If the spirit-killing humidity and ridiculous number of grown men sporting sandals aren’t enough to convince you that summer is the absolute pits, we’ve got one more thing to add to the sweaty, sticky mess that has become your life. At this time each year, the music industry as a whole takes a break and quits releasing records, which, when you like new records as much as we do, is a total drag. But if you think about it, it’s a smart move. The high school kids are out at the mall instead of sitting in front of the TV watching TRL, and the college kids are home working summer jobs instead of scoring free records from the radio station. So rather than wasting time trying to reach an audience that doesn’t want to be reached, record labels big and small take the time to gear up for their big fall releases.
And so what do we do? Well, here at The L we mostly throw things and pout like 6 year olds. But now, because we’re so, so fucking sick of ourselves, we’ve decided to put an end to all that by taking a look back at the first half of the year in music.
Like most years, we’ve got a healthy mix of bands getting far more hype than warranted, bands getting far less hype than warranted, and old standbys who have come to exist on a level where none of this stuff means a damn thing. When the dust settles, 2005 will be just another year in which a seemingly endless amount of average records are released. But it will also be another year that gives us a handful of great ones. And perhaps most importantly, it’ll give us a few more chances to argue with our friends or favorite publications over which ones they consider great.
Here’s our take on the first six months of the year. We’d love to hear what you think as well. Visit http://www.thelmagazine.com/thelocal/blog.cfm?blog_id=502 THE LOCAL to share your own personal highlights of 2005. Or, you know, just to make fun of ours. Whatever. It’s so hot.
Our Favorites So Far
The Mountain Goats: The Sunset Tree
On his ninth album, introspective head goat John Darnielle somehow manages to weave a series of deeply personal themes — abuse, death and fear — into an unwavering and catchy song cycle. With nasal vocals, a determined delivery, and a crack squad of guest musicians including John Vanderslice and cellist Erik Freidlander, Darnielle has completed an evolution from detached observational tales recorded into a boombox to full-scale productions that don’t lack any of the intimacy of his earliest works. From the creeping ‘Dilaudid’ to the triumphant ‘This Year’, The Sunset Tree is an inspirational record that doesn’t preach. ‘Dance Music’ may be the most upsetting paean to the power of rock we’ve ever heard, and it is truly a unique record that can deal with such involved subject matter without forgetting the intrinsic healing power of the music itself.
The Hold Steady: Separation Sunday
Hyper-literary, in your face, and unapologetically spastic, Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn has taken the dumbed-down image of a bar band and distilled it to the point where the wisdom flows like hard liquor. On the Hold Steady’s sophomore effort, Finn and Co. tell the tale of tough breaks and ultimate salvation with enough snarky asides to make the average McSweeney’s contributor feel painfully inadequate. The Twin Cities’ favorite drunken post-Replacements sons have come to New York and conquered the damn place without letting up on their attention to regional details or their affection for damaging lifestyles. Tack on a live show that bristles with nervous energy and lives up to the glory of this incredible record and the Hold Steady may just find themselves the underdog success story of 2005.