Entry: Gary's Top Ten of 2006 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...


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