By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
In 2005 I neither sipped syrup nor rode low, smoked dro nor pushed snow. For all other vitals (and/or long-range photos of me engaging in any number of the preceding activities), please refer to George W. Bush's dossier, c/o the Brooklyn Public Library.
Brooklyn, New York
Do you have any idea how hard it is to spell out "Caramanica" on a set of diamond teeth?
Having tried to finally (really, truly) get my ass sober this year, I found that pop music meant more than ever, and had more to offer than ever, which is why I asked for more of it. A better work ethic had something to do with it. But I kept returning to records whose pleasure unfurled like tapestries from tidy packages, kept getting hooked and falling in love for different reasons.
Martial Status: yes
Religion: lapsed Catholic turned bad Buddhist
Region: Ecotopia (Pac NW)
Weaknesses: memory, disc L5
Drug: Law & Order reruns
Sport: elliptical trainer (handy for VH1 viewing)
Pipe Dream: presidential impeachment
Recipe: soy milk banana bread
I am 24 years old, half Filipino and half Colombian. I moved to Brooklyn in July from Tucson, Arizona, and I work for CMJ. In Tucson I had a car, a little house, lots of friends, and a pretty good job. Tonight I might go to the city or go to a show or a different show or stay at home and eat a grilled cheese sandwich in front of my laptop (I don't have any furniture/money/friends yet). But I'm glad to have all the options a big city affords me, even if I can't afford them.
Brooklyn, New York
Where I Write: Internet
I'm straight, white, short, cute, neurotic, and broke an orthodox P&J voter, in other words. I turned 30 this year and was just laid off from a job for the third time in four years. The one good thing about surviving this life in no-revenue turnover under George W. Bush is that I've become quite good at the panic drill. I'm a professional callus.
Same info as last year, except I'm a year older and five pounds fatter and I now write about TV and radio (and music, still) instead of North Raleigh land development. Hooray!
Durham, North Carolina
I am a straight, single, Caucasian female homeowner, soon to be 37 years old. When Mojofirst hired me, they thought I was black. Didn't find out the truth for two years!
This yr I got married again, and started playing music on a regular basis again (weekly "invitational jam" at my fave rawk dumpI love having a gig, hate "being in a band," so this is perfect). Notwithstanding the war / erosion of First Amendment / natural disasters, etc., on a personal lvl, I have the life I always wanted. So there.
Fort Worth, Texas
These days, my idea of a good time is swatching my nailpolish collection onto typing paper while watching Hunter reruns on TiVo. I worry about early menopause, PCOS, and 403 (c)(b) funds while you're out carousing. I'm good for about two gut-busting quips a year at dinners out with my friends, and you can always rely on me to bring something edible, maybe even tasty, to a potluck. I try to treat my man right. And I still think Killdozer is an underrated band. That's a good enough legacy for me.
About as average as can be: 47, male, white, American, straight, non-smoker, mediocre stand-up bass player, collect Italian wine, live in mid-city part of L.A., use an iPod for exercise and travel and little else, happily married, two daughters in college-one loves doowop and the other's into Sublime and Bob Marleyedit for a living, drive a 13-year-old car with a broken CD player, prefer concert venues with chairs, baseball fan, watch Lost and The Office, amazed by the consistent quality of releases from ECM Records, find blogs enlightening and annoying (David Cross's pitchforkmedia spoof was the funniest thing I read all year), anti-Bush, wish I spoke another language fluently, wish the blues were still relevant, not sure how I could improve my life.
Los Angeles, California
Since August, I've been working on a book about Cleveland rock 'n' roll nostalgia, to be published in time for holidays 2006. I've interviewed about 80 people: in the business, on the sidelines, fans. It's tough because it's about memories, but the history is necessary, too. It's preoccupied me since August, to the exclusion of a lot of listening (thank God for satellite radio), not to mention going to shows. If Voice readers have anecdotes about going to rock shows in Clevelandor seeing Cleveland bands in their hometownse-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm 62, still write about music for Goldmine, Metroland, Scene, cleveland.com (where my weblog is highnotes), and Sun newspapers.
Demographics: I was over the hill a quarter century ago Except for the workout MP3 playlist, my unit of listening is still the album
Sexual orientation: still strong
Bizarre Interlude of the Year: Ian McCulloch, phone call from England, Sept. 8: I'm trying to interview a somewhat besotted McCulloch about the new Echo & the Bunnymen album, Siberia, and when I mention that some of the lyrics clearly point at the breakup of his marriage, he suddenly starts stammering, "Oh fuck, fuck, fuck man . . . I can't fookin' talk . . . " He starts to gasp, then I hear the sound of a man weeping uncontrollably. The phone line goes dead. I begin to drink heavily.
I am stuck in a small town that hates me. I am called faggot from the windows of moving pickups, I have trouble finding work, and everyone knows my family and me. I have been sick this year, depressed, and have seizures as well. It has been cold and extremely lonely. I grew up in this town, and every time it gets bad, I go back to my mother's house. Listening to the Mountain Goats' The Sunset Tree once a week for a year has been inspiring. It feels strange to say this, but it has given me hope and a reason for living. John Darnielle's rampant optimism, tempered by a hard realism, reminds me to put one foot in front of the other.
At first Arular was my favorite album, but the more I listened to it the more I thought that M.I.A. was selling violence as a solution, and not just in a "shot a man in Reno" way. And I thought, well, I wouldn't have followed Lennon down that road, so I'm sure not following her. And then I started to imagine myself as a ground-down neocolonial subject, which was kind of the point, duh. But I was still like, maybe it'll come to that if these bastards keep at it, but I'm not there yet by a long shot. Then I read where she says she's not advocating violence after all, and I was actually kind of disappointed, but it's still my favorite, again.
The Living Things album reminds me of "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Both bait the government's authority by asserting brassy independence, proving they're not the suckers Whitey thinks they are. That said, Creedence never made me want to strip down to my skivvies, wrap myself in feather boas, and dry-hump every appliance in my apartment.
Brooklyn, New York
If ever there's been a guy shipwrecked by the dream, it would be Cleveland's Michael Stanleywho once upon a time held the attendance record at the local coliseum (outselling even Led Zeppelin) and still has the number at the outdoor Blossom Music Center, yet could never take the adulation of the "Rock & Roll Capital of the World" national. Like all true believers, he refuses to surrender, cranking out records in his basement that ignite a blue-collar dignity-on-the-American-made-line ethos that is seldom seen, let alone recognized. With a deep voice aged by too many cigarettes, Stanley offers up the talismans of his faiththe faith of a man who never quite made it, but refuses to give in.
If you ever lose your day job, listen to some old Judas Priest albums. It will give you a pick-me-up without the nasty hangover.
Like a few hundred bona fide geniuses and more than 5,000 hopeless fools, I played in the main event of the World Series of Poker this year. A couple days after busting out, I was still walking around the RIO in a daze, and then I heard the glorious music. There was, I guess, some sort of high-school theater event going on. And as I walked out of the poker tournament area, I heard the unmistakable sound of teenagers wailing, practicing the theme song from Rent: "525,600 minutes . . . how do you, do you measure a year?" I stopped and listened and stared, and then headed over to the Wynn, newly inspired, and crushed the card games.
Brooklyn, New York
I'm stoked about the return of that perennially imperiled genre, the Song That Totally Fucking Bugs the Living Shit out of People. Say what you like about "My Humps" and "Laffy Taffy," they did not fade into the background, or remind you of better versions of the same songthey made you feel alive, if only because they made you want to plunge soldering irons into your eardrums.
Brooklyn, New York
Since I've reached a point in my personal life where I'm frighteningly well-adjusted and horribly even-keel, I don't often find myself projecting private demons onto pop music anymore. So I know for certain I've heard a perfect pop song when it makes me experience emotions that I'm not even feeling at the time. Robyn's "Be Mine" was that kind of song, suckering me into pantomiming heartbreak and desperation with no less conviction than if I'd just been dumped myself a moment ago. For a man enjoying couplehood, it was voyeuristic catharsis.
In this Brokeback moment of making visible that the essential meaning of homosexuality is not simply a sex act but emotional reverie (love) meshed with sexual desire (fucking), Mark Weigle has delivered the most dangerous and courageous album of the year. Soulsex is a two-disk album. On disc one, Wrestling the Angel, he once again proves himself as accomplished a country songwriter as the late Mickey Newbury. He sings in a voice as butch sweet as Vince Gil. On disk two, Versatile, he puts gay sex front and center. The kind of sex that drives Jon Stewart's writers to make funny but depersonalizing jokes and comedians in The Aristocrats one up each other on the outrageousness of anal penetration. Weigle's songs celebrate cocksucking, boot licking, bear hugging, and penis and asshole worship that would make Ginsberg, Whitman, Vidal, and Baldwin fully tumescent.
Cherish the Ladies' Woman of the House is a perfect album in a genre where aiming for perfect is usually the problem. Heidi Talbot's cross between Lucinda Williams and Enya acheives an impossible balance that places her somewhere to the left of Karen Carpenter at her best. "The Green Fields of Canada" sums up the Irish diaspora in the new world in six and a half minutes.
For nearly a decade, the eight girls with gusto of Mediaeval Baebes have tackled arrangements of traditional motets with their self-described "Baebe Attitude." Fifth release Mirabilis (from the Latin, translating to "miraculous") features many Baebe-composed songs based upon pagan themes of the supernatural. The ladies fluidly vocalize in Middle English, Manx, Cornish, medieval Italian, 18th-century Swedish, and of course, Latin. They particularly delight in ballads about men tricked and tormented by the paranormal, especially in the form of faeries. When not warbling gothic, the Baebes are bright in other careers, such as model and comedy writer, author, fashion maven, child psychologist, and physical therapist.
The girl groups box set One Kiss Can Lead to Another isn't just a bounty of undiscovered or forgotten treasures. I don't think I've received a Christmas present that inspired so much envy since I got that tiny kitchen with an actually working (sort of) faucet back in kindergarten. Everyone I mentioned it to immediately wanted to hear more and, well, once I showed off the pink-and-black hatbox and the way the liner notes look like a diary and all the CD cases look like vintage compacts with mirrors inside and all the CDs look like powder puffs and no, I won't trade it for your Barbie. Not even your best Barbie.
My favorite concert experience of 2005: going to see Gwen Stefani with my daughter's college-age birthmom, her new husband, and her best friend. Everybody got dolled up for the event. Afterward, BB's Tummy Mommy declared, "Not one peep out of you critics! I loved it, I love Gwen, and that's all I need to hear."
My favorite rock and roll moment of the year happened in March when the Drive-By-Truckers played free for 125 kids at the Missouri high school where I teach. They rolled our their tour bus, set up in about 10 minutes, and played a brilliant acoustic set filled with songs (like "Outfit," "Never Gonna Change," "Lookout Mountain," and "The Day John Henry Died") that they'd specially selected for the audience. In between, Hood, Coley, and Isbell talked about the inspiration behind their writing and dispensed much wise advice for budding rockers. Afterwards, they signed autographs over cafeteria chocolate milk for 20 minutes, talked one-on-one with several student musicians, and at their show at a local venue that night, dedicated a song ("Buttholeville"the choice was inspired not by the song's subject matter but by its killer riff) to the kids.
What I remember most about M.I.A.'s show was that Nick Catchdubs was thonking big bass favorites and mashing and mixing in a way that lets you know you are in New York and New York is not like those other cities. In New York, the bump is always nuclear, on some gotta-prove shit, so they only play tracks you cannot live without at bin-bursting volumes. This happens sometimes, late and accidental in spring and summer, in Chicago, except with much less expensive shoes stubbing out much cheaper cigarettes. All I could think was what bills I could hold off paying in order to buy stacks of 12"s to bring home and drop like anchors at parties.
Because I can't vote for DJ sets like Mylo's unbelievably headtwisting set at the Tribeca Grand earlier this year, I'll vote for his Destroy Rock and Roll, which is just as satisfying in a totally different way. His DJ ing is marked by this crunchy, textured sound that's got a bit of dark edge. It's not really electro or house, it's not the filtered disco of the Daft Punk era, and yet, it's not really the new "electro house" micro genre either. It's Mylo. Destroy Rock and Roll is less dark, even more catchy and party-ready and reminds me a bit of the Avalanches' Since I Left You, but it's not trying so hard to be a pastiche.
Some people will tell you that music like the reggaeton on Luny Tunes and Baby Ranks's Mas Flow 2 is best heard in a club setting. For example, nightclub owners will tell you that, and other people sold on the idea that one must "leave the house" in order to have rich social life. Actually, Mas Flow 2sounds best at my house, just after supper.
On a crowded wedding dancefloor, "1 Thing" sounds cluttered and messynot so much the sound of a bomb detonating as of 100 firecrackers lighting off simultaneously. I unintentionally cleared space with it more than once.
When the needle drops on Amerie's beat, every cluster of wallflower college girls in the club instantaneously transforms into an impromptu version of the Pussycat Dolls.
Rico "Superbizzee" Washington
The big event of the year for me was my first trip to China. This set off a two-month jag that had me haunting Chinatown looking for traditional music. Probably released in 2002 or '03, the number-one item on my ballot. is the strongest and most varied of the three dozen things I've collected. Imagine what a third of the world's population can accomplish over 5,000 years with a bunch of instruments that sound like nothing you've ever heard of. Not a single person I know shares this interest and I simply don't care.
Anyone who knows anything about live music in New York knows two things about CBGB: 1) it's got the best sound system in the entire city, bar none. 2) its booking of live bands is for shit. But you don't go to CBGB to hear fresh acts that'll wind up pioneers of a new musical genreyou go there to watch your friends' bands bust loose on that splintered stage, drink beer, and dick around for four hours on a Wednesday night. There are loads of clubs in this city, but I can't exactly see rock geezers chilling at Fat Baby or Cake Shop.
Brooklyn, New York
My singles this year have been almost completely informed by ifilm.com. That site really fulfills the early promise of MTV that music and visuals can somehow join forces. The site's Viral Video section doesn't just give you a glimpse of the zeitgeist, it actually tracks the zeitgeist's ever-changing moods in real time. Ifilm introduced me to three of my top five singles, including the Bush-bashing duo of Legendary KO's Kanye-rip and the eloquent snarl of Bright Eyes' "When the President Talks to God," as performed on Jay Leno.
TURN AROUND BRIGHT EYES I GOT A USE FOR YOU
When a bright young singer's a hype,
Does it mean he must suck the pipe
Of his own exhaust?
Or perhaps he's just lost,
Though the heart of this headcase
Is in a comfortably correct place?
When a narcissist gets political
Offers something more than treacle
Must he sound like a fool?
Speak in headlines like a tool?
While raging 'bout Bush's misrule?
(Which I admit is quite cruel.)
I've heard "Soof-jan," "Soof-yan," "Sophie," "Sue me," but curiously, never "Sandwich."
I first heard the National's "Abel" on MTV. I usually avoid MTV like the plague it has spawned, but I needed it this particular evening, as it was something I could turn up to drown out the conversation my roommate was having four feet away. To concise it, the roommate was my ex, he was talking to his ex who he was now back together with. Something he had tried to keep from me for some time, mostly through the ridiculous ploy of taking her daily phone calls in the bathroom. This only made it more obvious and that day I was finally driven to point out, in my most deadpan manner, that I was quite aware of the situation. Thus now the phone call would be held in front of me. And, as I had willfully drowned the matter out for the past few weeks mostly with vodka, I now drowned it out by turning up "Abel." We defend ourselves with the weapons we are most comfortable with and the volume knob has always been one of mine. And as I turned up it up louder and louder, I loved the song more and more. The singer would bellow soothingly through the verses, then suddenly everyone would start screaming and the guitars would be lurching and the drums running away. It sounded like a man trying to talk someone out of jumping off a 20-story building, only to wind up on the ledge himself. The petty argument, the closing make-up, the final "You too": I didn't hear them. I concentrated on the song, let it rise with rage and sink with calm and take me away from all this.
Ex and ex broke up again the next day. Within two weeks he was out of my apartment, within four he was out of the state. The record I still have and the song I still listen to, but not as much as I used to.
Lissa Townsend Rodgers
Las Vegas, Nevada
So this spring I had some fun teaching a class of predominantly non-music-student undergrads about the joys of Afro-beat, Fluxus, Serialism, Jazz, Aliatory, and even DIY musical techniques in a course called "Music in Our Time." While the reviews (in the form of student evaluation forms) tell me I was universally loathed, I got to expose kids whose ideas of a musical good time went from Jay-D to Ashley Simpson and thought they covered the waterfront to "A Love Supreme," Laurie Anderson, John Cage, Fela and Femi, Steve Reich, music for flowerpots and synchronized toilets (not the same recordings), and mash-ups (one of the few bright spots as far as they were concerned) and watch the shock, but not see the awe. Awwww.
Suffern, New York
Five lessons learned by University of Iowa undergrads in my 2005 "Popular Music & Culture" class, in which they had to answer the following throwaway final exam question: "In a couple sentences, explain why although it is important to reserve the right to rock24 hours a day." 5. Because you have to eat and drink water to survive, and neither is possible while you are rocking. And although it would be "rad," you might get tired. 4. If one were to rock it hardcore 24 hours a day, it could cause severe whiplash, multiple STDs, and cirrhosis of the liver. Though many of these side effects are considered very "rock and roll, motherfucker!," they also can lead to death, and very bad haircuts. 3. Because even though rocking might make you seem cooler to your friends, we all still have to remember why we're here: to learn. That's why it's so damn cool to take a class about rocking, like a two-in-one deal. 2. Rocking it hardcore twenty-four hours a day may have some negative side effects: headache, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. These side effects are rare, but occurred in 8% of the experimental group of 24-hour hardcore rockers, as opposed to the control group that was able to reserve the right to rock. 1. Twenty-four hours a day is too much rock. Like all revolutions, rock should be concealed and sustained until the perfect moment, when it will rise from the bonfires of hell and unleash a moment never before seen on this earth!
Iowa City, Iowa
Warmest regards to all of you who continue to believe in the power of music, from wherever and whomever it might emanate.