Pazz & Jop 2005

The results of the Village Voice’s critics’ poll are out, and not surprisingly, Kanye West’s Late Registration finished at No. 1. Personally, I don’t think West’s music is all that great — I can hear some innovative musical layers on his record, and some of the songs are very strong, but as a whole, it just doesn’t click with me. Then again, I know I’m not the best judge of hip-hop.

For the second year, I got a chance to vote in this poll. Here are the albums and singles I voted for, and the places where they ended up in the overall poll. I knew some of my choices would fall way down on the list, while others would place high. As it turned out, four of my top 10 album choices made the poll’s top 20. The singles list is always more difficult for me to decide on. What is a single these days, anyway? Since you can buy practically any song as a download, I consider any track on an album from last year eligible for the singles list. Hence, my list is more like a list of favorite songs than a list of the best radio hits of 2005. That said, I did try to choose a few songs that were the “singles” or videos from albums that I liked. Only one of my choices made Pazz & Jop’s top 10 singles.

1. Sleater-Kinney, The Woods — 4
2. Amadou & Mariam, Dimanche a Bamako — 13
3. Devin Davis, Lonely People of the World, Unite! — 343
4. Sons and Daughters, The Repulsion Box — 192
5. Andrew Bird, The Mysterious Production of Eggs — 49
6. The Go! Team, Thunder Lightning Strike — 19
7. M. Ward, Transistor Radio — 104
8. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois — 3
9. Brakes, Give Blood – 254
10. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Naturally – 77

1. Sleater-Kinney, “Jumpers” — 112
2. Robbie Fulks, “Georgia Hard” – 536*
3. Gorillaz/De La Soul, “Feel Good Inc.” – 4
4. Devin Davis, “Giant Spiders” – 536*
5. The Go! Team, “Ladyflash” – 183
6. Spoon, “Sister Jack” – 60
7. Sons and Daughters, “Dance Me In” – 235
8. The New Pornographers, “Twin Cinema” – 235
9. M. Ward, “Radio Campaign” – 536*
10. Andrew Bird, “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” – 536*

* — I was the only critic to vote for these songs.

Click here to go to the Voice’s Pazz & Jop page, which has the complete list of winning albums and singles, individual critics’ ballots and essays. Here’s my ballot at the site…

Best Music of 2005


1. Sleater-Kinney, The Woods
2. Amadou & Mariam, Dimanche a Bamako
3. Devin Davis, Lonely People of the World, Unite!
4. Sons and Daughters, The Repulsion Box
5. Andrew Bird, The Mysterious Production of Eggs
6. The Go! Team, Thunder Lightning Strike
7. M. Ward, Transistor Radio
8. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois
9. Brakes, Give Blood
10. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Naturally

It’s a mix-and-match age, with both musicians and music fans mashing together genres like never before. Just about any style of music that’s ever been played seems like fair game these days for reinvention.
The hottest rock bands of the last few years haven’t strayed too far from their ’70s and ’80s punk and new wave influences, beyond the occasional ’60s garage-rock homage. But other musicians dug deeper into musical history and came up with incredible soul and funk (Sharon Jones and Bettye Lavette), country (Robbie Fulks), power pop (Devin Davis) and folk-rock, blues and the Great American Songbook (all rolled into one, in the form of genius songwriter M. Ward).

Despite their sometimes obvious historical influences, the best albums this year didn’t really sound like anything we’ve heard before. Orchestral pop music has been done many times, but never quite like Sufjan Stevens on his majestic “Illinois” or one-man symphony Andrew Bird on his “Mysterious Production of Eggs.”

No one epitomized the idea of the musical blender better than The Go! Team, creating a crazy quilt of styles that was both artful and incredibly fun. Mali’s Amadou & Mariam, with help from producer Manu Chao, also achieved a colorful fusion of styles and sounds.

Sons and Daughters and another band from the U.K., Brakes, are the latest generation in the punk family tree, but they rose above their influences with an eccentric sense of timing — and, especially in the case of Brakes, a keen sense of humor.

Sleater-Kinney also transcended its punk roots and dared to sound bigger and more dramatic — almost like a classic-rock band in the vein of Led Zeppelin. The result was “The Woods,” an album of reckless and intense power. It’s what rock ‘n’ roll is all about.

TOP 20
11. Thelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane — At Carnegie Hall
12. Black Mountain — Black Mountain
13. Robbie Fulks — Georgia Hard
14. The New Pornographers — Twin Cinema
15. Gorillaz — Demon Days
16. Brazilian Girls — Brazilian Girls
17. Bettye Lavette — I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise
18. LCD Soundsystem — LCD Soundsystem
19. Low — The Great Destroyer
20. Marianne Faithfull — Before the Poison

TOP 100
in alphabetical order… but subject to change any second. There are so many other albums from 2005 I needed to spend more time with. My oversights vastly outnumber this list.

Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno — Iao Chant from the Cosmic Inferno
Alice Texas — Sad Days
American Analog Set — Set Free
Antibalas — Government Magic
Fiona Apple — Extraordinary Machine
Nic Armstrong & the Thieves — The Greatest White Liar
Art Brut — Bang Bang Rock ‘n’ Roll
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — Howl
Blind Boys of Alabama — Atom Bomb
Blue Rodeo — Are You Ready
Bright Eyes — I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
Broadcast — Tender Buttons
Kate Bush — Aerial
The Caesars — Paper Tigers
Laura Cantrell — Humming by the Flowered Vine
Caribou — The Milk of Human Kindness
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The Clientele — Strange Geometry
John Coltrane — One Up, One Down: Live at the Half Note
Constantines — Tournament of Hearts
Ry Cooder — Chávez Ravine
Danger Doom — The Mouse and the Mask
The Detroit Cobras — Baby
Dogs — Turn Against This Land
Dr. Dog — Easy Beat
Bob Dylan — No Direction Home: The Soundtrack
The Fleshtones — Beachhead
Flotation Toy Warning — Bluffer’s Guide to the Flightdeck
Four Tet — Everything
Edith Frost — It’s a Game
Great Lake Swimmers — Bodies and Minds
Great Lake Swimmers — Great Lake Swimmers
Ed Harcourt — Strangers
Richard Hawley — Coles Corner
The Hold Steady — Separation Sunday
I Am Kloot — Gods and Monsters
Ida — Heart Like a River
Seu Jorge — Cru
Damien Jurado — On My Way to Absence
The Kingsbury Manx — The Fast Rise and Fall of the South
Konono No. 1 — Congotronics
Kronos Quartet with Asha Bhosle — You’ve Stolen My Heart
Louis XIV — The Best Little Secrets Are Kept
Magnolia Electric Co. — Trials and Errors
Magnolia Electric Co. — What Comes After the Blues
Matt Mays and El Torpedo — Matt Mays and El Torpedo
Mercury Rev — The Secret Migration
MIA — Arular
Chris Mills — The Wall to Wall Sessions
The Moaners — Dark Snack
Moonbabies — War on Sound
Bob Mould — Body of Song
My Morning Jacket — Z
Okkervil River — Black Sheep Boy
Oneida — The Wedding
Graham Parker — Songs of No Consequence
The Ponys — Celebration Castle
Portastatic — Bright Ideas
The Reigning Sound — Home for Orphans
The Ike Reilly Assassination — Junkie Faithful
Amy Rigby — Little Fugitive
Rouge Wave — Descended Like Vultures
Anoushka Shankar — Rise
The Sights — The Sights
Son Volt — Okemah and the Melody of Riot
South San Gabriel — The Carlton Chronicles: Not Until the Operation’s Through
Spoon — Gimme Fiction
Bruce Springsteen — Devils & Dust
Stars — Set Yourself on Fire
Teenage Fanclub — Man-Made
Boubacar Traoré — Kongo Magni
Chad Vangaalen — Infiniheart
Various Artists — World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love’s a Real Thing: The Funky Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa
Laura Veirs — Year of Meteors
Waco Brothers — Freedom and Weep
Warsaw Village Band — Uprooting
Paul Weller — As Is Now
Wilco — Kicking Television: Live in Chicago
Wolf Parade — Apologies to the Queen Mary
Youth Group — Skeleton Jar