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15 Favorite CDs of 2005

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  • Vashti Bunyan: Lookaftering — a true rarity: pristine, timeless, and sincerely beautiful. Worth the 36 year wait…

  • Sufjan Stevens: Illinois — yes, it’s on lots of these lists and for good reasons: great songs, great production, great concept, even a great album cover (and a little album cover controversy too!) Michigan was good, Illinois(e) is DAMN good… bring on the other 48, Sufjan!

  • Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs — maybe not as perfect as Weather Systems, but still a solid album by a brilliant artist in his prime. Plus: lyrics about Ride of the Valkyries and snacks!


  • Kraftwerk: Minimum-Maximum — the man-machines amazingly succeed at releasing an exciting live techno album… it sort of even “rocks”…!

  • Harold Budd: Avalon Sutra/As Long As I Can Hold My Breath — supposedly Budd’s final record (though he appeared on two other excellent CDs this year also… see honorable mentions below…) A master class in atmospheric minimalism…

  • AFX: Hangable Auto Bulb — a welcome reissue of two ultra-rare vinyl-only EPs… it’s the kind of quirky, infectious stuff that got you hooked on the mad genius of Aphex Twin in the first place…

    [jazz new releases]

  • Thelonious Monk & John Coltrane: Live at Carnegie Hall — the jazz find of the decade: even better than all the hype would lead you to expect…. (but what does it say about the state of jazz when the best new release of 2005 was recorded in 1957?)

  • Keith Jarrett: Radiance Keith’s first live solo piano recording in ten years… not an epic journey like The Koln Concert, but rather an engaging sequence of sonic episodes full of drama and variety…

  • Bill Charlap & Sandy Stewart: Love is Here To Stayclass, restraint, and elegance abound in this mother/son duo’s impeccable selection of beautiful songs played and sung beautifully…

    [jazz reissues]

  • Michael White: The Land of Spirit and Light — a lost treasure of spiritual jazz fusion on CD at last… jazz violin never sounded so good! Keep ’em coming, Impulse…

  • Roger Kellaway: Cello Quartet — A surprising find… I had never heard of this guy before picking this up on a whim… turns out to be a delight from start to finish: a rare “Third Stream” jazz/classical hybrid without pretentiousness…

  • Oscar Peterson: Motions and Emotions — a lovely album finally gets an affordable domestic CD reissue… Peterson’s piano soars above the transparent orchestrations of Claus Ogerman. A real buried gem in Oscar’s enormous discography


  • Osvaldo Golijov: Ayre / Luciano Berio: Folk Songs (Dawn Upshaw, soprano) — the fireworks are in the Golijov (pop/world/classical fusion that actually works… complete with drum machines!) but Berio’s stunning postmodern (yet listenable) folk song arrangements are even better…

  • Charles Ives: A Song – For Anything (Gerald Finley, baritone / Julius Drake, piano) finally a CD exclusively devoted to the amazing songs of Charles Ives… an excellent selection spanning the wide range of moods and styles to be found in these works… let’s hope they record all 114!

  • Eighth Blackbird: Fred compelling collection of Frederic Rzewski‘s singular minimalist/modernist/activist compositions… concludes with a harrowing performance of Coming Together that you’ll never forget…

    [honorable mentions]
    Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Matthew Sweeney: Superwolf
    Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker: Town Hall, June 22, 1945
    Jean-Phillipe Rameau: Une Symphonie Imaginaire
    Various Artists:
    Motown Remixed
    Stereolab: Oscillons from the Anti-Sun
    Various Artists: New Thing!
    Gary Higgins: Red Hash
    Albert Ayler:
    New Grass

    Feist: Let it Die
    Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd: Mysterious Skin [soundtrack]

  • Eraldo Bernocchi & Harold Budd: Music for “Fragments from the Inside”

    [from serenade in green]

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    • jon

      does Leftfield count as electronica/ambient? i’d have thought their A Final Hit greatest hits collection would at least have made an honourable mention…

    • Kelly Clarkson – Breakaway