Toronto
5 min

High notes in singles & albums

THE DISH RAN AWAY WITH THE SPOON. Sufjan Stevens's (above) CD Illinoise and Rae Spoon's song "Long Road To Nowhere" are the greatest releases of the year.

Here are my picks for the best songs and albums of 2005 (I can already hear the hateration coming my way). Great last minute Christmas shopping ideas.

FAVE SONGS

20. “Eleanor Put Your Boots On.” Franz Ferdinand (on the Domino label). The Glaswegian Fab Four take a stab at a ballad and it’s a tender, quirky marvel.

19. “Feel Good Inc.” Gorillaz (Parlophone). Damon Albarn and De La Soul trade off amusing quips within a genius spazztastic arrangement.

18. “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole.” Martha Wainwright (Maple Music). Martha gets back at her daddy with heart-wrenching words and Bob Dylanesque emoting.

17. “I Turn My Camera On.” Spoon (Merge). The Austin quartet does a funky hot “Emotional Rescue” redux for the kids.

16. “Streetlights.” Josh Rouse (Ryko). A lonely boy’s forlorn proclamations shoot at the stars in the sky or anyone who’ll listen. Unbelievably dreamy.

15. “Lua.” Bright Eyes (Saddle Creek). Conor Oberst’s sad ode to lost druggy drunk love could be a theme song for the relationship of Kate Moss and Pete Doherty.

14. “Bucky Done Gone.” MIA (XL Recordings). Mia Arulpragasam’s rat-a-tat-tat scares some and makes others dance with glee. Controversial? Maybe. Brilliant? Damn right.

13. “Coles Corner.” Richard Hawley (Mute Records). If grandma gives you the old, “They don’t write them like they used to” line, play this and watch her melt instantly.

12. “Hung Up.” Madonna (Maverick/Warner). Madge plus Abba equals Gay Dance Classic.

11. “Joy.” Bettye LaVette (Anti-). Fifty-nine-year-old LaVette takes Lucinda Williams’ countrified rocker and makes it a chilling bluesy explosion of regret and determination.

10. “Love In A Trashcan.” The Raveonettes (Columbia/The Orchard). Danish retro rockers get all “Kitten With A Whip” sexy with this amusing beatnik cool ditty.

9. “Casimir Pulaski Day.” Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty). In five minutes and 30 seconds, Stevens tells a rich story of a friend’s death, their secret love and his disappointment with God.

8. “1 Thing.” Amerie (Sony). Inventive frenetic beats grip on tight to the luscious pouty and determined vocals of its star.

7. “For Today I Am A Boy.” Antony And The Johnsons (Secretly Canadian). A compelling piano ballad that has a boy (in this case Antony) sing about wanting to be a girl. Who can’t relate to that?

6. “Stars Above Us.” Saint Etienne (Sanctuary). Hey, people. If this was a Kylie or Madonna tune in the 1980s it would have shot to number one. Get it now. Brilliant pop.

5. “Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme.” Edan (Lewis Ent). Boston’s nerdy hip-hop dynamo spits out imaginative rhymes to awesome crunchy old school beats.

4. “Movement.” LCD Soundsystem (DFA). When cutie pie James Murphy screams, “It’s like a fat guy in a T-shirt doing all the singing,” to abrasive yet controlled punky chaos, I must say, it gets me a little horny.

3. “Heartbeat.” Annie (679 Recordings Ltd). Norwegian singer Annie Lilia Berge Strand sings sadness sweetly. Thinking woman/man’s bubblegum pop.

2. “Took You Two Years To Win My Heart.” Final Fantasy (Blocks Recording Club). Owen Pallett does good strings. This song just blows my mind. The words. The melody. Frilly, dainty and thoroughly original.

1. “Long Road To Nowhere.” Rae Spoon (Washboard Records). Albertan Spoon’s flirty song of lonely boy angst has a magic old-fashioned simplicity that never takes itself too seriously. It’s as sexy as hell.

FAVE ALBUMS

20. Nashville. Josh Rouse (Ryko). Nebraska native Rouse’s eloquent sad-sack revelations and happy melodies are a joy to behold.

19. I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise. Bettye LaVette (Anti-). A self-proclaimed “child of the blues” rips through famous female-penned songs and transforms them for the better. They’re her songs now.

18. Twin Cinema. The New Pornographers (Matador). This Vancouver-based band makes rich dynamic power pop… again.

17. Gimme Fiction. Spoon (Merge). Britt Daniels and his boys just go for it and make their best and most eclectic album to date.

16. The Woods. Sleater-Kinney (Sub Pop). Feedback! Attitude! Corin, Janet and Carrie are the 21st-century Carrie Nations. Only one thing missing: more cowbell!

15. Anniemal. Annie (679 Recordings Ltd). Did you look to Madonna to give you “the” dance/pop album of the year? Well, surprise, it was Annie who did it seamlessly.

14. Beauty And The Beat. Edan (Lewis Ent). This dude is crazy. This dude is brilliant. Hip-hop needs this jolt of fresh vibrant risk-taking. (Warning: He does say “faggot” a few times. We’ll just have to learn him.)

13. Thunder, Lightning, Strike. The Go! Team (Sony). These zany UK kids from Brighton smash together their exuberant dance beats and jangly guitars with cutsie-poo sing-a-longs and horns. Nobody out there sounds like this. Energetic to the max.

12. Your Trailer Door. Rae Spoon (Washboard Records). Spoon is a simple man with a banjo and a fearless heart. He has the voice of an angel… a squinting sarcastic angel. Gotta love him.

11. I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. Bright Eyes (Saddle Creek). Connor Oberst finally gets it right and expresses his rough edged sensitive self in a way that is both compelling and dizzily romantic.

10. Has A Good Home. Final Fantasy (Blocks Recording Club). TO’s Owen Pallett (a man of many bands) manages to mix Victorian pretty with modern urban emotion and comes out with his best musical foray yet.

9. Multiply. Jamie Lidell (Warp Records). A “walking, talking question mark” makes cocky, blue-eyed soul with enough charm and inventiveness to make Prince jealous.

8. Z. My Morning Jacket (ATO Records). This Louisville outfit hits us with their best shot. They fire away with an ingenious production that gives the delicious tunes insightful long lasting flavour.

7. Coles Corner. Richard Hawley (Mute Records). Matt Dusk and Michael Buble seem to think of themselves as the new Sinatras. They think that wearing a good suit and singing in a cool boring monotone is the ticket. It’s not, that’s Perry Como. Hawley is the real thing. He echoes the Sinatra Capitol years and makes it fresh, his own. A stunning release.

6. Pretty In Black. The Raveonettes (Columbia/The Orchard). Richard Gottehrer and Sune Rose Wagner are dark and dirty romantics with a penchant for 1960s girl groups (and stealing most blatantly from them).

5. Arular. MIA (XL Recordings). Her daddy was a Tamil Tiger revolutionary, not her. No one has been more hated and loved in music this year than Mia. Her explosive upfront songs chill you to the bone and more importantly, they also inspire you to shake your moneymaker.

4. I Am A Bird Now. Antony And The Johnsons (Secretly Canadian). A powerful hopeful release from a singing cupie doll boy who just wants to, has to be, a “Guhl.”

3. LCD Soundsystem. LCD Soundsystem (DFA). Mid-30s angst has never been played out in such a cool danceable way as this. James Murphy has a sardonic wit that nervously glides through the aggressive, desperate beats.

2. Tales From Turnpike House. Saint Etienne (Sanctuary). In what could be their last album, Saint Etienne goes all concept and comes up with its best work. One drenched in a 40-something’s nostalgic longing.

1. Illinoise. Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty). Steven’s second release (in his proposed 50 states series) is grand in scale, courageous in scope. Songs stylistically shift and words inform, entrance and scare.