Top 10 of 2005
Originally published in Delusions of Adequacy
01. Slint – The Reunion (Bootlegs)
The Louisville legend’s rebirth was the underground story of the year and the recordings that have surfaced from their long-anticipated reunion tour provide all the evidence for those who couldn’t witness it with their own eyes. Whether it’s documented sets from New York’s Irving Plaza or Brown Theater in Louisville, these discs offer further proof, if any were needed, about why Slint’s work still resonates and casts shadows.
02. Bastro – Antlers: Live 1991 (Blue Chopsticks Records)
One of the year’s finest discs was, in fact, recorded roughly 15 years ago. A riveting collection of seven live songs from the year punk broke illustrate the now-defunct Chicago trio shifting from the venomous but densely arranged post-punk of its early days to the more atmospheric instrumentals it wrote before morphing into Gastr del Sol. More ammunition for those arguing David Grubbs’ prominent role in the history of post-rock.
03. Shipping News – Flies The Fields (Quarterstick Records)
Four years after Very Soon And In Pleasant Company, the group’s last full-length record proper, RMSN expands from a trio to a quartet and cuts one of their darkest and most direct outings yet. The resulting eight songs flutter between Rodan-tinged pressure-cookers and meditations crafted with rivers of guitar and bass.
04. Pinetop Seven – The Night’s Bloom (Barbary Coast/Empyrean Records)
It’s more polished and orchestrated than 1998’s Rigging The Toplights, the ensemble’s breathtaking high-water mark, but Pinetop Seven’s first new record in five years felt every bit as emotive and heartbreaking as its predecessors. Darren Richard and company again have crafted a unique mosaic of contemporary Americana.
05. Rachel’s – Technology Is Killing Music EP (Three Lobed Recordings)
A companion to 2003’s Systems/Layers and a cousin, perhaps, of Per Mission’s A Ritual Loop, this limited-run 18-minute disc offers a glimpse into how Rachel’s construct and deconstruct their enigmatic avant-chamber pieces. If you can find it, don’t let go.
06. Carrie Yury – Mutter EP (Self-released)
One of the year’s most unexpected and touching solo debuts also may have been one of its most understated. California artist-musician Carrie Yury invited Richard Schuler and members of the Palace stable to back her on this quietly released six-song offering and they help her craft folk-pop gems that are seductive and disarming in their beauty. Now all we need is the full-length follow-up.
07. The Wingdale Community Singers – S/T (Plain Recordings)
The literary-minded trio of Rick Moody, David Grubbs and Hannah Marcus lives up to all the buzz with a debut whose stripped-down odes and ruminations, acoustic romps and sometimes-playful songs burrow deep into memory and set up camp for a long winter. Each musician has their moment to shine on the 15-song disc (there’s more than a handful of outstanding tracks worth noting) but what’s most surprising is how well they fit together when they’re on the same page.
08. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Summer In The Southeast (Sea Note Records)
This collection of live songs captured, as the title plainly states, in the American southeast may be the answer for all those still hungering for another Will Oldham retrospective after 2004’s Greatest Palace Music. It’s all here – from “Pushkin” and “I Send My Love To You” to the Joya/I See A Darkness-era “Nomadic Revery” and “O Let It Be” – and Oldham and his cohorts prove they can still capture a live audience with their raw energy and sense of wonder.
09. Fantomas – Suspended Animation (Ipecac Recordings)
Yeah, it was gimmicky and felt, at times, like a reaction to the more long-form experiments of Delirium Cordia but Mike Patton, Buzz Osborne, Dave Lombardo and Trevor Dunn could stand in a room with their amps dead and droning and still sound captivating. This time, the buzz-saw energy gets the cut-up treatment through the prism of a sugar-powered Warner Bros. cartoon. And, for the next act?
10. Adam Gnade – Run Hide Retreat Surrender (Loud and Clear Records)
A modern version of Kerouac’s On The Road as seen through the eyes of the lo-fi singer-songwriter. Gnade’s stream-of-consciousness prose is far from earth-shattering but he nails the subtle colors and telling asides of American life with an addictive off-handedness in this cross-country musical journal. While most musicians would lose the rhythm of their tale by cramming it into a stale verse/chorus/verse mold, Gnade is smart enough to let the words levitate above and even without instrumentation. It speaks for itself.
Honorable Mentions: The Vanities – Coma Kiss demos (Self-released), Wicked Immigrant – White Nuns on Red Wine (Friendly Psychics Music), Amos Lee – S/T (EMI), Melvins – Mangled Demos From 1983 (Ipecac Recordings), PAK – Motel (Ra Sounds), Dave Spalding – Invisibles (Self-released), Blindfold – S/T (Resonant Records)