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Dec 14, 2006
Refinery29's Top 10 albums of 2006
01. Grizzly Bear—Yellow House
"On a Neck, On a Spit" [MP3]
This topped our list because it's an album that's been haunting us since we first heard it. The soulful harmonies, impeccable songwriting, and overall warmth of the record are sure to stay with you for some time to come. Buy this album
02. Hot Chip—The Warning
"Boy From School" [MP3]
The beauty of this album is its infinite playability. It's one of the most innovative and enjoyable straight-forward pop albums of the year, and, like their hit single, you can play this one "Over and Over." Buy this album
03. TV on the Radio—Return to Cookie Mountain
"Wolf Like Me" [MP3]
Almost indescribably good, we love this band's harmonies and the way the addition of the rhythm section has made an already good band into a great one. Buy this album
04. The Knife—Silent Shout
"Like a Pen" [MP3]
Brother-Sister Swedish duo The Knife have turned up gold on their third album, which is brimming with unstoppable beats and pitch-shifted hooks that sound like an angry drag queen (in the best possible way ever). Buy this album
05. Califone—Roots & Crowns
"The Orchids" [MP3]
We came to this album for the rootsy blues we've come to love Califone for, but then we found their cover of the Psychic TV song "The Orchids," and its a contender for the most hypnotic three minutes we've been privy to all year. Buy this album
06. J Dilla—Donuts
"Two Can Win" [MP3]
A final masterpiece from Dilla, one of the most influential hip hop producers of all time. At times it gets sloppy and meanders in a million different directions. But at its heart, it's a deeply soulful record. Buy this album
07. El Perro Del Mar—El Perro Del Mar
She's sort of twee, but when push comes to shove her songs have an almost insulting simplicity to them. It's not the structure here, but the voice and melancholy beneath, making it distractingly addictive, as all great things should be. Buy this album
08. Peter Bjorn and John—Writer's Block
At first we were worried this album was going to be all about the hit of the year "Young Folks," but the other songs hold up on their own, too. Once again, Sweden makes great pop. Buy this album
09. Clipse—Hell Hath No Fury
"Wamp Wamp" [MP3]
A hardcore hip hop album like we haven't heard since the mid-90s, and some of the Neptunes best production in the past few years. Buy this album
10. The Whitest Boy Alive—Dreams
Yeah, we're sort of a sucker for all things Erlend Oye, but putting him at #10 isn't just us being fanboys/girls. It's really a fantastic album of indie pop songs—really. Buy this album
Posted at 09:53 pm by Top Ten Albums
Jeff Tyree's Top Ten Albums of 2006
Posted at 09:47 pm by Top Ten Albums
Dec 10, 2006
I hope 2006 was everything you could have hoped and wanted it to be.
For myself, personally, it was wonderful. I got married, bought a home, started a new job, and have almost finished a fictional novel I began work on in college. Anyhow: 2006 was a year for me of a diligent focus to non 2006 music. While 2006 was decent, I’m sure all of you would agree 2004 and 2005 were much stronger years for music release. Nevertheless, with that said, here is my top ten albums of 2006!
Thom Yorke- ‘The Eraser’
Simply brilliant! A highlight for me was seeing Radiohead live in concert at the Chicago theater. While they did not play any songs from this recorded, I really enjoyed this one. It is worthy of many listens.
Track six- Atoms for Peace
Track seven- And it Rained all night “And washed the filth away down NYC air condition drains”
Track eight- “I’m coming home I’m coming- we think the same things at the same time. We just can do anything about it.
The walkmen- 'one hundred miles off'
Yes sir! Hand down, the best rock band in America today! This record is ultra cool.
Check it out! Great show at the Metro as well.
Track One- “Louisiana, come go away with me. Will take the highway, I’ll see you in a dream.”
Track Four- “Emma, get me a lemon, and if there are none. Get me a lime!”
Artic Monkeys- 'Whatever people say I am, that is what I am not'
A close pick here. I had this one at number one for quite some time and deservedly so. This record is a must own! The lyrics are very good. Moreover, the hits are cool.
Track 7- Riot van
“But the police men look annoyed, maybe they should skip these boys….. please just stop talking, cause they won’t find us if you do… oh those silly boys in blue.”
Track 10- When the sun goes down
Gnarls Barkley- 'St. Elsewhere'
I love Cee-lo. You should also own Cee-lo and the mean green soul machine. Good record. As my friend Matt says, “Danger mouse solo- no thanks. Danger Mouse with a group or singer ala Gorilla, YES SIR!”
Track 4- Smiley faces
“What would you do, what did you say, did you walk or did you run away… you worries and fears become your friends and they end up smiling at you.”
Pearl jam- 'Pearl Jam'
Saw them 2x in concert. Both times were fun. Album is better than anything they have done in years. Sentimental pick here.
Similar to pick 5, great concert, bought the record, and enjoyed three listen throughs. Great rock record! Good guitar. This one seals the deal- they are good.
Track 1- You live only once
Late 06 add. As I listen to it, I enjoy it more and more. I’m on listen #2 right now and there is some meat on these bones.
Good show, good record- my indie reminder good music is everywhere.
The Flaming Lips
Best lyric of 06- “With all your power, what would You do.”
Dylan- Modern times
J Lewis with the Watson Twins
Best of 07,
I hope all is well!
Posted at 09:42 pm by Top Ten Albums
Dec 4, 2006
Muzzle of Bees Top Ten (so far!)
Hot Chip - The Warning
James Hunter - People Gonna Talk
TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
M Ward - Post-War
The Knife - Silent Shout
William Elliott Whitmore - Song Of The Blackbird
Peter Bjorn & John - Writers Block
Guitar - Tokyo
Lucero - Rebels, Rogues, & Sworn Brothers
Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up, I Am Dreaming
Posted at 06:34 pm by Top Ten Albums
Erin's Top Ten Albums of 2006
10) The Science of Sleep Soundrack
I think as a movie soundtrack, this might be against the rules. Anyway, its a lovely album that manages to actually sound like sleep... surreal, quietly beautiful, foreign and sometimes dreamy orchestration... zzzzzz..... then you are jarred awake (usually by the Willowz). "If You Rescue" me is a sweet ensemble cover that made it on to a mix or two of mine this year.9) Beck - The Information
Including Beck makes me hang my head and feel like I didn't try hard enough, but what can I say, Beck went and did it again this year.8) The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
This tremendous album was the least surprising great album of the year to me - meaning, I knew there was no way I wouldn't love it since I really do seem to like each Decemberists album better than the last. From the incredible first two tracks ('The Crane Wife 3", "The Island") I was smitten. Is minstral-ish a word? The album as a whole feels like an impossible homework assignment to interpret (rock for phD candidates or something?) but the songs do stand very well on their own, and that's what matters most to me.7) The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth
This most definitely would not have made it if I hadn't seen them play a last minute show at the Park West in Chicago on the day the album released last January, at which point I realized I had to give The Strokes another chance. I admit at first I had to struggle to make it through the entire album, but the energy, the raw edginess, the sincere rock-n-roll aesthetic, the fact that they are totally cute boys (sigh) ... I don't know, I just really like this album, particularly "Heart in a Cage" and "Ask Me Anything" which with its repeated "I've got nothing to say.." sounds like it could make it into the next Wes Anderson movie soundtrack.6) Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
Beautiful solo achievement by Jenny Lewis, and I wasn't even all that into Rilo Kiley. The Watson Twins' perfect, mesmerizing harmonies make me forgive them for looking like they are about to murder a poor unsuspecting Jenny on the album cover. To me she sounds like a youthful Neko Case meets a less-twangy Dolly Parton (on "Happy"), and her songs manage to somehow be heartbreaking and fun all at the same time. She blew me away in her live show recently at the Pabst Theater. I adore the song 'You Are What you Love' so much that I find myself trying to identify the lyrics with something in my life so I can justify loving it the way I do (but to no avail so far, which is good, I think?) She gets flack for the 'Handle Me With Care' cover featuring all her indie boyfriends - I too thought it was a little silly at first, but now I unapologetically enjoy it very much - I've done hours of unplanned driving lately and have hit repeat on that song and sung at the top of my lungs, alone in the car, more than once...5) The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Given that this doesn't release until January '07, including The Shins 'Wincing the Night Away' is not even slightly within the parameters of the rules under any circumstances whatsoever. But what if I promise not to include it next year? Anyway, having seen them live a few times within the last year or so and being devastated over and over again by the mediocrity of their live show (and that's being kind), I was that much more excited and impressed by this album, where they've totally redeemed themselves. It took more than a few listens, but over time it managed to make its way into the best albums I've heard in 2006, and I swear its not only due to the recency effect. As a whole, it feels like a real departure from their quick, lovable poppy Beach Boysie harmonies. 'Wincing the Night Away' has more of an 80s/synth/Morrisseyish feel on certain songs (Sleeping Lessons, Sea Legs, Pam Berry, etc), but don't worry, the catchy-as-hell songs from The Shins we know and love are still there (Turn on Me, Australia, my current favorite).4) M. Ward - Post-War
I've been a fan of M. Ward for a while, and this is another instance where there was really no way I wasn't going to thoroughly enjoy this album. I can't be more erudite than this: I love this album simply because its full of beautiful songs. There's love songs (Poison Cup), sad songs (of course) and as a special treat, songs featuring some of my favorite musicians (like Neko Case, and Jim James of MMJ on the amazing Chinese Translation)... just really beautiful folk-inspired songs that feel like they couldn't be done by anyone but M. Ward.3) My Morning Jacket - Okonokos
One of my favorite AV Club writers called My Morning Jacket part of "a fun new genre called Acceptable Jam Bands" - isn't that perfect? So, I know this is another mischevious rule-breaker because its a double live album, and one comprised strongly of songs from last year's 'Z' at that. My argument here is that until this year when I first saw MMJ live, I truly didn't realize how much of their wonder lies in the force of their live show, and Okonokos brings them to life over and over again.2) Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
Not too much to say about this that hasn't been said already. I've loved Belle & Sebastian for many many years, and this is the best album they've put out since my all-time favorite B&S album, Tigermilk. Yeah, Tigermilk. 2006 also marked the first time I ever got to see them live (at the Riviera in Chicago with The New Pornographers, my other favorite band, even when they are Neko-less like they were at this show) - it was everything I hoped for and more.1) Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
I may have flirted with Jenny Lewis this year, but Neko's the one who really has my heart. In my eyes, she could never put out an album that was anything less than spectacular anyway, but this is hands down my favorite album of 2006. In my opinion what this album really showcases is her amazing songwriting ability - not to say that her voice isn't as soulful and heart-wrenching as ever (maybe moreso since she backed off the heavier country influence a bit on this album). Some songs are cryptic (like the title track), some are a little more obviously stated ("Teenage Feeling"), some make sense but only if you do enough research to know what they're about ("Star Witness")... Regardless, they all are wonderfully written and perfectly phrased poems. If I had to do a list of favorite songs of '06, "Hold On, Hold On" would probably be ..1, and I still haven't even figured out what she's saying in the chorus! But that's Neko - its the way she sings it, and the heart and soul and smokey voice behind it, that makes me feel like I know exactly what she's talking about.Honorable Mention:
Eagles of Death Metal - Death by Sexy
Easily the best named album of the year, but also one of the most fun (and at times funny - Jack Black has a cameo on "I Want You So Hard"). I never would have imagined I'd like it as much as I did, but thats what happens when you work with a bunch of 24-27 year old guys like I did when this album came out. "Cherry Cola" and "Don't Speak" are some of the catchiest/silliest/raunchiest songs on the album, and again, I can't believe I like them but I do.
Posted at 06:09 pm by Top Ten Albums
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.
Posted at 03:02 pm by Top Ten Albums
Dec 1, 2006
Greg Z's Top Ten Albums of 2006
Well, I have to say it wasn't the best year for new music, but definitely a lot of great stuff out there. A lot of good lists so far. I hope you'll enjoy mine.
1. Beck - The Information
What can I say, I love Beck. I guess he's not indie or underground enough to make anyone else's list, but his talent cannot be denied. Beck is one of the few artists that makes great album after great album all while continuing to explore new sounds. This album mixes his quiet side with his energetic side. It's sort of a funky Sea Change, which is one of the greatest albums ever. Producer Nigel Godrich did a great job of combining funky beats with introspective lyrics. I don't buy albums too often these days, but the packaging alone was worth the price of the album, which included stickers to make your own cover and a bonus dvd which Beck made homemade videos for each track. I saw him in Chicago in October and the table jam was something to see. They had make your own T-shirts with iron ons of the same stickers that were in the album package. C'mon, what artist is cool enough to do that?
2. Yo La Tengo - I'm Not Afraid Of You And I WIll Beat Your Ass
Yo La Tengo is one of my favorite bands. Probably the best thing about them is their consitency of being inconsistent. You never really know what your going to get from them. This album returns to familiar territory and while there's nothing groundbreaking here it's just a solid album that old and new fans should enjoy.
3. Medeski, Scofield, Martin, and Wood - Out Louder
Next to Phish, MMW is probably the best live band I've ever seen. They only get better with John Scofield added to the line up. They continue with the same dance/groove oriented sound of 1998's A Go Go on this album. Whether you consider them acid jazz or jam band they always make it fun. They will be at The Rave (Boooooo) Dec. 8, so do yourself a favor and check them out.
4. Miho Hatori - Ecdysis
Most famous as the other half of Cibo Matto, you've probably have heard on other albums from the Beastie Boys, Gorillaz, and a few compilations. If your like me, you're a sucker for female singer/songwriters with soft/melodic voices. Miho delivers pop songs similar in sound to some of Bjork's work. Charming and fun.
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
Not quite as good as Fever To Tell, but less screaming from Karen O makes for a more listenable sound.
6. Subtle - For Hero: For Fool
Doseone is a madman. No words to describe this one.
7. Stereolab - Fab Four Suture
Again, my penchant for female vocalists kicks in here. This album has much of the same sound of previous albums, but it's still as enjoyable as ever. Laetitia Sadier's heavily accented vocals and her use of French lyrics remind of walking through the streets of Paris on a rainy afternoon. If you haven't heard them before I would suggest getting Dots & Loops.
8. Eagles of Death Metal - Death By Sexy
Pretty straight forward rock album. A lot of fun.
9. Saint Etienne - Tales From Turnpike House
Excellent Euro dance pop.
10. Dave Holland Quintet - Critical Mass
Follow up to 2005's Overtime. Pretty straight forward jazz with some nice grooves.
Best of the rest:
TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
Wasn't too familiar with these guys before, but I really liked this album.
J. Dilla - Donuts
Great set of instrumentals from the late hip hop producer. Easily one of the best producer's of the last ten years, this album showcases his abilty to mix samples with jazzy beats.
Metallic Falcons - Desert Doughnuts
Ghostface - Fishscale
Classic hip hop from the Wu Tang Clan's most consistent member.
Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55
Not much to her vocals, but great production from Nigel Godrich and Air. You may have also seen her in the film The Science of Sleep as Stephanie.
Thom Yorke - The Eraser
Another Nigel Godrich produced album. A little dull at times, but not a bad solo outing.
The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
Pavement - Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels
Who doesn't like Pavement? Gotta love all the bonus material on this deluxe reissue. Lets hope for a reunion sometime soon.
Posted at 10:58 am by Top Ten Albums
Erika's Top 8 Albums of 2006 (Musically challenged)
Well, we all know I'm fairly musically challenged and tend to listen to
"old" music. So, here's what I could muster up. My top 8 albums of 2006:
Belle & Sebastian: The Life Pursuit
Yes, my all-time favorite (should have gone to NYC with Matt) has come
out with yet another smash album, their 7th full-length album. The Life
Pursuit has a sound building on 2003 Dear Catastrophe Waitress album
bur further delving into the sound of pop retro and moving further from
their folk with which they made their name. Not to mention, Murdoch's
lyrics are at turns witty, insightful, assertive, and sardonic. I only
hope this group keeps on going (and makes another trip to Wisconsin!)
Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins: Rabbit Fur Coat
For her first solo album from Rilo Kiley, this has been a total hit!
With two performances at the Pabst Theater this year [I only made it to
the first] Jenny is on a roll. Like most of these other artists, her
ability to storytell is fascinating. Her tracks are easy strumming and
likeable melodies, a great variation of vintage country and pop. The
back-up Twins are incredible.
Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Case has an astonishing collection of rich eccentric lyrics that leave
the songs as a whole up to interpretation. I’ve never been much of a
country fan, but her work hardly qualifies as country music. A most
outstanding live performance, she blew us away with her appearance at
the Pabst Theater. I would love to see Case again and await another
beautifully written album, hopefully we won’t have to wait too long.
Tilly and the Wall: Bottoms of Barrels
Their second album and also produced by Team Love (think Jenny Lewis),
is a collection of bright, big-hearted melodies that are always in
movement. To me, it’s like a sing-a-long. I love how they three sing
and shout together in such perfect childlike fashion. Wonderful pop
music-- perfect for singing and dancing and forgetting your troubles
and feeling an absolute connection with your inner child.
As Toronto Life said, “M. Ward is making folk music cool for a new
generation of listeners.” I can’t help but completely agree. The album
has some beautiful, catchy songs that you can’t help but to tap your
feet and wiggle your head to [while sitting at a desk at work].
Rainer Maria: Catastrophe Keeps Us Together
Who doesn’t love a trio of Wisconites making it big? Rainer Maria’s new
album Catastrophe keeps getting better and better. With its poetic
lyrics and resounding metaphors, you can’t help but want to sing along.
Gnarls Barkley: St. Elsewhere
I really did LOVE the single “Crazy.” Love it the instant I heard it on
the radio. An eclectic mix of funk, pop, rock, and hip hop [creating a
style of music unique as it is reminiscent] these tracks totally make
you move! “Does that make me crazy?”
India.Arie: Testimony: Vol. 1 Life & Relationship
Like a true woman, India Arie gives us another album that gives her
earnest expressions of self-righteousness. Set to comforting
folk-tinged R&B, I can’t wait to hear her next volumes. Her upbeat
attitude makes you wonder why you can’t live the same easy,
Posted at 08:35 am by Top Ten Albums
10.) Bruce Springsteen
8.) Justin Timberlake
6.) The Coup
5.) Tom Waits/Gnarles Barkley (tie :-)
4.) Belle and Sebastian
3.) Hot Chip
2.) Joanna Newsome
1.) Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Posted at 12:28 am by Top Ten Albums
Nov 30, 2006
Tim's Top Ten of '06 OR, Wait, ten albums came out this year? And they were worth listening to?
My brother Matt sets out rules on his Soundopinion blog every year and this year I felt the need to apply myself. This list is in no way, shape or form an educated list, just music that I've been listening to.
Since we must build suspense awaiting the actual list here are the honorable/dishonorably mentions.
Close but no cigar: Zero 7 The Garden
A band that made it's money on three Scandanavians with more lo-fi sensibility than Portishead, and voices that rival Billie Holiday's soul took a big hit in this album. They made an attempt to redefine their sound, which while it still sounded great, the highlights were in the wrong place. Separating the album into its parts this is all around a good album. The music has an interesting combination of lo-fi sensibilities and Burt Bacharach-like melodies. Unfortunately the use of brass and more upbeat arrangements seemed to undo the album by overplaying the vocals. Ultimately a good album that brings the Zero 7 feel into a new sound, but in doing so they lost a lot of what made them great and top ten worthy.
The Defibrillator Award: Bjork Drawing Restraint 9
I know this album is from last year, but I didn't know it existed until last month. Plus, it wasn't released in the states until two months after everyone else got it. So that has to buy me some leniency. The reason this gets a mention is not because it is a great album, which it is. It gets mentioned because I just want to say "Thank god she bounced back from Medulla." Medulla was an album where she experimented with beatboxers and her own breathing rhythms in an album that didn't use instruments. It came out sounding like an orgy looped through a sound box. Creative triumph? yes. Replay value? no.
Drawing Restraint 9 is the soundtrack to the newest installment in the Drawing Restraint series of movies. As such this album has a lot of Japanese influence, in fact she gets one of the world's greatest sho players, Mayumi Miyata, to play. It also retains the charm of Bjork hearkening back to Vespertine. Let's face it, Bjork needs something more than her panting to back her voice. This album revived a flatline case.
Unexpectedly fun: Ben Folds & Rupert Gregson-Williams Over the Hedge Soundtrack
I almost put this at number ten, but I couldn't in good conscience do that. I have a soft spot for William Shatner singing a child friendly "Rockin' the Suburbs" with Ben Folds though. Besides that it actually is a solid album. The first track is a melancholy song about being alone by Ben Folds called "Family of Me." There's also a great cover of the Clash's "Lost in the Supermarket" that serves very well in this album.
We know that Ben Folds does good work, but Rupert Gregson-Williams managed to work with Ben Folds in writing the score, it would be interesting to see how much he actually contributed, but it's hard to tell since his most significant contribution to music recently was the score to Battlefield 2, and unless you're a gamer who plays for the music, you wouldn't notice. The actual score fit the movie very well and with Ben Folds's help it had a very good feel to it. Nothing spectacular, but good enough I thought I'd mention it. Besides, Shatner rocks. Anyone who disagrees can take it outside where we'll settle it like men, that's right get your bat'leth (If you can correct me on continuity here, shame on you.)
What's more fun than talking about William Shatner though? You guessed it, slamming Robbie Williams. Behold. The most disappointing album of the year. When you've drank all you can of the finely brewed coffee of music all you have left are...
The dregs: Robbie Williams Rudebox
If I would describe one album as craptacular this year, it would be this one. Robbie Williams takes the cake, serving tray and spatula on Rudebox, that's why this one can only be described as "Nice Try" with a snicker. He bragged before the release that this would be his favorite and best album. It might be his favorite, but then we'd question his taste. He made an attempt to create a hip-hop album this year after two very good rock albums in Intensive Care and Escapology. The rhymes are insipid, the beats are too catchy to be any good, and the ones that aren't catchy are, let's face it, awful.
The album had a couple of songs that were stomach-able, like "Life on Mars" which was close to his previous material, but not close enough. Just when you think the album might have some redeemable qualities, along comes the song "Dickhead" a thinly veiled attack on everything that ever made him angry. Everyone from the person who lets the dog go to the bathroom on his lawn to Radiohead is in this song. This attempt at shock gangsta' pop, my head is still reeling in disbelief, is the last track for some reason solidifying anyone's opinion on the album. After hearing Robbie Williams say "Why you dis my bra', dickhead" you will never be the same. Williams needs to put his tuxedo back on and start again from "Millennium" and find out where he went wrong.
10: John Pizzarelli Dear Mr. Sinatra
Son of the legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, John has made his own niche becoming more recognizable than his father. This album is less about his jazz guitar skills and more on his voice. The album, a tribute to Frank Sinatra, is a collection of songs that are recognizable as songs made famous by the Chairman of the Board. So there's no point in talking about the quality of writing, but there's not point in asking if he does justice to them either. Pizzarelli, despite being less than creative in the past ("Errand Boy for Rhythm" is the same song as "I've Got Rhythm" hoping that no one would notice) arranges each song in a fresh way making it sound like Frank Sinatra's greatest songs are being performed by the Nat King Cole Trio. Overall a great album and my favorite Jazz album from the last few years.
9: Nine goes to two EPs both by phenomenal bands that didn't deserve higher than nine because they were lazy this year.
A.The Polyphonic Spree Wait EP
If only the Fragile Army would have come out on one of the first three release dates they had for it. Sadly all fans of the Polyphonic Spree have to feel mocked by the release of an album called Wait. Five songs, most of which covers of standards from the time when Polyphonic Spree was simply Tripping Daisy. Covering Nirvana's "Lithium" was an interesting touch because instead of the hateful sounding song it was, Polyphonic Spree makes it sound almost hopeful. But the shining star of the album is "Mental Cabaret." More high octane than most of the Spree's material and a little rougher. The 24 piece band had better hurry out with Fragile Army though. A lot of people were impatient before, but this made them hungry.
B.Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers Four Unlike Before
This one shares a space for a couple of reasons. It was good enough to be on this list, but it wasn't exactly their most original work, just like Polyphonic Spree's album. This four track album is a set of remakes of old songs. While RCPM is an incredible band, they're still relying on the fact that people remember The Refreshments which was evident by their full length release from last year, a live album where they do their old catalog in a new way. Four Unlike Before doesn't make you look at the songs in a new way, but they do make you say, he wouldn't it be cool if they had done it that way?
Both of these groups deserved a place for the effort this year mainly because if there were any full length albums from them this year they would definitely be on this list.
8: Regina Spektor Begin to Hope
I didn't give much credence to Regina Spektor the first time I heard her. She seemed to sound a bit too much like Nelly Furtado or Letters to Cleo for me to take her seriously as an original artist, just another voice riding the bandwagon. Begin to Hope has a very specific sound to it and there's something in the music that keeps me happy. At times the album also becomes rather eccentric which keeps me interested. The sweet ballad of "Samson" is a good break from the plucky sounds that start the album. The organization of the album from there seems to bring you back up slowly. A very good tool in my opinion. Another good song is "Apres Moi" which is wedged in right where attentions would start to fade. Overall a good album, very creative, and uses a lot of piano. I mean, that makes for good music.
7. Clint Mansell The Fountain Score
My dedication to Darren Aronofsky films and Clint Mansell's scores to them prompted me to listen to this one. While he did do better work on the independent films of Requiem for a Dream and Pi which he did along side great artists like Aphex Twin and Autechre, his work is still great here. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I can't comment on how well it fits the movie, but if the score is any indication of the movie, it should be good. He marries a full orchestra with his synthesizers better than Requiem, which was so good that a few studios stole pieces of it to advertise other movies, like Lord of the Rings: Two Towers. However, the music was not as interesting as his previous two, but still quality nonetheless.
6. The Flaming Lips At War with the Mystics
What can really be said to justify The Flaming Lips being in sixth here? They're the Flaming Lips, that's what can be said. They found a formula that works. Quirky sounds and good lyrics. Most of the albums here I have because of their creativity and imagination, I can't think of too many more imaginative than the Lips. Mystics feels like a Wagnerian opera written by The Flaming Lips. There's an epic development with a manic storyline buried in there somewhere. But, it's no higher than six because it doesn't offer anything we haven't seen or heard before from them.
5. The Cat Empire Cities: The Cat Empire Project .
The Cat Empire seems to be delivering in spades. This album is number five mainly because the top four I will not be swayed from. Two Shoes which was released in '05 was incredible and Cities shows them continuing the fun use of brass that is seriously lacking from music these days. Overall the good feeling I get from this album is what gets it to rank here. There's some influence from Jazz, blues, Latin sounds and Warner Brothers cartoons here to make an album that actually forces me to dance in my seat like very few albums do. It's just a lot of fun. I can't really describe anymore than that, if you want to know, pick it up.
4. Bob Schneider The Californian
It seems that a lot of my favorite music comes from the Southwest. Roger Clyne Tempe, Arizona, Polyphonic Spree Dallas, Texas and Bob Schneider Austin, Texas. Bob Schneider's been all over the board of musical style. From his alt. folk sound in I'm Good Now to his ska work with the Scabs or the country work with Mitch Watkins in Underneath the Onion Tree, Bob Schneider has defied any sort of definition. The only thing that critics can really agree on is that he's from Texas, but that's not entirely true. The Californian is a straightforward rock album. It's not particularly well written, it's not particularly well recorded, but if you've seen Bob Schneider live you'll appreciate this album as much as I do. His music seems like an inside joke that you're in on once you've listened to the album. Opening with the song "Holding in the World" that can only be said that it rocks and keeps going with great tracks like "The Californian" and "Game Plan." Unfortunately, the recording chosen for his pirate song "The Sons of Ralph" was bad. I have better recordings from the live CDs he sells at his shows. All I can say about this album is that it rocks.
3. Johnny Cash American V: A Hundred Highways
So did everyone just forget about this? One of America's greatest artists leaves us an album from beyond the grave and it gets no mention. No I'm not talking about Tupac Shakur. Next to this grizzled old man Tupac Shakur's just a pampered little snot from the suburbs... oh wait, next to anyone that's all he was. But it's wrong to speak ill of the dead. Johnny Cash started his American recordings in '94 and started releasing them staggered over time. Numbers three, four, five and six were all finished in '04 and stored away. Number five, released shortly after his death, is a melancholy album about the past. He covers the old traditional "God's Gonna Cut you Down" and covers a series of other songs from artists like Gary Lightfoot and Kris Kristopherson. The album has Cash's trademark voice and minimalist guitar style. He performs the songs so wonderfully it's hard to imagine that the man has passed on. I just can't wait for American VI, which has yet to be titled.
2. "Weird Al" Yankovic Straight Outta Lynwood
Yeah, I was shocked too. How did a Weird Al album make it to number two? How does it beat Johnny Cash? Believe me I was shocked. In making this list I chose albums that I enjoyed and felt stood out above and beyond others. It can be agreed that American V is Johnny Cash's most recent album, but it can be argued that Straight Outta Lynwood is Weird Al's greatest album. I certainly believe it. This is one that I suggest buying instead of downloading. It comes on a double sided disc which has videos for a few of the songs. The videos are pretty good as he gave the songs to several animators and said, make a video.
Amongst these animators was Bob K. of Ren and Stimpy fame who supplies an hilarious video for "Close but No Cigar" a song that seems to sum up my love life rather well and draws similarities to Cake as Wikipedia tells it, I'm not sure I agree with that. The single "White and Nerdy" parodies Chamillionaire and hits a few more common notes to my life. Other than what I have in common with this album it is the most musically sound.
Despite the high amount of parodies on this album, he approaches them with a certain amount of maturity that was lacking before recently. The track "Canadian Idiot" not only taunts Canadians for being "Beer swilling hockey nuts" but also attacks America's violent culture. The same maturity is there for his original works. "I'll Sue Ya"is a satire on the American culture of litigation. "Don't Download This Song" has a very specific message, and if you go to his website you'll find that message pasted all over the front page in the form of free downloads.
The music overall is much better too. His use of sound effects isn't as rampant as it used to be now favoring the use of music over the use of novelty. Even the novelty song, "Weasel Stomping Day" isn't for all ages. Weird Al's fanbase is growing up and he's growing with them. Of all the albums I've bought this year, I think I've listened to this one the most.
The suspense is killing me.
1. Tom Waits Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards
Tom Waits's new three disc set of Orphans is amazing. He manages to touch on every style he's used over the years and improve upon them. I once heard Tom Waits be described as having a voice that is smothered with cigarettes and drenched in whiskey. I wouldn't want it any other way. Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards triumphantly takes first place in my list despite being released less than two weeks ago. It is an ambitious album that he separates into three distinct discs.
Brawlers: The first disc of the album uses his gospel and rock influenced sounds giving it the appropriate title of Brawlers. These are the songs that make you think of Tom Waits as the sort of guy who's trawling the bars and looking for a fight. They have a rough edge to them that sound as though they pack a mean right hook.
Bawlers: This one is the ballads and the torch songs. This is as sensitive as Tom Waits gets these days. Almost a throwback to the days of Closing Time or The Heart of Saturday Night. This is the disc that makes you think of Tom Waits as the guy at the end of the bar staring at a glass of bourbon like he's expecting it to tell him a story.
Bastards: Bastards is the disc that was never understood. Sounding like it was born of Mule Variations and Frank's Wild Years, Tom delivers the insanity of "Spidey's Wild Ride," stories about all kinds of sadistic animals and how they relate to humans in "Army Ants" and a bedtime story I would hope no one would tell their kid in "Children's story." This disc is the one where Tom is the guy in the corner of the smokey bar telling stories to anyone who will listen. God help you if you stop to listen.
After it seemed that Tom Waits was irretrievable from the bizarre sounds of Blood Money & Alice and the insanity of Real Gone, all good albums, but pure insanity from start to finish, he releases Orphans. The music is fresh, but at the same time the same as the Tom Waits that we've always loved. The balance of the three discs is outstanding. Each disc has it's own sound and is aptly titled. The music can disturb and comfort in the same sitting and will always make you want to go get a shot of whiskey and go tell stories that never happened, but are at least entertaining. Tom Waits has been the constant voice in music for me over the last seven years of my life and Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards keeps fresh the love of dive bars and bad whiskey for me. If only a dive bar in South Korea didn't mean it was a Karaoke room that only serves Cass beer.
However, Tom Waits isn't for everyone, for that matter neither are most of the things on my list. So let's see what everyone else is listening to before we cast the final votes.
Posted at 09:25 pm by Top Ten Albums