Green Day, U2, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, The White Stripes and Foo Fighters enjoyed a strong 2005, riding a wave of popularity for their latest releases. Collectively, these groups scooped up an impressive 16 nominations in various rock and pop categories for the upcoming Grammy Awards.
But they also hardly represent the broad spectrum of rock music to land on record store shelves and iPod menus in the past year.
Here is a selection of rock bands that, while they may not show up as nominees for a major music award, nonetheless produced impressive efforts in 2005.
Dressy Bessy, "Electrified" (Transdreamer): Wicked guitar riffs and a tougher lyrical edge take charge on Dressy Bessy's latest release, "Electrified." A piercing lightning-striking vibe drives the opener, "Second Place," while the pulsating stop-and-go sonic phrasing on "Small" and "Stop Foolin'" prove almost too delicious and irresistible.
Singer-songwriter Tammy Ealom delivers an intriguing vocal style that borders on a one-way conversation at times. And she carries it off beautifully, with an exquisite sassy panache in the finest tradition of Deborah Harry and Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs frontwoman Karen O.
Doves, "Some Cities" (Capitol): Over the course of three albums, Doves has carved out a distinct rock music identity by crafting lush tunes with a touch of the ethereal into inviting arrangements. "Some Cities" melds vigorous and diffused elements into a soulful playlist flush with iridescent lift. The melancholic "The Storm," for instance, shimmers with a rich regretful beauty. Deeper into the record, the rousing "Sky Starts Falling" reverberates with the energetic station-to-station clatter of a big city subway system. With "Some Cities," the trio from Manchester, England, has further solidified its position as one of the most dynamic epic rock groups going.
The Frames, "Burn the Maps" (Anti): The Frames have an established record of producing albums awash in reflective and bittersweet hues. On "Burn the Maps," the Irish group raises its creative bar. An underlying passion and subtle tension reaches dramatic peaks on numbers such as "Sideways Down" and "Underglass" and "Keep Sake."
Not until the album's final tracks, "Suffer in Silence" and "Locust," does "Burn the Maps" finally ease off the sonic accelerator. The Frames could have opted early for a more commercial, pop-oriented sound long ago.
Fortunately, the band has remained loyal to its creative sensibilities - and vision.
Garbage, "Bleed Like Me" (Geffen) (explicit lyrics): If you yearn for crisp, serious rock, "Bleed Like Me'" supplies the goods.
From the top to bottom, the album's playlist exhibits dynamic bite. "Bleed Like Me" unloads its quarry from the get go on "Bad Boyfriend," and continues the torrid pace through "Run Baby Run, "Right Between the Eyes," "Sex Is Not the Enemy," and "Why Don't You Come Over." When the speed limit does drop on "It's All Over But the Crying" and "Happy Home," the songs result in some of the most poignant moments on the album. Garbage guitarists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker, drummer Butch Vig and singer-lyricist extraordinaire Shirley Manson form a potent musical combination. We can only hope that any chatter about Garbage's impending break up never goes beyond rumor.
The New Pornographers, "Twin Cinema" (Matador): "Twin Cinema," the third full-length LP from the Vancouver-based The New Pornographers, offers an eclectic collection of smart, accessible numbers, with a dash of occasional quirkiness. From the energetic title-track opener to the moody "These Are the Fables, ""Twin Cinema" serves up tuneful gusto with appealing hooks and harmonies. The New Pornographers, a consortium of artists from different music groups, have developed into a power pop group with formidable punch. The vocal tandem of A.C. Newman and Neko Case makes room for two more vocalists on this album, Kathryn Calder and Nora O'Connor.
The Posies, "Every Kind of Light" (Rykodisc): The latest chapter in The Posies' ongoing series of "reunions" has resulted in the engaging "Every Kind of Light." Harsh takes on pop culture and a subtle political subtext rises to the forefront on several songs, particularly with references to the American scene and the Bush administration on "That Don't Fly" and the soulful "Could He Treat You Better." Mid-tempo stretches in numbers produce affecting rock atmospherics, while the up-tempo tunes flat-out sizzle. "Every Kind of Light" is a strong, thoughtful release, and with a little luck, fans of The Posies won't have to wait another seven years for group to produce its next album.
Stereophonics, "Language. Sex. Violence. Other?" (V2): This is the rock album that the Welsh rock trio Stereophonics always had in it. After dabbling with diverse texture and different styles on its previous two efforts, the Stereophonics got back to basics with a fresh, fertile rock sound. The chugging momentum that builds on the opener, "Superman," hints at the bruising pace that follows. A subtle punk vibe drives "Doorman," "Brother" and "Devil." The elegant "Rewind" rides a luscious percussion line, while the quick hit "Girl" blisters with rock purity, coming in at under two minutes. Even "Dakota," which passes as a low-key moment on the album, produces a healthy dose of thrust.