With the garage rock revival which had galvanized rock in the first part of the decade fading to little more than a series of repetitive gestures, and a loosely-connected group of London bands turning being grubby and decadent into something close to an art form (often in lieu of actually making any art), it looked like 2005 was going to be less than a vintage year in music. However, some interesting mutations were happening on the fringes of pop culture which would ultimately have a hand in shaping the next five years and counting. It was also the year that, seemingly without warning, some previously bit-part players upped their game spectacularly.
Mathangi Arulpragasam, a London-dweller of Sri Lankan dissent had spent years on the margins of the Britpop and Brit-art scenes. Now, as MIA, she put together Arular, an incendiary, homebrewed mix of hip hop, dancehall and lo-fi electro, over which she spat a combination of surreal wordplay and political dissent. Astonishingly, she found the world was listening – particularly the US, where several high-profile r’n’b producers took careful notes on the sound she’d created.
Meanwhile, in New York, a 30-something scruff-bag by the name of James Murphy, under the guise of new band LCD Soundsystem, unleashed a double album of perfectly-formed, sometimes audacious concoctions which mixed electro, punk, house, mutant disco and even a dash of prog. It was released on his own DFA label, standing for Death from Above. Both DFA and LCD Soundsystem instantly became bywords for unimpeachable cool.
Elsewhere, garage rock royalty The White Stripes did the most counterintuitive thing possible and dumped the guitar for large parts of Get Behind Me Satan, instead favouring piano and marimba. The results were a triumph, giving us our first indication that Jack White could master any instrument he put his mind to. And while we were taking in the big things, a slew of bands and artists like Arcade Fire, Burial and Animal Collective made their first substantial impacts on the musical landscape.
But what do you think? What are the sounds that shaped your 2005? Get involved by voting and contributing reviews about your favourites.