T-Sides Best of 2006 Extravaganza: Top Albums & Songsby Taylor K. Long on Jan 2, 2007 • 12:45 am 29 Comments
TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2006
When choosing my Top 10 albums from 2006, I considered mostly what I actually listened to. This was a particularly good year for music — one of the best in recent memory — and a lot of great albums were released. There were plenty of albums that I liked, but what good is an album, really, if you’ve no desire to listen to it? These may not be the absolute best albums of 2006 in a critical sense, but they’re the ones I spent the most time with.
The Decemberists, The Crane Wife
You can read my extensive review here, but basically, the Decemberists’ move from disposable pop to a long song form and an aesthetic that seems more natural to them is an absolute relief. This is the proper follow-up to The Tain that Picaresque wasn’t.
Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
A dark, haunting, Americana rooted album from the redheaded songstress of the New Pornographers. I wasn’t sold immediately, but by the second listen, found it utterly enchanting.
Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat
My biggest problem with Rilo Kiley has always been Jenny Lewis’ lyrics. They’re generally too pin-pointed, rambling and often seem random or out of place. With Rabbit Fur Coat, Miss Lewis seems to have finally learned how to write song lyrics, both in regards to topic matter and style. Overall, her turn with gospel feels more personable, and therefore feels stronger than her Rilo Kiley work.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones
Call me crazy, but I’m just now noticing a theme with my favorite releases of the year. The albums that moved me most in 2006 were the ones that seemed to be the epitome of the artist cutting their minds open and revealing their truest nature. The aptly titled Show Your Bones is no different. Fever To Tell served as a great attention getter, but Show Your Bones is less like the somewhat uncomfortable party outfit and more like a favorite pair of jeans.
Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers
I think of this album in the same terms that I think of movies like Ocean’s Eleven. I don’t ask that they be brilliant or earth shattering. I simply ask that they stand on the merits of entertainment: that they be good enough to listen and watch and have a good time while I’m doing so. Maybe I should be more critical. Maybe I should demand brilliance from everything. But that’s just not realistic. Not all art goes into creation with that goal in mind. I have a feeling that those who were most disappointed by this album were the people who expected it to be brilliant and earth shattering, especially since the Raconteurs were given that horrible misnomer of “super group.” I expected this album to be fun to listen to, and it is. So I listened to it a lot.
TV On The Radio, Return To Cookie Mountain
Can anyone say anything about this album, about this band that hasn’t been said already? They’re one of most innovative, one of the most original bands around today, and the music world is enhanced by their existance. I’m just glad to see them get this kind of attention, because they truly deserve it. The title, though… seriously, what the hell? There had to be something better out there.
Two Gallants, What The Toll Tells
I know, I know. You’re absolutely shocked and amazed to see this on my list. Look, biases aside, these two gentlemen from San Fransisco put together one amazing album. It may not be as digestable as its predecessor, but What The Toll Tells is Two Gallants produced the way they want to be produced, and the difference is audible. Don’t let the song lengths turn you off. Long songs are the new short songs!
So Many Dynamos, Flashlights
If I had been on my game this fall, I would’ve written a full-length review about this, because there’s just so much to say about it. I’m telling you, I have two pages full of notes. For their sophomore full-length, the Dynamos hold on to their frenzied and energetic sound, but take on Doomsday-esque and Apocalyptic lyrics, with images of locusts, falling skies and buildings, and the repetition of phrases like “we will get what we deserve.” It’s hard to tell whether they actually think we’re headed for disaster, but Flashlights is an exercise in success.
Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
Destroyer, Destroyer’s Rubies
I know it’s kind of a cop-out to have two number one albums, but the fact is that I love them both so much that choosing between the two of them is damn near impossible.
I like these albums for very similar reasons. They’re both just so weird, yet in a completely listenable way. I mean, what is Gnarls Barkely? It is rap? Is it soul? Is it pop? The answer, naturally, is that it’s all three, combined into a forumla that makes me happy like no other. And Destroyer? Destroyer’s Rubies is just Dan Bejar being Dan Bejar. His lyrics read like free association writings (so much so that there’s a wiki for his lyrics), and his music is lush with layer upon layer of sound textures and colors. And he’s been making music that sounds like this for ages. The positive reception for this has to be great for Bejar — it must feel like someone finally gets him.
I listened to St. Elsewhere and Destroyer’s Rubies endlessly this past year, and will most likely continue to do so, because they never get old to me. Because each time I listen to them, there’s another detail that jumps out that didn’t before.
10 OTHER ALBUMS I LIKED IN 2006
Like I said, there were a lot of great albums this year. Here are a few others I’ve liked, in no particular order.
The Long Winters, When I Pretend To Fall
: I didn’t get quite as excited over this album as I did for their first two (read my detailed review here), but When I Pretend To Fall still has its moments.
Favorite Track: “Hindsight” (download)
The Gossip, Standing In The Way Of Control
: Don’t blame me for the fact that the Gossip aren’t bigger than they are, because believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve used every outlet available to me to spread the word about this band, and they still haven’t broken through. Let me make it easy for you: hard hitting rock fronted by a woman with a powerhouse of a voice that’s more old school gospel than rock. Sometimes dancey, sometimes not, but always great.
Favorite Track: “Keeping You Alive” (download)
Amy Winehouse, Back To Black
: This album isn’t out in the US yet, but Amy Winehouse is probably going to take the States by storm when it is. The first single and leadoff track, “Rehab” is probably the first thing you’ll hear, but you can already find it very easily on the internet, so I’m not afraid to give you the heart-breaking title track.
Favorite Track: “Back To Black” (download)
Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit
: Hands down, my favorite release ever by Belle & Sebastian. This energy has probably been built up in them for years and they just weren’t showing it. Until now.
Favorite Track: “To Be Myself Completely” (download)
Silversun Pickups, Carnavas
: They keep getting compared to early Smashing Pumpkins, and while I think that comparison is pretty accurate, I also think that there’s much more to the Silverusn Pickups than some similarities to the Smashing Pumpkins. And I hate to do this to you, because I’m sure a lot of you have already heard “Lazy Eye,” but it’s just so good.
Favorite Track: “Lazy Eye” (download)
Rosanne Cash, Black Cadillac
: Rosanne’s father, mother and step-mother all died in the same year. On the upside, at least it made for an interesting album?
Favorite Track: “House By The Lake” (download)
Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions
: By this point I think it’s safe to say that Bruce Springsteen knows what he’s doing and is very, very good at it.
Favorite Track: “Pay Me My Money Down” (download)
Peter, Bjorn & John, Writer’s Block
: What? You haven’t heard of Peter, Bjorn & John? You haven’t heard “Young Folks”? Don’t you read Pitchfork or music blogs or anything?
Favorite Track: “Young Folks” (download)
Asobi Seksu, Citrus
: Asobi Seksu make really pretty, shoegazey, dream-poppy music. If you appreciate music like that, you’ll appreciate this album. If you don’t, you won’t. Also, this may get my award for best album cover of the year.
Favorite Track: “Thursday” (download)
TOP 10 SONGS FROM ALBUMS THAT AREN’T ON THESE LISTS
A lot of my favorite songs from the year are on the aforementioned albums, but there are a lot of songs I loved that weren’t. Here’s a sampling:
“Funeral” by Band of Horses (download)
This is kind of one of those songs where, if you don’t like it, you don’t like music. Well, let me rephrase. If you don’t like this song, you don’t like the current indie rock scene, that’s for damn sure.
“Marble House” by The Knife (download)
I know it’s some kind of hipster sin that this album isn’t in either of my favorite albums lists, but luckily I’m not a hipster. And seriously, I cannot listen to dance music all the time, which is why dance music will probably never be on a Top 10 list of mine for any year. That said, the Knife are indeed really good, and this song rules.
“Nate’s Song” by The Lashes (download)
The cover image pretty much sums up what this band is about. If I believed in Guilty Pleasures, this would be one of mine. But I don’t, so it’s just a song that I happen to like.
“Come Back” by Pearl Jam (download)
Most of the reasons why I like this song are personal reasons, but personal reasons aside, it’s still a very good song. Eddie Vedder has always been so good at displaying emotion through his voice, and this is a perfect example of that.
“Fury” by Prince (download)
It’s good to know that Prince is still sexy, still good at writing music, and still good at writing sexy music.
“S.O.S.” by Rihanna (download)
You can go ahead and tell me that you didn’t like this song, that you didn’t dance to it, that you didn’t sing to it. But I won’t believe you for one second.
“Louisiana” by The Walkmen (download)
I was kind of bummed that the rest of A Hundred Miles Off didn’t really sound like this song, but I still like the Walkmen, and I still love this song.
“Woman” by Wolfmother (download)
I saw the singer for Wolfmother outside of the Rolling Stone 1000th issue party, and he told me that he liked my hair. That’s not why I like this song, but it’s more interesting than the reason why I like this song.
“The Firefly’s Song” by Alan Jackson (download)
I could back-peddle or try and think of some ironic reason why I like this song so that I could still look cool, but I won’t. Alan Jackson was the first musician I ever really got into, and I will always have a soft spot for his music. That aside, his attempt at bluegrass is really quite impressive.
“Dream Reprint” by Alice Smith (download)
This woman has such a soulful, sensual voice, and she knows how to use it. I really wanted to check out her album, but with all of the music that came out this year, I never got around to it.
TOP 6 EPs/7″ OF 2006
1. Cold War Kids, “Up In Rags EP”
This EP basically has all of the highlights of their album, Cowards & Robbers. After looking at the track-listing for their full-length, I didn’t even bother since I already had this EP. 4 of the 6 songs on this EP are stand-out tracks, and the other two are decent, but not throwaways. And yes, they really are as good live as you’ve heard.
Favorite Track: “We Used To Vacation” (download)
2. Racetrack, “Go Ahead and Say It EP”
Good-bye, Racetrack. You will be missed. Since I posted my favorite track (“Recidivism”) just the other week, I’m giving you another good one. Read my in-depth review here.
Favorite Track: “The War At Home” (download)
3. Milagro, “Demo EP”
This hard, fast, ’90s-inspired Brooklyn trio hasn’t released anything but a demo yet, but you can pick up a demo and witness the magic of their live show this Saturday at NorthSix.
Favorite Track: “Millitant Passion Force” (download)
4. Bring Back The Guns/So Many Dynamos split 7″
I don’t have MP3s for any of the songs on this, so you are just going to have to trust me when I say that you should buy this.
5. Acid House Kings, “Do What You Wanna Do EP”
I’m starting to run out of ways to describe pretty pop music. Suggestions, anyone?
Favorite Track: “The Camera” (download)
6. Dananananaykroyd, Some Dresses 7″
As far as I’ve found out, this Scottish band doesn’t have much out beyond a few 7″s and demos, but I’m intrigued.
Favorite Track: “Some Dresses” (download)
TOP 3 ALBUMS LOTS OF PEOPLE LOVED AND I DIDN’T
1. The Hold Steady, Boys & Girls In America
Please stop saying that The Hold Steady don’t sound like a bar band. People keep saying that they sound like a bar band BECAUSE THEY SOUND LIKE A BAR BAND. And as far as bar bands go, I’ll stick with Huey Lewis & The News, thanks.
2. The Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Funny, this pretentious album title is actually correct. People have been saying the Arctic Monkeys are catchy, people have been saying they’re good. And they’re not. I don’t know why, but my ears cannot stand this album. It’s just so abrasive. Listening to this feels like putting a cheese grater to my ear drum. If you think this is catchy, try nails on a chalkboard!
3. Joanna Newsom, Ys
The musical portion of this album is wonderful, and I have no qualms with it. The pairing of Joanna Newsom and Van Dyke Parks was an inspired collaboration that worked out quite well. But her voice, oh god, her voice… it drives me up the wall. Don’t play this around your dogs & cats, because they’ll likely go insane. Can someone please redo this album with someone else’s voice?
Let’s hear it for 2006. Bring it on, 2007. 2006 will be tough to beat.