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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

That Top 10 Albums What I Liked Most In 2006

10. Mastodon - Blood Mountain

This album would be higher on the list, but I haven't actually heard it yet. I only just discovered their Leviathan and haven't had a chance to get my hands on this one yet. I'm working on the assumption that it's roughly as good. I'm mostly including this in case you're someone I know and trying to figure out what to get me for Christmas. Include a receipt, in case more than one of you is reading this... Otherwise, skip ahead to the albums I've actually listened to:

9. Midlake - Van Occupanther

This is an album which I expect to always like, but never to love or obsess over or play out. An album that I can put on regardless of my mood or the weather or what I was just listening to, and enjoy while I'm doing other things. It's like Deja Vu all over again.

8. Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming

2006 will definitely go down as the year that I burned out on the intentionally annoying indie voice. And this album may well turn out to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Krug was everywhere all the time this year, hiding under various assumed names in mp3s and blogs and Trojan horsing his way onto my iPod, forcing me to say "For Christ's sake!" and "This is a good song." in rapid succession too many times this year.

Notwithstanding all that, I cannot in good faith leave this album off my list.

7. Neil Young - Living With War

Being overtly political isn't cool these days. In fact, having any political opinions whatsoever is a fairly major faux pas in 2006. Political opinions are like guitar solos, we don't want them in our music any more. We certainly don't want our music to be focused on them. And maybe that's fine, maybe that's for the best, but Neil Young doesn't think so. Neil is angry and he cares and he isn't going to dress it down in metaphors or analyze the underlying causes or poke fun from a distance. He's just going to say so as simply as possible, and not give a fuck what anybody else thinks. Which is pretty cool.

6. Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
5. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar

Entries 5 and 6 are in a dead heat for the debut album of the year. Beirut wins on paper, bringing a far more interesting and original 'young American backpacking Eastern Europe' sound to the table. And by associating himself with Elephant 6. But Band of Horses tends to win out on the Pod, it's this year's safety music: gender-friendly, Shins-ish, fall-asleep-to melodies. Would probably go well on the soundtrack to some movie I'll never see but will hear about for way too long.

I'm doubtful that either artist will be able to maintain the standards set by these debuts, but I'll still be happy if this is all I get from either.

4. The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls In America

If you can get over the shocking similarities with the Boss, you'll be tempted to think "maybe this will be the album to bring straight-forward guitar rock back..."

3. TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain

Like Kid A in 2000 and Illinois in 2005, this was the consensus indie rock album of 2006. It is practically impossible to dislike anything between its opening 'dying elephant' horn sample and the static-y fadeout of Wash The Day Away. TVotR constantly break new ground musically without any real risk of alienating their listeners. And on this album every detail is perfectly crafted, from the guitars and vocals down to the tempered political undertones choppy digital buzz.

2. Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds

If I was only allowed one word to describe this album, I would use: 'creepy'. If I was allowed a second word, it would be: 'uncomfortable'. But I would intend both "in a good way". Owen Pallett shrugged off his "strings arranger from the Arcade Fire" moniker in a huge way this year with this Dungeons and Dragons (apparently) concept album. And this album is guaranteed posterity, if for no other reason then for it's title alone.

Actually, I'm going to change my two words to: 'beautifully' 'weird'.

1. Destroyer's Rubies

As far as I'm concerned, there was never any contest for album of the year. No other album has seen such heavy rotation on my iPod since February. The first six tracks have all been my favourite track during one month or the other of 2006. It's a cliche, but this album has improved with every listen. No other album that I can think of has so many perfect moments ("I cast myself towards infinity / trust me I had my reasons"; "the fucking maniac"; the guitar in 3000 Flowers; the "penchant for destruction in the way you talk"; etc. etc. etc.) In my books, these songs put Destroyer somewhere on the lyrical scale of Jeff Magnum to Bob Dylan. Which is where I'll end.


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