Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Top 20 Albums of 2006 - Part II (10-1)

If you haven't already, check out Part I (20-11) of the list.

10. mewithoutYou – Brother, Sister

This could be one of the "hardest" albums to make one of my top ten lists ever, but there is good reason it's here. This album is a dark, introspective journey of doubt, struggle, surrender, and faith. Aaron Weiss' beautiful disturbed vocal styling fit the musical atmosphere and lyrical content perfectly. Driving guitars, heavy percussion, Weiss' screaming vocals accompanied by harp and accordion blend wonderfully to paint a landscape that is both dark and full of hope.

3. Wolf Am I! (and Shadow)
6. Nice and Blue (Pt. 2)
11. O, Porcupine
13. In a Sweater Poorly Knit

[check them out]

9. The Flaming Lips - At War With the Mystics

After two brilliantly artistic concept albums (The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots) The Flaming Lips have returned to a more guitar driven, psychedelic funk with At War... Content wise, it seems they are growing up a bit, moving from stories of scientists and robot warfare to explore more political subjects such as war, terrorism, and even pop-stardom. But don't fret, they don't take themselves too seriously, they are still The Flaming Lips, still whimsical, ironic, and just good fun indie pop-rock.Overall though, it's not as great as The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi.

1. Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
3. The Sound of Failure/It's Dark... Is It Always This Dark?
8. Mr. Ambulance Driver
10. The W.A.N.D.

[check them out]

8. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

This is my first experience with Neko Case other then a few New Pornographers tracks a friend gave me a few years ago, and I am sure glad I didn't miss this one. Neko and her band make me think of what it would be like if Wilco fired Jeff Tweedy and hire Loretta Lynne to replace him. All I heard anyone talk about was her amazing voice, some people have even labeled her the voice, but personally, it wasn't her voice that captured my attention the most on this album. The songwriting and the band stole the show in my opinion. Her voice is beautiful and hunting, but not overly powerful in my opinion. However, every track on this album is exceptionally well crafted.

1. Margaret vs. Pauline
7. John Saw That Number
10. Maybe Sparrow
12. The Needle Has Landed

[check her out]

7. Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche

I have become a huge Sufjan Stevens fan over the last couple years. Last years Illinois was my album of the year. What I didn't know at the time was that Illinois was originally going to be a double album. The Avalanche is what was left over from the Illinois sessions. But don't dare write this off as a b-sides collection. This is, in and of itself, an amazing album. If it weren't for the 3 separate versions of "Chicago" (the original on Illinois is possibly my favorite song right now) you would never even know this is an album of outtakes. Sufjan proves once again that he may be one of the best songwriters of this generation. Who else can make a beautifully poetic and deeply touching song about his friend Bobby getting a shad fly caught in his hair?

1. The Avalanche
6. The Henney Buggy Band
14. No Man's Land
17. The Perpetual Self, or "What Would Saul Alinsky Do?"

[check him out]

6. Indigo Girls - Despite Our Differences

The Indigo Girls always know exactly how to say what is on their minds and make it sound so beautiful and so powerful, this album is no exception. We find the girls at their most Dylan-esqu in years on this one, the opening track could have been penned by Bob himself [lyrics], well, maybe if he died and came back as a woman's rights activist. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers song writing abilities are as great as ever. In a way ...Differences is a return to their earlier sound, but without sacrificing the guitar driven rock edge they have picked up along the way. There is even an unexpected appearance from P!nk (I think you are required to say it with the explanation mark) of all people.

1. Pendulum Swinger
2. Little Perennials
4. Three Country Highway
12. They Won't Have Me

[check them out]

5. Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther

I was just introduced to this band last month and in that short time it has warmed it's way into my heart and more importantly, my top 10. ...Occupanther is full of lush, melodic songs and beautiful multi-part harmonies that bring to mind 70's era Fleetwood Mac mixed with a little The Shins. Tim Smith is an extremely gifted song writer and I am excited to see what the future holds for the 5 part band from Texas.

1. Roscoe
4. Van Occupanther
5. Young Bride
9. It Covers the Hillside

[check them out]

4. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain

If you haven't already figured it out, there are few things in music that get me as excited as creativity or originality. Return to Cookie Mountain is like nothing I can think of that I have heard before, maybe an super-urban Bowie or something but not really. I don't even know how to describe it. Rolling Stone said "The disc might be the most oddly beautiful, psychedelic and ambitious of the year...Consider your mind blown." I think I have to agree, and my mind is officially blown. It's a odd, beautiful, funky, hip-hop, avant-garde, abstract, poetic, jazzy, experimental piece of art for your ear. Just give it a try, I don't know what else to say.

2. Hours
3. Province
5. Wolf Like Me
11. Wash the Day Away

[check them out]

3. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife

Over the last few months no band has gotten as much play time from me as The Decemberists. Colin Meloy is brilliant when it comes to singing a folktale and he is in top form here. There are two separate stories woven through the tracks of this album, one is an old Japanese tale (The Crane Wife). The other is based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. These elements (which some call "Lit-Rock") are classic Decemerists, but this album shows they can do much more. In "Perfect Crime #2" they show they know how to bring the rock with an up-beat riff filled groove number. Followed directly by "When the War Came" a hard, guitar driven rocker. I am starting to believe that well of talent that is The Decemberists may be bottomless. And if you like this you should also checkout their masterpiece Picaresque.

1. The Crane Wife 3
2. The Island, Come And See, The Landlord's Daughter, You'll Not Feel The Drowning
4. O Valencia
5. The Perfect Crime #2

[check them out]

2. Starlight Mints - Drowaton

I had an opportunity to see the Starlight Mints earlier this year while they where touring for this album, wow, what a show! Anyways, about the album, the word that best describes this one is fun. From the classic 60's pop beats to the quirky lyrics, to the romping beats, and the driving guitars this album is all about fun. You can not listen to this without at least tapping your foot, but more likely flailing your arms around your car as if your steering wheel where some sort of drum set, or maybe that's just me... It seems there is a common mis-conception (and I apologize for any part I may have played in spreading it) that good music must be serious, or deep, or depressing. It's actually not true! It really can be fun! And that leads me perfectly into my next album.... (drum role please)

1. Pumpkin
3. Inside of Me
8. The Eyes of the Night
10. The Bee

[check them out]

...and now, the number 1 album of 20006.... (I never said you could stop the drum roll!)

1. Danielson - Ships

Danielson (Dan Smith, Brother Danielson, The Danielson Famile, whatever he is calling himself) has been around a while, making great, extremely creative music, but this... this is something completely amazing! I can guarantee you will either love this album or hate it, there is not much in between with Danielson, the things that make this album stand out are the same things many people will not be able to handle. For those who can handle it you will find a brilliantly creative piece of art, intelligent yet quirky lyrics, dark themes, bright sounds, and an album that just plain rocks. At times the songs build to a level where you just can't understand how it can get much bigger, then Dan and a cast of his 20-something closest friends (including Sufjan Stevens, all the members of the various Danielson Famile efforts, and many others) bump it up another notch, beyond the limits of what should be contained to a plastic disc.. LET IT OUT!

1. Ship The Majestic Suffix
2. Cast It At The Setting Sail
3. Bloodbook On The Half Shell
4. Did I Step On Your Trumpet?
9. Time That Bald Sexton

[check them out]

Saturday, January 06, 2007

My Top Ten (or 20) Albums of 2006 - Part 1 (20-11):

What an amazing year for music, I had to do 20. This year I will be counting down backwards (oh the drama!), starting with 20-11. The top ten will be posted shortly with more detailed reviews and album art, stay tuned! I will also include links to their myspace pages so you can sample some tunes.

20. The Stills - Without Feathers

This album probably would have been better if I had not alreay owned their previous effort Logic Will Break Your Heart. With this album The Still re-envented themselves, the results where not as good. It's still good, but get Logic... first.

[check them out]

19. The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldier

Just good ol' rock and roll from Jack White, Brendan Benson, and two thirds of The Greenhornes. It's a superband that actaully spent some effort writing their songs and assembling their album.

[check them out]

18. Matisyahu – Youth

A Hasidic Jew, hip-hop, reggae artist ... How can you go wrong? Seriously, it's good... Maybe you just have to listen to beleive...

[check him out]

17. Snowden – Anti-Anti

I have a love and hate relationship with this album. I love it because of it's hypnotic guitar, powerful rythems, and the brilliant combination of that slick 80's new wave feel and the grungyness of post-punk. I hate it because it may have ruined Interpol for me.

[check them out]

16. Ben Harper - Both Sides of the Gun

This is a two disc album, disc one is an personal, emotional, acoustic ballad record. Disc two is a political, passionat funk-rock record. A wonderful display of both sides of Ben Harper.

[check him out]

15. Half-Handed Cloud - Halos + Lassos

Wimsical synth-pop music; chipper, falseto, and delightfully off-key vocals; 19 short songs; and two of my favorite things, theology and sarcasim; all this makes for one great album.

[check him out]

14. Thom Yorke - The Eraser

While it isn't the overal mind blowing, eye-opening experience a new Radiohead album is, it is still a wonderful journey through a beautiful soundscape. If you find Radiohead unaccessable, you might enjoy Thom's solo album. It's easier to listen to and easier to understand, but not as interesting.

[check him out]

12. Ani DiFranco – Reprive

combines a strong sense of politcal and social justic with a creative brand of "folk" rock that only she can bring. Her passionate vocals make you believe she really could change the world. Reprive is no difrent on that reguard, but she has also turned a little more introspective with this one, and is even using some electric insturmentation!

[check her out]

12. Beck – The Information
is a creative genious, and this album may be his best. It seems he has taken everything he learned from Sea Change and Guero and melded them into something completely new. It's folky, psycadelic, electronic, and minimalistic all at the same time. Even the cd packaging screams post-modern. It comes with a blank cd booklet (with only Beck's name on it) and four sheets of stickers so you can design your own.

[check him out]

11. The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea

The Essex Green
pull off a 60's acoustic pop-rock in a way that sounds completly new, completly original, and still so familiar. The fun lyrics and the pleasant vocals of both Chris Ziter and Sasha Bell make this one of the most enjoyable listens if the year. To fully experience this one buy it, pop it in your car, and go for a drive.

[check them out]