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Top Ten

The Year in Local Music

Long one of club music's hottest producers, Rod Lee is currently the music's face outside I-695.

Top Ten 2005

The Year in News Even the most ardent Baltimoron knows better than to take as anything other than a sick joke our claim to being “The Greatest City in America.” | By Gadi Dechter, Edward Ericson Jr., and Van Smith

The Year in Movies Fuck March of the Penguins.

The Year in Television It signals that the major networks are following a cable and foreign TV lead: the season-long serial narrative

The Year in Music 2005 was definitely a year of no consensus.

The Year in Local Music From club music to indie rock to the fact that by year’s end it seemed like damn near every rapper in the city was signed, this was a banner year for Baltimore music...

The Year in Books The you-know-what over in you-know-where continues to dominate American publishing…

The Year in Art Only time can tell if 2005 is the year that Baltimore’s local art climate started to turn for the better.

The Year on Stage Lack of talent is never going to sink Baltimore theater, but lack of space is a problem.

Our Top 40 City Paper Offers 40 Ideas From 2005 for Your iPod

Posted 12/14/2005

If our national Top 10 music poll reflected a year of no consensus, then our local Top 10 found the same names cropping up again and again. From club music to indie rock to the fact that by year’s end it seemed like damn near every rapper in the city was signed, this was a banner year for Baltimore music, both inside and outside of city limits. We just hope that our winners don’t let their good reviews, blog hype, or label advances go to their head. Instead we suggest they follow the example of perennial Top 10 placer Lungfish, which knows that fashions come and go, press cycles are just that, and being beloved trumps fame just about every time. But if you’re gonna go for getting paid, just make sure you get a good investment lawyer. (Jess Harvell)

1 Rod Lee The Official, Vol. 5 (Club Kingz/Morphius)

So club music bubbles for nearly 15 years in Baltimore City, invisible to the outside world. Then in 2005 it wins raves in alt-weeklies across the country, a feature in Spin, and plenty of online chatter. Can it really just be Mr. Lee’s mix tape, the first to receive shrink-wrapped and bar-coded distribution in the wider world? Sure it’s missing some of club’s cheekier interpolations (made impossible by the vagaries of licensing), and it features a little too much sampled Lil Jon. But Vol. 5 is undeniable, a 30-track crash course in the club aesthetic, including Rod’s own 2005 brighter-days anthem “Dance My Pain Away” and Black Starr’s eerie, 3 a.m. eternal “Get My Gun.” We greatly look forward to a future where Midwestern teens roll around in their jalopies with “Face down/ Ass up” pumping down Main Street. (JH)

2 Huli Shallone It’s My Turn (Hit ’Em Hard)

While the city’s hip-hop trainspotters pin local mainstream dreams on the broad shoulders and beefy voice of Bossman, Huli Shallone has gone about his business, letting his It’s My Turn debut crank out tight local single after tight local single for the past 10 months. Part of that streak is due to Shallone’s wide-screen charisma. With the guy’s agile, menacing flow and knack for intimidating barks that bleed into witty asides, his rhyme game is sharp enough to stand next to anybody in town. The rest of Turn’s success is due to the straight-ghetto production, catchy songs, and dance-ready club&B jams, from the street-tough “Better Get ’Em” to the tight “The World Is Yours.” (Bret McCabe)

3 Lungfish Feral Hymns (Dischord)

Lungfish’s first album not recorded at Dischord staple Inner Ear Studios in forever is the band’s rawest and loosest outing since Necklace of Heads. And the major difference from that sterling debut is the songs—17 years into this lifetime, Lungfish has streamlined its blueprint into hypnotic ragas of economy that would sound too threadbare if everything weren’t in its right place. The return of bassist Sean Meadows to the fold puts a monster low-end beneath Mitchell Feldstein’s circuitous drumming and Asa Osborn’s impossibly simple guitar progressions. Three chords is one and sometimes two too many in Osborn’s able hands, which can turn two notes into reverberating brimstone. And, of course, vocalist Daniel Higgs delivers his shadow cave-painting lines, elliptical nonsense that makes more sense than the evening news any day of the week. (BM)

4 Bossman Law and Order (Double Down/1Up Productions)

A late ’04 release, but one that can’t be ignored, having made its impact in 2005. There’s “Oh (B-More Anthem),” of course, the slowed-down, club-style home-team-repping single produced by Rod Lee that put Bossman on the map. There’s also “Off da Record,” swiping a Tupac hook for a string of rhetorical disses at everything from the Bush administration to R. Kelly, the draft to why Jadakiss’ album sucked, living up to Bossman’s oft-repeated claim that he can’t keep his mouth shut. Throughout Law and Order, Boss switches flows like changing clothes and drops punch lines like left hooks. And it was Law and Order’s success that him landed that purported million-plus deal with Virgin Records. Hey, Jermaine Dupri: Don’t fuck this one up. (JH)

5 Wilderness Wilderness (Jagjaguwar)

After three years of kicking around Baltimore, Wilderness became an indie-rock hot topic in 2005. Wilderness, its debut album, is a slow pan through 10 variations on pulsing bass lines and guitars that toll like church bells and drift like cloud fronts. James Johnson’s vocals—half-spoken, half-sung—draw comparisons to Public Image-era John Lydon, but there’s also an obvious debt to Lungfish’s Daniel Higgs. It’s occasionally a little portentous—Johnson lacks both Lydon’s hammy, hectoring verve and Higgs’ gravelly gravitas—but you’ll definitely never mistake Wilderness for Modest Mouse. Meditative and expansive, Wilderness floats in a suspension between the dive-bomb aesthetic of postpunk and the ethereal-but-crunchy bliss of early postrock. (JH)

6 Mullyman Mullymania (Unruly)

Any day now, Baltimore hip-hop heads are gonna realize that all those marquee names peppering Mullymania—Memphis Bleek, Ghostface, the Clipse, Fam-Lay, Freeway—are mere window dressing around the local MC who more than holds his own next to the major-leaguers. Mullyman varies his clearly enunciated, buttery-smooth delivery just enough to suit the beats bubbling through his debut’s 18 tracks. Mully effortlessly switches from dark-alley grind to low-rider glide like a man who has seen it all and can roll with anything thrown at him—which he proves with tight spitting on standout cuts “One of da Greatest,” “Gangsta Wit Me,” and “Get That Money!” (BM)

7 Celebration Celebration (4AD)

Signing to 4AD seemed an obvious move for Celebration, unreconstructed goths in an age when emoting in rock can earn you a one-way ticket to Seventeen. But Celebration is rawer and more chaotic than the Cocteau Twins or Dead Can Dance, its whirling dervishes produced to a silvery shine by TV on the Radio’s David Sitek. Katrina Ford sings like she’s performing an exorcism in a teen horror flick, and her man-machine husband, Sean Antanaitis, lays down all the creaky, spooky noises. Drama queens and boys with badly applied eyeliner, put your hands up. (JH)

8 Lafayette Gilchrist Towards the Shining Path (Hyena)

Nobody has more fun making music than Lafayette Gilchrist and the New Volcanoes. The nine new songs here are the usual sort of Technicolor splendor that Gilchrist and the NVs seem able to toss off in their sleep, captured in the most luscious recording of the group to date. Dig the wiggly flourishes Gilchrist lays down on “New Jack” or the contrapuntal low-end funk bouncing behind the bass and drums on “Bubbles on Mars.” Once somebody figures out how to bottle this joy as a pill, they’ll be tossing a middle finger to pharmaceutical giants dishing Prozac crack to the terminally unhappy. And that’s not even touching on the horn section’s sunny outbursts or the dazzling, dizzying freedom that is the John Dierker sax solo. (BM)

9 The New Flesh Parasite (Maelstrom)

New Flesh bassist/vocalist Jason Donnells, guitarist/vocalist Dan Propert, and drummer Rick Weaver have had the rib-cage-rattling, power-rock hate-spew down for a couple of years now. But the band focuses its needling buzz into something even more feral on its debut album proper, Parasite. The tempos slow just a bit, Weaver and Donnells discover actual discombobulating rhythms in their penchant to drop their heads and play as physically as possible, and Propert grows into a riff machine, locating his guitar sound somewhere between Scratch Acid throat-slit and wiggy Cows brain-spooge. And, natch, live these three still just kill. (BM)

10 Club Queen K-Swift Vol. 6: The Return (Unruly)

As the only major female in a male-dominated (and hypersexist, to go by the samples) genre, K-Swift is now one of the major faces of club music, spinning for the faithful at Hammerjacks, bringing club to the masses on 92Q, and even brokering a tentative peace accord with B-more’s white hipsters. Vol. 6 of her mix-CD series features many of the same 2005 club smashes as Rod Lee’s Vol. 5, as well as eternal party-starters like “Big Girl Theme” and “Face Down.” And, hey, since when has club ever had a problem being obvious or repeating itself? Right now, somewhere, this mix is teaching a whole new generation how to grind awkwardly on each other. And you thought true love was dead. (JH)

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Top Ten archives

More Stories

The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
. . . just in the case the album really is dead.

The Year in News (12/9/2009)

The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)

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