You hold in your hot little hands -- or, more likely, you hold a cold turkey sandwich in your hot little hands as you read -- the annual Express Music Blurb Hoedown Issue. Our intrepid writers have unleashed their Top 10 lists of 2005 in the pullout Holiday Guide -- we do this a bit earlier than most pubs in the hopes of providing you with gift ideas. Seriously. Your mother would be thrilled to receive Missy Elliott, Roots Manuva, or Kemialliset Ystävät.
Of course, distilling a beloved record to its 65-word essence can lend itself to somewhat overblown critspeak. For example, here's a sampling of adjectives appearing in my list: Dramatic, acidic, cocksure, vague, saucy, veritable, unstoppable, cryptic, heart-racing, heart-stopping, joyous, narcotizing, dour, monochrome, gussied-up, minimalist, slow-churning, devastating, boneheaded, sneering, hilarious, overwrought, mesmerizing, invigorating, party-annihilating.
I stopped halfway through, but you get the idea. Describing records you deeply love is a most dangerous game, but play it we must. And though our writers have sprinkled, throughout the Holiday Guide, their Bay Area-centric faves for '05 (a fine mixture of the jazzy, the noisy, the hyphy), I will provide my admittedly more indie-rock-centric picks here. Why? Because, to paraphrase Fat Joe, I run this shit.
Here are the most narcotizing, heart-stopping, party-annihilating local discs of the year.
Thee More Shallows More Deep Cuts
I have settled on the two-word description "creeping death." With jagged string sections, disembodied choirs, and feedback squalls to fill out their tuneful art-pop squall, the Shallows make vertigo and terror seem strangely appealing. "2am," for example, is a nightmarish insomnia lament dominated by a toy piano. Brrr. (Turn)
Drunk Horse In Tongues
Drunk Horse's balls-to-the-ceiling dude-metal is so tight, vibrant, and inventive that it's somehow literally hilarious, compelling fans to contrive all sorts of goofy stoner jokes just to hide their own shock and awe. (Guilty as charged.) Knock off the typecasting and immerse yourself in an air guitar album so intense you might break a wrist or two. (Tee Pee)
Judgment Night Dark Opus
Violin + drums + cello = string metal up your ass. (Self-released)
Okay High Road/Low Road
When it comes to nightmarish toy-chest symphonies, ain't nobody touching Fremont's Marty Anderson, who turns demons both emotional and physical (Crohn's disease, for starters) into two discs of fantastically damaged kiddie-pop. (Absolutely Kosher)
The Drift Noumena
The whole wordless, driftless, atmospheric "angular soundscape" post-rock thing is tough to approach without delving into aimless, punchless redundancy -- even great Bay Area outfits like Continental struggle occasionally to get it right. The Drift does not, with its consistently tense Krautrock groove, and waves of mournful brass to keep you from drifting completely off. (Temporary Residence)
As a former roommate of singer Nick Palatucci -- irate that this folk-punk duo wrote a song about his death, which has yet to occur -- has angrily charged in these pages, yes, Readyville sounds a bit like the Mountain Goats. Raw, shaky-voiced, volatile, poetically depressed. This is a bad thing why, exactly? (Antenna Farm)
Nedelle From the Lion's Mouth
This whole cult seems untoward at times, composed largely of dudes who, as children, found themselves strangely attracted to Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. But Nedelle's mastery of the acidic lullaby is undeniable, and there's undoubtedly an allure to the way she sings the word "harrowing." The hills are alive. (Kill Rock Stars)
Mike Park North Hangook Falling
Mike is a long-beloved South Bay punk, ska, and DIY icon, and his punkest statement yet is this frail singer-songwriter ode to confused self-identity. Marvel at "Asian Prodigy," an acoustic guitar- and cello-laden apology for his failure to be a lawyer or a doctor. I'd call it "beautiful" and "devastating," but ... (Sub City)
20 Minute Loop Yawn + House = Explosion
The sinister indie-pop melodies are impeccable, the lyrics (crafted via some sort of dictionary-poking word game) compellingly odd. But the killer here is "I'll Never Forget You," which turns the lacerating Hüsker Dü tune into a boy-girl sing-along that's somehow even more mortifying. (Fortune)
The Heavenly States Black Comet
I have written 8,642 words about the Heavenly States for this newspaper in the past two years. Followed 'em to Libya, and I'll follow 'em anywhere else they care to go, funds permitting. Every critic has a Why Isn't This Band Insanely Famous band, and this is mine. Make it 8,693. (Baria)
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