Fly Away From the Land - The Year in Music 2005
If you told me at the beginning of 2005 that my favorite songs would be a folk song and a gospel song…
If you would have told me that my favorite album would be in Icelandic and would not have anything to do with Bjork…
If you would have told me that my four year-old daughter would create one of my favorite musical memories by asking me to play a song called “Dirty Harry” over and over…
Well, I would have said you were either on to something or on something…
If you ask me, 2005 was an amazing year in music. A folk singer took the President down on Jay Leno. A rapper took the President down on live television, and a benefit album showed the nation how to respond in times of national crisis. I rocked with teeth; I enjoyed a Funeral over and over and over again. Though I was never a huge AC/DC fan, I started to admire DCFC. TinyE and I both clapped our hands with Gorillaz. I thought globally, but acted locally. I lucked into a live show that was amazing, and I almost learned Icelandic. But more than anything, I literally flew away from the land…I was transported and elevated so many times by song.
And so, without further ado, ILIM is thrilled to present:
2005 - the Year in Music
Albums of the Year
10. Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth
So I’m a NIN fan, but I think this work would stand on its own anyway. The opening track, “All the Love in the World,” was so good, I had a hard time getting to the rest of the album.
9. Kanye West – Late Registration
When it’s good, it’s so so good, but it does sag in the middle a bit, no? "Golddigger" is quite nice, but "Heard 'em Say" "Touch the Sky" and "Crack Music" are my faves.
8. Arcade Fire - Funeral
A distinctive and compelling sound and enduring disc that rocked my car and iPod all year long.
7. Spoon – Gimme Fiction
So I walk into the Virgin records megastore in midtown Manhattan right as this band is starting to play. Fresh off the farm like I was, I had to ask the hipsters who was on stage. They told me. I listened to them jam for 45 minutes (and they were rock solid) and then I bought the disc. It’s nice. It’s very nice.
6. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans
Simply put, the best pop album of 2005. I don’t know if Ben Gibbard wrote the lyrics for “Summer Skin” or not, but its opening “squeaky swings and long grass…the longest shadows ever cast…” blows me away every time...talk about setting...
5. Gorillaz – Demon Days
The three consecutive days I spent listening to this disc were three consecutive happy days indeed. My daughter, TinyE, is a huge fan of “Dirty Harry.” Clap your hands and shake your bottom, y’all.
4. My Morning Jacket – Z
Two bands kept me in the car to find out who was singing was responsible for a track that just rocked me all the way down and back up again…local band Digitata, and My Morning Jacket. I wrote down the name and went to the record store to get whatever that was as soon as I could. Z is refreshingly unique and rock solid from start to finish.
3. Atmosphere – You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having
My favorite hip hop album of 2005. The rhymes, the back beats, the polish, the truth. It’s all there. Atmosphere is a local institution and he has a huge midwest (and kinda coastal) following. To me, he's everything nifty about hip hop. If he is an underground sensation, he is becasue he wants to be both - underground and sensational.
2. Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine
I’m a fan. I cannot lie. I downloaded the pre-production version and it didn't exactly rock my world. Then I bought it a few days after release and…truth be told…had to warm up to it. There is no question that the post-production version is much, much better. Anyway, one morning, enjoying my daily constitutional in San Diego, I listened, I really listened, and then…only then…did I understand. I may try to hit the road to see her open for Coldplay.
1. Sigur Ros – Takk
A friend I met and came to admire in 2005 suggested this disc to me. I won’t declare them the best export ever to come from Iceland, but I will say that they are a darn close second. They convey emotion through their music better than any band I’ve heard in a long, long time. "Glosoli" (which, like the whole album, is sung in Icelandic), my favorite track, is despairing and sparse and uplifting and triumphant all at once. It builds on itself like all the great songs do. There is an entire story, and entire journey within just a few minutes. And so it is with the entire album. I have enjoyed a lot of discs this year, but this is the one I always come back to…this is the one I know I will still listen to years and years from now.
Songs of the Year
5. Halloween Alaska – “You Know I Can’t Live without My Radio”
4. Nine Inch Nails- “All the Love in the World”
4. Gorillaz – “Dirty Harry”
3. Sigur Ros – “Glosoli”
2. Digitata – “Spring Fever”
1. Bright Eyes – “When the President Talks to God”
1. Davell Crawford “Gather by the River”
Coldplay - X & Y; it’s not that I didn’t like it – it’s that it fell so short of what I think they could have done. Just when it seemed they were on the verge of being one of those bands that endures...
A Nod to My Favorite Local Acts (in alphabetical order):
Discs I Need to Get:
13 & God
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The Hold Steady
Best Burns (and who burned it for me):
Saul Williams 1 & 2 (my brother)
Dos One 1 & 2 (JR)
Death Cab for Cutie a.k.a. DCFC (Panda)
Bet iTunes Download:
Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy”
They played this song in my daughter’s dance class. I wasn't in the class, but she was singing it on the way home. I asked her if she wanted me to get it off the computer so that we could play it at home. She said. “Dad, you don’t know that song…”
The rest is history.
Albums which meant the most to me:
Ocean Over – The City Sorrowful EP
My favorite art is made by people I adore. My friend JR is in the band Ocean Over, and so having this EP (given to me) meant a lot, but liking it…genuinely liking it means even more. Someday, when Ocean Over has taken over the world, or at least the part they want to take over, I’ll remember JR when he was a little guy and how much I liked singing along to “Aircrash” during flights hither and yon. “I’m already gone; don't let go…” indeed.
Our New Orleans – A Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast
This compilation by New Orleans artists is so amazingly good and sincere and heart wrenching/warming that it blows me away. If you listen to the songs divorced from context, you would be moved, but when you think about the suffering and devastation that occurred in one of the last unique cities in America (one of the few places that did not succumb to the disorienting rush to be like everywhere else with non-descript suburbia thick with Cheesecake Factories and Macaroni Grills), you will be laid low and humbled and somehow raised up and filled with this sense that everything is going to be okay. Buckwheat Zydeco’s (whose "Turning Point" represents me near my happiest and symbolizes those halcyon days in Lawrence, Kansas) "Cryin’ in the Streets" is a classic. Randy Newman’s "Louisiana" is a masterpiece. Allen Toussaint’s "Tipitina and Me" calls to mind everything I love about New Orleans and the South and the African-American musical experience and, on top of it all, is great piano playing. But I have to tell you, though it embarrasses me a bit to do so, that twice while thinking of the hurricane and the damage and the suffering and what the aftermath said about America and indifference and power and the class divide, Davell Crawfords awesome “Gather by the River” moved me to tears – especially at the end when she sings (like she knows how the weight of privilege and options can weigh a survivor down as though her heart is filled with sadness because she's still here) “fly away from the land…cause we can…cause we can.”
I’ll let Davell close. Here are the lyrics to “Gather by the River.” (as recorded by me, so they may not be exactly right). To me, they represent the notion that music can transport a person to amazing places...that music is spirtual and divine...that music can heal. They represent a wonderful year in music:
Gather by the River
We shall gather
at the river
with each other
'cause you’re my brother
Put our souls
in the water
for the healing
of each other
freed from sin
we’re free to fly
from the land
'cause we can
'cause we can