2005 MIDYEAR REPORT // SARAH PETERS // There are always going to be teacher's pets. Sometimes it's because they leave the teacher an apple - or later in life, because they sidle up to the boss. But sometimes, it's simply because a certain pupil shows extraordinary promise and eagerness to succeed that they're shown some extra favor; it's not always a negative thing. At times the title serves as recognition.

Here we have the leaders of the class of 2005, midway through the year. Some of these will carry top marks through the finals, and some will likely be dimmed by the light of other rising stars, but as it stands, they're our best and brightest. Feel free to take notice as the staff of LAS hands out their gold stars to these albums ranked #1 in their class.

Kevin Alfoldy
HoodOutside Closer (Domino)

The perfect album for a dark, dreary winter; it's ike a cold, metallic stethoscope that fails to find a heartbeat in the frigid corpse of a relationship. I wore this CD out while I cried myself to sleep for nights.

Andy Brown
Sleater-KinneyThe Woods (Sub Pop)

So far, 2005 is shaping up to be a great year for established bands, and Sleater-Kinney have the bragging rights to say their latest album is their best to date. Embodying the band's re-election frustration, The Woods will melt you into a glob of quivering goo within the first second, and it won't let up for a moment.

Phillip Buchan and Jonah Flicker
Matt Sweeney and Bonnie "Prince" BillySuperwolf
(Drag City)

After five months, I still hear new things each time I listen; I’m beginning to think this may be one of both men’s best albums. [PB]

An emotive, moving and musical collaboration from these two unlikely partners in folk-rock, Superwolf combines the best elements of Oldham's warped visions of Americana and Sweeney's deep entrenchment in indie guitar-rock. [JF]

Natalie B. David
Alkaline TrioCrimson (Vagrant)

The latest from Alkaline Trio offers some of the group’s most polished work to date, without relinquishing their raw intensity or duplicating their previous efforts. “Time To Waste,” “Burn,” and their re-recording of “Sadie” are some of the most complex and sonically interesting compositions in their catalogue.

Matt Elliott
The Mountain GoatsThe Sunset Tree (4AD/Beggars Banquet)

Behind the old senior citizen’s complex, two or three of us are trying to keep the cold out. I remember our conversations fondly, as our houses always awaited our arrival - our inevitable descent from the cold. Listening to the Mountain Goats' latest release, I’m slowly retracing the steps taken on those nights, and wistfully remembering my youth. Stark revelations in every scene will conjure your own ghosts; as it explores John Darnielle’s relationship with an abusive stepfather, it is a candid, painful flash to the not-so-forgotten past - but for every moment of misery, there is a rewarding moment of hope.

Dan Filowitz and Josh Zanger
LCD SoundsystemLCD Soundsystem (Capitol)

Call it what you want – dance-punk, electro-rock, disco-funk, whatever. When the songs are this well-crafted, well-executed and listenable, all you need to call it is really good. [DF]

Although the dance-punk is getting annoying, James Murphy brings some fresh shit to the table. He throws a DJ/electro aspect into the mix, with a knowledge of music and sense of humor to make this a clear front-runner for 2005. [JZ]

Randy Gaudreau
Of MontrealThe Sunlandic Twins (Polyvinyl)

I'm completely convinced that nobody today can write songs that get crammed in the attic better than Kevin Barnes, and this album proves it. Although the breezy, catchy, somewhat electro-infused butt-shaking tone of the majority of the album gives way to a somewhat unremarkable, shadowy denouement, the bulk of this album is completely amazing - inexcusable for anyone to miss.

Helder Gomes
A Hawk and a HacksawDarkness at Noon (Leaf)

Drummer for Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Jeremy Barnes could have cashed in on the myth of one of the most influential and unorthodox bands of the 90s. And yet he doesn’t, preferring to sound absurdly cool when playing accordion and shuffling through Eastern European flavors and the far from commonsensical rural America. Stating it’s like Yann Tiersen on acid doesn’t seem right, as he expands on the scroll-format, carousel-driven casual oddities, and delivers a record more suited to a stuffy bar – but one that could be found in the Balkans as well as in Texas.

Eric J Herboth, David Spain and Dan Williams
Bloc PartySilent Alarm (Vice)

It's been what, 12 years or something since Kurdtdtd Cobain killed himself? And other than, say, Radiohead, has anything of interest happened in rock since then? From the first time I heard Silent Alarm, I have felt a resurgence in my flagging interest in rock music. This feels like Sonic Youth all over again. [EJH]

Bloc Party is poised for big things. There’s a vibe, infectious and powerful, on Silent Alarm that builds and sweeps over the listener. This is how albums should be made: large in scope and aurally infectious. [DS]

If all new UK bands were age of discovery explorers, Franz Ferdinand would be Magellan, and Bloc Party would be Cortez - with a little more rock and without all the killing of indigenous peoples. [DW]

Abi Huynh
The DecemberistsPicaresque (Kill Rock Stars)

In the Decemberists' catalog, this album in particular has been notable because I can’t seem to get enough of it; it has even clarified my grasp of the band’s previous works. The gentle delivery and meticulously woven narratives have not ceased to enthrall me, and I find myself knowing these stories more dearly than I would have previously imagined.

Bob Ladewig
Andrew BirdThe Mysterious Production of Eggs (Righteous Babe)

This album is nothing but a collection of perfect pop singles, each remarkably different. Such a wide variety of sounds make The Mysterious Production of Eggs enjoyable for anyone and everyone. Not to mention Bird's breathtaking whistle...

Peter Lindblad
The Shipping NewsFlies the Fields (Quarterstick)

Smoldering with the kind of anger that arises from betrayal, Flies The Fields is an epic in every sense of the word. Its shadowy, intricate rhythms have the sinister aspect of Slint's Spiderland, and the guitars slash through the night like spotlights seeking out escaped convicts. Rich in imagery, the record’s dark prose is reminiscent of beat poetry; complex arrangements crescendo like floods, and songs move with the practiced urgency of disaster crews.

Sarah Peters
The NationalAlligator (4AD/Beggars Banquet)

These are sepia toned portraits of unlikely heroes and villains, each with foul secrets and regrets to reveal; the depths seem never-ending. Alligator captures the longing for salvation despite one’s blood-stained memory, searching for self-importance, redemption or just a lovely streak of luck.

Barry Prickett
Keith Fullerton WhitmanMultiples (Kranky)

Back to the lab! With the Univac, HAL 9000 and other machines, Keith Fullerton Whitman builds a non-clinical Exploratorium of electronic textures. Rich and full, Multiples is essential knob-twiddling.

Max Schaefer
Keith BerryThe Ear that was Sold to a Fish (Crouton)

Keith Berry's earlier works were as still as a coy pond, but this effort is generous in its textural fullness. That being said, he's made mention that his music is like drifting down a river - a statement which still applies. With samples and field recordings in hand, these compositions don’t ask for anything, but provide a rich weave of peculiar, nuanced blocks of sound.

Oran Stainbrook
StarsSet Yourself on Fire (Arts & Crafts)

Beautifully crafted melodies, mathematical orchestration and lilting vocals make this third album from a sentimental Canadian pop band a clear and personal favorite.

Mike Wright
AutechreUntilted (Warp)

A friend once told me that he found it impossible to listen to any two Warp releases one after another. I, however, have discovered that when it comes to Autechre, dealing with two consecutive tracks is a challenge in itself. Untilted jars, jerks and suppresses melody, making listening with anything less than one’s full attention a daunting prospect, but ensuring its unearthing is thoroughly rewarding.

We'll be back in January to push up our music nerd glasses and crunch up the numbers. Until then, check out our writers' individual lists to see the runners up.

SEE ALSO > 20 of 2004
SEE ALSO > 20 of 2003
SEE ALSO > 20 of 2002
SEE ALSO > 20 of 2001
SEE ALSO > 20 of 2000