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

The Year That Was: 2005 - Part I (30-26)

Good night, shirttail! Break out the champagne and the shampoo! It's the end of the year...

This marks the 11th Consecutive Year in which The Toaster Talks editorial staff has compiled a Best of list in music. As one would expect, our taste in music has seen a slow, sinuous evolution through genres, dabbling in pop-punk, with a nibble out of the punkin pie itself; industrial rock -- we were young and impressionable; the vast realms of "alternative," which we all still refuse to define; and our musical bodies have since undegrad been immersed in the public swimming pool that is indie.

So get up on the high dive and plunge yourself headfirst into The Toaster Talks' best songs of 2005.

[Note: Due to limited space, the List will be uploaded in daily five-song spurts and will be available for two days only.]

:: 30 ::

The Cloud Room | "Hey Now Now" | The Cloud Room

Who knew that adding “now now” to the end of every line could be so catchy? And though I haven’t heard anything else on the album, this one’s good enough to kick us into the Top Thirty.

“If you ride the bus there, pay the bus fare.”

Band site:
Buy The Cloud Room

:: 29 ::

Kate Miller-Heidke | "Space They Cannot Touch" | Telegram

Kate Miller-Heidke is known in her native Australia as a classically trained and highly honored opera singer. And now she’s a burgeoning pop sensation with a voice that cripples us at the Toaster. Note how her voice hits on the angelic, the playful, the smoke-tinged, the sincere -- and then it rinses and repeats. Its beauty is understated, and that counts for a lot in a field of trying-too-hard-to-be-catchy songs.

Buy Telegram

:: 28 ::

Southeast Engine | "Coming to Terms With Gravity" |
Coming to Terms With Gravity

“Oh great, Toaster! Another band from Athens, Ohio…” I looked up “bias” in the dictionary, and while my history watching and working with this band from its infancy in Athens, Ohio, might qualify, Southeast Engine has earned its spot in 2005’s List. While the clever honesty in Adam Remnant’s vocal delivery and the haunting backing track in “Gravity” sets it apart, the remainder of the album is as solid as they come.

“It’s hard making any sense. But you swear that you will. You’re just trying to kill the gravity that always weighs you down.”

Band Site:
Buy Coming to Terms With Gravity

:: 27 ::

The Hold Steady | "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" | Separation Sunday

Being introduced to The Hold Steady may have been one of the happiest musical treasures of the year for the Toaster crew. While this track might be the most polished The Hold Steady has ever recorded (e.g., a woman, harmony, hooks everywhere), it perfectly captures why this band is good for you -- whether you’re happy, sad, drunk or pregnant. Hint: Turn this one into a sing-along!

Band site:
Separation Sunday

:: 26 ::

Sufjan Stevens | "Casimir Pulaski Day" | Illinois

The saddest song of the year to feature a banjo, a trumpet solo and overt religious references. Bravo.

“All the glory when He took our place, but He took my shoulders, and He shook my face, and He takes, and He takes, and He takes.”

Buy Illinois

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The End Is Nigh

We at The Toaster Talks hereby announce the intended conversion of The Toaster Talks from a required class blog based on readings and other political technology ruminations to the mp3 blog you've always wished it was.

Weekly posts will hope to enlighten, brighten and delighten (the first word coined on this blog, with hopes for many more) with featured songs of the week, including one throwback tune from happier times when pretention was a concept we couldn't even spell.

As The Toaster Talks' revised format is being born out of the death of the previous content, the first edition will feature the famed Best of list of 2005, marking the death of a year and the arrival 2006...assuming we decide to carry it to term.

We invite your submissions. You'll get credit when credit is due, and we'll even send someone on staff out to give you a hug (whenever they get back with the coffee -- our needs come first).

We'll see you Dec. 31. Until then, would you politely turn up the heat?

- The Toaster Talks Team