Try Isn't Do

Musical drugs and shared secret codes abort the utopic mission

Jon Dolan
Brooklyn, New York

Patti Smith's keynote at Seattle's Rockrgrl conference: "We need to be strong, clean, and aware because the world is very fucked up and it's gonna get worse. But we don't recoil. We get like the girl in The Terminator." (Cue uproar of wild applause.)

Antony and the Johnsons, #7 album, #24 single
photo: Alice O’Malley
Antony and the Johnsons, #7 album, #24 single

Jeanne Fury
Brooklyn, New York

As much as I want to dust off my prairie skirt and paint my face in liquid pollen, I can't help but resent the utopic yelping of Animal Collective. I wish I could dance around a drum circle, shouting at an open fire, but shit, Con Ed beckons and my stack of bills grows.

Jaime Lowe
Brooklyn, New York

Dance music wasn't trying so hard to be innovative that it didn't make sense to anyone outside its clique. This might be why you actually see real live females at techno parties, why there are more full-length albums worth playing, why vocals are no longer verboten, why melody is back, and why no one invented a new sub-sub-sub-subgenre this year. All good things.

Tricia Romano
Brooklyn, New York

Call The Woods excessive or bloated if you want, but the sheer fact that you could throw those terms at lady-rock this year and have them stick was phenomenal.

Josh Love
Hull, Georgia

Anyone who wrote that Sleater-Kinney have only now learned how to "really" rock never A/B'd the disc against One Beat or Dig Me Out and/or can't distinguish band interaction from mic placement.

Franklin Bruno
Los Angeles, California

Like an inverted-world version of George W. Bush, System of a Down were born to have 9/11 change who they are. Remember 1998's self-titled debut? Me neither. If they weren't so saturated with regret, I'd be tempted to hear in Mezmerize and Hypnotize a sense of gratitude—relief that the music's bongwater schizophrenia finally found purpose more meaningful than dick jokes. Also, I hear dick jokes.

Mikael Wood

Lou Reed showing up on I Am a Bird Now felt like a reunion between Mr. Transformer and the drag queens of "Walk on the Wild Side." Except now they got to have the lead vocal.

Tim Grierson
Los Angeles, California

After the fourth time hearing the mantra-hooks of the single of the year, Common's "Go!" I started wondering whether John Mayer albums were any good. What the f? Isn't that some Nostradamial proclamation about end times, that punks develop curiosity re: John Mayer?

Jessica Hopper
Chicago, Illinois

2005 was the year when popism finally trickled down to the indie kids. When young critics talked about how great the first half of the year was, they not only mean Separation Sunday and Arular, but "Since U Been Gone," "Mr. Brightside," and "Wait (The Whisper Song)."

Alfred Soto
Miami, Florida

When I realized that Lindsay Lohan is emo, Ashlee Simpson is punk, and Skye Sweetnam is indie, my world changed.

David Moore
Odenton, Maryland

Gwen Stefani is a total Hollaback Girl. She's the blonde in the Hollywood comedy—stewardess, secretary, housewife—who's had it with her dominant boss/hubby/squeeze and starts hitting him with her high heel. She stands for conventional femininity coming aware of itself.

Ann Powers
Seattle, Washington

Kanye West's outburst during the Katrina telethon was the pop mo ment of the year because within the flow of heavily manipulated reality shows, highly choreographed live performances, and strategized blockbusters that make up the mainstream, it was an unscripted assertion of self. Kanye stood in for all of us whose brains were on overdrive as New Orleans fell, unleashing his own flood of guilt, shock, helplessness, and rage. "George Bush doesn't care about black people" may not be a totally true or responsible thing to say, but it's not spin.

Ann Powers
Seattle, Washington

"Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "The Cruel War," "Blowin' in the Wind," and "Imagine" were on Dolly Parton's new album. There's nothing like sitting in a red state in a concert audience that is truly moved by these songs, that has felt the losses in Iraq deeply and personally. During "Imagine," people started standing up and applauding before the halfway mark.

Ellis Widner
Little Rock, Arkansas

Annoyance of the year: the FBI logo on the back of RIAA CDs, especially U2. Christ on a Triscuit, Bono, you have the clout to get the Pope on the phone and IM the President, but you can't keep the FBI off your own album? Who the fuck do you think killed Dr. King, the Cub Scouts?

Rob Sheffield
Brooklyn, New York

Behold the first Pazz & Jop list I've ever submitted in which every entry is by or features a woman or women. No cultural reason that I can discern, other than perhaps I subconsciously enjoyed/needed hearing women's voices and thoughts in a time when cruel men rule the country.

Ken Tucker
Berwyn, Pennsylvania

A market with room for Miranda Lambert, Franz Ferdinand, Three 6 Mafia, and so much else to stay fly is achieving more than we realize. We don't have social citizenship; we do have cultural citizenship.

Eric Weisbard
Seattle, Washington

Lookahere: Lauryn, Russell, Puff, Damon, Jay-Z, and Andre 3000 got the right idea. He who runs away today lives to fight another day. Abort the mission and let these assassins have her until they wipe each other out.

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