The Academy Is...
Almost Here (Fueled by Ramen)
Almost Here is a great, relentless, punk-pop debut. Ten minutes ago, it was in my top ten... but now it's merely a runner-up. Why? It's hard to say. I listened to this album incessantly for the first few months of the year, and I still enjoy it regularly, but I doubt that it had much of a long-term impact on me. Still, I wholeheartedly recommend this to fans of the genre, especially fans of Fall Out Boy. On a side note, Fueled by Ramen has had a phenomenal year, reminiscient of Drive-Thru Records in 2002... nearly every record they've dropped lately has been worth checking out.
Key Tracks: "Down and Out," "Almost Here," "Attention"
Armor for Sleep
What to Do When You Are Dead (Equal Vision)
A concept record about death and the perils of the afterlife, What to Do When You Are Dead offered a unique perspective not typically found within the emo-punk genre. Hard-rocking but introspective, Armor for Sleep didn't redesign the wheel; rather, they used it to take them to new places. "The Truth About Heaven" is as catchy as anything to emerge from the scene this year. Released in February, my interest admittedly faded a bit near the end of the year, but the time I spent with it was enough to give it a spot on my runners-up list.
Key Tracks: "The Truth About Heaven," "Car Underwater," "Stay on the Ground"
Bayside deftly avoided the sophomore slump by releasing a raw, self-titled follow-up just a year and a half after their debut. Vitriolic lyricism is abound within these eleven cuts, from the street-corner opener "Hello Shitty" to the rousing closer "Dear Tragedy." The amusing "We'll Be O.K." claims "we both got what we wanted/I got sex/you got fame/who used who now?" The band takes a risk with the acoustic "Don't Call Me Peanut" but succeeds as the momentum fails to subside. The band recently lost their drummer in a car accident, but the remaining members completed the tour with an acoustic show, which is set to be released in CD/DVD form early next year.
Key Tracks: "Montauk," "Devotion and Desire," "Don't Call Me Peanut"
Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (Saddle Creek)
The less-heralded of two Bright Eyes studio albums released in 2005 (see my Top Ten for the other), Digital Ash in a Digital Urn featured the same smart lyricism, albiet in a much different package. This year was the one I become a full-fledged Bright Eyes fan, and I have to credit this album in part. I got into it immediately, with lush electronic sounds having replaced the raw, acoustic nature of Conor Oberst's previous albums. Some production decisions lessen the albums impact (wailing babies and alarm clocks are not pleasant sounds), but this is a collection of many solid tracks that should be enjoyed by all Bright Eyes fans, even if you're not in favor of the digital sheen.
Key Tracks: "Hit the Switch," "Gold Mine Gutted," "Ship in a Bottle"
The Hush Sound
So Sudden (Fueled by Ramen/Decaydance)
Featuring dual vocalists (of seperate genders), The Hush Sound offer up the image of what a younger, less-jaded Straylight Run might've sounded like. So Sudden offers inventive piano-rock that alternates between upbeat rockers ("My Apologies") and delicate ballads ("Eileen"). I didn't immediately get into this album, but once I gave it a honest chance, I was hooked. So Sudden is a self-descriptive title; it's over pretty quickly (13 tracks, but many under three minutes in length), but it's a great ride while it lasts. The Hush Sound plan on releasing a follow-up in mid-2006.
Key Tracks: "The Artist," "Carry Me Home," "Unsafe Safe"