Best Music Of 2006
Honorable mention: I Will Write You Love Letters If You Tell Me To - The Envy Corps
An ep of finely structured, dense, atmospheric indie-rock. Many thanks to Nikki at Indie Don't Dance (see my sidebar links) for hooking me up with this.
20. At War With The Mystics - The Flaming Lips
Probably the album that disappointed me the most, in addition to be the album that I was looking forward to the most. I thought this would get better the more I listened to it - I was wrong. This was a good album, but not a great album. I expect great albums from the Flaming Lips, not this scattershot mess of an album.
19. Take The Weather With You - Jimmy Buffett
Sunny, uncluttered storytelling with all the usual subject matter. Bonus points for some good cover choices including Crowded House's "Weather With You." A welcome return to form after some of the decidedly spotty releases of the past few years.
18. (tie)Wolfmother - Wolfmother
Passover - The Black Angels
Wolfmother's bombastic rock disc borrows from Led Zep, Black Sabbath, and even the White Stripes. The lyrics are the weakest point here, but it's still a fun listen.
The Black Angels disc is heavy on the '60s psychedelia. Droning, feedback-fueled guitars and fuzzy production rule the day. The songs deal out anti-war darkness by the handful, so be prepared for a certain kind of claustrophobia-shrouded take on things.
17. Taking The Long Way Home - The Dixie Chicks
Another well crafted album from the Chicks. It's a fine middle finger salute to the cheesedicks surrounding the country music radio establishment with its inherent bunker mentality, as well as being a fine disc of laid-back country rock. It evokes that '70s California sound: The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, etc.
16. Modern Times - Bob Dylan
This is a good album, but not so good as others have made it out to be. It's enjoyable, well-crafted and pleasant to listen to; certainly good enough to make my top 20, but, c'mon, it's not anywhere close to album of the year status.
15. The Life Pursuit - Belle And Sebastian
More typical popsmithery from the indie popsters. A good album that failed, for whatever reason, to hit me as strongly as their last disc did. Still, a charming little pop record anyway.
14. Highway Companion - Tom Petty
Yay for Tom Petty! I've passed on the last couple of discs from Petty 'cuz they were kinda "meh" - this one gets it right, however.
it is pure, classic Tom Petty. The mix is fantastic, with plenty of room for the well-placed instruments to live, breathe and spread out. Big acoustic guitars, harmonica, a touch of electric piano and a huge dose of Mike Campbell's slide guitar fill the songs with a familiar groove
13. The Black Parade - My Chemical Romance
An astoundingly, surprisingly good disc with huge hooks and choruses and plenty of sing-along theatricality. It's kind of a concept album in the vein of Green Day's American Idiot and even evokes bits and pieces of that album as it plays. Forget your preconceived ideas about this band being tagged as emo/screamo and grab this album. It'll shatter your preconceptions.
12. The Wee Hours Review - Roman Candle
Almost perfect jangle-pop from these North Carolina musicians. Fans of jangly, southern-sounding guitar-pop should give these guys a look. This stuff is catchy and vibrant as all get-out! Great music for driving, too.
11. (tie) Fox Confessor Brings The Flood - Neko Case
A Hundred Highways - Johnny Cash
Neko's gorgeous voice shines brightly on this album of well-crafted Americana.
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is a rich, mature, and deeply satisfying piece of music that deserves and demands attention -- if this isn't Album of the Year material, it's hard to say what is.
In contrast, the Man In Black's voice on his posthumous disc is anything but gorgeous, and this record is all the better for it. Cash absolutely sells these tunes - almost all of which deal with death - with the knowledge that these would probably be his last offerings.
Couldn't live without:
10. Blood Mountain - Mastodon
Metal/hard rock album of the year. This album unleashes everything in the band's considerable arsenal. Hyper-fast playing meets prog-rock soundscapes, meets thunderous riffage.
Blood Mountain is, almost unequivocally, the greatest rock album this year will give birth to. Ingeniously complex yet satisfyingly direct and immediate, meticulously crafted yet wholly organic in feel and flow, this triumphant third LP from a band that successfully avoids precise pigeonholing is absolutely deserving of a maximum numerical score - there's simply no other possible conclusion to reach
9. The Rise And Fall Of... - Butch Walker & The Let's Go Out Tonites
A glam-rock, power-pop extravaganza. Seriously fun rock that doesn't take itself too seriously.
But this ain't some lo-fi independent alternative bullshit. This is major label arena rock with pretensions. Walker aims to bring everyone together under the big tent. He writes anthems, and when the song doesn't have a catchy chorus, he calls it "Song Without a Chorus". Who needs a chorus when the verses themselves contain hooks big enough to catch sharks?
8. (tie) [Roots And Crowns] - Califone
The Crane Wife - The Decemberists
The Califone album is quietly seductive and somewhat twisted Americana. It's a gorgeous, understated record that has many, many experimental things ambling around in its hazy background.
The Decemberists dig into their usual bag of literary-tweaked pop and come out with another keeper. Their last offering didn't sit well with me for some reason, but this one more than makes up for it.
7. Putting The Days To Bed - The Long Winters
Tight, catchy indie-rock from a gifted and witty songwriter. The tunes from this album all stick like glue.
A dazzling collection of songs, Putting The Days To Bed cements Roderick's reputation as one of the best songwriters working today. He's John Vanderslice, Britt Daniel and Jason Falkner all rolled into one humble pop architect, capable of magical choruses and radiant songcraft.
6. Return To Cookie Mountain - TV On The Radio
This was one of the best-reveiwed albums of the year, and with good reason; it's a great album. It's all over the place stylistically, but somehow manages to be as coherent a record as was released this year. Read the linked reviews at Metacritic for more info, as they perhaps can explain it better than I can. Any way you look at it, this is an excellent album from top to bottom.
5. Personality (One Was A Bird, One Was A Spider) - The Sleepy Jackson
Warm orchestral/indie pop that's addictively enthralling. Great melodies and sumptious choruses are the hallmark of this inviting disc of Wilsonian-referenced pop music. Seriously, if you like Wilson's Smile and other similar offerings, this'll be right up your alley.
4. Black Holes And Revelations - Muse
A sweeping, thundering melange of prog-rock genre hopping. Evokes everyone from Bowie to Queen to U2 and yet manages to sound apart from them (and there's a surprising undercurrent of funk just below the surface throughout this record). This is a huge-sounding album and one of the finest rock records released this year.
3. Food And Liquor - Lupe Fiasco
Best hip-hop album released this year. Proves that smarts will beat bling hands down. These songs are excellent and never devolve into the trappings of so many contemporary hip-hop records; namely thuggery, gangsta-induced pimpery and overt misogyny.
Fiasco has again expanded rap's reach with Food and Liquor, one of the most eclectic and profound rap albums of the 21st century...
...Ever since hip-hop emerged as a commercial genre, critics have derided its often-blatant violence, disrespect, and misogyny. Food and Liquor is a perfect counter to the argument that such themes are universal in rap.
An album not to be missed regardless of whether you like hip-hop or not.
2. Boys And Girls In America - The Hold Steady
Perfect melding of classic-rock with indie-rock. It's all about the stories and Craig Finn is quite the storyteller. Everyone says this is the greatest bar band in the world - I don't buy the bar band tag simply because these guys don't sound like any bar band that I've ever heard, and I've heard a ton of bar bands :-)
The Springsteen comparisons these guys get are more apt, as the songs usually involve stories and personalities unfolding as the songs and album move along. And what gloriously catchy songs they are! This band deserves to be huge, this album certainly is. Highly, highly recommended.
1. Dog Problems - The Format
A power-pop/indie-rock gem that that's contains an almost literal carnival of sounds. There's a lot of circus-like sounds and themes mixed in with the ear-candy tuneage.
Horns abound, sugary Beatlesesque harmonies lace the songs, swelling strings kick in. In other words, it sounds like Disney - on crack, and what's really surprising is that it doesn't crumble under all that feel-good weight. Ironically, it all sounds radio-ready in the most creative way imaginable.
This album made my number one spot mainly because it spent the most time my cd players. For those that are fond of packaging, well, this disc came in an interesting pak that was full of cut-out templates of multi-colored dogs that folded down to reveal bits of album credits - an interesting tidbit that makes one appreciate the differences between the physical -vs- digital apects of buying an album like this. Supremely catchy and always interesting, Dog Problems is my favorite album this year.