Almost favorites of 2005

I’m hesitant to call these my Least Favorites of 2005 or The Most Disappointing Releases of 2005, but I think of these records as records that I spent some good quality time with but just didn’t find the urge to keep going back to them.

The Mars Volta, Frances the Mute
As someone who really enjoyed (and still enjoys) their first album, De-loused in the Comatorium, I found Frances the Mute a tad frustrating. The band sounds quite wayward (see the half-hour-long finale, “Cassandra Geminni”), anti-climactic (see “The Widow”) and a tad on the silly, but fun side (see “L’via L’viaquez”) on this record. I can listen to the long songs on De-loused without any hesitation; however, I can’t say the same about Frances. This isn’t a sophomore slump, but it’s just a little more of a challenge than I can handle.

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Cold Roses
I’m still in the dark as to why people think Adams’s debut record, Heartbreaker, is the best album of his career. Many people compared Cold Roses to Heartbreaker sound-wise, mood-wise, feel-wise, but like Heartbreaker, I can’t say it’s my favorite Ryan Adams record. Cold Roses may have worked as a single album, but there are one too many good songs on here to leave off. As much I am a big fan of everything Adams has released up until this year, I think my rather lack of excitement over Cold Roses swayed me from picking up his two other records that he released this year (Jacksonville City Nights and 29).

Foo Fighters, In Your Honor
I love the first three Foo Fighters records. There is Nothing Left to Lose is an incredibly underrated album, but with their last two records, One By One and In Your Honor, they feel like they’re losing some steam in their engine. While I think it’s worthy of a double album, I found the second disc way more interesting. The first disc is standard Foo Fighters rock, but its brightness feels like it’s losing its luster. The second disc is a lot more experimental and chilled out, but it feels a little too laid back.

Doves, Some Cities
Despite having some great singles (“Black and White Town” and “Snowden”) on it, Some Cities feels a little lacking. As a big fan of their singles on Lost Souls and almost all of The Last Broadcast, I found Some Cities to be a rather safe retread of old ground. The songs just don’t spark the kind of charge I get with their other material.

Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
Maybe it was all the press surrounding Conor Oberst earlier this year (there was a large amount of hype tossed around by certain publications) that prevented me from spending more time with these records. I think Oberst is a really talented songwriter, but as he even states on the Spend an Evening with Saddle Creek DVD, the press doesn’t want to be the last one to cover something potentially big, so when dozens of articles are printed for a few months straight, it seems like a big deal. Well, as an unapologetic Bright Eyes fan, I just felt a little indifferent to his two new records. I’m not a huge fan of Emmylou Harris’s voice, so I can’t say I enjoy the tracks she’s on I’m Wide Awake. On the flipside, I’m a huge fan of Jim James’s voice, but singing under Oberst’s voice doesn’t equal an enjoyable harmony for me. The tracks on I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning are more stripped down, making a rather nice change from the bombast of the last few records. Most of I’m Wide Awake is really strong, but I got a little caught up in other records to go back to it. Now with Digital Ash, this was a good experiment, but at the end of the day, I can't fully sink my teeth into electronic computer-based rock.

The Decemberists, Picaresque
Overall, this is a really enjoyable record: bright melodies, right-on lyrics and great orchestration. However, I think the album loses its air towards the end when the album goes from being a collection of singles to a stage production. The kinds of theatrics that are presented get in the way and test my patience.