The Best in Music 2005

12.26.2005

By Out.com Editors

The list of openly gay musicians grows every year, increasing the range of styles and genres from gay (and gay-adjacent) artists. Meanwhile, our musical hetero icons and newcomers keep turning out the music we love to hear. Don't see your top picks on the lists? Submit a comment and tell us which 2005 groove we missed.

Mikel Wadewitz's Top 10 Albums of 2005

10) Various Artists, The Best Mashups in the World Ever Are From San Francisco
Sure, there aren't any original songs on this collection, but how can you resist a pairing of Kraftwerk's 'The Model' and RuPaul's 'Supermodel' or Missy Elliott's 'Get Ur Freak On' and Le Tigre's 'Deceptacon'? Um, you can't.

9) Tracy Chapman, Where You Live
Chapman's fame has waxed and waned over the years, with fans waiting for her to catch some of the spark of her 1988 debut. Where You Live finally delivered the intimate and hard-hitting songs we always knew she had in her.

8) Eric Himan, Dark Horse
Hunky folk-music pin-up boy (yes, there is such a thing) makes good on the promise of his earlier albums, delivering simmering, heartfelt tunes about love, love, and love.

7) Martha Wainwright, Martha Wainwright
Rufus' sister proved she had some tricks up her own sleeve with this commanding slice of offbeat folk'and solidified her own queer-icon status with songs like 'Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole' and 'Ball and Chain.'

6) 50 Foot Wave, Golden Ocean
Proving that punk music can be made by women approaching 40, Kristin Hersh'she who sounds and swears like a longshoreman'plugged back in her electric guitar and made the term 'last gasp nymphomania' both sexy and scary.

5) Sigur R's, Takk
Lead singer J'nsi Birgisson makes less sense than the Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser, but the Icelandic quartet's fourth album makes you believe in the hidden people of the country's lava flows. (And did we mention his boyfriend helped design the album cover?)

4) Sufjan Stevens, Illinois
Is he or isn't he? No one seems sure, but it doesn't diminish the power of Stevens' majestically beautiful folk-pop on this, the second installment of his ambitious 50 states project. He even manages to make a heartbreaking ballad about John Wayne Gacy.

3) Jennifer O'Connor, The Color and the Light
O'Connor was the year's most interesting queer artist we never heard of. Her eye-opening album got her a deal with Matador Records and reminded us how good literate folk-rock can be.

2) Antony and the Johnsons, I Am a Bird Now
A gender-bending, genre-busting artist, Antony's riveting cabaret-inflected piano ballads are like little stabs to the heart. You feel each and every one, and yet you can't move out of the way.

1) Sleater-Kinney, The Woods
The trio from Portland, Ore., channels their inner Led Zeppelin and come out swinging. Bombastic, challenging, and chill-inducing, The Woods is possibly this accomplished band's finest moment.

Barry Walters' Top 10 Albums of 2005

10) Pet Shop Boys, Back to Mine
The Pets program two discs drawn from their own record collections: Chris Lowe favors vintage dance-floor anthems and Dusty Springfield, while Neil Tennant connects the dots between contemporary classical, ambient electronica'and Dusty Springfield.

9) Le Tigre, This Island Remixes [EP]
Eight remixes spread over three songs means this EP isn't meant for sustained listening, but Junior Senior's remix of 'Nanny Nanny Boo Boo' and Morel's rearrangement of 'After Dark' particularly improve on the already fine originals.

8) Madonna, Confessions on a Dancefloor
Not quite the disco extravaganza this was hyped up to be, the enduring goddess nevertheless generates her gayest music in ages, particularly on 'I Love New York.'

7) The Tears, Here Come the Tears
Metrosexual London rockers Suede articulated queer love and loss in the AIDS-ravished early '90s, and here ex-Suede singer Brett Anderson and guitarist Bernard Butler reunite to recall those dramatic days, particularly on 'The Ghost of You' and 'A Love As Strong As Death.'

6) Franz Ferdinand, You Could Have It So Much Better
Although there's nothing here as incredibly gay as their debut's 'Michael,' the second disc by this Scottish dance-rock group does get extra points for including the line 'Your famous friend, I blew him before you' on 'Do You Want To,' its first single.

5) Kanye West, Late Registration
The ultra-hot producer-MC dared to decry both hip-hop homophobia and presidential racism this year, and his sophomore disc is the most musical rap album to hit the mainstream since'his first one.

4) Antony & the Johnsons, I Am a Bird Now
From Peter Hujar's haunting deathbed photo of Candy Darling on its cover to the delicately tortured art-songs inside, Antony's super-queer aesthetics are as finessed as they are severe.

3) Hey Willpower, Dance [EP]
Imperial Teen's Will Schwartz leaves behind guitars and indie-rock for flagrantly fizzy dance-pop on a four-track teaser that conflates queer sex, ridiculous dance routines, and franchised donuts.

2) Atomic Swindlers, Coming Out Electric
Ornate and audacious lesbian-fronted space-rock that recalls Ziggy-era David Bowie fronted by Pink Floyd? More, please.

1) Soul Jazz Records Presents Nicky Siano's The Gallery
Wanna imagine what it was like to be queer, funky, and fabulous in pre-plague Manhattan? This is the gay '70s disco underground chronicled in Andrew Holleran's novel Dancer From the Dance.

David Ciminelli's Top 10 Albums of 2005

10) Ari Gold, Love Will Take Over: The Re-mixes
OK, I admit I bought the Bruno Gm'nder coffee table book Ari Gold not for the free CD that came with it but for the artful photos of the buff Bronx babe that it showcased. Once I got over staring at the photos I found the remixes of his dance-pop hit 'Love Will Take Over' (from his 2004 release Space Under Sun) was harder to get out of my head than his half-naked photos.

9) The Bobbleheads, Automatic Fun
If R.E.M. married the Barenaked Ladies, their offspring would probably sound a lot like the easy, breezy melodic pop harmonies on this 2005 Out Music Award'winning trio's Automatic Fun.

8) Jinx Titanic, Booted and Cuffed
This groovy party-rock band may have had to change its name from Super 8 Cum Shot for marketing reasons, but they haven't lost their sense of humor or their skill at cranking out cool, catchy rockers about everything from leather sex to bagging porn boys.

7) Three Dollar Bill, Parody of Pleasure
In 2005, Three Dollar Bill survived lineup changes and frontwoman Jane Danger's motorcycle accident. Not ones to go down for the count, Chicago's homocore rockers jumped back up on their socio-political soapbox and set American apathy on fire with rock-and-roll rants set to a steady beat and unpredictable lyrical lambasting. How can you not love a band whose musical state of the union address includes songs like 'Jesus is Crying' and 'Patriot Wact.' Eat your heart out, Green Day.

6) Ani DiFranco, Knuckle Down
Buffalo, New York's poster girl for bi curiosity puts aside the political for the personal with a dozen soft, subtle, and undeniably empowering tracks about love, lust, and loss. Only this folk-punk poet could write a song comparing a lover to a Seeing Eye Dog in a way that would make even Patti Smith envious.

5) Madonna, Confessions on a Dance Floor
The rest of this disc is so good that it's easy to forgive Madonna for rhyming 'New York' with 'dork' on the one weak track, 'I Love New York.' (Then again, at least it's not as bad as using 'super-duper' and 'Mini-Cooper' in a rap rhyme.)

4) Melissa Etheridge, Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled
Melissa Etheridge's take on two classic rock songs (the Janis Joplin staple 'Piece of My Heart' and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 'Refugee') is in good company among her 15 other timeless tracks, including the inspiring 'I Run for Life,' a classic on the horizon.

3) Bob Mould, Body of Song
The ex-H'sker D' frontman's body isn't the only thing that's changed (from husky to hunky). The newly pumped-up pioneering pop-punker melds rock, pop, and electro experimentations into one killer body of songs.

2) Judas Priest, Angel of Retribution
This is the original band's first release in 15 years, and the first since lead singer Rob Halford publicly came out of the closet. As soon as Halford belts out his signature scream on the opening track, the appropriately titled 'Judas Rising,' he proves to macho metal heads everywhere that though he may be a big ol' homo, he can still kick some serious butt.

1) Brian Grillo, Stomping Back on Fire
Stripped down, raw, and unplugged, former Mr. Fancy never sounded better'or cut closer to the heart'than with this searing collection of edgy, dangerously personal punk-rock blues. Grillo is the closest thing the homocore scene has to having its own Eddie Vedder or Jim Morrison. The only difference is, this ardent singer/songwriter eloquently rambles about sex, politics, and being burned by celebrity instead of L.A. women and unstable 13-year-olds.

Brian Dillard's Top 10 Albums of 2005

10) Superchumbo, Wowie Zowie
Few exploit the dark-yet-cheesy vibe of progressive house better than producer Tom Stephan, who drafts a wide range of veteran divas (including ex-boyfriend Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys) for this rumbling, off-kilter debut album.

9) Pet Shop Boys, Battleship Potemkin
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe take a break from electro-pop for this sweeping, classically inspired soundtrack to Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent film masterpiece.

8) Kym Mazelle, The Pleasure Is All Mine
Fifteen years after her last full-length outing, the Chicago house diva returns from the guest-vocalist wilderness for a surprisingly moody collection of crisp, simmering floor-fillers.

7) TIE: LCD Soundsystem, LCD Soundsystem / The Juan MacLean, Less Than Human
These mainstays of the hipster-approved DFA label make retro-futurist dance anthems with ferocious attention to detail and plenty of grit; who says the Beatles, the Fall, and Pink Floyd can't rub elbows with New Order and Derrick May?

6) Saint Etienne, Tales from Turnpike House
Gooey backing vocals, disco thump, suburban nostalgia, and English pride: Fifteen years in, Sarah Cracknell and company still have stars in their eyes and an unquenchable appetite for cosmopolitan pop.

5) Sing-Sing, Sing-Sing and I
When Lush looked up from their shoes for the last time in 1995, who knew that Emma Anderson's follow-up project would be maintaining the dream-pop tradition a decade later'or that the music industry would be stupid enough to let an album this good remain self-released?

4) Feist, Let It Die
Her roommate Peaches may be the sleazy pansexual icon, but this Canadian chanteuse unleashes sublime MOR hooks and contemplative songwriting on her Gonzales-assisted debut. Wonder who'll have more staying power?

3) Various Artists, Six Feet Under: Everything Ends
HBO's Fisher clan may be pushing up daisies, but this eclectic soundtrack provides the perfect eulogy'especially on Sia's exquisite 'Breathe Me,' which accompanied Claire Fisher's final fade-out in the series finale.

2) Sleater-Kinney, The Woods
Ex-girlfriends Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein (along with ace drummer Janet Weiss) trade in their angular punk moves for a collection of eerie, classic rock'inspired songs about things that go bump in the night.

1) Kate Bush, Aerial
She spent the last 12 years showing us how to be invisible, but art-rock icon Kate Bush returns with her most ambitious and rewarding set since 1985's Hounds of Love.

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