This year, Mariah Carey resuscitated her career with a return to the upper reaches of the Billboard charts.
Latin music sensation Shakira parlayed her shaking, slithered and wiggling zest into a successful commercial pitch for the cell phone ring tone market.
And Fiona Apple dropped arguably one of the best albums of the year, following a six-year recording hiatus.
But these accomplishments barely scratch the surface of achievement by women music artists in 2005.
Here is a noteworthy sampling of recent work produced by a diverse group of remarkable artists in the expansive rock-music realm over the past 12 months.
Tara Angell, "Come Down" (Rykodisc): Evocative and richly textured, "Come Down" almost requires sequential, track-by-track listening to absorb its full ambiance. Produced by Joseph Arthur, the album conveys an introspective air that flows along with a graceful continuity. Numbers, such as "Don't Blame Me" and "Silver Lining," express the post-cataclysmic emotional sink that usually accompanies personal misfortune. The album has its lighter moments too, particularly on the quirky "Bitch Please," in which Angell and her studio cohorts engage in a playful harmony.
Tracy Chapman, "Where You Live" (Elektra): Chapman once again showcases her ability to pair meaningful subject matter with a sublime, intimate sound. "Where You Live" flows along effortlessly, riding Chapman's soothing vocal delivery and at a largely mid-tempo pace. The album's sonic explorations of spiritual meaning, lost love, urban isolation and the American political climate possess depth and conviction, and further validates Chapman's gifted touch for crafting music instilled with substantive character.
Ani DiFranco, "Knuckle Down" (Righteous Babe): A single Grammy Award nomination for "Best Recording Package" hardly does this album justice. "Knuckle Down," exhibits DiFranco's signature folk spirit with a well-balanced blend of bite and elegance. "Man Hole" and "Callous" deliver pointed takes on relationship demise, while on "Sunday Morning" DiFranco creates a poignant reflection along similar emotional lines. "Studying Stones" and "Paradigm," explore personal growth and realization though the prism of childhood memories. Then comes "Parameters," a spoken-word narrative that recalls her chilling true-life confrontation with an unexpected and decidedly unwelcome intruder inside her home.
Kathleen Edwards, "Back to Me" (Zoe): Relationship demise has long served as a creative well for music artists to draw inspirational water. For alt-country rocker Edwards, though, the topic proved a chance for her to show who really holds all the cards when love goes south. On the opening number, "In State," Edwards makes no bones about a troublesome and criminal boyfriend getting his just dessert - a lengthy prison sentence. Beneath the tough-love themes and assertive guitar lines though, flows a reflective and redemptive undercurrent that ultimately gives "Back to Me" strong lyrical balance.
Missy Higgins, "The Sound of White" (Reprise): After a steady, yet gradual climb up the ladder of fame in her native Australia, Higgins brought her first full-fledged LP to American shores in 2005. Meditations about a turbulent relationship provide the thematic backdrop on "The Sound of White." An austere sonic quality produces moments flush with longing, melancholy and tenderness, particularly on "Nightminds" and "Any Day Now." Yet, a sense of emotional deliverance also shines through at several points on the album, penetrating emblematic dark clouds with reaffirming rays of sound.
Aimee Mann, "The Forgotten Arm" (Superego): The musical equivalent of a 12-chapter novella chronicling the relationship of a boxer, John, and his girlfriend, Caroline, shapes the focus and storyline on "The Forgotten Arm." Mann weaves her narrative with bluesy hues and engaging melodies, particularly on the tracks "Dear John," "Going Through the Motions" and "That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart." Although "The Forgotten Arm" may not rise to the level of The Who's "Tommy," it does hold its own splendidly as an appealing concept album.
Erin McKeown, "We Will Become Like Birds" (Nettwerk): With a blend of stirring tempos and soft-side ballads, "We Will Become Like Birds" serves up a playlist brimming with melodic lift. A clarion riff from McKeown's guitar ignites the opener, "Aspera," while a similarly energetic vibe drives the jaunty "To the Stars" and "We Are More." "Beautiful (I Guess)" and "Float" ease off the brisk pace, and add serene ambience to the record. McKeown's songwriting conveys her feelings and observations about love, relationships and the resilient human spirit, without becoming flowery or overly sentimental.