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Year in Review

Our verdict is in: This was the year's best music Add to ...

Front man Jonathan Davis has long been obsessed with the inverse relationship between control and victimization, a dynamic that played out dramatically against the band’s detuned guitar crunch. This album, which refits that sound with snarling dubstep synths, adds new teeth to Korn’s sound, and fresh pathos to Davis’s vocals.

5. Back to Love, Anthony Hamilton

There are plenty of retro touches here, from the horn-spiked Memphis groove beneath Writing on the Wall to the Chicago soul feel given the sweet falsetto of I’ll Wait (To Fall in Love). But when Hamilton follows the smouldering lust of Woo with the desperate regret of Pray for Me, it’s obvious how modern his soul is.

6. Quintet Live in Europe 1967, Miles Davis

Three concerts, plus two TV appearances (included on DVD), all recorded over the course of 10 days. Described like that, this set seems little more than a travelogue, but on the stereo, the authority with which Davis and crew continuously reinvent their repertoire illustrates how far jazz has to go to catch up.

7. One of Many, Kenny Wheeler

Given the depth and originality of his conception, “One of a Kind” would seem a more appropriate tag for Wheeler. Working with pianist John Taylor (a frequent collaborator) and electric bassist Steve Swallow, the playing conjures a sort of chamber music dynamic that’s at once incisively composed and brilliantly improvised.

8. Take Care, Drake

Self-aware, self-mocking and self-mythologizing, Drake embraces his contradictions and leavens his triumphs with self-doubt, moves that seem closer to the abnegation of an alt-rock aesthetic than the usual braggadocio of hip-hop stars. The music trends modern as well, flavouring cool synths and flat beats over funk and sampled soul. The real heir to the throne?

9. Heaven and Earth, John Martyn

A one-time folkie whose singing leaned toward jazz as easily as his guitar snarled blues, the gruff-voiced Martyn (who died in 2009) was adored by everyone from Phil Collins to the Cure’s Robert Smith. This album, completed posthumously, captures both the depth of his genius and the breadth of his soul.

10. Cuban Rhapsody, Jane Bunnett & Hilario Duran

Rhythm runs so deeply through the music of Cuba that even with just piano and flute (or soprano saxophone), Bunnett and Duran animate this music with the spirit of dance. Drawing from a broad range of Cuban classics, the performances carry the authority of experts, but also the enthusiasm of fans.

ELISSA POOLE’S PICKS

1. Ann Southam: Returnings

Eve Egoyan, piano

So different from the joyful minimalism of her earlier music, the late Ann Southam’s final works for piano, written for Eve Egoyan, are spare and haunting, inhabiting a circumscribed world where the expressive resonance of even the simplest musical element is questioned, and where resolution is always possible but rarely permanent.

2. Hector Berlioz: Nuits d’été;Handel: Arias

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano; Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan, conductor

The now-legendary Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sang Berlioz’s Nuits d’été in public only once, in 1995, but fortunately the microphones were there to capture that luminous performance, and it has finally been released. The orchestra may not be as suave as we’d like, but the singing is in a class all its own.

3. Martin Arnold: Aberrare

Quatuor Bozzini

When is a string quartet not a string quartet? When it’s a string quartet by Martin Arnold, which is as likely to conjure a primitive consort of stone flutes or the musical ruminations of a medieval monk. Live inside this music for a while and consciousness alters.

4. Poesie: Orchestral Songs by Richard Strauss

Diana Damrau, soprano; Munich Philharmonic, Christian Thielemann, conductor

Silvery sound, beautiful diction and an extraordinary range of expressive nuance give soprano Diana Damrau’s captivating performances of Richard Strauss’s orchestral songs – many of them written for his wife, with piano accompaniment only – the kind of intimacy we rarely get outside of chamber music.

5. Max Reger: Piano Concerto in F Minor; Richard Strauss: Burleske in D Minor

Marc-André Hamelin, piano; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Ilan Volkov, conductor

How often do we listen to a late romantic concerto we haven’t heard a hundred times? Gone are the memory cues; gone the baggage of the canon. And who better than Marc-André Hamelin to make a formidable case for Max Reger’s virtuosic, semi-modernist tribute to Brahms and let listeners decide for themselves where it fits?

6. Béla Bartôk, Richard Strauss, Edvard Grieg: Violin Sonatas

Vilde Frang, violin; Michail Lifits, piano

Vilde Frang plays Bartok with astounding precision, but her performance is as potent as it is clear. Her instincts are also astute in late romantic repertoire, evident in her supple phrasing and tonal nuance. No wonder the music industry has its eyes on this young Norwegian violinist.

Don’t forget to tell us what you think of these picks - and add your own - in the comments section.

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