Best of 2005
by Peter Jesperson
1. Paul McCartney - Chaos And Creation In The Backyard
On his 22nd album, Paul's singing, melodies, arrangements and musicianship (he plays almost everything himself) are breathtaking. Too frequently though, the lyrics are not. But as a whole it's strong stuff. The best songs - "Too Much Rain," "A Certain Softness," "Jenny Wren," or the epic "Riding to Vanity Fair" are classic McCartney. There are moments where I'm reminded of Ram or Tug Of War and inevitably there are several Beatle-ish moments but, overall I think Paul and producer Nigel Godrich have made a record that sounds unlike any of his others - very rich in detail, brilliantly mixed, extremely artful. I'd count it as one of the 5 or 6 best records of McCartney's solo career.
2. a. Eisley - Room Noises
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you a bona fide, modern day classic. Honestly, I even surprise myself over the obsession I still have with this record. Easily my most played of 2005 and it's primarily because of the voices, which belong to sisters Sherri and Stacy DuPree (guitar and keyboards respectively). Their pure, natural talent is apparent not only on individual lead vocals or the way they harmonize together but also in the expert way they sing around each other. They can totally pull it off live too. If I live to be a hundred I'll never get over Sherri's soulful delivery on "I Wasn't Prepared." From some of the ennunciation, I'd say these girls have done a good bit of church singing. There's an artistry and self-assuredness to the whole group that belies their ages (from 16 to 24) and, as their bio tells us, stems from music having been a fundamental part of their upbringing. 3rd sister Chauntelle plays lead guitar, brother Weston is the drummer and neighbor Jonathan Wilson plays bass (since replaced by 15 year old cousin Garron DuPree). For me, Room Noises is indeed a bona fide, modern day classic; beautiful, uplifting, ethereal, innocent-yet-wise pop rock music. I'll wager, given perspective over the years, it'll sit comfortably alongside my all-time favorites.
2. b. Eisley - Head Against The Sky (EP)
The EP (an exclusive I-Tunes 4-song-er and a Reprise, promo-only 5-song-er) features one great new studio recording - "Head Against The Sky," an ambitious, prog-ish number that shows considerable growth. The rest are fine, live performances from The Troubadour in L.A. (2 of which are previously unreleased songs).
3. a. Dan Kelly And The Alpha Males - Sing The Tabloid Blues
This Australian only release actually came out in '04 (I discovered it late that year and it landed in my 'best of' at #13) but it wasn't until early '05 when, on a random spin of the album, the song "Get High On Yr Own Supply (Don't Get High On Mine)" leapt out of the speakers and throttled me - it was as if I'd never really heard it before. And then, one after another, all the songs hit me in that same, crazy kind of delayed reaction. Songs like "Human Sea" and "Pregnant Conversation are just insanely good. I'm telling ya, Dan Kelly has got it all the voice, the songs, the musicianship, the sense of humor, the swagger ... I'd say without batting an eye that this is one of the best rock albums I've heard in the last decade. Reminds me at times of The Replacements, Supergrass and/or Dan's uncle, Paul Kelly. Seek it out at all costs!
3. b. Dan Kelly And The Alpha Males - Pirate Radio (EP)
A terrifically devil-may-care attitude (again, shades of Supergrass!) pervades another stupendous chapter in this groupıs young life. Iım smitten with their sonic sense, this is one of the most interestingly produced records I heard all year. "Drunk On Election Night" is a classic song of disgust and disillusionment that many Americans could relate to Iım sure. Bonus points for the uncommon ı68 Kinks cover "Sitting By The Riverside" and doing it more than justice.
4. Supergrass - Road To Rouen
Another fabulous release from one of the most consistent groups of the last ten years. Though this 5th album may not be as strong as their 2nd (In It For The Money) or 4th (Life On Other Planets), there's something about it that is so timeless and deeply artistic that I may end up liking it as much as anything they've ever done.
5. Neil Young - Prairie Wind
Hearing these songs for the first time at The Ryman during the filming of the Jonathan Demme movie certainly affected my appreciation of this album. It's a mix of some of the thought out qualities of Neil's other Nashville recordings with the spontaneity of recording freshly written songs, ala Greendale. The simplicity of the writing fails occasionally but the album succeeds as a whole. It's tender, nostalgic and beautiful.
6. Paul Kelly & The Stormwater Boys - Foggy Highway
A bluegrass flavored project, this album has all the hallmarks of Paul's other work writing, playing and singing that are about as good as it gets. Duet with Kasey Chambers is a highlight.
7. Surprise Me Mr. Davis - Only In Montreal (EP)
A huge new discovery for me. SMMD is a quartet spin-off of stunning New England trio The Slip with added vocalist/guitarist/writer Nathan Moore. Hints of Mott The Hoople, Bowie, Dylan and Van Morrison. This is a selection of tracks from an upcoming L.P. + 2 bonus cuts. Sold only at gigs and their (The Slip's) website to date. The live shows were the among the very best things I saw all year. These guys are outrageously great musicians.
8. Death Cab For Cutie - Plans
I was a latecomer to DCFC. First, I fell hard for spinoff The Postal Service and then the 4th Death Cab album Transatlanticism. Now, with this, their 5th, I officially love these guys from top to bottom. I can listen to this every day and never tire of it. Catchy, dreamy rock music, smart words.
9. South San Gabriel - The Carlton Chronicles
More unspeakably gorgeous and puzzling stuff from Will Johnson & Co.
10. Freddie Stevenson - self titled EP
A Scot living in London hooks up with former Only Ones lead guitarist, John Perry, and makes music just south of Donovan and a little east of Paul Simon. Brilliantly arranged and played. Sophisticated, bookish lyrics.
11. Spoon - Gimme Fiction
Arty rock from Texas. A band I'd heard about for years. A record I had 20 people tell me I'd go nuts over. They were right. Sometimes reminscent of Television.
12. Son Volt -Okemah And The Melody Of Riot
Another one of the most consistent artists in recent memory. 3/4's of the group has been replaced and yet the very indentifiable sound is maintained. What can I say? I love everything this guy does.
13. Tim O'Reagan -self titled
One of the finest singers I have ever heard. A solid solo debut.
14. M. Ward - Transistor Radio
One of the most promising and interesting new artists to come along in the last five years. A strange blend of John Fahey guitar and an indie/arty take on Louis Armstrong's singing.
15. Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Come On Back
Songs his Daddy taught him. Jimmie Dale feels real at home with these standards.
16. Liz Durrett - Husk
Ghostly quiet, artful singer-songwriter with a drop-dead gorgeous voice. Produced by Vic Chesnutt, his presence is clearly felt.
17. Inara George - All Rise
Great song craft, much of it with a pre-rock, often jazzy feel. Highly original stuff, full of imagination.
18. a. Mark Eitzel - Candy Ass
A guy I'd follow to the ends of the earth, his music has fascinated me for some 23 years now.
18. b. Mark Eitzel - Demos Before Love Songs
Illuminating early sketches of songs written for the first AMC in ten years.
19. The Constantines - Tournament Of Hearts
Intense, smart rock from this Toronto band.
20. Royal - self titled EP
I don't know much about Joe Pistoresi, the gent who made this wonderful pop rock except that he was the mail room guy at Rhino for a long time. He gave a copy of this to my wife Jennifer and we both played it incessantly.
21. Phil Manzanera -6 P.M.
The innovative former lead guitarist of Roxy Music. A heady solo record with a lot of help from his friends Eno, Robert Wyatt etc.
22. The Hold Steady -Separation Sunday
One of the most original groups around, The Hold Steady do a talk-sing kind of thing that is intense and humorous. Oh yeah, and they rock!
Reissues/ remasters/ archival stuff:
Bob Dylan -
No Direction Home
Live at The Gaslight 1962
Live at Carnegie Hall 1963
Robert Wyatt & Friends -
Theatre Royal Drury Lane 8th September 1974
Mayfield Remixed -
The Curtis Mayfield Collection
The Move -
Message From The Country + extras
The Everly Brothers
The Price Of Fame 7 CD Bear Family Box Set
Rock 'N' Soul/Beat 'N' Soul + extras
Sing The Country Greats/Gone Gone Gone + extras
From Nashville To Hollywood Rare & Unreleased Recordings 1961 - 1963
Too Good To Be True (Demos)
Give Me A Future (Demos)
The Alan Price Set -
The House That Jack Built, The Complete
England's Glory -
The First And Last, featuring Peter Perrett from The Only Ones
Son Volt -
A Retrospective: 1995 2000
The Merry-Go-Round -
Listen, Listen: The Definitive Collection
Live shows (in L.A. except where noted):
Paul McCartney Staples Center 11/29 & 30
Eisley - various locations
Rilo Kiley - The Wiltern 5/05
The Slip/Surprise Me Mr. Davis - Spaceland & Knitting Factory 11/05
Supergrass - Amoeba in-store 9/29/Troubadour 9/30
Delbert McClinton - The Mint 9/05
American Music Club & Spoon - The Wiltern 11/05
Freddie Stevenson - various locations 3/05
Ben Lee - various locations
Last Town Chorus - Lakeside Lounge NYC 1/28
Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion - various locations
Chuck Prophet - Molly Malone's 6/05
John Hiatt w/North Mississippi Allstars - House Of Blues 7/05
Perla Batalla - Largo 10/05
Jimmie Dale Gilmore- Largo 10/05
Joe Ely & Joel Guzman - The Mint 7/05
Hockey - various locations
Alice Cooper / Cheap Trick - The Greek Theater 9/05
In A Class All By Themselves
Freddie Stevenson & John Perry - my living room 3/10
I had met John Perry (former lead guitarist for The Only Ones) in Chicago in 1979 when I traveled there to see The Only Ones. John and I had stayed in touch over the years. When he sent me an e-mail in December of '04 and told me he'd run into the best writer he'd heard since Peter Perrett, that really got my attention! The demos John sent were incredible. In March, he, Freddie and Freddie's manager came to L.A. to talk to some labels and film & TV folks. They did two house concerts and two club shows while they were in town - one of them, for about 15 friends in my music room. Their performance was exquisitely beautiful and it was such a great honor to have these fine musicians in my home. An evening I'll treasure for the rest of my life.
Supergrass - Taping for KCRW's 'Morning Becomes Eclectic' Village Recorders 9/30
Jennifer, Autry and I were lucky to nab an invite to watch and listen to the taping go down. And what a magnificent performance it was! The band and crew were especially courteous to us (it's so great when your heroes turn out to be nice people!). The image that will forever be embedded in my brain is my 3.5 year old boy, Autry, standing on a chair in the control room, furiously playing air guitar during "Grace" and yelling "That was GREAT!" when it ended.
Drive-By Truckers stunning cover of "Like A Rolling Stone" for September issue of Uncut, cover mount CD. Shonna Tucker sings!!