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Albums of 2005

Yus, yus, yus folks, it’s that time of the year again: diskant contributors all throw our favourites in a pot and we not only deliver a list of the ten most essential albums that came out in the previous twelve months, but also sound off our opinions on precisely why we didn’t vote for something that someone else liked. Last year there was a huge amount of diversity in voting, resulting in an entertaining amount of conflicting opinions flying around. This year, the sheer number of different records floating our contributors’ boats has expanded further, leaving us with such a disparate Top Ten of albums that none of us have heard every single thing on it. I’ll guarantee there’s at least one you won’t have heard too. Actually, I’ll tell you a secret: our commander-in-chief Marceline has only heard one of the records on this list. Now that’s democracy in action. It’s also a useful opportunity to expand on your own listening habits, so read on…

Who we are: Fraser Campbell (FC), Tom Coogan (TC), Stuart Fowkes (SF), Jon Goodwin (JG), Alex McChesney (AM), Simon Minter (SM), Simon Proffitt (SP), Thorsten Sideb0ard (TS), Marceline Smith (MS), Dave Stockwell (DS), Chris Summerlin (CS), Graeme Williams (GW).

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1. Part Chimp – I Am Come (Rock Action)

CS: Jesus – where to start? There’s a part in this record on ‘Hello Bastards’ I think, where, after the riff of the song has pummelled you to death, it breaks down to a guitar so distorted and fucked up playing a riff so righteous that I have to sit down every time it’s on so people don’t see my raging hard on. My neighbours probably hate this record and have combined it and my face in their minds as a sort of personification of everything that gets them angry. So every time they see me they think of the riff to ‘Bring Back The Sound’ and they get so mad they could kill babies.

SP: ROAR! YEAH! WOOOAH! ROCK AND ROLL! Possibly even better than Chart Pimp. Lots of people make noise, but not many people make as much noise, or as thoroughly DEEP and WELL-ROUNDED a noise as these boys. And they’ve got tunes.

SM: Part Chimp are a stupidly crushing guitar force. The album sounds like its grooves can barely contain the terror within and I fear that it’s going to melt my stereo. (This is a good thing).

OS: Reminded me of Guitar Wolf’s Jet Generation the first time I heard it, in a How-in-god’s-name-does-this-record-actually-exist? kind of way. Ludicrous. Is “I am a sonic disease” the first line of ‘Hello Bastards’? I sincerely hope it is.

MS: This is one of my favourite album sleeves of the year. I haven’t heard the album yet though.

SF: WOOOOAAARRRGHHHHH. Part Chimp are so mighty their album titles don’t even have to make sense. Yeah!

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2. Jesu – Jesu (Hydra Head)

GW: The title ‘genius’ is bestowed so often in music journalism that it has been rendered virtually meaningless, but if the word still has any meaning at all, it should be applied to Justin K Broadrick. He was one of the founding members of Napalm Death when he was still a teenager and has consistently written outstanding records under the monikers of Godflesh, Final, and Techno Animal, among others. Jesu, his latest band, is no exception. Joined by longtime collaborators Ted Parsons (ex-Godflesh, Swans) and Diarmuid Dalton (ex-Godflesh), Broadrick has produced what is ostensibly a doomy metal record, though metal has never been so heartrendingly beautiful. If My Bloody Valentine had opted for crushing heaviness they would have sounded something like this.

SP: If there’s one thing better than crushing, brutal power, it’s the conjunction of crushing, brutal power with haunting, fragile melody. Sounds like Justin Broadrick has been listening to quite a bit of Low since Godflesh disbanded, and we’re all the better for it. Awesome.

FC: Brooding and corrosive, this album also contained some very innovative and beautiful moments.

SF: Absolutely magnificent. It was so good to hear Justin Broadrick’s latest post-Godflesh, post-Techno Animal workout with the first Jesu EP, but to hear it expanded and fully realised in an album was one of the highlights of the year for me. Grandiose and epic without falling foul of sounding remotely GOFF, and easily the best bass sound of any record this year. Inspiring stuff.

DS: I’m so glad this album is in the list. I missed out on Godflesh, mostly because I was too young. But it’s really nice to have Justin Broadrick back making music again, and firmly sticking it to the increasingly boring so-called “post-metal” brigade. This is one of the saddest, most mournful records I have ever heard. And it’s fantastically heavy too – it just doesn’t work unless it’s really blasting through your stereo. What a wonderful combination: probably the best amalgamation of the two I have heard. So crank it up.

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3. Deerhoof – The Runners Four (ATP)

DS: Woo woo! Deerhoof in the diskant annual round-up for the third year in a row alert! They should get some kind of special prize. This damn band are too good for their own good. To tell the truth, I’ve barely got to grips with this one yet, yet I am already all-too aware of from quite how high up it pisses over pretty much every other band out there. At this rate of knots, how long ’til they blow themselves out of steam?

SP: Deerhoof are fantastic in every way. And it’s good to see they’ve got their cover art sorted out after last year’s shameful effort.

TS: This album is ok, but a little too straight-ahead rock for my liking, with less of the quirky noise-pop.

TC: Pristine, enjoyable math pop.

JG: I’ve never really enjoyed Deerhoof on record. Live, however, they are in my all-time top ten, and their gig in Leeds this year was awesome.

SF: One of three bands on the list who I’ve promoted a show for but don’t actually own any of their albums. Oops. Anyway, as I’m sure you know, Deerhoof are an absolutely top band, who manage to make arty, out-there rock seem like the most natural pop music in the world, which is a rare gift indeed.

CS: I’m still not totally into this yet. I need to break through the denseness somehow but I picked it for my top 10 because I know it’ll get there. I hear things in the record that are amazing and then I forget where they are. It seems impenetrable at present but as I begin to let the songs register with me more and more it gets better each time. It would be an ambitious bite for any other band to take but for Deerhoof you feel it’s all in a day’s work and they’re probably holed up somewhere making something even more ambitious as we compile these lists like the losers we are.

MS: I am constantly a year behind the diskant Deerhoof craze. I should get this.

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4. Antony & The Johnsons – I Am A Bird Now (Secretly Canadian)

AM: Who would have thought that a song about being beaten by your gay lover would be my song of the year? Packed with celebrity cameos (Boy George, Lou Reed), but I honestly wish it wasn’t because they just get in the way of that amazing voice.

SP: I don’t understand this at all.

GW: A couple of things are significant here: 1) Antony & The Johnsons are the first and probably only group to have both a split release with Current 93 and a considerable degree of mainstream success; 2) Antony beat the likes of Coldplay and the Kaiser Chiefs to win the Mercury Award and so we all owe him a debt of gratitude for that alone.

MS: I have not heard this but Andrew Clare’s illustration for the Plan B review is one of my favourite things this year and currently decorates my computer desktop.

FC: The most shocking and beautiful thing about this album is how openly Antony’s vulnerability is exposed, dissected and scrutinised. Things we all think and feel but rarely discuss, even with ourselves, are laid bare on this record and as such it does what all great music does, it touches you in places you never knew you had. What a voice as well.

TS: My first reaction was not a good one, and after hearing everyone say how special it was, I figured I should give it another chance. Same reaction though!

SM: Not heard the album but I saw him/them at ATP and I just don’t get his voice. I had to leave and go and watch Coronation St on ATP TV.

CS: I saw this guy play at All Tomorrows Parties and it sounded a bit samey to me. I am sure the records are good as everyone harps on about them all the time. This guy Kevin that I met a few times a while back plays guitar for him, which is weird. He’s a great guitarist and if his album (Currituck County) was in the Top 10 I could write all day about it.

OS: Proper bloody good. Has done wonders for my relationship with my mother. Every criticism I’ve heard against him and this album has been lazy in the extreme.

DS: Jeez, you people are serious about this one aren’t you?

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5. Soeza – Why Do You Do? (Gringo)

TC: Peculiar, lush, and rocking.

CS: I was reading an interesting thread on a message board as to why exactly the UK has no good bands. Of course it was written by a Yank who didn’t stop to realise that maybe there’s a whole load of good bands but because getting a press agent and touring the USA is prohibitively expensive all he’s going to hear about is Babyshambles or whatever. Soeza = no fuss. They are part of a tremendously far reaching and musically ambitious UK underground that gets better as it gets older. This is a great record and what’s amazing is it won’t be their best either, they’ll keep bringing it every time.

DS: For some bizarre reason, I honestly thought Soeza has split up years ago. I’m glad that I was wrong.

SF: I’ve been looking forward to a Soeza album since I put them on in Oxford in 2004, so it’s good to know that this is actually out now. And it must be good if it’s in the top ten. I’m off to buy it – thanks, diskant!

JG: The first time I saw Soeza I came away disappointed that they didn’t sound like Sweep the Leg Johnny, as I’d been led to believe. I was an idiot. I’ve seen them 3 or 4 times since then and each time I’ve enjoyed them more, to the point that I was genuinely excited by the prospect of hearing their new record. And this is a joy. Having lost one of their two guitarists since their last (awesome) release, ‘Founded By Sportsmen and Outlaws’, the rest of the band has a bit more space to breathe on this record. Melancholy brass parts follow melodic guitar parts around to perfection, the double-drumming and excellent bass playing drives the whole thing relentlessly forward and the two vocalists are totally contrasting and good. Most of the songs seem to start in one place and end up somewhere completely different, and each one blends effortlessly into the next. BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR!!!

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6. Lightning Bolt – Hypermagic Mountain (Load)

SP: In theory, Lightning Bolt are the best band in the world. In practice, they’re sometimes the best band in the world, but their records are a bit inconsistent for my liking (I basically want an album just featuring one 30 minute version of 13 Monsters). Hypermagic Mountain is their best record yet.

AM: Lightning Bolt, of course, rock, but I already own their “Wonderful Rainbow” album, and, to be perfectly honest, I can’t tell the difference between that and this one.

JG: “PLAY LOUD!!! This record has been mastered for metal loudness!” It sure has. Unfortunately, however, it’s just too long! Even though I voted for it, it is a bit of a chore to plough through it all. It’s got some fantastic bits on it – Side 1 is killer all the way, the song “Dead Cowboy” is, in the true meaning of the word, awesome, and the packaging is a joy to behold. It just doesn’t have the hooks or brevity of the last two records, and I think in a year’s time I?!=ll choose to listen to one of those over this one.

DS: Call me a finicky snob, but is anyone else put off by the production on this record? The instruments sound better than ever, but the live feeling of two freaks performing at colossal volume mere inches from their amps and each other is gone. Boo, I say; boo. It’s too damn long too – their hyperkinetic live shows never drag on like this, so why ask someone to bludgeon themselves by listening to this all the way through at home? Somehow they continue to be one of the greatest bands on the planet.

OS: Maybe not a huge step forward, but who cares. Evil as shit.

CS: I haven’t heard this yet. My friend Kush felt the need to text me to tell me how brilliant it is so I trust him.

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7. Charlottefield – How Long Are You Staying (Jonson Family)

JG: This is an excellent record. A mix of chaotic guitar noise, restrained melodies, bass-led riffage and insistent, screamed/spoken vocals wrapped up in lovely packaging with a scary charver cat on the front.

FC: A glorious, uplifting wail from the heart. This album had me air drumming on the bus more than any other this year. That is a good thing.

SP: A good, solid, record. Runs the risk at times of sounding like a number of other young UK bands, but eventually manages to keep its head above water quite convincingly. And they get marks for referencing one of my favourite songs, ‘How Long Are You Staying’ by Bill Joy. Nothing mind-blowingly spectacular, but I’d be interested to see them live.

SF: I can never decide where I stand with Charlottefield. Sometimes I think they’re absolutely stunning, and other times they just make me shrug my shoulders. This probably says more about my variable response to clangy, abrasive stop-start guitar music than about this album, which is doubtless great.

MS: I saw Charlottefield live a couple of years back and they were astonishingly good. Since then they have returned to Glasgow regularly at times when I am out of town. Thanks guys. Despite losing the official diskant review copy of this album to Fraser in the fight that never happened, I do have a copy of this and very good it is too.

CS: I haven’t heard this record all the way through but I would rate Charlottefield one of the best live bands I’ve seen all year so I suppose I should get a copy pronto!

TS: Definitely one of the buzz bands of the year, and rightfully so. Their live shows are rather excellent.

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8. Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Superwolf (Domino)

CS: Certainly my favourite gig of the year (except for The Stooges). Another Will Oldham record would be exciting enough but the songwriting return of Matt Sweeney of Chavez? Hell yeah! They proved to be something of a dream team, minimising and economising fat indie rock riffs into something more simple and other worldly. A downbeat record that manages to be simultaneously uplifting and triumphant. I hope they do a second album.

DS: Everyone has been telling me all year how good this record is. Maybe I should actually get around to listening to it.

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9. Birchville Cat Motel – Chi Vampires (Celebrate Psi-Phenomenon)

SP: Tremendous. I’m a relative newcomer to Campbell Kneale and his 2,342,395 releases. I’d read quite a bit about his stuff, but only recently heard any. Wow, though. If this was just a straight drone record, it’d still be worthy of the top ten, but when the chugging death metal guitar bursts in on the title track, the whole thing becomes something else altogether.

MS: If I had bought this it probably would have been in my top ten as his set at Instal was one of my musical highlights of the year. Brain torturing noise of the best kind. The reason I haven’t bought it is that I never find noise recordings manage to be anything but a pale imitation of the live reality. Probably I should buy a better stereo, or be less considerate of my neighbours (hang on, I don’t have any neighbours).

DS: It was already decreed that this would be my album of 2005 before January had cranked around, and lo, behold that it came to be that this very event has occurred. Late last year, I was typing superlatives about this album’s 130-minute predecessor ‘Beautiful Speck Triumph’ for a column when I began to receive many a whispering about how Campbell Kneale had already surpassed it and would very shortly be unleashing his latest maelstrom upon the world via his own fine, fiiiiiine label Celebrate Psi-Phenomenon. It would pass that I would spend the early part of the 2005 bumbling about on trains outside of the country and so I missed the initial flurry of excitement in the underground noizzzze/ur-drone/free skronk networks that accompanied the release of this record. But when I returned, what was the first album I immediately sought? This very sucker, a cocksucker of a fucker; the optimum, optimist, bestest definition of the worth, validity and relevance of drone music in all its glory. Compressing pretty much all of the greatness of ‘Beautiful Speck Triumph’ into a single CD, this is 74-odd minutes of wracked emotion; a celebration of existence itself; a raindance to the heavens; a single digit raised to any concerns about packaging your music to “appeal to people”. Fuck them; fuck everything. Play this LOUD only and feel free.

The best thing is: it’s not even halfway towards perfect. Instead, it’s tiring, sometimes awkward, and occasionally very confusing. But this record is also sublimely beautiful, monstrous, and utterly, utterly alive. I think I can hear it breathing (and gasping for breath by the time its soaring, multi-tracking ultradistortion grinds to a steam train halt). I’d say it was a singular achievement if I didn’t have such similar regard for its predecessor. I have a similar attitude to it as I do towards The Unit Ama’s album which was so justifiably feted in last year’s round up. All you need to know is: Buy it you fuckers, and get a valuable lesson in the joy of music as pure expression. Then listen on repeat ad infinitum. Not bad for a guy who named his musical project after a roadsign.

CS: I heard some good stuff about this. I guess I might like it. I’ll borrow it off Stockwell I think.

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10. Like A Stuntman – Fresh Air Is Not The Worst Thing In Town (Highpoint Lowlife)

DS: I smell a conspiracy…

TS: Instant love for me (but i would say that!). The off-kilter detuned indie-rock influenced by Pavement, but offset with some of the best electronic production around. Rough and shambolic, yet somehow holds together in a cohesive way.

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Our favourite films of 2005
Individual top ten lists by contributors