Perhaps it’s an indication of how the internet was breaking down national barriers and making it easier to hear stuff from all over the globe, or perhaps it’s just happenstance, but my ten for 2005 includes artists from the US, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Sweden and the UK.
BOOKS – Lost and Safe (Tomlab)
Some found the addition of vocals to the (so far) most recent Books album distracting, but I thought it added an extra dimension to the New York duo’s playful electronic folk.
DIRTY THREE – Cinder (Bella Union)
A great sprawling 19 track collection from the trio saw them exploring many areas that had lain untouched before, including two tunes with guest singers Cat Power and Sally Timms. The power remains undimmed. It always seems like messrs. White, Turner and Ellis are all playing in their own bubbles, and yet the results never seem awkward or dissonant.
KRAFTWERK – Minimum-Maximum (EMI)
With a group as precise as Kraftwerk, you’d have thought a live album would be a bit pointless. But Minimum-Maximum shows off gleamingly retooled, and in some cases completely remodelled, takes on the classics, as well as punchier versions of the Tour de France Soundtracks material. If you just wanted one Kraftwerk album (and I don’t know why you would), I’d say that this was almost a perfect primer.
MONO / WORLD’S END GIRLFRIEND – Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain (Human Highway)
“Full of sound and fury; signifying nothing”. That quote from Macbeth would sum up the opinions of Mono’s critics, and I do have some sympathy. The thing is, the sound and fury is just so damn gorgeous and exciting! Katsuhiko Maeda’s contribution to the band added a new neo-classical element to the sound – one which they would push even further.
MURCOF – Remembranza (Leaf)
Album number three from the Mexican genius, and the brew of dark beats and classical samples was as heady and intoxicating as ever.
NATIONAL – Alligator (Beggars Banquet)
The National’s breakout album. Simply a collection of brilliant, uplifting songs dominated by Matt Berninger’s desperate baritone. It climaxes with “Mr November”, one of the most cathartic songs I’ve ever heard.
BJ NILSEN – Fade to White (Touch)
Props to Scott at Mapsadaisical whose glowing testimony led me to check out Benny Nilsen’s music. “Fade to White” is essentially an ambient drone collection, but the somnambulant drift is punctured by moments of terrific sonic violence.
PORT-ROYAL – Flares (Resonant)
This came out of nowhere. A collection of instrumental rock and electronic atmospheres that verges between heady post-rave to serene ambience and holds the interest throughout. It’s still an album I play fairly frequently, and can pick up new nuances every time.
SHINING – In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster (Rune Grammofon)
Try sticking this in a pigeonhole. Avant-prog-jazz-metal? There’s nothing Shining like more than twisting your expectations into knots. Oh, and battering you over the head with a sound like a runaway train. Not that they don’t do subtlety too. Genuinely exciting music.
VEX’D – Degenerate (Planet Mu)
Disc one is the album proper, disc two a collection of singles, but it works perfectly well as a whole. Dark, creaking monstrous dubstep with skeleton rattling bass frequencies. The balance of the rhythms seems so precarious, like the whoosh you get in your head when you stand up too quickly.