20. Yeah Yeah Yeah - Is Is EP
Yeah, Show Your Bones had it’s moments, but hearing Karen O rip out in “Rockers to Swallow” is like hearing a dear old friend say hello for the first time in years. It’s the scream, that full bodied tear breaking over a wave of distorted guitars and drums that first attracted me in the first place. And for the most part, that’s what this album delivers. It’s not quite the cold classic of their self-titled e.p., or even their roaring first album, but it shows what we missed when they decided to be just a tad quieter. Sounds sad, but sometimes youthful bashing of instruments really does mean more.
19. White Stripes - Icky Thump
There seems to be two camps with this album. One believes this to be the Stripes fall from grace after two hit albums. The other that this is their best album since White Blood Cells. But I guess that depends on whether you like your favorite brother and sister combo rocking seriously or just cracking cruel jokes with guitars blazing and nothing but pure spite to fuel the fire.
Count me in the later. Nothing is better then when White gets all preachy about the lost morals of today's youth, while he layers on distortion three miles thick. Ah! How I missed being yelled at. And I especially missed the creepy sibling tales. Sure, the album is not near as solid as their breakthrough, and they did miss out on their folksy, acoustic side. But I'll always take the smart ass White to the one that gets his videos played on VH1. I know, it's snobbish. But there was a time when the weirdness of the Stripes seemed like commercial suicide. I remember it so well.
18. I’m Not There - Various Artists
Like I needed another reason to get heavily into Bob. It’s becoming a yearly occupation and each time I get a little further in. Last year it was No Direction Home, and now I have this: a covers album of mostly obscure Dylan songs that is consistently, and mind-bogglingly solid. This is strange. These random artists are taking lesser Dylan songs, covering them (mostly) faithfully and ending up with an album that pays homage to the classics but still sounds modern. Honestly, it could have been so bad.
It's still to big of a beast to fully plow through. I have my favorite (everything by Yo La Tengo, Maulkmus, and "Just Like A Woman" sung by Charlotte Gainsbourg). But I need more time. It's an album of as much pleasure as you have time to give, which you can definitely say about the man behind the whole project.
17. Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
Though awfully funny, I now look back on 2005 as my favorite time for Mr. Adams. He was swigging whiskey, making a fool of himself, and releasing album after album of swaggering country anthems. But it couldn't continue without something going horribly wrong. This album is about as fine a product as could have emerged from a full-on rehab and a new girl that doesn't want to break his heart.
I agree with the suggestion that it's a mini greatest hits album, complete with some fantastic acoustic laments, breezy soft rock, rocking Replacement carbon-copies, and some genuine country ones. I prefer the first and the last, so about half of this album sends me into a dizzy. I always skip the more serious compositions for the moments when the melody gets so ingrained with his body that it feels like he could just exude sadness. What a beautiful image...even if it only occasionally pans out.
16. Bruce Springsteen - Magic
This album breaks my heart. I've been a huge Boss fan for years now, and I'm no longer scared to admit it. I used to listen to "Born to Run" with the bedroom door locked, quietly pumping my first in the air with all the teenage rage of his greatest characters. And here is an album with Springsteen completely unhinged, gunning for his former glory. The songs are drenched with some of his saddest images --I think of the flag flying over the courthouse and the clouds of grey on election day--and some rocking tunes to back them up.
But the production sucks. Every electric guitar is reverbed, all the acoustic guitars chime, and echo coats all his vocals in syrup. Instead of the wall-of-sound of Born to Run, he's made a polyphonic spree. Instead of poignant, the songs feel sappy. It's a sad fact that masks one of his best efforts with a sheen of irrelevance.
Fortunately, half the songs get to shine through the Disney strings, and make a difficult album perfectly bearable instead of a slog.