PRINT December 2005

Music: Best of 2005

Debra Singer

1 ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS, I AM A BIRD NOW (SECRETLY CANADIAN) These gorgeously crafted ballads about longing and loneliness, desire and pain perfectly combine Antony Hegarty’s ethereal, soulful voice with his highly original, touching lyrics.

2 BARR, BEYOND REINFORCED JEWEL CASE (5RC) The raw, idiosyncratic energy of Barr’s (aka Brendan Fowler’s) declarative performance style completely won me over. His personal, political, and humorous songs are part inspirational stories, part positive manifestos.

3 KONONO NO. 1, CONGOTRONICS 1 (CRAMMED) This incredible band from Kinshasa, founded more than twenty-five years ago, generates a thrilling jangle of furious polyrhythms and electronic grooves. Drawing on traditional Bazombo trance music, it centers on the sounds of multiple likembés (thumb pianos) distorted by a jerryrigged amplification system and combined with percussive instruments and lyrics chanted through megaphones.

4 LE TIGRE, THIS ISLAND (UNIVERSAL) Two thousand and five was a breakout year for this feminist electronic punk band, as the renegade trio—armed with hi-fi production values—successfully invaded the coveted territory of mainstream radio and television. Their brand of intelligently rebellious, in-your-face charm is music—fused with expressionistic politics—at its best.

5 VIJAY IYER, REIMAGINING (SAVOY JAZZ) This stunning record reveals an extraordinary synergy among the musicians as they meld traditions of American jazz with South Indian classical music and a hint of Erik Satie.

6 “EYE & EAR CONTROLLED” (ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES, NEW YORK) An outstanding film and music series, curated by artists Andrew Lampert and Jim O’Rourke, that focused on collaborative efforts integrating avant-garde music and experimental film, highlighting works by, among many others, Tony Conrad, Mauricio Kagel, Takehisa Kosugi, Charlemagne Palestine, and Terry Riley.

7 ALVA NOTO + RYUICHI SAKAMOTO, INSEN (RASTER NOTEN) The combination of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s piano recordings and Alva Noto’s (aka Carsten Nicolai’s) digital manipulations adds up to a beautifully hypnotic, ambient recording filled with delicately calibrated tonal progressions, pulsing staccato phrases, and shimmering sonic harmonies.

8 DEVENDRA BANHART, CRIPPLE CROW (XL RECORDINGS) This golden boy of the dubiously dubbed “freak-folk” scene makes a distinctive impression here, suggesting that this charismatic singer-songwriter is refining his talents by moving in new directions.

9 THE STONE (NEW YORK) Last spring, composer and saxophonist John Zorn opened this nonprofit music venue in Manhattan’s East Village. Single-minded in its pursuit of serious experimentation, it lacks even the usual moneymaking prerequisite: a bar.

10 M.I.A, ARULAR (XL RECORDINGS) Who knows if M.I.A (aka Maya Arulpragasam) is the real deal or an opportunistic flash-in-the-pan? Either way, I loved her kick-ass, girl-power rap style and exuberant blend of inventive hip-hop rhythms, DIY electronica, and global musical influences. If all pop music was this smart and this much fun, the world would be a better

Debra Singer is the executive director and chief curator of The Kitchen in New York.