In 2005, I bought approximately 124 albums (up 25% from last year!) This was surprising to me, because I was under the impression that I hadn't bought much music this year!
I thought I hadn't bought much new music because I spent four or five months going through my old music and rating every song, and I wasn't actively seeking out new music during that period. But that doesn't seem to have had the throttling effect I expected.
As in previous years, a few of these were released earlier than 2005, but that is when I discovered them, so I'm allowing a little slack. In only approximate order of favoriteness, here is my year-end wrap-up.
50 Foot Wave - "50 Foot Wave", "Golden Ocean", & "Free Music"
This is Kristin Hersh's new band (of Throwing Muses) and they are awesome. They are much harder and louder, more punk, than Throwing Muses, and really tight. I've always loved Throwing Muses, and it's nice to hear them just rock the fuck out.
You can download the whole Free Music EP from their web site.
Android Lust - "Stripped & Stitched" & "The Dividing"
I didn't become aware of Android Lust until they played at DNA this year. It was a good show, and the albums are fantastic. It's primarily electronic music with heavily processed female vocals, but there's a fair amount of variety: unlike most industrial bands who use a lot of vocal processing, she doesn't fall into the trap of using the same damned effect on every song, and the effects she does use are pretty interesting. Most of the songs are loud and fast, but there are a few slower, partly-accoustic tracks. Check out the video for Stained, it's great.
Adult - "Gimme Trouble" & "D.U.M.E."
I often joke that the genre "electro-clash" means "bands whose entire career consists of covering Warm Leatherette over and over again." There are a lot of crap electro-clash bands out there, but Adult are one of the really good ones. I like all their albums, but these latest two are interestingly different than Anxiety Always and Resuscitation: they're twitchier and more neurotic, and remind me even more of their late-70s new-wave proto-industrial roots.
Nine Inch Nails - "With Teeth"
I don't have to say anything about this, because either you've already bought it or you never will. It's really good.
Shriekback - "Cormorant"
I enjoyed their 2003 album Having a Moment more, but this is very good too; it sounds a lot more like Barry Andrews's Stic Basin album from 2003 than previous Shriekback releases have.
Gram Rabbit - "Music To Start a Cult To"
This is an odd album, and hard to describe, but I really like it. They're a rock band with female vocals, but I can't really pin down a particular style on this album. There's a lot of country influence, but it's spooky country... Some of the songs are a bit like Garbage. Anyway, it's good stuff. Dirty Horse and Cowboy-Up are my favorites.
Jem - "Finally Woken"
This is about half of a great album. There are a few tracks that I don't like very much, but the ones that are good are great. The good ones are triphop with breathy female vocals, in the vein of the first Sneaker Pimps or first Supreme Beings of Leisure albums, though her voice sounds a bit like Poe. A few of the tracks have some hard-rock guitar on them, which works surprisingly well. The video for They is cute: Barbarella gags never get old.
Frostiva - "Ochnomos"
Noisy, punk-ish indie-rock girl band. Somewhere in the vicinity of My Bloody Valentine, Lush, or The Cranes if those bands had chosen much more aggro drugs.
DJ? Acucrack - "Mako vs. Geist"
More mostly-instrumental, fast, noisy electronic music that I don't know how to categorize. I guess it's drum-and-bass, but it's got more of the devil in it than most D&B. It's really great, especially the track Gangland II.
Veruca Salt - "Lords of Sounds and Lesser Things"
This EP only has five songs on it, but they're really good. This isn't quite as good as Resolver (the last full album) but still worthwhile. I saw them live this year, and they kicked ass.
The Epoxies - "Stop the Future"
Their first album made last year's list, and here's their second. I think I liked the previous album a little bit more, but this one is also great.
Chicane - "Behind the Sun"
Nice ambient electronic music; it reminds me a bit of Orbital (and not just because both of them have great songs called Halcyon).
Plink - "The Sleeping Lines"
Super-mellow electronic music with female vocals. A bit Halou-ish.
Micronaut - "Europa"
Good instrumental D&B-ish electronic music from Sister Machine Gun.
Yu Miyake et. al. - "Katamari Fortissimo Damashii"
Ok, I can't believe I'm putting the soundtrack to a video game on the list, but I am. In case you've been living under a rock, Katamari Damacy is the best video game to come out in the last few years. It's really creative, and part of what makes it so wacky is the soundtrack of original music written especially for the game, which is this... really weird loungey jazzy thing, mostly.
Kelli Ali - "Psychic Cat"
Kelli Ali was the singer for Sneaker Pimps on the Becoming X album (an absolutely incredible album), and then they kicked her out of the band and proceeded to suck. (Well, the second Sneaker Pimps album Splinter doesn't really suck, but it's just not remarkable at all, and it's not even in the same ballpark as Becoming X.)
Anyway, I picked up Kelli Ali's solo album Tigermouth last year, and it didn't make last year's list because I wasn't too impressed with it overall (except for the last two tracks, Kids and Tigermouth, which are great.) This second album is better. It's still no Becoming X (and doesn't really try to be) but it's still good. The songs are mostly rock with a lot of electronics, not unlike Garbage.
d.A. Sebasstian - "d.A. Sebasstian"
Most of this album is pretty good, but the reason it makes the list is because of the first two tracks, Monster Monster and (especially) Isabella Rossellini, which are awesome.
Trigger10d - "The Difference is a Boy"
Another industrial-ish electronic band with female vocals. They're good, but at the moment at least, I find them impossible to describe other than that. If you like that sort of thing, this is that sort of thing.
Stiletta - "Stiletta"
Good old fashioned girly punk rock. They've played at DNA a couple times.
The Kills - "No Wow"
Another return from last year's list. This album is faster and more polished than Keep on Your Mean Side. I think I liked the last one a bit more, but this is pretty good too. This album is more "B.R.M.C." than "Boss Hog".
Goldfrapp - "Black Cherry"
This album only barely made the list: I love the songs Train, Twist, and Strict Machine, and the rest of it is forgettable.
Regina Spektor - "Soviet Kitsch"
"Genre equals chick with piano".
The song Us is awesome, and has an equally awesome video (which I can't link to because her web site is a Flash monstrosity, so you'll have to dig). I like the first half of the album enough, but the second half doesn't do much for me.
The Unlovables - "Crush, Boyfriend, Heartbreak"
I can't decide if I really like this album, or if it offends me. On the one hand, it's very much "pop punk", which tends to irritate me due to that genre's cookier-cutter saturation of pop culture. But on the other hand, it also kind of reminds me of older stuff in this vein like Letters To Cleo and The Breeders. Either way, it's catchy.
Gang of Four - "Return the Gift"
(This goes at the end of the list because it's not a "real" album...)
Gang of Four is one of my favorite bands of all time, and I was lucky enough to get to see them play live this year for the first time. Along with that tour, they released this two CD set. The first disc contains studio re-recordings of their early songs. I was highly skeptical: this sounded like a bad idea to me, but it really worked out well! I wouldn't say I like these versions more than the originals, but they're very, very good in their own right. (If you're not familiar with Gang of Four, pick up Entertainment and/or the Brief History of the 20th Century best-of. I insist.)
The second disc is remixes of Gang of Four songs by a bunch of modern bands, many of whom based their careers on ripping off Gang of Four. Some of them are pretty good (the Ladytron version of Natural's Not In It is especially fine) but some of them are really awful: in particular, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' mix of I Love a Man in Uniform (with Karen O re-doing the choruses in a ridiculous squeaky girly voice) is one of the most shameful abominations I've heard in a long time. (And I've sat through a lot of mash-ups, so that's really saying a lot!)