2005: The year in review
David R. Smola
This year’s top ten features two appearances each by
Doug Pinnick and Serj Tankian, a husband and wife who offer up a couple of
concept records, a rockabilly cover record and some other assorted doo dads.
Without further ado, here are my favorite releases of the year in ascending
1. System of a Down: Mezmerize (Sony)
System of a Down:
"Yes, they are pissed off about the war, but they channel it into an incredibly breathtaking and dizzying epic."
This is a 36 minute and 13 second adrenaline ride that grabs you and won’t let
go. The songs travel along a unique path, one that the band intends them to but
not one that the listener would expect. Time changes, shifts in tone and mood
occur several times, usually within the same song. Serj Tankian’s often
maniacal, staccato vocals are contrasted with intense musicianship and the
singing of guitarist Daron Malakian. Yes, they are pissed off about the war, but
they channel it into an incredibly breathtaking and dizzying epic. This is the
stronger of the two records they released this year (although Hypnotize
is excellent as well). They challenge your ears and often reward them with some
of the most fascinating art produced this year.
2. King’s X:
Tones (Inside Out)
The greatest hard rock band that no one knows about is still making tremendous
music. Although their last several releases were strong, this record stands out
as their best record since the Brendan O’Brien-produced Dogman (1994).
“If” and “Mudd” are absolutely as strong as anything they have ever recorded.
3. Buckethead & Friends:
Enter the Chicken (Serjikal Strike)
Serj Tankian produces and offers vocals on a few tracks on a record that shows
the range Buckethead can cover. System of a Down-sounding “We Are One” is
contrasted with the hypnotic “Coma.” “Three Fingers,” featuring the unique rap
of Saul Williams, is another example of the terrain Buckethead conquers.
4. Shelby Lynne:
Suit Yourself (Capitol)
From the false beginning of “Go with It” to the closing notes of “Track 12,”
which is a brilliant cover of “Rainy Night in Georgia,” Lynne continues to
evolve as an artist dipping in and out of styles but always remaining
interesting. Her voice continues to dazzle and this record is an excellent
showcase for it, placing it in the forefront where it belongs.
5. Iommi (with Glenn Hughes): Fused (Sanctuary)
Black Sabbath’s legendary guitarist sounds crisp and inspired when working with
Sabbath/Deep Purple vocalist Glenn Hughes. Full of memorable riffs and the
drumming of Kenny Aronoff, Fused is a hard rock blast.
6. Brian Setzer:
Rockabilly Riot Volume I: A Tribute to Sun Records (Surfdog)
Technically not an album of new material, Setzer digs up songs from the Sun
label that were recorded between 1954 and 1957. A few of them, like “Red Hot”
and “Blue Suede Shoes,” are familiar but the rest are buried treasures that
Setzer delivers with surprising restraint in honor of the original recordings.
7. Michael Penn:
Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947 (SpinArt)
Mr. Aimee Mann took a break from scoring film, and put out an excellent album.
If radio wasn’t playing the same 12 songs, “Room 712, The Apache” would have
been an enormous hit. This record, however quirky, sounds inspired.
8. Aimee Mann:
The Forgotten Arm (SuperEgo)
Mann’s concept record about a boxer and his battles with addiction and love is
exactly the kind of deeply pensive, depressing record we expect from one of
America’s best songwriters.
9. The Mob: The Mob (Frontiers)
Doug Pinnick of King’s X joins Kelly Keagy of Night Ranger and Reb Beach of
Winger, Dokken and Whitesnake fame to put out a great sounding rock record full
of great guitar work, harmonies and plenty of hooks.
10. Nine Inch Nails:
With Teeth (Nothing/Interscope)
It took Trent Reznor six years to put out a new record, and instead of leaning
toward the self indulgence of The Fragile, he came up with an interesting
sounding new record which had a touch of retro and leaned toward The Downward
Spiral, but didn’t repeat it.