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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dave Renard's Fave Recordings Of 2005

Neumu's Michael Goldberg writes: Neumu Senior Writer Dave Renard has been writing the singles round-up column that's periodically appeared in the Needle Drops section of Neumu for much of 2005, and it's been a welcome addition to the site. Today we present his list of favorite albums, singles and shows of 2005. Enjoy.

Animal Collective, Feels (Fat Cat): Few bands with the ambition to make every album sound different also have the talent to pull it off. These guys do, and they seem like the nicest people on earth to boot (check the awesome interview in Arthur magazine). The pop psychedelia of Feels is probably their most accessible incarnation yet, but on the other hand, listen to "Grass" — twists, turns, weird wonder, and a romp through tall weeds amid day-bright bursts of fireworks.

Blood on the Wall, Awesomer (The Social Registry): I don't think of myself as provincial or one to big-up the home team, but music in New York is so great right now (30% of my top 10 is from Brooklyn!). Blood on the Wall nail the '80s and '90s indie-rock touchstones (Yo La, Pixies, Dino Jr., Half Japanese) to the wall with enough sloppy energy and conviction to make ex-college-radio DJs forget that it's technically too early for a revival of this stuff. The year's best soundtrack for shotgunning cans of Bud.

Edan, Beauty and the Beat (Lewis): The premise of this album barely even makes any sense — meld the drugged-out experimentation of Nuggets-style '60s psych with the rapid- fire punchlines and sampladelic cut-up style of old-school hip-hop. Edan makes it work, not just by chopping the rock records into samples but by bringing that anarchic, analog, reel-to-reel feel to a 2005 hip-hop album. Lots of the best quotables don't make much sense out of context, but Beauty and the Beat constructs whole worlds according to its own weird logic: "That was after the world tour/ When I traveled through gravel and battled matter at the earth's core/ I did the show on a fireball!"

The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday (Frenchkiss): Speaking of quotables, awwww man, stop me before I type out this whole album — Craig Finn is the best lyricist in rock. "She drove it like she stole it/ She stole it fast and with a multitude of casualties/ Yeah she shipped it out from Boulder/ Packed in coffee grounds and wrapped around in dryer sheets." So focused and specific, and yet you feel like Holly, Charlemagne, Gideon and the rest are based on — not your friends exactly, but someone you might have met once. Or heard about. Or talked to at the bar that night. Did I mention they ROCK?!?

Isolee, Wearemonster (Playhouse): A slippery electronic album, Isolee's Wearemonster has so much going on it can only be digested one song at a time; the tracks were initially hard to distinguish from one another, but eventually with each listen I would find a new favorite. "Enrico" best captures what I love about it: Constant shifts and changes, dark pulses of sexy bass, with voices and echoing strings spotlighted one by one against a shimmering black background. As some have pointed out, it's a house record not particularly suited for dancing, but Wearemonster bubbles over with pure sound.

M.A.N.D.Y., Body Language Vol. 1 (Get Physical): Of all the DJ mixes in 2005, this one from the German duo M.A.N.D.Y. probably covers the most ground (and contains the most jams). It's a sub-genre primer — starts off clicky and dubby, moves into more discofied territory with Lindstrom's "I Feel Space" and Francisco's "Moon Roller," then fast-forwards to the "ketamine house" (coined by ex-Needle Dropper Philip Sherburne) of Booka Shade's "Mandarine Girl" and Andre Kraml's "Safari (James Holden Remix)," where sheets of white noise (and yellow noise and pink noise) first cut against the beat, then thrillingly strobe into sync. The secret weapon is saved for near the end: the title cut, "Body Language," which surprisingly won track of the year in Ibiza — perhaps signaling yet another change of direction for the Get Physical crew.

M.I.A., Arular (XL/Interscope): Now this one really feels like 2004, since "Galang" and Diplo's Piracy mix have been kicking around for more than a year now, but Arular deserves to keep its slot. The fact that I got a little burned out on it isn't really M.I.A.'s fault — putting "Bucky Done Gun" or "Bingo" on every mixtape I made from March to November was nobody's fault but my own. The album's mish-mash of global pop culture and global politics sparked almost a Madonna-like level of zeitgeisty debate and analysis, but ultimately the fact that it's a fucking FUN record wins the day.

Optimo, Psyche Out (Eskimo): Compared with last year's How to Kill the DJ [Part 2] (not just one of one of 2004's best mixes but one of its best releases, period), Glasgow's Twitch and Wilkes go deeper and darker on Psyche Out, connecting dots between Hawkwind, Herbie Hancock and Mr. Fingers for a walloping head trip. The middle third might get too far gone into acid tunnel-vision for some, but with revelations like the Skatt Bros.' "Walk the Night" (this is 1979 disco?!) and a dip into psychedelic soul (Temptations, Chambers Brothers) waiting on the other side, it's well worth it. The sublime "Kiss Me Again" by Dinosaur (Arthur Russell) got a thorough revival this year, also popping up in a different version on Dan Selzer and Mike Simonetti's RVNG PRSNTS MX4.

Vitalic, OK Cowboy (PIAS): The latest in French house, Vitalic brings a growling rock aesthetic to techno on this album that pits a few older singles ("La Rock 01," "Poney Part 1") against some incandescent new jams. Hasn't happened yet, but if I'm out at a club and "No Fun" comes on, watch out. With dense keyboard sounds and breakdown after breakdown, tracks on OK Cowboy drop down to quiet mode before blindsiding you with drums and relentless squelch.

Paul Wall, The Peoples Champ (Swishahouse/Atlantic): Yeah, it surprised me too! Of all the albums from hip-hop's Houston takeover (Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Bun B), The Peoples Champ is the most consistently entertaining, with the big hit ("Sittin' Sidewayz") only the tip of the iceberg. There are a few key guest spots from the likes of Freeway and Three 6 Mafia, but mostly Paul Wall holds it down all on his own, with his somewhat repetitive but hugely charismatic flow riding producer Gridiron's trunk-rattling, slowed-down beats. (Note: I choose to pretend that the ridiculous "Internet Goin' Nutz" is not on the album.)

Honorable mention: A Frames, Black Forest (Sub Pop) — Black humor for black days, it's abrasive but just catchy enough to make you want to hop aboard the death train; The Juan Maclean, Less Than Human (DFA/Astralwerks) — Plenty of great stuff here ("Shining Skinned Friend"), but it possibly suffered from elevated expectations since the best song on it ("Give Me Every Little Thing") is two years old; Roll Deep, In at the Deep End (Relentless) — I'm shocked no one put this out in the States, since its hybrid grime/ R&B has way more crossover potential than Dizzee or the Streets; Dominik Eulberg, Kreucht & Fleucht (Mischwald) — The beginning of this mix's second half is massive (especially Eulberg's "Cosmic Sandwich" remix), but there are dull spots over its double-disc length.

Singles and misc.: Lindstrom, "I Feel Space" — He's from Norway, not Italy, but the picture in my head is a pink sunrise over the Colosseum; Three 6 Mafia feat. 8-Ball & MJG and Young Buck, "Stay Fly" — On the strength of this song I almost (almost) bought an album that gives prominent guest slots to Project Pat. Amerie, "1 Thing" — I have a feeling producer Rich Harrison ("Crazy in Love") is running out of tricks, but those drums could not be any hotter; !!!, "Take Ecstasy With Me" — With Magnetic Fields on the A side and Nate Dogg on the flip, it's the EP that soundtracked my summer; Lemon-Red mix series — September's Caps and Jones installment was especially hot — Crucial Conflict into Black Sabbath, whut?!?!

Live music highlights: Arcade Fire at Irving Plaza (with David Byrne encore); Optimo DJ set at the Glass House Gallery in Brooklyn; LCD Soundsystem at Bowery Ballroom (the show that's in the "Disco Infiltrator" video); Sonic Youth on the fourth floor of a fitness club in Queens (?!); Destroyer and New Pornographers in Philly; Yura Yura Teikoku at Northsix in Brooklyn; Steinski DJ set at a warehouse party; and multiple Hold Steady shows — the Bowery Ballroom record release party in May flipped my wig, but when they got back from touring and played Bowery again in August (two days before my 30th birthday), man I was high as hell and born again. Here's to keeping it moving in 2006.

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