Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Lewis's Albums of 2005

5. M.I.A. - Arular (XL Recordings)
She panders to the 'It's Grim Up North London' types slightly too much, 'tis true, but Maya Arulpragasam's debut is ultimately a bold assertion and definition of its own exciting, trenchant sound. Fused together with indelible cut 'n' paste variety, this trips through scattergun rhythms, dancehall-style toasting, strident skits, tidy, catchy choruses ('Galang') and text message-inspired bitchiness ('URAQT'). What more could you ask for? This album's freeform style means that it also benefits from further exploration and reinvention - thus, there are many worthy remixes and mash-ups available across the internet.
Official site
Download: 'Pull Up The People'.
Also recommended: Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner.

4. The Boy Least Likely To - The Best Party Ever (Absolute)
Charming toybox pop, incorporating recorders, triangles, washboards and various other elements of a school percussion section, as well as the more folky banjos, fiddles and violins. Rest assured, however - this lot aren't a bunch of loathsome gypsies. Rather, The Best Party Ever is a fantastic instance of new-age twee, all barndance rhythms and kaleidoscopic vocals. It glides effortlessly between the summery synthesized wash of 'Paper Cuts', and the all-out hoedown of the delightful 'I'm Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon To Your Star'. It also trades a nice line in plaintive love songs, and displays a liberated sense of childlike exploration, with clever, witty lyrics. A most pleasurable listen.
Official site
Download: 'Paper Cuts'.
Also recommended: Belle and Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress.

3. Antony and the Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now (Rough Trade)
Antony Hegarty and Co took the Mercury Music Prize this year and outraged brazen charlatans like the Kaiser Chiefs in the process. Good. I Am A Bird Now has a beautiful, hopeful sound, and thoroughly deserves its recognition. The album opens with the almost lachrymose 'Hope There's Someone' and swoons with sweet, sexually ambiguous cabaret ballads before culminating with the divine 'Bird Girl'. It is superbly arranged, and features guest spots from such luminaries as Boy George (on the Ink Spots-esque 'You Are My Sister'), Rufus Wainwright (on 'What Can I Do?'), and Lou Reed (on 'Fistful of Love'). This album is a haunting, transcendent work, with sublime, black melodies and vocals like oceans.
Official site
Download: 'Hope There's Someone'.
Also recommended: The Ink Spots - Whispering Grass.

2. Arcade Fire - Funeral (Rough Trade)
Riotous, melancholic and darkly beautiful all at once, the Arcade Fire's semi-conceptual debut tells of snowstorms, lost childhoods, warfare and strength through adversity. Patched together with a thrilling lo-fi edge and brilliant instrumental work, this album contains several sensual eclipses that collapse in on themselves in the most frenetic, exciting way. At other times it tiptoes with quaint ballads that give it a slower, mournful dimension. Funeral is strangely life-affirming, as evidenced by the climactic opener (and standout track) 'Neighbourhood #1: Tunnels', the all-powerful 'Wake Up' and the towering 'Rebellion/Lies'. It is a glorious cyclical emblem of its title, with an uplifting representation of rebirth.
Official site
Download: 'Neighbourhood #1: Tunnels'.
Also recommended: Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous.

1. Electrelane - Axes (Too Pure)
Electrelane's third full-length is a joyful whirlwind of a record. Presided over by current producer du jour Steve Albini, it takes in flighty, breathless-but-effortless indie girl pop on 'Bells' and 'Two For Joy', before twisting to control itself on a tour de force through drone rock, fractured instrumentals, a wired cover of Leonard Cohen's 'The Partisan', and guttural choral arrangements (particularly on 'I Keep Losing Heart') that are somehow redolent of those used on Björk's Medulla. These styles collide and slowly burn out on the closing track, the epic 'Suitcase', after which this album remains scratched across your consciousness - its skilful experimentalism and abrasive tension is so perfectly tinted it is guaranteed to draw you back.
Official site
Download: 'Bells'.
Also recommended: Sleater-Kinney - The Woods.