2006 was a crazy year for me and it involved many changes. I got married. I moved twice. I bought a home. I adopted a dog. I co-founded this blog. Throughout all the changes, music played its usual role; calming my nerves and serving as my own personal soundtrack threading the days together.
I found myself listening to music much differently than I have in years past. I still do not own a portable MP3 device, though I spent money on an album download from iTunes for the first time. I’m still a strong believer in physical album purchases and I made quite a few of them in 2006. I didn’t listen to entire albums as much however, and found myself making and listening to various mixes. I even caught myself skipping around on certain albums in search for a particular song before moving onto another album. Those who know me understand that sort of listening goes against my self-inflicted rule of listening to complete albums without jumping songs. Perhaps the change reflected my hectic schedule which transpired into less personal time to listen to music. Or maybe it’s simply a modern sign of the times with digital music available at every turn on the Internet. Am I trying to hear as many songs as possible in a day? Or am I listening (and comprehending) each song that plays? Unfortunately, those scenarios point to the dilemma we face on a daily basis as music grows in number and tangibility.
The end of the year crept up on me, and this dated post is evidence of that. I just didn’t allow myself enough time to listen.
10. Alexi Murdoch :: Time Without Consequence
Alexi Murdoch generated quite a bit of momentum from songs featured on TV shows (The OC), movies (Garden State) and commercials (Honda) between 2004 and 2005. With the subsequent hype machine buzzing, Murdoch spent some time crafting the songs that are featured on his first full length album. After listening to several offers from major labels to release this album, he decided to release it independently instead. The music is acoustic folk at its finest, with heartfelt lyrics and a voice that cuts and soothes through each melancholy story line.
9. Pearl Jam :: S/T
This album is the first studio release for Pearl Jam on a label other than Epic; the label they originally signed to when they dropped Ten back in 1991. Ironically, it is the first one in a long while reminiscent to those early days of innocent angst and passion. Vedder, never one to shy away from racy topics related to political and world matters, continues to wear his heart on his sleeve more than ever before. What makes this album different than its predecessors, however, is the maturity and direction of each song and lyric. The music is grand without being complicated. And Vedder’s emotion is pointed and concise without being redundant and overly dramatic.
8. Muse :: Black Holes & Revelations
Black Holes & Revelations is definitely one of those albums I didn’t listen to nearly as much as I would have liked. Its release was highly anticipated after playing the shit out of Absolution and Origin of Symmetry for the last couple of years. It isn’t as strong as either of those, but it definitely has some highlights. The first track, “Take a Bow” sets a tone for the rest of the album; a modern day rock opera!
7. Oh No! Oh My! :: S/T
I posted about this band earlier in the year. Check it if you missed it the first time. The album covers a lot of territory musically. Great indie rock with some synths, beats and electronics mixed in for good measure.
6. Spank Rock – Yo Yo Yo Yo
A stone-cold recommendation straight from the desktop of Dave, this album is a party within itself. Baltimore had a movement of its own in ’06 and these kids definitely led the way. The two typical hip hop topics are covered here – drugs and sex. But the beats turn it into a dance party, with MC Spank Rock (Naeem Juwan) holding court on the mic while tagging his ladies in a Sparks-induced rage. Bump!
5. Girl Talk – Night Ripper
There probably wasn’t another person or act that generated as much hype as Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) in 2006. Receiving critical acclaim from the likes of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone magazine, this engineer-by-day turned (“I’m not a DJ”) DJ-by night rolled across America and Europe fueled by the steam of such reviews. The album is a glorious mix of quick samples culled mostly from Top-40 hits over the past 5-10 years. Night Ripper is one of those albums to be played before, during, and after the hottest party of the week.
4. Hot Chip :: The Warning
Hot Chip was one of my favorite new discoveries of the year. The music contains a techno-beat backbone combined with elements of pianos and guitars. Verses and choruses are traded among band co-founders, Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard. In most cases, Goddard provides a melancholy cadence behind Taylor’s mesmerizing harmonies. They are another act not to be missed live if you have the opportunity.
3. The Features – Contrast EP
The final three on my list could have easily taken the top spot. This five-song EP was blogged about earlier, and my feelings haven’t changed. All five songs churn with urgency and passion fueled by a major ethics conflict with their former label. This band should be huge in every sense of the word. Hopefully the masses will catch on after they release their second album (expected in 2007).
2. Wired All Wrong – Break Out the Battle Tapes
Jeff Turzo and Matt Mahaffey threw their gifted minds together and this glorious album is the fruits of their labor. It didn’t grab me immediately, but it continues to get better with each listen. Some might describe it as Industrial Pop. Others might venture to say it’s electronic with pop tendencies. Either way, it’s fantastic. It arguably received the most spins of any new album in the year…so much so that my wife has requested it not be played around her for a while, even though she digs it just as much.
1. The Little Ones – Sing Song EP
I had reservations about choosing an EP as my favorite album of the year, but this band exudes everything I look for in a pop music band. I’m not a big fan of long albums, so perhaps EPs cater more to my attention span. The music and lyrics are sugary and sunny without the cavities and sunburn. If they are able to produce a full length with the same intensity and tone as this 6-song set, you’ll see it atop my list next year.