Better late than never, I guess. I was going to do a top ten, until I realized there were only five new albums that I really liked — and had a chance to thoroughly listen to. So, without further ado…
1. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
The album that was on more top ten lists this year than any other (often at #1), Illinois is about a close as you’ll come to a masterpiece in 2005. Truth be told, the second half of the album is rather boring. But any album with songs like “Decatur,” “Casimir Pulaski Day,” and the six minute suite “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” deserves to be the best album of the year.
2. Dungen - Ta Det Lungt
In 2005, I discovered that it was often necessary to leave the shores of North America (and the English language) to find new and fantastic music to listen to. The third album from Dungen, a Swedish psych/folk/rock group from the forests of coldest Scandinavia, was re-released stateside in 2005 — thus its inclusion on this list. Ta Det Lungt is a psychedelic tour-de-force that combines elements of the Beatles, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, Santana and vintage 70s Euro psychedelia to create a work that seems more 1975 than 2005.
3. M.I.A. - Arular
With a bio ready made for publicity (the daughter of a Tamil rebel commander, her family fled Sri Lanka for London, where she discovered hip-hop, became an accomplished artist and then a musician when Peaches introduced her to the Roland MC-505), M.I.A became the first big buzz artist of 2005. Arular combines revolutionary politics, sexual innuendo and multilingual street slang with bhangra, dancehall and hip-hop beats to create a refreshing, unique and trailblazing sound.
4. Konono No. 1 - Congotronics
Belgian record producer Vincent Kenis traveled to the Congolese city of Kinshasa to record the now-legendary amplified likembe group Konono No 1 on his Mac G4 laptop. In existance for over 25 years, Konono pioneered the use of rudimentary homemade amplification to lift the sound of their instruments above the urban din, in turn lending their traditional Bazombe trance music a touch of the avante garde. The recent release of Congotronics 2 continues to expose Kinshasa urban music to the Western world.
5. The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
The White Stripes extend their musical range on Get Behind Me Satan and continue to push the boundaries of their traditional sound. From blues stompers such as “Red Rain” to the country-flavored “Little Ghost” and “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet),” Jack and Meg White have uncannily succeeded in creating their best album yet — no small accomplishment given the success of their last two albums.