Last year, I pulled out my address book and asked some local music types (as well as Orlando Weekly scribes) what albums they thought were that year's best. It worked so well, I figured I'd hit upon a new tradition. So, this year, I asked a different bunch of local music types what musical things made them happiest in 2005. This is what they said. As for my picks? Check out this week's "Notable Noise."
Jason Ferguson, music editor
Soorya Arsala (Park Ave CDs, Fighting Records, The Social)
Anti-Pop Festival: It was like an iPod Shuffle of concerts.
Park Ave CDs moving into a new, much bigger location while still preserving everything we love.
Taste of Chaos kicking off their inaugural tour in Orlando.
Sol.illaquists of Sound going national with tours supporting Sage Francis.
The Draft: Hot Water Music, rest in peace.
Releases: Bloc Party: Silent Alarm, Gorillaz: Demon Days, Grand Buffet: Five Years of Fireworks
Concerts: The Jealous Sound, Cursive, Thrice, Minus the Bear, Lucero at Will's Pub's Anniversary
Favorite locals: Inkwell, Asamov, Wynn Brothers Band, The Legendary J.C.'s, X:144 and SPS
Lane Barrington (The Ocean Floor, The Band of the Name, Prune Pterodactyls, Machinedrum)
The records I liked most from this year:
a. The Bad Plus: Suspicious Activity?
b. Alarm Will Sound: Acoustica The Music of Aphex Twin
c. The Robot Ate Me: Carousel Waltz
d. Kimya Dawson: Hidden Vagenda
e. Animal Collective and Vashti Bunyan: Prospect Hummer EP
f. Matty Pop Chart: Good Old Water
g. Deerhoof: The Runner's Four
h. Vashti Bunyan: Lookaftering
i. Gang Gang Dance: God's Money
j. Little Wings: Magic Wand
k. The Books: Lost and Safe
l. Animal Collective: Feels
m. The Planet The: You Absorb My Vision
n. Frog Eyes: The Folded Palm
o. The Mae-Shi: Heartbeeps
1) Nedelle: From the Lion's Mouth The sourest of buttermilk, pure and served in cute lil' latte cups covered with colorful stickers depicting nearly every stringed instrument imaginable.
2) M.I.A.: Arular Sensationalized, radical chic or sensational, radical chica? You ponder; I'll pump these tropical-topical, quasi-polemic jams.
3) Stephen Malkmus: Face the Truth Indie-rawk daddy-o languishes ever loopier, stirs sitars into precipice-like, godhead rock ("No More Shoes"), seeks synth-addled deliverance from split personality ("Leather McWhip").
4) Aoki Takamasa + Tujiko Noriko: 28 Japanese pen pals turn long-distance tea party into unambitious-yet-absorbingly-intimate electronic buddy-pop, invite world to listen in, float along.
5) Dead Machines: Futures More like dying machines, toiling until they break down or break each other. Snapped, flapping belts, shuddering engine blocks, sustained sine waves and whistles overlapping and colliding into eternity.
I had an amazing time in 2005 and it was hard to narrow down the experiences. Here are a few that really stand out, though.
ALBUM: Elliott Smith From a Basement on a Hill Even though it was released at the end of 2004, I have listened to this album almost every day of 2005 and never tire of it.
LIVE PERFORMANCE: Michael Franti & Spearhead at Tipitinas in New Orleans during Jazzfest. The band took the stage at 3 a.m. and played until 7 a.m. This was one of the most high-energy and almost-spiritual music experiences of my life.
ROCK & ROLL EXPERIENCE: Having dinner with Velvet Revolver at Biche in New York City. The Secret Service came in and cleared the restaurant so that the President of Pakistan could have dinner with his party as well. It was a friend's birthday that night so right when dinner was over they brought out a cake. The President of Pakistan and Velvet Revolver all sang "Happy Birthday." It was a riot!!
BEST LIVE SHOW IN OUR BUILDING: Death Cab for Cutie. They are gifted songwriters and genuinely nice people
FAVORITE LOCAL BAND: Summerbirds in the Cellar. They get better every time I see them and they blew The Bravery off the stage at the HOB.
Celeste Hart (Orlando Opera)
Smooth Jazz Under the Stars/WLOQ concert with the Rippingtons and Jeff Lorber. A great evening of jazz with these dynamic musicians; the weather was perfect too!
Susannah produced by Orlando Opera Perfect voices for the challenging music. I came away singing "Ain't it a pretty night" for days (thankfully in private). The voices on these singers never cease to amaze me.
The Late Show with David Letterman Yes, a TV show! He features new musicians or new music on almost every show. It's a mini-concert in your home every night! Jack Johnson and David Gray are recent highlights with their introspective lyrics/style and not too whiny like some of the young male singers today. Anyone not watching Letterman is missing out!
Dave Koz: Saxophonic My favorite from this CD is "Let It Free"; upbeat and complicated.
1) Duran Duran with the Orlando Philharmonic (July 18, Orange County Convention Center) Unlikely fermentation of proto-boy band into an intoxicating swish of grown-up majesty, with a side of cheese. They sung blue silver, they danced into the fire, and for a one-off moment of culture clash, they sent a giant chill down the collective spine of an audience surely old enough to know better. Unforgettable.
2) a-ha: Analogue Still-breathing Norwegians take on Coldplay with a falsettoed collection of strummy songs about getting older and being alone. And Coldplay like them, too.
3) Robbie Williams: Intensive Care He can't break America, won't even try anymore, but with his latest, Robbie continues to try to break himself, this time even pulling some loose Madness ska before lapsing into standard anthemic self-flagellation.
4) Kate Bush: Aerial Crazy witch climbs out of 12-year seclusion to reclaim her throne atop the faeries and indulge the world with a double concept album to make Dave Gilmour jealous. First disc is only "accessible" in that it talks about washing machines and pi. Disc two, however, is the sound of orchestral seagulls flying off a painting … or something. Brilliant.
5) Franz Ferdinand: "Do You Want To" "Your famous friend, well I blew him before you, oh yeah" far and away the best single stroke of sexually ambiguous, new-new-wave prose all year.
Andrew Miller (Orlando Weekly contributor)
Here's my list of the six best songs of the year, all of which are overlooked album cuts:
Metric: "Monster Hospital" "I fought the war but the war won/The war won't stop for the love of God" might be the best protest-song slogan inspired by the current conflict, and Emily Haines runs this chorus through a cycle that includes passionate defiance, profound frustration and bitter resignation.
Bolt Thrower: "Those Once Loyal" The perfect ominous soundtrack for a cinematic scene in which a character, sealed with malice inside a cement mixer, churns slowly as his extremities gradually harden.
Fort Minor: "Kenji" On this haunting track about Japanese internment camps, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda proves a limited delivery isn't always an impediment to emotional impact.
Immortal Lee County Killers: "Boom Boom" The Killers repeat the titular word four times, triggering a monstrous blues-punk detonation with the final recitation.
Clem Snide: "Tears on My Pillow" Eef Barzelay jerks sobs with his emotion-cracked vocals, but not before upping the degree of difficulty by decorating this doo-wop ballad with festive horns.
Geto Boys: "Leanin' on You" Tragicomic gangsta dwarf Bushwick Bill unsmilingly addresses his stature, his hurt resonating as he wonders aloud if anyone would want to step into his shoes.
Ian Monroe (Orlando Weekly IT guy)
The Sony rootkit fiasco On Halloween, it became publicly known that Sony Music had included hidden DRM software on audio CDs that they released that compromised a customer's computer with a rootkit a piece of software that could provide hidden, low-level access to everything on your machine. Almost immediately, a virus was released that took advantage of this rootkit. Sony hemmed and hawed, and released an uninstaller that left your computer still broken. There are still millions of these infected CDs in circulation. The backlash against Sony has been enormous, from boycotts to lawsuits. Maybe this incident will help multinational conglomerates understand that digital rights management is a failing strategy, by any rational measure.
MGM vs. Grokster The SCOTUS ruled that inventors can be held liable for the behavior of the people that use their inventions, specifically peer-to-peer networks that encourage "copyright infringement". We have now entered an age when it is thoughtcrime to create new tools without the blessing of our corporate overlords. All your culture are belong to us.
ASIO4ALL Am I the only person that didn't know about this software? Universal drivers that enable pro-level performance for even the crappiest sound card. It's like a $300 hardware upgrade for free! (www.asio4all.com)
1) Eels: Blinking Lights and Other Revelations Mark Oliver Everett is a turd polisher. He takes the sludge of life and makes me want to eat it.
2) Mia Doi Todd: Manzanita Polite, educated folk music. One night together and I'd probably kill her. Environmentalism, anti-war, what's this world coming to?
3) Magnolia Electric Co.: What Comes After the Blues Jason Molina's a bigger Neil Young fan than I am. That's good enough for me.
4) The Hold Steady: Separation Sunday Ex-junkies being born again, Midwestern values hit the big city. Redemption, salvation, blah, blah, blah and shitloads of loud guitar.
5) Bob Mould: Body of Sound Didn't expect to like it since I hadn't been drawn in by a Mould project in years and there I was replaying the damn thing like he was Hüsker Dü and I was 16 all over again.
The Mountain Goats: The Sunset Tree and at Will's Pub, April 28 The album will both destroy you and make you dance. Too cute: At the show, Darnielle was so so excited about playing arcade games that he shook my boyfriend's elbow instead of his hand.
Jonathan Richman at the Social, June 8 Two sets with just him and a guy playing a box. Richman sucks you in with his tractor-beam eyes, connects, and refuses to release you.
The Decemberists: Picaresque and at House of Blues, Sept. 28 "The Mariner's Revenge Song" = best song of 2005. The show proved that as the audience was swallowed by a giant whale.
Low: The Great Destroyer This album will ruin you and then stare at you as it places the shattered pieces of you back into your palm.
The New Pornographers: Twin Cinema Try to tell me you didn't sing "Use It" a thousand times a day and never tire of it.
The Devil's Rejects The movie is also the only reason "Freebird" was written. You'll never hear it again and envision anything but the climax of this film.
Frank Black: Honeycomb
Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
Pixies Sell Out DVD
Stars: Set Yourself on Fire
The Boy Least Likely To: The Best Party Ever
The Woman King EP, a sextet of new-age madrigals from Florida-based folk musicians Iron and Wine, was one of the best releases in 2005. It's odd poetry filled with lyre-sounding guitars. The verse appeals to old myths and a sense of place far from here a place where women have absolute rule. Lead singer Sam Beam chants in the title track: "a hundred years, hundred more/someday we may see/ a woman king …." Beam goes completely medieval on us, glorying in becoming "his lady's" straw man and if she's a whore, all the better. In "Evening on the Ground (Lilith Song)," his lady sings, "We were born to fuck each other one way or another."
Beam's Woman King is more than just an old-world romance, though. The EP's cover features a collection of decorative porcelain thimbles in a wooden display case. One thimble depicts Princess Diana with a waving Prince Charles by her side on their wedding day. Since the EP is post-Camilla, it subtly acknowledges the rebellious, sexually active Princess of Wales' cultish devotees, many of whom continue to raise questions about her mysterious death, and consider her former Royal Highness (not Prince Charles) to be England's sovereign (woman) king. Goddesses die hard.
Best tips for enjoying local rock shows in 2006
1) Go to a venue you know and trust Orlando blesses its residents with many bars, pubs and stages featuring live rock music. If you wanna make sure that you're gonna have a good time seeing a band you like, wait for them to go to a venue you already know and trust. Otherwise, you may end up bleeding from your eardrums wondering why you couldn't hear the singer. And in 2005, it seemed that the best venues … just got better.
2) Avoid excessive Jäger shots This is good advice for any occaision, but especially for a rock show. Too many Jäger shots increases the potential for you to waste cash on a CD or T-shirt from a band you "thought" you loved at the time, and you'll end up seeing triple, begging someone to give you a ride home because you lost your friends. 2005 taught me this lesson at least three times (per week … just kidding).
3) Just go ahead and pay to park The tow trucks attacked in full force this year. So it's just wiser to pay to park legally when going downtown for a show than to hide in your "secret spot" and end up blasted drunk with a towed ride. Or wait. Maybe that's not such a bad thing, after all.
4) Say no to modern rock This shouldn't require much explanation. As if this genre wasn't already the capital city of CopyCat Land, 2005 should've proved that bands rocking in drop-D to Alice in Chains riffs have run out of room for originality.
5. Give to the bums who deserve it Again, this year saw an amazing participation in downtown rock life from the bum community. Go to a show, see 20 bums. Period. Well, as a rule of thumb, don't F with the bums. Just pay one who you think deserves it the most. Whether that's a missing limb, a well-performed saxophone solo, or an "I just arrived from Denver" story is up to you. Just pay one $1. That still counts as charity. And God is watching.
1) SXSW 2005 Packed in my bag next to the Costco bottle of aspirin … skepticism. But after four days in Austin I found myself excited about music and even people … music industry people. No, really.
2) Reason 3.0 Laptop studio nothing kills a layover faster.
3) Broken Social Scene: Broken Social Scene Experimental enough to make it interesting but not too challenging. The best record I've heard this year.
4) Iron and Wine at the Social I'm not sure what was more impressive: the band or the audience.
5) Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's payola investigation Maybe it was too convoluted the story didn't seem to catch on with the general public but as an insider this was some quality work that was overdue.
Dave Surgan (marketing and promotions, House of Blues Orlando)
1) The National: Alligator
2) Bloc Party: Silent Alarm
3) Iggy and The Stooges reissues
4) Rogue Wave: Descended Like Vultures
5) Wolf Parade: Apologies to the Queen Mary
6) Caribou: The Milk of Human Kindness
7) Ladytron: Witching Hour
8) Diplo: pretty much anything
For next year: Silversun Pickups Sound Team We Are Scientists
Dr. Dog: Easy Beat, Four Tet: Everything Ecstatic These got many loud spins, annoying the Christian fundamentalists next door. Evil bastards. Serves 'em right.
Eluvium: Talk Amongst the Trees Post-binge drinking, Sunday mornings. To be served with coffee.
Various Artists: Run the Road I listened to this while breaking into vehicles parked along my street.
Boards of Canada: Campfire Headphase, M.I.A.: Arular These were nearly confiscated from me when I got a drunk and disorderly (and vagrancy) in Atlantic City. I got them back, though.
Bloc Party: Silent Alarm, Stars: Set Yourself on Fire Played frequently over at my friend's meth lab on Tuesday afternoons.
Clue to Kalo: One Way, It's Every Way On iPod when I dressed as a cop at Sen. Rick Santorum's birthday dinner and stood up to publicly urinate during the cocktail hour.
Ghislain Poirier: Breakupdown On the boombox at the lake, while we huffed paint thinner and dreamed of simpler times.
Anti-Pop Music Fest Particularly Lou Barlow's performance and interview segment moderated by OW's Jason Ferguson.
Edan: Beauty and the Beat Psychedelic hip-hop, which I wouldn't think would work but does.
Sage Francis: A Healthy Distrust Started off the year slow but ends with most plays on my iPod for 2005.
Lou Barlow: Emoh As good as anything he's done.
M.I.A.: Arular That this record did well is encouraging for forward-thinking music fans. It's also a great hip-hop record.
Open Hand: You and Me A good, solid rock record for a year in which not many were made.
WHY?: Elephant Eyelash Pavement meets Clouddead. Presents an interesting case that indie and hip-hop can and do go together.
Aesop Rock: Fast Cars, Danger, Fire & Knives Great new tunes plus a lyric book spanning his career.
Seymour Stein Seeing him speak twice this year, at SXSW and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What would bore most is gold to me. firstname.lastname@example.org