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Jim and Greg sit down with the surprisingly complex lead singer of
ZZ Top, Billy Gibbons. Go to episode 5
101Top Albums of 2005
The“Best Records”list: It's“a sacred thing”in pop music fandom, says Jim, requiring a discerning ear and laser-like focus. Thankfully, our hosts are here to help. After sifting through hundreds of records, and countless days spent listening (perhaps to the discontent of their wives), they‘ve managed to pick out their absolute favorites. Here’s what Jim and Greg say they'll still be listening to in 2006.
Kanye West's latest record takes the number one spot on Greg's list.
Kanye West, Late Registration. (It was a contender for Jim's number-one slot too, but ended up at number three.) Greg notes how West has mass crossover appeal, but doesn't shy away from topics like diamond mining or AIDS, or from complex compositions and elaborate string orchestrations courtesy of producer Jon Brion. Greg really enjoyed West's first album The College Dropout, but applauds him for taking more chances on this second effort.
LCD Soundsystem, LCD Soundsystem. Jim and Greg are in total agreement on their number-two record of the year: LCD Soundsystem. The group's self-titled double album is an irresistible mix of electronic dance music, garage rock and punk. Heading up LCD Soundsystem is James Murphy, an in-demand producer who, along with partner Tim Goldsworthy, runs the DFA label. While Murphy has produced hits for Britney Spears and Le Tigre and has provided a home to bands like Rapture and The Juan Maclean, it is perhaps his unintimidating physical appearance, Jim suggests, that accounts for his appeal. Or maybe it's the cowbell. Either way they love it.
Sleater-Kinney, The Woods. Sleater-Kinney, an indie-rock trio from Portland, has been facing the same issue as Moby (see below): Are they over the hill? Heck no, Greg confidently responds. He believes that singer/ guitarists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss have done their best work on The Woods, an album produced by The Flaming Lips recording guru Dave Fridmann. Incidentally, Sleater-Kinney opened for the Lips and Wilco at Madison Square Garden last New Year's Eve. Jim, however, is not a fan of Sleater-Kinney… to say the least. The Woods didn't even make his top 400.
The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema. This Canadian power pop band gets its name from a comment from Jimmy Swaggart in which he likened pop music to a new kind of pornography. Twin Cinema is the group's third release, and Greg's favorite. Band leader A.C. Newman is back with Neko Case, a superb Chicago-based singer, and fellow singer/songwriter Dan Bejar. Greg compares Newman and Bejar's competitive relationship to that of McCartney and Lennon, or Grant Hart and Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü. To fuel that creative fire, Bejar also brought his own band, Destroyer, on the New Pornographer's current tour. While listening to this segment, don‘t miss Greg’s helpful explanation of what a song's“bridge”is.
5. Amadou and Mariam, Dimanche à Bamako. This blind husband and wife team joined up with Manu Chao, a Parisian born artist of Spanish descent who gained great popularity in the Latino Indie music scene for this album, which Jim admits he completely overlooked. Jim
We come to Jim's favorite album of 2005:
Before he and Greg are accused of homerism, Jim is quick to note that fellow Chicago native Common is the only artist to receive four stars from Jim this year. He calls Be a near-perfect record. Greg agrees and compares this“ghetto symphony”to Marvin Gaye's classic What's Going On. The album was produced by the aforementioned Kanye West, but is not as lush or orchestrated as Late Registration. Rather, it's a back-to-basics album full of Common's signature flow.
LCD Soundsystem, LCD Soundsystem
Kanye West, Late Registration
The Go! Team, Thunder, Lightning, Strike. The group is helmed by English basement musician Ian Parton who has been influenced by everything from Vincent Guaraldi's music for the Charlie Brown cartoons to My Bloody Valentine to Bollywood. Jim's love of this band was solidified after seeing them at Pitchfork's Intonation Festival this past summer in Chicago.
5. Moby, Hotel. The electronic pop artist turned 40 this year (that's 100 in rave time, according to our host), and Jim suspects that many people think he's over the hill. That's not the case though, he asserts, adding that Moby is doing post-alternative, underground music better than newer bands like Interpol and The Rapture. The two-disc album comes on one CD completely comprised of instrumental music. This is perfect, Jim suggests, for reading columns by your two favorite rock critics.
Ladytron, The Witching Hour. The Witching Hour is the third release for the Liverpool-based group. Jim appreciates Ladytron's infusion of Kraftwerk-type electronica with more poppy, disco sounds. Comprised of two men and two women, they are like ABBA, he notes, only with less sunny lyrics. Go to episode 2
Sound Opinions on Chicago Public Radio begins with Jim and Greg talking with the founding member of the
Velvet Underground, John Cale. Go to episode 1