July 18, 2006

2006 is more than half over and bloggers have been frantically compiling “half year” best-of lists. But we’ve been going back EVEN FURTHER, to those long gone days of 2005, checking out a number of releases from that year that for one reason or another, we didn’t give the proper attention. Don’t be afraid–2005 is alive.

First up is the Speakers‘ perfectly lovely Yeats Is Greats. As the cheeky title suggests, the album consists (mainly) of legendary poet William Butler Yeats‘ poems set to music. The Speakers (a San Francisco-based duo consisting of Brian Miller and Peter Musselman) do a fine job of creating a hushed, country-blues vibe to match the melancholy of Yeats’ words—the closest analogue I can think of is early Palace Brothers. But with better lyrics, obviously. Try as he might, Will Oldham is no William Butler Yeats! Miller also supplies the lead guitar for Jolie Holland, so if you dig her, definitely check out the Speakers. Order the CD and check out samples here.

Next in our overlooked 2005 series is the Double’s muy excelente Matador debut, Loose In The Air, which sees the Brooklyn band expanding upon the experimental, dark sound of their earlier releases (including the much raved over Palm Fronds), and exploring slightly more straightforward songcraft on songs like the snappy “Idiocy.” Interpol comparisons have been rife, but we see them more in the heavy, exploratory vein of their other Matador labelmates Mission of Burma. Download “Idiocy”.

2005 also saw the sophomore release from Charlemagne, Detour Allure, which saw mastermind Carl Johns mostly eschewing the dusky country rock of his debut for a more power pop groove. And he’s mostly successful in this switch-over–songs like “(We Are) Making Light” and “Fave Unknown” are cool and catchy blasts of poppy goodness. Listen and buy here.

Last but certainly not least, we’re finally getting around to listening to Neil Young’s Prairie Wind. The recently released political screed Living With War might’ve gained more headlines, but Prairie Wind is probably the album that will have more staying power. Sure, there’s a bit of cheesiness here, and a few melodies we’re fairly certain Uncle Neil has used at least three or four times before, but the bulk of the album is great—especially the yearning “Falling Off the Face of the Earth” and the gorgeously meandering “It’s A Dream.” Song samples here.

Tyler Wilcox | 3:43 pm

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