The Sound Opinion
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Dec 28, 2006
1. Belle & Sebastian: The Life Pursuit
2. M. Ward: Postwar
3. Flaming Lips: At War with the Mystics
4. Hot Chip: The Warning
5. Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins: Rabbit Fur Coat
6. The Decemberists: The Crane Wife
7. Camera Obscura: Let's Get Out of This Country
8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Show Your Bones
9. jarvis: jarvis
10. Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Honorable mentions (disqualified for technical reasons and skullduggery):
Tom Waits: Orphans (B-sides)
Sufjan Stevens: The Avalanche (Outtakes)
The Shins: Wincing the Night Away (Not out)
Posted at 10:30 pm by Top Ten Albums
Kevin Brandt - Top CD choices 2006
As I begin, I would like to apologize in advance for my lack of insight into the world of music. I am not an afficianado by any stretch of the imagination. I just like the music that I like. Unfortunately, it takes a while for me to get to current music or for the current music to grow on me. That being said, here are a few selections that stood out for me personally this year.
Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
The last time I heard “Old Dan Tucker”, Steve Zahn was singing it to a group of aspiring seven year-old beauty queens in the movie “Happy Texas”. I have to say that Bruce’s version is much more compelling. Being a lifelong hardcore Springsteen fan, I approached this compilation with much trepidation. After the first listen I was hooked. As I have said on many occasions, take Bruce out of the equation and this is still a flat out great album. A collection of great forgotten stories that
Willy Porter – Available Light
It is unfortunate that people in Milwaukee think of Willy Porter as a “local” musician. Anyone who has the opportunity to listen to his work or see his performance will concur that Willy is truly one of the best singer/songwriters of his generations. His ability to take simple ideas like wiping out on a pedal bike in “Loose Gravel” or just remembering your dad (Me and My Old Man) provide an intimate connection to the music. They say everyone has a gift given from God and it is up to them to find it. I for one am thankful that Willy found his.
Glen Phillips – Mr. Lemons
I loved Glen as the leader of Toad the Wet Sprocket and I love him just as much as a solo artist. Mr Lemons, is his latest release and in true Phillips songwriting form addresses love, spirituality the the frailness of the human condition. Nothing spectacular here other than a nice listen and a very interesting re-arrangement of the Huey Lewis hit “I Want a New Drug”. If you like Glen you’ll like this. If you don’t, that’s cool too.
Mary Karlzen – The Wanderlust Diaries
Having played with Mary for a couple years I have develop a deep affinity for her music and talent. While this album will not be released until 2007 (Dualtone, has pushed the release date back), the initial cuts that have been released are indicative of her exceptional songwriting skill. Songs like “Friends Along the Way” and “Oh My’” capture the range of emotions found in relationships both good and bad. The album also offers two great covers – Tom Waits’ “The Heart of Saturday Night” and The Replacements “Skyway”. In both instances, her voice fits perfectly with the music and the mood of the songs. While not officially a best of for 2006, this will be a must have for 2007.
Posted at 09:04 pm by Top Ten Albums
Dec 27, 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
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.
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
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
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