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Dec 27, 2006
Gary's Top Ten of 2006

so much music... so little time.

Thanks go to Matt for initiating this "all things music" year end review.  And thanks to a world where we get to listen to music all of the time and call it "work". 

10. TV on the Radio - The new PROG! This is a headphone record, made for a new generation of headphoners. Underneath all of the fun and sound is a very political cd and one of the most musically liberated recordings in a long time.

9. Belle & Sebastian/The Life Pursuit -  This is the sound of a band continuing to evolve its sound without sacrificing its core identity. While their melodic hooks are huge, it's the lyrics that draw me in deeper and make this a top 10 CD. Like some kind of drug, this bands sunny sound always makes me smile. 

8. Joanna Newsome/Ys - You have to be willing to let it all go and take the journey to see what's at the end of the map, here.  Van Dyke Parks has led epic journeys before with other unique partners (Brian Wilson) and like those recordings, Ys is demanding but rewarding.  "Emily" opens the album quietly with Parks' strings poking in and around Newsome's vocal melodies and sets the tone for this adventure. With Steve Albini sitting behind the recording decks, and Jim O'Rourke adding sonic colors, this CD is worth the investment of the time and belief it takes to discover its beauty.

7. The Decemberists/The Crane Wife - Full of whimsy, ambition and erudition (no review of a Decemberists CD should be without a word that you need to look up!). The voice, intelligence and smarty pants humor of Colin Meloy always reminds me of Robin Hitchcock (and I am hoping that this will cause a resurgence in Robin's career), but "The Crane Wife" stands alone, full of gothic romance, 19th-century balladry and high-flying language. I don't know when this kind of stuff became cool... but hooray!

6. Calexico/Garden Ruin - Initially, the straight forward sound of "Garden Ruin" comes as a shock, given the bands past music filled with rich and strange soundscapes (can you say mariachi?). But after tossing aside my expectations, "Garden Ruin" shows that the bands real power all along has been their song writing, which "Garden Ruin" highlights beautifully. Mean and beautiful can be a good thing.

5. Cat Power/The Greatest - Nakedly honest. Confessional. But somehow distant. Lots of room for the songs to breath on what is a brilliant choice for a a pairing; Chan Marshall and the Memphis ghost of the great original Al Green recordings. Understated country soul, muttered and slurred as only she can. I may have played this CD more than any other all year.

4. Ray LaMontagne/Till the Sun Turns Black - His deep, painful and instantly recognizable rasp carries the conviction and intensity of a man who has a Hellhound on his tail. His first CD was a sparse effort that focused solely on his voice. "Till the Sun Turns Black" features delicately arranged strings, horns and organs that serve to show that his voice reaches well beyond the first recording. There is no hit single, like "Trouble" here and believe it or not, this record and his career are all the better for it. This CD stands tall on the shoulders of all of the songs on it, not just one. His career, white hot from the strength of that hit song, now will be allowed to take its own time to become whatever he wants it to be. While I do worry that he will succumb to his demons, I revel in the beauty and honesty that they create.

3. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins/Rabbit Fur Coat - Hooray for Jenny Lewis. Hooray for Mike Mogis. Hurray for Matt Ward. Acoustic country gospel has never been so beautiful and... who else can sing so sweetly with swear words?  Jenny Lewis is like a modern-day Laura Nyro and each of these songs tells a beautiful story, enhanced by the David Lynch-like harmonies of the Watson twins. This CD sounded great right out of the box and incredibly, it gets even better with every listen.

2. Neko Case/Fox Confessor - As good as this CD is, I find it amazing that Neko Case has been ignored for all of these years prior after some very strong recordings. It's almost as if this CD was so powerful that she could not be denied bigger awareness this time. Not that she campaigned for it, but she was on the covers of the right magazines and she deserved them. The depth of the music and instrumentation on this CD is amazing. The quality of the recording as well. This would be the best CD of the year, were it not for... M. Ward.

1. M. Ward/Post War - Knowing the title of this CD in advance, it was tempting to assume that Post-War was a scathing take on Bush's America after Iraq. I am not disappointed at all to say that it is not. These stories internal and small do not take on terrorists and politicians, but instead they detail our most intimate relationships with friends, lovers and acquaintances. He expresses the power, vulnerability and hopeFULLness of love ever so simply in "Poison Cup" by saying: "If love is a poison cup, then drink it up." This complex simplicity is beautiful in his poetic delivery and it resonates throughout "Post War", making this my recording of the year (and who sings background vocals on it??? Neko Case, of course!).

almoooooost... top 10, but not quite.

My Morning Jacket/Okonokos - Okay, it was a live CD, which I know are NOT eligible for top 10 status... but there are NO RULES for honorable mentions, right Matt? Having heard so many live Wilco recordings prior to their live cd's release, "Kicking Television" was kind of a letdown for me. But, "Okonokos" added more roads to the MMJ journey for me. These guys are simply the greatest band in the world.

Pearl Jam/ Pearl Jam - Nobody rails at Bush better than PJ. And this time they do it with vigor AND restraint (and compassion). This CD should have been enough to embarrass Bob Dylan out of his stint as a spokesmodel for Victoria's Secret and back onto the road of social change... but it was not. Shame on you, Bob and thank you, Pearl Jam.

Black Angels/Passover -  An intense, mind-numbing work of sixties-tinged hard rock. Like their song, "The First Vietnamese War", this music speaks of today, using the past as an interpreter. 

Silversun Pickups/Carnavas - I really liked "Pikul" because it dared to sound like todays version of another era, with no fear of people comparing it to other vegetables... oops, I mean bands. Than "Carnavas" comes out and all I can do is compare it to you know who.

Band of Horses/Everything All the Time - In a weird way, they are like a distant relative of MMJ (they may have listened to "It Still Moves", you think?). I really liked the vibe of the CD when I first heard it and then it just kinda lost steam with me. Still a nice surprise when it pops up on the shuffle or on KEXP.

and to sum the year up nicely.. i'll let the wisdom of the church sign speak to us all...

Posted at 05:03 pm by Top Ten Albums
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Dec 22, 2006
CJ's Top Ten Albums of 2006

10. The Submarines - Declare a New State!
"Declare a New State!" is what happens when an ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend get back together to share their songs about eachother. Yeah, the concept sounds crazy, but the music is actually good. It's kinda sappy and laid back, but full of truthful and introspective lyrics. . . lame, I know, but we've all been there before.

9. The Yeah Yeah Yeah's - Show Your Bones
As a band, they've come a long way from "Fever to Tell," without really losing too much of the old Yeah Yeah Yeah's edge. They still rock out on some tracks, while Karen-O shows that she does have a sensitive side too.

8. Tokyo Police Club - A Lesson in Crime
The new Brooklyn kids' debut that is full of slick, bouncy, head bobbin' bass lines and quirky lyrics. Like nothing I've ever heard before.

7. Cold War Kids - Robbers & Cowards
Cool poppy and catchy indie songs with some grown-up lyrics. . .they don't sound like kids to me. Filled with nice, dirty guitar riffs. . .Almost what the White Stripes could sound like with a full band.

6. Ratatat - Classics
Head bobbin' downtempo with smooth guitar riffs. It's classified as electronic, but it sounds about 80% analog to me. It's stylistically all over the board, from the Southwest twang of "Montanita," to the Sgt. Pepper-y "Tropicana," to the Castlevannia-esque "Tacobel Canon." Reminiscent of RJD2 circa "Since We Last Spoke."

5. The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth
Keeping their garage rock roots alive, while evolving ever so slightly. They finally put out a bit of a slow, sensitive, introspective song with "Ask Me Anything."

4. Hot Chip - Warning
Paul McCartney meets the Beta Band, slathered in Lemon Jelly. Full of synths and digital handclaps. . . enough to keep all of those 80's kids happy.

3. The Black Keys - Magic Potion
Chock full of solid, catchy old school blues riffs. . . even more than their duo peers, the White Stripes?. Possibly. The Black Keys seem to never disappoint in keeping solid old blues alive and rockin.

2. Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That
They seem to have come a long way from their disco/pop roots. Overall, a very successfull indie-rock album from a bunch of French dudes. You will never lose interest. . . great album from start to finish.

1. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Yeah, I know, this album hasn't even come out yet. But I've been listening to it non-stop for almost 2 months now. . .Unbelievable. . .definitely an indie masterpiece. . . you'll see.

Honorable Mentions.
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Etiquette
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say. . .
M.Ward - Post-War
The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
Mason Jennings - Boneclouds

Posted at 08:12 pm by Top Ten Albums
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Dec 19, 2006
Erika B's Top Ten of 2006

Top 10 of 2006

10)  Bright Eyes – Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998 – 2005)

9)    Thom Yorke – The Eraser

8)    Cursive – Happy Hollow

7)    Asobi Seksu – Citrus

6)    The Decemberists – The Crane Wife

5)    Silversun Pickups – Carnavas

4)    Chris Thile – How To Grow A Woman From the Ground

3)    Memphis Radio Kings – Four

2)    Teddy Thompson – Separate Ways

1)    Snow Patrol – Eyes Open

Posted at 09:36 pm by Top Ten Albums
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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
"Party" [MP3]
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
"Amsterdam" [MP3]
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
"Fireworks" [MP3]
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
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Jeff Tyree's Top Ten Albums of 2006

I will leave my opinions of these albums to be discussed at matt's shindig. Enjoy.

#10. Joanna Newsome- Ys

#9. The Black Heart Procession - The Spell

#8. The Liars - Drums Not Dead

#7. Cold War Kids - Robbers + Cowrads

#6. The Walkmen - A Hundred Miles Off

#5. Thome Yorke - The Eraser

#4. Jim Noir - Tower of Love

#3. M.Ward - Postwar

#2. Arctic Monkees- Whatever........

#1. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar

Honorable mention......Whitest Boy Alive - Dreams, Belle+ Sebastion - Life Pursuit, Neko Case - Fox Confesser....., Islands - return to the sea,

Posted at 09:47 pm by Top Ten Albums
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Dec 10, 2006
dave rudey 2006 list

Hello Everyone:


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.




The Strokes



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




Damien Rice



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.




Neil Young





The Flaming Lips





Best lyric of 06- “With all your power, what would You do.”


Hom mention:

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
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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
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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
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Ryan's Best Of 2006

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 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!) 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

Misc. Awards:

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 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
Comments (1)  

Dec 1, 2006
Greg Z's Top Ten of 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

 Beck - The Information CD Cover Art

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 - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass CD Cover Art

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

Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Woo - Out Louder CD Cover Art

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

Hatori, Miho - Ecdysis CD Cover Art

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

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones CD Cover Art

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


Subtle - For Hero : For Fool CD Cover Art

Doseone is a madman. No words to describe this one.

7. Stereolab - Fab Four Suture

Stereolab - Fab Four Suture CD Cover Art

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

Eagles Of Death Metal - Death By Sexy CD Cover Art

Pretty straight forward rock album. A lot of fun.

9. Saint Etienne - Tales From Turnpike House

Saint Etienne - Tales From Turnpike House CD Cover Art

Excellent Euro dance pop.

10. Dave Holland Quintet - Critical Mass

Holland, Dave - Critical Mass CD Cover Art

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
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