Hey everyone. It's been great reading your lists. Matt, thanks for inviting me to post mine too.
Here we go with some Indie Soundcheck flava.
10. Yo La Tengo - I am Not Afraid of You and I will beat your ass
It'd be enough to make this list simply because of the album title. But once you get past that, you've got a long CD of some of their best work. Am I a Yo La Tengo expert? By no means...I have just recently started to get in to them. But there are two songs that are some of my favorites of the year. "Bean Bag Chair" and "Mr. Tough", which to me, sounds like the band tipping their hat to "Domino" by Van Morrison with that horn section and arrangement. And why can't we solve all of our problems on the dance floor? Favorite track: Mr. Tough.
9. Silversun Pickups - Carnavas
This appears to be the only rock record on my list. I didn't realize it was THAT bad a year for rock music. But then again...this was the year that Disturbed decided to cover "Land Of Confusion" by Genesis, and then follow it up with an interview about how much they hate Phil Collins. This album was a pleasant surprise and it has struck a chord with our listeners too. For whatever reason! We play "Lazy Eye" and people are always calling in, "Hey, what was that song? That was awesome!" Maybe it's because the singer has a little bit of Billy Corgan in him. Maybe it's because it's not a complex song. But I'm elated that it's getting the love that it is in regular rotation. I wish more of my indie records would make it big like that...but it doesn't look like the new Shins song will make a similar leap at this point, which is too bad. Favorite Track: Well Thought Out Twinkles
8. Neko Case -- Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
I'm never quite sure what I think about my favorite indie artists winding up on television. A Neko song was featured on an episode of this seasons Veronica Mars (it's a guilty pleasure...you see, the writers find little ways to wink at us in the show....there was a Blues Brothers reference that I'm sure 98% of the target audience missed... and it's always fun to play spot-the-actor-from-other-shows...there have been alum from Freaks and Geeks, The Simpsons, and the divine movie Wet Hot American Summer of late...). Of course by the time it was in the show, the CD had been half a year old. Regardless, Neko gets better and better with every release, and her concert at the Pabst was one of the highlights of 2006 as well. Favorite song: Star Witness.
7. The Dresden Dolls -- "Yes, Virginia"
It had been awhile since a hugely anticipated second album came with the payoff that "Yes, Virginia" did for me. The Dresden Dolls' first album was great, but there was still some question as to how they were going to develop. I knew that they wouldn't go down in history as the band that sang "Coin Operated Boy" or the band that Dan Savage dropped in his column every week for a month and a half a few years ago....but I was very intrigued as to what the next step would be. "Yes, Virginia" sounds like a serious band making music instead of a novelty duo with white faces milking their 15 minutes of fame (a la Ok Go), and it's this more mature self image that got me hooked on the first listen. I thought that the song "Sing" was an AWFUL choice for a single, but I'm prepared to let that slide. Favorite track: Backstabber
6. Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
How to describe the sound of the Brooklyn-via-Vermont based Essex Green? Upbeat Belle and Sebastian, the nautical styles of the Decemberists, plus some wacky mix of 10,000 Maniacs and Frente! to round out the sound. I stumbled upon them through Sirius Radio. Worth noting, of the 518 times that "Snakes In The Grass" and "This Isn't Farmlife" have been played, 405 of them were on Sirius. What's holding them back from being indie-household names? I'm not sure. They've got a great indie label in Merge, they've got catchy pop songs, and the CD was reviewed well (Pitchfork even liked it....and they don't like anything!)...so what's the problem? I offer no solutions, but rather implore you to take a listen sometime. Favorite Track: Snakes In The Grass
5. Jim Noir - Tower Of Love
Usually when people describe a CD as sounding Beatle-esque, it makes me want to run screaming. You'd come out with something like Jet, blatantly ripping off the formula that worked so well. Enter Jim Noir. Noir masterfully makes the record sound like it could have actually been released in 1968. It sounds like the kind of bass lines Paul McCartney would use. Listen to the song, "Tell Me What To Do" and tell me that it wouldn't have fit right in on Rubber Soul. The best part is that Noir seems to have sincerity rather than pretentiousness. Brit pop isn't used as a buzz word here. It sounds like 60's brit pop. Favorite Track: Key Of C
4. Decemberists - The Crane Wife
After Death Cab's journey to a major label last year, it was the Decemberists turn to make all the indie people wonder if a major label release would ruin them this year. If you read some of the reviews of their concerts (Villiage Voice, Tribute), one might say yes. But if you actually LISTEN to the album (what a concept), one could argue it's their most brillant work to date. I've heard people argue that Colin Meloy is an aquired taste, but I can't see how you can be #1 on the CMJ charts forever and just be an aquired taste. So he's got a unique voice. He also writes his music with an incredible attention to detail, right on down to the last keyboard arpeggio. Favorite track: The Island
3. Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
Before going to her concert in Madison this fall, I had a conversation with someone who was telling me that all the people who have been on the Regina Spektor bandwagon for awhile...they hate the new album. And after seeing her show, I can see why people are on polar opposites. The new album is a lot less quirky. The new album is well produced, and has mainstream radio potential (we gave her some spins in Milwaukee). Her music video is being played on VH-1 (when they actually play videos) along side Subterranean on MTV2. I tend to think that the negativity towards the new album is a case of the hardcore fan not wanting the secret of Regina being let out of the bag. I heard the new album before I heard her older stuff, and there was a time when I could not stop listening to it. Did she reinvent the wheel? No -- there are plenty of other piano girls out there (she's not even that great a pianist either....but I'll be the first to say that less is more sometimes). Did she reinvent herself? Maybe a little. But that's how you grow. Some songs are simple. Some songs are much more complex. All songs are delightful. Favorite Track: Better
2. Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
I keep waiting for a misstep from Belle and Sebastian, and I'm still waiting. Did I fall in love with this record as instantly as say, "If You're Feeling Sinister"? Not at all. But there's a lot more to this record. I'm okay with the fact that it sounds like there was heavy production on the record. I'm fine with that. So it's a little more polished than their earlier work. It all comes back to the songs, and Stuart is still a pro. I don't think they could have followed 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress' any better than they did. From the actual rays of sunshine that they put into "Another Sunny Day" to dreamscape in "We Are The Sleepyheads" to catchy songs about laundry, they're still the Belle and Sebastian that I fell in love with nearly 9 years ago. Favorite track: Sukie In The Graveyard
1. Jenny Lewis - "Rabbit Fur Coat"
The only bad thing I have to say about this album is that it's rather short. Just under 38 minutes. And it feels even shorter than that. But with that said, I think it's brilliant. The Watson Twins add an amazing wrinkle to the songs, and the songs allow the listener to be empathetic. I feel her confusion during "You Are What You Love". It's one of those rare occasions where I feel that every single amount of positive press she got was deserved and worth it. But aside from the songwriting specifically...this album was what I listened to non-stop during a not-so-fun start to 2006. And I know it's cheesy to say that an album can singlehandedly get you through the tough times...but if it's biologically possible for that to happen, this album did it. From a radio standpoint, my interview with her was probably my radio highlight of the year. When calling her, I caught her voicemail the first time, and her outgoing voicemail greeting is as follows: "It's almost Christmas..." I adore her. Favorite track: You Are What You Love
Song of the year: Conventional Wisdom - Built To Spill
Never been that big of a Built To Spill fan. I still don't consider myself a Built To Spill fan. But they wrote my favorite song of the year. It's the catchiest guitar riff of the year, and it's impossible for it to not put the biggest grump in a great mood.
Song of the year runner up: You Only Live Once - The Strokes.
Yeah, the First Impressions of Earth CD is about 4-5 good songs, and a lot of filler. This is the opener of the Cd, and upon first listen, it had my hopes high that the rest of the CD would be as great. Eh, what can you do?
Best Concert of the year: Belle & Sebastian and New Pornographers @ Riverside Theater
Groove of the year: Wildcat - Ratatat
I somehow convinced the boss-types to let me play this on the indie show. The 13 spins that we gave it is by far the most on any terrestrial radio station.....2nd place is a tie of AAA stations in NYC and Philly. I'm a sucker for song structure; it's cool how the song builds and builds on itself. A great payoff.
Best Colin Meloy Non-Decemberists Appearance: Cemetary Row - The Minus 5
Band I'd like to see make it big: Band Of Horses
Worst Song of the Year: Louisana - The Walkmen
Album that should never have been made.: Under The Covers Volume 1 - Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs.
This requires further ranting. I enjoy both of those artists in their own idiom. But this was unncessary...as was the full-of-shit liner notes penned by Van Dyke Parks. Referring to Sweet and Hoffs, he praises"...two navigators in the pop musical current, current tense vocally and as tunesmiths with prime craft of their own write. They've bagged the best of the 60's, with uncanny insight. I know, I was there but can remember. The decade known as the 60's didn't last ten years. It's alive and well in this audio embrace. Here's a sampling of what made the love vibe that fanned The Revolution". (cough gag cough) They don't particuarly do much of anything to make these cover songs their own, and you get the sinking feeling that just by the nature of the title...there is a volume 2 in the works....Boourns to that.
Collaboration waiting to happen: Joanna Newsom and Rasputina
That's all. Thanks for reading. See you at the end of December.