Staff Picks (Part 3 of 5)

     

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    Click here for Prefix’s Best of 2005 / Prefix Best of 2004 / Prefix Best of 2003

    Staff Picks Page 1Page 2, Page 4, Page 5

     


    Dominic Umile
    10. 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.

     

    9. Ghislain Poirier: Breakupdown [Chocolate Industries]

    Poirier’s
    arrangement of laser squeals and stitched-together mini-symphonies is
    startlingly abrasive and shattering, even upon first listen. His
    technical prowess provided a fitting soundtrack for 2005. Christ, the
    techy, bleep-heavy beats on this album are dope.

     

    8. Various Artists: Run the Road [Vice]

    Vicious
    London-bred emcees over scraping, dub-heavy beats. They call out their
    peers into the street or onto the dance floor, rattling off verses at
    head-splitting speed. Sharp, striking and criminally above the beats
    and rhymes put out in the United States in 2005.

     

    7. Bloc Party: Silent Alarm [Vice]

    Rock
    at dizzying, confident speeds, with energy surging in each moment. By
    the time this storm of great hooks, drums and frantic vocals blows into
    the last track, it’s as if a train has whirled by – a big ol’ English
    train with side panels that say “We’ve beaten you again.”

     

    6. Boards of Canada: The Campfire Headphase [Warp]

    Always
    a marketing campaign for vintage synths and warbled tape reels, Boards’
    latest also travels into sparse application of guitars and such. The
    results are stunning: electronic pieces that are warm enough to bake
    pies in. Mmm, that’s some delicious shit. Let’s have another.

     

    5. M.I.A.: Arular [XL]

    The
    Sri Lankan Londoner’s back story is only part of this compelling force.
    Whether it was her homemade demo’s beats, her homemade wardrobe, or her
    obviously homemade dance routines, Maya Arulpragasm plowed into this
    year’s elitist indie in-crowd with unstoppable momentum.

     

    4. Four Tet: Everything Ecstatic [Domino]

    Drums,
    drums, and more drums. Kieran Hebden sheds the unfortunate genre name
    he’s been branded with and unloads a closet full of acid-washed beats –
    some soul, some pop, all good.

     

    3. Dr. Dog: Easy Beat [National Parking]

    Refreshingly
    drunk swampy psyche rock, with a blunted snare that sounds as if it
    were recorded on a screened-in porch. In fact, this is the kind of shit
    I would listen to on my porch, with a pipe and a glass of lemonade.
    Then I would chase little bastard kids off my property. “Get off my
    property,” I’d say. “This isn’t a park,” I’d say next.

     

    2. Clue to Kalo: One Way, It’s Every Way [Mush]

    Aussie Mark Mitchell’s explorations of the Byrds and bedroom electronica culminate in One Way,
    and the results are metaphorical and filled with superlatives, like a
    ‘best of’ list compiled on deadline by an individual who instead wishes
    to be out gorging himself (himself, myself, whoever) on delicious
    ice-cold beers. Mitchell’s romps are through dimly lit, dampened fields
    at dawn, layered to great extent with vocals upon sunny vocals, guitar,
    thick organ chords, and occasional programmed beers. I mean “beats.”

     

    1. Stars: Set Yourself on Fire [Arts & Crafts]

    There are little musical ideas that pop in on Set Yourself on Fire and
    never return. Then there are items that pop in on these elaborately
    gorgeous songs that resonate for the album’s length, so that moments in
    “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” stay with each subsequent track, never failing
    to remind us in “Ageless Beauty” or “One More Night” that another
    listen is imperative: There isn’t a cymbal to be missed. Delicate,
    lush, flawless.

     


    Etan Rosenbloom


    1. Sufjan Stevens
    : Illinois [Asthmatic Kitty]

    There
    were albums this year that rocked harder, albums that made me happier,
    albums I listened to more often. But when it comes down to it, none of
    them had nearly the emotional impact on me that Illinois had.
    It doesn’t matter that I’m not from the state in question, because
    Sufjan Stevens is a true universalist, using his subject matter to
    focus his profound observations on the human condition. It’s a minor
    miracle that such an ambitious album feels so simple, so whole.

     

    2. Feist: Let It Die [Interscope]

    While
    her bandmates in Broken Social Scene orchestrate passion in huge,
    sloppy strokes, Leslie Feist strips her songs to their barest elements,
    dressing them up just so much that they don’t get cold when they go
    out. If Feist weren’t such an excellent songwriter, if she were any
    less charismatic a singer, Let It Die‘s stylistic grab-bag
    might be a scattered mess. Instead each song shines in its own way,
    from the title track’s torchy heartbreak to the delirious pop bliss of
    “Mushaboom.” This was a great year for female singer-songwriter albums,
    and Feist released the best of them all. Let It Die is easily the album I listened to most this year.

     

    3. Common: Be [Geffen]

    Maybe
    in this age of bling and bloat, a concise album of straightforward
    rhymes and classy beats will stand out by default. But even out of
    context, Be is a quiet marvel of a record. Common spins his
    empathetic street-prophet yarns with a burnished flow that oozes
    sincerity, and Kanye West serves up some of the freshest productions of
    his career. The horns kick in on “Real People” like they’re testifying,
    and when guest vocalists John Legend and Bilal launch into the sublime
    duet at the end of “Faithful,” the heavens crack open for just a
    moment. Be isn’t revolutionary, and yet it still feels like a hip-hop classic.

     

    4. Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs [Righteous Babe]

    The Mysterious Production of Eggs is
    an album composed of tiny details: the way Bird’s whistling hangs in
    the background on “Sovay,” the elegant a cappella motet in “A Nervous
    Tic Motion of the Head to the Left,” the subtle violin layering
    throughout. Though they could easily float by unnoticed, take one away
    and the album’s effect wouldn’t be the same. Bird’s songs are wildly
    unconventional, but they sound comfortable and eerily familiar. A lot
    of that is his voice, a flexible and world-weary croon with the same
    emotional depth as the album itself.

     

    5. Cephalic Carnage: Anomalies [Relapse]

    Extreme
    metal bands aren’t noted for their subtlety. So how is it that this
    fourth platter of skull-crushery from Denver’s kings of hydro-grind
    keeps spewing out new ideas with each listen? The band masters every
    genre cliché, throws ’em all in a meat grinder and churns out twelve
    molten lumps of metallic blutwurst, flecked with chunks of hash. For a
    quintet of avowed pot enthusiasts (Exhibit A: lyrics of “Kill For
    Weed”), it’s amazing how controlled Cephalic Carnage sounds on Anomalies,
    like they could unleash a bowel-loosening doom riff or a blazing
    melodic chorus at any moment and it would still sound right. And they
    do.

     

    6. Fall of Troy: Döppelganger [Equal Vision]

    I
    hear all the same faults in this record I did when I first heard it –
    the passionless vocals, insipid emo lyrics and insistence on doing
    something novel in every single measure – but after many months, the
    thing is still welded in to my CD player. Fall of Troy is a very young
    band, neither wedded to hardcore tradition nor jaded enough to think
    that their prog-rock and emo influences aren’t cool. As a result, Doppelganger‘s über-complex screamo is joyous and virtuosic. Don’t believe the album title. Fall of Troy sounds like nobody else.

     

    7. Bad Dudes: Bad Dudes [Brain Burger]

    Even
    if it can’t compare to their raucous live show, the debut CD by the Bad
    Dudes (best band in Los Angeles, hands down) is fucking rad. Its
    impeccably composed new-wave video-game soundtracks are stuffed to the
    gills with hooks and harmonized fills, often delivered in hyperspeed
    bursts of syncopated fury. The album is expertly paced, too,
    alternating instrumental and vocal songs, slower and faster material,
    and wisely intermingling the many perfect tracks with the merely
    brilliant ones. At thirty-one minutes Bad Dudes is about seven
    hours too short. Make sure you’ve stretched and warmed up your voice
    before spinning it, ’cause you’re gonna want to jump around and yell.

     

    8. The Books: Lost and Safe [Tomlab]

    Listen to Lost and Safe at
    high volumes. Let it saturate your consciousness. Stop talking. Note
    how it seems more robotic than their previous albums. Note how it seems
    just as human as their previous albums. Think about what an achievement
    this is. Put “Smells Like Content” in the middle of every single mix
    you make this year. Wake up to this album every day. Go to sleep to it
    every night. If significant others do not enjoy it, dump them. Don’t
    explain why – they won’t understand. This album could be your life.

     

    9. DangerDoom: DangerDoom [Epitaph]

    While
    the rest of the indie hip-hop world raps about consciousness,
    relationships and politics, MF Doom prefers oddball wordplay (“sing a
    song of slap-happy crappiness/ he came to blow like it was strapped to
    his nappy chest”), non-sequiturs and shaggy-dog stories. DJ Danger
    Mouse is the perfect foil, wrapping Doom’s blunted flow in funky
    shag-carpet beats. And in a bizarre coup, the skits that feature
    characters from the Adult Swim Network never get tired. If there’s a
    loopier hip-hop album in existence, I don’t know if I could handle it.

     

    10. 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.

     

    11. Mark Dresser/Denman Maroney: Time Changes [Cryptogramophone]

    It’s
    rare for an instrumental album to be so complex and so simply beautiful
    at the same time. As the title implies, Time Changes is all about
    rhythm, with tricky time signatures rubbing against each other like
    shifting tectonic plates. But there’s not a whiff of academia in these
    off-kilter compositions. Mark Dresser’s contrabass is a living thing,
    throbbing and pouncing around Denman Maroney’s prickly piano excursions
    and Michael Sarin’s understated percussion. And when Alexandra Montano
    joins the fray with her sublime wordless vocals, Time Changes moves
    from merely wonderful to positively rapturous.

     

    12. The Red Chord: Clients [Metal Blade]

    The
    Red Chord play a grinding amalgam of death metal and hardcore that
    somehow never oppresses the ears like so many out-and-out brutal bands
    do. Clients was the most plainly ferocious album in my entire
    CD collection until I read the lyrics sheet and realized that the
    vocalist was saying silly shit like “I’m not a Democrat/ I’m a
    conversationalist/ If your aunt had balls/ she’d be your uncle.” Now
    it’s the silliest, most ferocious album in my collection.

     

    13. Ani DiFranco: Knuckle Down (Righteous Babe)

    For her fourteenth album, Ani DiFranco finds the perfect middle ground between the indulgence of Revelling:Reckoning (2001) and the stripped-down songcraft of Educated Guess (2004). Knuckle Down is
    an album of stillness and reflection – DiFranco means it when she muses
    “I think I communicate best now, the less I say” on the title track –
    but whatever it lacks in verve, it more than makes up for with a
    crystalline set of DiFranco’s most memorable tunes in years, elegantly
    packaged by producer Joe Henry. Fifteen years after she started paving
    her own way, DiFranco still can’t be touched.

     

    14. Barbez: Insignificance [Important]

    Shortening
    the distance in between the Russian gulag, Weimar-era Germany and
    Brooklyn’s loft scene, Barbez’s third album of disturbing art rock
    trickles and creaks and explodes in slow motion. With a singer as
    artfully deranged as Ksenia Vidyaykina, Insignificance doesn’t really need a marimba or theremin or modified Palm Pilot to deepen its weirdness. But it’s got ’em anyway.

     

    15. Between the Buried and Me: Alaska [Victory]

    Between
    the Buried and Me’s hyper-technical blend of every single metal genre
    is so tightly composed that it may as well be modern classical music.
    You can’t headbang to Between the Buried and Me, and you don’t really
    want to, otherwise you might miss something. The band’s third disc
    piles on the jagged riffs and ludicrously well-rehearsed tempo changes,
    even adding some keyboards and acoustic passages to differentiate it
    from the last two. And if you’re scared of blast-beats and death metal
    growling, be patient – there’s a melodic sweep-picking solo or emo
    chorus right around the corner, just for you.

     


    Bryan Whitefield


    1. Common
    : Be [Geffen]

    Okay,
    so there are songs on this album I listened to twice and never again,
    and I wish the two Dilla beats were more rugged (why “The Movement” was
    put on a video-game soundtrack instead of this album I’ll never know).
    But Common has a way of inspiring you and making his songs a part of
    your everyday life that is refreshing, especially coming from a hip-hop
    world obsessed with telling you about everything you’ll never have.
    Hip-hop got one of its favorite emcees back. Pretty much everyone I
    know bought this and bumped it everywhere they went this summer.

     

    2. Kanye West: Late Registration [Roc-A-Fella]

    Everyone’s
    got criticisms, and I was asked more than once to stick up for the
    record track by track. That’s difficult, but the ambition of this
    project overrides its faults. Kanye goes big and he doesn’t apologize
    for it, and the production value (courtesy of Jon Brion) may be higher
    than on any hip-hop album ever made (play one of these loop records
    next to this and it just sounds silly). This is Kanye upping the ante
    for musicianship in hip-hop – every track is plush and full and hits in
    all the right places (listen to “We Major” and tell me I’m wrong). He
    crafts rhymes based around the beat, which gives him an automatic
    advantage over eighty percent of the rappers out there today, and he
    drops some of the funniest lines all year (first verse on “Gone” still
    makes me laugh in three different places). And even when he says stupid
    shit (“I know the government administers AIDS”) he finds ways to make
    other points relevant (maybe if his grandmother was in the NBA she
    wouldn’t be on life support). Yeah, he’s arrogant as fuck, but he
    convinced everyone you know to buy the most important hip-hop album all
    year. And, honestly, who would you rather the kids were bumping: Kanye
    or 50? 

     

    3. 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.

     

    4. Edan: Beauty and the Beat [Lewis]

    With Beauty and the Beat
    Edan’s built a whole new machine combining Brit mod-rock chops with
    Cold Chillin’-sounding raps. This is easily some of the most innovative
    use of samples you’ll hear all year, and if you can get over Edan’s
    over-accented delivery you’re in for a real treat. Either way there is
    no denying the creativity behind this tightly wrapped package, from the
    cover art, to well chosen guest appearances, to seamless segues between
    tracks.

     

    5. Gilles Peterson Presents BBC Sessions Vol. 1 [RRM]

    Gilles
    Peterson has the world’s most influential radio show, but for some
    reason the BBC doesn’t archive it (Giant Step does). So to have on CD
    some of the very best live sessions from Beck, Bjork, the Roots,
    Common, Matthew Herbert, Roots Manuva and N.E.R.D is a real blessing.
    The real highlights are provided by Jazzmine Sullivan, Beth Gibbons and
    a crowd-pleasing version of Pharrell’s “Frontin’ ” by Jamie Cullum.
    Production/recording quality, sequencing and song selection are all
    top-shelf.

     

    6. David Axelrod: The Edge: David Axelrod at Capitol 19661970 [Blue Note]

    A
    fantastic and well-deserved reissue of some classic Axelrod gems –
    heavily sampled (Madlib, Diamond, Dr. Dre) for his full drums and
    cinematic soundscapes. This collects some of the best tracks from his
    infamous Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience
    albums and puts them together with some of his work with other artists,
    such as Lou Rawls and Cannonball Adderley. The word “genius” gets
    abused, but after listening to this comp, that’s the word that comes
    immediately to mind. Amazing.

     

    7. Andrew Bird: Mysterious Production of Eggs [Righteous Babe]

    I
    can’t say it any better than this: “His beginnings as a violinist long
    behind him, Chicago-born Andrew Bird has been sculpting ever more
    complex and convincing musical worlds since his first album in 1997. On
    his fifth release, Bird offers up no answers to the mysteries in the
    world around us but does take on the thornier elements with poetic
    verve. The instrumentation is bracingly inventive, but never for mere
    shenanigans or showmanship. The songs are each a perfectly formed
    vignette. And he’s a world-class whistler; not the loud summoning
    blast, but the supple and nuanced vibrato-laced melodicism of a master.
    There is no shortage of utterly riveting songs here. They work their
    magic on their own believable terms, without a hint of cloying
    nostalgia or riff-fueled seduction.” ~ David Greenberger

     

    8. Sam Prekop: Who’s Your New Professor? [Thrill Jockey]

    Like
    fine wine for audiophiles. This isn’t a whole lot different than what
    Prekop does with his band Sea & Cake, but there is a subtle jazz
    element that makes me favor this over some of the band’s excellent
    work. When I was riding trains through Europe this record won every
    time.

     

    9. P-Love: All Up in Your Mind [Ninja Tune]

    A
    great little bedroom-instrumental record that sounds great in your
    bedroom. Paolo Kapunan is a one-man army, playing and arranging almost
    everything on this record himself. Respect due.

     

    10. Maspyke: Static [ABB Soul]

    If
    you told me this album was made in 1995 and just now surfaced, I
    wouldn’t be surprised. These cats do the throwback thing a lot more
    thorough than most (including much-hyped labelmates) by sticking to the
    basics: one deejay, two emcees, beats, rhymes, punch lines, hooks and a
    steady bounce. You’re not going to hear me complaining.

     

    11. White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan [V2]

    12. Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine (Jon Brion version) [Epic/Clean Slate]

    13. Koushik: Be There [Stones Throw]

    14. Damian Marley: Welcome to Jamrock [Universal]

    15. LCD Soundsystem: LCD Soundsystem [DFA/Capitol]

    16. M.I.A.: Arular [XL]

    17. Prefuse 73: Surrounded by Silence [Warp]

    18. Blockhead: Downtown Science [Ninja Tune]

    19. Ohmega Watts: The Find [Ubiquity]

     

    Singles

    1. Kanye West “Late” [Roc-A-Fella]

    2. White Stripes “Denial Twist” [V2]

    3. Madlib/Quasimoto “Raw Addict 2” [Stones Throw]

    4. Spacek/Dilla “Dollar” [Sound in Color]

    5. Damian Marley “Welcome to Jamrock” [Universal]

    6. M.I.A. “Galang” [XL]

    7. Lil’ Kim “Lighters Up” [Atlantic]

    8. Young Jeezy w/Jay-Z “Go Crazy” (Remix) [Def Jam]

    9. Waajeed “Funk in the Hole” (Bling47 Roy Ayers Remix) [Rapster]

    10. Amerie “1 Thing” [Sony Urban Music/Columbia]

    11. Jneiro Jarel “Big Bounce Theory” [Rope-A-Dope]

    12. Rich Medina featuring Sy Smith “Can’t Hold Back” [Kindred Spirits]

    13. M.E.D./Madlib “Nightlife” [Stones Throw]

    14. Radio City “The Hop” [Ubiquity]

    15. LCD Soundsystem “Tribulations” [DFA/Capitol]

     


    China Bialos

    ·    Reissues

    Orange Juice: The Glasgow School [Domino]

    I’m cheating, considering that The Glasgow School is
    a compilation of previously released songs and not a re-release. But
    it’s taking the place of both obviously perfect Stooges reissues. And
    it deserves mention because Edwyn Collins, despite having one of the
    eeriest voices this side of Christopher Walken, can make me swoon like
    no other with songs such as “Louise Louise,” “Lovesick” and
    “Consolation Prize.”

     

    Dungen: Ta Det Lugnt [Expanded] [Kemado]

    Had
    this been released in 2005, it would have topped my list. The extra
    material is a perfect continuation of the original album (released in
    2004 by Subliminal Sounds): catchy but not poppy, unafraid to rock out
    but agreeable at any time of day. And Swedish.

     

    The Mirrors: A Green Dream [Birdman]

    While
    Greg Ashley was off releasing a new album with his band the Gris Gris
    and producing the debut for the Time Flys, Birdman Records re-released A Green Dream,
    which was released on vinyl in 2001 by Ashley’s former band, the
    Mirrors. The concept was the same as the Gris Gris’s – same style of
    retro psych-rock – but the Mirrors were a little rawer, a little
    dreamier, a little more Texan, and a lot less legal.

     

    ·    EPs:

    Psychic Paramount: Gamelan Into the Mink Supernatural [No Quarter]

    This
    appeared to receive absolutely no press, and it may be partially due to
    its lack of accessibility. Combining five songs (or blocks of thrashing
    noise) that blend together in an unyielding wall of guitar that goes
    forward and backward and forward again, the Psychic Paramount will make
    your ears bleed as long as you’ll let them.

     

    Clearlake: Wonder if the Snow Will Settle [Domino]

    One
    of the best bands to emerge from Britain, Clearlake boasts a vocalist
    with a beautifully thick voice and an EP that’s packed with more
    Christmas than the Chipmunks ever could have striven for.

     

    Iron and Wine: Woman King [Sub Pop]

    More Southern than anything Sam Beam’s released on his own and more tasteful than anything your boyfriend ever wrote for you.

     

    ·    Albums

    1. Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine [Epic]

    Yes,
    Jon Brion’s version flows more fluidly than Mike Elizondo’s and adds a
    playful, theatrical touch that’s not on the officially released album.
    But Elizondo’s stripped-down production only shows that Apple’s great
    songwriting ability is strong enough to make her stand out regardless
    of who works with her. I look forward to her next release, due in 2012.

     

    2. 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.

     

    3. Langhorne Slim: When the Sun’s Gone Down [Narnack]

    Anyone
    who claims to hate country music should listen to this. More punk than
    any band calling itself punk at the moment, Slim and his guitar have
    more energy than most children and four-piece bands can hope to. Every
    song is a standout – and great to sing along to.

     

    4. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois [Asthmatic Kitty]

    I have a difficult time listening to Illinois straight
    through because of its length and my need to be in the right mood, but
    every time I hear one of these tracks, I fall in love with Stevens all
    over again. And, no, it’s not just because he’s fucking gorgeous.

     

    5. Caribou: The Milk of Human Kindness [Domino]

    This is why the drums are my favorite instrument.

     

    6. 13 & God: 13 & God [Anticon]

    Anticon releases all sorts of goodies, but alongside Odd Nosdam’s Burner (also released this year) and Clouddead’s Ten (2004),
    this is probably one of the label’s best. It’s a great blend of
    electronic music and hip-hop (not to mention unmistakable Doseone
    vocals) for anyone not deeply into either genre, and it’s a record to
    listen to in one sitting, chilling through its entirety.

     

    7. The Gris Gris: For the Season [Birdman]

    Though not quite as addictive as the band’s 2004 self-titled debut, For the Season offers
    more experimentation and is more “psych” than “rock.” “Year Zero” is
    one of the best droning messes to come out all year. And who wouldn’t
    want to turn “Down with Jesus” into a sing-along?

     

    8. 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.

     

    9. Common: Be [Geffen]

    I’m
    not a hip-hop devotee (I really only started liking it this year), but
    this grabbed me from first listen because of the way it blends classic
    soul and jazz into its beats. My favorite part of this record is that
    while all the refined fans are analyzing production differences between
    Common’s albums, I can sit and admire how soothing and smooth his voice
    is, simply because it’s there for the taking.

     

    10. Ris Paul Ric: Purple Blaze [Academy Fight Song]

    I’d
    always ignored Q and Not U out of laziness, but now that Chris Paul
    Richards has an album of his own, I can admire him as he impersonates
    Michael Jackson and shows how he fucks things up with an acoustic
    guitar in his bedroom. (No, “acoustic guitar” is not a metaphor for
    “child.”)

     

    11. Degenerate Art Ensemble: The Bastress [Tellous]

    The Bastress isn’t
    just on the list because two of its best songs were written by members
    of Seattle’s Dead Science (who moonlight in Degenerate Art Ensemble and
    own a small piece of my heart). It’s on here because the band is
    ever-evolving and because Haruko Nishimura’s frantic cries are a prime
    match for the experimental jazz-punk the group throws at you.

     

    12. AK-Momo: Return to N.Y. [Exergy]

    Because
    the list had to include a pick for “raunchiest album of the year.” It’s
    lounge-y and dirty and it features a female vocalist whose voice
    resembles Joanna Newsom or Kate Bush at her highest soprano. I’m in awe.

     

    13. The Books: Lost and Safe [Tomlab]

    Aside
    from Matmos, the Books’ combination of acoustic guitar and
    god-knows-what-else is untouched by any other band. “It Never Changes
    to Stop” makes me stop what I’m doing to listen regardless of where I
    am.

     

    14. The Time Flys: Fly [Birdman]

    Highly
    overlooked, and something that should be heard by those who adopted the
    Beautiful New Born Children as their favorite garage-rock band of 2005.
    This is the album that the Exploding Hearts could have made if they
    were still around and recruited Greg Ashley to produce a record that’s
    rawer, faster, and more repetitive than anything else they’d done
    before.

     

    15. Deerhoof: The Runners Four [Kill Rock Stars]

    A great drummer, a tiny singer and more fearlessness than most bands have. Deerhoof may be the Perfect Band.


    Staff Picks Page 1Page 2, Page 4, Page 5
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