The year of 2006 showed a few things about music. First, it showed that women are truly the future of indie rock and just music in general, second, Dubstep is a genre to keep one’s eye on and is something to be very excited about, third, your heroes can be let downs, and fourth, lead singers of prominent 90s British rock bands can make damn good solo albums. If you notice on the list there are certain acclaimed albums not on it. For instance, I do not have TV on the Radio’s eponymous album, Return to Cookie Mountain. All I can say is that I just wasn’t moved by the album as much as everyone else. Sure, I can respect it, but I can’t personally appreciate it, even if Bowie is on it. I don’t have Bob Dylan’s on the list either. I love Dylan dearly, but I just wasn’t taken back by it on such high levels. I was too busy going back to my copy of Blood on the Tracks instead. A certain man that I love dearly made a superb album but just missed the list. Morrissey’s Ringleader of the Tormentors was fine album. I just can’t say I was in that Moz mood throughout the year. Carl Barat returned with a fine album as well with Dirty Pretty Things. Dylan, Moz, and Barat would certainly make my honorable mention list.
Now, there are two people that I want to have a sit down with. First, I want to talk to Mike Skinner. I can’t express how much The Streets’ Original Pirate Material meant to me. Every song on that album is just filled with such images and mythology. It hurts how great it is. Skinner’s second album was a fine one too. But the third attempt was a complete Be Here Now. He got famous and was introduced to a certain white powder. There is always a lesson that cocaine makes an artist make bad music. For example, Pete Doherty, Oasis, Skinner, and Disco all fell victim to it, and the rest is history. First, the lyrical content on the album is just so boring and lame, and the delivery was just atrocious. Second, the beats sound like they were made by a five year old that just pressed any button in sight on the drum machine. I just plead to Skinner to do some soul searching and maybe get a producer. My second sit down would go to my absolute favorite artist next to Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and Damon Albarn. This man is Josh Davis aka DJ Shadow. I was in total heartbreak when I first heard The Outsider. There are about three good songs on the album. This man is so utterly talented and imaginative, I can’t even comprehend the level of work he would put into his earlier songs. He teamed with people that are not for him. In the past he worked with the likes of the Quannum collective and people like Thom Yorke and Richard Ashcroft. He has no need to team up with Chris James of Stateless who sounds like a watered down Chris Martin. Now how exciting does that sound? Shadow could make soundscapes and atmospheres so moving in the past. Now the sounds are too sleek and lack soul. I have no doubt he will bounce back. He is too smart and too talented. I have total faith and support for him, but hyphy is just not my cup of tea.
I just would like to throw one more thing out there. James Murphy is just about the most important man in music. The man throws out two excellent remix albums and makes a suite that is designed for jogging that comes out as a beautiful piece of music as well. I do mean beautiful. Electronic music can be utterly moving. The part in 45:33 from 9:00 to about 15:00 is some of the finest work done in dance/electronic music history. The DFA remix albums are equally impressive. I usually do not care for remixes at all, but Murphy and his partner Tim Goldsworthy make it into a true art. You won’t hear a more exhilarating song than their remix of Blues Explosion’s “Mars, Arizona” or more uplifting one than that of the Tiga remix of “Far From Home.” Respect this man. His talent is overwhelming.
1. Howling Bells- Howling Bells
This is the kind of album that come around only every decade or so. First, it brought back my interest in the guitar. The sounds that come out in this album give one the same feeling after taking a good bath. They are very smooth, ethereal, and cleansing. There hasn’t been such interesting sound coming from a guitarist since Jonnny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien dueled it out on OK Computer. The real X Factor on this album is Juanita Stein. Her voice is enough to send chills up the spine as well lure someone into her bed. The lyrics are so utterly mysterious and enchanting that it is impossible not to fall in love with her. Stein sings, “Baby where to now? / Let’s drive till we hit the south” on “The Night is Young”, and you defiantly want to be in that car.
2. Beck- The Information
This year Beck released yet another album, and it was another triumph. Beck, again, teamed with Nigel Godrich to produce an album with coolest production in a long time. On The Information sounds ring in and out of the headphones. On “Nausea” voices fade in and out. On “Soldier Jane” ambient guitar flows through the song like wave crashing on the beach. Musically and sonically, this is Beck’s strongest album (Take note DJ Shadow). The percussion is layered and stretches from the DFA sounding “Cellphone’s Dead” to the clangy “ 1000 BPM.” The Information proves one thing for sure, that Beck is here to stay.
3. Burial- Burial
I remember reading about this album and it being explained as very dark and moody full of dubby beats. I remember thinking, “Ooo that’s sounds interesting. Dubby beats, ethereal moods, South London dubstep, how bad could it be”? I found it in the import section and immediately bought it. I played at night (when it should be played), and I couldn’t of found a more appropriate album to my exploration of the city in which I live. This album is so dark and moody, that it is almost ridiculous. It can go from terrifying someone then to making one weep out of its beauty. The man behind Burial is unknown, which adds even more to the album. Dubstep seems to be the new Trip Hop. If so, then this is the Endtroducing of Dubstep. This album is like a love affair, it can’t happen all the time, but when you fall victim to it, you can’t stop being around it.
4. Camera Obscura- Let’s Get Out Of This Country
This album was one that I held out on till the end of the year. A friend kept telling me that it would be my cup of tea, but I guess Belle and Sebastian seemed like the best of its kind. I finally got it and just fell head over heals for this album. This album will be your best friend. It took twee pop to a new level of romanticism. Tracyanne Campbell took control of the group and told us stories of love and melancholy. Campbell’s inflections in the lyrics make feel for every word she sings. Behind her voice lies a wall of brass and strings taking the songs to a higher plain. You follow Campbell’s journey through love and foreign cities, and you don’t miss a moment
5. Various- The World Is Gone
If Burial is Dubstep’s DJ Shadow then Various is Dubstep’s Massive Attack or Portishead. This album goes from traditional eerie Dubstep to traditional folk while still managing to flow perfectly. Everyone on the album is nameless. Various is only to be known to be backed behind two producers, Adam Philips and Ian Carter. The vocalists are unknown on the album, and that just adds this ghostly presence like on songs like “Don’t Ask” and “Circle of Sorrow.” On paper this album should not work as it has both folk and Dubstep songs. Yet, Various pulls it off. They only way of believing, is by listening to it.
6. CSS- CSS
“Music is my king size bed” says CSS’s Lovefoxx, and somehow it’s makes perfect sense. From Sao Paulo CSS comes with their broken English and nothing to do but entertain the piss out of us. Coming from the blessings of international dj and music connoisseur Diplo, CSS bring one back to girl punk bands like The Slits and ESG. The album comes off as if it were made just effortlessly and with nothing but contempt for just about everything in popular culture. CSS is not a perfect album. It has plenty of flaws, but that is what can make it so attractive. The silly lyrics, choppy guitars, krafterwerkian synths, and disco beats make CSS an album to have nothing but love for.
7. Amy Winehouse- Back To Black
Miss Winehouse has the voice of Nina Simone and could out drink all of the good ole boys in the South. Back To Black might just be the Dusty In Memphis of this generation. There aren’t many albums that sound this confident and mature by someone at such a young age. You probably won’t find a sexier album either. This album could be with out all of the backing music and you would still find it compelling. Winehouse’s voice comes from a different time. This is a true Rhythm and Blues album, and I can’t think of a better person I’d want to hear it from.
8. The Long Blondes- Someone To Drive Me Home
Any woman that talks about not needing a man while you are 19 and mention French New Wave star Anna Karina all in one album deserves attention. You probably won’t see more stylish band than The Long Blondes these days. When one listens to Kate Jackson croon, you are almost surprised that she would actually consider the opposite sex. The confidence in her lyrics is almost paralyzing. While Cocker and Morrissey gave hopeless young men advice on the follies of relationships, Kate Jackson does the same for the young women. Ladies, keep your ears open to Miss Jackson. She’s been there, and she is terribly clever.
9. Joanna Newsom- Ys
Ys should almost not be taken as a piece of music but as a piece of literature with the accompaniment of a harp and orchestra. This is defiantly the most challenging album of the year, next to Scott Walker’s The Drift. It may be challenging, but it is just so utterly compelling. At first listen, one does not know what to think, but the album leaves so much to be explored. This keeps the listener coming back for more. The lyric sheet would be nice to keep along while listening to get the full effect. It is like watching a good play, it might start off slow, but when you hold on you are totally immersed in it.
10. Spank Rock- Yoyoyoyo
“Tap that ass/Tap that ass,” says MC Spank Rock on the most masculine album on the list. If you feel your feminine side is just dominating your mind with all the women on the list, then you might need to switch over to Yoyoyoyo. Lyrically, this album is certainly no Illmatic. Rhythmically, this album is a masterpiece of the groove. Producer XXXChange brings Baltimore Club, Hip Hop, and Disco House into one gloriously produced album. Production wise, you won’t find a more interesting album these days unless it is Arular. The crowning moment comes in the song “Sweet Talk.” The song takes change to higher ground with a women singing, “I like the sweet talk/ it fills me up”, Yoyoyoyo does the same to the listener.
11. The Roots- The Game Theory
12. Gnarls Barkley- St. Elsewhere
13. Lily Allen- Alright, Still
14. The Rapture- Pieces Of People We Love
15. Jarvis Cocker- Jarvis
16. Cut Chemist- The Audience Is Listening
17. Ghotsface Killah- Fichacle
18. Belle and Sebastian- The Life Pursuit
19. Thom Yorke- The Eraser
20. Asobi Seksu- Citrus
21. Scott Walker- The Drift
22. DFA- Remixes Volumes 1 & 2
23. J Dilla (Jay Dee)- Donuts
24. The Dears- Gang Of Losers
25. LCD Soundsystem- 45:33
26. Peter, Bjorn, and John- The Writer’s Block
27. Fujiya & Miyagi- Transparent Things
28. James Dean Bradfield- The Great Western
29. Luke Haines- Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop
30. El Perro Del Mar- El Perro Del Mar
31. The Liars- Drums Not Dead
32. Charlotte Gainsbourg- 5:55
33. Hot Chip- The Warning
34. Swan Lake- Beast Moans
35. Kode 9 and the Spaceape- Memories of the Future