The first disc represents songs from twenty of my favorite CDs of 2005 (excluding EPs, compilations, or live albums. Why? Because I'm the king, that's why...). Here are my comments on those tracks:

1. Audible "Sound Makes a Circle" Sky Signal: Coincidentally, one of two tracks here that makes use of the venerable 11-beat measure.

2. Tenement Halls "Silver from the Silt" Knitting Needles & Bicycle Bells: I had a hard time choosing which track from this album to use. I went with this one, which is the opening track. Conveniently, it's in the same key as the following song.

3. The Ponys "Today" Celebration: You know how old records used to be labeled by the type of dance step they accompanied? I think something similar ought to go on, and particular beats should have names that appear on the record. Actually, compared with a lot of musics, rock'n'roll has done a lot less with naming its beats. Anyway, I'm not sure what to call this beat, which seems pretty common and yet I can't think offhand of another track with a similar rhythm, sort of an agitated four-on-the-floor shuffle.

4. Max´mo Park "Graffiti" A Certain Trigger: Rog pointed out that it's hard to choose, in one's mental jukebox, which track off this album is the "single." I eventually went with this because its chorus kept popping into my head. I have no idea what the chorus means - but who cares?

5. The Spinto Band "Brown Boxes" Nice and Nicely Done: I almost put "Oh Mandy" on here, if only to cleanse the ears of people who think only Barry Manilow did a song with the name "Mandy" in the title (and who forget about 10cc). But that one was a little too sweet, and also too long (you might notice that this disc is only a supermodel- width short of its time allotment). I like the musical textures (kazoo and electric piano).

6. The Go-Betweens "This Night's for You" Oceans Apart: Man is this thing compressed! Anyway, that distorted bass (as a result?) makes the whole track sound distorted at first...it's not. This track chosen both because it relatively rocks, and I didn't want a slower track yet, and because its chorus was sticky.

7. Stephen Malkmus "It Kills" Face the Truth: I suppose some folks are still allergic to Malkmus' upper register. I've gotten used to it, and I think he controls it a lot better than he used to. Also, I wasn't kidding over at the year-end wrap-up page when I alluded to the Grateful Dead: both some of the guitar tones and something in the chordal texture remind me strongly of that band here.

8. John Vanderslice "Trance Manual" Pixel Revolt: I think I have a musical learning disability, which may explain why I keep acquiring new music: it takes me forever to learn new songs. Or maybe it takes me forever to learn new songs because I keep acquiring new music. Anyway. Also, handbells? Yes, handbells!

9. John Cale "Perfect" Black Acetate: A simple, straightforward, uptempo track, after the tricky (Malkmus) and subtle (Vanderslice) two previous tracks. If we lived in a universe where folks like John Cale released singles, this would be it.

10. Caribou "Brahminy Kite" The Milk of Human Kindness: Drums! Despite the directness implied by loudly banging on things, there's also a subtlety to the arrangement of this track: I'm not exactly certain of its exact layout, but I think some of the loops in the middle of the track were double-tracked, with one track digitally quickened slightly (that is, without changing the pitch) so the two tracks go gradually, slightly out of sync with one another. The track pulls back just before the effect becomes glaring. I notice it in the flute loop and a little later in the drums, if I recall correctly.

11. The Caribbean "Tarmac Squad" Plastic Explosives: Because I'm a dummy who rarely looks at lyric sheets, it took me forever to parse out the first line as "Up at Urban Chic..." Now you know (if you didn't). Anyway, I like the unexpected major-seventh rise in the melody, the clever, short-story -like way the lyrics tell its tale of anti-corporate resistance, and the way the track gradually gets hairier from its simple acoustic guitar and voice opening, ending in a clattering of arrhythmic percussion.

12. Momus "Lute Score" Otto Spooky: Minor mistake: the link on the year-end page doesn't go to mp3s, but to lyrics. Which is fine, since they're difficult to understand. As it turns out, though (and as outlined here at Momus' blog Click Opera, itself one of the more fascinating blogs out there - and interactive, with many commenting readers), this is a "mumble song," as Currie calls it: a species of not-quite-nonsense. Anyway: I had a hard time choosing which track to use from this album, since the tracks are so diverse. This one combines a lot of features found throughout the record: the exoticisms, the pastiche, the strange audio processing, the mix of whimsy and an arms-length sense of menace, the joy in putting together disparate pieces into a whole. (Incidentally, the overall title of these CDs comes from a misheard line from another track on this album, "Bantam Boys.")

13. Bullette "We Are Not from Sugar" The Secrets: If Monika Bullette goes on to bigger things, she'll be one of the first musicians to have been "discovered" by putting up an album's worth of tunes (and more) for free on a personal website. The network of mp3 blogs (notably the late and lamented Mystical Beast, run by Dana Paoli) jumped on this one early. This particular track is my favorite, even though it's atypical of the album. Then again, the album is itself atypical, running from primarily acoustic songs to rec-room rock band tracks to (like this) almost entirely synthetic sounds. Bullette doesn't manage the diversity as well as someone like Momus yet (then, he's got twenty years of recording experience over her), and the album isn't well sequenced, seeming to move in chunks from one style to another rather than integrating them into more of a whole. Still, an intriguing set of songs (the year-end summary page links to her site: the app I'm typing this in forces me to manually type the HTML for links, so I'm being minimalist about them).

14. The Sugarplastic "Autumn All the Time" Will: This is the musical equivalent of cotton candy: very sweet going down, but a bit painful in retrospect. He is saying goodbye, after all.

15. Spoon "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine" Gimme Fiction: One of my favorite things about the last three Spoon albums is the piano. They use it primarily in the lower and middle registers, avoiding the more cutting (and typical) higher notes, and they get this great sound from it. (What piano? What sort of recording technique? Hey, I don't know!) And I'm a sucker for cello - and I like the way the last notes of the phrase swoop and groan...an effect used at the very end as well. (PS: Spoon drummer Jim Eno has a famous relative...it's true! U2 producer Brian Eno is the Spoon drummer's third uncle!)

16. The New Pornographers "The Jessica Numbers" Twin Cinema: Another album from which I could have chosen nearly any track. I ended up choosing this one almost by default: originally, I was going to cheat slightly and put the track that's not on the physical CD but is available only via iTunes (and not as an individual track - bastards!) - but I'd posted it a month or so back (it may even still be up, contrary to my usual practice...) and, unfortunately, that version was digitized from the vinyl release...which, like way too many of the entirely awful format of 7" singles, is pressed slightly off-center, so the pitch wobbles queasily a bit near the end. I didn't like the effect - especially not coming so soon after the slight pitch mismatch in the transition from Bullette to the Sugarplastic - so I needed another song (this one). I chose "The Jessica Numbers" because (a) it's short enough, (b) it also has cello, tying in nicely with the track before - in fact, the segue works really well, and (c) because hey, another track with an 11-beat measure!

17. Damon & Naomi "Beautiful Close Double" The Earth Is Blue: Apparently, a "close double" is an astronomical term (thank you, Google). Just thought you might want to know. I like the way the electric guitar and trumpet sounds interact here. Note also a typically wandering Naomi Yang bassline - she plays bass like no one else, almost completely disregarding the roots of chords and instead drafting countermelodies, almost as if she's a lower-register lead guitar.

18. Sufjan Stevens "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." Illinois: This is the track that some people think takes Stevens' wide-eyed bit too far, particularly the line "and in my best behavior / I am really just like him" (like Gacy, that is) - which, of course, isn't literally true (one hopes). But given that the song also asks its listeners whether they're among the boys Gacy murdered, and says Gacy would kill "ten thousand" more, literalness clearly isn't Stevens' concern. Stevens (as every other article has to note) is a Christian, and I think this song is a gloss on two themes: the inescapability of sin, its pervasiveness in all people, specifically in questioning the moral distinction between sinful actions and sinful thoughts; and mercy through redemptive empathy. (As I understand it, that's one "reason" it's important for Christians that Christ was fully human, not just a god descended to and embodied on Earth.) Stevens posits that the difference between a killer and the rest of us apparently sane, decent folk isn't inborn, isn't necessarily environmental, and most important isn't pre-given: it's a question of passing beyond a certain tipping point (to use an utterly 180-degree different figure), a point to which (he argues) we are all much closer than we'd like to admit. Who in anger hasn't wanted to strike someone; who having struck someone in anger might not have missed killing that person by infinitesimal degrees (who knows?); who after such an accidental killing might not have lost hold of the moral moorings that had held that anger in - and who might have been John Wayne Gacy Jr., but for a few minor changes in their life, invisible to them? Or: who might John Wayne Gacy Jr. had been if he hadn't become a killer?

19. Hood "L. Fading Hills" Outside Closer: This is another difficult-to-excerpt album: except for the obvious "single" "The Lost You" (featuring its distinctive digital cutout vocal parts), the album is pretty much of a piece and builds its effect cumulatively. This song had several features I liked: the instrumentation, the mood, the texture...

20. The Fall "Blindness" (alternate version): This is not the version on the Fall Heads Roll album - it's downloaded from the label's (Narnack Records) website. Anyway, a pummeling, distorted bass-guitar driven rant seems an appropriate way to end the disc - a cleansing blast.

Well, almost close the disc anyway...

Notes on the second disc