Will Hermes' Top 10 CDs of 2005

Music reviewer Will Hermes shares his picks for the 10 best CDs of 2005, from the "wonderfully strange" world of Animal Collective to the "gorgeous hymn rock" of Sigur Ros. Hermes is a frequent contributor to NPR and writes for Spin Magazine, The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly and other publications. He is also co-editor of Spin: 20 Years of Alternative Music.

Animal Collective

animal collective

Animal Collective: Feels hide caption

itoggle caption

No record I heard this year took me to as wonderfully strange a place as this one did. Produced by a quartet of guys originally based in Brooklyn, now scattered across the the globe, they come together like kids in a secret clubhouse, magically triangulating rock, folk, and experimental music that’s flecked with wobbly melodies, unidentifiable noises and delirious screams. Every time I put it on I hope to figure it out; happily, I still haven’t.

Amadou and Mariam

Amadou and Mariam

Amadou and Mariam: Diamanche hide caption

itoggle caption

2005 was an astonishingly great year for African music: Thione Seck’s Orientation, Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate's In The Heart of the Moon, Emmanuel Jal & Abdel Gadir Salim's Ceasefire, Gangbe Brass Band's Whendo, and the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers (dominated by the Ethiopian jazz-funk of Mulatu Astatqe) were all standouts. But this set by Amadou & Mariam, a blind couple from Mali, was the most thrilling, both for the unapologetically modern production by polyglot producer Manu Chao, and for the same qualities that have made their previous albums nearly as great: hypnotic grooves, delicious melodies, and Amadou Bagayoko’s fiery blues-rock guitar licks.

M.I.A.

mia

M.I.A. - Arular hide caption

itoggle caption

In the newly-exploding world of British rap, it's nice to see that the women are as good, if not better than the men. Lady Sovereign put out a hot EP, but this set by the Sri Lankan expat Maya Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A., was the highlight: a noisy, sexy, politically-provocative set of rhymes whose jittery electronic beats echoed dancehall reggae, Brazilian ghetto funk, and the nattering beeps of polyphonic cell phones.

Listen: Galang

Kanye West

kanye

Kanye West: Late Registration hide caption

itoggle caption

I don't think even Kanye West, big as his ego seems to be at this point, expected he could follow up his soulful, thoughtful, funny, and groundbreaking hip hop CD College Dropout with another as good. Actually, song for song, this may be a better record, with even more ambitious production (thanks in part to collaborating producer Jon Brion) and raps that speak a mind that’s as restless as ever. And while it might not have as many hot singles as his last, "Golddigger" more than makes up for it.

My Morning Jacket

jacket

My Morning Jacket: Z hide caption

itoggle caption

Another outfit like Animal Collective (although admittedly less weird) who are hard to get a bead on. In love with reverb, especially on the vocals, this Kentucky outfit shows equal affection for Neil Young, Radiohead, the Allman Brothers Band, and dub reggae on their best set to date. Groups with an equal knack for songwriting, adventurous studio sounds, and hot guitarwork are very rare; now there's one more.

The Go Team!

go team

The Go! Team: Thunder, Lightning, Strike hide caption

itoggle caption

One of the year's giddiest records, this group of British guys and gals use a mix of both vintage samples and live playing to make dance party songs that straddle '60s pop and early hip-hop, with occasional nods to kiddie cartoon soundtracks and the mangled electric guitar sound of Sonic Youth. Many tracks are instrumentals, but you don't need words to understand what they are about: the pure joy of pop music.

Mary Gauthier

gauthier

Mary Gauthier: Mercy Now hide caption

itoggle caption

The finest country this year - and it was a good one, musically speaking - was made by women. Lee Ann Womack and Martina McBride both made their best-ever records by looking backwards stylistically. But Mary Gauthier, who has more in common with the frayed-denim sound of Lucinda Williams than anyone getting video rotation on CMT, made a rootsy record of hopeful songs for dark times. She's not well-known yet, but she deserves to be.

The Hold Steady

hold steady

The Hold Steady: Separation Sunday hide caption

itoggle caption

On the surface, these guys sound like a cross between early John Cougar and early Bruce Springsteen, telling stories about hard-luck kids struggling in Middle America. But lyrically the songs are somehow both darker and funnier, with characters sworn to rock'n'roll and damaged by booze and hard drugs, who cut themselves just to feel the pain and try to square their lives with a childhood Christianity that seems like thin gruel in the adult world.

Sigur Ros

sigurros

Sigur Ros: Takk hide caption

itoggle caption

Another set of gorgeous hymn-rock from this Icelandic group, one of those records that's so lovely it's hard to write about beyond simply spewing superlatives. Veteran listeners might classify it as prog-rock, which I guess is correct. But singer Jonsi Birgisson has a more heavenly voice than Yes' Jon Anderson. And since he's singing mostly in Icelandic, sketchy lyrics are not a distraction, at least for most of us.

Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle

kronos

Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle: You've Stolen My Heart: Songs From R.D. Burman's ’ollywood hide caption

itoggle caption

Far from your usual string quartet recording, this matches the adventurous Kronos ensemble with Asha Bhosle, the greatest living singer of Indian film music, for a set that recreates songs from famous Bollywood musicals by esteemed soundtrack composer R.D. Burman, who was also Bhosle's husband. Burman was a musical polyglot, like the members of Kronos, and here they are as likely to be playing autoharp, Farfisa organ, or theremin as violins and violas. It's classical music in the broadest sense of the word.

Featured Artist

Kanye West. courtesy of Rock-A-Fella Records hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of Rock-A-Fella Records

Purchase Featured Music

Feels

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Feels
Artist
Animal Collective

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Diamanche A Bamako

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Diamanche A Bamako
Artist
Amadou & Mariam

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Arular

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Arular
Artist
M.I.A.

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Late Registration

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Late Registration
Artist
Kanye West

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Z

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Z
Artist
My Morning Jacket

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Thunder, Lightning, Strike

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Thunder, Lightning, Strike
Artist
The Go! Team

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Mercy Now

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Mercy Now
Artist
Mary Gauthier

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Separation Sunday

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Separation Sunday
Artist
The Hold Steady

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Takk

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Takk
Artist
Sigur Ros

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

You’ve Stolen My Heart: Songs From R.D. Burman’s Bollywood

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
You’ve Stolen My Heart: Songs From R.D. Burman’s Bollywood
Artist
Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Feels

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Feels
Artist
Animal Collective
Label
Fat Cat
Released
2005

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Dimanche a Bamako

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Dimanche a Bamako
Artist
Amadou & Mariam
Label
Nonesuch
Released
2005

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Arular

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Arular
Artist
M.I.A.
Label
Interscope
Released
2005

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Late Registration

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Late Registration
Artist
Kanye West
Label
Roc-A-Fella

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Z

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Z
Artist
My Morning Jacket
Label
BMG

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Thunder, Lightning, Strike [Bonus Tracks]

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Thunder, Lightning, Strike [Bonus Tracks]
Artist
The Go! Team
Label
Sony
Released
2005

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Mercy Now

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Mercy Now
Artist
Mary Gauthier
Label
Lost Highway

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Separation Sunday

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Separation Sunday
Artist
The Hold Steady
Label
Full Time Hobby
Released
2005

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Takk...

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Takk...
Artist
Sigur Rós
Label
EMI
Released
2005

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

You've Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman's Bollywood

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
You've Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman's Bollywood
Artist
The Kronos Quartet with Asha Bhosle
Label
Nonesuch
Released
2005

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.