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Ray Troll's Top CDs from 2005
By Ray Troll


January 03, 2006
Tuesday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska - I am sitting at my little desk here in the kitchen on New Years morning at the Troll house, coffee cup in hand, ruminating on last year's music while nursing the throbbing pain in my head with a stiff cup o joe, and slowly plunking away at the keyboard. Never ever mix martinis with red wine in the same evening, but that's another story and a lesson I'm destined to learn over and over again. Oh well. If I was still smoking I'd light up right about now, take a deep drag, look out my window at the little town of Ketchikan down the hill, turn to the imaginary camera documenting my life, squint just a bit, exhale thoughtfully, slowly, and say:

2005, a helluva year for great music. As usual the mainstream airwaves were clogged with pretty innocuous stuff, but if you live in a houseful of music nuts like I do (three of us now do radio shows on our local public radio station KRBD), there's plenty to choose from that's extraordinary, remarkable, refreshing and just plain fun. I continue to be amazed at the number of CDs clogging our shelves here in the house. We seem to get a box every other day from Were definitely doing our bit to support the flagging music industry.

jpg Ray Troll

Ray Troll: "The man of mystery behind the art" ...
Visit Ray Troll's web site at
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak ©2005

Patrick and Corinna (my kids) have definitely taken the lead in finding the best new music out there. I simply try to pay attention to the band names as they mumble them when I inquire Hey, who's that? As a way of payback for hijacking their musical tastes I took the kids and a few of their friends on a wild whirlwind trip to the Gorge in Washington State to catch the Sasquatch Music festival in May. The music was terrific and it gave me a better appreciation for a few of the groups out there. Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, Joanna Newsom, Aqueduct, Kanye West and Wilco put on amazing live shows. The forty something old school Pixies were the main act at the festival, acting as a nice bridge between the generations.

But enough of the rambling preamble stuff, here's my list of favorite CDs from 2005. I try to restrict it to 5 but that's getting tougher to do.


1. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are a five-piece band from Brooklyn, New York. They've been compared to various artists like early Talking Heads, Radiohead, Interpol or Neutral Milk Hotel but I hear a bit of the Velvet Underground in what they do. Comparisons aside the band plays simple three and four chord arrangements with cool guitars and the occasional toy piano, with arty obtuse lyrics sung in a nasal voice. The band somehow captures the spirit of our times with songs that build in emotional impact. Details of the War is my favorite cut. The best tossed off line from the CD is You look like David Bowie but you've nothing new to tell me from the song Over and Over again. They're getting a lot of media buzz these days and seem destined to be the next big thing, even though they've done it all on their own without signing to a major label. Check out their website at


2. Iron and Wine, Woman King and In the Reins with Calexico

Iron and Wine is a one-man band and that man is named Sam Beam, a former community college professor from Miami. He looks like a soft-spoken Amish guy with a long beard and short-cropped hair. The songs he writes are quiet low-key affairs with hushed vocals recorded with such clarity that you can hear Sams every breath. It's Americana kinda stuff with banjos and acoustic guitars. But this is not sweet treacly music. Death imagery pervade the lyrics, entire families go off to prison, lovers embrace secretly, betrayals abound, murders are committed, the cicadas chirp loudly& oh yes its rich, rich stuff. These are actually two EPs that Sam put out this year. The first one was Woman King, exploring the topic of women. The song Jezebel is a stunningly beautiful song taking the side of the fallen woman. The lyrics as always tell the story in broad strokes with keenly observed details. Here are a couple of excerpts from that song:

Who's seen Jezebel?
She went walking where the cedars line the road
Her blouse on the ground
Where the dogs were hungry, roaming

Who's seen Jezebel?
She was born to be the woman we could blame
Make me a beast half as brave
I'd be the same

The second EP In the Reins is collaboration with the band Calexico, know for their Southwest flavored music. Sam stretches things out a bit and the Calexico boys bring in the trumpets, pedal steel guitars and castanets. Surprisingly its a great fit. A History of Lovers is a great melody that chugs along with a march like beat.


3. Matisyahu, Live At Stubbs

The first thing you're always going to hear about this guy is that he's a traditional Hassidic Jewish man that raps and sings reggae. Okay, you don't see that every day so yeah he gets your attention. It doesn't seem to make any sense that such a weird mish mash of cultures would work but man oh man it does. It helps when the backing band is composed of seasoned professionals and the young star vocalist can hit notes you can barely imagine or spew lyrics about god and righteousness in an amazing machine gun staccato style. I was lucky enough to catch Matisyahu at the aforementioned rock festival and was standing in the front row not knowing what to expect. I was blown way by his singing style and commanding presence. He really knows how to work a crowd and you can hear that on this live album. King Without a Crown will knock your socks off. Say what you will about the religious message but the man is passionate and the music delivers. Will he have staying power or will the novelty wear off? My bet is that well be hearing a lot from him over the next decade. This debut is that strong& and we haven't even heard what he can do in the studio yet.

His website is at


4. Andrew Bird, and the Mysterious Production of Eggs

Andrew Bird is a whistling violinist, guitarist and glockenspiel player who sings wildly original songs with titles like A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left (something he apparently suffers from in real life), MX Missiles and Fake Palindromes. The songs are imminently listenable and cover wide-ranging topics from classroom humiliations to quantum physics and the pitfalls of writing computer code ( all you see are ones and zeros). My favorite lines from the album were inspired by watching the History channel / when the esteemed panel is asked why are alive / heres how they replied: you're what happens when two substances collide / and by all accounts you really should've died. Bitterly sweet words for the evolutionist in me. The wordplay is clever and engaging and loads of fun to listen to carefully. The entire album is strong and holds up throughout. Youll be humming these tunes for days on end. You can hear the entire album in streaming audio at


5. My Morning Jacket, Z

Unlike Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the band My Morning Jacket have been around for a decade or so laboring in semi-obscurity out in Kentucky. After going through some personnel changes, Z is their big break out album and major record label debut ( RCA/Sony). Rolling Stone magazine is calling them Americas Radiohead. Z is a real mix of sounds and influences. One can hear surf guitar in there, maybe some Floyd, reggae snippets, a bit of U2 perhaps. Wordless Chorus and Gideon stand out for me. Off the Record is hard to categorize because it has so much in it, from an opening guitar salvo that blatantly steals the classic Hawaii Five 0 riff through a Marley inspired interlude with a long musical jam tagged on to the end. Its a great song. The only downside is that this one of those Cds that is encrypted with some sort of software that prevents copying. So if you want to play it on your computer youre forced to install a program that apparently might make your computer vulnerable to hacking. Ah, the dark downside of signing up with a major label!


6. Laura Veirs, Year of Meteors

Seattle singer songwriter Laura Veirs returns with more powerful smart art girl rock. Laura makes what might be called chamber neo-folk music with fuzz guitars and lyrics that evoke the great outdoorsy northwest. Lake Swimming is an ode to the bliss of summer fun and Spelunking uses cave exploration as a metaphor for romantic entanglement. Shes a poet in the first degree using evocative phrases to set a mood. The emotional core of the CD in my opinion is a beautiful little song called Magnetized. Clearly she's got a bit of the science nerd in her too (she was working on a degree in geology and Mandarin Chinese before veering into music). Shes been compared to heavy hitters like Joni Mitchell, Bjork and Leonard Cohen. The songs Galaxies takes the listener on an emotional journey out to the stars and back to 10,000 leagues below the sea with eels and sea grass and bears and boulders floating through the air. You get the drift. Check out the video at


7. Gorillaz, Demon Days

Musical genius Damon Albarn, front man for Blur, returns with his side project the virtual cartoon band Gorillaz in masterful style. It's got it all: hip hop, ska, rousing choral arrangements, Dennis Hopper ranting about fire coming out of monkey heads and much, much more. It's a densely layered record and most of the songs switch tempo and style effortlessly in mid stride. Its all about culture jamming and believe me it rips the doors off. I still haven't spent enough time with this disk, discovering something new and fascinating on each listen. For a short history on this band that doesnt actually exist, go to Wikipedias page at


8. Amadou and Mariam, Dimanche a Bamako

Speaking of cultural mixing, hows about combining the talents of French/Spanish pop star producer Manu Chao with two blind guitarists from Mali? I just picked up this CD at Christmas but its energy and power is immediately apparent. Amadou and Mariam met as children at an institute for the blind in Mali and have been making music ever since. Manu Chaos contributions are pretty clear as he brings his madcap energy to bear on the sound. He's also co-writer on many of the tunes.


Patrick's list for 2005:

1. Broken Social Scene- Broken Social Scene
2. And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead / World Apart
3. Clap Your hands Say Yeah
4. Explosions in the Sky / How Strange, Innocence
5. Minus the Bear / Menos El Oso


Corinna's list for 2004:

1. Sufjan Stevens / Come On feel the Illinoise
2. Bloc party / Silent Alarm
3. Andrew Bird / the Mysterious Production of Eggs
4. Wolf Parade / Apologies to the Queen Mary
5. Clap Your hands Say Yeah


My Top 5 2004

1. Iron and Wine / Our Endless Numbered Days
2. Broken Social Scene / You Forgot It In People
3. Haley Bonar / The Size of Planets
4. West Indian Girl
5. Drive By Truckers / The Dirty South


My Top 5 2003

1. Steve Winwood/ About Time
2. Rickie Lee Jones/ The Evening of my Best Day
3. Blur/ Think Tank
4. Lucinda Williams / World Without Tears
5. Joe Strummer / Streetcore


Top 5 for 2002

1. Bruce Springsteen, The Rising
2. Flaming Lips. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
3. Patty Griffin, 1,000 Kisses
4. Pulp, We Love Life
5. Low, Trust

Top 5 2001

1. Ryan Adams, "Gold"
2. Sigur Ros, "Agaetis Buyjrun"
3. Bjork, 'Vespertine"
4. Amy Correia, "Carnival Love"
5. Lucinda Williams, "Essence"


Top 5 2000

1."Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea", P.J.. Harvey
2."69 Love Songs" the Magnetic Fields
3."Transcendental Blues", Steve Earle
4."Kid A", Radiohead
5."Red Dirt Girl", Emmylou Harris


1. Blur -13
2. Moby- Play
3. Heather Duby- Post to Wire
4. Belize Tropical 2


Ray Troll ©2006


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