Best of 2006: Artist picks
We thought we’d do something different this year and get the thoughts on the year’s best music from people whose opinions you actually respect: the artists themselves. Read on to find out the best album title ever, and watch as musicians fall over themselves to sing the praises of Thom Yorke and…John Mayer. The biggest surprise, though, is that when faced with a keyboard, Matisyahu is actually a man of few words.
James Walsh, Starsailor
The Feeling: Twelve Stops and Home
A pure pop album. Very reminiscent of Supertramp. Bright and breezy tunes with a sense of fun.
Bruce Springsteen: The Seeger Sessions
Classic American songs given a new lease of life by The Boss. An exhuberant mood prevails
Guillemots: Through the Windowpane
This is a band very hard to pigeonhole. The theatrics of Rufus Wainwright with the experimentation of Radiohead. Add a pinch of Dexy’s (Midnight Runners) and you've got a great album!
Ken Stringfellow, the Posies
Emily Haines: Knives Don't Have Your Back
The Dulocks: Follow Your Star Trail
Gnarls Barkley: St. Elsewhere
Tommy Shaw, Shaw Blades
John Prine: Fair and Square.
Prine is in my opinion THE greatest living musical story teller. He has only gotten better with age and I am humbled by his powerful economy of words.
Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys: 1971-1973. (Box Set)
This is as genuine as it gets. Harmonies that seem as if sung by one soul, haunting melodies and a wonderful lesson in Americana. A real heartbreaker.
Yo La Tengo: I'm Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.
First of all, this is the greatest album title of all time. The songs are wonderfully all over the map; these guys are utterly fearless in their pursuit of happiness and expression. Unpredictable payoffs at every turn.
Eagles of Death Metal: Death by Sexy.
Simple, pure, rock and roll.
Vacancies: A Beat Missing, a Silence Added.
Hooky, melodic punk, with great lyrics and social comment!
Evens: Get Evens.
Ian Mckay keeps reinventing himself. Always pure, always true.
Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Stevens)
Flaming Lips: At War with the Mystics
Tom Waits: Orphans
Matt Rubano, Taking Back Sunday
Beck: The Information.
I love everything Beck does and this record is a bit of a return to the style he's most well known for. It also comes with a video for each song on the record which is really cool.
Thom Yorke: The Eraser.
This record is one of my favorites because of the way the songs are charged with feeling. Unrest, introspection, sadness and loneliness in a way that other songwriters cannot hope to touch.
My Chemical Romance: The Black Parade.
Proving themselves and then some, our good friends from NJ have shown that great, fearless songwriting will always be their specialty. Their flare for the dramatic, aesthetic and concept make this album very special.
Trevor Hall: “The Rascals Have Returned” (single)
Richie Spice: Spice in Your Life
Don't have a third. Simply ‘cause I like the sound and the vibe.
Ali T, Zebrahead
Taking Back Sunday: Louder Now.
My favorite album of the year!
Jay-Z: Kingdom Come.
You got to love the Jigga Man.
Minus the Bear: Menos el Oso.
If you haven't listened to these guys, you are missing out!
Timmy “the Terror” Anderson, Ima Robot:
Hot Chip: The Warning
Lil Wayne: The Carter II
Belle and fucking Sebastian !!!!!!!!: The Life Pursuit
Sebastian Davin, Dropping Daylight
Wired all Wrong: Break out the Battle Tapes
I'm biased because I was a huge Self fan and believe that Matt Mahaffey can do no wrong...but in a lot of ways this album has become my favorite "rock out in your car" jam.
Cursive: Happy Hallow
Just when their previous masterpiece The Ugly Organ was wearing out they released Happy Hallow, which I love for its originality and its poking fun at the dark secrets of small town life.
Incubus: Light Grenades
It’s hard to knock Incubus...errr wait, it’s easy to knock Incubus...well I suppose it depends on your perspective...but in mine they are still the foremost in creating inventive rock music that is UNTOUCHED by any fashion or trends...more than you can say for most bands right now.
Christian Berishaj, Love Arcade
John Mayer: Continuum.
The lyrics in this album are just describing a bunch (of things) that I went through this year and it’s all so real. The melodies are very simple – Beatles-like, too.
The Game: The Doctors Advocate.
The story of this guy is just so interesting with all the drama like little girls cryin about each other and havin beef heh heh, and that, backed by Scott Storch, you’re gonna have a good album.
This album has the simplest tunes and they're just so singable and her voice is so straight up it’s nice.
Pete Byrne, Naked Eyes
John Mayer: Continuum
Imogen Heap: Headlock
Nelly Furtado: Loose
Ryan Allen, Thunderbirds Are Now!
Thom Yorke: The Eraser. Though it pales in comparison to any and all Radiohead albums (save for Pablo Honey, perhaps), lil' Thom doesn't do too bad when he's left to his own devices (namely some keyboards, drum machies and a bass). Beyond the fact that it's THOM YORKE FROM RADIOHEAD, the reason I like this the most is because homeboy's vocals are front and center, minus any studio trickery, and they sound quite beautiful.
Sonic Youth: Rather Ripped. When I'm 50, I hope I can make a record half as good as this. Shit, when I'm 28 I hope I can make a record half as good as this. Totally pro.
The Plastic Constellations: Crusades. Our best buds going balls out, writing songs about dragon slaying and friendship. Who can't relate to that?
Troy Sanders, Mastodon
George Jones & Merle Haggard: Kickin Out the Footlights…Again
Isis: In the Absence of Truth
Mars Volta: Amputechture
Daryl Palumbo, Head Automatica
Cage: Hell’s Winter
We Are the Fury: Infinite Jest EP
Men, Women & Children: Men, Women & Children
Magic Numbers: Those the Brokes. For their Banana Splits qualities
System of a Down: Hypnotize/Mesmerize (2005). For their political heaviness
Imogen Heap: Speak for Yourself (2005). For her synthetic musical beauty
Snoop Dogg: Tha Blue Carpet Treatment
Lyfe Jennings: The Phoenix
Lady P, Los Abandoned
Metric: Live It Out
Best female-fronted band of the new millennium. Emily Haines is my heroine. Their songs are intimate images and feelings that not every band can wrap their instruments around. Almost surreal. GO METRIC!
Wilco: Kicking Television, Live in Chicago.
This came out officially at the end of last year but I discovered it via Don Verde on our last tour of '06. The best live recording I have ever heard in my life. Not only is the performance at its peak, but the quality of the recording is perfection. Good album for long drives, you must sit and enjoy the whole thing the whole way through!
Los Bunkers: Viva de Perros.
Best indie band out of Chile at the moment. Influenced by 60's British pop-rock and Chilean folkloric music. Even if you don't understand the Spanish lyrics, you will get addicted to this band solely on their great pop song structure. VIVA CHILE!
Don Verde, Los Abandoned
Rodrigo y Gabriela: Rodrigo y Gabriela
When my friend Kate told me about this acoustic duo from Mexico City who shred heavy metal on their nylon string guitars, I was immediately intrigued. The album, produced by John Leckie (Radiohead, The BEATLES) is one of the coolest and most fun to listen to guitar albums ever. Their cover of “Stairway to Heaven” is not only tolerable, it's awesome! Their refreshing lack of irony and their general kickassedness makes this one of the top albums of the year for me.
Belle and Sebastian: The Life Pursuit
Pharmacologists should be working around the clock to tap the essence in this record and bottle it. Whenever I put this album on, it feels like the room – or my car, as the case may be – brightens up, and I get the sense that everything is going to be all right. The performances, the writing, the arranging and even the recording are just gorgeous! B&S pull on every rock influence from Bowie to Steely Dan without going pastiche. And their peculiar, rambling yet totally charming approach on lyric writing has never been more effective.
Hot Chip: The Warning
Ever wanted to have progressive dance beats, electronic bleeps and bloops, and great songs all at the same time? Hot Chip just gave it to you. Now I can sing and dance at the same time. What's next...walking and chewing gum? These songs stick in your head like nobody's business, and all the sounds that surround them are pure fun. I love this record, but at the same time I get the feeling that the aptly titled The Warning is precisely that: a warning of great things to come from Hot Chip. These guys are just getting started.
Steven Scott, Irving
Silversun Pickups: Pikul EP
These guys are our best friends... they released their first full length a few months back, and it's awesome, BUT their EP Pikul has the song “Kissing Families” which may be the raddest song of 2006 (even though they wrote it in, like 2000 or something!).
Yo La Tengo: I’m not Afraid of You, and I Will Beat Your Ass
The best title for a record ever. The only thing that could compete is if Belle and Sebastian wrote a record and called it Put on Your Execution Face.
Voxtrot: the first two EPs
Don’t know what they’re called... but these guys are the friendliest group of tourmates a band could ever come across. True gentlemen. And a really good live band too!
Tom Petty: Highway Companion
I admire that he stays with who he is. It’s refreshing to hear someone stick to their guns under the pressures of the music industry to always reinvent themselves.
I know this album was controversial for a lot of reasons, and I thought at first I wouldn’t be into it. I’m a huge Beatles fan, so the idea of messing with the original stuff made me a little skeptical at first. But then I listened to it, and I realized that this kind of album is what opens the door for a new generation of Beatles fans. Some kid in the middle of America might grab it and like it enough to go back and learn more about the real thing. In my mind, anything that keeps music alive, while not changing the universal message of the Beatles – peace, love, happiness – is a good thing.
Thom Yorke: Eraser
You gotta give it to Thom Yorke; his voice is one of the most identifiable of the ‘90s and Radiohead literally paved the way to a certain style of music that is all over the airwaves. At the same time, he’s never shied away from going out on a branch and experimenting with something that is his own, like his first solo album. This album has a distinct Radiohead sound, but when you listen to it, you feel that he owns his songs this time around, which made it one of my favorites this year.