(This post is part of Frequency’s coverage of the best music of the past decade. You can see all of that coverage in one place by clicking here. And be sure to tune in Dec. 18, when I’ll post “Near/Far,” our annual, downloadable MP3 compilation of the best music of 2009, to go along with our year-in-review package in that day’s GO! Magazine.)
My list of 2005′s best albums is soaked with sadness. Probably the two prettiest listens among the albums below are Minnesota songwriter Jeff Hanson‘s gorgeous self-titled album and Philly guitarist Jack Rose‘s “Kensington Blues,” a paragon of modern American Primitive guitar.
Followers of Frequency on Facebook know that Rose died unexpectedly at age 38 last week. And Hanson was found dead in his apartment in June; an investigation later identified the cause as “mixed drug toxicity.” He was only 31.
Both men’s 2005 albums are must-hear efforts for anyone, really, but especially for fans of their particular styles. Rose generally played solo, acoustic guitar influenced by pre-war bluesmen and more recent six-string experimenters such as John Fahey. His playing was dexterous, his sound mesmerizing, and though he wasn’t a household name, his death will leave a large hole in the outsider music scene.
Hanson’s songs were more accessible, by traditional standards. He, too, used acoustic guitar to make his art, but Hanson’s music was more in line with the prettier side of modern indie-pop. Sweeping and somber, his albums sounded like Alison Krauss singing Elliott Smith’s songbook, and yes, you read that right; the guy’s most distinctive quality was an extremely high, feminine-sounding voice that fooled everyone I ever played it for. The voice was no schtick, though. Hanson’s songwriting chops were top-notch.
Much of the rest of the list below is so upbeat, poppy, and party-friendly — Aqueduct, Benson, Davis, Of Montreal and M.I.A., especially — let’s just end this there. Except to say one thing: The National’s “Alligator” marks a step out of the shadows for what may now be my favorite band on Earth.
Amadou & Mariam, “Dimanche a Bamako”
Aqueduct, “I Sold Gold”
Brendan Benson, “The Alternative To Love”
Brakes, “Give Blood”
Bright Eyes, “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning”
Crooked Fingers, “Dignity And Shame”
Devin Davis, “Lonely People Of The World, Unite!”
Edan, “Beauty and the Beat”
Robbie Fulks, “Georgia Hard”
Jeff Hanson, “Jeff Hanson”
The Mountain Goats, “The Sunset Tree”
My Morning Jacket, “Z”
The National, “Alligator”
Nickel Creek, “Why Should The Fire Die?”
Of Montreal, “The Sunlandic Twins”
Jack Rose, “Kensington Blues”
Josh Rouse, “Nashville”
Sufjan Stevens, “Illinois”
Wolf Parade, “Apologies To The Queen Mary”
Tags: Best of the 2000s