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TOP ALBUMS OF 2005

It’s time to recap the best discs of the year, and here are the picks from Medleyville staffers.

Joe Belock’s Top 10
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1. Outrageous Cherry, Our Love Will Change the World (Rainbow Quartz)
This veteran Detroit quartet is still the perfect psychedelic power-pop act after all these years.
2. Paul McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (Capitol)
Nigel Godrich‘s stripped-down setting suits Sir Paul perfectly on the ex-Beatle’s best post-Wings album.
3. Ribeye Brothers, Bar Ballads and Cautionary Tales (Times Beach)
Rowdy Jersey Shore rockers deliver knockout punch of a second album.
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4. The Flakes, Back to School (Dollar Records)
Rave-up from Bay Area garage-punks is an instant party!
5. Crack Pipes, Beauty School (Emperor Jones)
Austin, Texas combo drags blues and funk through the garage and back to the junkyard where it belongs.
6. Royal Purple, Instant Analysis (Umbrella)
A far-out studio project with members of the Insomniacs and Creatures of the Golden Dawn.
7. Subsonics, Die Bobby Die (Slovenly)
Best all-original Velvet Underground tribute in years.
8. Downbeat 5, Victory Motel (Hi-N-Dry)
Boston rockers driven by the blistering lead guitar of punk legend J.J. Rassler and dynamic vocals of the female Bon Scott, Jen D’Angora.
9. Gentleman Callers, Don’t Say What It Is (Wee Rock)
Ringing guitars and fab hooks set this St. Louis band apart from the garage-rock pack.
10. High School Sweethearts, Heels n Wheels (Get Hip)
Blondie-influenced punk-rock kiss-offs from this New Jersey sextet are propelled by ex-Feelies drummer Dave Weckerman.

The best of the rest:
BBQ, Tie Your Noose (Bomp)
The Fleshtones, Beachhead (Yep Roc)
Volebeats, Like Her (Turquoise Mountain)
DMBQ, The Essential Sounds From the Far East (Estrus)
A-Lines, You Can Touch (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves, Shortly After Takeoff (12XU)
The Time Flys, Fly (Birdman)
Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell, Begonias (Yep Roc)
Sights, s/t (New Line/Scratchie)
Turpentine Brothers, We Don’t Care About Your Good Times (Alive)

Michael Corby’s Top 10
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1. The Redwalls, de nova (Capitol)
When you get past how much Justin Baren sounds like John Lennon or that this band sounds very similar to The Beatles, this is a very smart, socially aware album.
2. Jack Johnson, In Between Dreams (Universal)
Johnson doesn’t stray from the formula that has made him a favorite on the college circuit. This disc features a strong set of songs that can uplift listeners, even on a rainy day.
3. The Wallflowers, Rebel, Sweetheart (Interscope)
If only this were the album the band released after the 1996 smash Bringing Down the Horse, then maybe more people would remember these guys. Jakob Dylan takes control of the guitar work and blends it brilliantly with the band’s signature sound.
4. Foo Fighters, In Your Honor (RCA)
This two-disc set displays the band’s full range of talent. The first disc is filled with 10 hard-rockin’ tracks, while the second has a more acoustic feel.
5. Amos Lee, Amos Lee (Blue Note)
Lee is the male version of Norah Jones, but instead of piano he plays guitar.
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6. Death Cab for Cutie, Plans (Atlantic)
The Seattle quartet’s fifth album is filled with mature lyrics and an indie-pop sound that is being pushed to the more immature O.C. crowd. It’s a very solid album while still being radio friendly.
7. Porcupine Tree, Deadwig (Lava)
Mixing metal guitar riffs with synthesizers, these cats from England keep us guessing where they are going next.
8. Neil Young, Prairie Wind (Reprise)
Creatively mixing gospel, blues and country, Young seemingly offers something for everyone on an album that recalls 1992’s Harvest Moon.
9. Audioslave, Out of Exile (Interscope)
Produced by Rick Rubin and mixed by Brendan O’Brien, this album allows the band to shake the “side project” rap it sometimes undeservingly receives. Tom Morelloexpands his guitar work and Chris Cornell finds himself lyrically.
10. Various Artists, Verve Remixed 3 (Verve)
A cool collection of jazz rarities remixed by some of today’s innovative DJs. For one, Sarah Vaughn’s “Peter Gunn,” remixed by Max Sedgley, is sure to get people moving.

The best of the rest:
James Blunt, Back to Bedlam (WEA)
Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (Sony)
Bossa n’ Stones, The Electro Bass Songbook of The Rolling
Stones
(pmbmusic/Europe)
Coldplay, X&Y (Capitol)
Cream, Live at Royal Albert Hall (Reprise)
Neil Diamond, 12 Songs (Columbia)
Madonna, Confessions on a Dance Floor (WEA)
Paul McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
(Capitol)
Marah, If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry (Yep
Roc)
Robert Plant & the Strange Sensation, Mighty Rearranger
(Sanctuary/Sony)

George Henn’s Top 10
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1. Frank Black, Honeycomb (Back Porch)
Pixies front man gets personal, allowing listeners to wallow with him on what amounts to being a soundtrack of a mid-life crisis.
2. Mando Diao, Hurricane Bar (Mute)
High-energy punk-popsters from Sweden unleash a hook-heavy assault that never lets up.
3. Teenage Fanclub, Man-Made (Merge)
Melodic pop vets return from oblivion and surprisingly emerge with an expanded sound on their seventh album.
4. John Davis, John Davis (Rambler)
Ex-Superdrag leader tackles new lyrical ground — life as a born-again Christian — and crafts a majestic, melodic masterpiece.
5. Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell, Begonias (Yep Roc)
Cockrell’s twangy troubadour stance is a fine foil for Cary’s country sweetness, at times recalling her partnership with Ryan Adams in Whiskeytown.
6. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Cold Roses (Lost Highway)
This double disc is a lot to digest, but thankfully Adams’ most mature, versatile record also is his first that doesn’t leave you wanting to lop off a couple of tracks. (For more of his usual overkill, see the hastily released follow-up, Jacksonville City Nights).
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7. Son Volt, Okemah and the Melody of Riot (Sony Legacy) —
Jay Farrar dusts off the Son Volt name for its first release in seven years — even if it is with a new set of players backing him — and sounds more vital than ever on shimmering songs both personal and political.
8. The Dipsomaniacs, Whatever Planet (Facedown)
This band’s name may be a reference to throwing ’em back, but beneath this quartet’s loose power-pop sound lie level-headed songs about life’s sobering realities.
9. Crooked Fingers, Dignity and Shame (Merge)
On his fourth album under this moniker, Eric Bachmann impresses by shifting easily from edgy power pop to impassioned ballads and even instrumentals.
10. John Hiatt, Master of Disaster (New West)
Venerable singer/songwriter settles into bluesy southern grooves courtesy of guest backing band North Mississippi Allstars.

The best of the rest
Beck, Guero (Interscope)
Brendan Benson, The Alternative to Love (V2)
The Brokedown, Dutchman’s Gold EP (self-released)
Dramarama, Everybody Dies (Harvey*/33rd Street)
Louis XIV, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept (Atlantic)
Mark Mulcahy, In Pursuit of Your Happiness (Mezzotint)
The Posies, Every Kind of Light (Ryko)
The Stands, The Stands (Echo)**
The Volebeats, Like Her (Turquoise Mountain)
The Waco Brothers, Freedom and Weep (Bloodshot)
** — released in 2004 internationally, 2005 in U.S.

Mike Madden’s Top 10
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1. My Morning Jacket, Z (ATO)
Far and away the album of the year — and quite possibly one of the best albums from the past five years or so. The production alone is a huge step forward for the band; combine that with Jim James‘ powerful voice and the tight musicianship, and the result is mind-blowing.
2. Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (Saddle Creek)
The quieter of the two albums released Use Your Illusion-style by singer/songwriter Conor Oberst. For those who don’t believe the hype, chuck this one on and jump onboard. There is song after song of heartbreak, revelation, and passion without pretense or parody.
3. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Cold Roses (Lost Highway)
Sure, this album is entirely too long and could be cut by about three or four songs, but what ranks this one so high is the fact that it’s a return to form. Adams has come back to the music that he is truly gifted at writing and performing.
4. The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday (French Kiss)
The voice here, Craig Finn, doesn’t actually sing: He merely rants and raves while his band mates play some damn good arena rock behind his words. It’s certainly interesting and terribly infectious.
5. Frank Black, Honeycomb (Back Porch)
When Frank Black sets out to make a musical milestone he usually hits the mark. Equal parts somber reflection and celebratory brilliance surrounded by a rich, roots rock feel.
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6. The Blue Van, The Art of Rolling (TVT)
This year’s tops in the garage revivalist category. This album has a wreckless charm that erases all the technical mistakes the band may be making.
7. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Naturally (Daptone)
Soul music for people who like soul music. The album is so well produced you’d think it was a reissue. Just right to listen to when you think R&B music has lost its way.
8. The Magic Numbers, The Magic Numbers (Capitol)
A clever album that packs on the power pop and remains catchy after repeated listens. It makes sense to think this foursome would have been huge in the early ’90s.
9. Danko Jones, We Sweat Blood (Razor & Tie)
This band pulls no punches and doesn’t seem to take itself seriously; the album is tough and loud.
10. Marah, If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry (Yep Roc)
Brothers Serge and Dave Bielanko still haven’t matched the might and passion of 2000’s Kids in Philly, but this album has a great live feel that they’ve been striving to achieve.

The best of the rest:
Dwight Yoakam, Blame The Van (New West)
The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan (V2)
The Wallflowers, Rebel, Sweetheart (Interscope)
Paul Weller, As Is Now (Yep Roc)
Little Barrie, We Are Little Barrie (Artemis)
Neil Diamond, 12 Songs (Columbia)
Rodney Crowell, The Outsider (Sony/Nashville)
Dramarama, Everybody Dies (33rd Street)
Louis XIV, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept (Atlantic)
Susan Tedeschi, Hope and Desire (Verve Forecast)