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Cover Story: Listopia 2005

CityBeat writers & friends remember the year in music in convenient list form

By CityBeat Staff · December 21st, 2005 · Cover Story
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  My Morning Jacket
Danny Clinch

My Morning Jacket



Baker's Dozen (Minus Two)

By Brian Baker
1. New Pornographers: Twin Cinema

This disc could not be pried out of the player from the moment the advance showed up. Carl Newman's ability to shapeshift notes and words into the most virulently catchy Pop music since a certain Liverpudlian quartet seems almost endless. Not coincidentally, the New Porns' gig at the Southgate House in October was the show of the year, with new keyboardist (and Newman's niece) Kathryn Calder opening with her band Immaculate Machine, followed by Destroyer (fronted by New Porn vocalist Dan Bejar, who's never toured with the Porns because of his own band responsibilities) and finished off with an absolutely transcendent set from the Porns themselves. Long live the New Pornographers.

2. Wussy: Funeral Dress

This is not a case of throwing a local band a bone but a legitimate case of a Cincinnati band putting out a world-class album. Chuck Cleaver's new joint is a breath of fresh Indie Rock in an atmosphere of stale Americana and rehashed Folk. Lisa Walker's vocal and guitar work are this year's most exquisite surprise, Mark Messerly's contributions are patently incredible and Dawn Burman's drums are simultaneously (and impossibly) subtle and forceful. And this album led to my favorite interview of the year, as the five us met for a chat in the courtyard of the Northside Tavern this past summer. Typical of the interview -- Messerly: "The most important thing about this band, and write this down, is that Wussy is all about the love." Cleaver to Messerly: "If that winds up being the title of this piece, I'm gonna kick your ass."

3. Pilotdrift: Water Sphere

Pilotdrift exhibits all of the accepted traits of a standard Rock band, although the Texas quintet's sonic blueprint is slightly more adventurous, from the quirkily accessible Pop of 10cc and Sparks to the dramatic swell of Oingo Boingo to the off kilter Rock of Supergrass. The departure comes in the compelling use of orchestration to achieve a Prog-like cinematic presence that's almost epic, as though Danny Elfman conducted the band through a Tim Burton musical.

4. Great Lake Swimmers: Great Lake Swimmers

Like a beautiful cross between the heroic melancholy of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith and the vibrant wonder of Neil Young and Stephin Merritt, Canadian singer/songwriter Tony Dekker makes a mournful and compelling sound on his debut album (his sophomore album, the equally captivating Bodies and Minds, also came out this year). You can start by calling it Folk/Pop, but Dekker easily transcends any attempt to pigeonhole him.

5. Rob Dickinson: Fresh Wine for the Horses

After six albums ranging from really quite good to jaw-droppingly stunning, Dickinson took his leave of Catherine Wheel and and spent five years just living and eventually working on his debut solo album, Fresh Wine for the Horses. It might not earn him any additional fans, but Dickinson created a magnificent work that's trumped every card he ever played with Catherine Wheel.

6. Silver Sunshine: Silver Sunshine and A Small Pocket of Pure Spirit EP

Silver Sunshine's full-length album came out late last year after most year-end lists were submitted, so I'm lumping it in with this year's five-track EP because it's my list. Both releases are drenched in the best possible '60s reference points: The Move, The Beatles, The Kinks and The Pretty Things, all refracted through Syd Barrett's acid Pop kaleidoscope. If this stuff doesn't make your heart soar, have the paramedics bring the paddles.

7. Rogue Wave: Descended Like Vultures

Because The Shins didn't have an album this year (check this space next December), Rogue Wave sneaks in past some pretty heavy competition. They did it on the strength of some truly amazing basement Pop, tossing out shards of the aforementioned Shins (whom they opened for at various points this year) as well as some connecting tissue from the likes of Guided by Voices and XTC. Zach Rogue and his band of Waves clearly work a quirky and highly addictive palette.

8. Pernice Brothers: Discover a Lovelier You

Joe Pernice has long enjoyed a reputation as Pop's version of Emmett Kelly, a sad and brilliant clown with a gift for melancholy mirth. But just when you think you know what to expect from Pernice, he takes a handful of semi-happy pills and pulls the joyous (for him, anyway) Discover a Lovelier You from his always-engaging bag of tricks. There's a Shins/New Pornographers propulsion, a 10cc shimmer and a George Harrison twang and who but Pernice could write a lullaby with a '60s Bee Gees veneer and then title it "Pisshole in the Snow"? With his catalog to date, Joe Pernice has more than proven his Pop genius; with Discover a Lovelier You, he approaches divinity.

9. Bettye LaVette: I#180;ve Got My Own Hell to Raise

Detroit Soul diva LaVette should have been a bigger star than most of the giants that emerged from the Motown scene of the '60s, but she persevered for 40 years in spite of bad breaks and mishandled management. This album of 10 covers of songs from 10 female songwriters (Aimee Mann, Lucinda Williams, Joan Armatrading, Sinead O'Connor among them) will sear itself into your frontal lobe after a single listen.

10. The Rolling Stones: A Bigger Bang

Who knew the elderly dilettantes of arena Rock had one more truly great album in them? From start to finish, the Stones return to the grimy and intimate bar band ethic that served them so well in the '60s while running it through the prism of their unfathomable success and experience. A bigger bang, indeed.

2005: From Boomp to Loofa
10. Year´s Most Trifling Hook: "Boomp boomp boomp. Boomp boomp boomp. Shake dat Laffy Taffy. Boop. Dat Laffy Taffy. Boop." D4L's follow-up will be, "Slurp dat Dixie Cup," which borrows the same Casio "boomp."

9. Jamie Foxx: The HNIC? Gold-digging wildebeest Wanda wouldn't be impressed with Jamie's Oscar, but she ain't messin' wit no broke, broke either. Unless he's breakin' off skrimps and Victorian Secretions, she's re't ta go.

8. Best Location to Shoot an Apocalyptic Film: Downtown Cincinnati. Overwhelmed by closed sidewalks and a dam-sized hole where the Fountain was, out-of-towners amble about looking like extras from Left Behind.

7. Best New Reason to Subscribe to Cable: The Boondocks. Before Boondocks, most of Adult Swim's schwag lineup stimulated only stoners. Brutally aware, it makes the syndicated strip look like Bazooka funnies.

6. They Shouldn´a Never Gave Y´all Niggas Money: Bobby and Whitney make Cephas and Reesie look like dignitaries. Being Bobby Brown was so ghetto, Ja'Net DuBois should've sung the theme.

5. R Kelly´s Neverending Story: Versions 52-57 find the R'ra along the Yellow Brick Road, where he and Dorothy make a stag film and haters Tinman and the Scarecrow want a piece of the action. Leaked footage of Dorothy getting peed on is enough to send Kelly to the slammer for good.

4. Why, Sista, Why? With Nipplegate behind her, Janet tells Ellen (in her best Pebbles Flintstone voice) that Jermaine Dupri is "her baby." Ellen's knee-jerk reaction was biting her lip (hard), and she fought giggles the whole episode.

3. The Great Black Hope: Mayor Mark Mallory. See. Every black man over 40 who lives with his parents doesn't rent rims, put his name on the orange juice carton or work semiannually.

2. Bush Gets Outed: When Kanye put Curious George on front street, our president reacted like a foiled Scooby Doo villain with his mask snatched off. "I could'a gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for that pesky rapper."

1. You are missed: Ossie Davis, Rosa Parks, Richard Pryor and Luther "Loofah" Vandross.

Top 10-ish of 2005
1. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois

Lush, melody-infested arrangements and lyrical cunning support a voice so pedestrian it hits deeper due to its limitations. Stevens' wildly ambitious nature would be unbearable in a lesser talent. A rare case of more being more.

2. Sleater-Kinney: The Woods

Aided by Dave Fridmann's loose-limbed production, The Woods is as vital as anything in the trio's undeniably singular existence. I like the line about hippies running wild. The one about trendy genre-plunderers is good, too.

3a. Antony and the Johnsons: I Am a Bird Now

Antony's voice defies logic. Haunting and deeply affecting, it contains powers rare in the real world.

3b. My Morning Jacket: Z

Jim James' voice defies logic. It sounds even better live, as does his reverb-drenched, Neil Young-bred backing band.

4. Bloc Party: Silent Alarm

Urgent, interlocking guitar lines and agile rhythms propel songs armed with enough passion and panache to power a dozen Franz Ferdinands.

5. Edan: Beauty and the Beat

A crafty collage of old-school samples, lo-fi beats and the imaginative flow of its creator, Beauty and the Beat's Hendrix leanings are as integral as its debt to golden-age Hip Hop.

6a. Pernice Brothers: Discover a Lovelier You

Besides delivering yet another stellar collection of shimmering, well-worded melancholy, Joe Pernice and Co. are also responsible for the year's best TV moment -- "There Goes the Sun" the soundtrack to a Sears commercial? Context be damned, I still get chills.

6b. Clem Snide: End of Love

Besides delivering yet another stellar collection of Country-laced, well-worded melancholy, Eef and Co. are also responsible for the year's best head-sticking lyric: "I woke up to the sound of German Hip Hop in the air/It sounded like the hum of insects nesting in my hair."

7. DangerDoom: The Mouse and the Mask

Danger Mouse's dark-hued production fits MF Doom's deft, ever-playful delivery like a glove. Their Adult Swim fixation is just as form-fitting, yielding a mad meld that's so addictive my car stereo hit meltdown after the 22nd consecutive spin. I guarantee Doom's brain matter contains elements not found in mere humans.

8a. The Hold Steady: Separation Sunday

Craig Finn's loquacious tales + Tad Kubler's crunchy riffs = 42 minutes of car-cruising bliss.

8b. The National: Alligator

Matt Berninger's baritone-voiced tales + his band's emotive soundscapes = 48 minutes of soul-searing bliss.

9. Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine

While not as cohesive or endearingly wounded as its predecessors, this long-delayed set had me reminiscing about the days when Pop stars still had the ability to intrigue.

10. Sigur Ros: Takk

Transportive, majestically epic soundscapes that conjure daydreams of an as-yet-to-exist film starring Zooey Deschanel and yours truly.

Top 10 Local 1 Man Wonders of '05
1. With a style that stretches from classically inspired '70s songwriting giants Joe Jackson and Gerry Rafferty to wry musical biographer Ben Folds, Paul Otten has a remarkable gift for melodies, dense arrangement and clever wordplay, as demonstrated on this year's solo debut, Bad Parade.

2. Zach Mechlem comes from all over the map. Literally. From serving up Funk as The Rottweilers' bassist to crafting moving World Music in Mohenjo Daro and acoustic cowboy chronicles with Mack West, Mechlem always hits the mark. This year he dropped a fascinating project, Sameera: Modern Music for Belly Dance.

3. A lifetime of music is reaching a crescendo for Peter Adams at only 22. On his debut, The Spiral Eyes, his crisp and nuanced writing explodes in a Beatles-meets-Elephant6-meets-Postal Service daydream. Put it on repeat and enjoy before he gets famous and you're not allowed to like it anymore.

4. One of the most accomplished home recorders in the area, Mike Detmer is a master of high-quality lo-fi music. In addition to releasing a steady stream of music via The Spectacular Fantastic, he also launched the Vibrating Needle Recording Collective this year, a support network for select DIY artists.

5. Rob Ford is one of Detmer's finest VNRC cohorts. His current project, suchanuglything, is a fearlessly experimental foray. The homespun debut, The Fear EP, sounds like each of the members of Genesis recorded one song on their own before beginning the Foxtrot sessions. Only it's one guy!

6. The softer side of former Promenade front man Scott Cunningham turns out to be his best side. Under the moniker Wake the Bear, he knocked out Woe Is Meat, a straight-from-the-bedroom masterpiece that will have completely melted the most grizzled cynic's heart by the last note.

7. Documenting his personal struggles with schizophrenia, Joseph Peragine's album The Acoustic Diaries achieves hellish beauty by mixing lush guitar with mutated sound samples. His live show is an affecting blend of music, spoken word and acting that lingers with you for quite a while.

8. Medicine Man is the latest project from 4192 frontman Dylan Ewing, who's back to his acoustic/found-sound roots. It's soulful, uncluttered and artfully assembled music that begs multiple listens. Ewing is currently expanding the Medicine Man catalog and playing a few shows.

9. Determined to give Dave Grohl a run for his money, Cincy drummer Keith Adams (Giant Wow, former Sound Mind) came out of nowhere with a huge one-man Rock show dubbed The Proper Authorities. Public Service Announcement, his debut disc of heavy Progressive Pop, is scheduled for release next month.

10. Psychodots percussionist Chris Arduser is another talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who released an immaculate self-produced solo disc this year, the celebrity motorcade. Containing biographical songs about silent film icons, it's one of the most listenable concept albums you're likely to hear.

The CLOCKMAs!
This year I decided to make my Top 10 a little different than the usual top releases of 2005. Therefore I present the first annual "Chris Lee Official Cincinnati Music Awards," better known as the CLOCMAs (pronounced CLOCK-muhs). Winning a CLOCMA is a highly prestigious honor, so you bands that win should enjoy the fame and fortune that comes along with it. You are the few, the proud, the elite ... the CLOCMA winners.

I won't waste any more time with monologues and intros, so let's get straight to the awards:

1. The "Why Aren't These Guys Signed to Century Media Records" CLOCMA goes to: Pain Link

2. The "I Can't Believe That Punk Band Is Just Local Guys; What's Up With That" CLOCMA goes to: The Black Tie Bombers

3. The "Yeah I Know They Play Indie Pop But Damn They Rock" CLOCMA goes to: The Terrors

4. The "I'm Not Big on the Folk Thing But I Really Do Dig This" CLOCMA goes to: Kim Taylor

5. The "We Rock Out at Karaoke Just Like We Do at Our Own Shows" CLOCMA goes to: Banderas

6. The "Hey I Used to Work at LaRosa's With One of Them and Now They Are Pretty Big" CLOCMA goes to: Over the Rhine

7. The "Seriously, Why Did You All Break Up Right When Things Were Starting to Happen" CLOCMA goes to: Ailinel

8. The "I Didn't Know Anything About Any Cincy Hip Hop Scene 'Til I Started at Top Cat's But Now I Do and This Artist Smokes" CLOCMA goes to: Definition

9. The "Best Band Featuring Someone I Used to Be in a Band With" CLOCMA goes to: Bludstone

10. The "Best Use of "WHO-DEY!" in a Song by a Local Artist" CLOCMA goes to: Bootsy Collins

2005's Ten Most Memorable Moments in Hip Hop
1. Kanye West blasts President Bush during NBC's Katrina relief concert. Whether you agree or disagree, it beats rapping about syzzurp.

2. Speaking of West: Kanyemania reaches its peak with a Time Magazine cover story chronicling his career and the history of Hip Hop culture.

3. Lil´ Kim is sentenced to a year and a day in prison for falsely testifying about her role in a shooting outside of a New York radio station.

4. Sony BMG and Warner Music Group settle lawsuits after admitting they paid radio stations to play their artists' music.

5. Satellite radio and the iPod/MP3 revolution puts music back in the hands of The People.

6. 50 Cent becomes the first artist since The Beatles to have four singles in the Top 10 at the same time. (Reminder: This is a list of 2005's most memorable Hip Hop moments, not necessarily the best.)

7. 50's Get Rich or Die Tryin´ movie flops.

8. The Roots sign to Jay-Z's Def Jam Left boutique label.

9. Biggie's wrongful death case is halted due to indications that L.A. police and city officials were withholding evidence.

10. Jay-Z and Nas bury the hatchet during Jay's historic "I Declare War" concert in East Rutherford, N.J.

Okie Dokie It's My '05 Top Ten List
This year, we're doin' it the old-fashioned way: 10 discs that mattered to me in 2005, in no order whatsoever:

1. M83: Before the Dawn Heals Us

France's M83 has never been afraid to swing for the fences, and Before the Dawn Heals Us marries driving AltRock, gentle ambience and cinematic synthesizer flourishes for a singular sound that, at its best, is no less than stunning.

2. Slowdive: Pygmalion

Ten years after its release, Creation Records has just made Pygmalion available in the States for the first time. It's Slowdive's swan song and a big "fuck you" to the English music press (then and now), eliminating any retro-Pop leanings and opting for a gorgeous and unsettling ambience. When the new liner notes claim that one track "pretty much invents Sigur Ros in one fell swoop," it's not bluster.

3. The Orb: Okie Dokie It#180;s the Orb on Kompakt

I haven't done the research, but I'm going to go ahead and say that this is the worst album title of all time. Which is too bad, because The Orb has created another great slice of low, pulsating Techno and icy Dub perfect for the wee hours of the morn.

4. The Evens: The Evens

With Fugazi's recorded output becoming more and more sporadic, Ian MacKaye grabs his baritone guitar and shares vocal duties with solid, inventive drummer Amy Farina for a disc that recalls Yo La Tengo, Antietam and Sue Garner and Rick Brown. Serious, lo-fi AltPop that still gets the feet moving.

5. The Concretes: Layourbattleaxedown

It's a simple equation, really: Mazzy Star + '60s girl groups + Velvet Underground + Sweden = The Concretes. This collection of EPs and singles doesn't pack the same wallop as their eponymous 2004 debut, but it's worth picking up for the woozy cover of the Stones' "Miss You" alone.

6. Koushik: Be With

In a very slow year for Electronica, Koushik gifted us with this quirky chunk of underground Hip Hop, Jazz samples and psychedelic Pop overtones. Watch his next move closely.

7. Doves: Some Cities

This English trio wears its U2/Jam/Coldplay influences on its sleeves, but the songs are so damn good it doesn't matter. "Black and White Town" easily makes my top 10 list of the year's best songs, and the rest of Some Cities delivers driving and atmospheric AltRock that's streetwise and heartfelt.

8. Rogue Wave: Descended Like Vultures

Nothing too mind-blowing here, just an all-around great Indie Pop album with a command of a range of styles. "Publish My Love" was featured on The O.C. -- aw, hell yeah.

9. Deadbeat: New World Observer

Montreal's Scott Monteith (aka Deadbeat) absolutely nails it on his third and best release. It's forward-looking, beat-driven ambience that displays a mastery of the principles and techniques of classic Dub.

10. Wake the Bear: Woe Is Meat

This would have made the list even if I didn't know Scott Cunningham to be a Fine Gent. Here, in one-man-band mode, he'll satisfy your jones for Elliott Smith, Arcade Fire and Bright Eyes without sounding like any of those acts. For my money, the best local release of the year.

Things That Made Hannah Go 'Hmm' in '05
1. Ryan Adams in Columbus. The truly mind-boggling bit here is that after two hours of off-putting remarks from the stage ("Maybe some of you should be at home watching ESPN," "This is a vintage hollow body guitar -- these ceiling fans are ruining my sound!"), I was so peeved that I lined up and bought Adams' next gazillion 2005 releases (Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights and 29). Hmm.

2. iPods. Apparently owning just one has become blasé, as I recently overheard a Cincinnatian quip, "It's sooo Manhattan to have two 'Pods." My poor woman's version, I'm projecting, will be to free up existing space by deleting albums that sound suspiciously similar, but how does one decide between the Black Keys and the White Stripes? Hmm.

3. Greg Dulli´s keynote speech at MidPoint Music Festival. The local hero (of Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers fame) yakked candidly about Rock & Roll dreams, filching contract finesse from Prince and the dangers of spending music money on stupid shit. Larger than life? Hmm, you betcha -- the man's head is a mile in circumference if it's an inch. What?! I'm serious; it's a huge head.

4. Myspace. It's 3 a.m. You're rumpled and bleary-eyed. Stuck in a rabbit hole that started with an actual acquaintance's profile, zipped right through Rilo Kiley's and landed you here, reading a heartfelt blog written by a muscle-bound, self-aware (read: shirtless) personal trainer from Sacramento who just can't seem to meet the right girl. Voyeurism is normal, right? Isn't everyone doing it? Hmm.

5. Garbage, Bleed Like Me. The boys (and gal) reclaimed cred on a sonic landscape that they'd seemingly abandoned (remember Version 2.0?). Bleed whips up low, sulking Chug-Rock and the kind of soulful despair that a band half its age could only dream of. Oh yeah, and Shirley Manson proves that, pushing 40, she can still give the crowd something to "Hmm" on.

6. Bengals Para-fan-alia. Hmm, is there anything more beautiful than 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday in the parking lot of Longworth Hall? There, we're neither rich nor poor, black nor white, Democrat nor Republican. Surely disputed calls and free-flowing High Life are signs of fisticuffs to come, but for an orange-and-black moment we're all one gooseflesh-covered arm, a heartbeat thumping in time to "Welcome to the Jungle."

7. De La Soul at the Mad Hatter. Hmm. Things were looking sketchy, what with the blown AC and only De La's self-proclamation, "Hey! We're still cool!" to alleviate the burn. So we doused one another with ice water while the suddenly memorable beats hit a soft spot. OK, so DLS's 2005 crowd paled (literally) in comparison to that of 1989's, but damned if some of us didn't find grooves we never knew we had.

8. Where to Rock? 2005 brought the additional Friday night "Hmm" when local music enthusiasts had to pick destinations other than the newly defunct (York Street Café, Radio Down, BarrelHouse and The Cavern). While alchemize, The Mad Hatter and a resurrected Kaldi's became havens for the disenfranchised, the Southgate House continued to reign as thee Indie hotspot.

9. Girl Jeans on Boys. Despite what you might say about these eyeliner-clad upstarts with their emo-black hair and their penchant for taking vintage style to outrageous (and often "hmm-able") new heights, I got no beef with the fact that my clothes-borrowing opportunities doubled this year, thanks to my courageously petite bros.

10. Green Day. Fancying themselves cultural liaisons to the anti-Bush generation, the most recognizable of their iconage includes the three-piece shouting the lyrics "Don't wanna be an American idiot/One nation controlled by the media" in sync with 50,000 fans, 16- to 24-year-olds all decked out in surprisingly uniform apparel, pounding angry (?) fists toward the sky. Suffice it to say that this "Hmm" could indicate careful consideration of a "movement" or a valiantly restrained urge to chuck one's beloved Dookie at the TV screen.

Top 10 Singles (or Songs That Should Have Been Singles)
1. Keane: Everybody´s Changing

Though they say they're not interested in being a cult band, this British trio is on its way to being the Ultravox of this generation -- huge in Europe, small following here. That's a shame. They should have a wider audience on this side of the pond.

2. The Killers: Change Your Mind

The first two singles were great, so how did this rollicker not get chosen to bat third (or at all)? Soaring melody, great hook. Can't miss.

3. Allister: A Study in Economics

A little heavier on melody and lighter on whiny angst, this toe-tapper could easily have a home on contemporary hit radio. Not very Z-Rock-y, which makes for a nice change of pace.

4. Depeche Mode: Precious

Their finest single since the Violator album, and all it took was main songwriter Martin Gore getting a divorce. Reality sells, even in Pop music circles.

5. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: In This Home on Ice

The Arrested Development (er, the TV show) of the Pop music scene. Let's not go haywire, but this Brooklyn band is solid and worthy of your time.

6. The Weekend: Perfect World

These British ladies have yet to make their U.S. debut, so you might have to look around for their stuff. It's worth the effort. Recalls the heyday of Brit-chick Pop like The Primitives and The Darling Buds.

7. Yellowcard: View From Heaven

As with Allister, this is a bit of a departure, though not a huge one. Sad song actually, but undeniably catchy and ultimately uplifting.

8. Green Day: Wake Me Up When September Ends

These guys rock and mellow out in the same song, and it seems effortless as always. Maybe that's why they've done so well.

9. The Bravery: An Honest Mistake

Dig that '80s influence and that Strokes-like vocal filter. Actually that schtick goes back to The Fall, who were, of course, from the '80s.

10. The Like: What I Say and What I Mean

This trio of L.A. gals is poppier than, say, The Donnas but certainly more substantial than, say, Hilary or Hayley Duff (sorry gals, don't mean to pick on you). This fine single is hopefully a hint at what's to come.

Top Ten...What?
10. "Bond" on

  My Morning Jacket
Danny Clinch

My Morning Jacket



Baker's Dozen (Minus Two)

By Brian Baker
1. New Pornographers: Twin Cinema

This disc could not be pried out of the player from the moment the advance showed up. Carl Newman's ability to shapeshift notes and words into the most virulently catchy Pop music since a certain Liverpudlian quartet seems almost endless. Not coincidentally, the New Porns' gig at the Southgate House in October was the show of the year, with new keyboardist (and Newman's niece) Kathryn Calder opening with her band Immaculate Machine, followed by Destroyer (fronted by New Porn vocalist Dan Bejar, who's never toured with the Porns because of his own band responsibilities) and finished off with an absolutely transcendent set from the Porns themselves. Long live the New Pornographers.

2. Wussy: Funeral Dress

This is not a case of throwing a local band a bone but a legitimate case of a Cincinnati band putting out a world-class album. Chuck Cleaver's new joint is a breath of fresh Indie Rock in an atmosphere of stale Americana and rehashed Folk. Lisa Walker's vocal and guitar work are this year's most exquisite surprise, Mark Messerly's contributions are patently incredible and Dawn Burman's drums are simultaneously (and impossibly) subtle and forceful. And this album led to my favorite interview of the year, as the five us met for a chat in the courtyard of the Northside Tavern this past summer. Typical of the interview -- Messerly: "The most important thing about this band, and write this down, is that Wussy is all about the love." Cleaver to Messerly: "If that winds up being the title of this piece, I'm gonna kick your ass."

3. Pilotdrift: Water Sphere

Pilotdrift exhibits all of the accepted traits of a standard Rock band, although the Texas quintet's sonic blueprint is slightly more adventurous, from the quirkily accessible Pop of 10cc and Sparks to the dramatic swell of Oingo Boingo to the off kilter Rock of Supergrass. The departure comes in the compelling use of orchestration to achieve a Prog-like cinematic presence that's almost epic, as though Danny Elfman conducted the band through a Tim Burton musical.

4. Great Lake Swimmers: Great Lake Swimmers

Like a beautiful cross between the heroic melancholy of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith and the vibrant wonder of Neil Young and Stephin Merritt, Canadian singer/songwriter Tony Dekker makes a mournful and compelling sound on his debut album (his sophomore album, the equally captivating Bodies and Minds, also came out this year). You can start by calling it Folk/Pop, but Dekker easily transcends any attempt to pigeonhole him.

5. Rob Dickinson: Fresh Wine for the Horses

After six albums ranging from really quite good to jaw-droppingly stunning, Dickinson took his leave of Catherine Wheel and and spent five years just living and eventually working on his debut solo album, Fresh Wine for the Horses. It might not earn him any additional fans, but Dickinson created a magnificent work that's trumped every card he ever played with Catherine Wheel.

6. Silver Sunshine: Silver Sunshine and A Small Pocket of Pure Spirit EP

Silver Sunshine's full-length album came out late last year after most year-end lists were submitted, so I'm lumping it in with this year's five-track EP because it's my list. Both releases are drenched in the best possible '60s reference points: The Move, The Beatles, The Kinks and The Pretty Things, all refracted through Syd Barrett's acid Pop kaleidoscope. If this stuff doesn't make your heart soar, have the paramedics bring the paddles.

7. Rogue Wave: Descended Like Vultures

Because The Shins didn't have an album this year (check this space next December), Rogue Wave sneaks in past some pretty heavy competition. They did it on the strength of some truly amazing basement Pop, tossing out shards of the aforementioned Shins (whom they opened for at various points this year) as well as some connecting tissue from the likes of Guided by Voices and XTC. Zach Rogue and his band of Waves clearly work a quirky and highly addictive palette.

8. Pernice Brothers: Discover a Lovelier You

Joe Pernice has long enjoyed a reputation as Pop's version of Emmett Kelly, a sad and brilliant clown with a gift for melancholy mirth. But just when you think you know what to expect from Pernice, he takes a handful of semi-happy pills and pulls the joyous (for him, anyway) Discover a Lovelier You from his always-engaging bag of tricks. There's a Shins/New Pornographers propulsion, a 10cc shimmer and a George Harrison twang and who but Pernice could write a lullaby with a '60s Bee Gees veneer and then title it "Pisshole in the Snow"? With his catalog to date, Joe Pernice has more than proven his Pop genius; with Discover a Lovelier You, he approaches divinity.

9. Bettye LaVette: I#180;ve Got My Own Hell to Raise

Detroit Soul diva LaVette should have been a bigger star than most of the giants that emerged from the Motown scene of the '60s, but she persevered for 40 years in spite of bad breaks and mishandled management. This album of 10 covers of songs from 10 female songwriters (Aimee Mann, Lucinda Williams, Joan Armatrading, Sinead O'Connor among them) will sear itself into your frontal lobe after a single listen.

10. The Rolling Stones: A Bigger Bang

Who knew the elderly dilettantes of arena Rock had one more truly great album in them? From start to finish, the Stones return to the grimy and intimate bar band ethic that served them so well in the '60s while running it through the prism of their unfathomable success and experience. A bigger bang, indeed.

2005: From Boomp to Loofa
10. Year´s Most Trifling Hook: "Boomp boomp boomp. Boomp boomp boomp. Shake dat Laffy Taffy. Boop. Dat Laffy Taffy. Boop." D4L's follow-up will be, "Slurp dat Dixie Cup," which borrows the same Casio "boomp."

9. Jamie Foxx: The HNIC? Gold-digging wildebeest Wanda wouldn't be impressed with Jamie's Oscar, but she ain't messin' wit no broke, broke either. Unless he's breakin' off skrimps and Victorian Secretions, she's re't ta go.

8. Best Location to Shoot an Apocalyptic Film: Downtown Cincinnati. Overwhelmed by closed sidewalks and a dam-sized hole where the Fountain was, out-of-towners amble about looking like extras from Left Behind.

7. Best New Reason to Subscribe to Cable: The Boondocks. Before Boondocks, most of Adult Swim's schwag lineup stimulated only stoners. Brutally aware, it makes the syndicated strip look like Bazooka funnies.

6. They Shouldn´a Never Gave Y´all Niggas Money: Bobby and Whitney make Cephas and Reesie look like dignitaries. Being Bobby Brown was so ghetto, Ja'Net DuBois should've sung the theme.

5. R Kelly´s Neverending Story: Versions 52-57 find the R'ra along the Yellow Brick Road, where he and Dorothy make a stag film and haters Tinman and the Scarecrow want a piece of the action. Leaked footage of Dorothy getting peed on is enough to send Kelly to the slammer for good.

4. Why, Sista, Why? With Nipplegate behind her, Janet tells Ellen (in her best Pebbles Flintstone voice) that Jermaine Dupri is "her baby." Ellen's knee-jerk reaction was biting her lip (hard), and she fought giggles the whole episode.

3. The Great Black Hope: Mayor Mark Mallory. See. Every black man over 40 who lives with his parents doesn't rent rims, put his name on the orange juice carton or work semiannually.

2. Bush Gets Outed: When Kanye put Curious George on front street, our president reacted like a foiled Scooby Doo villain with his mask snatched off. "I could'a gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for that pesky rapper."

1. You are missed: Ossie Davis, Rosa Parks, Richard Pryor and Luther "Loofah" Vandross.

Top 10-ish of 2005
1. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois

Lush, melody-infested arrangements and lyrical cunning support a voice so pedestrian it hits deeper due to its limitations. Stevens' wildly ambitious nature would be unbearable in a lesser talent. A rare case of more being more.

2. Sleater-Kinney: The Woods

Aided by Dave Fridmann's loose-limbed production, The Woods is as vital as anything in the trio's undeniably singular existence. I like the line about hippies running wild. The one about trendy genre-plunderers is good, too.

3a. Antony and the Johnsons: I Am a Bird Now

Antony's voice defies logic. Haunting and deeply affecting, it contains powers rare in the real world.

3b. My Morning Jacket: Z

Jim James' voice defies logic. It sounds even better live, as does his reverb-drenched, Neil Young-bred backing band.

4. Bloc Party: Silent Alarm

Urgent, interlocking guitar lines and agile rhythms propel songs armed with enough passion and panache to power a dozen Franz Ferdinands.

5. Edan: Beauty and the Beat

A crafty collage of old-school samples, lo-fi beats and the imaginative flow of its creator, Beauty and the Beat's Hendrix leanings are as integral as its debt to golden-age Hip Hop.

6a. Pernice Brothers: Discover a Lovelier You

Besides delivering yet another stellar collection of shimmering, well-worded melancholy, Joe Pernice and Co. are also responsible for the year's best TV moment -- "There Goes the Sun" the soundtrack to a Sears commercial? Context be damned, I still get chills.

6b. Clem Snide: End of Love

Besides delivering yet another stellar collection of Country-laced, well-worded melancholy, Eef and Co. are also responsible for the year's best head-sticking lyric: "I woke up to the sound of German Hip Hop in the air/It sounded like the hum of insects nesting in my hair."

7. DangerDoom: The Mouse and the Mask

Danger Mouse's dark-hued production fits MF Doom's deft, ever-playful delivery like a glove. Their Adult Swim fixation is just as form-fitting, yielding a mad meld that's so addictive my car stereo hit meltdown after the 22nd consecutive spin. I guarantee Doom's brain matter contains elements not found in mere humans.

8a. The Hold Steady: Separation Sunday

Craig Finn's loquacious tales + Tad Kubler's crunchy riffs = 42 minutes of car-cruising bliss.

8b. The National: Alligator

Matt Berninger's baritone-voiced tales + his band's emotive soundscapes = 48 minutes of soul-searing bliss.

9. Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine

While not as cohesive or endearingly wounded as its predecessors, this long-delayed set had me reminiscing about the days when Pop stars still had the ability to intrigue.

10. Sigur Ros: Takk

Transportive, majestically epic soundscapes that conjure daydreams of an as-yet-to-exist film starring Zooey Deschanel and yours truly.

Top 10 Local 1 Man Wonders of '05
1. With a style that stretches from classically inspired '70s songwriting giants Joe Jackson and Gerry Rafferty to wry musical biographer Ben Folds, Paul Otten has a remarkable gift for melodies, dense arrangement and clever wordplay, as demonstrated on this year's solo debut, Bad Parade.

2. Zach Mechlem comes from all over the map. Literally. From serving up Funk as The Rottweilers' bassist to crafting moving World Music in Mohenjo Daro and acoustic cowboy chronicles with Mack West, Mechlem always hits the mark. This year he dropped a fascinating project, Sameera: Modern Music for Belly Dance.

3. A lifetime of music is reaching a crescendo for Peter Adams at only 22. On his debut, The Spiral Eyes, his crisp and nuanced writing explodes in a Beatles-meets-Elephant6-meets-Postal Service daydream. Put it on repeat and enjoy before he gets famous and you're not allowed to like it anymore.

4. One of the most accomplished home recorders in the area, Mike Detmer is a master of high-quality lo-fi music. In addition to releasing a steady stream of music via The Spectacular Fantastic, he also launched the Vibrating Needle Recording Collective this year, a support network for select DIY artists.

5. Rob Ford is one of Detmer's finest VNRC cohorts. His current project, suchanuglything, is a fearlessly experimental foray. The homespun debut, The Fear EP, sounds like each of the members of Genesis recorded one song on their own before beginning the Foxtrot sessions. Only it's one guy!

6. The softer side of former Promenade front man Scott Cunningham turns out to be his best side. Under the moniker Wake the Bear, he knocked out Woe Is Meat, a straight-from-the-bedroom masterpiece that will have completely melted the most grizzled cynic's heart by the last note.

7. Documenting his personal struggles with schizophrenia, Joseph Peragine's album The Acoustic Diaries achieves hellish beauty by mixing lush guitar with mutated sound samples. His live show is an affecting blend of music, spoken word and acting that lingers with you for quite a while.

8. Medicine Man is the latest project from 4192 frontman Dylan Ewing, who's back to his acoustic/found-sound roots. It's soulful, uncluttered and artfully assembled music that begs multiple listens. Ewing is currently expanding the Medicine Man catalog and playing a few shows.

9. Determined to give Dave Grohl a run for his money, Cincy drummer Keith Adams (Giant Wow, former Sound Mind) came out of nowhere with a huge one-man Rock show dubbed The Proper Authorities. Public Service Announcement, his debut disc of heavy Progressive Pop, is scheduled for release next month.

10. Psychodots percussionist Chris Arduser is another talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who released an immaculate self-produced solo disc this year, the celebrity motorcade. Containing biographical songs about silent film icons, it's one of the most listenable concept albums you're likely to hear.

The CLOCKMAs!
This year I decided to make my Top 10 a little different than the usual top releases of 2005. Therefore I present the first annual "Chris Lee Official Cincinnati Music Awards," better known as the CLOCMAs (pronounced CLOCK-muhs). Winning a CLOCMA is a highly prestigious honor, so you bands that win should enjoy the fame and fortune that comes along with it. You are the few, the proud, the elite ... the CLOCMA winners.

I won't waste any more time with monologues and intros, so let's get straight to the awards:

1. The "Why Aren't These Guys Signed to Century Media Records" CLOCMA goes to: Pain Link

2. The "I Can't Believe That Punk Band Is Just Local Guys; What's Up With That" CLOCMA goes to: The Black Tie Bombers

3. The "Yeah I Know They Play Indie Pop But Damn They Rock" CLOCMA goes to: The Terrors

4. The "I'm Not Big on the Folk Thing But I Really Do Dig This" CLOCMA goes to: Kim Taylor

5. The "We Rock Out at Karaoke Just Like We Do at Our Own Shows" CLOCMA goes to: Banderas

6. The "Hey I Used to Work at LaRosa's With One of Them and Now They Are Pretty Big" CLOCMA goes to: Over the Rhine

7. The "Seriously, Why Did You All Break Up Right When Things Were Starting to Happen" CLOCMA goes to: Ailinel

8. The "I Didn't Know Anything About Any Cincy Hip Hop Scene 'Til I Started at Top Cat's But Now I Do and This Artist Smokes" CLOCMA goes to: Definition

9. The "Best Band Featuring Someone I Used to Be in a Band With" CLOCMA goes to: Bludstone

10. The "Best Use of "WHO-DEY!" in a Song by a Local Artist" CLOCMA goes to: Bootsy Collins

2005's Ten Most Memorable Moments in Hip Hop
1. Kanye West blasts President Bush during NBC's Katrina relief concert. Whether you agree or disagree, it beats rapping about syzzurp.

2. Speaking of West: Kanyemania reaches its peak with a Time Magazine cover story chronicling his career and the history of Hip Hop culture.

3. Lil´ Kim is sentenced to a year and a day in prison for falsely testifying about her role in a shooting outside of a New York radio station.

4. Sony BMG and Warner Music Group settle lawsuits after admitting they paid radio stations to play their artists' music.

5. Satellite radio and the iPod/MP3 revolution puts music back in the hands of The People.

6. 50 Cent becomes the first artist since The Beatles to have four singles in the Top 10 at the same time. (Reminder: This is a list of 2005's most memorable Hip Hop moments, not necessarily the best.)

7. 50's Get Rich or Die Tryin´ movie flops.

8. The Roots sign to Jay-Z's Def Jam Left boutique label.

9. Biggie's wrongful death case is halted due to indications that L.A. police and city officials were withholding evidence.

10. Jay-Z and Nas bury the hatchet during Jay's historic "I Declare War" concert in East Rutherford, N.J.

Okie Dokie It's My '05 Top Ten List
This year, we're doin' it the old-fashioned way: 10 discs that mattered to me in 2005, in no order whatsoever:

1. M83: Before the Dawn Heals Us

France's M83 has never been afraid to swing for the fences, and Before the Dawn Heals Us marries driving AltRock, gentle ambience and cinematic synthesizer flourishes for a singular sound that, at its best, is no less than stunning.

2. Slowdive: Pygmalion

Ten years after its release, Creation Records has just made Pygmalion available in the States for the first time. It's Slowdive's swan song and a big "fuck you" to the English music press (then and now), eliminating any retro-Pop leanings and opting for a gorgeous and unsettling ambience. When the new liner notes claim that one track "pretty much invents Sigur Ros in one fell swoop," it's not bluster.

3. The Orb: Okie Dokie It#180;s the Orb on Kompakt

I haven't done the research, but I'm going to go ahead and say that this is the worst album title of all time. Which is too bad, because The Orb has created another great slice of low, pulsating Techno and icy Dub perfect for the wee hours of the morn.

4. The Evens: The Evens

With Fugazi's recorded output becoming more and more sporadic, Ian MacKaye grabs his baritone guitar and shares vocal duties with solid, inventive drummer Amy Farina for a disc that recalls Yo La Tengo, Antietam and Sue Garner and Rick Brown. Serious, lo-fi AltPop that still gets the feet moving.

5. The Concretes: Layourbattleaxedown

It's a simple equation, really: Mazzy Star + '60s girl groups + Velvet Underground + Sweden = The Concretes. This collection of EPs and singles doesn't pack the same wallop as their eponymous 2004 debut, but it's worth picking up for the woozy cover of the Stones' "Miss You" alone.

6. Koushik: Be With

In a very slow year for Electronica, Koushik gifted us with this quirky chunk of underground Hip Hop, Jazz samples and psychedelic Pop overtones. Watch his next move closely.

7. Doves: Some Cities

This English trio wears its U2/Jam/Coldplay influences on its sleeves, but the songs are so damn good it doesn't matter. "Black and White Town" easily makes my top 10 list of the year's best songs, and the rest of Some Cities delivers driving and atmospheric AltRock that's streetwise and heartfelt.

8. Rogue Wave: Descended Like Vultures

Nothing too mind-blowing here, just an all-around great Indie Pop album with a command of a range of styles. "Publish My Love" was featured on The O.C. -- aw, hell yeah.

9. Deadbeat: New World Observer

Montreal's Scott Monteith (aka Deadbeat) absolutely nails it on his third and best release. It's forward-looking, beat-driven ambience that displays a mastery of the principles and techniques of classic Dub.

10. Wake the Bear: Woe Is Meat

This would have made the list even if I didn't know Scott Cunningham to be a Fine Gent. Here, in one-man-band mode, he'll satisfy your jones for Elliott Smith, Arcade Fire and Bright Eyes without sounding like any of those acts. For my money, the best local release of the year.

Things That Made Hannah Go 'Hmm' in '05
1. Ryan Adams in Columbus. The truly mind-boggling bit here is that after two hours of off-putting remarks from the stage ("Maybe some of you should be at home watching ESPN," "This is a vintage hollow body guitar -- these ceiling fans are ruining my sound!"), I was so peeved that I lined up and bought Adams' next gazillion 2005 releases (Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights and 29). Hmm.

2. iPods. Apparently owning just one has become blasé, as I recently overheard a Cincinnatian quip, "It's sooo Manhattan to have two 'Pods." My poor woman's version, I'm projecting, will be to free up existing space by deleting albums that sound suspiciously similar, but how does one decide between the Black Keys and the White Stripes? Hmm.

3. Greg Dulli´s keynote speech at MidPoint Music Festival. The local hero (of Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers fame) yakked candidly about Rock & Roll dreams, filching contract finesse from Prince and the dangers of spending music money on stupid shit. Larger than life? Hmm, you betcha -- the man's head is a mile in circumference if it's an inch. What?! I'm serious; it's a huge head.

4. Myspace. It's 3 a.m. You're rumpled and bleary-eyed. Stuck in a rabbit hole that started with an actual acquaintance's profile, zipped right through Rilo Kiley's and landed you here, reading a heartfelt blog written by a muscle-bound, self-aware (read: shirtless) personal trainer from Sacramento who just can't seem to meet the right girl. Voyeurism is normal, right? Isn't everyone doing it? Hmm.

5. Garbage, Bleed Like Me. The boys (and gal) reclaimed cred on a sonic landscape that they'd seemingly abandoned (remember Version 2.0?). Bleed whips up low, sulking Chug-Rock and the kind of soulful despair that a band half its age could only dream of. Oh yeah, and Shirley Manson proves that, pushing 40, she can still give the crowd something to "Hmm" on.

6. Bengals Para-fan-alia. Hmm, is there anything more beautiful than 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday in the parking lot of Longworth Hall? There, we're neither rich nor poor, black nor white, Democrat nor Republican. Surely disputed calls and free-flowing High Life are signs of fisticuffs to come, but for an orange-and-black moment we're all one gooseflesh-covered arm, a heartbeat thumping in time to "Welcome to the Jungle."

7. De La Soul at the Mad Hatter. Hmm. Things were looking sketchy, what with the blown AC and only De La's self-proclamation, "Hey! We're still cool!" to alleviate the burn. So we doused one another with ice water while the suddenly memorable beats hit a soft spot. OK, so DLS's 2005 crowd paled (literally) in comparison to that of 1989's, but damned if some of us didn't find grooves we never knew we had.

8. Where to Rock? 2005 brought the additional Friday night "Hmm" when local music enthusiasts had to pick destinations other than the newly defunct (York Street Café, Radio Down, BarrelHouse and The Cavern). While alchemize, The Mad Hatter and a resurrected Kaldi's became havens for the disenfranchised, the Southgate House continued to reign as thee Indie hotspot.

9. Girl Jeans on Boys. Despite what you might say about these eyeliner-clad upstarts with their emo-black hair and their penchant for taking vintage style to outrageous (and often "hmm-able") new heights, I got no beef with the fact that my clothes-borrowing opportunities doubled this year, thanks to my courageously petite bros.

10. Green Day. Fancying themselves cultural liaisons to the anti-Bush generation, the most recognizable of their iconage includes the three-piece shouting the lyrics "Don't wanna be an American idiot/One nation controlled by the media" in sync with 50,000 fans, 16- to 24-year-olds all decked out in surprisingly uniform apparel, pounding angry (?) fists toward the sky. Suffice it to say that this "Hmm" could indicate careful consideration of a "movement" or a valiantly restrained urge to chuck one's beloved Dookie at the TV screen.

Top 10 Singles (or Songs That Should Have Been Singles)
1. Keane: Everybody´s Changing

Though they say they're not interested in being a cult band, this British trio is on its way to being the Ultravox of this generation -- huge in Europe, small following here. That's a shame. They should have a wider audience on this side of the pond.

2. The Killers: Change Your Mind

The first two singles were great, so how did this rollicker not get chosen to bat third (or at all)? Soaring melody, great hook. Can't miss.

3. Allister: A Study in Economics

A little heavier on melody and lighter on whiny angst, this toe-tapper could easily have a home on contemporary hit radio. Not very Z-Rock-y, which makes for a nice change of pace.

4. Depeche Mode: Precious

Their finest single since the Violator album, and all it took was main songwriter Martin Gore getting a divorce. Reality sells, even in Pop music circles.

5. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: In This Home on Ice

The Arrested Development (er, the TV show) of the Pop music scene. Let's not go haywire, but this Brooklyn band is solid and worthy of your time.

6. The Weekend: Perfect World

These British ladies have yet to make their U.S. debut, so you might have to look around for their stuff. It's worth the effort. Recalls the heyday of Brit-chick Pop like The Primitives and The Darling Buds.

7. Yellowcard: View From Heaven

As with Allister, this is a bit of a departure, though not a huge one. Sad song actually, but undeniably catchy and ultimately uplifting.

8. Green Day: Wake Me Up When September Ends

These guys rock and mellow out in the same song, and it seems effortless as always. Maybe that's why they've done so well.

9. The Bravery: An Honest Mistake

Dig that '80s influence and that Strokes-like vocal filter. Actually that schtick goes back to The Fall, who were, of course, from the '80s.

10. The Like: What I Say and What I Mean

This trio of L.A. gals is poppier than, say, The Donnas but certainly more substantial than, say, Hilary or Hayley Duff (sorry gals, don't mean to pick on you). This fine single is hopefully a hint at what's to come.

Top Ten...What?
10. "Bond" on cincymusic.com calling The Minni-Thins' record In Black Cause I Asked, "better than a million jesuses." I don't know, I just found that amusing.

9. patientZero playing Steve Perry's "Oh Sherry" at the Pop Rocks II benefit concert June 24. If you weren't there, well, you just can't appreciate how funny it really was. Leave it to a cover of this caliber to bring out the Kentucky in the girls.

8. Another Pop Rocks II moment: The Chocolate Horse as a group of Michael McDonalds. "I wrote this song!"

7. Kelly Thomas and a benefit for bands (for once), the Red MacCormack Memorial Recording Grant. You rock, Kelly, so we all can.

6. The Terrors. Period.

5. The return of Black Tractor. Whitey sent me a link to some of the new songs before Someone Call a Priest came out. Rock had written in the forwarded message, "Feel the fury." Fury indeed.

4. Finnish computer geeks developing virtual air guitar. "Project: Air Guitar" might just satiate the desires of douche bags the world over.

3. Wearable handlebars for that "special" romantic experience. Genius.

2. Zappa's Dub Room Special released on DVD. He remains king of all that kicks ass in my book.

1. As with every year, rotating pies.

The Definitive and True Top Ten
1. Dwight Trible: Living Water

Cincinnati native and Coltrane devotee Dwight Trible wraps his near baritone voice around Coltrane classics "Africa" and "Wise One," Andy Bey's "Celestial Blues" and other sky-scraping Jazz hymns by Wayne Shorter, Abdullah Ibrahim, Freddie Hubbard and Bill Lee. There's no copyright date on the disc, but my barber told me about it this year.

2. Chocolate Genius Inc: Black Yankee Rock

Marc Anthony Thompson describes BYR as a feeling, not a sound, and I concur (like it matters). "The Beginning of Always" sounds like Neil Young fired up and is the dopest Rock song recorded since the Stones' "Satisfaction;" "Cry" harkens back to classic Rickie Lee Jones; "Amazona" is a Prince impersonation circa Sign O' the Times; and "The Yes Eye" could've been recorded by Seal. Thompson's no thief, but a brilliant, smart-ass songwriter connected to some of the smartest musicians working.

3. Meshell Ndegeocello Presents: The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel

Ever searching for the appropriate outlet for sensual angst, Ndegeocello gets still closer with this improvisational ensemble comprising Oliver Lake, Don Byron, Wallace Roney Mino Cinelu, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Garrett and Cassandra Wilson, among others. This is Miles Davis' '70s electric shit, as sumptuous and scary as Man With the Horn and as probing and outré as any post-Coltrane Pharoah Sanders release.

4. Raphael Saadiq: Ray Ray

This is groovier and not nearly as insular as Gospeldelic, Saadiq's first solo release sans Tony! Toni! Tone! It's also addictive, bouncy, danceable, sexy and clean-cut R&B, my soundtrack to new love/lust. The best black music you'll never hear on black radio -- it's too clean and makes too much sense.

5. Lewis Taylor: Stoned

This white Brit keeps making albums Marvin Gaye never got to -- crack music so funky, soul-filled and psychedelic it deifies influences and defies explanations. Taylor played every instrument on this one, and if you thought Prince was a bad-ass on For You, then track this album down and put it on repeat for a week.

6. Raul Midon: State of Mind

Like Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and Al Jarreau before and during him, Midon is too good for his own good. This music is so perfectly sunny and succinct it's almost corny; in the mean, late-period Bush galaxy of affectation, irony and mediocrity, though, corny works. Wonder even lays down a harmonica solo on "Expressions of Love."

7. Carleen Anderson: Soul Providence

The former Young Disciple is prolific; she has to be, because she breathes music and I can always tell with each album that it wasn't enough. This is music for grown folks who like truth, groove, spirituality and self-assuredness in their music. I had to go to New York to find this, and it was worth the price of the ticket.

8. Kirk Franklin: Hero

Franklin's most accomplished modern Gospel album yet. He's been listening to vintage Earth, Wind & Fire, Deniece Williams and Stevie Wonder, and it shows. The centerpiece to me, though, is "Let It Go," his heartbreaking rant set to Tears For Fears' "Shout" recounting his hard-scrabble youth addicted to pornography, his teen fatherhood and his redemptive path to reconciliation. I don't know about you, but I need Jesus to a backbeat.

9. Lizz Wright: Dreaming Wide Awake

I purchased this automatically, based on the exquisiteness of Salt, Wright's first album, but then it took me a long time to really like this record. Finally, I do. This is a quiet and dark album rife with innuendo and grace. "Hit the Ground" is the best song Neil Young never recorded.

10. Antony and the Johnsons: I Am a Bird Now

After I read about and then saw Antony and the Johnsons perform, I was obsessed with finding this album but afraid to listen to it, so it sat on top of the stereo for months. Emotionally intoxicating and therefore magnetic and demanding, this music frightens me most for its dead-on articulation of what it's like to be an alien among men, and I mean that as in mankind and as in penises. Don't fuck with this if you're not up to it. ©

 
 
 
 

 

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