YEAR END LISTS
Like ever year that preceded it, 2006 was an amazing year for music. Groups that I have followed for years, like the Divine Comedy, Shack and Sparklehorse, put out some of the best music of their careers. I was also blown away by some hip hop albums, including both Dilla releases. And newer soul artists, like Nicole Willis, Amy Winehouse and James Hunter, who proved that soul music is still very alive and well in 2006!
For me, 2006 will always be the year of Orphans. I have been a fan of Tom Waits for quite a few years, and Orphans stands as one of his greatest releases. The 56 + 2 songs travel through the various phases (and faces) of Tom Waits, and show off his serious, crazy and humorous sides. To me, it is the essential release of the year. However, despite the conclusion on my previous post, I have put it on my reissues list.
Anyway, here are my lists:
Capturing the essence of being young, Craig Finn proves he is one of the greatest lyricists in music today, and everything his band releases is pure gold.
2. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
Every song is a classic, and if you see them live, you will love the album even more. Definitely the best live band of the year!
3. Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Springsteen puts out a traditional folk album, and may be his career masterpiece. He captures the essence of all these songs with a backing band of experienced traditional players, and reminds us of anti-war sentiments through history on songs like "We Are Overcome", "Bring 'Em Home" and "Mrs. McGrath".
4. The Roots – Game Theory
Every second of this album is brilliant. There was loads of hype surrounding this album, and every bit was true.
5. Bob Dylan – Modern Times
Despite listening to this album over and over, I didn't find a single track that jumped out at me as quickly as "Not Dark Yet" or "Mississippi" from his previous two albums. However, further listens revealed that certain tracks didn't jump out because they are all exceptional.
6. J. Dilla – Donuts
An album from which you could never tire, despite sounding like a sample of ideas instead of complete songs. However, Dilla was God-like. This is proof.
7. Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther
This band started out destined to be another Grandaddy/Mercury Rev type group. This new release seems to be musically inspired by 70s folk and Fleetwood Mac and lyrically inspired by life at the turn of the century (1800s to the 1900s, that is). As a result, Midlake changed who they were for the better.
8. Lily Allen – Alright, Still . . .
Great back-story as a myspace artist, smart lyrics, and a variety of styles of music make this the one of the best debuts of the year. Almost every song could be a single, and her lyrics are very reminiscent of Mike Skinner from the Streets (which is a compliment).
9. Ghostface – Fishscale
Ghostface appears to be more and more interesting with every release, and Fishscale raised the bar quite high. His flow is amazing, and has a great group of collaboraters all of whom enhance the album.
10. Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators – Keep Reachin’ Up
Absolutely killer soul/funk album that was actually released in 2005, but did not get US distribution until this year. For fans of Sharon Jones' soul revival-type style, you must hear this album.
11. Sway – This Is My Demo
One of the smartest albums of the year, lyrically speaking. I heard a couple of his demo tapes, which I loved. He brings a sense of humour to the music without ever coming off as a joke.
12. The Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye
I could not describe this album better than Mark Pytlik, one of my favourite music writers, who reviewed it for Pitchfork.
13. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
I read one review that claimed Meloy and co. wrote an album of singles. Not sure I'd go that far, but definitely their most accessible collection to date. One of the few bands whose 9 minute songs never lose their steam, even on repeated listens.
14. Herbert – Scale
Matthew Herbert has created his most pop-driven release to date, and the results are amazing. I never thought I'd like this kind of electro pop, and never gave his previous work much attention, but Scale has inspired me to re-assess his entire catalogue. And in a perfect world, "Something Isn't Right" would have been a huge hit single EVERYWHERE!
15. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
A late entry for me, but she has a very strong, southern soul-styled voice which totally blew me away. Great voice filled with attitude and emotion as she deals with very personal issues in her life.
16. Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor
Great diversity in production for this new hip hop artist, whose own rapping skills are very impressive.
17. Thom Yorke – Eraser
I love the voice, I love the music. It's the singer from Radiohead, so I'm terribly biased! Some people found it boring, and while I can totally see what they mean, I love every single track.
18. The Knife – Silent Shout
I knew nothing about this group until this year, but for me, the real draw for them is the way they manipulate the vocals to make them part of the production, creating a unique voice for every song.
19. Scott Walker – The Drift
Scott Walker, like Tom Waits, makes music that is 100% his. With one of the cleanest voices in music, he could likely build a career catering to the Las Vegas crowds, but thankfully, he's far too interesting and weird to do that. Lyrically confusing, musically intriguing, and worth the time to figure everything out. This is definitely an album that will be considered a classic in years to come.
20. Shack - . . . The Corner of Miles and Gil
I never thought they could top HMS Fable, but this album definitely proves that the Head brothers are among the greatest songwriters in the UK. "Shelley Brown" is the most beautiful track they've ever released!
21. James Hunter – People Gonna Talk
Sam Cooke returns in the body of a white Brit. It is pretty shocking at first, but the voice and bluesy guitar licks come together for a very solid album.
22. Jarvis Cocker – Jarvis
I really did not think I would care about this album, but Jarvis focused on his strength - short punchy pop songs about "common" people.
23. J. Dilla – The Shining
Yet another collection displaying Dilla's skills, but this time complemented by vocals from Common, MED, Dwele and Busta Rhymes. Just further proof that he was a legend, and will be missed.
24. Phoenix – It’s Never Been Like That
I don't know what it is, but these guys have a gift for making pop hits that should top the mainstream charts, but could still woo the indie types.
25. The Divine Comedy – Victory Of A Comic Muse
While Neil Hannon may never top his early albums in my eyes, I think this is the best collection of songs he has made since signing to Parlophone.
26. Sparklehorse - Dreamt For Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
Without question, their best work to date. Solid album, great lyrics, and the most cohesive sounding album they've ever made. If you're a fan, you need this album.
27. Guillemots - Through the Windowpane
I could not describe this album better than Nick Southall at Stylus, so please read his words instead.
28. Ane Brun – A Temporary Dive
This is another 2005 album on my list, but again, it was never available in North America until this year. Brun has a very powerful voice, and is a gifted songwriter.
29. Calexico – Garden Ruin
I've always liked Calexico, but found their earlier albums to be filled out with short instrumentals and half-ideas that gave them a choppy feel. However, this album is eleven focused songs that prove Joey Burns' greatness as a singer/songwriter.
30. I’m From Barcelona – Let Me Introduce My Friends
Twenty-two people who are NOT from Barcelona come together for an upbeat and happy pop album, with child-like innocence in songs about stamps, a treehouse and being from Barcelona (even when you're not). Great choir-driven choruses add power and excitement to the songs.
31. Max Richter – Songs From Before
Not a huge shift in directions for Richter, but his previous albums are so essential, that more of the same is a good thing. I could have gone without Robert Wyatt talking on tracks, but even that doesn't take away from the beauty of Richter's style. Definitely one of my favourite classical composers.
32. The Congos and Friends – Fisherman Style
One of my favourite reggae tracks used as the main rhythm while eleven reggae legends and eleven newer stars deejay over top. The album never gets tiring, and the different slants, both lyrically and vocally, remind the listener of what a great rhythm the Congos and Perry created back in the 70s.
33. Mogwai – Mr. Beast
Mogwai are THE greatest post-rock group of all time, simply because they knew how to continue in the genre without ever repeating the same ideas. This album is beautiful, exciting, and powerful. And if you see them live, the songs are etched into your body (and eardrums!) forever, which is a good thing.
34. T.I. – King
An incredible collection of songs. I love his flow, though I recognize it is not for everyone. Though the whole album is great, it is pretty difficult to play it all the way through without at least wanting to skip back to the single, "What You Know".
35. Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury
I don't know the first album, nor was I a follower of the mixtapes, but I've played this album out quite a bit, and am a true believer in their greatness. They have a great flow in songs displaying some of the Neptunes best production.
36. Nelly Furtado - Loose
Solid album filled with great singles. She was untouchable in the 2006 pop world, and can likely continue putting out singles from this album throughout the next year as well.
37. Matmos – The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast
A collection of audio biographies from these electronic experimentalists that prove you do not need words to tell a great story. The results are fascinating, with "Solo Buttons For Joe Meek" being my favourite.
38. Duke Special – Songs From The Deep Forest
I read about them as being the Divine Comedy's 2006 tour opening act. They are an amazing orch-pop group who should get huge in the new year, selling to fans of Coldplay and Snow Patrol.
39. Duane Andrews – Crocus
One of Newfoundland's most gifted musicians releases his second album of Django inspired (and covered) tracks, sometimes with a celtic flavour. Absolutely gorgeous.
40. Opensouls – Kaleidoscope
Hip-Hop, soul, afro-pop, funk and deep grooves from New Zealand. WTF?! But seriously, it is amazing, and feels like a killer mix-tape.
1. Nelly Furtado – Promiscuous
2. T.I. - What You Know
3. Herbert - Something Isn't Right
4. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
5. Madonna – Sorry
6. Midlake – Roscoe
7. Lily Allen – Smile
8. Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken
9. Hot Chip - Boys From School
10. El Michels Affair - C.R.E.A.M.
11. Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
12. The Pipettes - Pull Shapes
13. Lupe Fiasco – Daydreamin’ w/ Jill Scott
14. Nelly Furtado – Maneater
15. The Divine Comedy - A Lady Of A Certain Age
16. I'm From Barcelona - We're From Barcelona
17. The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy!
18. The Roots - Don't Feel Right
19. Mogwai - Friends Of The Night
20. Justin Timberlake - Sexyback
21. Jay-Z - Show Me What You Got
22. Thom Yorke - Harrowdown Hill
23. The Flaming Lips - The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
24. Junior Boys - In The Morning
25. Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators - Feeling Free
26. Lily Allen – LDN
27. Dixie Chicks - Not Ready To Make Nice
28. Phoenix - Long Distance Call
29. Duke Special – Freewheel
30. The Broken Family Band - You're Like A Woman
1. Tom Waits – Orphans
2. Susan Christie – Paint A Lady
3. Various Artists – Good God! The Gospel Funk Hymnal
4. Mark Kozelek – Little Drummer Boy Live
5. Dr. Alimantado – House Of Singles
6. Howard Tate – Live
7. Aretha Franklin – Aretha Live At Fillmore West
8. Various Artists - Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label
9. Jean Claude Vannier - L'Enfant Assassin des Mouches
10. Al Green – The Belle Album (Expanded)
11. James Brown - Fine Old Foxy Self: James Brown: 1950s, 1960s & 1970s
12. Various Artists - Jamaica to Toronto: Soul Funk & Reggae 1967 – 1974
13. All Prestige RVG Jazz reissues
14. Kashmere Stage Band - Texas Thunder Soul 1968 – 1974
15. Various Artists - Stax Profiles (especially Booker T. and the MGs)
Thank you for reading! Please post comments/recommendations.