Back to 2005 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

Back to 2005

Last week I was able to recreate and re-add all of the end of the year lists into our database from 2005 onward. This hit of nostalgia was paired with me shaking my head at not only the outcome of the staff lists but trying to figure out just what I was thinking on my lists as well. For the next few weeks, I’d like to deconstruct some of these lists and add some of the context and memories I have from this era of the music scene. And this week, I’m starting with what could arguably be one of the most significant years in our little emo-pop-punk world: 2005. 2005 was absolutely stacked with albums that have gone on to be regarded as scene classics. Albums that I still listen to and albums that helped define the music scene for years to come.

Looking at the staff list, what I remember most is how much optics and wanting ‘scene credibility’ came into play in 2005. The arguments about selling out, being too mainstream, or being too popular, ran rampant. This is most apparent by the lack of Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree anywhere on this list. This was the album that broke the band into the mainstream in a massive way and, that alone left it extremely polarizing in our community and amongst staff members at the time. There was this underlying feeling that it wasn’t really “cool” to like the band anymore and that the group had strayed from their pop-punk roots.1 So, not only were we using a flawed system for calculating where albums appeared on the list, there was this undercurrent of trying to grab some scene-cred and being a little too cool for Fall Out Boy. Looking back at my list now, I know that I was influenced by not wanting another round with the dudes making fun of my love of Fall Out Boy. It’s funny because it’s not like, collectively, we weren’t putting other pop-punk albums high on our lists. We’ve got Cartel, The Starting Line, and Panic! at the Disco all on there. It was a particular Fall Out Boy backlash, and it’s the most glaring omission from the 2005 end of the year list for a website that is very much tied in with the band’s history.

Thrice topping the list doesn’t surprise me. That album hit the website like a freight train. It felt new and exciting; it was loud; it was dense; it felt weighty and important even at the moment. Looking at the list now, I am intrigued by the various sub-genres within it. I have always considered 2005 as one of the years for pop-punk, but we’ve also got classic releases from Sufjan Stevens, Every Time I Die, Nightmare of You, Mae, A Wilhelm Scream, and Circa Survive. However, I really don’t understand how Jack’s Mannequin ended up as low as it did. That one is a mystery to me, and that album has arguably aged as well, if not better than most on here.

I also don’t know why Motion City Soundtrack’s Commit This to Memory doesn’t appear anywhere on this list. It’s precisely the kind of album the community and staff were playing that year, but somehow it’s just … not here. I searched through old emails, trying to see if I could find discussions or an explanation but came up empty. Do you know what else isn’t here? All American Rejects’ Move Along, an album that I still see people talking about, and that I was listening to just a few months back. Did that suffer from the same “too popular” syndrome as Fall Out Boy? Maybe. It’s not even on my list, and I was obsessed with that title track’s pop magic.

I think Gatsbys American Dream and Acceptance sitting up in the top five feel the most to me. Two bands that I never felt were respected, or hell, even really listened to outside of our community. And who can forget Acceptance’s album leaking extremely early2 and then Sony putting a rootkit on the album when it came out. 2005 man, what a year.

2005 was an interesting one for me as well. It was the year I graduated college, and I was trying to figure out if the website would be something I could do for a living or if I was going to have to find a “real” job. I was working out of a small apartment in southern California and struggling with keeping the servers up while finishing a college degree. This was before smartphones or iPads or even portable enough laptops to take to class. This meant I’d post news in the morning, go to class, visit the computer lab throughout the day to check on things, and then stay up extremely late working on the website. It’s hard to remember that there was a time when I couldn’t reach into my pocket and see what was going on in the community through a slab of glass, but those years were also some of my favorite. It felt like every few weeks we were getting a new album that everyone was talking about. One week it would be gushing about this new Cartel band and how damn impressive their debut LP was, and the next was full of debates on if Panic! at the Disco ripped off Fall Out Boy too much on their album. And between that, we had Anberlin, The Academy Is…, Over It, and countless others putting out records that just reading the titles takes me back to that southern California apartment and scrolling through my brick of an iPod.

Looking at my personal list now, I’m reminded of how much of a stubborn bastard I was back then. When The Spill Canvas released One Fell Swoop, I was enamored with it. It came out in August, and somewhere on the website, I declared it was going to be my album of the year. I was mocked and made fun of for making such a declaration so early.3 In my defense, I didn’t know that Thrice was going to do that in October. At the time, the change my life was going through, relationships, friendships, the end of college, I don’t know; there was something about that Spill Canvas album and that year that tied them together for me. Of course, in October, Thrice released a behemoth of an album, one that I ended up calling “perfect,” and I was forced to make a decision for what I was going to actually call my “album of the year.” I could have gone 1A and 1B, but, because, again, stubborn bastard over here, I stuck with my original proclamation. All these years later, the memory of all of that makes me ok with it.

Looking at my old list now, what stands out the most are the memories I have with these albums and this era of music. This is the soundtrack to my graduation. This is the soundtrack to me starting out on my own and beginning the journey of adulthood. These are the songs of too much to drink, colossal mistakes, and best friendships. Of walks in the orange groves, days in the sun, and nights in front of a red-themed vBulletin held together by duct tape and paper clips. The songs of a downstairs neighbor that once tried to invite me into his apartment by showing me some creepy ass knife replica and saying he knew how to get the good porn on Limewire. The songs of breakups, goodbyes, and loneliness. The songs I’d play at parties just itching for someone to ask me, “Hey, who is this?” so I could introduce them to a new band and make a mental note of what was resonating with my friends.

So, after all these years, what would I change?

Well, yeah, I’m gonna put Vheissu at the top this time. I’m still a stubborn bastard, just older now, but when I re-rank the list, I have to think about the albums I’ve spent the most time with in the past 15 years. That has to play a role. What I was thinking at the time is captured in the original list, and I’m coming at this with 2020 eyes. I have the super-power of knowing what I listened to, and what stayed with me, for the next decade. After much deliberation, here’s my re-ranking:

Best of 2005 (Re-Ranking)

  1. Thrice – Vheissu
  2. A Wilhelm Scream – Ruiner
  3. Fall Out Boy – From Under the Cork Tree
  4. Jacks Mannequin – Everything in Transit
  5. Acceptance – Phantoms
  6. Cartel – Chroma
  7. Nightmare of You – Nightmare of You
  8. Days Away – Mapping an Invisible World
  9. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans
  10. All American Rejects – Move Along
  11. Motion City Soundtrack – Commit this to Memory
  12. Copeland – In Motion
  13. Panic! At the Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out
  14. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
  15. Minus the Bear – Menos El Oso
  16. The Starting Line – Based on a True Story
  17. Armor for Sleep – What to Do When You’re Dead
  18. The Spill Canvas – One Fell Swoop
  19. Propagandhi – Potemkin City Limits
  20. Latterman – No Matter Where We Go
  21. Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise
  22. Imogen Heap – Speak For Yourself
  23. The Academy Is – Almost Here
  24. Gatsbys American Dream – Volcano
  25. Limbeck – Let Me Come Home
  26. Alkaline Trio – Crimson
  27. Over It – Silverstrand
  28. Eisley – Room Noises
  29. The Receiving End of Sirens – Between the Heart and the Synapse
  30. Spitalfield – Stop Doing Bad Things

The arbitrary rules I made up start with sticking to thirty albums. That means a lot of excellent stuff is still going to be left off the list. That’s just how it goes when there’s a cutoff, and there are probably fifty-plus incredible albums to choose from. Cutting Circa Survive and Coheed is ridiculous, but I had to make hard choices, reflecting where I’ve come down on these albums after fifteen years. I also am allowing myself to add a few things that weren’t on the original list, but trying to stay relatively true to what I was listening to at the time and not grab stuff I discovered or fell in love with much later.4 The end result puts Thrice at the top and drops The Spill Canvas down to 18. That album did mean a lot to me at the time; there’s no denying that, but I haven’t listened to it in years.

A Wilhelm Scream sees a giant climb into the number two spot and may actually be the album I return to the most often from this entire list. Fall Out Boy also sees a rise. From Under the Cork Tree is a classic of the genre, and I care a whole lot less about anyone making fun of me for saying it; it’s earned that status. It’s followed by Jack’s Mannequin being elevated to a top 5 spot, and it being one of the perfect summer albums makes that a relatively easy call. The rest of my top ten is rounded-out with records I continue to listen to and find joy from to this day. Acceptance, Cartel, Death Cab, Nightmare of You? They still feel fresh to me. Songs that I would fall in love with just as quickly if they were released today. Days Away stays in the top ten and is probably the most underrated, and most forgotten band from this era. And, I have to put All American Rejects in the number ten spot now. They didn’t make my list the first time, but time has spoken.

I struggled with leaving off Every Time I Die. I rediscovered Over It’s Silverstrand and Spitalfield’s Stop Doing Bad Things. I still can’t believe more people didn’t listen to Limbeck. With the eyes of hindsight, I don’t even think about the Panic! sounding like Fall Out Boy arguments anymore and realize I just really like that album and what they were doing on it. Minus the Bear drop a little, but that’s still probably my favorite album from them. Long live Latterman.

I could sit down and go through all of these albums a hundred times and reorder them a hundred and one different ways. How I’m feeling on a random Wednesday could impact the slide or climb of virtually all these albums five spots in either direction. That’s the fun part about ranking albums and thinking about the music within.

I’ll remember 2005 for a lot of things, but I’ll never be able to think about that year without thinking about the music that soundtracked it. It’s burnt into my brain in such a way that they are forever intertwined. I’ve put together a playlist of my favorite songs from my new top 30, and you can find that on Spotify and Apple Music. Also, I’d love to hear what your top albums from 2005 would be if you did a re-ranking.

  1. A trend we would see repeated with virtually every album release from these guys until the end of time.

  2. Weber?!

  3. I have since learned the right way to go about this is by saying something is an “album of the year contender,” give yourself some damn wiggle-room.

  4. Like Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine.