TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2005
1. BOB DYLAN: The Bootleg Series, Volume 7: No Direction Home (The
Twenty-eight tracks, all but two previously unissued. From 1959's unaffected
warmth to 1966's brittle vibrancy, his vocals are as prodigiously agile as
his songwriting; meanwhile, the playing moves from living room to garage to the
highway to the stage, bringing his punky, psychedelic proclivities further
into the spotlight, and over the moon, but never far from the blues (or rap).
2. JAMES CARTER, CYRUS CHESNUT, ALI JACKSON, REGINALD VEAL:
Gold Sounds (Brown Brothers )
Saxologist James Carter, and his fellow mellow mad scientists of jazz,
alchemize light from the guardedly festive tunes of alternative rock icons Pavement
(sans sometimes cryptic, sidewalk graffiti lyrics).
3. JASON MORAN: Same Mothers (Blue Note)
Unlike many young jazz pianists, Jason Moran is less influenced by the
emphatic lyricism of McCoy Tyner than by the mercurial speculations of Andrew Hill,
who also co-composed some of the tracks on this album. Here, hellhound-chasin'
Jason introduces his agile (and hip-hop savvy) trio to the acoustic and
electric blues guitars of Marvin Sewell (previously and more sedately employed by
4. DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: J'ai Deux Amours (Sovereign Artists)
Jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater's Deux Amours are her birthplace, America,
and her "healing place," France. Despite recent disputes over Iraq, she tempts
both loves to get back together, over a sumptuous repast of French songs
(mostly untranslated, but you'll read her lips).
5. SHELLY FAIRCHILD: Ride (Sony)
Country newcomer Shelly Fairchild shows us her hope chest, which is full of
soul, but some folks don't think she's enough of a lady. Mercy!
6. THE HOLD STEADY: Separation Sunday (Frenchkiss)
Blame NAFTA, CAFTA, bad schools, and/or Classic Rock radio, but here's a
concept album, maybe even a rock opera, about young lives lived in retro. Of
course, all kids tend to think their problems are new, but on Separation Sunday
they get to squawk about the same old dramas (and get me trotting after the pack-a-day narrator), in brilliantly grubby musical
cartoons, drawn from the ink of The Who, early Bruce Springsteen, primetime
Replacements, Lifter Puller(?), and others.
7. Miranda Lambert: Kerosene (Sony) Next to Shelly's, country debut of the year. Anyone who looks like that can't be getting *all* her well-utilized songwriting scenarios from her private detective parents' files, Ah feel sure.
8. SLUNT: Get A Load Of This (Repossession)
Certain punks once ranted about the "female rule" of Thatcherized Britain.
Wonder if they've since gotten a load of Slunt, who (like Sleater-Kinney) state
the "female rule" of the best recent punk: Mother knows best, and Abby
Gennett's got a lot of cunning stunts to prove it, and here she lets favorite son Pat
Harrington play state of the art guitar, on a long (enough) leash.
9. PATRICIA VONNE: Guitars And Castanets (Bandalera)
Despite the title, the flamenco bits are interludes between songs often best
described as firecrackers tossed into a Southwestern quarry from a runaway
orecart. Appropriately, Patricia is the lil sister of Robert Rodriguez, director
of El Mariachi and Desperado.
10.SANSO EXTRO: Sentimentalist (Type)
I'm tempted to say that "Sanso-Extro (AKA Melissa Agate) is the Madame Curie
of laptop electronica." But Madame only discovered radium, while
Xantro-Extro's eerie microscopic sounds behave more like some kind of musical lifeforms,
fed by all kinds of instruments, acoustic as well as electronic.