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Top CDs of 2005

James Reed

1. Phosphorescent, "Aw Come Aw Wry" Misra. Matthew Houck's high-lonesome sophomore album was built on a simple chorus of "aw come aw wry" but then turned into something sprawling and majestic, where a boozy horn section blared over pedal steel and every crack in Houck's voice could break your heart.

2. Petracovich, "We Are Wyoming" Red Buttons. From San Francisco's Petracovich (nee Jessica Peters) came this astral slice of rainy-day melancholy. Dueling pianos compete with drums, bells, and Wurlitzer organ to make "We Are Wyoming" more transcendent than you first realize.

3. Okay, "Low Road" and "High Road" Absolutely Kosher. Recording under the moniker Okay, Marty Anderson fashioned his double debuts (sold separately) as commentaries on everything from war to his own mortality. Relying on the power of repetition and layered arrangements, he sang like a wounded T. Rex.

4. Ike Turner, "The Bad Man" Night Train. He’s a bad man, all right, but Turner was also an early R&B pioneer. This compilation collects songs from his own labels in the 1960s, and Tina, the Ikettes, and Fontella Bass have rarely sounded more vital and drenched in sweat.

5. Rogue Wave, "Descended Like Vultures" Sub Pop. Rogue Wave reminded us just how effortless and joyful indie rock can be, especially with hook-laden songs that rumble ("10:1"), provoke ("Publish My Love"), and transfix ("California") even the most casual listener.

6. Sara Valenzuela, "Lado Este" Nacional. Valenzuela, former lead singer of the Mexican alt-rock band La Dosis, went solo with an eccentric album that melded trip-hop, funk, and Latin rock into a late-night classic for fans of Ely Guerra and Beth Orton.

7. Michael Andrews, "Me and You and Everyone We Know" soundtrack Everloving. Andrews’s original score hit all the right notes to complement Miranda July's quirky art-house hit, veering from ambient synthesizers to austere piano melodies.

8. Margo, "Furtives Furies" Chez Moi. The second release from French ex-patriate Alexandra Rousseau's Cambridge-based label was a dazzling mashup of '80s New Wave and '60s French pop, giving us a taste of what a Claudine Longet album recorded with Ladytron would have sounded like.

9. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah" Self-released. Proving that the music can speak for itself, the unsigned Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was one of indie rock's biggest success stories this year. The band's nod to Talking Heads was undeniable, but so was the charm of this debut that revived infectious, jangly guitar rock.

10. Acid House Kings, "Sing Along With..." and Sambassadeur, "Sambassadeur" Labrador. Sunshine-pop got a kick in the pants from these two guitar-driven Swedish bands, who recorded the ultimate summer soundtrack with distinct albums that pick up where the other leaves off.

Top CDs of 2005
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Read more CD reviews: Scott Alarik  |  Joan Anderman  |  Bill Beuttler  |  Richard Dyer  |  Renee Graham  |  Siddhartha Mitter  |  Steve Morse  |  Christopher Muther  |  James Reed  |  Top CDs of 2005
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