Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Favorite Albums of 2006

I know, I know - nobody cares what I listened to this year. But since I spend so much time cranking out these posts, I beg your indulgence. It helps me think back through the year and reminisce about simpler times... like, two months ago.

As I said when I did this last year, I am obviously not a professional reviewer, nor would I ever purport to tell you what the "best" CDs are. I just had to buy a new expensive set of prosthetic eyebrows, so I don't have a lot of extra cash to spend on music. But I can tell you what CDs I enjoyed this year, which I will do right now. And I'm not going to waste any more time, so I'll just get right to it. So without further ado, here they are. My favorite CDs of 2006 are listed below, for your consideration. I'm going to tell you all about them without further delay. Here they are:

1. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - The Letting Go

As opposed to last year, when I knew the entire year which CD I was going to list as my favorite, this one kind of snuck up on me. But whenever there was a lull and I needed a "go-to" album to listen to, this was always number one on the list. A quiet, lush album from an enigmatic singer, The Letting Go makes you feel like you're on your front porch in the middle of summer watching the world go by. I'm a sucker for acoustic guitar buttressed with soaring strings, and this album delivers in spades. As Kermit the Frog once said, "It's like an ocean cruise, except there's no boat and you don't actually go anywhere."

Read a good Badger Herald review here, and check out the video for "Cursed Sleep" here.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy MySpace Page

2. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Ah, Neko. I couldn't pry this one out of my iPod all year. She has almost too much talent for one person. I'm actually shocked she hasn't made the transition from Indie Queen to soccer mom favorite (a la Natalie Merchant). She deserves a lot bigger fan base than just lovelorn messy haired indie guys with horn-rimmed glasses.

Sadly, she has failed to reply to any of the 48 hand written letters I sent her this year. My next one might do the trick - it's a crayon drawing of me and Neko riding a llama together. 100% chance I get a response, althout there's a 99% chance it's from the FBI.

Check out a live performance of "Maybe Sparrow" here.

Neko Case MySpace Page

3. Jim Noir - Tower of Love

Ridiculously catchy - instantly likeable, and humanly impossible not to know the words and sing along by the third listen. It sounds as if the Beach Boys were making music today and using electronic loops and samples, but still has a folky, organic feel. Plus, the video for "My Patch" features Noir fighting a giant chicken - how does it get better than that?

Jim Noir MySpace Page

4. M. Ward - Post War

From The Onion AV Club Review:

M. Ward easily overcomes the inherent limitations of the "guy with guitar" genre by virtue of his dusty, vintage style, marked by deep echo, cracked vocals, and a guitar that sounds like it blew in on an island breeze. And with each new album, Ward has gotten better at writing to suit the presentation. His latest record, Post-War, is full of songs that evoke sea chanteys, campfire songs, carny barkers, and varsity rags—whatever sounds charmingly out-of-date.

Watch the video for "Chinese Translation" here.

M. Ward MySpace Page

5. Horse Feathers - Words Are Dead

A virtually anonymous band with a terrible name from Portland that a friend turned me on to. Should attract fans of Iron and Wine, as there's a similar acoustic/violin base and breathy vocal delivery. Definitely check out "Finch on Saturday" on their MySpace site.

6. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

An epic album that ricochets from style to style, with each genre working equally as well. Reminiscent of the White Album in that regard. I'm old.

Yo La Tengo MySpace Page

7. Wolfmother

A total rip-off of '70s bands like Zeppelin and Sabbath, but wonderfully so. If you're looking for a hard rock album with foot-stomping hooks, this is the album for you. If not, I would suggest a chocolate malt from Michael's Frozen Custard - they're delicious.

Contains a lyric that I originally thought was "we drank from the serpent's mind," which would have made it the awesomest lyric of the year. Unfortunately, it's something else more normal. If I ever record an album, all my lyrics are going to be what I think other singers are saying in their lyrics - since I'm always wrong, but my misinterpretations are generally amusing. Anyway.

Check out the video for "Woman" here.

Wolfmother MySpace Page

8. Nina Nastasia - On Leaving

A friend of mine described this as "coffee house chick music," and he's absolutely right. Sounds like something you could hear at an open mic night anywhere downtown. But the songs are really strong, most notably "Our Day Out," which details a day of skipping work, wandering around, and generally wondering what happened to your life. Or something like that. Roast Beef gave me this one, which means he's obviously getting in touch with his feminine side - good job, Beef.

Chiggity check out a live performance of "Bird of Cuzco" here.

Nina Nastasia MySpace Page

9. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

An example of a band that receives a ridiculous amount of praise from hyperventilating critics when their album comes out, then suffers from the criticism from the inevitable backlash. In the end, this album is what it is - a really good rock record, not the cure for cancer. Everyone already knows that ground up beaver eyelids cure cancer anway. Duh.

Arctic Monkeys MySpace Page

10. Dieselboy - The Human Resource

I'm not exactly a big drum and bass guy, but this double album is an exceptional technical achievement. Flies by at breakneck speed, and keeps the listener interested, unlike most of the more repetitive electronic music. Listening to the whole thing at once will numb your brain, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I imagine it would sound a lot better if you used something to self-numb your brain before listening. Should be listened to at 11 on your volume dial.

Dieselboy MySpace Page

Here are some more that missed the cut, but are worth checking out:

The Roots - Game Theory
Eef Barzelay – Bitter Honey
Belle and Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
The Eraser – Thom Yorke
Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped
Built to Spill – You in Reverse
Rainer Maria - Catastrophe Keeps Us Together (albeit a homer pick)
And, it kills me to say it - Jim Doyle's Favorite CD

Also, another couple of special awards: Smoking Popes issued a live CD (complete with DVD included) of a reunion show at the Metro in Chicago. Definitely worth picking up. Also, The Mooney Suzuki re-issued their Maximum Black EP from a 1999, and it has a couple of monster songs that will blow out your speakers (That's a good thing, for my older readers).