Denver Bar Association
January 2006
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Ear Candy from 2005

by Greg Rawlings

Rather than dwell on how mediocre 2005 was music-wise, I have, for once, decided to take the high road and focus on the albums that are worth your money, and mine. No obvious era-defining records came out in 2005, however enough ear candy found daylight for me to make a top 10 list without clothes pinning my nose.

Wilco, "Kicking Television: Live in Chicago." The best band on the planet on a series of hot nights at the Vic in Chicago. From the opening track, "Misunderstood," which is one of the finest songs of our time, throughout a 20-plus track career overview, Jeff Tweedy and gang never lose momentum. Wilco’s latest guitarist, Nels Cline, must be heard to be believed. The one must-buy of 2005.

Silver Jews, "Tanglewood Numbers." David Berman emerged from years of hardcore drug addiction to make a loose-limbed ramble of a record. With wife Cassie singing backup and Stephen Malkmus on weird and wired guitar. "I heard they were taming the shrew/I heard the shrew was you." Maybe my favorite opening lines since Berman’s own from "Random Rules" a few hard years back.

Stephen Malkmus, "Face the Truth." A catchy guitar pop album that more than makes up for the ponderously stoned "Pig Lib," SM’s previous record — although I could have used a soupcon of that album’s guitar wizardry.

Gorillaz, "Demon Days." Another irresistible hum-a-thon (Ed: something you hum along to incessantly) from Damon Albarn and compadres. Try to resist "Dirty Harry," or any of the amazing videos from this party favorite. Trust me, you will fail, and fail miserably.

Dressy Bessy, "Electrified." Tammy Ealom’s strongest writing yet and solid backing by her bandmates makes this the first Denver record ever to make my top 10. "Who’d Stop the Rain" is Dressy Bessy at its "we are the scene" best. Always fun live, catch this globetrotting gang not just for the songs, but also for the fashion show — both band and fans give their all.

The Go! Team, "Thunder, Lightning, Strike." Bar none, the party record of 2005. The high point of listening to 1190 AM this past year was when this was the CD of the month. Special raves to "Bottle Rocket."

Paul Westerberg, "Folker." Not a consistent album, but Paulie’s records never are. His Denver show this year will not be forgotten by those who made it to the Ogden that night. Yes, he did drop trou. Yes, he did do a Partridge Family song.

Sufjan Stevens, "Illinois." Another 1190 mainstay. Part of a planned 50 album project, one for each state. Has the creepiest song of the year in "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."

White Stripes, "Get Behind Me Satan." How about get behind me/Jack White someone who can actually play drums. Snide aside, a dark, rootsy stomper that sounds all the better for being recorded in a mere two weeks.

Bob Mould, "Body of Song." Hit or miss, but the hits are worth cranking. I’m especially fond of the middle-third of the album, culminating in the blazing "Best Thing."

Last but not least, a shout out to the best lives shows I saw in 2005. Gang of Four at the Gothic — dazzling from start to their cover of "Flash Light" at the end. Westerberg, of course. Locally, Born in the Flood sizzles. See them in a small club before they hit the big time.

Now go out and have a great 2006.

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