Best of 2006
The last few years have brought back a niche society when it comes to music, with the internet continuing to make it easy for listeners to find stuff they like. I’m hopeful that this will continue, but marketers and advertisers are digging deeper into this new marketplace, so there’s no telling what will happen in the next decade.
But for now, here’s what I found in 2006.
TOP TEN ALBUMS
1. The Hold Steady: Boys & Girls in America (Vagrant)
Last December, I said that the Hold Steady had the “best new sound.” The truth is that Tad Kubler’s classic rock riffs are so, um, classic that they just seem new. On America, these riffs are combined with Craig Finn’s cathartic and creative vocals, along with some pounding piano to yield the band’s most melodious and consistent effort to date. It’s the kind of album you should first listen to through headphones or maybe in the car during a road trip. Just sit back, turn it up, and enjoy.
2. Cold War Kids: Robbers & Cowards (Downtown)
These bloggers’ darlings built up a following after self-releasing three EPs and putting on a series of raucous, soulful live shows. That led them to a record deal and their debut full-length release. The album is solid throughout, but opens with two of the best songs of the year – “We Used to Vacation” and “Hang Me Up to Dry.”
3. Ben Kweller: Ben Kweller (ATO)
Kweller is deft at writing hooks, and his fourth full-length is full of them. It’s gorgeous pop, reminiscent of the Beatles’ later work. Start with “I Gotta Move” or “Penny on the Train Track” and go from there.
4. The Raconteurs: Broken Boy Soldiers (V2)
Jack White’s (right) got a new band, but his fingerprints are all over Soldiers, which is as consistent as they come. “Steady as She Goes,” “Hands,” “Together” and “Level” are highlights. It’s nice to hear what Jack can do with a full band, but I still miss Meg.
5. Beck: The Information (Interscope)
The Information feels like an extension of Guero; it’s less Latin-infused, but the same funky feel is there. “Think I’m In Love” is probably the disc’s most accessible track, but “Strange Apparition” is my personal favorite. “Landside,” which is oddly sandwiched in an abstract medley at the end of the disc, is worth the work.
6. The Blue Van: Dear Independence (TVT) (review goes live 12/22)
The Danes are back with their follow up to last year’s solid debut, The Art of Rolling. The Hammond organ returns, the hooks are tighter and the beats are better. Every single song is good – think Kinks, Stones and Doors – but highlights include two rockers (“The Time Is Right” and “The Odyssey”) and two ballads (“Momentarily Sane” and “White Dominoes”).
7. The Kooks: Inside In/Inside Out (Astralwerks)
This album is a little odd in that it’s back-loaded with good songs, so if you aren’t turned on by the first few tracks, be patient. Luke Pritchard’s vocals are in the spotlight, but the music more than holds its own. “Ooh La,” “Naïve” and “She Moves in Her Own Way” are probably the most immediate tunes.
8. Gnarls Barkley: St. Elsewhere (Downtown)
What can I write that hasn’t already been written? The disc is a little spotty, but the highs are extremely high. “Crazy” is the single of the year, while “Smiley Faces,” “Just a Thought” and “Who Cares” keep the party going. Also, it’s nice to see the Violent Femmes getting some love (“Gone Daddy Gone”). Danger Mouse + Cee-Lo = FUN.
9. Belle & Sebastian: The Life Pursuit (Matador)
I didn’t want to like this album, but here it is in my Top 10. Somehow, it’s atmospheric, catchy and groovy, all at the same time. If the New Pornographers and the Super Furry Animals had a love child, it would sound like this.
10. The Black Keys: Magic Potion (Nonesuch)
The Keys’ catalog represents modern day blues-rock at its very best, and Magic Potion is a great example. The first two tracks, “Just Got to Be” and “Your Touch,” get things off to a rowdy start, but “Strange Desire” represents that moment at a Midwestern kegger when everyone decides, “Fuck it. It’s Friday night.”
TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope)
The Strokes: First Impressions of Earth (RCA)
The Dresden Dolls: Yes, Virginia (Roadrunner)
The Concretes: In Colour (Astralwerks)
The Killers: Sam’s Town (Interscope)
Arctic Monkeys: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (Domino)
Golden Smog: Another Fine Day (Lost Highway)
Time for some requests…
John, make me a playlist of the best hits of 2006!
Best hits? OK, here you go:
1. Gnarls Barkley: “Crazy”
2. Christina Aguilera: “Ain’t No Other Man”
3. Cold War Kids: “We Used to Vacation”
4. Arctic Monkeys: “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”
5. OK Go: “Here It Goes Again”*
6. Regina Spektor: “Fidelity”
7. Beck: “Think I’m in Love”
8. The Killers: “When You Were Young”
9. Gorillaz: “Dare”**
10. Corinne Bailey Rae: “Put Your Records On”
11. Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins: “Handle with Care”
12. The Raconteurs: “Steady As She Goes”
13. The Hold Steady: “Chips Ahoy!”
14. Daniel Powter: “Bad Day”
15. Snow Patrol: “Chasing Cars”
* This track was released in 2005, but blew up in 2006 thanks to this fantastic video:
**This track was released in 2005, but started to receive major airplay in 2006. (Work with me here. I’m trying to make you a great playlist!)
John, now make me a playlist of your personal favorites, but don’t duplicate any songs!
Stop yelling at me. Here you go:
1. Beck: “Strange Apparition”
2. Belle & Sebastian: “Song for Sunshine”
3. Morningwood: “Babysitter”
4. The Kooks: “She Moves in Her Own Way”
5. Ben Kweller: “I Gotta Move”
6. Cold War Kids: “Hang Me Up to Dry”
7. Dixie Chicks: “Lullaby”
8. The Concretes: “Song for the Songs”
9. The Hold Steady: “Southtown Girls”
10. The Black Keys: “Strange Desire”
11. The Blue Van: “The Odyssey”
12. Drive-By Truckers: “Gravity’s Gone”
13. Get Set Go: “I Hate Everyone”
14. Gnarls Barkley: “Who Cares”
15. The Strokes: “Ask Me Anything”
Okay, now make me a playlist of songs that aren’t from any of the albums in your top 10 or your list of honorable mentions!
Really? I need to wrap this up…. Okay, fine, here you go:
1. Scissor Sisters: “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’”
2. The Flaming Lips: “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”
3. The Decemberists: “The Crane Wife 3”
4. The Elected: “The Bank and Trust”
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Gold Lion”
6. We Are Scientists: “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt”
7. Wolfmother: “White Unicorn”
8. Jurassic 5 (with Dave Matthews): “Work It Out”
9. Birdmonster: “Sparrow”
10. Muse: “Starlight”
11. Clearlake: “It’s Getting Light Outside”
12. The Roots: “Don’t Feel Right”
13. Beth Orton: “Heart of Soul”
14. Animal Liberation Orchestra (with Jack Johnson): “Girl, I Want to Lay You Down”
15. Joe Purdy: “Can’t Seem to Get It Right”
Now, for a few random awards:
Best album(s) from 2005 that I didn’t hear until 2006:
Super Furry Animals: Love Kraft
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Rogue Wave: Descended Like Vultures
Tapes N’ Tapes: The Loon
Couldn’t wait for the 2006 US release, so I added the import to my Best of 2005 list:
Hard-Fi: Stars of CCTV
I just don’t get all the fuss about:
A pretty good album named after a truly awful song:
Sexiest album cover of 2006:
She Wants Revenge: She Wants Revenge
Sexiest album cover of 2005 (sorry, but this CD cover should be reprinted as often as possible):
The Sounds: Dying to Say This to You
Do my musical tastes line up with yours? Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and recommend a song.