Saturday, December 31, 2005

Top 25 Albums of 2005: 25-11

I ran 8 miles today in 1:21 with a little bit of rain, so that's good, but even better was the year in music. It was a damn good year. So, in honor of all the great stuff I heard this year, here are my favorite albums of 2005, starting with albums 25 thru 11. The top 10 will be posted in the next couple of days. Happy New Year!

25. M. Ward: Transistor Radio
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I can’t pin down what I appreciate about this album. It’s a work that eschews most of what I look for in music—hooks, big sounds, overstuffed arrangements—yet I love this album. It evokes the sound of old-time country music heard through an AM radio, even replicating the muffled sound, and in doing so it shines a light on the craft of songwriting. I love Ward’s vocals and would love to hear him let loose.

Hear Ye: “One Life Away,” “Sweethearts on Parade,” “Big Boat,” “Deep Dark Well,” “I’ll Be Yr Bird”

24. M.I.A.: Arular
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People love the M.I.A., but I guess I don’t like her as much as others. “Arular” is inventive and dance-happy and possessed of a refreshing global consciousness that one doesn’t usually find in hip-hop. I probably undervalued her here, but it just seems like in figuring out which albums to listen to, I always opted for something else. When I do listen to “Arular,” I do find myself mostly impressed, especially by the five songs below.

Hear Ye: “Pull Up the People,” “Sunshowers,” “Amazon,” “Hombre,” “Galang”

23. Nada Surf: The Weight Is A Gift
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I have to confess that I’m oblivious to Nada Surf’s post-Popular career. I read that they were still around and making damn good records. Apart from a cover of “If You Leave” from an episode of “The OC” last year, I had not listened to them at all. I found this in the discount bin and liked it as a light, enjoyable pop album. I guess I should check out “Let Go.”

Hear Ye: “Concrete Bed,” “Always Love,” “Your Legs Grow,” “All Is A Game,” “Imaginary Friends”

22. Rogue Wave: Descended Like Vultures
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Zach Rogue is a talented songwriter. He looks like Bam Magera, so seeing him sing in that soft, geeky voice was a bit disorienting. “Descended Like Vultures” is the sunny side of pop, and at times it suffers for being too sunny to the point of drowsiness. Performed live, however, Rogue and his crew reveal the energy and vitality of these songs. A live version of this album would kick the studio version’s ass any day.

Hear Ye: “Publish My Love,” “Salesman at the Day of the Parade,” “10:1,” “Are You On My Side,” “You”

21. LCD Soundsystem: LCD Soundsystem
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I’d categorize this as electronica, but the fact that I actually like it implies that it’s more than that. It’s clever and incorporates rock and roll attitude, but you can also dance to it. What it has is plenty of personality.

Hear Ye: “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,” “Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up,” “Great Release,” “Losing My Edge,” “Yeah”

20. The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan
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This album just didn’t excite me as much as I thought it should. There’s not a bad song in here, but apart from “My Doorbell” and “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet),” there are few songs in here I feel drawn to listen to over and over again.

Hear Ye: “Blue Orchid,” “My Doorbell,” “Little Ghost,” “As Ugly As I Seem,” “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)”

19. Okkervil River: Black Sheep Boy/ Appendix
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The album and the EP would probably warrant a higher ranking if I listened to them more. These songs are amazing, but I can’t get myself to listen to them because they are too dark for everyday listening. It’s probably not a fair assessment of the album, especially one with such a gut-wrenching song like “So Come Back, I Am Waiting.”

Hear Ye: “Black,” “A King and Queen,” “A Stone,” “So Come Back, I Am Waiting,” “Another Radio Song”

18. Brendan Benson: Alternative to Love
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This album broke my heart. I looked forward to it after falling in love with Lapalco, and after listening to the first four songs I thought this was undoubtedly the album of the year. Four songs. All of them great pop songs. Surely Benson won’t drop the ball. Sadly, he does. The rest of the album is OK, but disappointing in that they fail to live up to the brilliance of the first four songs. Maybe if the sequencing is changed so that these four songs are spread out I would appreciate the album more, but now I mostly listen to the first four songs and move on. Sigh. Look for an album with fellow Detroit resident Jack White next year.

Hear Ye: “Spit It Out,” “Cold Hands Warm Heart,” “I Feel Like Myself Again,” “The Alternative to Love,” “What I’m Looking For”

17. Death Cab for Cutie: Plans
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If I were really cool I’d exile these guys from my list for selling out. But gosh darn it, I find this album too appealing to dismiss. “Soul Meets Body” used to annoy me, but now I have to sing along to it using my best /worst falsetto. The album is less ambitious than “Transatlanticism” but it works in its favor even if it doesn’t quite match that album in sheer passion.

Hear Ye: “Marching Bands of Manhattan,” “Soul Meets Body,” “Different Names for the Same Thing,” “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” “Your Heart Is An Empty Room”

16. Kanye West: Late Registration
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I know diddly-squat about hip-hop, and I care little for much of what I hear, but I do know I like this album. Maybe it’s because I can actually understand his rapping and I can delight in his verbal virtuosity or maybe it’s because these songs have great hooks. Whatever reason, it makes my top 20.
Hear Ye: “Heard Em’ Say,” “Gold Digger,” “Drive Slow,” “Crack Music,” “Gone”

15. My Morning Jacket: Z
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Some more good old-fashioned rock from Jim James. The music here sound less like they are being sung in an empty tin drum as they did in “It Still Moves,” and there is no denying that the band knows its way around a song. The reggae-flavored “Off the Record” is one of my favorite songs of the year.

Hear Ye: “Wordless Chorus,” “Gideon,” “Off the Record,” “Into the Woods,” “Anytime”

14. Stars: Set Yourself on Fire
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For a while this was my number one album early in the year. Then the glow faded but not for the whole album. “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” and “Ageless Beauty” are still the epitome of loveliness.

Hear Ye: “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead,” “Ageless Beauty,” “The First Five Times,” “Celebration Guns,” “The Calendar Girl”

13. Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better
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Franz Ferdinand held the number one spot in my list last year, but this year they are way down at number thirteen. Disappointing? Not really. The boys released a worthy follow-up that showed them trying to expand beyond the buoyant sound they perfected last year. There’s more of that here, but also some attempt at “mature” songwriting. I’m not as taken with “Eleanor, Put Your Boots On,” but there is much to love about the album. I do miss the energy and cheekiness of the first album and this one is too front-loaded with the best songs, but at least Franz Ferdinand proved me right in avoiding the dreaded sophomore jinx.

Hear Ye: “The Fallen,” “Do You Want To,” “This Boy, “Walk Away,” “You’re the Reason I’m Leaving”

12. The Decemberists: Picaresque
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In any other year this would be in my top 10. It was a great year for good music, so it will have to settle for top 12. Picaresque finds Colin Meloy further honing his musical chops. The album adopts more baroque flourishes yet does not feel overstuffed. Still, they are at their best when they keep it simple as with “16 Military Wives” and “The Engine Driver.”

Hear Ye: “Eli, the Barrowboy, “The Sporting Life,” “16 Military Wives,” “The Engine Driver,” “Of Angels and Angles”

11. Antony and the Johnsons: I Am A Bird Now
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I wish I could include this in my top 10. It deserves to be on a top 10. A beautiful, at times haunting, collection of songs. I have a feeling I’ll be listening to this for years to come. It’s that timeless.

Hear Ye: “Hope There’s Someone,” “For Today I Am A Boy,” “You Are My Sister,” “Fistful of Love,” “Bird Girl”


Monday, December 26, 2005

12.24.2005: 14 miles

Distance: 14 miles
Time: 2:23
Location: Rose Bowl
Notes: Silly me for thinking that the 14 miler would be easier than my 12 miler. I was slightly slower than my usual pace, but if it wasn't for the fact that I was running with Coach Katie, I probably would have been a great deal slower. The weather was a factor. It was the hottest day of the winter, and by 10:30, the temperature had climbed to about 80. This week is a step-back week, so I should take it easy. I won't, though. I'll try to do six miles on Tuesday, hill training on Wednesday, and another 5 miles on Thursday. I think we're doing 8 miles on Saturday, so that should be piece of cake.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

12 Miles

Distance: 12 miles
Time: 2:19
Location: Rose Bowl
Notes: This marked my first run since last Tuesday (12/6), and it's amazing how quickly your body weakens. I felt horrible for most of the run, especially halfway through. I didn't think I would have enough fuel to complete the full 12 miles. A lot of it may be psychological. With four miles left I must have gotten a second wind because the last few miles were easier than I anticipated.

The 2:19 is the slowest pace I've run in some time. However, that time includes long stays at the aid stations to chat with the good folks manning said stations, so maybe the run wasn't as bad as I'm thinking. I still feel like I've let my training lapse this season. The first time I was diligent about getting my runs in and following the training program. The second time, training for Nike, I was motivated by wanting to improve my time that I made sure I was well-prepared. I gained weight during that training, but I was also a better runner by then. This time, my schedule just can't seem to get organized. School and work take up so much time, and with the shorter days, getting my runs in has been tough. The good news is that there's still three months until the race. I should be OK. I need to remind myself that the goal is to run under 4 hours. I should also stick to a schedule.

After the run, it was a night of socializing. FJ, my running partner from last season, had his annual Christmas party last night. I'm so glad to see him. Hopefully he can make it out to run with us in the future. After FJ's party, I headed out for Nate's birthday celebration. Drinks and curry at Lucky Baldwin's was followed by more drinking and bull riding at Union Cattle.

Today was my niece's 2nd birthday. I ate too much, so it is imperative that I run tomorrow.

Monday, December 12, 2005

running in place

I haven't run in a week. Last Tuesday was the last time I ran. It's hell week at school, so that has been my focus for the last week. I had a paper due today and I have two more, 20 pages each, due on Wednesday. So you get the picture. I haven't been eating or sleeping well, nor have I been exercising. The only run I had scheduled during the week was the Venice 10K on Saturday, but I wound up oversleeping for that. I had intended to run tomorrow and Wednesday, but seeing how I've been doing on the papers and how crappy I've been feeling, I might skip those days as well. One week of no exercise and I feel like crap. My legs have this weird ache as if from disuse. I can imagine it's the pain of atrophy. I doubt that's what it is, but I really need to get back to running. I miss it terribly.

Writing papers really runs a person down. I had a slight fever earlier, probably from lack of rest, so I drove down to Jamba Juice and ingested a wheatgrass shot and ordered a Coldbuster with an energy boost. Let's see if it works.

Back to paper-writing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Bjork, thanks for bumming me out. I'm sorry I laughed when you were trying to kill Bill. It was just funny how he wouldn't die. You kept shooting him, but he wouldn't let go of your money. He was like one of those serial killers in horror movies that just won't stay dead, like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. I have to confess, however, that I still have a hard time believing that your songs can actually be classified as music. They sound like someone dropped a tray full of utensils over and over again. I also couldn't understand why your son had to have the operation right away. Couldn't it wait until you were out of prison? Oh, and you're right to not want to have Peter Stormare as your boyfriend. He's creepy. Have you seen him in Fargo and "Prison Break"?

Anyway, I was still sad that you had to die--and by hanging, too. They didn't even let you finish your next to last song.

Oh, and I ran over 4 miles today during lunch on a treadmill.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

10 Miles

Distance: 10 miles
Time: 1:50
Location: Rose Bowl
Notes: UCLA lost again to U$C. Damn!

At least it didn't rain during our run this morning. The run went well for me. I wound up taking long aid station breaks to chat with people, so I wound up finishing at a slower pace. Still, it's 10 miles and it felt like a workout. I bought a new waterproof windbreaker yesterday just in case it rained, but it turned out to be unnecessary. It was helpful in keeping out the cold, but I had to shed it at the first aid station. Now I'm disappointed that it didn't rain. I was hoping I could test it out. The damn thing cost me $60. Runnng is turning out to be an expensive hobby, but as someone reminded me, it's not as expensive as skiing. I guess any hobby is going to cost money.

After the run, twenty of us headed to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles in Pasadena. I hadn't had Roscoe's in over a year, and it's better than I remember. I finished my two large waffles and my 1/4 chicken. I felt like a pig, but I earned it. I'm not a big waffle fan, but they have the best waffles there.

I think I need to start worrying about my papers. Why am I not worried? I have three 20 page papers due in two weeks. Come on! Get worried!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Running with the Pope

Distance: 4 miles
Time: 40 minutes
Location: Gym
Notes: Easy run. Watched the Pope movie while running and scoped out the scenery.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hill Training #1

The first hill training session for the season was last night. We took it easy on the first one to minimize injuries to the participants. Too many folks were getting injured last season. It was a good workout nonetheless, but not hard enough that it helped keep off the cold weather. My hands were ice cold the whole evening. Tonight I'll do an easy four mile run probably at the gym.

As for other things, work is still busy and papers are coming up for my classes. It will get very busy very soon.