Looking back at the music of 2006 is a bit disappointing compared to 2005 and 2004. I can more easily think of the bands I discovered in earnest in 2005 than this past year, including Amsterdam, Stars, The Subways, Hal, Of Montreal, Sufjan Stevens, and Spoon, to name but a few. Not to mention Paul Weller’s best solo album in ages. Without a doubt, Amsterdam will forever represent 2005; a band that immediately joined The Jam, James (read the exciting news!!), The Connells, and others as one of my all-time favorites. Hell, I flew to London to see Amsterdam at the Borderline and I have the ticket stub prominently displayed in my home office.
So, the point is, that putting together the proverbial “best of” for 2006 is problematic. It’s also questionable in quality because reading the year in review posts by Jason and Dave helped further bring home the fact of how much wonderful music I simply missed. I miss it every year, but 2006 might be more egregious than usual. I respect Jason and Dave’s taste in music more than any people I know and I haven’t heard most of the music on their lists aside from a couple of songs. Many of my musical purchases in 2006 were from also from old favorites: Robyn Hitchcock, Grant-Lee Phillips, and Johan–not kids with new sounds.
I’ll depart from the preface and get to my picks in just a moment, if you’re actually still reading. All of this is not to suggest that I didn’t enjoy some great albums this past year, so I hope you enjoy my musings. I’ll also depart from the MiS style manual, and most popular music writing parlance, and start with my top album. This ain’t no f-ing countdown. However, due note that I’m posting my review in three parts this week: my top 5 (1/29), the remaining 5 with honorable mentions (1/31), and my mix CD of 2006 (2/2). After all, since we’re supposedly on the cusp of the downfall of the album, shouldn’t we be ranking singles? I don’t like that or believe it, but that’s the argument…
1. Neil Young: Living with War (Reprise)
This was perhaps my easiest choice, despite it being for a complex set of reasons I cannot fully explain. While my choice is certainly about living with war (and how numb we all seem to have become), I’m actually not typically a huge fan of such overt political statements. While it doesn’t get much more overt than Young here, I find the quality of the music coupled with the passion and concern worthy of my top album of the year. These songs stay with you and it’s easily the 2006 album I have listened to the most. My only previous Young purchase was his classic album “Harvest,” so my choice also has little to do with any substantial previous appreciation of his music. This album admittedly has many flaws, but I still believe it’s the most important album ever from Young, one of our most important musicians. That right there is enough to make it my top album of the year.
Thousands of children scarred for life
Millions of tears for a soldier’s wife
Both sides are losing now
Heaven takes them in
“Shock and Awe”
2. Sloan: Never Hear the End of It (U.S.: Yep Roc/Canada: Sony-BMG)
This album is quite an accomplishment by the Canadian power pop veterans, originally formed in Nova Scotia in 1991. I was not alone in thinking they were ready to fade into obscurity following their career-spanning singles collection released in 2005. This album represents the band’s Abbey Road: 30 songs, most of them gems. Sloan is still intently treading familar territory, i.e. the Beatles and 70s pop, but this album features some of their most memorable songs and melodies of their career. If you appreciate guitar pop of a generation ago, it’s worth a listen.
Listen to the radio
Where did everybody go?
There’s silence all around the globe
“Listen to the Radio”
Note: While only released in 2007 in the U.S., this album was released in Canada in 2006 and that’s when I bought it.
3. Midlake: The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bella Union)
I admittedly didn’t hear this album until 2007, so it’s still fresh in my mind and in my heart. Who knew that the best sounding Britpop in the vein of Travis would arrive from Denton, Texas in 2006. This is my first listen to Midlake, even though it’s the band’s second album following 2004’s Bamnan & Silvercork, an album I surely will be picking up this year. This album flows from beginning to end with an ease and warmth that is comforting and stirring. If I had heard the album earlier, it might be my top choice for album of the year. While most critics are citing its clear 70s, American sound, I think the connections to Britpop are also clear, with Travis being the most obvious. In fact, how many American bands are signed to a UK indie, as Midlake is with Bella Union? I rest my case. Despite the Britpop influence, there is something very American about this release, with lyrics that exist in an historical mileux reminiscent of Guadalcanal Diary and Grant Lee Buffalo.
Whenever I was a child I wondered what if my name had changed into something more productive like Roscoe
Been born in 1891
Waiting with my Aunt Rosaline
>>>>>>>>Mix CD Sneak Listen: “Head Home”<<<<<<<<<<
4. The Lovely Feathers: Hind Hind Legs (Equator)
Don’t worry, I do realize this is the third Canadian listing in my top 4, and there’s no intention to show bias despite the fact I’ll be writing my dissertation on Canadian popular music and cultural policy. It simply couldn’t be avoided, as the Canucks are simply on a creative roll. As the most “indie” sounding of my top 10, it’s not surprising I only discovered them while attending Pop Montreal. I’m rarely so cool. This album is frantically exhilarating from start to finish, demonstrating the band’s wry sense of humor and their sublime live show. Few bands could sound so great in a song titled “Rod Stewart,” singing the lyrics below. If The Lovely Feathers toured with The Features, I think they could conquer the world.
If its just my body you want, my body you want; then come on and tell me
if you want me for my body, for my body, for my body
5. The Kooks: Inside In/Inside Out (EMI)
I’ve already discussed this album on here. So, I’m not going to write much more. It’s a fine album, despite the sometimes justified criticism it has received in the past year as a result of the typical British hype machine. Speaking of which, with 2006 being the hottest year yet on record, the success of The Arctic Monkeys is even more dumbfounding. I take The Kooks. Hey Kooks, show Denver some love!
Main Entry: kook
Etymology: by shortening & alteration from cuckoo
: one whose ideas or actions are eccentric, fantastic, or insane
the kooks are out
in the street
oh we’re going to steal your skies
all of us
TO BE CONTINUED….