The most exciting music of 2005 wasn't played on commercial radio and the vast majority of the artists creating it have nothing to do with major record labels. And to think some people still blame downloading and piracy for the sad state of the music industry. Go figure.
1 KRONOS QUARTET with ASHA BHOSLE You've Stolen My Heart (Nonesuch) The ever-adventurous Kronos Quartet pay tribute to R. D. Burman, the king of Bollywood film music, and the queen joins in the celebration.
2 BEBO VALDES Bebo De Cuba (Calle 54) Iconic Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes takes an all-star band on a captivating guided tour through Cuba's rich musical history.
3 BOUBACAR TRAORÉ Kongo Magni (World Village) Iconoclastic Malian blues guitar ace floats in on a cushion of calabash and balafon business. Sweeeet!
4 JOHN COLTRANE One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note (Impulse!) Sure, this scorching John Coltrane Quartet set is 40 years old, but it just got its first official release. And besides, the force of Coltrane's ecstatic blast on the title track steamrolls over most everything that came out this year.
5 DENGUE FEVER Escape From Dragon House (M80/Birdman) This could've been just your average everyday Asian pop and West Coast surf/psych fusion, but having a ringer like stellar Cambodian vocalist Chhom Nimol on hand makes this album a work of wondrous beauty.
6 EITHER/ORCHESTRA Live In Addis (Buda Musique) Freewheeling Boston jazz ensemble revisits the golden age of Ethiopian groove, and the stars from the era join in to show the fire still burns within.
7 GO-BETWEENS Oceans Apart (Yep Roc) After 27 years, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan -- the Lennon and McCartney of indie rock -- are just hitting their stride.
8 DIANA PANTON ...Yesterday Perhaps (independent) A beautifully understated, exquisitely paced standards set from Canada's next great jazz singer.
9 STEVE REID ENSEMBLE Spirit Walk (Soul Jazz) The Motown session drummer who also played with Sun Ra, James Brown, John Coltrane and Fela Kuti schools Four Tet's Kieran Hebden on what future funk is all about.
10 CADENCE WEAPON Breaking Kayfabe (Upper Class) Edmonton-based webzine hiphop critic turns rapper/producer with surprisingly dope results. Kanye North.