December 19, 2006
2006 is coming to a close and it’s been a very good year for this blog. I’ve listened to countless hours of music and seen dozens of live shows and I’ve stayed up till 2 am discussing music on message boards and reading the comments on Stereogum. After all that I’ve come up with a list of my 25 favorite albums. Make sure to leave a comment if you appreciate the list or have your own favorite albums to add. (I’ll add more MP3′s later today)
25. Phoenix – It’s Never Been Like That
These frenchmen are a very late addition to the list but this is by far the best disco punk / dance rock album that I’ve heard all year. “Consolation Prizes” is an amazing catchy song.
24. Josh Ritter – The Animal Years
This album will probably be remembered most for the song “Thin Blue Flame” which is incredibly epic folk-protest tune but preceding that song on the album there are a number of beautiful folk tunes like “Girl in the War” and “Lillian, Egypt” that make the album as a whole just as memorable.
MP3 Girl in the War
23. Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of This Country
I was either going to include this or the Pipettes as my retro sounding pop record and I ended up liking this one better (although nothing on it compares to Pull Shapes). “Lloyd I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken” is wonderfully awesome opening song and the album doesn’t let up.
22. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
I didn’t think I would like this album, but after hearing the opening to “Stuck Between Stations”, I knew I couldn’t resist. Although most of the emphasis gets put on the power chords and lyrics, I think the piano arrangements are my favorite part of the record.
21. Silversun Pickups – Carnavas
This is a very dividing album for many. Some people love it and some can’t stand it. I’m in the love it category. It has some of the best sonic textures on an album this year (oh, and it has Lazy Eye). I’m also pretty sure this band is the next big thing, just sayin…
MP3 Lazy Eye
20. Sufjan Stevens – The Avalanche
I was wondering if I should consider this for my top albums list since it’s really a bunch of outtakes that don’t necessarily flow that well as an album. After listening a few times this week though, I decided that since many of the songs stand with Sufjan’s best ( e.g. Pittsfield, Henny Buggy Band, Adlai Stevenson) it deserves a place.
19. Joanna Newsom – Ys
I love “Sawdust and Diamonds” and “Cosmia” on this album but haven’t gotten into the rest nearly as much. Even so, there’s no denying the uniqueness and importance of Ys.
18. The Format – Dog Problems
This is was my summer album; great for blasting in the car and singing loud. Guilty pleasure as it may be, “She Doesn’t Get It” is as catchy as anything I’ve heard and “Dog Problems” is one of the best songs of ’06.
MP3 Dog Problems
17. Hot Chip – The Warning
The Warning is probably the best dance album of the year. It reminds me at times of both The Postal Service and New Order, which are two of my favorite electronica acts and Hot Chip creates something that sounds familiar yet innovative. “Over and Over” and “Boy From School” are both killer tracks that I’ve actually played over and over, and often at school.
MP3 Over and Over
16. Sleeping At Last – Keep No Score
Probably the best album of the year that no one’s heard of. Everything about Keep No Score is stunning, from the album art to amazing strings arrangements that are on almost every track. “Quicksand” is hauntingly gorgeous tune, “Careful Hands” is epic in a way that Coldplay wishes they could be and “Umbrellas” is perhaps the most honest and heartfelt love song of the year.
MP3 Careful Hands
15. The Mountain Goats – Get Lonely
This album can pretty much be defined by the moment in the title track when sings “and I will get lonely / and grasp for air” as the strings swell up. It’s so heartbreaking and real, as is the rest of the “Get Lonely”. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully digest this album, there’s so much thought put into every moment.
MP3 Woke Up New
14. Islands – Return to Sea
It’s a combination of amazing pop sounds and some really off the wall moments (steel drums, hip hop breakdowns, funny sounding synthesizers, recorders), but it works together in a way that’s completely exhilarating and listenable. “Swans (Life After Death)” is everything I like about the band in a song and it’s one that I’ve listened and relistened.
13. Anathallo – Floating World
Floating World was one of the only albums that I heard this year where I knew right away that it’d be a year-end lister. There’s so many moments interspersed across the album that I thought my ears were going to explode because so much sound was going in. (I remember rewinding some parts over and over just to understand what was going on to create that sound). I think Floating World was one of the most ambitious and epic projects of the year and I’m happy to join in the cult-like group of Anathallo fans.
12. Shearwater – Palo Santo
Johnathon Meinsburg gives hands down the best vocal performance I’ve heard both on record and live in 2006. There’s something otherworldy about the whole album that I can’t put my finger on but I think everyone’s who’s fully absorbed “Palo Santo” can say they’ve felt something magical.
11. Midlake – The Trials of the Van Occupanther
The Trials of Van Occupanther is a great example of getting better and better on each listen. At first, It seems so pleasant and organic like it wasn’t created it was just always there. After multiple listens you almost feel haunted by the sounds found throughout the album. Through pulling back the layers of the album I’ve discovered how amazing moments like the stringed opening to “Young Bride”, the piano interlude of “Roscoe”, and the weird horns in “We Gathered in Spring” really are.
10. Headlights – Kill Them With Kindness
Yes, I realize I might be biased since this band lives 20 minutes away from me and are incredibly friendly to me everytime I’ve met them, but seriously, I’ve never heard a better indie pop/shoegaze mixture out there. Add that with amazing guy/girl vocals and a variety of sounds at their disposal (including retro 80′s style power-pop riffs, layers of organs and syths, and accordian solos). Their reverb heavy sound ties everything they do together in a way that’s so perfect you can’t help but smiling. “TV” and “Put Us Back Together” are pop songs but they pack a huge punch.
9. Jeremy Enigk – World Waits
I think that although my favorite of his music will probably always be his work with Sunny Day Real Estate, Enigk has done some great things with this album. Songs like “Been Here Before”, “Cannons” and “Burn” have so much emotion poured through them and the vocal performance on the album is at times nothing short of awe-inspiring.
MP3 Been Here Before
8. Destroyer – Rubies
If someone asked me to define Indie Rock in an album this certainly would be nearing the top of the list of albums I’d give them. It really delivers a very full listening experience, whether you want to just enjoy float along to the melodies or examine closely the brilliance of Bejar’s lyrics. One of the most richly satisfying albums you’ll hear in 2006.
MP3 European Oils
7. Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I Am Dreaming
When I first heard this album I decided it was good enough but brushed it off for the most part but as I listened more the melodies started getting stuck in my head in a big way, and I started to really appreciate the chaotic yet beautiful nature of Shut Up I Am Dreaming. I imagine the album as a sort-of window into the mind of Spencer Krug and the results of it are both frightening and captivating.
6. Danielson – Ships
Ships is such an exciting and eccentric album, I can hardly believe how overlooked it’s been over the course of the year. Daniel Smith really has constructed a masterpiece and he deserves some frickin’ recognition! There are so many ideas and influences packed into this album for you to feast your ears on, but everything comes together so well in the end that it’s hard to imagine a better possible album to come out of this band. As a side note, “Bloodbook on the Half Shell” is the greatest song about getting books at a library ever made.
5. Beirut – Gulag Orkestrar
I imagine Zach Condon to be a Mac user if only because he adhere’s to Apple’s companies goal of “Think Different” better than most artists twice his age. Teenagers make punk/emo albums, they don’t create an album full of beautiful Balkan Brass sounds with ukeleles, trumpets, and accordians. Using these influences as well as an emphasis on songwriting and instrumentation, Condon has mad an irrefutably great album (including one song that should be considered a classic – Postcards of Italy). By itself, the album is an incredible but seeing it in a live context gave the songs a wild and boisterous quality that I won’t forget.
4. Mates of State – Bring It Back
Mates of State has developed quite a following in their musical career but it seems like every album and song that they made has lead up to “Bring It Back” and I’m excited to see them try to top it on their next album. The songs still have that dancey fell and their is still the undeniable cuteness but they seem to have mastered song structure on this album, creating some of the most perfect pop music I’ve ever heard. The album is full of highlights and “Like U Crazy” and “Nature and a Wreck” both have gorgeous piano arrangements, “For the Actor” and “Punchlines” delivers in the fast-paced can’-help-but-dance category, but it’s “Beautiful Dreamer” that compiles everything there is to like about the band into one of the most accomplished pop songs of the year.
3. Band of Horses – Everything All The Time
There’s not much to say about Band of Horses that hasn’t already been said, but the fact that they’ve been one of the most talked about and most buzzed new bands of 2006 among critics and music fans is a testament to the feat that they’ve accomplished. For one, they made the best song of the year – “The Funeral” (see list) but they also put together an album that keeps consistent with the quality of the track. “The Great Salt Lake” is a powerful reverb-soaked song and “St. Augustine” is one of if not the best acoustic song of the year. I think this quite easily is the best debut album of the year.
MP3 The Funeral
2. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
Just when you think there’s no room for improvement, The Decemberists go and make another album that exceeds everything they’ve done before. The greatness of this album hit me at about 7:25 during “The Island”, then it hit me again during the sweet warm harmonies of “Yankee Bayonet”, but it saved it’s biggest punch for the first build-up during “The Crane Wife 1 & 2.” Truth be told, there’s a number of more moments on the album that are just as praiseworthy and the song “O Valencia” shouldn’t be forgotten since it’s probably the best first single the band has put out. I’ve listened to this album as much as any this year and it still excites me and begs for me to listen more. I can’t wait what this band has up their sleeve next, but I know it will probably be better than anything before.
1. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
We’ve finally come to the finish line and the only album that’s left or that really matters is The Life Pursuit by Belle & Sebastian. I’m just as surprised as you that this twee pop band that we thought had peeked in mid-90′s have made the best album of their career and of 2006, but it’s true. While other albums this year have been great, there no other album where I’m in love with every single song. Luckly though, the album works not only as one of the best collection of singles I’ve ever heard, but listening to song after song packs an incredible punch of irresistible melodies and lyrical genius. Through all the hook-laden goodness of the more upbeat tracks though, my favorite song remains the mellowed-down track “Dress Up in You” which is easily my favorite ballad of the year. It’s been mentioned before on other sites of Belle & Sebastian’s quest to write the perfect pop song, and I think with this release they’ve written an album full of them. I could go through what I like about every song but that would get tiresome so I’ll just say that if anyone asks me what I consider the “perfect pop album”, I would point directly the Scottish boys and girls of the band Belle & Sebastian and their greatest album, The Life Pursuit.
Just missed the Top 25:
The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes
Asobi Seksu – Citrus
Daylight’s for the Birds – Trouble Everywhere
Snowden – Anti-Anti
Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s – The Dust of the Retreat
Albums that I need more time with:
Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
The Knife – Silent Shout
Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
Califone – Roots & Crowns
M. Ward – Post-War
Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
Albums that just aren’t my thing:
TV on the Radio – Return from Cookie Mountain
Liars – Drum’s Not Dead
The Thermals – The Body, The Blood, The Machine
Thanks for reading and listening! Have a great Christmas and New Year!
Tags: Anathallo, Band of Horses, Beirut, Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Danielson, Destroyer, Headlights, Hot Chip, Islands, Jeremy Enigk, Joanna Newsom, Josh Ritter, Mates of State, Midlake, Phoenix, Shearwater, Silversun Pickups, Sleeping At Last, Sufjan Stevens, Sunset Rubdown, The Decemberists, The Format, The Hold Steady, The Mountain Goats