Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Best 30 Records of 2006: A Cougar's Tale

So it's yet again time for another list. Here are my Top 30 albums of 2006 for your perusal. I hope all have wonderful holidays. May your Christmas money be spent at the record store. And may there be just enough left for one special gift for one special guest.

#30 Skelliconnection, Chad VanGaalen, Sub Pop
Quirky pop culled from hundreds of basement tapes. Beck meets Elliott Smith in the city of the future.

#29 Get Yr Blood Sucked Out, Viva Voce, Barsuk
Post-christian indie couple, burned by labels both record and religious, craft '70s anthems worth their mettle. Think Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, and a little Beatles.

#28 Super Extra Gravity, The Cardigans, Nettwerk
Adult contemporary chanteuse invents the warmest pop of their oeuvre, yet still keeps you dancing on a razor's edge. Evidently, not for everyone.

#27 Carnavas, Silversun Pickups, Dangerbird Records
Remember how awesome listening to the Pumpkins' Siamese Dream was the first time? This comes close.

#26 Blue Collar, Rhymefest, J Records
Kanye-protege uses Chicago shoutouts, mad samples, and visits from Q-Tip, ODB, & Kanye to put the rap game in a chokehold. Sampling "Someday" from The Strokes is genius on "Devil's Pie."

#25 Water Everywhere, Big Buildings, Stars/No Stars
Take a pinch of The Replacements, two teaspoons of Uncle Tupelo, and two cups of IRS era REM. Bake for 34 minutes at 420 degrees for roots rock perfection.

#24 Kill Them with Kindness, Headlights, Polyvinyl
Dainty girl vocals meet up-tempo synths, driving electric guitars, and a few moments of quiet introspection. For fans of Stereolab and Blonde Redhead.

#23 Remember the Night Parties, Oxford Collapse, Sub Pop
Stuttering math rock from Brooklynites not afraid to toss back a few cold ones before kicking your ass. A nice celebration of The Minutemen and early emo in a 21st-century kind of way.

#22 Post-War, M.Ward, Merge
As Sarah so eloquently put it, M's voice is "croaky, sexy, delicious." If that doesn't send you to the record store, I don't know what will.

#21 Be He Me, Annuals, Ace Fu
Barely 20 year old Brian Wilson-esque musical genius crafts an album of pure pop synergy. It helps that he's from the Triangle in NC.

#20 Game Theory, The Roots, Def Jam
Anger and spittle mix with the Roots best instrumental output yet. Radical, dark critique of a post-Katrina US scene.

#19 Fading Trails, Magnolia Electric Co., Secretly Canadian
Recalling lush Western mountain ranges, Jason Molina's tales of woe alternate between solo material and full band jams. Impassioned as Neil Young but not as morose as Songs:Ohia.

#18 Boys & Girls in America, The Hold Steady, Vagrant
Once sing-songy party rock now moves to more respectable territory to rock your socks off. True wank rock for the masses.

#17 Return to Cookie Mountain, TV on the Radio, Interscope
First major label release for these boys from NYC is far from a disappointment. One of the more unique rock offerings of the year.

#16 The Loon, Tapes n'Tapes, ibid records
I wanted to fight liking this Pitchfork-hyped band for a long time. Turns out I ended up seeing them bring their Pixies-like rock three times over this last year and that about sealed the deal for me.

#15 Honey from the Tombs, Amy Millan, Arts & Crafts
Half of the songwriting power of Stars strikes out on her own with a collection of songs from her past. Her self-described "dirty country/toxic roots" ends up sounding pretty sweet.

#14 Gulag Orkestar, Beirut, Ba Da Bing!
Another youthful pop-writing genius composes an Eastern European-inflected reverie. Comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control are approved and encouraged.

#13 Cities, Cities, Yep Roc
Chapel Hill post-punk purveyors grind out Arthur Koestler-approved mini-films. Holla if you like Interpol.

#12 The Crane Wife, The Decemberists, Capital
Picaresque is really hard to trump. This didn't do it, but it still turned out incredibly catchy and well-composed.

#11 Hell Hath No Fury, Clipse, Jive
Pharrel Williams endows the Re-up gang with late-night AM beats and rhumba drums. If anybody knows what a wamp, wamp is, give a shout out.

#10 The Greatest, Cat Power, Matador
Chan Marshall's "worst" is still high on my list because she's, let's face it, magical. Adding a full backing crew of Memphis musicians brings the rhythm AND the blues to her smoky voice.

#9 Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, & Wives EP/Your Biggest Fan EP, Voxtrot, Playlouder Recordings
Two EPs from Austin sextet make you dance, make you sweat, and rarely use distortion. Just like the Smiths, just like the Shins, just like heaven.

#8 Today is Tonight, The Changes, Drama Club Records
The best new thing in Chicago isn't the Trump Tower. The Police and Duran Duran roll snake eyes.

#7 Sorry About the Flowers, Venice is Sinking, One Percent Press
Athens collective record a somber ode to a brother's passing. Fight off the tears with viola, cello, violin, and sweet keys.

#6 Broom, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Polyvinyl
The best-named new band of 2006 aren't afraid to say their three favorite bands are Weezer, Nirvana, and The Beatles. Mine are too! Let's be friends!

#5 Knives Don't Have Your Back, Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton, Last Gang Records
Another part of the Broken Social Scene group offers a solo project consisting of melancholy piano ballads on everything from disillusioned '60s revolutionaries to frat-boy husbands. Way different than Metric...but in a good way.

#4 Everything All the Time, Band of Horses, Sub Pop
Surprisingly earnest and straight forward rock gives nods to both the Pacific Northwest and the South. "The Funeral" is the best song of 2006, hands down.

#3 Ladyhawk, Ladyhawk, Jagjaguwar
Canuck four piece churns '70s guitars while channeling Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr. Excellent rock tunes with a dynamite hit in "The Dugout."

#2 Ys, Joanna Newsom, Drag City
The holy triumvirate of Van Dyke Parks, Steve Albini, and Jim O'Rourke all contribute to a production of strings and percussion that wrap sweetly around Newsom's angelic harp play and restrained vocal melodies. "Sprout and the Bean," while good, is about two hundred light years behind this.

#1 Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko Case, Nonesuch
Fascinating song structure, siren melodies, and astute lyrical content detail this experiement in beautifully morbid country. Time will prove this as one of the best records of the 21st-century's first decade.


ATrain said...

Great list Forbes - it reminds me how little music I have been able to purchase this year. I must confess, seeing Joanna Newsom at #2 is difficult for me...I think that stuff is interesting, but there's something that seems put-on that I can't get past. Maybe if I buy/download it and give it more time it will grow....

btw, for those who, like me, have no Christmas money and do not demand that all your music come in LP form with 25 pages of super-special artwork and liner notes, about 75% of these albums are available for download on emusic.com. $10/month for 30 downloads....I hope they give me a kickback. actually, if you haven't joined, just e-mail me and I will refer you and get free downloads myself.

this now concludes the longest comment ever.

Sugar Mama said...

...and the longest post ever.

Lionel said...

Dear record labels, please redirect brandooon's free cd's that keep him so well informed, to me, Mike Lowery.