Cuing Up the Year's Best Music

As music director of Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR's Ned Wharton chooses much of the music heard on the show. He also keeps tabs on what's new and noteworthy in the music world and produces many of the artist features heard on the program.

For this holiday edition of his Director's Cuts series, he presents his picks of the year's best music ...

Amadou & Mariam

Amadou

This blind couple from Mali have been a popular local act for decades, and are now making a big international splash with their CD Dimanche a Bamako. The title celebrates the open-air weddings popular in the country on Sundays.

Afro Celt Sound System

Afro Celt

Volume V of Simon Emmerson and his Afro Celts' explorations of Irish-African sounds and rhythms are heard on this CD, Anatomic.

Imogen Heap

Imogen

High-gloss production and unusual vocals from this British singer/songwriter make for a rich collection of songs on Speak for Yourself.

Big Star

In Space

Guitarist Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens are back together with In Space, their first studio album in 30 years. New members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow from the Posies add to the power-pop sound that made Big Star one of America's most influential bands.

The Silversun Pickups

Pikul

A Los Angeles indie band belonging to the collective known as The Ship (that includes groups Earlimart and Autolux), Silversun Pickups offer a tantalizing debut EP, Pikul.

Benevento Russo Duo

Best Reason

Brooklynites Marco Benevento and Joe Russo form this powerful keyboard 'n' drum duo. Their 2005 release Best Reason to Buy the Sun is one of the great overlooked instrumental CDs of the year.

Trio

Trio

Trio, from pianist Marcin Wasilewski, double-bassman Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz, provides a lovely wintry backdrop for fireside listening.

La Noche Buena

La Noche Buena

The San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble has always sought out a unique repertoire, covering Middle Eastern, European and pre-Columbian music. La Noche Buena is a collection of Christmas music of colonial Latin America.

Our New Orleans

Our New Orleans

Artists mobilized quickly for this benefit CD for Gulf hurricane victims, making all-new recordings in only a month. But the collection is thoughtful and first-rate, with performances from everyone from Dr. John to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Beausoleil.

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Dimanche a Bamako

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  • Album: Dimanche a Bamako
  • Artist: Amaduo & Mariam
 

Best Reason To Buy The Sun

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  • Album: Best Reason To Buy The Sun
  • Artist: Benevento Russo Duo
 

In Space

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  • Album: In Space
  • Artist: Big Star
 

Trio

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  • Album: Trio
  • Artist: Wasilewski
 

Pikul

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  • Album: Pikul
  • Artist: Silversun Pickups
 

Speak For Yourself

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  • Album: Speak For Yourself
  • Artist: Imogen Heap
 

Anatomic

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  • Album: Anatomic
  • Artist: Afro Celt Sound System
 

Our New Orleans 2005

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  • Album: Our New Orleans 2005
  • Artist: Various
 

Dimanche a Bamako

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

Volume 5: Anatomic

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  • Album: Volume 5: Anatomic
  • Artist: Afro Celt Sound System
  • Label: Realworld
  • Released: 2005
 

Speak for Yourself

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  • Album: Speak for Yourself
  • Artist: Imogen Heap
  • Label: Sony/BMG
  • Released: 2005
 

In Space

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  • Album: In Space
  • Artist: Big Star
  • Label: DBK Works
  • Released: 2005
 

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