Favorite 25 Albums of 2006
Probably the best straight-ahead indie-rock/pop album of the year from a band I've only been a casual fan of in the past. These vets try their hand a wide variety of styles and succeed at every turn.
MP3: Yo La Tengo - "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind"
MP3: Yo La Tengo - "Beanbag Chair"
Karen O and company may have gotten a little too ambitious and perhaps sound a little too stadium rock on this album, but it is still a mostly great collection of and solid tunes. Plus, I just love Karen O...who doesn't?
Web: Stream various YYYs tracks
The Monkeys suffered the worst backlash of the year and I cannot say that I have listened to their debut in 6 months, but this album was in nearly constant rotation for a good week or two. Caused widespread excitement upon its release and had people talking about rock 'n roll again...even if for a short period.
Web: Stream various Arctic Monkeys tracks
Probably my favorite Furnaces album to date overall. Their tunes can still be unneccessary long and meandering at times but tracks 4-6 are some of the year's finest.
Web: Stream various FF albums
One of the best rap releases of the year with bonus points for cutting the obnoxious skits that plague the vast majority of hip-hop albums.
Web: Stream the album
Loved this one upon my initial listens, but I not returned to it in some time. "Stuck Between Stations", "Chips Ahoy!", and "First Night" all remain truly great.
MP3: The Hold Steady - "Stuck Between Stations"
MP3: The Hold Steady - "Chips Ahoy!"
I only enjoy it when I'm in just the right mood, but the strength of Joanna's performance cannot be ignored.
The best in a long time from indie gods who prove to be aging quite gracefully.
Web: Stream the album here
Best rapper alive? Yes.
MP3: Lil Wayne - "Georgia...Bush"
The songs which feature Jack White on lead vocals were great from the onset, Brendan Benson's turned out to be growers, and the album held up well all year. But, as Rolling Stone said, it is a shame that nothing on the record seems to be as good as they are live and does not quite live up to this band's infinite potential.
Web: Stream a couple of tracks here
The "soft rock Strokes" delivered a great effort packed with hooks and amazing choruses. "Consolation Prizes" and "Long Distance Call" are perfect guitar-pop songs and should have been bonafide hits.
Web: View a couple of videos here
Upon my initial listen, I knew that this record would end up on a ton of year-end Top 10 lists. The dynamic tension and eerie drone throughout much of the album giving way to the incredible resolution finally achieved makes Drum's Not Dead an intense and demanding listen. "The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack" is not only one of the best tracks of the year, it is also a perfect ending and denouement. Without this track, no one would still be talking about Drum's Not Dead, no way.
Web: Stream the album here
A pleasant surprise for me. Not sure what to expect following the dissolution of the Unicorns, this record may seem a bit too conventional for Unicorns die-hards, but the songwriting on this record is a big step forward for these guys. The infectious melodies and breezy vibe combine for some great pop music.
Web: Stream various album tracks here
My favorite hip-hop album of the year. Obviously not my preferred genre, but I came back to this one over and over. Often described as "brutal" and "potent", Ghost may very well tell the best stories in hip-hop and has the requisite grit to make them completely believable. While he may not have the most unique flow or be as versatile as the "best rapper alive" Lil Wayne, his vast appeal lies in the strength of his writing and his never abrasive vocal style.
MP3: Ghostface Killah feat. Trife - "Be Easy"
MP3: Ghostface Killah - "Shakey Dog"
My favorite live act of the year, hands down. You often hear the term "carnivalesque" or the mention of Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, and Captain Beefheart when reading a Man Man review. You also hear things like: "More power to those who can do it, but from this perspective, it's nearly impossible to enjoy Man Man's Six Demon Bag while sober." (Alternative Press) & "Most of this stuff is just too damn weird for all but the most experimental music listener. " (All Music Guide) While Six Demon Bag is often an acquired taste, songs like "Feathers" and especially, the incredible "Van Helsing Boombox" should appeal to nearly everyone who is adventurous enough to tackle anything a little more spicy the Bing Crosby.
MP3: Man Man - "Van Helsing Boombox"
Colbert's favorite "hyperliterate prog-rockers" hit the big leagues with an album that is not really out-of-step with their back catalogue. At first, I thought this was probably their strongest record, now...I dunno. I really enjoy the band branching out a bit and tackling the prog-ish material and feel like the long songs are the by far the strongest tracks on the record. Starts great and remains so until the second half of the record, which stalls a bit until the last two tracks. I now almost invariably skip tracks 6-8. Minor gripes aside, it's still quite an album.
Web: Stream the album here
Nothing else this year sounded like this. Perfectly out of step with current trends, Midlake crafted a incredibly interesting and strong take on 70s rock. The record is densely layered sounds perfectly rustic. The lyrics and lyrical content can seem a bit forced and even border on silly at times, but the strength of the songs and the overall ambiance more than make up for it.
MP3: Midlake - "Roscoe"
One of the few electronic-based albums that never once left me cold or came across as even slightly mechanical. With otherworldly vocals and spooky, "haunted house"-stylized beats and atmospherics, Silent Shout is a incredibly hypnotic record. The Knife seemed to be among nearly everyone's Top 10 this year and despite being released in the early part of '06, their record seemed to generate buzz throughout the year. A truly unique album that will remain relevant for years to come.
Web: Stream the album here
Yellow House took me a few listens to truly appreciate. I never gave the album a decent shot until hearing it on vinyl and that is definitely the way to hear it. This one is slow burner with excellent production and tasteful performances that are at once intricate and restrained. Once you get past the rich reverb-drenched atmospherics, the actual songs start to reveal themselves, then my friend, you are hooked. There is something timeless and elusive at play here, something that will hopefully inform the next Grizzly Bear record.
MP3: Grizzly Bear - "On A Neck, On A Spit"
Ward outdid himself with this one. Post-War showcases some of his finest songs and vocal performances yet. His new backing band suits his sound well and serves to flesh-out his tunes nicely. "Poison Cup" and "Chinese Translation" both among my favorite tracks of the year. A career-highlight from an artist who has quietly built an impressive body of work without the fanfare or hype he deserves.
MP3: M. Ward - "To Go Home"
I wasn't quite ready to give this album a chance when I heard it the first time, but when I came back to it a few months later, it blew me away. Dylan, at 65, proves not only to still be relevant, but vital in 2006. All ten tracks solid, "Working Man's Blues #2" and "Nettie Moore" holding their own against Dylan's best work.
I kept coming back to this album a various times throughout the year and enjoyed it more every time I interacted with it. The first 7 tracks are flawless in execution and sequencing, but the album stumbles a bit towards the end. Regardless, this remains one of the year's best albums on the strength of great tunes like "European Oils" and "Painter in Your Pocket". Dan Bejar's songwriting is completely unique and he often crams far too many words in a given line, but it always seems to work and his voice never fails to endear the listener.
MP3: Destroyer - "European Oils"
MP3: Destroyer - "Water Colours Into the Ocean"
This album started with nowhere to go but up. Many feel that their sound is too easily defined, with the My Morning Jacket & the Shins talk coming from everywhere. The reality is that is album is smoking from start to finish...the cliched addage, "all killer, no filler" is apt. Everything All the Time features 10 tracks, all of them perfectly sequenced. The best straight-ahead rock album of the year, without question. So what if they used the very same guitar scale on 4 of the 10 tracks, these dudes made an album that stands up against any album all year and after 9 months, still sounds great. You know you love this album...get over it.
MP3: Band of Horses - "The Funeral"
MP3: Band of Horses - "The Great Salt Lake"
Cookie Mountain seems to the perennial #2 album this year. Undoubtedly technically impressive and incredibly well produced, TVOTR crafted an album that was universally respected and enjoyed. This album was highlighted by their best batch of songs yet and some truly great vocal work. But, no matter how many times I hear this album, I cannot help but feel that is has a indefinable element that keeps it from being completely user-friendly. There is still a tiny something about TVOTR that remains slightly mechanical, preventing them from being the best band in the land and preventing this undeniably incredible album from being the #1 album of the year.
Web: Stream various TVOTR tracks
As soon as I heard this one, I knew it was on my short list for album of the year. If you are fortunate enough to have given this one a remotely fair shake, you know just how great this album flows from beginning to end. Simply put, it is complete and rewarding song cycle. With great songwriting and just the right amount of studio experimentation, Roots & Crowns is a record that is at once accessible and incredibly dense/layered. There have been so many good things written about this album, I could not possibly add anything more to the dialogue...just give it a couple of complete spins, you'll thank me later.
MP3: Califone - "The Orchids"
MP3: Califone - "Spider House"
MP3: Califone - "3 Legged Animals"