I wasn’t going to do one of these “year in review” things — they’re a lot of work and nobody ever agrees with you anyway — but when I sat down and listened to the music I acquired from 2005, I realized there was an awful lot I hadn’t even bothered to write about here. And then I got to thinking about how I wouldn’t have to write much about each of the albums in question, ’cause it’s a list and these records are all yesterday’s news anyway…

Long story short: Here’s my take on 2005, the year that was, the way it sounded from my desk, car, and iPod, appearing in periodic installments throughout January. The envelopes, please!

The award for Album I Can’t Understand, No Matter How Hard I Try goes to:

Rick Springfield – The Day After Yesterday
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The Day After Yesterday

First of all, I don’t have any problem with singing actors, or vice versa, so that isn’t what this is all about. (One of the highlights of my print career was sifting through the reader mail after I gave a four-star review to Bruce Willis’ If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger.) Springfield in particular has made some noteworthy music over the years — though I haven’t listened to anything he’s released since 1999’s Karma, that album contained a terrific single in “It’s Always Something,” and let’s not forget all his greatest hits.

There’s an unwritten rule for recording a cover of someone else’s song, however, and it goes like this: If you don’t have anything new to add, just leave it alone. Especially if the covers in question are of songs like “For No One,” or “I’m Not In Love,” or “Waiting for a Girl Like You” (download). These are all competent enough — although Springfield’s voice sounds like it’s been through one or several wringers since his heyday — but they’re also so absolutely faithful to the originals that the effect is bewildering. It’s like listening to karaoke night at Rick Springfield’s house. The unintentionally comical highlight is his duet with Mr. Mister’s Richard Page on that band’s “Broken Wings” (download) — a former soap actor hasn’t recorded a duet with a partner so vocally similar since Jack Wagner recorded “Love Can Take Us All The Way” with Valerie Carter in 1985.

The award for Unexpectedly Entertaining Release From A Band I Didn’t Even Know Was Still Recording goes to:

Better Than Ezra – Before the Robots
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Before the Robots

My brothers used to love this band, way back in the Deluxe and Friction, Baby days, and I could never understand why. Even listening to those albums now, I can’t help but feel that Better Than Ezra is a group of supremely lucky guys for having achieved even one-hit wonder status. Since making the one-way trip to Indieville at the turn of the century, though, BTE has been cranking out some surprisingly entertaining stuff. “Extra Ordinary,” from 2001’s Closer, was a ridiculous earworm of a single, all technicolor hooks and Day-Glo turntables; for Before the Robots, however, the band has wandered back toward its stripped-down roots. This is an earnest, hopeful record for earnest, hopeful people; it never made it into heavy rotation for me, but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. Try “Daylight” (download) and “Our Finest Year” (download).

The award for Best Album From A Guy I Figured Was Sleeping It Off In An Alley Someplace goes to:

Mike Doughty – Haughty Melodic
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Haughty Melodic

Soul Coughing, to me, was always sort of like Wesley Willis with better production — the sonics were usually pretty interesting, but lyrically, M. Doughty veered between nonsensical and troublingly idiotic. I was expecting more of the same from Haughty Melodic, but it turns out that Mike Doughty is twice the songwriter that M. Doughty was. Released on ATO Records — the label that proves on an annual basis that owner Dave Matthews’ instincts about other peoples’ music are far more unerring than those regarding his own — Melodic was a sales non-starter, but that wasn’t Doughty’s fault. These tunes are as hooky as they are rough around the edges, and “Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well” (download) and “I Hear the Bells” (download) should have been on more playlists last year.

Finally (for now), the award for Album That Made Me Hungry goes to:

Mopmonster – Food Metal
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Who is Mopmonster? The former guitarist for bands such as Terror Toys, Spitkiss, and Control Theory. Those bands sound essentially the way you’d expect, which is why Food Metal is such a pleasantly goofy surprise — thirteen tracks of food-themed metal madness, from “Bagel” clear on through to “Egg Salad Sandwich.” You need to hear it to believe it, and you need to buy it to hear it: Food Metal can be had for the low, low price of five measly bucks. Support indie artists! They don’t get much more indie than this!