Talking Music: Reflections & Recommendations by Admohr

Top ten albums of 2006, plus ten more, and three live ones

Posted in The Year's Best, Top Ten, Year Retrospective by admohr on December 20, 2012

In 2006-2008 I posted my year-end music reviews on Facebook. I’m moving them over here for the sake of completion in their original, unaltered state (despite the overwhelming temptation to omit some of the selections, or at least edit the endless and often ill-advised rambling).

I just finished the last of my major work that had to be finished this week, and my sleep world is completely out of balance thanks to a crash nap in the afternoon, so now seems as good of time as any to compile my take on the best albums of 2006. Onward and upward. Huzzah 06.

10. Damien Jurado – And Now That I’m In Your Shadow

Jurado writes in a style completely reminiscent of Nebraska or Tom Joad era Springsteen, focusing on tragedies of loss, abandonment, and death through his perspective. The writing is effectively simple, and the performance on this one throughout completely emphasizes the pain being expressed through each tragedy. Even when you think Damien is writing a love song to his lover who is on her way home, the song ends with the couplet:
“Your mother said that you called this morning,
Tell him I love him, but I am not returning.”

Must hear: “Shannon Rhodes”

9. Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye

When electronica is employed effectively, the result can have more of that “atmosphere” it factor than any other delivery, and the Junior Boys accomplish this very effectively on this one. The album is heavy from beginning to end and is exactly that type of sound when you want from a loud album to completely encapsulate a room when you just want engaging melody and hooks.

Must hear: “In the morning”

8. Howe Gelb – ‘Sno Angel Like You

Absolutely one of the most fun and unique releases of the year, Gelb orchestrates a choir over his raspy, bluesy delivery in a performance that somehow works perfectly. Its impossible not to smile when the choir rings in on “The Farm” and when they break out laughing at the end of “Get to leave” you can only imagine that this one was as fun to make as it is to listen to.

Must hear: “Howlin’ a gale”

7. Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies

Its hard to explain what exactly is perfect about the lyrics “She needs release, she needs to feel at peace with her father, The Fucking Maniac” but when you hear the guitar wails that immediately follow, it doesn’t really need to be explained. Bejar completely overwhelms the listener with his brilliance of composition throughout this entire album, which at its most effective, makes everything else ever written just seem too simple.

Must hear: “European Oils”

6. Parts & Labor – Stay Afraid

The beginning of a stretch of incredible rock records this year, Parts & Labor have one of the most intense, hyper sounds you’ll ever hear, with each track built on massive hooks. You’ll be banging your shit on anything you can hit when you listen to this one, and never has a sound ever been so perfectly appropriate with the description of “loud.” Perhaps the most impressive part of this is that they’re making all this distortion noise with just bass, keys, and drums.

Must hear: “Repair”

5. Mission of Burma – The Obliterati

A prominent part of the 80s post-punk scene, Mission of Burma deliver arguably the best rock performance of 2006. “2wice” is the highlight of a balls-out, straightforward rock performance that exposes everything else for being pussy rock. Over lyrics of “You go, I’ll follow – You Hide, I’ll fuck you up” is a sound that matches the words perfectly.

Must hear: “2wice”

4. Man Man – Six Demon Bag

Man Man’s sound is insane – as in certifiably insane. Every track features the screaming of nonsense lyrics (“Mustache mustache mustache mustache mustache mustache”) over horns and chords that sound completely chaotic yet absolutely engaging. But there’s something pretty brilliant going on in the chaos as “Push the eagle’s stomach” turns into “Spider Cider” and as the second half of the album evolves into a whole that sounds incredibly cohesive. Its hard to explain how this album works as well as it does, but the collection of perfect individual moments turns into a brilliant overture during every single track, and the moment that “clicks,” there’s just no questioning that this is one of the most impressive (collection of) sounds of the year.

Must hear: “Tunneling through the guy”

3. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America

The band that wrote the best concept album a bar band could ever possibly deliver, came back with an album that makes you feel like you’re rediscovering rock all over again. This time Finn preaches more, sings more, smiles more, and makes everyone feel that Holly’s resurrection, comeback story told in Separation Sunday isn’t really all that different from your life at all. There are stories and images captured better than this band could ever dream of doing (“Walked across that Grain Belt bridge in a brand new Minneapolis”), but this album is completely about the moments. The guitar wails after “We drink and we dry up and then we crumble into dust.” The progression of the last chord of “Party Pit” to the first hit of “You can make him like you” where you’re still singing “Gonna walk around and drink some more.” Above all, the progression of “First Night,” when the steel guitar comes in and you realize that this is in no way the same band that seemed so simple a year ago. “Stuck Between the stations” is THE song of the year, and Finn & Co. have written performed a rock record that is more Springsteen & The E Street than anything those guys have done since The River. The can’t miss album of ’06.

Must hear: “Stuck between the stations”

2. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain

TV on the Radio is a band that has become synonymous with pushing the rock genre and sound beyond limits in the same vein as Radiohead – but Return to Cookie Mountain is simply a masterpiece of an album, and its transcending strength will be in the strength of the songwriting from beginning to end in this one. Its impossible to not be on board with this sound when the guitars and bombs come ringing back in towards the end of “Wolf Like Me.” Bass and rhythm is employed perfectly in “I was a lover” and the whole has atmosphere that brings even its weakest tracks as a crucial part of the picture. The album somehow gets stronger with attention and with time – and after a year of blasting this one loud, its only getting stronger. A strong case for the most impressive album of the year.

Must hear: “Wolf Like Me”

1. Asobi Seksu – Citrus

The thing about a noise album is that when its really done perfectly, no other albums, genres, or sounds can ever come close to ever taking your attention away. My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Ride’s Nowhere, The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Darklands are all examples of this perfection of the power of noise, the ultimate overwhelming of shoegaze, and Citrus is exactly that type of record. Its hard to say what moments exactly are the ones that completely capture the listener – the second the noise hits at the halfway mark of “Lions and Tigers,” the moment the sky just seemingly explodes during “Exotic Animal Paradise” or just the ringing of the vocals raining on “New Years” but this album does it over and over again, and stands without any doubt as the strongest, most impressive album I’ve heard all year.

Must hear: “Lions and Tigers”

————————————————–
Ten more: no real order:

Josh Ritter – The Animal Years
“we need faith for the same reasons that its so hard to find”
Must hear: “Thin Blue Flame”

Joanna Newsom – Ys
Ashley Queen be damned, this truly is a performance that is overwhelmingly impressive.
Must hear: “Sawdust & Diamonds”

Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
The strongest, most complete effort Neko has had to date with the Sadies providing some of the best country rock of the year.
Must hear: “Hold on, Hold on”

Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of this Country
It may sound like worthless dream-pop, but this album is closer to Blood on the Tracks than it is anything Belle & Sebastian.
Must hear: “Tears for Affairs”

Bonnie “Prince” Billy – The Letting Go
Amongst the strongest in Bonnie Prince’s catalog, the strongest moments of this one are the best acoustic moments of the year.
Must hear: “Lay and Love”

The Black Keys – Chulahoma: The songs of Junior Kimbrough
Thick, sweaty, perfect blues rock that is truly amongst this band’s strongest work. Way better than Magic Potion, too.
Must hear: “Work Me”

Human Television – Look at who you’re talking to
Closer to Oh, Inverted World than the leaked Shins album sounds like (a good thing).
Must hear: “Tonight’s the night”

Working for a Nuclear Free City – s/t
Easily reminiscent of the Stone Roses and some of the best compositions heard all year
Must hear: “The Tape”

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness – Fear is on our side
Band name aside, incredibly strong effort that builds on the performances of Joy Division and Interpol.
Must hear: “If it was me”

Yo La Tengo – I’m Not Afraid Of You And I will Beat Your Ass
The bookend tracks of this one are brilliant. And so its the title, obv.
Must hear: “Pass the hatchet, I Think I’m Good Kind”

——————
3 Live ones:

3. My Morning Jacket – Okonokos
A strong rock band whose strength is in its performance. I’d write more but the other two are much better.
Must hear: “Run Thru”

2. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Live at the Fillmore East 1970
The best performance of Neil Young I’ve heard to date, and the “Cowgirl in the Sand” might be the best thing released all year.
Must hear: “Cowgirl in the Sand”

1. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Hammersmith Odeon ’75
Its the best live performer in the world, in the absolute pinnacle of his career. Just released Born to Run, the band was in England with something to prove, and they haven’t had to prove anything since. Springsteen says in the notes for this one that he challenges any band in the world to play a set so demanding. The show somehow encapsulates the brilliance of every facet of Springsteen’s writing, his performance, and his presence. Its perfect.
Must hear: “Spirit in the Night”

Comment Addendum 1/5/07

2006 Top Ten + more list, 2007 Supplement:
—————————————————–

Horse Feathers – Words are Dead
The strings and banjo throughout this one create one of the more soothing, reflective albums of the (last) year, in an album that is just perfect at night and certainly perfect for a late-evening drive up a mountain. The strength of the album is most certainly in the whole of all the compositions, and this album is one of the most relaxing ways to pass an hour.
Must hear: “In Our Blood”

Peter Bjorn & John – Writer’s Block
Pop-album perfection. So many brilliant songs on an album that starts off with a bang on “Objects of my affection” and somehow picks up even more steam on the whistling and choral hook of “Young Folks.” The power of this album stems from not only how good so many of the tracks make you feel, but also from the ability of the entire thing in being so instantly accessible.
Must hear: “Objects of My Affection”

Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
Awash in instrumentation and orchestration is a world-sounding album that is both fun and impressive. The album opens with a formidable magnitude of sound that overwhelms the listener, though tracks “Postcards from Italy” and “Scenic World” give this album the depth in atmosphere and emotion that ultimately make Gulag Orkestar an album that is worth coming back to.
Must hear: “The Gulag Orkestar”

Boris – Pink
An album flying underneath the ’06 release-radar due to being a late ’05 release (in Japan, nonetheless), Boris delivers an insane amount of power and noise throughout Pink that just destroys the listener. Shit slays and destroys and has an incredible depth of sound and style that I’m honestly only scratching the surface of even after repeated listens.
Must hear: “Pink”

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