Album(s) of the Year

The end of the year is a good idea to make lists, so here’s one of albums. Yes, this is a very subjective line-up, but that doesn’t mean I don’t highly recommend every single one. You can use the trust-worthy Hype Machine to stream these bands (with the exception of #3) in case you’re not familiar with them. And you are strongly encouraged to protest and share your own personal top 10 for 2006 (or top 5 or top 3).

The Crane Wife1. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
When a band puts out two consecutive albums that you rank as best of the year, that’s a sign. It’s a sign that for the first time in many years I can–at least for now–answer the question: “What’s your favorite band?” The Crane Wife is a beautiful record, chock-full with the band’s trademark storytelling (the Japanase folk tale of the man who saves a crane, the ballad of a dead soldier and another saga of star-crossed lovers from rival families in the key of last year’s gorgeous “We both go down together”).
>> Must hear tracks: O Valencia, Yankee bayonet, Sons and daughters.

Bottoms of barrels2. Tilly and the Wall – Bottoms of Barrels
This is not the first time Tilly and the Wall get a shout-out on this blog. I love this band. Its indie-pop is infectious, sincere and just cheesy enough to wipe any traces of the irony so prevalent in the genre. Tilly’s sophomore release continues to mix keyboards, acoustic guitars and the trademark tap-dance percussion to create a party atmosphere, occassionaly broken by a love-and-longing type slow cut with witty lyrics: “She was crazy, a downtown kind of baby.”
>> Must hear tracks: Bad education, Urgency, Coughing colors.

Adunate din popor si cantate din topor3. Niste Baieti – Adunate din popor si cantate din popor
A friggin’ Romanian record made the list at number 3! This album is probably as high less because of its music and more because of what it means to have a punk cover album of Romanian songs of the 1980s and early 1990s. Romania is a country where irreverence towards established cultural phenomena is still in its infancy, and nothing is more awesome that slapping fast guitar riffs and screams over songs that tortured the childhood of so many in my generation. This is a not a tribute album in the mold of the Gimmies, this is harcore mockery. And it rocks!
Must hear tracks: Un actor grabit, Daca ploaia s-ar opri, Ioane Ioane.

Rabit Fur Coat4. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
Jenny Lewis is the lead singer of indie kings Rilo Kiley and a woman songwriter with one hell of a bite. Would you want a love song from a woman that sings: “Ah fuck it, here’s your love song”? “Rabbit Fur Coat” is her first solo effort, one she described as a “sort of soul record.” Add some touches country music, great writing and Jenny’s mellow voice and you have the perfect album to listen to when day breaks.
>> Must hear tracks: You are what you love, Handle me with care, The charging sky.

Eyes Open5. Snow Patrol – Eyes Open
Snow Patrol is probably the most mainstream band in this line-up, but they are rockin’ guitar band (even thought many have said they are a sissy rock band). Sure they sing stuff like “It’s all clear now that you are all that I have.” but it all has the vibe out of outdoor late spring concert when you can jump and bop your head to anything. But before you label them radio-friendly rockers, take a listen. They have it.
>> Must hear tracks: Set fire to the third bar, Hands open, Chasing cars.

Gulag Orkestar6. Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
Beirut, the project of 20-year-old Santa Fe native Zach Condon, nails an amazing indie-rock interpretation of Eastern European gypsy music and klezmer. It sounds and moves like a Kafka short-story and it’s definitely not your everyday musical treat. Listen for cellos, accordions, mandolins, ukuleles, trumpets and violins. This is indeed an orchestra album.
>> Must hear tracks: Mount Wroclai, Postcards from Italy, Bratislava.

Fox Confessor Brings the Flood7. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Yes, I’m a late adherent to the Neko Case cult, but I’m glad there was still room. A member of the New Pornographers, Case has been recording solo albums for a while. She sings similar folkie-country songs to Jenny Lewis, but with a hoarser voice and a whole lot more darkness. “I leave the party at three AM/Alone, thank God/With a Valium from the bride/It’s the devil I love/And that’s as funny as real love.”
>> Must hear songs: Hold on hold on, Maybe sparrow, Star witness.

98. Damien Rice – 9
Please don’t ever let Damien Rice write happy songs! This guy is so brilliant at being miserable that it would be a shame for him to become content and secure in a relationship. Not only that–Rice somehow manages to keep some semblance of a spine when he sings his break-up anthems. He also gets the award for best use of “fuck you” (it’s all in the repetition) on “Rootless tree.”
>> Must hear tracks: Rootless tree, 9 crimes.

Begin to Hope9. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
If Tori Amos was born in Mother Russia and took her first few baths in fresh vodka, she still wouldn’t have that immigrant allure of Regina Spektor. This is one artsy singer, a rocking pianist (the songs are built around the piano) and the third woman in this line-up. “Fidelity” is arguably among the best songs I’ve heard this year and the video to it is gorgeous.
>> Must hear tracks: Fidelity, Samson, On the radio.

Yes Virginia10. The Dresden Dolls – Yes, Virginia
The Dresden Dolls, Boston’s most beloved band at the moment, also rock the piano hard. But the dolls are not just music. They are cabaret, they are vaudeville, and they are always angry and pissed at stuff. Just hear Amanda Palmer singing about getting a sex change or telling the world to get balls and speak up. Riveting.
>> Must hear tracks: Sing, Modern moonlight, Necessary evil.

9 Responses to “Album(s) of the Year”

  1. You’re always an inspiration. I’ll take this as a challenge and make up my own list.

    Still, as much of an inspiration as you may be, I won’t listen to Dresden Dolls. I hate them. :d

  2. I’m actually doing a feature on my favorite songs for 2006 (since no one but us music snobs cares about albums anymore)… but for the time being, the only album on your list I’ll seriously disagree with is Snow Patrol. I simply didn’t care for it. Everything else (that I’ve heard) on your list I agree was pretty fantastic. Off the top of my head, here are my ten favorite albums from 2006…

    10 Anathallo- Floating World- what would happen if the Lit Mag took over the marching band. I imagine Arcade Fire sounded like these guys in high school. All of the good songs have Japanese names, so I’m not going to try and remember them.

    9 Pearl Jam- Pearl Jam- Possibly– possibly their best album yet. Solid, focused songwriting (but not their best songs), the likes of which that haven’t been seen since Vs. Favorite songs- Gone, Inside Job, Life Wasted

    8 The Decemberists- The Crane Wife- I agree with what Cristian wrote, but it drags a bit in the middle for me. Strong beginning and a solid ending. Sons and Daughters might be my favorite album closer of the year.

    7 Scissor Sisters- Ta-Dah- Elton John flavored glam disco. So goofy, so great. Favorite songs: I don’t feel like dancing, the other side

    6 The Fags- Light ‘Em Up- the best Cheap Trick album in years. Favorite songs- Rockstar, Truly.

    5 The Flaming Lips- At War With the Mystics- worth the wait in pop songs and weirdness combined. Wayne Coyne must live on another planet. Favorite songs- The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, Mr. Ambulance Driver.

    4 Red Hot Chili Peppers- Stadium Arcadium- whereas with Pearl Jam it’s debatable, there’s no room for discussion here. Easily their best album ever. Favorite songs- Charlie, Wet Sand

    3 MySpace Presents: Ben Folds, live in Nashville- okay, so they haven’t released this as an album (yet, but they’re planning on it), but for the first concert Web cast on myspace, Folds let loose– a 20 person acoustic guitar chorus, a synthesizer and new arrangements breathed new life into old classics. Plus, the theatrics– A cross dressing Hitler (“Titler”) and the first ever on-camera artist “suicide.” Favorite songs- Kate, Such Great Heights, There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You.

    2 Dresden Dolls- Yes, Virginia… Ben Folds’ endorsement won me over (“Anyone who doesn’t like the Dresden Dolls I will come to their house and draw penises on their walls), but the music– and live concert– lived up to the hype. Favorite songs- Delilah, Shores of California.

    1 The Format- Dog Problems- Some people give me shit for loving this band, but I don’t care. The feel-good break-up album of the year, which plays with a loose concept and even dares to go Broadway on the title track. Favorite songs- Dog Problems, Oceans

    Biggest disappointment of 2006- Guster “Ganging Up on the Sun”

    Most anticipated albums of 2007- “Traffic and Weather” (tentative title) by Fountains of Wayne, “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” (tentative title) by Counting Crows, TBA Arcade Fire, Ben Folds.

  3. I’ve yet to understand the allure of The Decemberists, but people sure do flip for them. I don’t know if its the marble in the dudes voice or whatever, but it’s never done a lot for me.

    Here are my 2006 lists, if you be interested. Youtube links await.

  4. Great! I cannot wait to begin wading through generic indie emo half-talents to find the rare gem surely buried within here. Just let me put on my shitkickers…

    Heh. It’ll be interesting to sort out wheat from chaff. Interesting list.

  5. I have no room to comment on this list or any other. I just bought an American Idol album, a country CD featuring a song called “Greyhound Bound for Nowhere” and an oldie by Neil Young. I am not hip.

  6. Don’t feel bad Sara, we are the ones still pathetic enough to waste time digging for music. I feel you’re moved on to taking a pressure of your back. And the American Idol album might rock in its own way 🙂

  7. Thanks 🙂 I guess I have “moved on.” I don’t know if I was ever into liking the hip indie tunes, though. Closest I came was following Fuel and Creed on tour when I was 17.

  8. Actually, I think you out-hip us all, Sara– your post on that David Bowie Web site? Totally awesome.

    Of course, this is from a guy whose three favorite bands are Ben Folds, Fountains of Wayne and They Might be Giants, so I, obviously, know nothing about hip.

  9. True. You aren’t very hip either. But I think Cristian is. He’s European.

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