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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lori Miller Barrett's Fave Albums Of 2005

Neumu Contributing Editor Lori Miller Barrett writes: As happens each year, I had trouble putting a list together. (And not just because I keep reading articles ridiculing the music press's tendency to compile lists at the end of each year.) As a listening parent, I'm not always able to listen to music, or when I do, to actually hear it. But bits of each of these discs managed to squeak through and impress.

Arcade Fire, Funeral (Merge): I didn't discover this until 2005. It was perhaps the disc I listened to the most this year (aside from the one I confess to in the last entry). I love the idea that it was inspired by family, and I love the emotion sizzling through each song.

The Magic Numbers, The Magic Numbers (Heavenly): This disc made my transition from summer to fall, which is always a trudge, a bit easier. The two sets of siblings that make up Magic Numbers seem to approach trouble with a toss of their long, shaggy hair and a bright melody. But repeated listens reveal that even while the songs are immediately catchy, they aren't necessarily happy. Many of them meander across moods, often ending far from where they started.

My Morning Jacket, Z (ATO Records): Over Thanksgiving, as my family sat huddled around the TV, we stumbled upon a short film about My Morning Jacket (amid the bizarre on-demand cable offerings) that I think the band made themselves. It was full of silly special effects and had us all laughing, but the music impressed me enough that I sought out this disc once I got up from the sofa. They've concocted an unlikely but likeable stew of orchestral '70s rock (I'm always reminded of Yes), disco and country.

Animal Collective, Feels (Fat Cat): This isn't a CD the whole family can sit around and enjoy, but makes for fascinating company when I'm alone with the stereo. Similar to Arcade Fire, in the way it can go from winsome strumming to big and banging. It's so full of life that it can't stay in the background. Kids hate competing with this!

AK Momo, Return to New York (Hidden Agenda Records): I was so excited when I found out Kate Bush put out a new CD this year. Then I listened to parts of her double disc at a record store, and went home to listen to AK Momo. With their old-timey instruments and Ak von Malmborg's high warbling, they make music that's as bracing and haunting as Kate's early stuff.

Mary J Blige, The Breakthrough (Geffen): I've always loved to pull out No More Drama when my children's histrionics get to be too much. And every once in a while, MJB's tough and powerful voice has managed to stop the flow of their tears. She's a little evangelical about her new happiness on The Breakthrough, but she still sounds strong enough to intimidate. Her old-school '70s-soul duet with Raphael Saadiq and her cover of 50 Cent's "Hate It or Love It" are highlights. Makes me want to insist on being called LMB.

Laura Veirs, Year of Meteors (Nonesuch): These songs exist in their own world of fantasy and science fiction. It's a world that I often escape to when this one gets heavy and demanding.

Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machines (Epic): She puts words together like no one else. It's almost like she's created her own sleepy art-school. I never heard the first version of this, so I didn't approach it with anything but hungry ears and curiosity. She isn't breaking new ground here, but for a longtime fan, it was worth the wait.

Coldplay, X&Y (Capitol): I think I'm one of the five people on earth who weren't disappointed in this disc. Like Fiona, Coldplay didn't stray far from where they left off with this release. But their big walls of sound and emotion sucked me in. My 5-year old daughter too: she listened to this disc at bedtime for a few weeks, but I had to pry it out of her hands after she started crying as she was falling asleep.

Maria Taylor, 11:11 (Saddle Creak): Her songs are hushed, but still manage to evoke plenty of longing, heartache and nostalgia. Like the ones she describes in the track "Hitched," they're "pretty love songs you hum as you drive along." She's so often mentioned with her famous boyfriend as a point of reference. But with "Song Beneath the Song" landing her on the "Grey's Anatomy" soundtrack, it won't be long before Conor Oberst is referred to as Maria Taylor's boyfriend.

Most listened to overall: ABBA, Gold (Polydor): This was the year my 8-year-old son developed his own musical obsession. He spends time sitting in his bedroom huddled over his CD player, visits fan Web sites, compiles lists — and stood in front of the stage when we took him to see the tribute band Bjorn Again. I didn't do any of this until I was much older than 8. Makes a mama proud even if it is ABBA.

The InsiderOne Daily Report appears on occasion.



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