineers”

Majestic. That’s the only word to describe Engineers’ eponymous debut. Groundbreaking as it is great, the album is a monument in sound, enveloping the listener in its magnificence and making them feel like a speck on a higher plane of existence. No genre even comes close to depicting what the album sounds like, and there’s no chance of there being one for quite a while. Basically, it makes Doves look like pigeons and Radiohead sound high and dry. One thing is for certain though: Engineers have built something that will stand the test of time.

Key tracks: “Home,” “Waved On,” “Forgiveness”

5. Gorillaz, “Demon Days”

From Josie and the Pussycats to Fat Albert and the Junkyard Band, animated bands have always found themselves focusing more on comedic entertainment than musical integrity. With Gorillaz, the opposite is true. The group’s sophomore album, “Demon Days,” sees them grow by leaps and bounds through better hooks, stronger lyrics and the merging of more genres than an “American Idol” tryout. Essentially, Gorillaz are Blur plus special guests, but with guests like De La Soul, Dennis Hopper and Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder, the band’s brand of music is far from ordinary.

Key tracks: “DARE,” “O Green World,” “Last Living Souls”

4. British Sea Power, “Open Season”

British Sea Power is not like most bands nowadays. Instead of catering to sex, drugs and rock, they focus their attention on Floreal, brilliantine mortality and the Scottish wildlife experience. Whilst the band’s 2003 debut gave the world songs about bravery and apologies to insect life, their 2005 follow-up, “Open Season,” does the same. Despite the album’s finest moment being a love song to an Antarctic shelf, it doesn’t cease making anthems to animals, much less opuses to ornithology. Truly, “Open Season” is the sound of a band on top of their game.

Key tracks: “Oh Larsen B,” “True Adventures,” “Please Stand Up”

3. The Dandy Warhols, “Odditorium Or Warlords of Mars”

Back in 1997, The Dandy Warhols said they’d “rather be cool than be smart.” In 2005, they fulfilled that statement with the release of their fifth album, “Odditorium Or Warlords of Mars.” Serving as a rehash of the genres they used on previous records, the album tanked everywhere it was released. However, what they lost in record sales was regained via fan appreciation. After all, they gave longtime fans a set of new, deliciously self-indulgent songs played in classic form, which in turn is exactly what they wanted. Sure, it may not have been a smart move, but it certainly was intelligent. More so, thanks to “Odditorium,” the Dandys are finally as cool as Kim Deal.

Key tracks: “Everyone Is Totally Insane,” “Holding Me Up,” “Down Like Disco”

2. The Warlocks, “Surgery”

Chances are you don’t know The Warlocks. That’s understandable, considering the psychedelic seven-piece has had no hit singles or buzzworthy videos in their five year career. What they have achieved is a late-’60s rock sensibility equaled only by the Brian Jonestown Massacre. But where Jonestown succeeded writing songs about love, The Warlocks succeed in writing songs about death. Their latest album, the aptly-titled “Surgery,” is a testament to this. It’s a 12 song compendium dealing with suicide, the afterlife and bidding your friends farewell. Though that may sound morbid, it is actually The Warlocks most accessible album to date. Filled with more instrumental hooks than any other release this year, “Surgery” breathes new life into the psychedelic scene.

Key tracks: “Suicide Note,” “Gypsy Nightmare,” “Evil Eyes Again”

1. Beck, “Guero”

Faster than you could say Sergio Valente, Beck returned in 2005 to tell us about the rhythms of the universe. Following the lonesome tears of “Sea Change,” he wanted to give his fans another fun and jumpy record like “Odelay” and “Midnite Vultures.” So, after a year’s worth of production with The Dust Brothers, he put out “Guero.” The album is driven once again by Beck’s unique vocal style and brilliant musicianship, as well as more samples than a local Whole Foods. However, he is not simply relying on two turntables and a microphone to get his point across, but a bevy of guest stars. Ranging from Jack White to Christina Ricci, those guests help the record provide left of center music without being liberal. Overall, “Guero” comes across as the finest album Beck has ever done, not to mention the single greatest release of 2005. At long last, the enchanting wizard of rhythm is back in action. Hell yes.

Key tracks: “Broken Drum,” “Que Onda Guero,” “Missing,” “Rental Car”