Picks 50 to 31

    Picking the best music of the year should be an easy task, an off-the-top-of-your-head, closed-note, five-minute exercise. But 2005 was a little bastard. It wasn’t that it was a bad year for music; on the contrary, there were hundreds of high-quality albums flying around Prefix HQ this year.


    The problem is that there were lots of really great releases, but not a lot of really really great releases. Which means there were lots of really, really great arguments in the staff lounge. Every time some thirsty scribes left the comfort of their heated leather desk chairs to get themselves a grape Fanta, they were made the unwilling target of dirty looks, flying erasers and harsh words. Voices were raised, self-images were shattered and a generation of mothers had their reputations dragged through the mud. (Tragically, a portion of this torment took place on “Bring Your Mother to Work Day.”)


    We gave Kraftwerk’s Minimum-Maximum a 4.5 rating back in June. But we disqualified live records, so you won’t see it on our list. (One writer won’t be seeing anything after she got a paper clip in the eye during the resultant riot that broke out shortly after that announcement was made.) And though nearly all of us agreed that Iron & Wine’s Woman King was some of the best music Sam Beam has ever penned, we decided EPs weren’t eligible this year either. We can apologize to Mr. Beam here with the written word, but we felt obliged to ask one staffer to enroll in anger management counseling after, in protest, she lodged the jewel case of Beam’s record in a coworker’s nether regions.


    We endured all of this physical and emotional carnage to bring you, dear Prefixers, our guide to the best music of 2005. There may be a hidden gem or two in there for you to discover, or perhaps you’ll learn to look at an album you once glossed over in a new light. Read on and enjoy. If you need us, we’ll be in the group-therapy room.





    50. Thunderbirds Are Now!: Justamustache [French Kiss]


    Bloc Party might be weightier, Q and Not U smarter and the Futureheads more lovable, but Thunderbirds Are Now! is the most fun of the danceable post-punk bands that’ve sprung up over the last few years. There’s just no denying the sloppy hooks that barb every Technicolor song on Justamustache. If momentum were currency, these guys could buy out Bill Gates and still have enough to send a case of Cristal to every member of Broken Social Scene and the Wu-Tang Clan. ~Etan Rosenbloom

    (Audio/Video Streams)



    49. Black Mountain: Black Mountain [Jagjaguwar]


    For those of us who love Black Sabbath, garage bands and dive bars. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club asked a few years ago “whatever happened to my rock ‘n’ roll,” and Black Mountain found it. Gritty, immediate and loaded with riffs. ~Lee Fullington

    “Druganaut” (MP3)



    48. Antony & The Johnsons: I Am A Bird Now [Secretly Canadian] 


    This year’s Mercury Prize winner gave us a beautiful collection of songs that dared to explore issues of gender and identity candidly and sincerely. Alongside Antony’s haunting vocals, this frankness forms one of the most affecting albums to come out in years. ~Justin Sheppard

    “Hope There’s Someone” (MP3)


    47. Constantines: Tournament of Hearts [Sub Pop]


    One of few bands that sounds flawless both live and on record. I have to stop whatever I’m doing when I put on a Constantines record. Aggressive but less punk than 2003’s Shine a Light, this is the album that displays Bryan Webb’s voice at its best: a commanding bark with an inexplicably soft, comforting feel that adapts perfectly to the most intense or melodic songs. I’ve listened to this album more than any other on my list this year.

    ~China Bialos

    “Love in Fear” (Stream)



    46. Platinum Pied Pipers: Triple P [Ubiquity]


    I thought about making this my number one, and I still think a case can be made. Waajeed is a beast on the MPC, and nobody came harder with the drums than he did on this record. He takes rugged backdrops and throws singers over top of that to create a sound all his own. Tiombe Lockhart is one of the most talented and interesting singers working today, and Georgia Ann is set to make noise over at Stones Throw. If you told me one of the illest songs I’d hear all year featured a white girl rapping about “Detroit Winter,” I would have laughed in your face, but that piano alone will give you the chills. The joint with Sa-Ra makes dance floors happy, and “Stay With Me” keeps beds warm. Highly underrated and heavily recommended. If you still have doubts, see Waajeed and Saadiq and their band live and you’ll come away a believer. Trust. ~Bryan Whitefield




    45. Eluvium: Talk Amongst the Trees [Temporary Residence]


    Sunday mornings: water, an ibuprofen breakfast, and waves and waves of Matthew Cooper’s guitar that have been processed into an unrecognizable climax. Kills any lingering hangover situation, but early enough to enjoy the rest of these Zeppelin-length epic pieces. ~Dominic Umile

    “New Animals From the Air” (MP3)


    44. Out Hud: Let Us Never Speak of It Again [Kranky]


    Let Us Never Speak of It Again conveys the impression of movement from start to finish. The songs evolve organically as the band adds new layers and wrinkles, constantly shifting the sound while maintaining the groove. ~Alan Alderman

    “It’s for You” (MP3)

    43. Z-Ro: Let the Truth Be Told [KMJ]


    Tragically underrated in an all-around weak year for hip-hop. After all the press for Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Paul Wall and Bun B, I guess there wasn’t room for the best rapper in Houston this year. This record will only grow in stature, believe me. (Album stream) ~Matthew Gasteier



    42. Sharon Jones: Naturally [Daptone]


    Jones’s fiery voice revives the passion that infuses soul classics from back in the day. That it sounds like it could have been a lost relic from the Motown glory days is a compliment; that it shines bright on its own in 2005 is an even greater one. ~Mike Krolak

     “How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?” (MP3)


    41. The Hold Steady: Separation Sunday [French Kiss]

    By far the year’s most refreshing and innovative release. Craig Finn’s low-life odyssey swirls through religion, relationships, drugs and parties with a bar-rock background so hook-heavy it’d give Bob Pollard a hangover.  ~Kevin Dolak

    “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” (MP3)


    40. Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better [Domino]

    Arguably stronger than the group’s debut, You Could Have It So Much Better proved Franz Ferdinand deserving of the hype.
    ~Josiah Hughes
    “Do You Want To” (Clip)

    39. Deadelus: Exquisite Corpse [Mush]

    Quiet, mournful and knowing, Daedelus’s quickly forgotten record was sadly neglected due to its shaggy appearance and strange non-cohesion. Play after 2 a.m. alone and afraid. ~Matthew Gasteier

    “Dearly Departed” (Clip)



    38. Devendra Banhart: Cripple Crow [XL]


    A little long, but it nearly sounds authentic as a 1960s folk album that incorporates perfect amounts of soul and Spanish folk. And it’s less pretentious than a Banhart record should be, making it the perfect place to start for anyone looking to get into the bearded one’s music. ~China Bialos

    (Album stream)



    37. Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Matt Sweeney: Superwolf [Drag City]


    Supposedly the product of a songwriting challenge made by Will Oldham, this collaboration seemed strange enough on paper. But Oldham’s often-sardonic lyrics and musical quirks benefited from Sweeney’s steady presence and occasional injections of aggression. The album reaches heights Oldham hasn’t reached since 1999’s I See a Darkness. ~Justin Sheppard

    “Beast for Thee” (Stream)



    36. Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine [Epic/Clean Slate]


    Does the Jon Brion debate even matter? Point is, the translucent chanteuse is back, and on either version, she’s still doing what she always did best: turning dull, happy days into eloquently sad ones. ~Theo Schell-Lambert

    Streaming (Audio)



    35. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah [Self-released]


    Despite the utter turn-off of blowing live, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s debut still managed to strike a strong nerve in the indie-rock world and gave us perhaps the fastest transformation of any band from being annoyingly hip to being annoyingly un-hip. ~Andrew Bradick

    “Tidal Wave” (MP3)



    34. Broken Social Scene: Broken Social Scene [Arts & Crafts]


     ï¿½ Or what happens when Canadians have studio equipment and too much time on their hands ~Aaron Richter




    33. Mahjongg: Raydoncong 2005 [Cold Crush]


    Why this band hasn’t taken over the world is beyond me. All right, that’s not actually true. Mahjongg doesn’t dominate the globe because its members don’t feel the need to tour constantly, do massive press or push people into loving their gloriously complicated art. Or perhaps they know most people aren’t ready for this music, which sounds one minute like it came from another planet and the next like that little, near-perfect something for anyone who enjoys Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Magnetic Fields, Gang of Four or any other number of fantastic and talented artists. Go ahead and let these songs drift away into obscurity, but don’t start hailing this as a lost classic twenty years from now. After all, some of us actually were listening, and you were warned. ~Austin L. Ray

    “Fractal” (MP3



    32. The Decemberists: Picaresque [Kill Rock Stars]

    Literate story-songs sung in Colin Meloy’s distinct plea, Picaresque is the rare album that takes you to a time and place lodged in the history and literature books you never read, and makes the journey as good as the reward. ~Matt Liebowitz

    “The Engine Driver” (MP3)



    31. Cage: Hell’s Winter [Def Jux]

    The original prince of drug rap is back with a provocative release, delving into (amongst other things) his abusive relationship with his heroin-addicted stepdad, with George Bush and with domestic politics, and he even serves up a piece of his New York State of Mind with El-P, Blockhead and DJ Shadow supplying the raw product. ~Rafael Martinez

    (Album Stream)


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