The Best Songs of 2005

25 Jun

(originally posted on and on in December, 2006)

25. “Today Is The Day” – Apollo Sunshine

Like Cat Stevens snorting ritulin – it’s so deliriously and aggressively happy, these guys *must* be pulling our leg. (Broadbanders – check out the super happy video here.) The DJ at my best friend’s wedding played this song during the reception, and everyone, from grandma to little cousin Suzie, went absolutely ape-shit. This was in Maryland, too, and I didn’t think anyone had heard of Apollo Sunshine who didn’t use the word “wicked.”

24. “Do You Want To?” – Franz Ferdinand

Oh lucky lucky
You’re so lucky
Lucky lucky
You’re so lucky
Lucky lucky
You’re so lucky

There’s punk pop. There’s brit pop. There’s art pop. And then there’s do a bump and hook up with a drag queen pop.

23. “Bat Country” – Avengned Sevenfold

Everybody on MySpace loves this band. Everybody. Except they call them A7X. Metal’s supposed to be “up your ass” – these guys are more “metal through your ribcage like that scene in Pulp Fiction that’s really hard to watch.”

22. “Futures” – Jimmy Eat World

Unlike certain Dashboard Confessionals we could mention, Jim Adkins and friends seem to know when it’s okay to step outside of themselves and gripe about something that has nothing to do with them, their dads, their bleeding little Arizona hearts, or their parents not buying them a PSP last christmas. Jimmy and friends, apparently, had “hoped for better in November” and the song talks about how “we close our eyes while the nickel and dimed take the streets.” So, how was your year, George?

21. “Looking At The World From The Bottom Of A Well” – Mike Doughty

Ever notice how Mike Doughty sounds like a digeriedoo with perfect diction?

He’s grown up a bit since he was the “Soul Coughing guy”, and no, he’s no longer writing songs about super bon-bons or listening to los angeles or unmarked helicopters, he’s moved on to writing songs with words like “decathecting.” It’s cool – he’s still got a thing for Spanish chicks. It’s Mike Doughty being Mike Doughty, and that’s enough.

20. “King Without A Crown” – Matisyahu

The Beastie Boys once proclaimed “I’m a funky-ass Jew and I’m on my way”, which is a pretty good way of describing Matthew Miller, aka Matisyahu. He’s a Hassidic reggae artist, and that sort of thing could veer very quickly into “outsider art” or “novelty record” territory, but Matisyahu’s dead serious, and what’s more, he’s really, really good.

19. “B.Y.O.B”/”Old School Hollywood” – System of a Down

System of a Down gave us two albums this year, so the least I can do is give them two songs on this list. “Old School Hollywood” is goofy, surrealist, adrenaline-fueled SOAD that name checks Tony Danza and Frankie Avalon for no particular reason, and “BYOB” is manic, political SOAD that spins on a dime from screaming thrash metal to something that almost sounds like the chorus to a Backstreet Boys song. And, like the guy who reviewed the album for Rolling Stone said, anyone who thinks the question “why don’t presidents fight the war/why do they always send the poor” is trite, well, they’d better come up with a damn good answer.

18. “Cool” – Gwen Stefani

Yeah. You wanna fight about it? Let’s GO! Truth is, I preferred Gwen when she was just a girl walking in a spiderweb on sunday morning, but this song grabbed hold of me. It sounds exactly like one of those late ’80s pop songs everyone hates to admit they love. “Cool” is so simple, slinky, and synth-catchy that it should have been written by a Bangle, or, at the very least, a Go-Go.

17. “Move Along” – All-American Rejects

“Move Along” treads the same melancholy path as their first album, but instead of dwelling on the pain, it chokes back the tears and drags you out of bed. It also features the best use of “kids randomly showing up to belt out the chorus” since the Chili Peppers told us music was their aeroplane.

16. “Love In A Trashcan” – The Raveonettes

Nobody sounds like The Raveonettes, unless there’s another reverb obsessed, darkly witty, punk/skiffle band from Denmark who fell out of an alternate reality where it’s been 1961 for the last forty year, and that sound like something on the jukebox at a malt shoppe that moonlights as a bordello.

15. “The Five Days We Were Friends” – Ad Frank

If word on this guy ever gets out (and by that I mean “as soon as anyone’s heard of him who doesn’t spend half their time in Central Square”), then Morrissey’s reign as the king of whatever-Morrissey’s-the-king-of is so totally over.

14. “E-Pro” – Beck

If you went back in time to 1994 and ran into the mid-90s you, and you told yourself that, 11 years down the line, Beck was still cranking out the hits, the younger you would probably be all like “pshh.. syheah, right, and I’ll bet Green Day wrote a rock opera.”

Man, you were a little shit back then. And I’ll bet you wore a flannel tied around your waist and used the word “poser.” The point is, Beck kicks out a fresh groove over naaaasty sounding grindy guitars, and builds a tune that is 9,000 times more catchy than it has any right to be. See him? Yeah. He’s kicking the dust off his boots.

13. “Golddigga” – Kanye West

So, Kanye’s rapping over a sample of Ray Charles… no wait, it’s Jamie Foxx playing Ray Charles… no, wait, it’s Ray Charles, and he’s dissing a girl who loves a brotha for the money, but he’s still kind of taken by her. Somehow, it all works, and it’s TOTALLY STUCK IN YOUR HEAD NOW HAHA!

She played me wrong. However, “ma hee-meh HAWWW” works just as well.

12. “Club Foot” – Kasabian

All I know is that this song sounds a lot like the Lo-Fidelity All Stars. And if a song sounds like the Lo-Fidelity All Stars, it’s all right by me. It’s big, dumb, bad-ass music for scrawny, smart, non-bad-ass indie kids, and yet it sounds like it could have been on the Matrix soundtrack. I wish I was a professional wrestler so I could enter the ring to this shit.

11. “My Doorbell” – The White Stripes

The White Stripes latest effort, “Get Behind Me Satan”, was a lot like Jack White’s moustache: you either loved it or found it beyond irksome. Regardless, this song is so much damned fun that you can’t help but bop your head along with the beat. (In an ironic, subdued, Pitchfork-approved way, of course.)

Also, The Dresden Dolls cover this song a lot, normally with Amanda dressed as Jack and Brian dressed as Meg, with appropriately massive gazongas in tow.

10. “Feel Good, Inc.” – Gorillaz

They say that one day dance clubs will replace their speakers with individualized headphones that will allow club kids to party into the night without waking the neighbors. “Feel Good Inc.” has so much stuff going on at once that it could very well have been written for that day. The toons are in town again, with De La Soul in tow, rapping over a cartoonishly scary riff replete with creepy laughs, until Damon Albarn (as his animated alter ego 2D) swoops in to let us know it’s all okay.

9. “Doesn’t Remind Me” – Audioslave

Back when Chris “Spoonman” Cornell first teamed up with Tom “Skrikkity-skrikkity-SCRAW!” Morello and his Rage Against The Machine friends, they told everyone they were coming up with the best music of their careers, and man, they were right. The first album was great, the second album… is equally great. This decidedly apolitical ode to nothing in particular stands out among the rest – like a lost gem from the “whatever” grunge years without the side of angst.

8. “New Year” – Living Things

The fact that you’ve even heard of Living Things is a miracle; last year, they decided it was a good idea to urinate on a picture of our commander in chief on stage while opening for Velvet Revolver in Dallas, which is a little bit like coming out for your gig at the Apollo in black face swigging a 40. No matter how good your performance is, it’s going to be over-shadowed by the spectacle of your limbs being used to bludgeon you to death. However, SPIN magazine took up their cause, and, even though “Ahead of the Lions” isn’t really “the best album of its kind since Nevermind,” it’s still got songs like this on it that make it worth the wait.

7. “The Hand That Feeds” – Nine Inch Nails

“The Hand That Feeds” takes the “eat the rich” social consciousness of “Head Like A Hole” and directs it towards something very specific.” Mr. Reznor’s thesis here is the same one Thomas Frank wrote of in “What’s The Matter With Kansas”, a book which could easilly be summed up with the line “will you bite the hand that feeds you/will you stay down on your knees?”

6. “Neighborhood ..3 (Power Out)” – The Arcade Fire

This song sounds like a fever dream where you can’t get out of the blankets. This song sounds like Elijah Wood sliding down an icy street into a fallen power line in “The Ice Storm.” This song sounds like the end of the freaking world, man. Listen to this one at full blast in a dark room. WITH THE LIGHTS OUUUUTT!!! Yes, I went there.

5. “Cash Machine” – Hard-Fi

A hard workin’, honest bloke finds his bank account wiped out just as he learns his girlfriend is pregnant, so he tries to skip town, but he can’t afford a ticket out, and he can’t afford to be a father, so what does he do? That’s where the song leaves us, as our hero wrestles with this moral dillema – would he rather be a criminal or a deadbeat? Plus it’s working-class punk meets whatever you’d call Gorillaz.

4. “Soul Meets Body” – Death Cab For Cutie

“Brown eyes I hold you near/you’re the only song I want to hear.” The sunday morning hangover song of the year, and possibly one of the weirdest, most beautiful love songs ever. The “ba-da, ba-da, bap baaah” bit locks itself in your brain for days. Death Cab’s always been fragile and honest, but now they’re using their vulnerability to accentuate the sweet, not just the sour.

3. “Sugar, We’re Going Down” – Fall Out Boy

Let’s see. Band with decent underground following goes for a more radio friendly sound without comprimising what made them so good in the first place, releases hard-driving, mad catchy teenaged angst anthem where you can’t quite understand the lyrics, but you know it’s somehow speaking to you anyway, gets video played all the time on MTV, winds up on the cover of Spin, and sounds just as good before a hockey game as it does in a dingy club. Brings new sound to the masses. Sounds better than anything else on the charts.

I’m just a notch in your bedpost, and you’re just a line in a song. Here we are now, entertain us.

2. “I Predict A Riot” – Kaiser Chiefs

My little Anglophiliac heart goeth pitter patter. These guys are so damn British that it feels weird calling them “guys” and not, say, “blokes” or “chaps.” Their breakthrough single is so witty and exhilarating and insane and catchy that I’m running out of words. Bonus points for out Blurring Blur, too – their album “Employment” is probably what “Parklife” sounds like in Damon Albarn’s head.

1. “Lua” – Bright Eyes

I know that it is freezing but I think we have to walk
I keep waving at the taxis; they keep turning their lights off
But Julie knows a party at some actor’s west side loft
Supplies are endless in the evening; by the morning they’ll be gone.

The song that seems to sum up the massive clusterfuck that was 2005. If you’ve not heard it, you’re missing out on a good cathartic cry, but picture “The Rainbow Connection” if it was about two kids hooked on pills and each other, and that’s “Lua.”

I’ve got a flask inside my pocket we can share it on the train
If you promise to stay conscious I will try and do the same
We might die from medication, but we sure killed all the pain
But what was normal in the evening, by the morning seems insane.

That’s it. It’s got three or four chords that Conor Oberst strums over and over on a cheap-sounding acoustic guitar, and it’s sad like a morning after in the same way Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” is. And, as that’s my favorite song anyone’s ever written, that’s massive praise. As the world sinks deeper and deeper into the quicksand, here are two kids who’ve decided to escape reality, and find that they just can’t do it anymore. It’s a damaged love song, and it’s about honesty, and it just kills you.

And I’m not sure what the trouble was that started all of this
The reasons all have run away but the feeling never did
It’s not something I would recommend, but it is one way to live
Cause what is simple in the moonlight, by the morning never is

What’s so simple in the moonlight, now is so complicated
What’s so simple in the moonlight, so simple in the moonlight…..

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Posted by on June 25, 2007 in music, nostalgia, radio


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