It’s the end of another quick year, and the albums we’ve been seeing this year are really of top quality. Some strong debuts and impressive contributions from established bands with only a few discs the world could do without entirely. A year of plenty, I’d say, and with Christmas sneaking up fast it’s time to reflect on the year in music with a good old-fashioned top five list.
5] At number five, it’s the Strays with their debut, Le Futur Noir. This album is still on my play-list, with great punk/ska tinged tunes. The Strays know how to play and, more importantly, how to write songs that people will want to listen to. They’ve got politics, emotion, punk beats and an overall great sound. It is an absolutely excellent debut that should not be missed.
4] Number four has got to be Yoko Casionos with These are the New Old Times. The Vancouver/Toronto group has taken the art of the nightclub groove and recorded it for posterity. There’s never been a band so unadulterated by a session in the recording studio. This bunch of songs is worth the effort it takes to get over the stigma of buying a mellow album.
3] The next spot goes to The Killers with Sam’s Town. This deserves the third slot for a lot of reasons, but mainly for the band’s ability to break into the mainstream without succumbing to that over-processed, formulaic sound that so many other bands have to create before selling an album or finding a producer. The Killers have a creative and prideful spark that keeps them safe from interference. The spark is a vital part of this year’s soundtrack. None of us listeners is ever going to forget the singles on this album.
2] The next two slots were a tough call, with both scoring a 10 on my own informal ratings scale. The difference came down to a simple question, that being “Which album can I listen to the most without tiring of the tracks?” That question answered, the runner-up for the title album of the year is the Arctic Monkeys. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is going to be essential music for an entire generation. It’s bold and utterly British, helping give rise to the return of quality English rock, which is long overdue. It isn’t often that a rough bunch of 19 and 20 year-olds can tap into a poetic vibe and deliver not only amazing lyrics focusing on the social structure of northern English cities, but also incredible guitar solos and intricate musical creations. This is a very well deserved placement for the debut album.
1] Finally, we’re left with the number one album of the year. The band is brassy, outspoken, unconventional, and best of all they come from Toronto. Who other than Billy Talent? II, the flawless follow up to their 2003 self-titled release, didn’t disappoint. The boys are still prone to shouting. They can still deliver the kind of songs that make you feel like moshing isn’t enough of a response. I’ve noticed the new video release “Red Flag” getting the tiniest bit of air on British music channels, so it looks like the boys are poised to take on Europe after incredible success back home. Without a doubt, this is the finest album I’ve heard in a long time. It has hardly been off my stereo for more than a couple days at a time.
So there you have it! It has been a great year for music and Canadian music at that! If you’re looking for some good CDs for Christmas presents in the next few weeks, my top five picks are a good place to start. Happy holidays!