Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Year That Was: 2005 - Part II (25-21)

[See the introduction in Part One (below)]

:: 25 ::

The Decemberists | “The Infanta” | Picaresque

When you hear the whale-sung introduction, you know Colin Meloy et al. has whipped up yet another batch of whimsically and infectiously ambitious indie-rock portraits. Picaresque isn’t just The Decemberists best to date, it’s also The Toaster’s pick for album of the year. If that weren’t enough, this song -- and the entire album for that matter -- has far and away been the best thing to happen to our vocabulary all year. The big question is: How the hell did I miss that operatic outro for the first six months I obsessed over the album?

Band site:
Buy Picaresque

:: 24 ::

The New Pornographers | “Sing Me Spanish Techno” | Twin Cinema

Who even knows what A.C. Newman is talking about? Who cares? This band has yet to make a bad record, and “Spanish Techno” is proof that the band has taken its quirky demeanor and pure pop sensibilities and given the whole shebang a posture tweak. The drums’ promotion to the front of the mix and the brash guitar attack-hooks make this track ripe for repetition.

Band site:
Buy Twin Cinema

:: 23 ::

Rogue Wave | “Salesman at the Day of the Parade” | Descended Like Vultures

Among its compatriots in the Top Thirty, this is the song newest to the Toaster library -- which typically means the Toaster will come to regret ranking it so highly. The staff was blindsided by how naturally this one catches the ear. Not to mention how simple the song feels despite its lush guitar layering and the intricate movement in the melody. Well played, Rogue Wave.

Band site:
Buy Descended Like Vultures

:: 22 ::

Kathleen Edwards | “What Are You Waiting For?” | Back to Me

Let’s be honest. When we filed Back to Me on the shelf back in July, we may have been a little disappointed in Kathleen Edwards’ follow-up to our beloved Failer. And we still may be, however unfairly. But, giving the disc a second try as we compiled the year-end list, and having finally put our expectations aside, this Canadienne reminded us just how she can devastate her listener and tear down her subject with one turn of phrase. Or how her voice can seem to sneer and soar at the same time. Still, we miss the intimacy sacrificed in bringing a full band aboard.

Band site:
Buy Back to Me

:: 21 ::

Iron and Wine | “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven” | Woman King

Aside from the annoying prolific Ryan Adams, Sam Beam may have been the busiest boy on the block this year. Two magnificent EPs (on one of which he partnered with Calexico) and a nine-minute track on the In Good Company soundtrack later, Iron and Wine is no longer just “that guy who sings the quiet version of ‘Such Great Heights.’” The Woman King EP crammed what sound like hundreds of instruments onto what would otherwise be mere sped-up folk songs -- an impressive effect that fills out the richness of Beam’s voice and builds a tangible momentum on the album. “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven” embodies this transition and at the same time refutes the Paul McCartney-inspired principle that any song with “Freedom” in the title should be chopped into little bits and fed to livestock.

“Ain’t nobody knows what a newborn holds, but his mama says he’ll walk on water to wander back home.”

Band site:
Buy Woman King

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