2006 is overrated, part 3: albums of the year
finally, the third and final part of 2006 is overrated, my end-of-the-year lists (part one, part two). in retrospect, 2006 was a very good year in music. although i think it lacked a truly life-changing album for me, there were a lot of very good albums encompassing every aspect of music that i love. before looking at the best of those albums, there were a few that i hated to leave off my list and a few that i think might in time be considered among my 10 favorites of 2006.
bob dylan - modern times
i really listened to this for the first time only a few weeks ago and was stunned. the more i listen to it, the more i love it, but i only have room for 10. maybe i should have done top 11...
cat power - the greatest
i loved this record from start to finish, so it was extremely difficult to leave off. maybe a top 12?
jenny lewis with the watson twins - rabbit fur coat
i also loved this one from start to finish. okay, top 13.
not enough time to know:
swan lake - beast moans
tanya donelly - this hungry life
portastatic - be still please
sparklehorse - dreamt for years in the belly of a mountain
not yet released in the usa:
lily allen - alright, still
the pipettes - we are the pipettes
memphis - a little place in the wilderness
with that, here is my list:
top 10 albums of 2006
whatever people say i am that's what i'm not
"a certain kind of romance" (
"mardy bum" (
the initial buzz surrounding arctic monkeys was so intense that i wasn't even interested in checking this album out when it was released in february. it wasn't until september that a friend gave it to me to listen to, and i don't think i put it down for two months. it is easily the funnest record i heard all year, extremely consistent, and with hooks galore. albums like this on the ipod make gym workouts absolutely fly by.
when i first started putting this list together, ys was in my "not enough time to know" bin. good thing that it's taken me a few weeks to finish it. ys is by no means an easy listen, and the album's density made it difficult at first to engross myself in (save for "emily", which floored me on first listen). but over the past few weeks i have really begun to "get it". you can find all the superlatives and hyperbole you could ask for in other reviews of this record, and i would not be the least surprised if it eventually ended up in my top three. it's not higher than 9 for me now because i'm still in the process of absorbing it, but the epic scale, the personal themes, and the music itself--the artistry of ys--has become apparent and undeniable.
comfort of strangers
"heart of soul" (
"shopping trolley" (
beth's previous release, 2002's daybreaker, received a lot of criticism for sounding tired and emotionally detached. perhaps as an attempt to rekindle that flame, beth completely stripped down her style, made a significant departure away from the electronica movement she has been so closely associated with, and delivered the best album of her career. with production by jim o'rourke and m. ward, comfort of strangers focuses squarely on the strength of her song-crafting, usually accompanied by only an acoustic guitar and piano. she has always had an unusually expressive voice, but the change in style allows a warmth and intimacy to emerge that carries the emotion in her voice far beyond the limits of her previous work. a sublimely comforting listen.
declare a new state!
"peace and hate" (
"brighter discontent" (
the songs on declare a new state! were written both separately and together by blake hazard and john dragnetti during the course of a break-up and the subsequent reconciliation. the album's sequencing is reflective of that process, as early songs express the turmoil and upheaval in the wake of the break-up. in "brighter discontent", blake writes of her realization that a home consists of not what is there, but who is there. the album turns on "hope", with john's assertion that he's "not giving up", and the final words of the album, "we're coming home", bring hope for what we already know is the conclusion to this story. as a direct product of a love, lost and regained, declare a new state! is an unflinchingly honest, emotionally raw, and altogether personal take on relationships falling apart and then falling back together.
"become the enemy" (
"baby's home" (
this one came out of nowhere for me, having not heard anything from evan dando in at least 8 years. evan has the two- and three-minute pop song down to a science, and adding the drums and bass of ex-descendents bill stevenson and kyle alvarez results in 35 minutes of pure pop/punk bliss. every song on this album is great, with the only thing preventing it from being higher on my list being a sort of emotional disconnect that i perceive between his lyrics and my life. imagining cutting an unfaithful lover in two with a shotgun blast is just not something i take to heart, but it sure is a shitload of fun to sing about it.
sun, sun, sun
"did me good" (
"biggest star" (
sun, sun, sun was released on january 24th, the same day that blake sennet's more well-known (and much lovelier) rilo kiley bandmate, jenny lewis, released her solo debut, rabbit fur coat. as the more accessible of the two, rabbit fur coat was much more celebrated, bouyed by the strength of lewis' simply undeniable presence. i liked both of these records, and for most of the year my preference probably leaned towards rabbit fur coat. however, in may i found myself in some relationship issues that needed some reckoning, and in the lyrical themes of sun, sun, sun i found a collection of songs that seemed to mirror my own situation, emotions, and desires. the level of coincidence was almost frightening at times, but those are the moments that i treasure the most in music, making this album indispensable to my year.
shut up i am dreaming
"us ones in between" (
"shut up i am dreaming of places where lovers have wings" (
this one is tough for me to describe because i'm honestly not sure what it is about this record that i love so much. it certainly has a fair amount of peculiarities, from spencer krug's voice to the extremes in diversity of style from one song to the next. but i am certainly on the spencer krug-appreciation bus, with everything he touches seemingly turning to gold, and despite the peculiarities the album had a cohesiveness and likability that i could not stop listening to. krug has quickly become one of the most talented lyricists in music, with many songs bearing philosophical content that is endless fun to deconstruct. the last song of the album, "shut up i am dreaming of places where lovers have wings", provided me with a soundtrack to a drive through a tunnel in monterey, unearthing all sorts of buried instincts and suppressed fear that i wrote about in one of my earliest posts.
fox confessor brings the flood
"margaret vs. pauline" (
"star witness" (
i wasn't familiar with neko case until i heard "hold on, hold on" on kcrw in march. the buzz around this album was favorable and so i took a chance and bought it. nine seconds into "margaret vs. pauline" i understood what the fuss was about--that voice. oh, that voice. if there is a fuller, more beautiful, or more amazing voice in rock music i have yet to hear it. the album is thematically diverse, touching on everything from fate and faith to love and relationships, with complex, sometimes cryptic lyrics that effortlessly ripple off her lips:
ancient strings set feet a'light to speed to her such mild grace
no monument of tacky gold they smooth her hair with cinnamon waves
and they placed an ingot in her breast to burn, cool and collected
"poison cup" (
on first listen, the first six songs off post-war struck me as one the greatest first halves of a record that i had ever heard, this year or any year. so why is this number 2? my initial reaction to the last six songs was mostly indifference. despite jim james' presence, "magic trick" didn't catch my attention, "roller coaster" seemed kind of bland, and "afterword/rag" was just a little strange. having spent a lot more time with it, though, i developed an utmost appreciation for the album's second half--especially the quiet solemnity of "today's undertaking" and the m. ward-signature guitar style of "eyes on the prize", but also including the aforementioned three songs. the more i listened the more i thought it might be my favorite album of the year, and the number of m. ward-related posts on sand is overrated certainly would have suggested it, but in the end my initial feelings weighed heavily in marking its consistency, which ended up being the deciding factor.
let's get out of this country
"let's get out of this country" (
"the false contender" (
given how frequently i have featured mr. ward in this space since i began in august, it is probably a monumental surprise to anyone who is remotely familiar with sand is overrated that post-war was not my favorite album of the year. that it was not only speaks volumes about how much i loved let's get out of this country. from the opening organ of "lloyd, i'm ready to be heartbroken", to the closing trumpets of "razzle dazzle rose", to absolutely every second in between, this album was everything i love about music. producer jari haapalainen was enlisted to give the album more of a sheen and an edge than the band's previous two, but the infectious melodies and pristine vocals of tracyanne campbell betray the common lyrical themes centering on the various states of lost love. the depths of despair never sounded quite so heavenly.