Top tens, top tins

Brian Smith

1. Calexico/Iron & Wine In the Reins (Overcoat): Soul-soothing expression and narrative beneath dusty trailer-court lives and associated alcohol-fueled unions.

2. Richard Hawley Coles Corner (Mute): Here’s yer Leonard Cohen, kids.

3. Sam Cooke Night Beat (Sony/Legacy): Dude gave rise to soul, made black and white chicks cream, set record-deal standards and was gunned down in a Hollywood motel. Now there’s a star. Song for stunning song, this reissue is sonic heaven in big, warm analog glory.

4. Sights The Sights (New Line): The band’s loss-of-innocence record spins with a boozy, freefalling joy in sing-along turns. A budding songwriting base might trump this trio’s imperviousness to the goofy major label machine.

5. Bulldog Bulldog (Self-released): Am I the only one in the country who hears the beauty?

6. Living Things Ahead of the Lions (Jive): Oh, quit your bitching that rock ’n’ roll bands no longer exist, ’cause LT puts proactive bawl and thud where the din comes out. An honest-to-Allah, anti-Bush, pro-animal, pro-chick, fuck-the-establishment, question-authority rock ’n’ roll band. As ignored and nearly as middle-fingered as was the MC5, and fronted by a troubled and spindly rock star. Remember those?

7. M. Ward Transistor Radio (Merge): Ache, hum and immediate nostalgia.

8. Muggs The Muggs (Times Beach): Eeeeeeyowwssa. True motor speedway rock that grins on bended knee at the scuzzy altar of Cactus, Terry Reid and ZZ Top. What’s more, there’s heart, mutual adoration and unkempt class beneath their oomph and clash.

9. Alice Cooper Good to See You Again DVD (Shout!): It’s Alice Cooper’s 1973 Billion Dollar Babies tour, and we learn that glam had witty subtext, that parents really were scared, and American rock ’n’ roll climaxed at the same time as Deep Throat. [Editorial disclaimer: Smith wrote the band bios on this DVD.]

10. Ben Cyllus Cinnamon Matinee (Magic Hair): From out of nowhere comes this Detroit dude — with sensitivity, warmth and a seemingly implausible songwriting platform.

Top Tin: The Decemberists Picaresque (Kill Rock Stars): Pop as a literary launchpad is as galling and pompous as the sea shanties, Victorian chicks and Edwardian riffraff involved. It’s as affected and as close to the teen/human condition as was “Stairway to Heaven,” which is (basically) why punk rock happened. Big fucking deal — Decemberist head Colin Meloy can locate Wordsworth and Byron in a library. Who can’t?

W. Kim Heron

1. Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note): The existence of this 1957 concert tape was a surprise even to bootleggers. Full of eyebrow-raisers like a dazzling double-time on “Sweet and Lovely.”

2. Jason Moran & Bandwagon Same Mother (Blue Note): In recent years, Moran has landed on lists like this for releases that incorporated Euro classics, stride piano and Afrika Bambaataa riffs. Pianist Moran is just as fresh going back to the blues and adding guitarist Marvin Sewell to his trio.

3. Wayne Shorter Beyond the Sound Barrier (Verve): This working quartet is arguably his best showcase since his days with Miles. Shorter, drummer Brian Blade, bassist John Patitucci and pianist Danilo Perez specialize in improv cliff-hangers.

4. Sonny Rollins Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (Milestone): Not the whiplash-inducing Rollins of 1986’s live recording, G-Man. This is just the brilliant heavy lifting of the Rollins of 2001.

5. Marc Ribot Spiritual Unity (Pi): Electric guitarist Ribot’s quartet salutes anthemic shouter Albert Ayler. Bassist Henry Grimes — who played with Ayler in the ’60s — does more than his share to propel the proceedings.

6. Triptych Myth The Beautiful (AUM Fidelity): Pianist Cooper-Moore can splatter notes with the best, but he can also be whimsical, even quaint, in his iconoclastic way. First of three projected discs from a collective with bassist Tom Abbs and drummer Chad Taylor.

7. Electric Masada At the Mountains of Madness (Tzadik): John Zorn’s jump-cutting fusion aesthetic (as in his former band Naked City) meets his twist on the Ornette Coleman Quartet of 1959 (his more recent quartet Masada). Recorded live to be played loud.

8. Wynton Marsalis Live at the House of Tribes (Blue Note): No big idea, just heated combo takes on standards. The counterbalance to his ornate big-band take on A Love Supreme.

9. Francisco Mora Catlett River Drum (ler Cru): Percussionist and composer Catlett is in New York nowadays, but these Detroit sessions — with the likes of Kenn Cox, Craig Taborn and Rodney Whitaker — are testimony to what we’ve lost: Latin jazz, freshly imagined, imaginatively played.

10. Bobo Stenson, Anders Jormin, Paul Motian Goodbye (ECM): The mainly contemplative program ranges from interpretations of Ornette Coleman to Henry Purcell to Stephen Sondheim (even “Send in the Clowns” is understated), plus originals by pianist Stenson, bassist Jormin and drummer Motian. Their rapport is amazing.

11. Craig Harris Souls within the Veil (Aquastra): Trombonist Harris’ worthy salute to The Souls of Black Folk. The all-star big band includes Don Byron, Hamiet Bluiett, Steve Coleman and Oliver Lake. Harris evokes spirituals, blues and the St. Louis-Chicago-NYC avant-garde of the ’70s.

Johnny Loftus

1. Drones Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By (ATP): Desperation, a forked tongue and white phosphorus distortion.

2. Jim White, Various Artists Music from Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus (Luaka Bop/Ryko): Tears are just a stupid trick of God.

3. Boris Akuma No Uta (Southern Lord): This Japanese trio once named an album Amplifier Worship. Really, do you need any more?

4. MIA Arular (XL): Sleeps whole winters, wakes up and spits summers. Also sells Hondas.

5. Kinski w/25 Suaves & Oneida Live show at 2500 Club 8/19: Heat, manic intensity and Judas Priest covers in the looming shadow of the Masonic. Righteous.

6. Evens Evens (Dischord): Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina make terrific pop that’s modern, wiry and, yeah, still pretty angry.

7. My Morning Jacket Z (ATP): MMJ are bootgazers drifting in from the back 40 on a fog of comforting reverb.

8. Sights The Sights (New Line): For anyone who has ever been loved, drunk or robbed.

9. Richard Hawley Coles Corner (Mute): More romantic than anything Hollywood’s ever come up with. Overstated? Listen to those opening strings ...

10. Ellen Allien Thrills (Bpitch Control): The future came early in Berlin.

Top Tin: Nickelback All the Right Reasons (Roadrunner): For all the right reasons.

Jonathan Cunningham

1. Quasimoto The Further Adventures of Lord Quas (Stones Throw)

2. Damian Marley Welcome to Jamrock (Motown)

3. Platinum Pied Pipers Triple P (Ubiquity)

4. Little Brother The Minstrel Show (Atlantic)

5. MIA Arular (XL)

6. One.Be.Lo S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. (Fat Beats)

7. Slum Village Slum Village (Barak)

8. DJ Benny Ben Twenty Twelves (Subterraneous)

9. Various Artists Searching For Soul: Rare and Classic Soul and Jazz from Michigan 1968-1980 (Ubiquity)

10. Stone Love featuring Buju Banton, Ghost and Friends Weddy Weddy Vol. 11 DVD (Addis)

Eve Doster

1. Broadcast Tender Buttons (Warp): If Marianne Faithfull had been born in 1975, she’d turn out to be Broadcast. In Keith and Mick’s stead, there are dudes with “haircuts.

2. Hard Lessons Gasoline (No Fun): Hometown kids done good; it’s just so easy to love.

3. Antony & the Johnsons I am a Bird Now (Spunk): Like to drink Pinot and cry? Buy this album.

4. Bobby Bare Jr. From the End of Your Leash (Bloodshot): Bare Jr. himself said, “You’ve got to master songwriting before you can molest it.” This album is a music degenerate’s cream dream.

5. Smog The River Ain’t Too Much Love (Drag City): Magnetic Fields? Meet Willie Nelson. You sound good together.

6. Dolly Parton Those Were the Days (Sugar Hill): Even the album art (Parton in painted-on jeans, fringe vest and a peace sign) couldn’t ruin it. Dolly singing “Imagine,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Both Sides Now” is not only a ballsy affront to the modern country music world, it is a glorious listen.

7. Ladytron The Witching Hour (Island): Electropop can thank Ladytron for breathing, say, three more years of life into the genre

8. White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan (V2): Girls, listen to your mothers — love the music, not the myth.

9. Pluto Pluto (Not Lame): Had these ’70s rockers (not the ’90s pop Canucks) been as popular as .38 Special, the mullet might never’ve happened.

10. Konono No.1 Congotronics (Crammed Discs): Afrobeat, punk and electro found common ground courtesy of a Congolese thumb piano and instruments made from salvaged auto parts. This is what great music can be.

Top Tin: 30 Seconds to Mars A Beautiful Lie (Virgin): I’d rather eat a bowl of thumb chili.

Khary Kimani Turner

1. Kem Album II (Motown): Luther woo-wooed. Kem ah-ahs. And like the late king of crooners, Kem can make this brand of soul for the next decade. Steady in voice and strong in song.

2. Dwele Some Kinda... (Virgin): Music that’ll cause any romantic to slip, fall into some nice-nice and get up a parent. It strikes a mellow and mischievous chord.

3. Slum Village Slum Village (Barak): The best epic stories come full circle. SV made their best album since Fantastic by sticking to their formula while riding a roller-coaster career.

4. Earl Klugh Naked Guitar (Koch): The title says it; this album is Klugh and his guitar, nothing else. A beautiful project that sounds like it was a lonesome joy to record.

5. Platinum Pied Pipers Triple P (Ubiquity): The majority of the joint is buoyed by some of the D’s finest underground stars, and Wajeed and crew’s production style finally pays off with a creative and eclectic project.

6. One.Be.Lo S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. (Fat Beats): Been rooting for Lo since Binary Star’s Waterworld. He lives and breathes hip hop, and his project harks back to the culture’s golden era in a beautifully cohesive way.

7. Fluent A Man Can Change (Self-released): This doesn’t fashion itself to fit any hip-hop aesthetic; there are healthy doses of heart and soul, and musically it’s just as raw.

8. Kanye West Late Registration (Roc-a-Fella): Shut up, haters. This album’s creativity rivals its creator’s arrogance. Plus, it took huge balls for dude to call out the president.

9. Common Be (Geffen): Killer comeback after his Electric Circus album. Though it wasn’t the classic many critics declared, it did effectively counter hip hop’s fascination with drug hustle and excess.

10. Little Brother The Minstrel Show (Atlantic): Possibly the most conscious and hilarious album since De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising. It calls out everyone in hip hop content to “coon” their way through respective music careers by reducing blacks to niggas and bitches.

Top Tin: Amerie Touch (Sony): The whiny vocals on her smash single become overkill by the album’s second tune. Even Auto Tune couldn’t save her.

Fred Mills

1. Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3 ...tick... tick... tick (Blue Rose): Issued in Europe, this is a rock ’n’ roll pipe bomb wrapped in plastique and dipped in gunpowder.

2. My Morning Jacket Z (ATO): Fans have frequently characterized MMJ concerts as ecstasy-inducing rock tent revivals. The group’s fourth is bold, confident, ecstatic — and, yeah, a bit holy too.

3. Black Merda The Folks From Mother’s Mixer (Tuff City): Pairing early ’70s LPs Black Merda and Long Burn the Fire, it’s a black rock thang, a soul-stirred stew of Hendrix, Funkadelic and War, and some incredibly thoughtful, politically conscious lyrics to boot.

4. Sleater-Kinney The Woods (Sub Pop): With world-gone-wrong lyric desperation and a sinewy, shuddery sonic brawn, this dangerously physical record moves at a terrifying clip.

5. Flamin’ Groovies Shake Some Action (DBK Works): 1976 power-pop template sees its first U.S. digitization.

6. Otis Taylor Below the Fold (Telarc): “Appalachian griot” delivered with the fluidity of funk and the viscosity of punk. Spooky and scary, seductive and sublime — blues by any other name, but no one else is making blues like this.

7. Pernice Brothers Discover a Lovelier You (Ashmont): Aglow with lush melodies and cinematic textures, and dipped in echoes of Brian Wilson, the Beatles and New Order, Joe Pernice’s latest is 2005’s purest pop platter, period.

8. Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out (Bar/None): Every detail of the original Who classic — vocal harmonies, guitar riffs, even the fake between-song commercials and the vinyl run-out groove — is reproduced a cappella by Haden, who in the process brings out previously overlooked nuances.

9. Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham Moments from This Theatre Live (Proper): Criminally overlooked upon its initial release in 1999, the Penn-Oldham summit brings a whole lotta Memphis to UK stages and goes down as sweet as a honeyslide.

10. Dandy Warhols Odditorium (Capitol): Prince on a bad hair day? T. Rex recast by 21st century boys (and girl)? Spacemen 3 minus the opiates? Creedence Clearwater gone shoegaze? All of the above, and more.

Top Tin(s): Decemberists Picaresque (Kill Rock Stars): So-called “literate pop” — like Jethro Tull minus the flute — or Belle & Sebastian on steroids, or an emasculated Smiths.

The Hold Steady Separation Sunday (Frenchkiss): Overhype alert! A shambling mess of tuneless, ironic posturing — not to mention the most annoying vocalist since Wesley Willis.

Keren Ann Nolita (Metro Blue/Capitol): Starbucks lite, hold the caffeine. I know why male rock critics like her — they equate her wispy, soporific French vocals with seduction.

Stephen Malkmus Face the Truth (Matador): Face it indeed. Pavement just wasn’t all that interesting. Nor is this solo record, devoid of riff, melody or groove.

Mando Diao Hurricane Bar (Mute): Armed with Oasis-like “we’re the best band in the universe” ’tude, these Swedes ditch walloping garage for warmed-over Britpop. They also bleep out the word “fuck” in a vocal sample. Pussies.

New Order Waiting for the Sirens’ Call (Warner Bros.): Sonically sumptuous, lyrically banal. Sappy self-help lines like “You’ve gotta hold your head up high/You’ve gotta lift that heavy load” wouldn’t make it past a hungover Hallmark card editor.

Scout Niblett Kidnapped by Neptune (Too Pure/Beggars): Don’t be fooled by overcaffeinated comparisons to Cat Power, PJ Harvey and Neko Case — there hasn’t been a female singing this aggressively tunelessly since The Shaggs.

Matt Pond PA Several Arrows Later (Altitude): Sensitivity alert! Downcast, pseudo-baroque “literate pop” (see Decemberists, above) that wants to be epic in feel but is ultimately too self-consciously moody to really connect.

Rilo Kiley More Adventurous (Brute/Beaute): More adventurous than what? Hilary Duff? Gwen Stefani? Karen fucking Carpenter? This perky platter sounds like it was assembled by an indie-rock focus group.

Josh Rouse Nashville (Ryko): Rouse is the Michael Franks of the alterna-generation. Who said quiet is the new loud? It’s not — it’s the new boring.

Ben Blackwell

1. A-Frames Black Forest (Sub Pop): As creepy as you’d expect spending a night in the Black Forest would be.

2. Black Lips Let It Bloom (In the Red): Retarded Southern garage punks done growed up and teached us all a lesson.

3. Black Mountain Black Mountain (Jagjaguwar): So hard to pin down (Zep? VU? Sabbath?), but so easy to love.

4. Brendan Benson Alternative to Love (V2): The master of pop once again sets the bar higher than anyone else can reach.

5. Beck Guero (Interscope): A classic summer cruising record, chock fulla repeatable catchphrases.

6. King Khan and BBQ King Khan and BBQ (Goner): This record is like a secret handshake traded among hardcore music fans.

7. Modey Lemon Curious City (Birdman): Adding a bass player was the best thing they ever did.

8. Sleater-Kinney The Woods (Sub Pop): Proving they can rock heavy with the big boys and still hit the three-part harmony.

9. Stooges Stooges (Rhino): Alternate vocal take of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” turns punk into gloom 30 years after the fact.

10. Various Motown Singles Collection Vol. 1 (Hip-o-Select): The best thing to happen for Detroit since ... ever.

Top Tin: Both Wendell’s and Young Soul Rebels had to shut their doors. Can’t this town sustain independent record stores?

Walter Wasacz

1. Richie Hawtin DE9 Transitions (Novamute): A seamless and sensuous digital maxi-mix that comes in CD and DVD. Hawtin blurs the line between producer and DJ.

2. M83 “Teen Angst”— Luciano remix (Mute 12 inch): Twenty-first century shoegazer pop rides atop waves of hypnotic pan-African drumming and punishing bass lines. It’s as disturbing as it is sublime.

3. DJ Hell Je Regrette Everything EP (Gigolo): A marriage made in Hell’s sex-and-guilt-soaked production universe.

4. Superpitcher Live at Oslo, July 23 and Oct. 2 The Bavarian pretty boy — whose DJ performing style combines Bryan Ferry crypto-sophistication with a shaggy-haired indie-rock delivery — killed Detroit twice this year.

5. Antony & the Johnsons/Coco Rosie Live at the Gem Theatre, Oct. 3 Antony’s songs of beauty and tenderness mixed with his hilarious onstage banter had a sit-down crowd on its feet, mixing laughter and tears. The grinding pussy-power finale by sister act Coco Rosie wasn’t a bad opener, either.

6. Wighnomy Bros. Wombat (Speicher): This is one of about a dozen stellar original productions and remix projects released this year by Gabor Schablitzki & Sören Bodner (better known as Robag Wrühme and Monkey Maffia). Who says ketamine house doesn’t rock? Does it ever, and weirdly.

7. Rhythm & Sound See Mi Yah (Burial Mix): A CD collecting a series of 7-inch gems released by Berlin digital dubmaster Mark Ernestus with a little help from his friends Sugar Minott, Paul St. Hillaire, Freddy Mellow and others. Ya, let Jah love come down.

8. Colder Heat (Output): Parisian Marc Nguyen Tan’s existential space-disco has roots planted in the sweet, cathartic misery of Joy Division and the Cure. Ideal for mid-tempo dancing in a world falling apart.

9. Audion Suckfish (Spectral Sounds): Detroit’s Matthew Dear blows it up on his midnight rambler alter ego, throwing rock, acid house and trance into one bombastic, danceable package.

10. Neung Phak Fucking USA (Abduction 7-inch EP): A thunderous punk-rock coda to a North Korean propaganda film that slams George Bush, Gold Medal thievery at the 2002 Winter Olympics and all things American.

Chris Handyside
The word from imaginary critics about my “Top 9” records of 2005.

1. MIA Arular (XL): “I danced. I cried. It was better than Cats.” —Martin Overdrive, Uppercutz Rag.

2. Cloud Cult Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus (Baria): “Something for everyone who ever wishes Neil Young would arm wrestle Conor Oberst while whacked out on glue fumes.” —Archibald McGinty, New Fresh Express.

3. New Pornographers Twin Cinema (Matador): “More hooks than a tackle box!” —Every new indie rock critic at every college paper everywhere.

4. Brendan Benson Alternative to Love (V2): “If Benson miserable makes me this happy, then I must say, ‘Long may he wallow.’” —Trish-Edna Garret, Parcheesi the Magazine.

“The sound of a man in full musical stride.” —Gary Hentian, Underwater Staples blog.

5. Great Lakes Myth Society Great Lakes Myth Society (Stop, Pop & Roll): “Finally, the Third Coast has a new set of worthy troubadours!” —Paula Parastekov, Bring Me the Head of Gordon

6. Black Merda The Folks at Mother’s Mixer (Tuff City): “Awww, yeah. Fuckin’-a right!” —Just about everyone at the corner bar.

7. Sleater-Kinney The Woods (Sub Pop): “The ladies from Oregon finally burst through the post-feminist, male-rockist paradigm by subverting its mechanics from the position of an interior dialogue — again!” —Herb Trescott, editor of ManSized Lady Fun.

8. Antony & the Johnsons I Am a Bird Now (Secretly Canadian): “I shouldn’t like this so much, but I can’t. Stop. Listening to it!” —

9. Fountains of Wayne Out-of-State Plates (Virgin): “Why they didn’t include ‘That Thing You Do’ is beyond me. Otherwise, a flawless package of schmaltz, throwaway and timeless pop created by master craftsmen at the peak of their craft.” —Murray Particular, That’s My Sound Weekly.

Jeffrey Morgan

1. Alice Cooper Dirty Diamonds (New West): This stacked DD delight is nothing less than a Morrison-fueled retrofitted sequel to Killer!

2. Anemo Slowburn (City Canyons): Perky postmodern music made with a sexy ’n’ sassy Hyndeful of heartfelt female attitude!

3. Andi Camp Magnetic (Grafton): She plays piano with the fluid laser pinpoint accuracy of John Cale and sings like an angel taking flight!

4. DMBQ The Essential Sounds from the Far East (Estrus!): Hendrix in the east reincarnated as Godzilla with a guitar and a wall of overcranked amps!

5. Ellis Hooks Godson of Soul (Evidence): Soul Brother No. 2 records the greatest Rolling Stones album since Exile on Main Street!

6. Forecast Late Night Conversations (Victory): Their soaring tag-team lead vocals evoke an exhilarating Jefferson Airplane sound that hasn’t been heard for decades!

7. Mardo Mardo (House of Restitution): Looks like this snotty snoot album is a retro retardo smash up that sounds like ... a rock ’n’ roll pawdy tonite!

8. The Muggs The Muggs (Times Beach): Michigan’s own Bon Scott with all the boozy bulwark bluster and none of the sober stylistic subtleties!

9. Revolver Turbulence (Sextant): These brass-ball commandos lay down a heavy carpet of sound that’ll have your windows rattling for weeks!

10. Super Heavy Goat Ass 60,000 Years (Arc Light): Damn fine no-nonsense fuzztone blues rock from the Lone Star State!

11. TSAR Band Girls Money (TVT): Led Zeppelin and Cheap Trick meet Rockpile and Mott the Hoople in a slobberknocker fatal four-way!

Brian J. Bowe

1. Sights The Sights (New Line): This power trio’s eponymous third album favors a sound somewhere between the Midwestern muscle of Smokin’ OPs-era Bob Seger and the mod pop of the Small Faces. They’ve been adored in Detroit for years, and on the strength of the new record it seems possible that they could win the rock-star lottery.

2. Sinéad O’Connor Throw Down Your Arms (Rocket Science): O’Connor has mined her daffy Catholic-Rasta spirituality for artistic pay dirt. With expert help from Sly and Robbie, this collection of reggae covers is a mature and spiritually uplifting work.

3. Reigning Sound Home for Orphans (Sympathy for the Record Industry): The Reigning Sounds’ newest is a straight-up tear-in-my-beer opus that finds the band in country-soul mode, delivering sob-inducing performances that bring to mind Charlie Rich, Spooner Oldham or Dan Penn.

4. Cast King Saw Mill Man (Locust): Cast King is a heretofore unknown 79-year-old country songwriter who’s been toiling in obscurity since the earliest days of rock ’n’ roll. King’s deep, weathered baritone carries so much emotional weight in each note that this record is heavier than any metal.

5. Detroit Cobras Baby! (Bloodshot): The Cobras’ third long-player is more refined and less bombastic than its predecessors. That’s not to say the band has been entirely tamed. It’s more that their sound has shifted closer to the R&B side of their roots and away from the punk tonalities.

6. Quantic Soul Orchestra Pushin’ On (Ubiquity): Quantic is the stage name of electronic dance artist Will Holland. For Pushin’ On, he assembled a live band that brings blaxploitation funk into the 21st century. It’s filled with burbling bass lines, a stabbing horn section, sweeping strings and chunky guitars. This is proof that they haven’t yet built machines that can replace human musicians.

7. Hard Lessons Gasoline (No Fun): This charming pop trio’s electric organ-drenched songs feature just the right level of grit to keep the sing-along rockers rolling. It’s only a matter of time before the creamy pop number “Milk and Sugar” becomes a commercial for dairy products, the sugar industry or tea importers.

8. Sigur Ros Takk (Geffen): This is a gorgeous, lush and atmospheric masterpiece with songs that build to intense emotional crescendos before dropping out to quiet spaces.

9. Various Artists American Primitive Vol. II: Pre-War Revenants (1897-1939) (Revenant): This is the last collection of material put together by John Fahey for release on his Revenant label before he died. It’s raw, just as Fahey liked it, and it’s essential for blues fans (or any fan of high-powered music that’s holier than church and weirder than hell).

10. Bobby Bare The Moon was Blue (Dualtone): Bare’s first record in 22 years is an achingly gorgeous return to form from one of American music’s great stylists.

Charles L. Latimer

1. John Coltrane One Down, One Up: Coltrane Live at the Half Note (Impulse): This is everything that Coltrane was — a limitless improviser and a tireless soloist. But it also shows off the chops of ’Trane’s gifted pianist, McCoy Tyner.

2. James Carter Organ Trio Out of Nowhere: Live at the Blue Note (Half Note): Most of Carter’s recordings have been theme-driven, and the saxophonist is at his best when challenged. The slugfest between Carter and baritone saxman Hamiet Bluiett on R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” makes this date worth the cover charge.

3. Sonny Rollins Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (Milestone): Saxophonist Sonny Rollins is 75 but still blows with all the piss and vinegar of a young horn player. On “Global Warming,” Rollins’ improvisations are simply mystifying.

4. Various Gold Sounds (Brown Brothers): It’s refreshing to hear jazz musicians perform something other than jazz standards. Saxophonist James Carter, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, drummer Ali Jackson, and bassist Reginald Veal ambush alt-rock darlings Pavement with a jazz makeover.

5. Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Don’t Be Afraid: The Music of Charles Mingus (Palmetto): The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra ventured outside its comfort zone to tackle the complex, whimsical and often politically charged work of the late bassist Charles Mingus.

6. The Gerald Wilson Orchestra In My Time (Mack Avenue): This is a definitive big-band record. Wilson’s arrangements are crisp; a mix of young and seasoned musicians pump life into such standards as “Love for Sale” and “So What.”

7. Robert Glasper Canvas (Blue Note): Glasper deserves all the adulation he gets.

8. The Brad Mehldau Trio Day is Done (Nonesuch): Mehldau at this stage of his career has to be the finest melodic pianist in the universe. I soaked up every sonic inch of this recording.

9. Phillip Townsend Beautiful Black Lady (San-Shue): This tribute to women of color isn’t loaded with trite lyrics; what’s beautiful is you believe Townsend genuinely admires his subject matter.

10. Organissimo This is the Place (Big O): This Lansing-based organ trio produced an album that’s soulful, funky, churchy and jazzy — everything you’d want in an organ album.

Top Tin: Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note): This record doesn’t live up to the hype because Monk’s and Coltrane’s musical personalities clash. The only saxophonist who ever sounded good with Monk was Charlie Rouse.

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