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Top CDs of 2005

Siddhartha Mitter

1. M.I.A., "Arular" XL. The Brit-Sri Lankan sensation was also the year's most important new voice. Conscious, vital, edgy and fun, she's post-globalization agit-prop, a revolutionary with a healthy taste for nonsense. Her album is a consommé of global culture in motion.

2. Rachid Taha, "Tékitoi?" Wrasse. The most complete album yet from the unruly Arab-punk pioneer, who chronicles the encounter of European and Arab culture in all its glorious ambiguity. No TV pundit can rival a Taha song in explaining events in the Paris suburbs, or for that matter Iraq.

3. Platinum Pied Pipers, "Triple P" Ubiquity. Hip-hop meets electronic funk and some serious emerging singing talent in the debut offering from this offshoot of the Slum Village crew. The Detroit origins show in the restless, future-forward feel.

4. Meshell Ndegeocello, "The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel" Shanachie. Fed up with center stage, she stood back from the mic and let her bass do the talking, as groove provider to a stellar cast of jazz and soul acolytes. The results are inspired.

5. "The Best of Couper Décaler" Ivory Coast import. With synthetic, staccato beats and witty, bombastic lyrics, the endlessly imaginative urban culture of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, has supplied French-speaking Africa with its sound of the moment. Available from

6. Sy Smith, "The Syberspace Social" Psyko. Neo-soul has run its course. The next phase is unfolding in Los Angeles, and the endearingly tripped-out Smith is its leading songstress. Available from

7. Chamillionaire, "The Sound of Revenge" Universal Motown. In the year Houston hip-hop went national, Chamillionaire was the most consistent of the Texas metropolis' new wave of MCs, with a little less cough syrup and candy rims, and a lot more lyrical talent and flow.

8. Souad Massi, "Honeysuckle (Mesk Elil)" Wrasse. A gorgeous offering from the young Algerian singer, who combines a quintessentially Mediterranean sensibility with the thoughtful lyricism of the best singer-songwriters.

9. Emmerson, "Borbor Bele" Sierra Leone import. A confident young artist distills a consciousness-raising, booty-shaking democratic experience. Infectious dancefloor fun and a devastating critique of the African ruling class. Available from

10. Brazilian Girls, "Brazilian Girls" Verve Forecast. Langorous electronic grooves, breathy multilingual songs, yet stripped of pretension. With no Brazilians and only one girl, the European trio makes authentically cosmopolitan music that's refreshingly tongue-in-cheek.

Top CDs of 2005
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Listen as each of the reviewers talk about one album that stood out.
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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