still on (msnvwls) wrote,
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Best Music of 05

So everyone else is doing their list, and I suppose I'll do mine now, too. I'll do my film list after Christmas (still waiting to see a couple of things), but I guess nothing is gonna come out to top all of this. So without further ado,

25. Shining - In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster (jazz)
Another brilliant release from the always reliable Rune Grammofone label. This album's weird, it's menacing, and it's difficult, but it also has a lot of hooks, and a lot of it is a lot of fun, at least if you're able to get over the whole "freak out" thing.

24. Mouthus - Loam (noise)
This noise combo has a lot more in common with the New York no-wave scene than they do with Throbbing Gristle or Merzbow, and much like Sightings, who I often compare them to, they have the potential to polarize even the most faithful noise fans. Me, I'm on the love end of the spectrum, and this absolutely blows away their debut from 04.

23. Paul Wall/Chamillionaire - Controversy Sells (rap)
Putting Chamillionaire into a Soulseek search will probably get you about 1000 splits between these two Houston rappers, and from what I've listened to, this is the best out there. Paul Wall actually sounds like a rapper on this, and Chamillionaire's verses are probably the best he's recorded. It's sad to say that neither The People's Champ nor The Sound of Revenge could top this, but hey, not much can.

22. Gorod - Neurotripsicks (metal)
You all knew this would be on here, I've pimped it so goddamn much, so you're probably wondering what it's doing so low. Let's be honest with each other - it doesn't ever hit you again the way it hits you the first time, and it is slightly monotonous. Those things aside, it's fucking fantastic. Solo after solo, brutal death from beginning to end.

21. Birchville Cat Motel - Chi Vampires (noise, because I can't do better than that)
Another one of my pet bands, and one of the best from the whole Weird America scene. This is actually a really, really great introduction to this band for those unfamiliar with them, as it takes all of their many musical sounds (drone, melodic post-rock, sludge) and shoves them all into one package.

20. Neuraxis - Trilateral Progression (metal)
This album is actually probably hurt in its ranking by the fact that it was recorded by Neuraxis, because after I heard this, I downloaded their earlier material and was severely let down. That doesn't change the fact that this is progressive metal at its finest, and probably one of the 5 best metal albums I've heard that would fit that description. Don't go into it expecting something on the level of Cynic's Focus or anything, but in terms of technical wizardry, the band is nearly unmatched here.

19. Jan Jelinek - Kosmischer Pitch (ambient)
I'll just go ahead and say that I'm a bigger fan of Jelinek's work as Farben than I am of the stuff he's released under his own name, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate this record as totally beautiful. Unlike most ambient records that are very sparse and minimal, this album has a very full sound to it, and for that reason, I would recommend it to anyone, whether they were into electronic music or not. I got it about a month ago, and along with an album that's coming up a little later, this was the soundtrack to a lot of study sessions over the past few weeks.

18. High on Fire - Blessed Black Wings (metal)
For fans of hard hitting riffage, pounding rhythm, and the typical punch that comes standard with a Steve Albini production, I submit that there was not a better album released this year than Blessed Black Wings. Band leader Matt Pike does what he does best - shreds all fucking over the place. Hurt by nothing but the fact that it might be too much of a step sideways from Surrounded By Thieves, the album is sure getting its share of praise around the LJ world, but it's certainly deserving of it.

17. Skullflower - Orange Canyon Mind (noise, drone, whatever)
Go ahead and call me a Matthew Bower fanboy, I don't give a fuck. He recently joined another favorite band of mine, Vibracathedral Orchestra, and I can't wait to hear what they do with him. His recent releases as Sunroof! have been fantastic (and I haven't heard Silver Bear Mist yet, am I missing out?), and I'm finally coming around to Total. Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be talking about Orange Canyon Mind. What is there to say about this album that you can't say about any Skullflower release, really? A fucking speaker-filling assault on the senses.

16. The Skaters - Palm Shaper (noise)
I'll be honest - I'm not 100% sure this was released in 2005. Like most (if not all) of their records, this is front to back brilliance. Non-stop primal blasts of feedback terror hit you from all sides. It's cathartic, it's beautiful, it's cleansing to the mind, to the ears and to the spirit (most pretentious sentence ever). It's the Skaters, the best of all of the new American noisemakers.

15. Double Leopards - Out of One, Through One, and To One (noise)
This record is kinda weird - even for Double Leopards, who are notoriously strange. Side A sounds a lot like something a more ethereal Mouthus might record, with buzzing guitars and lots of grating feedback. If Side B had been anything like that, I might just file this in with all the other Double Leopards records, which isn't exactly a put-down of the album, as I think they're one of American noise's leading lights. Side B, however, is a rush of pulsing sonic waves that has the power to overcome even the most skeptical listener, standing as the finest "song" the band has ever done. If you're like me and have a hard time getting into Burning Star Core (though I haven't heard their newer releases, so hold your "What?!?!"s), look no further than this album.

14. Slim Thug - Already Platinum (rap)
After turning head after head as a guest rapper on Mike Jones's "Still Tippin'," Slim Thug released his first "real" album this year, and man is it great. Yeah, it's not the most in-your-face Dirty South album of 2005 (not as varied as David Banner's Certified or even as hardcore as Three Six Mafia's Most Known Unknown), but it's as much fun as you could possibly have listening to rap these days, and Slim Thug raps with a charisma that is unparalleled anywhere. The Neptunes answer all of their critics, proving they're not done with eight killer productions on those album, and with them and fellow producers Mr. Lee and Jazze Pha at his back, Slim Thug proves he's a force to be reckoned with in Southern rap.

13. Dave Douglas - Keystone (jazz)
I have a feeling that as long as Dave Douglas keeps making music, he will keep appearing on my year-end best-of list. There isn't a jazz man out there today, and there hasn't been a trumpeter in years, to match Douglas at what he does. A funky, free-wheeling record that is as fun as it is forward-thinking, this is a true opposite to last year's exquisite Strange Liberation and his earlier release with Nomad from this year, Mountain Passages. A tribute to early movie star Fatty Arbunkle that was conceived as a soundtrack to several of his short films, for the second year in a row, Douglas grabs my jazz album of the year.

12. Angels of Light - Sing "Other People" (post nuclear redneck)
Take that huge crush I have on Matthew Bower and multiply it by 10, and you have my affection for Michael Gira. The man is, in my ever so humble opinion, one of the five greatest songwriters ever, and while this is no How I Loved You, it is yet another sparkling addition to the Angels catalogue. A lot was made of the band's split with Akron/Family, also made this year, and I felt like this didn't get anywhere near the coverage it should've. If you were unaware of the record's existence or just have yet to get your hands on it, then it's time to get off your ass, folks.

11. Six Organs of Admittance - School of the Flower (psychedelic post-rock type stuff)
Has anyone else been as busy this decade as Ben Chasny? Six Organs of Admittance has released six albums, gone through 3 record labels (finally landing and releasing this album on the terrific Drag City), and Chasny's joined Comets on Fire, who've quickly overtaken Dead Meadow as today's most visible and acclaimed stoner rock band. This is my second favorite Six Organs record (behind Dark Noontide), and it shows exactly why I (and so many other people) think they're one of the best groups out there today: beautiful melodies, rhythms, and textures backing psychedelic guitar noodling. A CD you'll reach for a lot, whether you like "enhancing" your "musical experience" or not.

10. Kelley Polar - Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens (experimental poppy dance)
Fuck any haters, I have a serious boner for this album. I've been a fan of Metro Area's club-ready music for a little while now, and when I heard Kelley Polar, whose quartet performed the string arrangements on the aforementioned group's releases, was dropping an album, I jumped all over it and fell in love. AMG says this album sounds like what would happen if The Free Design covered The Human League, and I couldn't agree more. The album is a lot more danceable than anything from 2003's dancepunk revolution, but never sacrifices the cerebral mood that one comes to expect of an album of this aesthetic. Highly recommended to anyone who hasn't heard it, as if I had to tell you that giving the album's position on my countdown.

9. Edan - Beauty and the Beat (rap)
2005 saw me really embrace Dirty South hip-hop as the best and most fun form of popular music out there right now, but there is no way anyone will be able to convince me that this isn't the best fucking rap album out this year. Yeah, the guy's white. Yeah, it could probably be called "backpacker." Doesn't matter. The man has a flow that makes "contemporaries" like Aesop Rock seem absolutely elementary in comparison, and his production here easily trumps anything Madlib has ever done. This is, a biased list - if this record was about blunts, 40s, and bitches, it would probably be #1, because no album made me nod my head as consistently as this. #9 is a pretty great consolation prize, though, and it's not like I put any rappers ahead of him.

8. Boris - Pink (fuzzed out metalish stuff)
It's Boris. What more do you want me to say? Fast, balls out rock at its finest.

7. Crowpath - Son of Sulphur (metal)
You didn't think I was just going to let Boris put out an album in Japan and take metal album of the year did you? No, this is what I think of when I think of metal: brutality, destruction, death, and insanity unrivaled by any band I know of. Crowpath's newest album is every bit as great as their earlier stuff, and fans of tech metal need to look nowhere else to find what they're looking for. There's even a couple tracks towards the end of the album (including the 7 minute final track) drift away from the fast, non-stop attack that typifies Crowpath's sound, but the album is no weaker because of the variations.

6. Aloof Proof - Inside the Quiet (ambient)
The other study album. Quite a change of pace from Crowpath, this Aloof Proof record was recommended by several people, and I'm very, very happy I decided to give it a listen. A spacious record, as is expected when one sees the ambient qualifier, the record is three pretty different tracks that mesh into one cohesive whole, shifting from the full ambient sound of the Jan Jelinek record I mentioned above to a much, much more minimal sound more like the most spare Aphex Twin recordings.

5. Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabete - In the Heart of the Moon (African folk)
A very different record from many of Toure's discography, this album sees the celebrated guitarist taking a much more laid back approach to finger-picking than much of his work does, as he plays most of this record as an equal partner to Diabete's magnificent kora. The end result is a stunning work, perhaps surpassing SMiLE and Music in 12 Parts as the best release ever on Nonesuch, one that I went to time and time again the latter half of this year. The sparse nature of the album (which is, except for a few tracks Ry Cooder [among others] plays on, nothing but acoustic guitar and kora) never becomes tedious, and it's one whose only bounds are those inside of your head - a truly expansive work.

4. Jack Rose - Kensington Blues (space/psych/instrumental folk)
The title of this album is a bit misleading; those expecting some sort of bluesy feel are gonna be a bit disappointed, as - seriously - Rose can only sound so much like John Fahey. Anyone who knows what to expect from Rose is going to be beyond into this, though, as this is just as brilliant as the two expansive and spacey records of guitar-only folk that preceded it. I've used the word "beautiful" a lot already, but nothing else describes this quite right. There's a majesty here that wasn't present anywhere else in '05, and Jack Rose really separates himself from his dark folk contemporaries - as if he really needed to - with this album.

3. The Psychic Paramount - Gamelan into the Mink Supernatural (psych)
I'm not even gonna try to out-do old_danube on describing this album. Everything he said rings true to me, too, so if you want, find his year-end wrap-up and pretend I said all of that.

2. Colleen - The Golden Morning Breaks (ethereal post-rock)
A lot has been made of the cover art of this album, which shows a fairy petting a unicorn. Yes, it is just about the gayest shit ever. No matter what your opinion on unicorns, fairies, or faggots is, though, there is no way you can debate the allure of this album. The most dreamlike, lulling, and sweet thing recorded all year, this album simply must be heard through headphones. When you hear it that way, it's like Colleen is playing in your house to you personally, and there's something about that with this album that is completely untouchable and indescribable. I played this album for a number of different reasons - when I wanted to sleep, when I was studying, or just when I wanted to relax. Absolutely wonderful, it gets the highest recommendation I'm capable of giving.

1. Windy & Carl - Dream House/Dedications to Flea (space)
Okay, fuck you, I'm biased. This was the first album in 4 years from one of my all time favorite space rock bands, and goddamnit, half of the fucking album is their tribute to their dead dog, which hits all the right heartstrings within me. Be that as it may, this is their best album yet. While their droning, expansive feel was always a wonder to behold, Windy & Carl's sound was never as organic and tangible as it is here. This record bleeds through your speakers with heart and soul, an atmospheric record that is as touching as it is soothing and relaxing. At a time in music when so much stuff that is similar to this is made by machines, it's nice to see this expert band give drone rock a human touch, and I don't think they could've possibly made the record any better.

There are, of course, honorable mentions:
The Go-Betweens - Oceans Apart (indie)
Thuja - Pine Cone Temples (weird)
Antony and the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now (lounge)
The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree (singer-songwriter)
David Banner - Certified (rap)
Three Six Mafia - Most Known Unknown (rap)
Watchmaker - Erased from the Memory of Man (metal)
Dove Yellow Swans - Life During War Crimes (noise)
Excepter - Throne (noise)

And how about some reissues from this year:
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane - At Carnegie Hall (not technically a reissue, but one of the finest records in either performers catalogue)
Emergency - Homage to Peace (free jazz)
Dave Burrell - After Love (free jazz)
And how about reissues of albums from two of my favorite bands, The Stooges and Funkadelic?

I know I bitched all year about what a shitty year for music it was, but after doing this, wow, it really wasn't that bad. Anyway, hope you all enjoyed.
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