One thing is certain about 2005: There was more music available from more sources than ever.
Impossible for any one person to “cover” or even come close to hearing and seeing, the increasingly diverse music world deserves to be seen from multiple viewpoints. So we’ve teamed up to present a couple of views on the best bands and shows of the year, some of the trends in music and some of the idiocy that pops up in the pop game every year.
You’ll also find our “Best of” lists of albums, singles, shows and local recordings in this issue of Ground Zero.
Band of the year
LKW — The White Stripes
Jack White is a genius. Now that we’ve established that, here’s this year’s contributions from the Detroit rock ’n’ roller: With “Get Behind Me Satan,” White largely put down the guitar in favor of various keyboards and came up with an emotional, powerful and propulsive album that offers new perspectives on a classic motif.
And live, where it really counts, Jack and drummer/ex-wife Meg are just as good, if not better than they are on record. I caught them in Kansas City and was blown away by their intensity and virtuosity. That includes Meg’s so-called primitive drumming, which works perfectly with Jack’s guitar and keyboards — anything busier or fancier would be a mess.
As long as The White Stripes are around, rock ’n’ roll has a future.
Kanye West is a genius, too. And given his propensity for popping off in public, he’d be happy to tell you all about it if you ever got a chance to talk to him. Make the man who freed hip-hop from the gangstas 1(A) on my list of artists of the year.
JG — Eagle*Seagull
Big, successful bands are already getting all the attention they need, so I’ve decided to pick one of our many underappreciated local artists as band of the year.
I could name any one of a dozen Lincoln groups which deserve mentioning, but Eagle*Seagull stands out as the overall best.
E*S’s debut album, released in October, drew comparisons to Interpol and the Arcade Fire, but the band doesn’t really sound like either of those groups. The comparisons probably stemmed from the dynamic diversity of E*S’s music. I’ve previously described the band as “an eclectic pop-rock contradiction,” and that’s the best I can do without forcing this square peg of a band into the round hole of a genre.
But in my book, a good album doesn’t make a band worthy of “Band of the Year” status — a good live performance does. That said, E*S’s shows are consistently entrancing. The band’s members always seem perfectly in sync. Every friend I’ve taken to see the band live has said something to the effect of, “Holy crap, these guys are good!”
I don’t want to put too much pressure on these guys, but they deserve to be recognized, and I predict they’ll be much more than another underappreciated local group this time next year.
Trends of the year
LKW — The iPod revolution
Ubiquitous white earbuds and declining album sales were visual and economic indicators of the trend that will likely be most remembered from 2005 — the year in which the music world tipped toward digital downloading. True, millions of albums are still being sold. But the number of songs downloaded, both legally and illegally, continues to spiral upward, and millions of people who hadn’t been part of the brave new musical world got themselves iPods and similar players and joined the revolution.
It remains to be seen how hits will develop in the digital era. I’m sorely afraid that increasingly bland terrestrial radio will grow in importance. But there is more music to be heard out there than ever.
JG — MySpace.com
If I listed all of the bands I’ve discovered through the networking Web site MySpace.com, we’d have to add a few pages to Ground Zero.
The band profiles section of MySpace gave even the most obscure groups power to become overnight sensations, even without the marketing power of major labels.
MySpace lets you sample a band’s songs, receive updates on shows and tours and, if you’re lucky, get in touch with band members themselves.
With the DIY power MySpace supplies, expect the majors to continue scrambling in 2006.
LKW — Satellite radio
Satellite radio took off in 2005, with both Sirius and XM gaining millions of new listeners. Those of us who have satellite will never, ever go back to terrestrial radio — not with dozens of music channels to choose from that play hundreds of songs that you actually want to hear. Imagine that.
Best shows of the year
LKW — U2/Kanye West at Omaha’s Qwest Center, Dec. 15
The U2/Kanye West concert at Omaha’s Qwest Center earlier this month was one of the best shows ever in Nebraska. Period. End of story. U2 is one of the world’s best live acts, and their passionate Qwest Center performance was the best I’ve seen from them. And West, who played with a string section, is as captivating and charismatic live as he is on record.
There’s a long list of my best shows of the year on page xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. But if I had to pick a couple more to top the chart, I’d go with the New York Dolls, a South By Southwest show where I got to see one of my favorite old bands live for the first time in 30 years, and the Duffy’s Tavern farewell show from Slobberbone, a band I wrote about from its first tour to its demise.
JG — Statistics at Duffy’s Tavern, July 28
To celebrate the end of his summer tour, Statistics frontman and self-proclaimed “nicest guy in rock” Denver Dalley bought shots for everyone in the bar and told nonsensical stories that lasted longer than most of his songs.
By the end of the night, Dalley and his band members were struggling to stay standing and remember their songs, but no one seemed to care because they were all having such a great time.
Or maybe they didn’t care because they were getting free alcohol. Either way, it’s a show anyone there that night won’t soon forget.
Fools of the year
LKW — Major record labels
The four major record labels — for many reasons. They include continuing to sell an overpriced product when dropping the cost of a CD a dollar or two would create much higher sales. Out of fear of getting ripped off — ironic, isn’t it? — they put spyware on CDs that could damage consumers’ computers. And they continued to sue their customers for downloading songs, always a brilliant business practice.
But the biggest reason to call the majors fools came from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who busted them for payola. That’s right, they learned nothing in the ’50s and ’60s or ’80s and continued to pony up cash and prizes to lure radio stations to play the garbage that the labels wanted to push. Sony and Warner Bros. have already paid millions in fines for their pay-for-play illegality. Expect EMI and Universal to follow suit soon.
JG — Scott Stapp versus 311
It sounds like something right out of “Celebrity Deathmatch.” I’ll bet if it were 1997, we all would’ve cared just a little bit more, too.
In late November, former Creed singer Scott Stapp and the band members of Omaha rock-rap group 311 exchanged blows in a Baltimore hotel.
Each party has its own version of the story, but it sounds like Stapp walked up to 311 “With Arms Wide Open,”spouting the opening line, “311, I am ready to fight.” He then made some suggestive or offensive comments toward the wife of 311 member S.A. Martinez. That’s when things went “Down” and got “All Mixed Up” and the violence “took them higher, to a place with golden streams” and I’m just going to stop now.
L. Kent Wolgamott’s top 20 albums of 2005
1. “Get Behind Me Satan,” The White Stripes
2. “Late Registration,” Kanye West
3 “Guero,” Beck
4. “Arular,” MIA
5. “If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry,” Marah
6. “Twin Cinema,” New Pornographers
7. “Howl,” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
8. “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning,” Bright Eyes
9. “There’s More Where That Came From,” Lee Ann Womack
10. “I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise,” Bettye LaVette
11. “LCD Soundsystem,” LCD Soundsystem
12. “Elevator,” Hot Hot Heat
13. “Aha Shake Heartbreak,” Kings of Leon
14. “Thunder, Lightning, Strike,” The Go! Team
15. “Don’t Believe The Truth,” Oasis
16. “Takk,” Sigur Ros
17. “Pussycat,” The Charms
18. “All Jacked Up,” Gretchen Wilson
19. “Cost of Living,” Delbert McClinton
20. “Forever Hasn’t Happened Yet,” John Doe
“One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost & Found”
“American Primitives Vol. 2”
“I Have Always Been Here Before,” Roky Erickson
“Fun House,” The Stooges
“Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band
(In no particular order)
“I Predict A Riot,” Kaiser Chiefs
“Bad Boyfriend,” Garbage
“1 Thing,” Amerie
“Trapped in the Closet, Part 1,” R. Kelly
“Blue Orchid,” The White Stripes
“Feel Good Inc.,” Gorillaz
“Gold Digger,” Kanye West
“Love in a Trash Can,” The Raveonettes
“Fourth of July,” Shooter Jennings
“Rebellion (Lies),” Arcade Fire
“My Doorbell,” The White Stripes
“Beverly Hills,” Weezer
“Juicebox,” The Strokes
“Alcohol,” Brad Paisley
“Dancing with Joey Ramone,” Amy Rigby
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Lied Center
Elvis Costello, La Zona Rosa, Austin, South By Southwest
New York Dolls, Stubb’s, SXSW
Kaiser Chiefs, Hot Hot Heat, La Zona Rosa, SXSW
Slobberbone, Duffy’s Tavern
Hacienda Brothers with Bill Kirchen, Zoo Bar
Lucinda Williams and John Doe, Rococo Theatre
The Boss Martians, Duffy’s Tavern
The White Stripes, Starlight Theatre, Kansas City
Supersuckers, Duffy’s Tavern
John Mellencamp, Qwest Center, Omaha
The Charms, Zoo Bar
Brad Paisley, Pershing Center
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Comstock Rocks, Comstock
Elizabeth McQueen and the Firebrands, Zoo Bar
Musik Mafia, Pershing Center and Knickerbockers
U2, Kanye West, Qwest Center, Omaha
Joel Gehringer’s top 15 albums of 2005
1. Eagle*Seagull, self-titled
2. “Gimme Fiction,” Spoon
3. “The Hate Yourself Change,” Neva Dinova
4. “Twin Cinema,” New Pornographers
5. “The H is O,” Ideal Cleaners
6. LCD Soundsystem, s/t
7. “Late Registration,” Kanye West
8. “Radboyz Only!!!!,” The Show is the Rainbow
9. “The Sunlandic Twins,” Of Montreal
10. “When I Explode,” So Many Dynamos
11. “When We Break,” Criteria
12. “A Situation Re:Presents Itself,” A Situation
13. “Out of Exile,” Audioslave
14. “Here Comes Nothing,” The Static Octopus
15. “Black Sheep Boy,” Okkervil River
1. “The Party’s Crashing Us,” Of Montreal
2. “I Turn My Camera On,” Spoon
3. “It’s So Sexy,” Eagle*Seagull
4. “Feel Good, Inc.,” Gorillaz
5. “Rebellion (Lies),” Arcade Fire
6. “Use It,” New Pornographers
7. “Yellow Datsun,” Neva Dinova
8. “Photographs,” Eagle*Seagull
9. “Tribulations,” LCD Soundsystem
10. “So Now We’re F—-ed,” Ideal Cleaners
11. “Blue Orchid,” The White Stripes
12. “Diamonds from Sierra Leonne,” Kanye West
13. “16 Military Wives,” Decemberists
14. “Since U Been Gone,” Kelly Clarkson
15. “Prevent the World,” Criteria
CDs we should have listened to at Homer’s before buying
1. “Apologies to the Queen Mary,” Wolf Parade
2. “X&Y,” Coldplay
3. “Plans,” Death Cab for Cutie
4. “You Could Have Had It So Much Better,” Franz Ferdinand
5. “Silent Alarm,” Bloc Party
6. “The Emancipation of Mimi,” Mariah Carey
7. “Playing the Angel,” Depeche Mode
8. “Demon Days,” Gorillaz
9.“Chaos and Creation in the Backyard,” Paul McCartney
10. Broken Social Scene, s/t
Our top Nebraska albums
1. Eagle*Seagull, self-titled
2. “The H is O,” Ideal Cleaners
3. “The Hate Yourself Change,” Neva Dinova
4. “Do Ya Wanna Go?,” Tijuana Gigolos
5. “Suicide Double Wide,” Sarah Benck
6. “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning,” Bright Eyes
7. “The Freedom Dilemma,” Electric Soul Method
8. “When We Break,” Criteria
9. “Radboyz Only!!!!,” TSITR
10. “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn,” Bright Eyes
11. “Here Comes Nothing,” Static Octopus
12. “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!,” Brimstone Howl
13. Westside Proletariat, self-titled
14. “Summering,” Marianas
15. “See No Evil,” Grasshopper Takeover
16. Honey Stump, self-titled
17. “A Situation Re:Presents Itself,” A Situation
18. “Bushido Karaoke,” Mayday
19. “Inna State of Dubmission,” RC Dub
20. “Inside/Absent,” Broken Spindles