Best Albums 2005 (6-10)

10. Wussy — Funeral Dress

Chuck Cleaver of brilliantly bent ’90s Cincinnati alterna-flops Ass Ponys and his on-and-off-again younger gf Lisa Walker take lyrical turns here, hers milking metaphysics from the concrete, his etching the everyday into the abstract. Their guitars split the difference between jangle and drone, wading among waves of death and depression rather than soaring above or (for damn sure) sinking beneath. It’d make perfect sense if the “Funeral Dress” that Walker’s terminal optimist saves up for is the same as the “Yellow Cotton Dress” Cleaver says looks like a “motherfucker” when she fills it out.

9. The Clipse & Re-Up Gang — We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2

“Grindin'” didn’t convince me that corporate shenanigans were all that kept Malice and Pusha T from changing the face of rap as we know it. But they damn near steal “1 Thing” from under Amerie’s cute little nose, and “Hate It or Love It” becomes a genuinely difficult choice when posed by such gifted yet hate-worthy rappers. In short, with help from Ab-Liva and Sandman, not to mention impressario Clinton Sparks, they half-convince me that the previous three years of music would’ve sounded fresher if delivered with pure bile rather than entrusted to cutie-pie pimps. So much better than the first installment I question their skill as dope dealers–even I know that the follow up should never be a purer high than the first free hit.

8. Minotaur Shock — Maritime

Fluttering somewhere between Pet Sounds and Pet Shop Boys, David Edwards soundtracks a conflict-free video game where pixels politely make way for each other as tracks build with a sense of purpose Jimmy Page would envy. That doesn’t mean Edwards is predictable: “Mistaken Tourist” runs generic “ethnic” polyrhythms overtop a Casio beat for a spell, then blurts into Georgio Moroder electrodisco, swiping fake strings from a Commodore 64 commercial; on “Muesli,” synth clarinets bob up and down like pistons, their tones gradually coloring over one another, before a xylophone pattern nudges in to provide counterpoint and horns explode into a bright carousel melody. Take it from someone who knows next to nothing about electronic music: Lost electronic music album of the decade.

7. Sleater-Kinney — The Woods

Glad we didn’t know at the time this would be the grand finale–our mood would’ve been too elegiac to recognize the new ground they broke, and too respectful to argue over whether they should have. I’m down with the makeover: Carrie gets to brandish her chops, Corin belts like a blooze mama, Janet bashes away as though ain’t a damn thing changed. And though Dave Fridmann’s need to push the levels into the red antagonizes loudness warriors, I’m Switzerland in:re compression, and the cheapness thrills me. If they insist their work was finished (and that Interpol’s should’ve never begun) who are we to dissent?

6. M.I.A. — Arular

Those who accuse Maya of radical chic are fighting some other decade’s war. Deploying insurgent rhetoric in Fortress America, even as late as ’05, was commercially iffy and genuinely defiant, and if it was just a pose, well, duh, it’s art. Not only does she tweak tropes further outside the law than any gangsta shtick, but she channels the burbling of international voices with such polyphonic ease so that her voices seem to emerge from everywhere and nowhere at once. As an MC, she’s Neneh Cherry wit’ Attitude, maybe, but fifteen years down the road, where bhangra and dancehall and baile funk fill U.K. clubs rather than watered down U.S. hip-hop.

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  • Zellar  On September 18, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    I don’t know the Minotaur Shock, but you make me want to know it, and that’s what I like about you, Harris. One thing, anyway.

  • usefulnoise  On September 18, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    It’s as good a reason to like me as any.

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