Friday, January 06, 2006

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Favorite Music of 2005

I'm a sucker for year-end lists. If anyone wants to post lists of 2005 favorites--movies, books, TV shows, restaurants, or whatever--feel free. I'd like to read 'em. I especially love music, and year-end lists of music, so here are my Top 20 new releases of music from the past year.

1) M. Ward/ Transistor Radio
This record is like finding a radio in the attic that transmits from some decades back in time, from some other place, with each twist of the knob. It creates its own absorbing little world of whimsical folk country blues that's good either for a laugh, a drive around town, quiet late nights, or days when you just don't feel like getting out of bed. It speaks to me in so many ways. I just couldn't say enough good things about M. Ward's music.

2) Miles Davis/ The Cellar Door Sessions, 1970
A new release from the vaults documenting 6 sets from a live gig in Washington, DC, December 1970, while Miles and his band were inventing music of the future. Damn funkiest jazz-rock jam band there ever was. It still sounds brand-new but timeless today, like it could still yet be recorded tomorrow. So exciting. I can get lost in this music.

3) Thelonious Monk & John Coltrane/ At Carnegie Hall
A newly discovered tape from the Library of Congress archives, documenting a night in 1957 when Monk was on top of his game and Coltrane was justing coming into his own. A miracle.

4) The White Stripes/ Get Behind Me Satan
I wish more popular rock bands today had this much talent, this much ambition to explore their powers, and could have this much fun finding out where it all leads.

5) Bettye LaVette/ I've Got My Own Hell to Raise
A soul singer from Detroit, whose voice sounds weathered by long experience, complimented by minimalist arrangements that bring together influences and labels like black & white, country & blues, rock & soul, and she finally transcends them all. If you like the late period Johnny Cash records produced by Rick Rubin, or maybe covers of country songs by Ray Charles and Al Green, check this out.

6) Binary Dolls/ Too Much Thinking Sinks Ships
Really one of the most dynamic and surprising rock bands I've heard in recent years. Bound by no structures, and yet they have hooks and melodies that I hear in my sleep. I hope they win over the world someday.

7) Daddy G/ DJ Kicks
A former member of Massive Attack compiles a mix of his favorite R&B and reggae tracks. This ruled my summer.

8) Wilco/ Kicking Television: Live in Chicago
I still miss Jay Bennett, but it's a great show that improves every song from A Ghost is Born. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" just kills.

9) Amadou & Mariam/ Dimanche a Bamako
A duo from Mali. Afro-pop that pulls in influences from the Americas as well. Fun, inventive, makes me feel happy.

10) Brad Mehldau/ Day Is Done
The pianist hired himself a new drummer who gives his music more drive, a better focus. Still lyrical, impressionistic, delicate, beautiful. His cover of "Martha My Dear" is a favorite.

11) Sigur Rós/ Takk....
What kind of magical, alien land must give birth to musicians like Björk, múm, and Sigur Rós?

12) The Campbell Brothers/ Can You Feel It?
Sacred steel houserockin' music. If you like Robert Randolph & the Family Band or slide guitar in general, check this out.

13) Stereolab/ Oscillons from the Anti-Sun
A compilation of EP's and B-sides from one of my favorite bands. Never short for fresh sounds, weird beauty, or inspiration.

14) Thievery Corporation/ The Cosmic Game
The chill-out outernationalist musicologists return with more dub travelogues. Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips guests on the lead track. Not quite up to the level of their classic The Richest Man in Babylon, but still hits the spot.

15) Ben Harper/ Live at the Apollo
A concert with the Blind Boys of Alabama. Gospel soul.

16) Cannonball Adderley/ Money in the Pocket
A new discovery of Cannonball live in 1966. Brimming with soul and good feeling, as always.

17) Breakestra/ Hit the Floor
An old school funk party, y'all.

18) Keith Jarrett/ Radiance
Beautiful, reflective, intrepid, solo piano improvisations.

19) Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up
A compilation of singles from the Belize music scene. Right up your alley if you like reggae and other Caribbean music.

20) Jamiroquai/ Dynamite
Groovy '70s retro acid jazz. Probably their best since their '96 hit.