The Music of 2005

With the year coming to a close and with everyone doing their review of the best music of 2005, I’ve decided to join the cool crowd.

These are the best albums that I discovered in 2005. Note that not all of these albums were released in 2005, but I first heard them in 2005. I’m not a huge fan of ranking my music, so the order is alphabetical by artist.

Andrew Peterson – The Far Country
I bought this album mainly because of the production and guitar work of Andy Osenga, but I discovered the amazing lyrical writing of Andrew Peterson. I had already been won over by his Christmas CD, Behold The Lamb Of God, but this CD reinforced his place in my mind. The theme of the album revolves around the concept that God is home and we are in the “Far Country.” Peterson borrows vivid imagery from Tolkein’s Gray Havens and C.S. Lewis’ Utter East to illustrate the songs and even draws some comparisons with one of his heroes, Rich Mullins, with songs about how this world is not our home. Wonderful piano and arranging by Ben Shive and guitar and backing vocals by Osenga anchor the album down with strong instrumentation.

Coldplay – X&Y
I think I still like Parachutes and A Rush of Blood To The Head better, but this album has remained strong over repeated listenings, much like the rest of their work. That speaks well for the band that I can listen to them so much without growing bored. I also love the overarching theme of marriage on the work (the songs “What If”, “Fix You”, and “X&Y” work the best) and I feared “Speed of Sound” would get overplayed on radio, but I guess I don’t listen to radio enough, because I still love that song.

Copeland – In Motion/Beneath Medicine Tree

I put both of these albums together because I discovered both of them this year. In Motion has a slick, glossy feel like many 80’s rock albums, while Beneath Medicine Tree feels more like an indie album. I love the hospital theme of Beneath Medicine Tree, it gives it a deeper, heartbroken feel. I’m really starting to love Aaron Marsh’s singing, too.

Jars of Clay – Redemption Songs

This is a band that is not only prolific, but continues to raise the bar on the quality of their music. Redemption Songs is a CD full of hymns, with some songs rearranged with new tunes or simply modifications on the old tunes. Jars of Clay collaborates with some great guest artists, most notably Ashley Cleveland. It would’ve been easy for Jars of Clay to continue cranking out the acoustic guitar themed songs that made their first album a success, but they continue to challenge themselves and re-think their music.

Mae – The Everglow
This might be the best album overall that I purchased in 2005. What makes the album so great is the total package. From the liner notes written like a children’s book, to the packaging of the CD, to the clever overarching story in the album. Themed albums that tell a story from beginning to end are a dying breed in music today and the general theme of loss and redemption is a theme almost everyone can identify with, making the The Everglow feel applicable to everyone’s life.

Over the Rhine – Drunkard’s Prayer
Any follow up to the grand scale of Ohio would be a daunting task, so Over the Rhine did the smart thing and went exactly the opposite direction, simplifying things and releasing a very stark album in Drunkard’s Prayer. Written during a trying year where songwriters Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist had to reassess their marriage, the album touches on themes of love that aren’t so popular (it’s easy to write songs about falling in love, it’s not so easy to write songs about staying in love.) I think I still like Ohio or Good Dog, Bad Dog better, but many of these songs translated very well live.

Sleeping At Last – Ghosts
This three-piece band is full of so much potential. I’m really hoping Interscope gives this band some exposure. The songs have such strong intensity while still retaining beautiful melodies. “Night Must End”, “All That Is Beautiful”, and “Currents” show strong influence by Radiohead, but they are not derivative. I also picked up their indie CD, Capture, which also displays their ferocity without devolving into mere noise.

The Choir – O How The Mighty Have Fallen
I can only hope this album siginifies a return of The Choir for a while and that we’ll get a couple more albums out of this great band that everyone seems to have forgotten. The addition of Marc Byrd adds nice background vocals and production skills that allow Derri Daugherty and Steve Hindlong to concentrate on their music instead of dealing with the nuts and bolts of producing the album, freeing them to be more creative. The Choir has always allowed their lyrics to mature as they’ve grown older and this latest album is no different as they tackle the issues of raising teenagers, showing forgiveness, and even struggling with the loss of love. The last two songs on the album formed the strongest ending of almost any album that I own.