Top 20 CDs of 2006 (and more)

Now it's time for the big category: Top CDs. Songs are great, but the cohesiveness of an album (especially in this day of quick hits and single downloads) is especially remarkable. Since I've already talked about a lot of these CDs when I went through the songs, there won't be a lot of comments (except if the CD has not been previously mentioned). Also wanted to get this in before I was tainted by critics' opinions which will roll in about a week.

And just cuz I'm feeling list-y, I'm gonna throw in a few more, including a list of overrated critical darlings and some potential good stuff that I just haven't had the time to check out.

The Best of 2006

1. Tape 'n' Tapes • The Loon
While it was a tight race between The Eraser and The Loon, I give the edge to Tapes 'n' Tapes, with their well crafted debut. I love all kinds of music, but indie rock still tops the list. Sufjan Stevens, Interpol, The White Stripes and Arcade Fire have topped my past lists, and I feel like this disc stays in line with those past picks. It was a rough year for indie rock -- a lot of disappointments from big names (i.e. The Walkmen, Fiery Furnaces). This was the CD that reminded me why I'm such a fan of this music.

2. Thom Yorke • The Eraser
3. Ghostface Killah • Fishscale
4. Art Brut • Bang Bang Rock And Roll
5. Boris • Pink
Because of stupid international release date schedules, these CDs were already easily available in other parts of the country last year, and other review sites and magazines (because they're mean) have long reviewed them and put them on 2005's best lists. However this is the first year we, the common folk, had access to either Art Brut's brilliant debut or Boris' stunning drone masterpiece. Art Brut has a modern Sex Pistol feel, bratty and smart. Boris' music is so heavy, you don't even care that you can't understand what the singers are saying (oh yeah, that's because it's in Japanese).

6. Belle & Sebastian • The Life Pursuit
7. Prince • 3121
8. Lupe Fiasco • Lupe Fiasco's Food And Liquor
9. TV on the Radio • Return To Cookie Mountain
10. Beck • The Information
11. Morrissey • Ringleader Of The Tormentors
12. Jay-Z • Kingdom Come
13. The Black Heart Procession • The Spell
14. Heartless Bastards • All This Time
15. The Decemberists • The Crane Wife
16. Yo La Tengo • I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
17. Arctic Monkeys • Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
I nearly forgot about my two-month obsession with the Arctic Monkeys in early 2006 (so much so that I forgot to include "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" on my best songs list. It really deserves an honorable mention). Two things stun me about this group: First, they're all barely 20 years old. Second, their band name includes the word "monkey" and they're not completely annoying. Possibly the last great Brit post punk dance album...until post punk becomes popular again...in about 15 years.

18. Cat Power • The Greatest
19. Gnarls Barkley • St. Elsewhere
20. I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness • Fear Is On Our Side
Rounding out my top 20 this year was tough, but I thought I'd give the spot to another disc that I liked, but kinda snubbed in my song list this year. I Love You, But... definitely lives up to their name with a haunting Pink Floyd-esque vibe with a lot of beautiful moments in between.

I predict these will appear on critics lists everywhere this year. I wasn't so impressed:
1. Joanna Newsom • Ys
2. The Hold Steady • Boys And Girls In America
3. Clipse • Hell Hath No Fury
4. Mastodon • Blood Mountain
5. Destroyer • Destroyer's Rubies

Wild cards?

Since I'm only one person and don't get CDs advanced to me every week (terrible, isn't it? Please, feel free to pity me), I can only possibly buy, listen to (even sample) and enjoy so much. Here are ten discs that might very well be classics, but I just haven't gotten around to them yet:
1. Bob Dylan • Modern Times
2. Lilly Allen • Alright Still (to be released in Jan 07)
3. Chin Up Chin Up • The Harness Can't Ride Anything
4. Nellie McKay • Pretty Little Head
5. Nas • Hip Hop Is Dead (to be released Dec 18)
6. Jarvis Cocker • Jarvis
7. Albert Hammond Jr. • Yours To Keep
8. J Dilla • Donuts
9. Phoenix • It's Never Been Like That
10. Califone • Roots And Crowns

Honorable Mentions
Last but not least, here's a tiny list of stuff that I forgot about or liked, but for whatever reason, didn't fit into the rest of my 06 recap.

1. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – iTunes live session

While "Show Your Bones" was a respectable YYYs effort, it never really stuck out to me, especially when it came time to rank everything at the end of the year. This tiny, four song EP that includes a cover of the great Sonic Youth song The Diamond Sea and a slowed down version of their own "Gold Lion" took me by surprise. Probably the only worthwhile "iTunes session" to date.

2. Dean Wareham's cover of Distractions, Pt. 1
Dean (along with Stephen Malkmus) is the curator of obscure tastes for the 90s generation. Wareham has introduced me to a number of artists (Serge Gainsbourg, Dream Syndicate) through his beautifully arranged covers. This, off his EP with Britta Phillips available only at indie record stores, is a Bobby Darin song, during Darin's apparent folkie phase (this is the same Darin who sang "Splish Splash" and was a loungy Sinatra style crooner for awhile). The songs lyrics are eerily relevant and Dean's vocal delivery so completely owns the song that you'd think he wrote it.

3. Jens Lekman
While Jens didn't have a proper release this year, a compilation of his earlier stuff was compiled and released early this year (Oh, You're So Silent, Jens) making it technically my favorite reissue of the year. Plus, minus the Belle & Sebastian concert I saw, I don't think I saw a more entertaining live show in 2006.

4. Soundtrack of the year?
The excellent mix of 70s new wave, Spoon and Maxïmo Park and instrumental mood music that is "Stranger Than Fiction." Not only does it play a significant part in the movie, the music stands well by itself -- the obvious (but tricky) key to any truly good music soundtrack.

5. Sufjan Steven's Songs For Christmas
Not often do I buy or even recommend Christmas music, it's definitely more of an individual thing and pretty difficult to rate. Sufjan manages to put together five years worth of his Christmas EPs for those wanting to hear some Christmas tunes that don't involve belting divas or overdone crooning. It ends up working out pretty well with some of the songs having a shelf life beyond the holidays. Raise your eggnog to this one...

Hope you found all of this mildly interesting. Remember to consult at least one more music source before buying anything I recommend. Thanks for reading!


Gina said...

Mad props go out to Dylan's Modern Times from my end. (Of course.) Seriously, it's a great one. When The Deal Goes Down is one of the sweetest songs I've ever heard.

Jessica K said...

Joanna Newsome is a little hard to take, in my brief experience. NPR listeners besides me apparantly love her though.

More importantly: JARVIS COCKER SOLO ALBUM????!!? Where have I been? Why is this the first I'm learning of this.

Oh how I love Jarvis. I have like six Pulp albums.

Ronson said...

Agreed 100 percent on Joanna Newsom. It's annoying -- universal acclaim for people like her is why so many people don't listen to music critics and just think they're snobs..."You just don't get it! It's challenging!" Riiiiight.

I'm definitely curious about Bob and Jarvis' CDs. They'll probably both end up on my "How Did I Miss This" list in 2007...

Anonymous said...

What, no Neko Case? Or Gossip?

Ronson said...

I was really excited about a few CDs this year (i.e., Neko Case the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Johnny Cash's American V), but I didn't listen to them that much. I liked them, but couldn't justify including 'em on my year end list.

I really liked ths song "Standing in the Way of Control," I didn't actually listen to the Gossip CD more than a couple of times. On the verge, but maybe not the best of (for me anyway!)

SarbanesOxley said...

What about Lil Jon's latest album?

Anonymous said...

It's all about Lil Jon and his pimp cup not to mention the mouth grillz.