Anders Bergstrom's blog on Words, Films, and Music

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ok, the Oscar© Nominations are out today. No real surprises, but nonetheless I offer my commentary, predictions, etc.

I've seen all but one of the Best Picture nominees (Capote which I was planning on seeing this upcoming weekend anyway because I really like PSH). I always watch the show. It's like the movie geek superbowl; half the fun is playing armchair quarterback and complaining about the decisions. Plus this year should be worth watching just for the host. Who is it? None other than Jon Stewart!

78th Annual Academy Award Nominations

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Brokeback Mountain
The Constant Gardener
A History of Violence

Somehow I have a feeling that the adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's cowboy short story is going to take this, but I think that Tony Kushner's (Angels in America) meditation on terrorism and counter-terrorism is more daring and better executed.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Good Night, and Good Luck
Match Point
The Squid and the Whale

Haggis won the adapted screenplay last year (for Million Dollar Baby) so he's the one to watch this year. But Woody Allen's Match Point is a fantastic bit of writing (it's what he does best) and given it's snubs in the other categories, it should win this one.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams (Junebug)
Catherine Keener (Capote)
Frances McDormand (North Country)
Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)
Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)

Williams did great work and will likely pick up this award as the lone acting win for Brokeback, but don't count out Keener either who has been nominated before and did other fine work this year (The 40-Year-Old Virgin). Me, I have a soft spot for Rachel Weisz.

Actor in a Supporting Role

George Clooney (Syriana)
Matt Dillon (Crash)
Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain)
William Hurt (A History of Violence)

Possibly the most competitive category, with fine performances on all counts. I predict either a win for Clooney who had two great films this year, or Paul Giamatti to make up for his snubs the past two years in the leading role category. My choice would be the scene stealing performance by William Hurt playing totally against type in
A History of Violence.

Actress in a Leading Role

Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)
Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice)
Charlize Theron (North Country)
Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)

Haven't seen any of these, but my gut tells me that Huffman will win because it follows the Academy rule of "most=best," and how can one beat one of the Desparate Housewives wearing tons of makeup as a pre-op transgendered person? From what I've heard though Reese should win (I'll probably get around to seeing Walk the Line before the awards). But this is a tight race and could go either way.

Actor in a Leading Role

Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow)
Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain)
Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line)
David Straithairn (Good Night, and Good Luck)

Another competitve category. From what I've heard, PSH will take this and deservedly so (heh, funny if "Hoffman" and "Huffman" won). But all the other performances are great and don't count out Joaquin (though Jamie Foxx won for playing a music star last year which hurts Joaquin's chances). I personally thought Terrence Howard had as good a year as any actor and Hustle & Flow deserves the praise it's getting.


George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck)
Paul Haggis (Crash)
Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Bennet Miller (Capote)
Steven Spielberg (Munich)

Usually the Academy mixes things up and nominates one director who doesn't have a Best Picture contender (I was predicting Jackson getting a nod for Kong), but not this year. I predict that Lee will take this one easily. But you know I'm rooting for my all time favourite, Steven.

Animated Feature

Corpse Bride
Hauru no ugoku shiro (Howl's Moving Castle)
Wallace & Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

My favourite category and the one where the Academy got the three best. I predict that it will go to Corpse Bride, but my favourite was Wallace & Gromit.

Best Picture

Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck


Again, I think Brokeback is a lock in this category, but that doesn't stop me from thinking that Munich was the better film.

In other categories, I'll post my predictions again before the actual night of the Oscars©. My biggest dissapointment was that Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith got robbed in the Best Visual Effects category. War of the Worlds and King Kong sure, but Narnia? How can you tell me that those cartoony-looking beavers were better than Yoda? Just kind of gets to me, because I thought the effects in Narnia were weak. That said, I'd say King Kong is a lock in this category. Hell, WETA should get a special acheivement award for creating the character of Kong.

Monday, January 30, 2006

GM Place - Vancouver, BC Thurs. Jan. 26th, 2006

Square One
3) Yellow
4) Speed of Sound
5) God Put a Smile Upon Your Face
6) X&Y
7) How You See the World
8) Don't Panic
9) White Shadows
10) The Scientist
11) Kingdom Come
12) Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)
13) Trouble
14) Clocks
15) Talk

16) Swallowed in the Sea
17) In My Place
18) Fix You

Pictures and commentary to follow soon.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

There was in interesting article over at Pitchfork Media on Friday about Indie Rock and religion. The long held belief was that "almost no strain of music is as secular as indie rock," but lately there has been a few artists who are challenging this belief and the criticism has been coming from both sides: those who want "a little less God in [their] rock" and those who insufferably try to shoe horn music about religion into their own little ghettos.

If we shun the religious content of these works, we're missing their emotional and intellectual power.

You can disagree with the church of your choice, but to dismiss religion altogether-- and to write off the best ideas, the best people and of course, the best indie rockers-- that come out of it, seems pointless. Why shoot the messenger just because you're scared he has a message?

One of the artists that they talk about a fair bit, and who has prompted people to rethink the relationship between faith and music is Sufjan Stevens. I finally picked up his acclaimed 2005 release Illinois and it hasn't dissapointed.

The other album that I've been really into this week is another 2005 release that I belatedly picked up-- the Bloc Party Silent Alarm. This is a seriously catchy, thoroughly enjoyable pop rocker. I love it. Check out "Helicopter," as it's my song of the day.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I've posted before about how movies based on video games suck. However, there are two projects that look hopeful, not only because they're based on quality source material, but also because the development teams went out and got real writers, real directors and are being put together with care. The first is Halo, being produced by Peter Jackson, screenplay by Alex Garland (28 Days Later) and now being directed by Guilermo del Toro (Hellboy, Blade II). Of course, Halo doesn't come out for another year and half, set for release in summer 2007.

But there's a film coming out this year that I'm pretty excited about, based on one of my favourite video games and definitely the most disturbing and frightening game ever. Welcome to Silent Hill! Brings chills to my spine! More exciting is the fact that Silent Hill is written by Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction) and being directed by French director, Christophe Gans, whose underrated Le Pacte des loups (The Brotherhood of the Wolf) was fantastic. It stars Radha Mitchell (most recently seen in Woody Allen's Melinda & Melinda and as J. M. Barrie's wife in Finding Neverland), and most excitingly, everyone's favourite Sean Bean!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A sure fire way to get me to post on my blog is to spoil my Top Ten Films of 2005 on your own blog after talking to me, in an act of pure spite. What else are little brothers for? That said, I relent. There's still a few movies I haven't seen yet this year that I really wanted to (Capote, The Squid and The Whale). In fact, last year I saw over fifty 2004 releases in theatres. This year was a little slower, I saw 40 (not counting repeat viewings of films of which there were three that I saw at least three times in the theatre). Without further ado, here it is.

The Year in Review - MOVIES

For me it was a exciting year of movie going. Some of my favourite stories from childhood came to the big screen for the first time (The Chronicles of Narnia), and other favourites came to a finale (Star Wars); Some of my favourite directors (Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Cameron Crowe) released films in 2005; Some films were surprisingly good, others were unfortunately disappointments. That said, it's always hard to boil down the films I see into a top ten. The fact is that armed with a limited budget of both money and time, and listening to writers and friends I trust, I see few films each year that I absolutely hate. But at the same time, this list represents the films that entertained/moved/provoked/thrilled me the most. To that end, I begin.

10) Broken Flowers (Dir. Jim Jarmusch)

After my conversation with Aren, in which I remained non-commital on the final spot for my Top Ten list (never a good sign), I reviewed my film journals and notes, in case there was a film that made a strong impression that I was overlooking. I found one in this surprisingly accessible film from an eccentric auteur. Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Dead Man) directs Bill Murray (good as ever, year after year) in this touching story of an aging womanizer in search of a son he's never met. Some felt that Murray was merely playing the same disaffected cynic that he played in films like Rushmore or Lost in Translation, but he's so good at it and he's still not gotten the recognition he deserves as one of the premiere actors of his generation (unfortunately, comedians rarely get their due). Broken Flowers avoids the contrivances of some of Jarmusch's recent fare (Coffee & Cigarettes) and manages to stay with me months after seeing it.

9) War of the Worlds (Dir. Steven Spielberg)

Many dismissed Spielberg's frightening reflection on extra terrestrial intelligence (a theme he's clearly qualified to talk about given his past films) as nothing more than an empty and tasteless excercise, exploiting the disaster imagery of post-9/11 America, and starring an actor whose personal life was quickly spiraling into a media circus. Say what one will about Tom Cruise, he does fine work when he's with Spielberg. The decision to keep the screenplay firmly anchored in the point-of-view of the civilian protagonist (nary a general or president to found in this alien flick) gives the film an urgency and confusion that few other films of this genre achieve. Furthermore, when considered in light of Spielberg's other more overtly political film that he released this year, the film takes on a more thoughtful poignancy about the nature of world shaking events and the use of terror as a force of war. And anyone who had issues with the seemingly abrupt ending to the film out to take it up with H. G. Wells, as on that issue Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp stay relatively faithful to the original source material.

8) Good Night. and, Good Luck (Dir. George Clooney)

There were a great many films that had political themes this year (and a number of them appear in my favourites), but of those that overtly dealt with politics in a straightforward way none impressed me as much as Good Night, and Good Luck. George Clooney, taking a back seat supporting role in the film, shows that he's not merely another "actor-director," but a legitimitly good director in his own right. The film, which chronicles the televised confrontation between CBS journalist Edward Murrow (played most excellently by the underrated David Strathairn) and Senetor Joseph McCarthy in a 50s America not entirely foreign to us today. Clooney's film isn't pedantic however, and is artful and complex in it's portrayal of the news media's relationship to politics. The use of "glorious black & white," as well as fine supporting acting from all involved makes this one of the best films I saw all year.

7) A History of Violence (Dir. David Cronenberg)

This film, directed by Canadian Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen, is one of two films on my list that have their origin in comic books. Suprised? Yep, the film is based on a graphic novel by British writer John Wagner (Judge Dredd). Either way, Cronenberg's film hit me hard and stuck with me the whole year. Like several of the films on my list, A History of Violence explores the theme of, guess what?, violence, and how it affects us and whether we can ever truly walk away from our past. Viggo Mortensen gives an amazing peformance as Tom Stall, an average citizen, who when he kills a man to protect his community, draws the attention of those asking, "How come he's so good at killing people?" Supporting performances from Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt (playing against type) add to the power of the film. It is a film that is well worth seeing, for the art and craft involved, and for the conversations to be had afterward.

6) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Dir. Mike Newell)

I'm a big fan of the Harry Potter books. I was also a big fan, despite the complaints of many fans I know, of Alfonso Cuarón's adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 2004. I felt that
Cuarón's film was more artful than the first two Potter films and not merely a slavish adaptation of a popular book. I was somewhat apprehensive about this film, what with Goblet being one of my favourites in the series and also being somewhat more difficult to adapt (it's more than 3 times the length of any of the first three books). But the film surprised me becoming one of my favourites of the year.Of course Goblet has the advantage of it's plot, the Tri-Wizard Tournament, being constructed in such a way that momentum is maintained throughout the story, never slowing down or getting bogged down in exposition.Newell stays more faithful to the source material than Cuarón, but still brings an artist's vision to the film. Furthermore, Newell manages to make the character moments in the film really shine. The Yule Ball scene is one of my favourites in the entire film and contains some amazingly real emotional moments. Harry Potter is literary adaptation done right, capturing the energy and feel of the author in a year when other fantasy adaptations left me cold.

5) Wallace & Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Dir. Nick Park & Steve Box)

This film is probably the funniest and most charming film I saw all year. I've been a huge fan of the Wallace & Gromit films since I saw The Wrong Trousers years ago (and subsequently made it one of my all time favourites). I loved Nick Park's Chicken Run as well and was ecstatic when I heard Wallace & Gromit would be getting their own feature film. The film, with its myriad homages to classic horror and creature features, concerns a beast, a Were-Rabbit, that is preying on the good English village's vegetable gardens, and threating the Big Vegetable competition. Fortunately Wallace & Gromit's Anti-Pesto, humane pest removal is on the job. As much as I love the computer generated imagery of Pixar, there's something about the stop motion puppetry at work here that gives the film a special touch. Not as polished as other offerings (Tim Burton's Corpse Bride), but it contains all the more charm in it's hand crafted tale of rabbits, vegetables and of course...cheese!

4) Batman Begins (Dir. Christopher Nolan)

Truth be told, I don't think any of the live-action Batman films, not even Tim Burton's heralded 1989 film let alone the Schumacher travesties, really "got" the character of Batman. Burton was more interested in the freak show and what I would call "camp-gothic" than in exploring the idea of a man driven by the death of his parents to become a vigillante. So when I heard that Christopher Nolan (Memento) would be directing the film, and that he had cast Christian Bale (a move I called for ages ago) as Bruce Wayne/Batman I was excited. Would Nolan finally make a Batman film worthy of the character? By crafting a story that keeps its focus firmly on the character of Bruce Wayne, and filling the the supporting cast with a wealth of acting talent (Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, and Gary Oldman) Batman Begins handily lets us forget that any other Batman films exist, wiping the slate clean and claiming the mantle of "Best Superhero Film Ever" (yes, joining and perhaps even surpassing Spider-man 2). This film was everything I could have hoped it would be and reminded me why the Dark Knight is one of my favourite fictional characters ever.

3) King Kong (Dir. Peter Jackson)

King Kong cements Peter Jackson's position among the greatest and most audacious directors of our time. His ability to tackle projects that seem too big (The Lord of the Rings for instance) and make exciting, larger-than-life, and moving films puts me in awe of his imagination and skill. Kong is a remarkable feat. Jackson takes everything he loved about the original 1933 classic that inspired him to become a filmmaker and cranks it up to the extreme. Fleshed out is the backgrounds of both the crew members of the Venture and the film crew of the hubristic Carl Denham. But more imporantly the relationship between our misunderstood hero and the woman he falls for is stripped of its creepy sexual subtext and made to really resonate and work. Naomi Watt's deserves praise and my nod for the best actress of the year as she helps bring Kong to life through her interaction. Furthermore, Andy Serkis and the Weta FX team deserve special praise for bringing a 25 foot gorilla to life and making him emote. This film really worked for me, not only as a piece of bravura filmmaking, but in the wake of my beloved pet dog Belle's death, reminding me of the powerful bond that can form between a human and an animal.

But wait you say..."King Kong is only your number 3 film of the year? You loved it and raved about it for months leading up to it. How can this be?" Let it be known that I absolutely loved Kong and Batman, and that should explain how much I adore the top two films on my list.

2) Munich (Dir. Steven Spielberg)

In a year when political films were all the rage, and the news is filled with various talking heads from all political views bombarding us political rhetoric, how can it be that the master of "mere" entertainment gives us one of the greatest American films I've seen in ages and ages? How is it that Steven Spielberg is able to make a film that not only asks more honest and hard hitting questions about the state of the world, violence, life, love, patriotism, duty, honour and the cost of vengeance than any of the more "serious" directors out there? Not only that but Spielberg's film is brilliantly composed, endlessly thrilling and emotionally intense, never relying on "preaching" in getting us to tackle these hard questions. Perhaps it is in working with acclaimed playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America), or in once again getting himself a cast that does wonders (Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush). At any rate this nearly perfect, melding of craft and conscience blew me away. If I was to compare it to other films in history, I would have to describe it as containing the punch and politics of a film like The Manchurian Candidate (1962) but interpreted through the aesthetic of early 70s Copolla (The Godfather, The Conversation) with it's gritty violence and striking characters. Munich is a film for the ages and cements Spielberg's position as my favourite director of all time.


1) Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (Dir. George Lucas)

Was there really any question of what my favourite film of the year would be? Revenge of the Sith brings a close to the story that I've followed with zeal my entire life. And it does so with a bang! Even those I know who were dissapointed with the first two prequels had to admit that Sith was different. I cannot honestly judge the film without acknowledging that this film meant more to me than any other. I brought with me to the film all the emotional baggage of a young man watching a film that he had been waiting for, for quite nearly, all his life! Seeing the fall of Anakin Skywalker finally put up on the screen, watching him hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knight's (and commiting actions that even I never dreamed he would!), seeing the home of the Wookies Kashyyyk finally portrayed, watching Obi-Wan forced to engage his life long friend and brother figure in mortal combat on a lava planet and then finally secreting away Anakin's infant twins after the tragic death of their mother, when those credits reading "Written and Directed By GEORGE LUCAS" finally popped up, it was a moving and bittersweet moment. This is the last Star Wars film. The fact that I type those words makes me think about how great it was growing up with these films, and getting to experience the conclusion to the greatest film saga of all time. For all those reasons, and hundreds more, melodrama, operatic storyline and all, Revenge of the Sith is the most significant, most memorable, and my personal favourite film of the entire year, if not the decade!

Those last four films on my list were easy to rank. I uncategorically loved them. Making lists though is always difficult. I always have something to say about more films, love them or hate them, and I can't limit myself to just the Top Ten list.

Runner's Up: Syriana for its fascinating look at the complexities of the global oil business; The Constant Gardener for making a fascinating thriller that forced us to contemplate our relationship with drug companies and our complicity in African suffering; Robert Rodreguez and Frank Miller's Sin City for suggesting an entirely new aesthetic and amazing technical accomplishments that made it possible to literally bring the pages of a comic book to life; Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin for making me laugh until it hurt, but never losing their hear; Crash for being about more than just "race"; and Corpse Bride for just looking fantastic.

Dissapointments: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe showed me the negative fallout of Peter Jackson's success, as stories I've beloved for ages are interpreted by people who clearly don't understand them and are merely cashing in on the fantasy craze; Elizabethtown and Cameron Crowe for letting his passion for making great mix tapes interfer with ability to tell a touching and believable story; The Brother's Grimm and more specifically, The Weinsteins for clearly butchering the work of a genius like Terry Gilliam and fine actors like Heath Ledger and Matt Damon; The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for not being as charming and memorable as the book it was based on. Months later I can barely remember moments that should have been classic.

Surprises: Brokeback Mountain for transcending the political arguments surrounding it and giving an artful portrayal of broken human relationships and people struggling to connect; The Island was better than it should have been, given the name Michael Bay was attached. Perhaps it had more to do with the names Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou and Sean Bean; The Weather Man for being surprisingly memorable, full of great performances from Michael Caine, Hope Davis and Nicholas Cage, and reminding us that "Easy doesn't enter into grown up life."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ok, here it is. My favourite album of 2005. I'm sure a lot of people are going to be disappointed, shocked, angry. But it is my favourite.

Some albums I discovered too late in the year, but might have been contenders. Broken Social Scene's self-titled album would definitely have been a top ten album, had I heard it before Christmas. Also, The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema, is as good as pop-rock gets. Perhaps if Ryan Adams had not released 3 albums in one year (surely trying to set some kind of record or prove something to who knows who), he might have produced something that was a favourite of mine (Jacksonville City Nightes comes close). Also, I ashamedly have yet to really give Sufjan Stevens a real critical listen yet. I couldn't find it to buy after Christmas in Saskatoon (which is a good sign, since it was obviously sold out), so it too wasn't in consideration. All things considered though, I doubt that any album would top..


1) Late Registration - Kanye West (Roc-A-Fella)

Kanye is like the Orson Welles of Hip-Hop. Perhaps that's high praise, but the guy is a genius. Unfortunately, like Welles, he knows it. He went off on MTV declaring George Bush a racist (whether or not it's true, it's probably not wise). He says he's a brilliant rapper. He's a top-notch producer. And it's true. The College Dropout was one of the best albums of 2004, but Kanye went and did the impossible; not only was his follow up better than his debut (proving the sophmore slump is nothing but a rumour), but it is perhaps one of the best Hip-Hop albums I've ever heard, and at least the best of the decade. Hip-Hop was getting stale. The fact of the matter was that there wasn't much choice between the ridiculous "gansta" rappers like 50 Cent and the overly serious "socially conscioius" rappers. Kanye defies definition. He features guest spots from everyone from The Game, on the thought provoking "Crack Music," one of my favourites, Common, and even Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx on the infectious single "Gold Digger" (not only is it brilliant, but it's probably one of the most uncomfortable pop songs for a white boy to sing along to, when Kanye rhymes "I ain't saying she's a gold digger / But she aint' messin' with no broke n***er"). Kanye combines clever, but not overly self-conscious rhymes with club-worthy rhymes. He went out and defied convention by hiring producer Jon Brion (soundtracks to Magnolia and I Heart Huckabees; Fiona Apple). He rhymes about both bling and the damage caused by traffiking in "blood diamonds" in my adored single, partnering with superstar Jay-Z on "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" (also featuring an amazing sample from the James Bond-theme to Diamonds Are Forever). I've listened to this album more than almost any other this year. The fact that a Hip-Hop album would make my number one favourite never crossed my mind at the beginning of the year, but Kanye showed my that my preconceptions were off. This is the most interesting, entertaining, and artistic album I've listened to all year. I love it and it's a classic. Standout Tracks: "Touch the Sky," "Gold Digger," "Crack Music," "Diamonds from Sierra Leone," "Celebration"

Coming soon: Top Ten Films of 2005.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ok, this made me laugh. I love Ricky Gervais.

Hopefully it makes you laugh too.

Apparently, I am in fact the worst blogger ever. But as I promised some people that I would post today, here I am. Let us continue with my top ten albums list.

4) LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem (DFA/EMI)

This album might best be described as literate, electro, dance rock, if one can best describe it at all. It's perhaps one of the most compulsively head nodding albums I've heard in ages. From the driving, crazy beats of the opener, "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House," to the brilliant "Tribulations" (which incidently fades quite nicely into the opening of "Blue Monday" making it an instant DJ favourite everywhere), this album is chalk full of infectious beats. But just to show that they've got it going on with more than just dance music, they throw in the lazy, druggy Beatles-esque sound of "Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up." The album earned it's place on my list of the best of the year and it has also become the unofficial anthem album for the UVic English grad students. Standout Tracks: "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House," "Tribulations," "Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up," "On Repeat"

3) You Could Have It So Much Better - Franz Ferdinand (Domino)

Ok, this one is obviously one of my favourites and probably one of the ones that I've listened to the most. I'm sure part of that has to do with the fond memories of the concert I saw in Seattle back in Oct, but that only solidified my impression that Franz Ferdinand are great entertainers, if not some of the best in the world. Some critics (and people I've talked to) were a little bit dissapointed with the album. But making cohesive "albums" doesn't seem to be what Franz Ferdinand are about. What they do is craft some of the greatest hooks and most danceable pop songs out there. And in that respect, they deliver on the promise of the first album fully. "The Fallen" is perhaps one of the best opening tracks on any album this year. And "Do You Want To," while it falls slightly short of the glory that is "Take Me Out," is one of the most popular songs on the dance floor with its playful cheekiness and brilliant build up. Let's hope that the boys from Glasgow continue to dominate pop music. Standout Tracks: "The Fallen," "Do You Want To," "Walk Away," "I'm Your Villian," "Outsiders"

2) Takk... - Sigur Rós (Geffen)

This album was a huge surprise, but a wonderful one. I was a big fan of this Icelandic group's last album, the somewhat pretentiously untitled (). With it's meandering sounds and ethereal atmosphere, it was great, but sometimes the songs went on too long and it wasn't something that you could just throw on and listen to any old day. But with Takk... the band moves back to the sounds of Ágætis Byrjun, their popular second album. The sounds of Takk... are triumphant and melodic, somewhat different from the more funereal and measured feel of (). Takk... is like a ray of sunshine through a cloud, it's soundscape creating moods and atmosphere as much as "songs" in the traditional sense. Obviously the new album isn't going to win over those who think that all music has to be in traditional 3 min pop songs, but by mixing up their methods, Sigur Rós makes music that is less exhausting and more, dare I say, fun. Earlier I wondered if there was a pop song as "triumphant" as Coldplay's "Fix You," but "S
æglópur" is perhaps one of the most brilliant pieces of music I heard all year. It literally gives me goosebumps just to hear it in my headphones as I walk. If you've never heard Sigur Rós before, I urge you to give this album a listen. It truly has earned it's place on my picks of the year's best. Standout Tracks: "Hoppípolla," "Með Blóðnasir," "Sæglópur"

Now it's down to Number 1. Do you know what it is?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year! 2006! Can you believe it already? Here's hoping everyone has a good year!

Anyway, back to my top ten albums list that was supposed to be up "tomorrow." Holidays are murder on my blogging.

7) Set Yourself on Fire - Stars (Arts & Crafts)

The second Canadian indie band on the list (also from Montreal). This band took me quite by surprise, as I hadn't heard any of their earlier efforts. But it turned into one of my most listened to albums of the year, as its unique blend of indie pop, melodic male and female vocals, electronic noises and atmospheric production was irresistible to me. I especially found the lyrics interesting, and I'm not normally a lyrics person; emotional, but not verging into self-pity as many bands do. Overall, it's an excellent album and one of my favourite discoveries of the year. Standout Tracks: "Set Yourself on Fire," "Ageless Beauty," "Calendar Girl"

6) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Self Released)

This album is one of my favourites that I discovered in the last little bit of the year. The band not only produced and recorded all the music themselves, but also somehow managed to put the album out without the help of a label. This is a rock that is a little bit weird, a little bit catchy; distorted guitars, tortured vocals (my little brother hates the lead singer's voice). But nonetheless I've listened to this album non-stop and it's got surprising depths and is very listenable. The first track is bizzare and not really representative of the album as a whole, but if you can get past that you're in for a real treat. For all those reasons it's one of the best albums I've heard all year and makes the list. Standout Tracks: "Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)," "Details of the War," "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth"

5) X&Y - Coldplay (Capitol)

I'm sure putting this on my year's best may discredit my taste in the eyes of some, but honesty compells me to say that this is one of my favourite albums of the year and one that I've listened to incessantly since I got it on "Super Tuesday" back in June (when it was released on the same day as new albums by the Black Eyed Peas and The White Stripes). Almost everyone knows what to expect from a Coldplay album, so I don't need to describe them to you, but is that such a bad thing? They do what they do, which is write catchy, beautiful, arena rock songs, better than almost anyone. A lot of people don't like this album as much as the last one, but I wasn't as big a fan of A Rush of Blood To the Head as some. I still think Parachutes is their best album, but this is probably second. Is there a more triumphant pop song than "Fix You" (I'll tackle that question later in my list)? I love Coldplay and I'm glad I'm going to get to see them in 25 days! Standout Tracks: "Fix You," "Talk," "Swallowed By the Sea," "Kingdom Come"

4-1 of my favourite albums coming soon.