There has never been enough music documenting the jazz union of Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane. So the discovery of a two-set live recording of their performance in 1957, At Carnegie Hall, is a monumental CD release in ’05 for jazz enthusiasts. The first set opens with the gentle exploratory jazz riffs of “Monk’s Mood,” and I can feel their passion and confidence grow as they build momentum to their first take of “Epistrophy.” The second set is a delight as they stretch the songs out, opening with the upbeat tempo swings of “Bye-Ya” to the slow somber contemplations of “Blue Monk.” Unfortunately, the tape ran out, so the album ends on an incomplete second take of “Epistrophy.” Web link: bluenoterecords.com
Lullabies To Paralyze is the unexpected rebirth of Queens of the Stone Age in ’05 after the loss of their “insane” bass player, Nick Olivier, in ’04. From the heavy melodic depths of “In Your Head” to the guitar driven metal-highs of “Everybody Knows You’re Insane,” Lullabies to Paralyze is only slightly less intense than their previous album “Songs For The Deaf.” Web link: queensofthestoneage.com.
No Franz Ferdinand, I could not have it so much better. After these Brit-pop hipsters came out with their debut album in 2004, we were left waiting for something more from these Scottish fun-loving pin-up boys. Finally, an ’05 album with enough cocky lyrics and catchy retro beats – from “Do You Want To” to “Walk Away”- to kick the overplayed Killers ’04 Hot Fuss album out of my CD player. Web link: franzferdinand.uk
Frances the Mute, The Mars Volta’s second release, is the most compelling hard rock album of ’05 with its non-linear songs compiling everything from industrial rock and norteno folk to heavy-weighted guitar driven metal-rock and salsa piano. No, this is not your typical three-minute-song radio-friendly album but, the intensity of Frances the Mute’s half-hour songs of dementia like “Cassandra Gemini,” still appeals to mainstream music fans. See The Mars Volta pull-it-off live on their end-of the-year live concert release “Scabdates.” Web link: themarsvolta.com
Bright Eyes singer-songwriter Conor Oberst simultaneously released two albums in 2005, exploring opposite sides of his musical spectrum. Digital Ash In A Digital Urn has a retro-rock band-centric production. While I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning has a country-tinged indie-rock feel, enhanced by cameo vocals from Emmy Lou Harris and Jim James (My Morning Jacket). I’m Wide Awake is an acoustic collection that brings out Oberst’s best songs-to-date, from his folk-ish opening tale of “At The Bottom Of Everything” to his dewy-eyed romanticism of “First Day of My Life.” Web link: saddle-creek.com/bands/brighteyes/ VT