January 23, 2007
Greg's List 2006: A compilation and analysis of 90 "Top Ten Albums of Year" lists from around the world, plus additional commentary and lots of videos
Every year, our friend Greg takes all the "Top 10 Albums of the Year" lists from around the world, adds up all the rankings, and determines the 50 most critically acclaimed albums of the year. Being an incredibly voracious and dedicated music listener himself, he also offers his commentary on each of these albums, provides his own Top 20 list (with commentary), and this year has managed to link to YouTube videos for virtually all the artists mentioned. He even threw in an obituaries section.As in previous years (2004, 2005), we are stunned by the amount of information he has assembled, and by the amount of music he listens to and comments on. Pazz & Jop and the new Pitchfork survey are great, but we love that Greg -- who is just one guy with no interns, no inside connections, and a roommate who only occasionally pays the internet bill -- is out there finding all these lists and listening to all this stuff, and compiling it for the benefit of music fans everywhere, including you.
Here's Greg's List 2006.
Here's what I've assembled for my 3rd Annual "Year in Music" write-up.
First, as always, is the aggregated list, my attempt to rank the year's most acclaimed albums according to thousands of critics from around the world, though through a system of indirect representation. This year I collected 90 Top Ten lists from magazines and webzines around the world.
Here's the distribution by country:
- Belgium - 1
- Canada - 4
- Chile - 1
- Croatia - 1
- Denmark – 1
- France - 3
- Germany – 8
- Italy – 4
- Netherlands - 2
- Norway - 3
- Poland - 2
- Portugal - 1
- Singapore - 1
- Spain - 6
- Sweden – 2
- U.K. – 21
- U.S. - 29
Using a simple points-per-placement system, I condensed all this data into a list of the Top 100 albums of the year.
Following this list is my own guide to the year in music, including my personal top 20 and brief comments on another 75 albums released this year. Almost all include links to relevant videos on youtube.
Following that are 10 obituaries for influential and memorable musicians who died this year.
Finally, I've included all 90 Top Ten Lists that I used to create the Monster List.
Thanks again for reading and see you next year.
Table of ContentsI. A Collated List of the Year's Best Albums
II. My Top 20 Albums of 2006 (w/ youtube links)
III. My comments on another 75 albums released this year (w/ youtube links)
IV. 10 Obituaries (w/ youtube links)
V. The Individual Lists
I. The Collated List of the Year's Best Albums
There are three statistics here. The first number represents the number of total "points" each album earned. There are also two numbers in parentheses, the first of which tells how many #1 listings the album had, the second tells how many lists (of the 90) the album appeared on.
100. Archie Bronson Outfit – Derdang Derdang 10
99. The Thermals – The Body, the Blood, the Machine (Sub Pop) 10 (0/2)
98. AFI – Decemberunderground (Interscope) 10 (0/2)
97. The Dears – Gang of Losers (Arts & Crafts) 10 (0/2)
96. Lambchop – Damaged (Merge) 10 (0/2)
95. Jesu – Silver (Hydra Head) 10 (0/2)
94. Two Gallants – What the Toll Tells (Saddle Creek) 10 (0/3)
93. Boris – Pink (Southern Lord) 10 (0/3)
92. Blumfeld – Verbotene Früchte 11 (0/2)
91. Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds (Tomlab) 11 (0/2)
90. Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I Am Dreaming (Absolutely Kosher) 11 (0/2)
89. Ornette Coleman - Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar) 11 (0/2)
88. PeterLicht – Lieder vom Ende des Kapitalismus 11 (0/3)
87. The Rapture – Pieces of the People We Love (Universal Motown) 11 (0/3)
86. Pere Ubu – Why I Hate Women (Smog Veil) 12 (0/2)
85. Cold War Kids – Robbers & Cowards (Downtown) 12 (0/2)
84. Taking Back Sunday – Louder Now (Warner Bros.) 12 (1/2)
83. The Whitest Boy Alive – Dreams (Asound/Bubbles) 12 (0/3)
82. Tool – 10,000 Days (Volcano/Tool Dissectional) 12 (0/4)
81. Subtle – For Hero: For Fool (Astralwerks) 13 (1/2)
80. Matmos – The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast (Matador) 13 (1/2)
79. Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor (Atlantic) 13 (0/3)
78. J Dilla – Donuts (Stones Throw) 13 (0/3)
77. Kode9 + The Spaceape – Memories of the Future (Hyperdub) 14 (0/2)
76. Herman Düne – Giant (SOURCE ETC) 14 (0/3)
75. Dixie Chicks – Taking the Long Way (Wide Open/Columbia) 14 (0/3)
74. Camera Obscura – Let's Get Out of This Country (Merge) 14 (0/3)
73. The Long Blondes – Someone to Drive You Home (Rough Trade) 14 (0/4)
72. Deftones – Saturday Night Wrist (Maverick) 15 (0/2)
71. Razorlight – s/t (Vertigo/Universal Motown) 15 (0/2)
70. Nathan Fake – Drowning in a Sea of Love (Border Community) 15 (0/3)
69. LCD Soundsystem – 45:33 16 (0/2)
68. Love is All – Nine Times That Same Song (Whats Your Rupture?) 16 (1/2)
67. Kayo Dot – Dowsing Anemone with Copper...(Robotic Empire) 17 (0/2)
66. ...Trail of Dead – So Divided (Interscope) 17 (0/3)
65. Howling Bells – s/t (Bellaire) 18 (0/2)
64. Ali Farka Touré – Savane (Nonesuch/World Circuit) 18 (0/3)
63. Scritti Politti – White Bread Black Beer (Rough Trade) 18 (0/3)
62. Jarvis Cocker – Jarvis (Rough Trade) 18 (1/3)
61. T.I. - King (Grand Hustle/Atlantic) 18 (1/3)
60. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (Universal/Island) 18 (0/4)
59. Phoenix – It's Never Been Like That (Astralwerks/EMI) 18 (0/4)
58. Thom Yorke – The Eraser (XL) 18 (0/5)
57. 120 Days – s/t (Smalltown Supersound/Vice) 19 (1/2)
56. The Roots – Game Theory (Def Jam) 19 (0/5)
55. Justin Timberlake – FutureSex / LoveSounds (Jive) 19 (0/7)
54. Guillemots – Through the Windowpane (Universal) 20 (0/4)
53. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope (Sire) 21 (0/3)
52. Carla Bozulich – Evangelista (Southern Records) 21 (1/3)
51. Silversun Pickups – Carnavas (Dangerbird) 21 (0/4)
50. The Killers – Sam's Town (Island) 22 (0/3)
49. Morrissey – Ringleader of the Tormentors (Attack/Sanctuary) 22 (0/3)
48. Destroyer – Destroyer's Rubies (Merge) 22 (0/4)
47. Califone – Roots & Crowns (Thrill Jockey) 22 (0/5)
46. Wolfmother – s/t (Interscope/Modular) 23 (1/4)
45. Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love) 24 (0/3)
44. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – s/t 26 (0/4)
43. Ellen Allien & Apparat – Orchestra of Bubbles (Bpitch Control) 26 (0/4)
42. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium (Warner Bros.) 28 (0/4)
41. Kante – Die Tiere sind unruhig 28 (1/5)
40. Spank Rock – YoYoYoYoYo (Big Dada) 28 (1/5)
39. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy – The Letting Go (Drag City) 28 (0/8)
38. M. Ward – Post-War (Merge) 29 (1/4)
37. Lily Allen – Alright, Still (EMI/Regal) 29 (0/6)
36. Mogwai – Mr. Beast (Matador) 30 (0/5)
35. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones (Interscope) 31 (0/5)
34. My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade (Reprise) 33 (2/7)
33. Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways (Lost Highway) 34 (1/4)
32. CSS – Cansei de Ser Sexy (Dub Pop) 36 (0/6)
31. Converge – No Heroes (Epitaph) 37 (2/4)
30. Band of Horses – Everything All the Time (Sub Pop) 44 (2/8)
29. Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome (Columbia) 45 (0/7)
28. The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers (XL) 47 (1/8)
27. Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bella Union) 50 (0/11)
26. Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped (Geffen) 51 (0/9)
25. Burial – s/t (Hyperdub) 53 (2/8)
24. The Flaming Lips – At War with the Mystics (Warrner Bros.) 56 (1/9)
23. Beirut – Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing!) 57 (0/10)
22. Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up Gang/Zomba) 57 (2/10)
21. Scott Walker – The Drift (4AD) 57 (0/11)
20. Grizzly Bear – Yellow House (Warp) 57 (1/12)
19. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (Capitol) 58 (2/9)
18. Junior Boys – So This is Goodbye (Domino) 58 (2/11)
17. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit (Matador) 66 (1/13)
16. Muse – Black Holes & Revelations (Warner Bros.) 67 (0/9)
15. Liars – Drum's Not Dead (Mute) 67 (0/11)
14. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti) 67 (1/13)
13. Cat Power – The Greatest (Matador) 68 (0/14)
12. Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You... (Matador) 81 (0/13)
11. Mastodon – Blood Mountain (Reprise) 82 (4/13)
10. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant) 84 (3/13)
9. The Knife – Silent Shout (Rabid/Mute) 89 (2/15)
8. Tom Waits – Orphans (Anti) 91 (3/16)
7. Hot Chip – The Warning (DFA/Astralwerks) 111 (6/15)
6. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (Downtown) 112 (1/20)
5. Ghostface Killah – Fishscale (Def Jam) 123 (1/21)
4. Bob Dylan – Modern Times (Columbia) 159 (5/23)
3. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am...(Domino) 232 (9/30)
2. Joanna Newsom – Ys (Drag City) 233 (7/35)
1. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain (4AD) 322 (11/45)
II. My Top 20 Albums of 2006
20. The Coup – Pick a Bigger Weapon (Epitaph)
In a year of great political albums, The Coup's was, predictably, one of the most astute. For the group whose original album cover (before it got yanked by record label Warner) for 2001's Party Music showed MC Boots Riley blowing up the WTC, subtlety was never the standard, but neither was humorless preachiness – that was for contemporaries Dead Prez. Not even getting into his band's bouncy, retro soul-funk, Boots has a bigger arsenal, as demonstrated here: he can rouse the rabble ("In case you're wonderin', well yes I'm gon' fight / I'm fi'n' to join the army, but one you don't like"), embrace selfishness ("I'm here to laugh, love, fuck and drink liquor / And help the damn revolution come quicker") and blast electoral optimism (You're voting, which you're hoping / Will stop the guns from smoking / Is someone fucking joking? / They're bankers in sheep's clothing"). There's also a song about Bush and Saddam giving each other blowjobs. As Ray Bradbury said about Chaplin's The Great Dictator, it's not enough just to condemn something; you need to be able to laugh at it, too.
Here's a live performance of "Ass Breath Killers" link
19. The Game – Doctor's Advocate (Geffen)
Now with two notable albums under his belt, The Game joins Kanyeezy at the summit of the new generation of rappers, and his pair of albums stand up as a worthy gangsta counterpoint to Kanye's soulful hip-hop combo. He might be a trifle obsessed with being or becoming the heir to the West Coast throne, but he's the only rapper out there who sounds and looks like he might actually know something about the streets, and his raps are funny, vulgar and occasionally, dare I say, profound. Contributions from Just Blaze, Scott Storch and Kanye don't hurt things either.
Here's the video for "Let's Ride" link
18. Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bella Union)
Though it's not their first album, Midlake vaulted onto the indie scene this year, much like The National did last year, with the help of the single "Roscoe," which evinces most of the band's trademarks and strengths: rambling lyrics sung in a Rufus Wainwright croon (only straighter), CSN-style harmonies, piano runs borrowed from Nick Drake, and guitar tones that echo both mid-'70s soft-rock (Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart) and mid-'90s indie rock (Guided by Voices).
Here's the video for "Roscoe" link
17. Ellen Allien & Apparat – Orchestra of Bubbles (Bpitch Control)
Not all of these tracks are ready for the dancefloor (though the best ones are); Orchestra of Bubbles is a mood piece, occasionally drifting off into soundtrack land, but with just enough pop steps to steer it clear of the avant-garde abyss. It's techno from the dark side of the street, beautiful in a way, abundant strings, bowed or struck, being the title's orchestra, arpeggiated synth undermelodies providing the bubbles.
Here's the video for "Way Out" link
16. James Hunter – People Gonna Talk (GO Records/Rounder)
Hunter, a white, working-class limey, does classic soul so well that, if his songs weren't so great and his phrasing wasn't so perfect, it'd be, like, "What's the point?" But, really, it's like having Sam Cooke come back to life and record an album of brand new songs.
Here's an EPK for the album link
15. Toumani Diabaté's Symmetric Orchestra – Boulevard de l'Independance (Nonesuch)
To hear Diabaté's fingers fly over the kora is to hear something almost magical. To hear this gorgeous, virtuosic plucking riding the crest of a 50-man orchestra turning out deep, repetitive grooves mantled with fidgety guitars and alternating male/female vocals and punctured by the sharp blasts of the horn section, is to hear something revelatory.
Here's a short clip from a video for "Single" link
14. Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris – All the Roadrunning (Warner Bros.)
Knopfler's a great guitarist who's done little worthy of mention in the past 20 years; Emmylou's a great singer, and every project she touches turns to gold – critically speaking. No exception here. Knopfler's chops are in top form, concise and well-placed, and Emmylou's always been one of the great harmonists. Most of the songs are Knopfler's, and most are keepers, memorable additions to a genre that doesn't see too many new faces, even if they're old ones.
Here's a live performance of "Belle Starr" link
13. Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental (EMI)
Even Tennant and Lowe got political this year: "Oh, I learned a lesson / From the twentieth century / That I don't think we can just dismiss / After one hundred years / Of inhumanity / The lesson that I learned was this: / Sometimes the solution / Is worse than the problem / Let's stay together.." The cynicism is typical Pet Shop Boys, but that last lyric, practically tacked on there, the "Let's stay together" line, is really what makes it next level shit - just a splash of Al Green. It's a mellower record by PSB standards, but there're still a few perfect club cuts. See video.
Here's the video for "Minimal" link
12. Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint – The River in Reverse (Verve Forecast)
After 2 relative bombs, Costello cuts his best album since his 1998 collaboration with Bacharach, Painted from Memory. Why is it that Costello performs so brilliantly in the capacity of collaborator? For one thing, in this case, it's actually the 4th time he's collaborated with New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint, though it's the first record to include Toussaint compositions and the first to offer him a title billing. For another, Costello is a songwriter so versed in almost every style of American music that he can easily get tangled up in it all. But when he has a partner to narrow his focus to a certain style or styles – here, blues, R&B, funk, soul – his instincts know exactly what to do. Finally, Toussaint himself is basically a career collaborator, more so than he is a solo artist. A short list of his production and contribution credits looks like this: The Meters, The Band, Dr. John, Paul Simon, The Nevilles, Etta James, Gravediggaz (!), Patti LaBelle, Solomon Burke, and Albert King. Costello's lyrics are, as always, right on point, though the single best verse here might belong to Toussaint: "What happened to the Liberty Bell / I heard so much about? / Did it really ding-dong? / It must've dinged wrong / It didn't ding long."
Here's a live performance of "River in Reverse" link
11. Rosanne Cash – Black Cadillac (Capitol)
Written and recorded in the wake of her father's death, Black Cadillac reflects on mortality, religious faith, family, etc. It's a loving, affectionate, not quite grieving album from a songwriter who was always too literate, too serious and too political to fit comfortably into the country mainstream. The album sometimes rocks, sometimes lulls, but more than anything it moves: "Headlights on a Texas road / Hank Williams on the radio / A church wedding, they spent all they had / Now the deal is done to become mom and dad / And I was watching you from above / 'Cause long before life / There was love."
10. Drive-By Truckers – A Blessing and a Curse (New West)
America's best rock band cleans up the production, checks the guitar solos, cuts back on Cooley songs and releases their least vital album of the decade. Their 3 previous albums, starting with Southern Rock Opera, the album with which they first blew shit apart, form, in spite of several personnel changes, a sort of triptych, expanding and sharpening their slow, heavy country-rock and cast of tragic Southern nobodies. In exchange, A Blessing and a Curse offers meditations on love, death, success, and addiction, topics explored on previous albums more successfully, although for the first time it sounds like they might actually be writing from experience. It's not that they aren't at the top of the league when writing personal songs; Cooley's "Gravity's Gone" is as good as you'll find: "So I'll meet you at the bottom if there really is one / They always told me when you hit it you'll know it / But I've been fallin' so long it's like gravity's gone and I'm just floatin'." But when their personal demons are couched in narratives about the South, no one else is even in their league.
Here's an EPK for the album link
9. Mastodon – Blood Mountain (Reprise)
With Blood Mountain, Mastodon have basically done for metal what Queens of the Stone Age did for hard rock 4 years ago with Songs for the Deaf: revitalized its critical and commercial viability. Their metal is dense, influenced by prog and hardcore, and Blood Mountain is somehow both more technically mindblowing and more accessible than Leviathan. This is one of the decade's most significant rock bands.
Here's the video for "Colony of Birchmen" link
8. New York Dolls – One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This (Roadrunner)
If you say you were expecting the Dolls' (well, the only 2 living members) first album in over 30 years to be good, you're probably lying. Even without Thunders' monster riffs, this is rootsy, sleazy rock 'n' roll with a capital FUCK YEAH – the kind they basically invented (with the help of Malcolm McLaren). Johansen skewers the Religious Right on "Dance Like a Monkey," celebrates the flesh in an almost spiritual way on "Take a Good Look at My Good Looks" (There's no foundation / No final resting place / Only emptiness / And endless grace"), and waxes philosophical while dropping words like "polytheistic" and "anthropomorphize" throughout: "In the center of action of my psyche's need for love I want liberation and joy / In a paroxysm of intoxication, inspiration ain't no way to be coy." Exactly.
Here's an interview with Johansen and Sylvain and a live performance of "Dance Like a Monkey" link
7. The Lemonheads – The Lemonheads (Vagrant)
This can't properly be considered a comeback album since Dando released an exceptional solo record 3 years ago, but while that sounded like a Dando solo record, this sounds exactly like a Lemonheads record. Everything that once made them great is still here: fast, punchy songs, sloppily well-written, irresistible hooks, and Dando's emotionally and physically drained slacker vocals. It's one great song after another and it's all over in under 35 minutes.
6. Donald Fagen – Morph the Cat (Reprise)
Fagen's lyrics were always about 180 degrees south of normal, which is why The Dan's success was always kind of baffling, but Morph the Cat is something else entirely. The title track is ostensibly about a mysterious cloud that appears above New York: "High above Manhattan town / What floats and has a shape like that? / Fans like us who watch the skies / We know it's Morph the Cat... / What exactly does he want / This Rabelaisian puff of smoke? / To make you feel all warm and cozy / Like you heard a good joke." Fagen's downright nihilistic wit almost reminds me of German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's description of the attack on the World Trade Center as "the greatest possible work of art for the entire cosmos." Fagen's impeccable music, funky smooth-jazz pop, has the kind of objective cool that seems impervious to any emotional means. It's certainly been untouched by the passage of time so that now it's about as out of style as lederhosen (not many bands were technically proficient enough to even try to imitate Steely Dan in the first place, and those that did pretty much disappeared around, if not before, the time of Nevermind).
Here's a short TV spot for the album link
5. J Dilla – Donuts (Stones Throw)
31 tracks and 43 minutes long, Donuts is a whirligig of an album, a sputtering of ideas, samples and sketches (I mean, he was dying when he made it), yet it's coherence and catchiness as an instrumental mix are incredible. See further comments re Jay Dee in Obituaries.
4. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant)
The only indie rock band that has any right whatsoever to be claiming any Springsteen influence. It's not hard to see where the anthemic piano and preoccupation with disaffected youth come from, but there's a lot more to The Hold Steady than mere simulation – there's never been a rock song quite like "Chillout Tent." Boys and Girls is a quantum leap forward from last year's Separation Sunday, in large part because, for the first time, Finn's sympathy outstrips his cleverness, and the result makes a strong case for his place as one of this generation's best articulators.
Here's the video for "Chips Ahoy!" link
3. Ghostface Killah – Fishscale (Def Jam)
The best hip-hop album of the past 5 years (yes, including The Blueprint). A true feat of imagination and lurid detail, at once real and surreal, something like Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead. There's lots of blood, food, and, of course, coke, all wound into urban nightmare fairy tales, animated by the nearly winded urgency of Ghost's spew. "My girl cousins, they gon' rock you."
Here's the video for "Back Like That" link
2. Jarvis Cocker – Jarvis (Rough Trade)
Cocker plays the prophet of doom with great flair and cuts a funeral hymn of an album for the human race. The singer's first solo outing is quiet (with the sole exception of "Fat Childen" - see video), dominated by piano and ringing Byrds-style guitars, but the lyrics are anything but quiet – they're angry, sometimes downright murderous. Even as a work from the '90s heir to the legacy of critics of Britain's stratified society, from Ray Davies through Paul Weller and Morrissey (and on to Mike Skinner), this is point-blank social commentary: "Well did you hear? There's a natural order / Those most deserving will end up with the most / That the cream cannot help but always rise to the top / Well I say, "Shit floats"... / Ohhh, cunts are still running the world." But Cocker's humor has never been so bleak before, and by bleak I mean about a notch short of Céline's: "It's the end, why don't you admit it? / It's the same from Auschwitz to Ipswich / Evil comes I know from not where / But if you take a look inside yourself maybe you'll find some in there." Let's hope he's not as prescient as he is entertaining.
Here's a live performance of "Fat Children" link
1. Lindsey Buckingham – Under the Skin (Reprise)
Gone are the loony production turns of his other solo records that were occasionally interesting but mostly annoying and contrived. Gone are the drums, bass, electric guitars. What's left is Lindsey's voice, his acoustic guitar, and the discriminate use of minimal effects to draw extraordinary sounds out of these twin instruments. His voice is layered and echoed and it sounds fucking spectral; his guitar, whether strumming chords or fingerpicking flurries of notes, is qually haunting. Lindsey's pop sensibilities have never been put to use better than on this candid, soul-searching record.
Here's an EPK-sorta thing for the album link
21. Paul Simon – Surprise (Warner Bros.)
With each album, aging songwriters are faced with the dilemma of whether to employ newer technology, meaning everything from simply higher fidelity to the use of more contemporary sounds (electronics, in short), or to "stick to their guns." The latter is the safer option since this is generally considered to be "keeping it real." Some have great success with the good old band sound – Neil, Westerberg, Springsteen, Nick Lowe – while others, from experimenters like Bowie and Cale to traditionalists like Emmylou Harris and Robbie Robertson, risk the switch to drum machines and the liberal use of effects. Simon can't really be considered a "traditional" songwriter but the effect of Eno's drumbeats and atmospheric touches is marked, adding a colorful new dimension to Simon's gentle, humane songs.
Here's a live performance of "Father and Daughter" (w/ the legendary Steve Gadd on drums) link
22. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit (Matador)
Yet another accomplished album brimful of ideas and wit. As usual, the band expands their repertoire by tackling new styles, dressing up tried styles in new ways, and never using the same effect twice.
Here's a live performance of "To Be Myself Completely." Great song, Stevie. link
23. Bob Dylan – Modern Times (Columbia)
After the moodiness of Time Out of Mind, nobody was expecting the rollicking blues shuffles of Love and Theft. Who was this guy with a sleazy moustache and a voice that sounded like he was choking on confetti, tearing through Americana with a looseness and liveliness not heard since the days of pub rock? Not to mention the fact that he was at the top of his lyrical game, telling rich stories, anecdotal and parabolic, in a rediscovered hitch-hiker's poetry. Modern Times is a similar tread through a bygone America, though it's a much calmer and tighter record, but aside from that and the absence of the surprise factor, it's a damn good sequel.
Here's the video for "When the Deal Goes Down" (w/ Scarlet Johansson) link
24. Junior Boys – So This is Goodbye (Domino)
Synth-pop for indie kids who you otherwise wouldn't find listening to the Pet Shop Boys or Bronski Beat (the hushed vocals and thin production are what make it "indie"...and erotic). The canvas is fairly minimal techno, but this is definitely a pop album, more so than Last Exit, and a very assured one. On the one hand that means that there's nothing here as mesmerizing as "Under the Sun" and there aren't any songs about cult sci-fi novels; on the other hand, it means that, front to back, this is a more accessible album, and in many ways, a better one.
25. Mission of Burma – The Obliterati (Matador)
Another new album from the Burma boys, and it's even better than the last. Amazing how little their energy has diminished in 20 years and how intact their sense of humor is: "I'm haunted by the freakish size of Nancy Reagan's head / No way that thing came with that body."
Here's a trailer for the documentary Not a Photograph about the band's 2002 reunion link
26. Paris Hilton – Paris (Warner Bros.)
Several quick disclaimers (for people who have not actually heard this album (and think that Paris Hilton symbolizes the cosmetic face of America or something)): 1) This is not ironic praise, i.e. "It's so bad it's good!" 2) This is not intentionally controversy-baiting praise, like saying that Monster is your favorite R.E.M. album. 3) This is not a comment on how bad the state of popular music has gotten, i.e. "2006 was such a shitty year that Paris Hilton made my top 25." 2006 was, in fact, a much better year for music than 2005 or 2004. 4) I'm not hoping Paris will read this and grant me entrance to her "vazhin" (sp?). Actually I am hoping that, but it's not the only reason I'm writing this. Anyway, so they were originally going to call the album Sexy Blonde Bitch, but at some point someone realized they might as well just call it Paris, and they wisely economized the music as well, keeping the whole album under 40 minutes. I'm sure that many of the record's achievments are assignable to Scott Storch, whose production has more in common with New Wave girl groups than it does with any other recent teen pop records. But it wouldn't be what it is without the personality that Paris brings to it, the lifetime's worth of public history that she's acquired in just the past 4 years. Of course she brings plenty of confidence and attitude, but also a surprising amount of vulnerability, and, through the sultry, intimate quality of her voice, she's able to communicate more genuine emotion than a great deal of veteran songwriters.
Here's the video for "Jealousy." Incredible track. link
27. Justin Timberlake – FutureSex / LoveSounds (Jive)
Pretty much all the reviews focused on Timbaland, and yes, the production is brilliant, drawing on everything from Krautrock to world, and the middle of the album, roughly tracks 4 through 8, contains some of the best dance music of the decade. But don't overlook Justin's contributions. It's not just that he's a great singer; his personality has broad appeal (from teenies to hipsters to moms to frat boys) and it has the kind of magnetism that just jumps out of the music and makes it something greater. And don't even get me started on the genius of "Dick in a Box." This is an entertainer who's going to be a major player in the years to come.
Here's the video for "My Love" link
28. Willie Nelson – You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker (Lost Highway)
I didn't know who she was either, but if you're a fan of traditional country, you've surely heard at least half the songs on this album at some point in your life. Willie's interpretations are great, though I wish his guitar were as prominent in the mix as it is in this video:
Here's a live performance of "You Don't Know Me" link
29. Neil Young – Living with War (Reprise)
Give Young credit for speaking his mind. In the '80s he was an outspoken supporter of Reagan. Now he's released one of the most direct protest albums ever recorded. It's more of a generic catalogue of popular criticisms of the war in Iraq, kind of like Fahrenheit 9/11 set to music, than a profound analysis of the situation. But this is Neil Young, not Slavoj Zizek, rock 'n' roll, not academe—you've gotta be able to sing along to it, and Neil has a whole chorus of people do just that on almost every song. Besides, let's face it - Neil's guitar tone is one of the greatest sounds ever emitted from a musical instrument, so as long as the songs hold up, and most of these do, does it really matter what he's singing about?
Here's the video for "Let's Impeach the President" link
30. Prince – 3121 (Universal)
A better album than Musicology. "Black Sweat" is all hype but Prince's rewrite of "You Can Call Me Al" ("Lolita") is the best track he's laid down since Emancipation.
Here's a live performance of the title track link
31. Morrissey – Ringleader of the Tormentors (Attack/Sanctuary)
Co-winner of the "album title of the year" award with Andrew W.K. Ringleader's a very Roman record, referencing cinema legends Pasolini, Visconti and Magnani, utilizing soundtrack legend Ennio Morricone, and brazenly embracing carnality.
Here's the video for "You Have Killed Me." Great song. link
32. Robert Pollard – From a Compound Eye (Merge)
More or less picks up where the last GBV album left off and certainly follows the same pattern – a few great songs and a lot of good ones.
Here's a live performance of "Light Show" link
33. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Ballad of the Broken Seas (V2)
This deliberately incongruous pairing merges animal sexuality with gothic tenderness in a way that I thought only Nick Cave could.
Here's the dirty video for "Ramblin' Man" link
34. Nas – Hip Hop is Dead (Def Jam/Columbia)
Basically an album-long lament on the current state of hip-hop, a full-blown nostalgia piece. It's crabby, whiny and far less approachable than Street's Disciple, which, despite its length, found Nas at his wise, refelective best. But there are 2 saving graces here: 1) he's right, and 2) he still spits better than just about everyone else.
Here's the video for "Hip Hop is Dead" link
35. Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped (Geffen)
The Youth have whittled the boring jams of their last two releases with fucker Jim O'Rourke into 3-minute songs. Needless to say, a Sonic Youth record has never had this kind of momentum or been such party-playlist potential.
Here's a live performance of "Incinerate" link
36. Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways (Lost Highway)
Very possibly the best of the American albums. A great set of songs, nearly all of which acquire second meanings in the context of this being a posthumous release. The gem of gems here is his rendition of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind."
Here's an EPK for the album link
37. Beck – The Information (Interscope)
Nigel Godrich is back to give the quirky funk of a more cheerful Beck the Radiohead treatment. Surprisingly or not, it works just as well as it did on Sea Change.
Here's the video for "Soldier Jane." Great song. link
38. Todd Snider – The Devil You Know (New Door)
Proudly telling the stories of drunks, whores, failures and the president, Snider's got the sarcastic wit, political nerve and genuine sympathy of Kristofferson and Randy Newman – and the street cred of Bukowski.
Here's the video for "You Got Away With It (A Tale of Two Fraternity Brothers)" link
39. Jerry Lee Lewis – Last Man Standing (Artists First)
Can I just list some of the guests on the album? Jimmy Page, B.B. King, Bruce, Jagger, Wood and Richards, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, Fogerty, Ringo, Merle, Rod Stewart, George Jones, Willie, Little Richard, Buddy Guy, Kristofferson...and others
Here's the video for "Pink Cadillac" link
40. Christina Aguilera – Back to Basics (RCA)
A double album from a teenybopper? Sort of. You can just go ahead and use the second disc as a coaster, but the first disc, despite some gratuitous name-dropping (does Christina really like Coltrane that much??), puts abundant horn samples (and a Traffic piano sample) to excellent creative use.
Here's the video for "Ain't No Other Man" link
41. Van Hunt – On the Jungle Floor (Capitol)
Neo-soulster Van Hunt takes another step toward the masterpiece he will drop in 5 or 6 years. He's still a Prince protege but this album rocks harder than his debut, bearing traces of Hendrix and Bowie.
42. David Gilmour – On an Island (Columbia)
Gilmour can be an indulgent guitarist treading empty atmosphere, but when it all comes together he's as tasteful and measured a soloist as Miles Davis. The last 3 minutes of "The Blue," for instance, contain the year's best guitar solo.
Here's the video for "On an Island" link
43. Josh Rouse – Subtitulo (Nettwerk/Bedroom Classics)
Rouse might be getting to be too much of a pretty-boy, but it's hard to deny his ear for melody and his ability to craft 3-minute lite-FM pop gems.
Here's the video for "Quiet Town" link
44. Alejandro Escovedo – The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch)
John Cale, who's been disappointly underused as a producer since the '70s, is on the boards here, and it's an odd marriage, to say the least. Escovedo's always been, for lack of a better word, a pretty normal songwriter, while Cale's recent works have been, if not avant-garde, decidedly arty. Willfully or not, the record ends up sounding more like a Cale record, with Escovedo delivering some of his most idiosyncratic work to date, though it still doesn't quite rise to the occasion.
45. Jessi Colter – Out of the Ashes (Shout! Factory)
All of a sudden, out of the blue, a new album from Waylon's wife. Stark production by Don Was pushes Jessi's songwriting and voice to the foreground, a good move with this material, which is Americana, plain and simple. The piano props up some cowboy ballads and cool gospel, but Jessi also shows that she can still boogie with the band.
46. Scritti Politti – White Bread Black Beer (Rough Trade)
If you're a fan of synth-pop or maybe '80s music in general, you probably know that Scritti Politti's Cupid & Psyche 85 is one of the genre's high-water marks. You might not know that Green Gartside became a personal friend of the late M. Derrida in the years following Scritti Politti's '82 single "Jacques Derrida." Gartside can be seen as a precursor to Stephin Merritt in that intellectual sub-genre of "meta-love songs" (e.g. "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure"). White Bread Black Beer isn't synth-pop, though, it's indie pop.
Here's a live performance of "The Boom Boom Bap" link
47. Agalloch – Ashes Against the Grain (The End)
Black metal doesn't come any more accessible than this. It's epic and gloomy, of course, but also supremely melodic and technically modest.
Here's the video for "Not Unlike the Waves" link
48. Tony Allen – Lagos No Shaking (Honest Jon's)
Fela's drummer kicks some serious Afrobeat.
Here's a live performance of "Herculean" by Damon Albarn's new group The Good The Bad and the Queen featuring Tony Allen on drums (and Paul Simenon from The Clash on bass) link
49. T.I. - King (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)
The handsome and charismatic T.I. was southern rap's poster boy this year, taking the lead in a major film and releasing the flawed but significant King.
Here's the video for "Why U Wanna" link
50. Iron Maiden – A Matter of Life and Death (Sanctuary)
They didn't used to be so long-winded about it, but at least they're playing like they mean it again.
Here's the fucking awesome animated video for "Different World" link
*** 1/2 (3 1/2 Stars)
Lambchop – Damaged (Merge)
Another sturdy release from weirdo Kurt Wagner and the many-legged Lambchop. An acquired taste, to be sure, but they just might be the most reliable band around.
Here's the video for "Up with People" (from their 2000 album Nixon) link
Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti)
It's not always the case, but in general, as songwriters mature, they tend to move from the personal/confessional to more observational and/or narrative approaches, which is in part what Neko has accomplished with this record. In the process, however, she seems to have forgotten how to write catchy songs. One of the few exceptions is this song:
Here's a live performance of "Hold On, Hold On" link
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy – The Letting Go (Drag City)
It's more polished than his last two albums (not including Greateset Palace Music), but Oldham has assembled better sets of songs. And Dawn McCarthy's harmonies are irritating.
Here's a live performance of "Strange Form of Life" (w/ Andrew W.K. on piano!) link
Basement Jaxx – Crazy Itch Radio (XL)
Their wackiest album to date, incorporating Latin and Dancehall rhythms.
Here's the hilarious video for "Take Me Back to Your House" link
Andrew W.K. - Close Calls with Brick Walls (Dope)
After his debut and even after the watered-down follow-up The Wolf, it was nearly impossible to figure who AWK's influences were; the music sounded like absolutely nothing else in existence. The presentation suggested hair metal's abandon, but it didn't sound anything like hair metal. Andrew himself was always reticent on the subject, refusing to cite any influences. But on Close Calls with Brick Walls, only released in Japan so far, some of them have finally come into focus – and it's not really who you'd expect. A far weirder and more self-consciously arty album than its priors, Close Calls recalls the abstractness of Berlin-era Bowie and the childish humor and technical sophistication of Frank Zappa, but more than anything else, it brings to mind the schizophrenic studio wizardy of Todd Rundgren.
Here's the brilliant (obviously) video for "Not Going to Bed" link
The Handsome Family – Last Days of Wonder (Carrot Top)
If Don DeLillo were a married couple who sang apocalyptic alt-country songs, he'd probably sound a lot like The Handsome Family. Set to pretty, traditional country/folk, Brett and Rennie Sparks find existential meaning in the offal of contemporary life cluttering the more permanent postcard landscapes of their album covers. In "These Golden Jewels": "I drove circles in the meadow / Threw TVs off a cliff / I scattered dirty needles / In a grassy ditch / Shopping carts of garbage / Overturned in silver ponds / In fields of wild mustard / I abandoned several cars / At the edge of town / These golden jewels / I left them all for you."
Here's the cool video for "Your Great Journey" link
Ali Farka Touré – Savane (Nonesuch/World Circuit)
Not as trance-inducing as some of his albums, but a worthy swansong all the same.
*** (3 Stars)
The Roots – Game Theory (Def Jam)
An unexpectedly dark, political album from The Roots, much of it incisive and straightforward rather than sensational.
Here's a video medley of three songs from the album link
Hot Chip – The Warning (DFA/Astralwerks)
Great harmonies throughout and some irresistible beats as well. Best album DFA's ever put out.
Here's the video for "Boy from School." What are they making?? link
Stephin Merritt – Showtunes (Nonesuch)
Songs selected from three musicals – The Orphan of Zhao, Peach Blossom Fan, and My Life as a Fairy Tale – on which Merritt collaborated with director Chen Shi-Zheng. The songs having been taken out of context and interspersed, one can only speculate about the narratives these songs were meant to accompany, but they hold up pretty well on their own. Merritt continues to demonstrate his omnipotence.
Rachid Taha – Diwan 2 (Wrasse)
A sequel to 1998's Diwan, it's sort of a return to his more traditional rai roots, but even though he's wearing a turban on the cover, he's still got some cosmopolitan worldbeat flair (see video).
Here's the video for "Ecoute Moi Camarade" link
The Knife – Silent Shout (Rabid/Mute)
The first track, the title track, had me transfixed. I'd never heard a song at once so scary and so catchy. Then I watched the video and understood the truth of the last line: "I caught a glimpse and now it haunts me." Sadly, the rest of the album sounds nothing like the title track.
Here's the terrifying video for "Silent Shout" link
John Tejada – Cleaning Sounds is a Filthy Business (Palette)
Cat Power – The Greatest (Matador)
Chan Marshall's "less is more" policy always tended to work against her, so the prospect of Memphis horns and strings sounded great. But alas, these songs suffer (or maybe make you suffer) from the blue-balls syndrome that's always characterized her songwriting: they begin with great potential, a solid hook, a few nice chords, a good lyric...and then go absolutely nowhere in the next 3 or 4 minutes. The exception here is "Lived in Bars," which bucks that trend magnificently. Check it out.
Here's the video for "Lived in Bars." Great song. link
Willie Nile – Streets of New York (Reincarnate Music)
Nile is a songwriter's songwriter who counts among his admirers Bono, Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Graham Parker, Lou Reed and Jim Jarmusch. Which kind of makes you wonder about these giants. About half the time they're right—Nile is a first-rate roots rocker with a streetwise edge. The other half of the time he's a shameless Dylan copycat.
Here's a great EPK for the album link
The Flaming Lips – At War with the Mystics (Warner Bros.)
Wayne and The Lips further sharpen the worldview they've been hammering out since The Soft Bulletin. It's a queer mix of Eastern philosophy and Positivism, e.g., "Oh we can't trade places / Our lives are strangely our own" and "Only a fool believes that he is different from the birds in the sky."
Here's the great video for "Mr. Ambulance Driver." What the fuck kind of drums are those?? link
Ray Davies – Other People's Lives (V2)
First real album in a long time from Davies is spotty, overlong, and could use some of the energy that always propelled the best Kinks albums.
Here's a live performance of "After the Fall" link
Kelis – Kelis Was Here (Jive)
Hotter, dirtier and just plain cooler than Beyoncé, which makes sense since Nas is just plain cooler than Jay-Z.
Here's the HOT video for "Blindfold Me" link
Vince Gill – These Days (MCA Nashville)
Comprising 4 themed discs worth of new material, showcasing the various facets of Gill's songwriting with a "Rockin' Record," a "Groovy Record," a "Country & Western Record," and an "Acoustic Record," this probably qualifies as the most "ambitious" mainstream country record ever attempted, if by ambitious one means excessive and unnecessary.
Here's the Rear Window-ish video for "The Reason Why" link
Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam (J)
First studio album in 8 years doesn't really sound much different from its immediate predecessors, maybe a little more punk-influenced. Not a whole lot to recommend this.
Here's an EPK for the album link
Lloyd Cole – Anti Depressant (Sanctuary)
At his best, Cole is the John Sayles of singer-songwriters, discussing serious issues with an awkward sense of humor and using words that don't belong in pop music ("synnergy," "capitulator," "algorithim"). Unlike Sayles, Cole hasn't been able to sustain the same quality of work over the years. The first track, though, "The Young Idealists," describes the ideological shifts that accompany aging with a sympathy and an honesty that are truly hard to come by.
Here's an interview with clips from an acoustic performance link
** 1/2 (2 1/2 Stars)
The Who – Endless Wire (Universal/Republic)
One of rock's greatest singers and rock's greatest rhythm guitarist, minus rock's greatest rhythm section. Pete's still trying to write rock operas for some reason, and there are about 5 too many forgettable acoustic songs, not to mention such lyric butt-gems as "I was prepared to be unprepared / Been preparing for lights." On a more positive note, Daltrey's voice sounds fantastic, but what the hell is up with Pete trying to sing like Tom Waits on "In the Ether?"
Here's a live performance of Roger singing "We Got a
Hit" and Pete singing "They Made My Dream Come True"
Here's the video for "Vato"
Young Jeezy – The Inspiration (Def Jam)
Hip-hop sent back from the future in a time capsule
with huge, spaceship-size synths over uniformly slow
beats that would make great entrance music for WWE
wrestlers. Jeezy doesn't have much to say, and if
you've heard the first 2 tracks you've basically heard
the whole album, but there's definitely something
bewitching about this grand sci-fi showdown music
occasionally trimmed with the kind of menacing video
game music you here when you're about to meet the
final boss of a stage.
Here's the video for "I Luv It"
Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (Downtown)
"Crazy" - easily the single of 2006. The rest of the
album could only suffer in comparison, and it does.
Am I the only one who thinks that Cee-Lo sounds eerily
like Macy Gray?
Here's the video for "Crazy"
Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat
Your Ass (Matador)
Seems like an attempt to recapture the celebrated
eclecticism of I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One,
only with some bouncier pop steps. Guitarist Ira
Kaplan – one of the few true recent masters of
feedback, right up there w/ Lee & Thurston – is
playing lots of piano these days, which is a
regrettable choice because he's not very good at it.
Here's a live performance of "Mr. Tough"
OutKast – Idlewild (LaFace/Zomba)
If you'd told me 6 years ago, when Stankonia was all
anybody wanted to listen to, that Dre and Big Boi
would go on to make an album as sterile and academic
as Idlewild, I'd've spit on you.
Here's the video for "Idlewild Blue (Don't Chu Worry
Sparklehorse – Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of
a Mountain (Capitol)
Linkous recycles some of the chord progressions from
his last album while failing to hit any of the genuine
emotional chords he's nailed in the past. The sad,
eccentric indie rocker who seemed capable of almost
anything on Good Morning Spider better shape up if the
forthcoming collaboration with Danger Mouse is going
to be any good.
Here's some weird mock NC visitors guide w/ Linkous
wearing a horsehead. Includes a few clips of songs
from the album.
Thom Yorke – The Eraser (XL)
A middling album with little deviation in tone, tempo,
structure, dynamic or concept. Takes none of the
chances that made KID A and Hail to the Thief so
Here's the video for "Harrowdown Hill"
Alan Jackson – Like Red on a Rose (Arista)
AJ's voice sounds good – if anything, it's not damaged
enough for some of this material. The song selection
is ok and it's a nice, mellow country album, but Alan
does better with faster, livelier tunes. Produced by
Here's the video for the title track
Beyoncé – B'day (Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
A violently inconsistent album, bouncing from perfect
hit singles to unlistenable generic "soul" hollering.
The guest spot from Jay-Z on the first track, "Déjà
Vu," was the best thing he did this year.
Here's the video for the single "Irreplaceable"
Willard Grant Conspiracy – Let It Roll (Loose)
On previous albums, especially 2003's brilliant Regard
the End, the influence of Nick Cave was suggested.
Here's it's announced. Also includes a terrible cover
of Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man." A flop from one of
America's best and darkest alt-country acts.
Here's the animated video for the beautiful "Distant
** (2 Stars)
Here's the video for "Vato" link
Young Jeezy – The Inspiration (Def Jam)
Hip-hop sent back from the future in a time capsule with huge, spaceship-size synths over uniformly slow beats that would make great entrance music for WWE wrestlers. Jeezy doesn't have much to say, and if you've heard the first 2 tracks you've basically heard the whole album, but there's definitely something bewitching about this grand sci-fi showdown music occasionally trimmed with the kind of menacing video game music you here when you're about to meet the final boss of a stage.
Here's the video for "I Luv It" link
Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (Downtown)
"Crazy" - easily the single of 2006. The rest of the album could only suffer in comparison, and it does. Am I the only one who thinks that Cee-Lo sounds eerily like Macy Gray?
Here's the video for "Crazy" link
Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)
Seems like an attempt to recapture the celebrated eclecticism of I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, only with some bouncier pop steps. Guitarist Ira Kaplan – one of the few true recent masters of feedback, right up there w/ Lee & Thurston – is playing lots of piano these days, which is a regrettable choice because he's not very good at it.
Here's a live performance of "Mr. Tough" link
OutKast – Idlewild (LaFace/Zomba)
If you'd told me 6 years ago, when Stankonia was all anybody wanted to listen to, that Dre and Big Boi would go on to make an album as sterile and academic as Idlewild, I'd've spit on you.
Here's the video for "Idlewild Blue (Don't Chu Worry Bout Me)" link
Sparklehorse – Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain (Capitol)
Linkous recycles some of the chord progressions from his last album while failing to hit any of the genuine emotional chords he's nailed in the past. The sad, eccentric indie rocker who seemed capable of almost anything on Good Morning Spider better shape up if the forthcoming collaboration with Danger Mouse is going to be any good.
Here's some weird mock NC visitors guide w/ Linkous wearing a horsehead. Includes a few clips of songs from the album. link
Thom Yorke – The Eraser (XL)
A middling album with little deviation in tone, tempo, structure, dynamic or concept. Takes none of the chances that made KID A and Hail to the Thief so exciting.
Here's the video for "Harrowdown Hill" link
Alan Jackson – Like Red on a Rose (Arista)
AJ's voice sounds good – if anything, it's not damaged enough for some of this material. The song selection is ok and it's a nice, mellow country album, but Alan does better with faster, livelier tunes. Produced by Alison Krauss.
Here's the video for the title track link
Beyoncé – B'day (Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
A violently inconsistent album, bouncing from perfect hit singles to unlistenable generic "soul" hollering. The guest spot from Jay-Z on the first track, "Déjà Vu," was the best thing he did this year.
Here's the video for the single "Irreplaceable" link
Willard Grant Conspiracy – Let It Roll (Loose)
On previous albums, especially 2003's brilliant Regard the End, the influence of Nick Cave was suggested. Here's it's announced. Also includes a terrible cover of Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man." A flop from one of America's best and darkest alt-country acts.
Here's the animated video for the beautiful "Distant Shore" link
TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain (4AD)
I read something someone had written on some message board that said "tv on the radio is terrible imo," and, being more of a music dork than a computer dork, I thought, "Oh good, someone has finally come up with a name for this crap: IMO – intelligent emo." (IMO is actually internet slang for "in my opinion," but I'm probably the only idiot who didn't know that.)
Here's the video for "Wolf Like Me," awesome song link
Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up Gang/Zomba)
Some good verses from Pusha T and Malice crippled by The Neptunes' minimal, one-trick pony synth beats. Listen to their We Got it For Cheap mixtapes from 2004 if you want to hear how much better it works with fuller, funkier production. Download "Niggas Know" or "Monopoly."
Here's the video for "Wamp Wamp (What It Do)" link
Hank Williams III – Straight to Hell (Bruc)
Hank III likes to sing about how much he drinks and smokes, how much Nashville sucks and how he's one of the real "outlaws" like Waylon and Merle. He did a little of this posturing on his debut album, which was great, but here it's pretty much all there is. Some metal magazines even put this in their top ten because they bought his badass shtick. Look, how often did Merle and Waylon sing about how tough they were and how real they were? They didn't have to, because everyone already knew it. So who are you trying to convince here, Hank?
Here's a live performance of the title track link
The Streets – The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living (Vice/Atlantic)
Is it possible that Mike Skinner has nothing insightful left to say about his country? Or ours? And if so, can't he at least make some good beats? Maybe he should take a break and try some acting - it's what all the American rappers do.
Here's the video for the album's best track, "Prangin' Out" link
The Gothic Archies – The Tragic Treasury: Songs from a Series of Unfortunate Events (Nonesuch)
Songs composed by Merritt for the Lemony Snickett audiobooks. Routine Merritt – clever lyrics, unusual instrumentation – but a minor addition to his catalog.
Here's a TV performance of "Smile" (this video also provides a nice illustration of the difference between a cool fag and an annoying one) link
PeterLicht – Lieder vom Ende des Kapitalismus
This German group is finally starting to get some of the attention it deserves (if only in Germany). Unfortunately their new album replaces most of their retro synths with chorusy guitars and they end up sounding like one of the British sissy bands, except with a sense of humor and maverick politics.
Here's the video for the album's best track, "Das absolute Glück" link
Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (Columbia)
The Boss oversings the hell out of some old Pete Seeger "classics." Possibly the worst album he's made. And why is he making covers albums anyway? Bruce is a much better songwriter than Pete Seeger ever was.
Here's a studio performance of "John Henry" link
The Killers – Sam's Town (Island)
Killers' vocalist Brandon Flowers has made a big deal of pointing out that the band was under the influence of Springsteen on this album, which I guess sounds cooler than saying that you were under the influence of The Strokes or under the influence of Down Syndrome. Somehow, though, they managed to write one fantastic song, the catchy single "When You Were Young."
Here's the mawkish video link
Joanna Newsom – Ys (Drag City)
Falling somewhere between a bloated art piece and a children's album, it's certainly a unique work. Ys was produced by Steve Albini with dramatic string arrangements by Van Dyke Parks, huge names for a sophomore album, but Newsom's playful, visual lyrics are the album's greatest asset. The trick is making it to the end of the song so you can hear all the lyrics.
Here's an interview with Joanna and clips of a live performance (only the first song is from Ys) link
Scott Walker – The Drift (4AD)
Here's how this one got 2 stars: 1) the first track, "Cossacks Are," is actually a song, and a pretty good one (one star), and 2) in one song he says "peepee-stained trousers" not once but twice (half a star for each time). It's a dark, disturbing, difficult album, especially since the mood isn't tempered by more dulcet moments (see the far superior Tilt for that).
Here's the abstract video for the spooky track "Jesse" link
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino)
I don't think they could've picked a more fitting title.
Here's the funny video for the mediocre song "Leave Before the Lights Come On" link
Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love)
It's painful to see someone straining for meaning and clever turns of phrase like this, especially when it ruins some otherwise decent music. Just a sample: "Cause institution's like a big bright lie / And it blinds you into fear and consuming and fight / And you've been in the desert underneath the charging sky / It's just you and God / But what if God's not there? / But his name is on your dollar bill / Which just became cab fare." Cringe. Sorry Jenny, but you don't have the voice or the pen for country music.
Here's the funny video for the best song on the album, "Rise Up with Fists!!" link
* (1 Star)
Sparks – Hello Young Lovers (In the Red)
Holy Hell. These guys are fucking retards. Honestly, I can't think of a more annoying album off the top of my head. Know what Mael spells if you rearrange the letters? LAME. Ha! Also MEAL. This album is like a meal of bad music.
Here's the video for the stupid song "Dick Around" link
IV. ObituariesHere are the obituaries.
V. Individual Lists (alphabetical by country)
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