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.

Highlights:
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.

Highlights:
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.

Highlights:
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?

Highlights:
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.

Highlights:
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.

Highlights:
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.

Highlights:
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.

Highlights:
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)

Highlights:
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!

Highlights:
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]

8 comments:

Jeanette said...

Looks like a good list! I am - seriously and pathetically - out of the loop on new music since I met Jeff - not for lack of a collection (we have almost 1000 cd's between the two of us, including almost every thing Frank Black/Black Francis has ever laid his chubby hands on) but doing the wedding/ buying a house / moving / quitting my job / getting down to Olympia versus the Music Mecca that is Seattle left me bereft of opportunity and time and energy to keep up. I think the only two new albums I really remember listening to in the last twelve months were the new Pigeon John (Summertime Pool Party) and the new Divine Comedy (Victory for the Comic Muse)... I like Sufjan a lot, and Flaming Lips. Should check those two out.

Davin said...

I assume the only reason Wovenhand's Mosaic didn't make the list is because you haven't heard it yet.

Great list man. There is a little hope for Rock and Roll yet.

J.R. said...

Jeanette, you could live inside a music proof buble for 5 years and still come out with more indie coolness then I will ever have.

Davin, I have not heard Wovenhands new one, I like them though. Sounds like I need to check it out.

jennylou said...

I love Necco Wafer! :) The Danielson is killing me though, babe. Seriously....NO MORE DANIELSON! He sounds like one of the Chipmunks. Thankfully Sufjan and the Decemberists get enough play time to make up the difference.

j andrew taylor said...

I need to revisit that Danielson album. The live show was great, but the disc got neglected in the Taylor home.

Great list, Sir.

Jennifer said...

Yay for Danielson! I loved the album from the beginning, but after I saw them live it just went to another level. I really want to see the documentary about them. Hopefully it'll come out on DVD this year because I don't think it'll play at any theaters here.
~Jen from the Balcony

Kenneth said...

your list has been added to my list of lists.

Bec said...

J.R.-

Becca (Bartlow) Henrickson here. I truly look forward to your Top Albums post each year (well, last years and this years). Since I am so totally out of the loop on music, you help me connect in. I put each one on hold at the library and test them all out. You have thankfully expanded my horizons. Keep up the good work:)