2005 In Review:
HIM, Garbage, Conjure One top best of 2005

By John Everson

HIM

Pop Stops column covered more than 175 albums in 2005, even though it was a lackluster year in music in many ways.

I certainly didn't hear or review all of the albums released, but out of the big batch I did hear, only HIM, a Scandinavian goth-rock band, issued an album that elicited a top 5-star rating from me.

Others did spend a good bit of time in my CD player, but many of the best singles of the year on the radio were from albums released in 2004 (from artists like Gwen Stefani and Green Day). Black Eyed Peas shook the airwaves with new material this summer, and Garbage and Madonna both returned with hot singles.

While there were few surprises in 2005, the albums below spent the most time in my CD player. Included with these thumbnail reviews are original Pop Stops ratings.

 

* * * TOP 25 ALBUMS OF 2005 * * *


Garbage1) HIM Dark Light (Sire): Best rock album of the year came from Finland in this goth-influenced act that sells lyrical darkness with a romantically smooth delivery. There are plenty of pounding, guitar riffs and solos to keep air guitarists busy, but the overtones of love and the afterlife lift almost every song to something more than just rock. Dark Light is transcendent.
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2) Garbage Bleed Like Me (Geffen): From the perfectly executed tease of "Bad Boyfriend" to the mix of growling guitar and Shirley Manson's rapid vocals in "Why Do You Love Me," Garbage's return after four years topped an already impressive catalog.
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Conjure One3) Conjure One Extraordinary Ways (Nettwerk): Masterminded by Rhys Fulber, cofounder of ethereal dance collective Delerium, Conjure One is another collective featuring Fulber handling keyboards and soundscapes, and a revolving cast of female vocalists. Conjure One’s second release is an entrancing, hypnotic affair. Take the time to enjoy this beautiful exercise in pop dreaming.
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4) New Order Waiting for the Siren's Call (Warner): The premier British alternative pop-dance band returned after a four-year hiatus this year. From the keyboard slaloms of the mellowly urgent title track, to the sing-song hit hooks of "Hey Now What You Doing," and the throbbing techno-bassline and bell-tone keys of the disc's first single, "Krafty," which harks back to the days of the Brotherhood album, this CD is a sonic victory for New Order.
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Shivaree5) Shivaree Who's Got Trouble? (Zoe): It's been six years since Shivaree released its spookily beautiful single "Goodnight Moon." Thanks to exposure via "Kill Bill" and "Air America Radio," the band finally returned this year with slinky grooves irresistably intact. Ambrosia Parsley has one of the most sultry, come-hither voices in music today, and her band backs her ably through an eclectic collection of loungy jazz, slinky pop and swampy spooky waltz.
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6) Black Eyed Peas Monkey Business (A&M): "Rub it on your belly like an ultrasound!" the Peas rap on one disco-augmented track from its fourth CD. It's a typical line of lyrical fun from the group that returned with a smokin' sexy single "My Humps" and a load of other hip hop and R&B to get the parties started last summer.
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7) Nashville Pussy Get Some (Spitfire): The Georgia punk-metal maniacs returned in 2005 with irreverent, lascivious anthems, including a cover of Ike and Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits" and a dozen original, high-octane, whiskey-drenched rock tracks that support the claim that they sound like “AC/DC making out with Motorhead while Lynyrd Skynrd watches.”
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Ben Folds8) Ben Folds Songs for Silverman (Epic): Folds is the "Piano Man" of GenX, and on his latest CD, he puts that piano front and center, eschewing the guitars and distortion pedals for his ever-amazing knack for melody. There's no denying the power of Folds' hooks, whether he plays them fast or slow. Songs for Silverman is another victory.
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9) Shakira Oral Fixation Vol. 2 (Epic): From exotic mariachi horns to sexy come-hither pop, the Spanish-American singer's latest disc delivers the goods, from guitar-grinding pop rock to dance tracks to lazy, silky reverb-heavy ballads.
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10) Madonna Confessions on a Dance Floor (Warner): The Material Girl's latest collection finds her looking back from where she came the land of sugary dancepop. The disc is an extended dance floor mix. Not a ground-breaking album by any means for Madonna, but it does offer a solid new batch of potential pop chart hits.
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Shivaree11) Various Artists Bliss of Life (Auralgasms): Auralgasms is an Internet radio station that specializes in Brit pop and "dream pop," and its second compilation CD of upcoming artists is a treasure trove of "aural bliss." It features tracks from Hungry Lucy and former singers from Delerium, Balligomingo, Mandalay and more.
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12) Glen Phillips Winter Pays for Summer (Lost Highway): Former Toad the Wet Sprocket leader's latest solo disc is another collection of guitar-strummed songs. Phillips has a knack for writing intelligent lyrics and melding them to beautiful melodies, and this CD is packed with some of the best work of his career.
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13) Erasure Nightbird (Mute): The British duo's 10th CD of all-original material proves yet again that nobody makes synth-pop better. The power of Andy Bell 's vocals, perhaps a little huskier these days than in the '80s, remains strong and evocative.
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14) Two Tons of Steel Vegas (Palo Duro): Half cover versions of classics and half original, songs that sound like ol' fashioned '50s-'70s rockabilly country classics, the cowboy hat-wearing, San Antonio-based band offered an infectious dose of down-home retro-twang playing on its eighth album, which includes covers of songs by The Ventures and The Ramones.
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Susie Suh15) Susie Suh Susie Suh (epic): Sensual and personal, this 25-year-old Korean-American, singer-songwriter brings to mind a host of adjectives, all of them emotional. Don't miss this beautiful, affecting debut.
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16) Stiffed Burned Again (Outlook): Anchored by spitfire singer Santi White, an electric presence, this Philadelphia band calls early punk bands Bad Brains and Clash as influences. However, No Doubt comes to mind when listening to its infectious blend of pop hooks, punk guitar and ska/reggae rhythms.
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17) Kyle Vincent Don't You Know (Songtree): For fans of 1970s radio pop, Vincent is the second coming. Vocally, he has the rich sound that helped the Cassidy brothers— Shaun and David — as '70s pop idols. And his songwriting references the sweetest ballads of the '70s and '80s. With rich harmonies and strumming guitars, Don't You Know is an album of pop lost in time.
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The Pierces18) The Pierces Light of the Moon (Universal): These two Alabama-born sisters have a penchant for folky pop harmonies, The Pierces' second album is one of the friendliest, best-sounding folk-rock CDs you'll find a disc of earthy, luscious pop with the kind of harmonic tension only sisters can achieve.
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19) Brandi Carlile Follow (Mute): Honest, heartwarming and wonderfully wise those are things you could say about this 23-year-old Seattle native's amazing major label debut. While she certainly strums and sings with a country flavor, she can't be pigeonholed as a country artist. Her music slips from folk to pop to country with a stream of easy listening, catchy soul.
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Lovemakers20) The Lovemakers Times of Romance (Interscope): This male-female techno duo make a beautiful noise on Times of Romance. Sounding like a merger of Duran Duran and The Human League, they trade off vocal duties amid the dozen tracks (plus a remix) on their debut. This is dancy, '80s-derivative fun pop.
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21) Depeche Mode Playing the Angel (Sire/Reprise/Mute): Depeche Mode is back with another dark, but satisfying, exploration of the wounded soul. Light a candle and play it at night.
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22) Kate Bush Aerial (Columbia): One of the most anticipated albums of the year turns out to be the most sedate work of the reclusive British singer-songwriter's career. Aerial is bottomless, aloft on a wind of motherly love and celebration for life. It ends with its title track an affirming, wonderful song that slips in and out of rhythms and dream, and offers a viewpoint unbiased by cynicism or negativity. The laughter – and the dreams – are contagious.
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Dark New Day23) Dark New Day Twelve Year Silence (Warner): Featuring members of Creed and Sevendust, this hard rock band knows how to use melody in a blast of metal riffage.
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24) Northern State All City (Atlantic): If the Spice Girls had attempted to make a Beastie Boys album, it might have sounded a little like Northern State. Northern State makes some fun, sassy hip hop — this is generation Y party music plain and simple, nothing too deep – but an infectious experience for the listener.
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25) OK Go Oh No (Capitol): Chicago's New Wave popsters return with a second album not quite as bubblegum sweet as its first, but still doles out the cheeky Brit-influenced angular guitar rhythms with snarling vocals and a humorous wink.
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