One writer's top 10 rock albums of 2005:
1. "Apologies to the Queen Mary," Wolf Parade: For the second straight year, the debut of an indie Montreal-based band tops this list — surely a sign of the apocalypse. Comparisons to last year's Montreal sensation, Arcade Fire, and Modest Mouse (whose Isaac Brock produced "Apologies") have run aplenty; both are valid. A music critic once remarked of Franz Ferdinand's 2004 debut that it brought on tears it was so good. If this writer was also a wuss, he'd say the same thing about Wolf Parade.
2. "Get Behind Me Satan," White Stripes: This album has a fair share of throwaway tunes, but its peaks are so exciting they make it one of the year's best. "Denial Twist" (which is currently airing as a Michel Gondry video with a Conan O'Brien guest appearance) and "My Doorbell" might be the year's catchiest songs. Jack White is fast becoming one of the most vital artists of a generation.
3. "Illinois," Sufjan Stevens: Following "Michigan," "Illinois" is Steven's second installation in his absurd tour of all 50 states. I've still got my fingers crossed for Puerto Rico. No other album (except, perhaps, Mariah Carey's "Emancipation of Mimi") combined symphonic beauty with elementary school education like "Illinois."
4. "Face the Truth," Stephen Malkmus: It's been 13 years since Malkmus and his old band, Pavement, set the indie world on fire. Dozens of imitators later (as well as a recent album of jazz artists covering Pavement songs) — and still no one sounds like him.
5. "Takk...," Sigur Ros: Sigur Ros has built a swelling mass of devoted fans by playing music no one has ever heard before. Though there are a few somewhat approximate predecessors, Iceland's Sigur Ros — a hugely influential group to bands including Radiohead — is unique. On this, its third widely released album, the ethereal sounds rock a little more and twinkle more hopefully. "Saeglopur" in particular is a standout.
6. "I am a Bird Now," Antony and the Johnsons: Talk about otherworldly. Singing cabaret torch songs over lonesome piano notes, Antony's falsetto reaches bone-achingly beautiful realms. His siren warble has already attracted the prestigious (and now defunct) Mercury Prize and collaborators including Lou Reed and Boy George. Antony and Reed's slow-building, horn-backed "Fistful of Love" is one of the best songs of the year.
7. "Guero," Beck: Beck will probably never top 1996's "Odelay," but his records always gradually yield surprises, sometimes even weeks after first listening to them — songs like the Jack White-produced, handclap-paced blues of "Go it Alone" and the funky breakdown of "Earthquake Weather." "Guero" is also aided by its ever-burgeoning offspring, including remixes by musicians using GameBoy sound-effects (featuring a great, bubbly version of "Girl") and the recently released EP "Guerolito."
8. "The Sunset Tree," Mountain Goats: Singer-songwriter John Darnielle is the Mountain Goats. He sings, "Alone in my room, I am the last of a lost civilization" — one of the better descriptions of the dream state that music and a good set of headphones can bring.
9. "Alligator," The National: No band has ever made lines like "I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain" work better. The unfairly overlooked "Alligator" is a subtle, bluesy masterpiece led by Matt Berninger's deep croon — even if a few of his lyrics might cause you to bury your head in your hands. If you missed it, kick back and press play sometime after midnight.
10. "Twin Cinema," The New Pornographers & "The Magic Numbers," The Magic Numbers: The twists and turns of melody may come more predictably for the Magic Numbers than the sudden shifts of the New Pornographers, but both are pop professionals that know the DNA of a good hook intimately. Maybe one day I'll understand why songs like the Pornographer's "These Are the Fables" or the Number's "Love Me Like You" can't be radio hits.
Honorable Mentions:"Thunder, Lightning, Strike," The Go! Team"Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah," Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah"Punches," World Leader Pretend"In the Reins," Calexico & Iron and Wine"Set Yourself on Fire," Stars