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In an effort to keep track of which years I’ve
enjoyed best in music, I like to keep little album
tallies in my head from year to year. For
example, I often think of 2000 as the worst year ever
for music, as I can only think of four albums of new
material I bought that year, while 2002 I considered
one of the best, with about 22 I felt the need to
spend my hard-earned green on.

That said, 2005 was definitely one of the best in a
good, long while. I haven’t tallied how many I
actually paid for this year, but I definitely remember
which ones stood out above the rest. These
albums invaded my headphones, car speakers,
living room, bedroom and mix tapes and CDs all

And now, here they are, for your perusal.
Honorable mention:
Bob Dylan – No Direction Home: The Soundtrack (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7): Not
a proper album of new, 2005 material, obviously, but still an amazing compilation
that deserves mention. No Direction Home manages to make yet another set of
Dylan outtakes — of which there are plenty — to sound absolutely thrilling. From
home recordings made in his relative infancy to the brash grit of the later electric
No Direction Home stands as one of the best Dylan sets available.

10. Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth: Trent Reznor rarely disappoints. He takes his time,
and even if Nine Inch Nails are now in the pursuit of a specific sound rather than
trying to invent a new one, that pursuit still leads to powerful albums. Led off with the
singles “The Hand that Feeds” and “Only,” NIN were once again a staple of
alternative and college radio. 15 years after
Pretty Hate Machine, that’s an
impressive feat.

9. Ryan Adams – Jacksonville City Nights: Adams’ second album of 2005 had
more of a country tinge than the leadoff Cold Roses but kept the epic sense.
Borrowing again from the Grateful Dead and Gram Parsons, Jacksonville was
highlighted by “The End,” which featured Adams soaring voice during its chorus.

8. Beck – Guero: Beck delivered the funk here as only Beck could. The single “E-Pro”
turned out to be one of his bigger radio hits in a while, while the rest of the album,
from the broken beats of “Black Tamborine” to the techno rhythm of “Hell Yes” was
steeped in Beck’s quirky fills and tempos.

7. Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak: Everyone’s favorite family band didn’t
disappoint this year. While their sophomore effort wasn’t as uninhibited as their
Aha Shake Heartbreak was still a wild, rollicking release. “Pistol of Fire” and
“Taper Jean Girl” would’ve been right at home on their first album, but more mature
songs like “Milk” and “Rememo” were what made this album so great.

6. Supergrass – Road to Rouen: With each album in their catalog, Supergrass has
hinted at a more mature sound, be it “End of the Day” from
In It For The Money or
“Grace” from
Life On Other Planets. But the total sonic shift was still a surprise on
this record. Here, Supergrass honed in their strengths into their best, most
streamlined album to date.

5. Spoon – Gimmie Fiction: Spoon kept their basic formula intact — simple
arrangements on tight pop songs — but added an edge and sense of the epic. The
funk from “I Turn My Camera On” and the Beatle-esque cockiness of “The Two Sides
of Monsieur Valentine” brought one of indie rock’s best bands to a new level in 2005.

4. Ryan Adams – Cold Roses: Maybe it was the anticipation, waiting for the first new
Ryan Adams music in a year and a half, but the shock hasn’t worn off of
Cold Roses
yet. The 19 songs presented here are sweeping and grand, ranging from Van
Morrison to the Grateful Dead to the Stones and the Smiths as only Adams can.
Every song sounds effortless, and Adams’ impassioned delivery works wonders
here. With an already impressive catalog to his name, this is easily Adams’

3. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – HOWL: One listen to either of B.R.M.C.’s first two
albums in no way prepares the listener for
HOWL, which is the most authentic
sounding roots record in who knows how long. For a band who sounded like an
updated cross between T.Rex, Love and Rockets, Sonic Youth and the Stooges, the
stripped-back asthetic of this album is shocking. But more than that, what makes
this such an outstanding album is how moving it is, whether it’s the gospel stomp of
“Shuffle your Feet” or the bare emotion of “Fault Line.”

2. The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan: The Stripes are at their peak right now
and in a position to do anything they want. Marimbas leading a song? Sure. A blue-
grass mandolin romp? You betcha. Release one song in 10 different formations?
Why the hell not? As far as
Get Behind Me Satan is concerned, this is the Stripes at
their most confident, their most fearless. It’s not as reckless as
Elephant, it’s far
more stripped back than that, relying far more on piano and rhythm to drive the songs
rather than Jack White’s guitar. But, fear not, there’s plenty of guitar to go around.

1. Queens of the Stone Age – Lullabies to Paralyze: Queens albums are an event
within themselves. The revolving door policy of the band (minus leader Josh
Homme) keeps the music fresh and exciting, and insures that no slackers overstay
their welcome on the vinyl. Here, the stoner rockers extraordinaire pound through a
set of stunningly tight songs, elevating what hard rock is capable of. The sludgy
stomp of “Burn the Witch,” the frantic “Everybody Knows That You’re Insane,” and the
ode to oral pleasure “Skin on Skin” are just a handful of some of the many highlights
here. One of the most powerful records in years.
E-mail Nick Tavares at
The rest of the best:

The Mars Volta — Frances the Mute

12. Sufjan Stevens — Come On Feel the Illinoise

13. The New Pornographers — Twin Cinema

14. Foo Fighters — In Your Honor

15. Ryan Adams — 29

16. My Morning Jacket — Z

17. Kasabian — Kasabian

18. Jack Johnson — In Between Dreams

19. Guided By Voices — Half-smiles of the Decomposed

20. Sigur Rós — Takk