This is a re-post of EAR FARM's top albums list. Regular posting will resume tomorrow.
Last year, I posted EAR FARM's Top 15 albums of 2005 on December 1st and then returned at the end of the year to re-post the list with some comments and links to songs. This year I've decided to give you all of the goods at one time, dig? What you'll find below are my "top" 15 albums released in 2006. What does this mean? Favorites? Bests? Both, yes. These are the bests of my favorites. The most favorite-bests.
Click the title of the album to go buy it, click the artist's name to go to their site, click the (+) to read what some critics have to say, and click on the song name (songs no longer available here - sorry) to listen. As always, please feel free to comment, complain, leave your own "tops of '06" list, or tag the comments to this post with graffiti.
15. A New Dope by 7L & Esoteric (+) - listen: "Daisycutta"
The songs here are filled with influences both underground and old school while the beats and production are adventurous and interesting enough to whet the appetite of most rap fans. It's a solid album from first song to last with a refreshing lack of throwaway tracks (such as "skits" and the like) and a guest appearance by Kool Keith, but what really makes this album stand out for me are the clever lyrics and smart samples.
14. Rabbit Fur Coat by Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins (+) - listen: "The Big Guns"
This was the first album that I got in 2006 that made me think "hey, this just might show up on my year end list". Well here we are and here it is. Rabbit Fur Coat is a triumphant solo debut for Jenny Lewis and is easily one of the best country/folk records of the year. I really like every song on the album and "The Big Guns", "You Are What You Love", and "Rabbit Fur Coat" are three of my favorite songs of the year by any artist.
13. Let's Get Out Of This Country by Camera Obscura (+) - listen: "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken"
This is the sound of Camera Obscura fully growing into themselves. The sound of a band looking back to '60s pop while constantly moving forward along the fine line between happy and melancholy. It's an album full of "I Will Survive"s for the quiet and cute book nerd set and it's an album you're going to have a hard time saying no to.
12. Show Your Bones by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (+) - listen: "Phenomena"
Great live shows tend to center my focus on a band, and/or an album, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show I saw at Bowery in February did just that. I was blown away by the band (and mesmerized by Karen O) and spent much of the Spring listening to Show Your Bones. In my opinion, it's a better album than Fever To Tell and a fine portent of what lies ahead for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
11. Blood Mountain by Mastodon (+) - listen: "Colony Of Birchmen"
Was 2006 the year of metal? For me it was. I dusted off albums by Slayer, Metallica, and Sabbath and headbanged my way home from work to great new releases from Isis, Tool, and Ministry. However, if I had to pick just ONE metal album to put on this list...just one that's a bit better than all the others...it would easily be Blood Mountain. With this album Mastodon has restored my faith in new (not nu) metal bands continuing to release really excellent rockyourfuckingfaceoff music. If you ever wake up from your Beirut/Cat Power/Joanna Newsom coma, give this album a listen to remind yourself what it feels like to be alive. I dare you.
10. Jarvis by Jarvis Cocker (+) - listen: "Black Magic"
When I first listened to this album only two tracks really stood out. Now, the more I listen the more I can hear how brilliant the entire record is - it's almost like the proper follow-up to This Is Hardcore that we all had hoped We Love Life was going to be. Sure, there aren't any old school Pulp anthems for the posers to hang their hats on but there's more than enough on Jarvis to get the crowd gasping at Cocker's masterful control of all things musical.
9. Yellow House by Grizzly Bear (+) - listen: "On a Neck, on a Spit"
Grizzly Bear's album Yellow House is a master class in songwriting, production, and the creation of an album (rather than just a collection of songs). It's beautiful and near the top of my list of best headphone albums of the year.
8. Six Demon Bag by Man Man (+) - listen: "Van Helsing Boombox"
Perhaps you have to be of a certain type (open to oddity) to fully enjoy the Man Man experience but I can think of few other bands that kicked so much ass, both live and on record, in 2006 the way Man Man did. The only reason this album is at #8 instead of in the top three is that I might've overdone it and listened to Six Demon Bag a bit too much.
7. Hell Hath No Fury by Clipse (+) - listen: "Wamp Wamp (What It Do)"
Times like these are when I feel like a lemming/robot. YES, I LIKE CLIPSE BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE LIKES THEM. I MUST PUT ONE RAP RECORD ON MY LIST TO SEEM OPEN TO OTHER KINDS OF MUSICS. THE WHOLE WORLD SAYS THIS IS GOOD - I AGREE. It's not like that though. I love rap when it's good and this is great. Seriously. It's as good as they all say. Shit, it's better. And yes, I think it's quite a bit better than Ghostface's Fishscale. Come on, WAMP WAMP...what it do, what it do...WAMP WAMP.
6. Ships by Danielson (+) - listen: "Did I Step On Your Trumpet"
This was the first album I heard this year that got me thinking "damn, this is a masterpiece". I've stepped back a bit from that assessment but there's no question in my mind that Ships is one of the best albums of the year. It might take a certain kind of open-mindedness to music to fully enjoy what Daniel Smith and crew have achieved here but I think it's near perfection.
5. The Life Pursuit by Belle & Sebastian (+) - listen: "Another Sunny Day"
When Eric up and told me that The Life Pursuit is Belle & Sebastian's best album yet I laughed in his face. Ha ha silly tall man, no WAY it's better than If You're Feeling Sinister. Wrong I was to taunt so quickly. While I'd not go as far as to say this album is better than If You're Feeling Sinister I will say it's gotten me loving Belle & Sebastian again. In fact, I was downright shocked at how good The Life Pursuit is, considering how much I disliked their previous two efforts.
4. Return To Cookie Mountain by TV On The Radio (+) - listen: "Wolf Like Me"
I've said it before but, TV On The Radio pushes boundaries and challenges listeners and I love them for that. They're creatively creating music in a world full of mindless mimicry, so bravo to them. The only thing keeping this album from being higher on my list is that I don't want to have it at number one like everyone else. Noooo, that's not it. It's that I find it a bit tough to listen to in one sitting. It's true. In fact, I find it better to listen in three song spurts...small doses. Like that extra spicy Sriracha.
3. Classics by Ratatat (+) - listen: "Wildcat"
"The Laker girls need to be taken down a peg or two..." If there's someone following me around every day shooting a secret movie with me as the star, I sure hope this whole album is the soundtrack. I'm not being paranoid or anything I'm just saying. Just in case. Because it's perfect for that. Perfect for any situation. Perfect.
2. Return to the Sea by Islands (+) - listen: "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby"
The Unicorns made one of my favorite albums of the '00s and then split up. Assholes. Then Nick and J'aime formed Islands and put on a show at Knitting Factory last year that got me super excited for the Islands debut album. Turns out, the album is everything I could've wanted and more. Perfect pop songs, an opening song over eight minutes in length, a song named for Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, and an overall sound that's akin to Graceland era Paul Simon. Add the fact that they picked artwork by one of my favorite artists for the cover (and a have a soundbyte from an Art Bell show leading off the song "Volcanoes") and it's really a no brainer for Return to the Sea to show up here at number two.
1. The Crane Wife by The Decemberists (+) - listen: visit The Decemberists on MySpace
For their major label debut I expected The Decemberists to (perhaps) phone it in a bit. I mean, it would've been forgiven if they just took the big bag of cash and handed Capitol some tape of Colin singing sea shanties in the shower but that's not what this is. No, this is something else. It's...it's...loss for words, I cannot say. Let's look to Tiny Mix Tapes for some help: "The Crane Wife is God damn amazing. Have I used "amazing" too many times for you? Here's some more adjectives: astonishing, astounding, bewildering, breathtaking, extraordinary, impressive, magnificent, marvelous, remarkable, spectacular, staggering, stunning, stupendous, terrific, wonderful. That should cover it." Yes, okay, I've got it. The Crane Wife is the best album released in 2006. All year I was waiting for a band to put out that one record that totally blew me away. In October, The Decemberists did just that.
There you have it. A pretty gosh darn great year for new music if you ask me. There were quite a few albums that just barely didn't make it into my top 15, some of which you'll see mentioned below. I had a hard time trying to balance between albums that I consider to be very good and the ones that dominated my own ipod/stereo in 2006 but I think I finally got everything sorted nicely. So, go ahead and offer up your criticisms and questions and name calling and all the whatever you call it... Mostly I'd like to see YOUR "tops of '06" lists, so let us have them. Or, if you still need more lists from me, keep reading below.
10 albums that nearly made EAR FARM's top 15:
Annuals - Be He Me
Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things
Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
Luke Haines - Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop
Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther
Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
Tool - 10,000 Days
The Walkmen - A Hundred Miles Off
M. Ward - Post-War
10 albums that just aren't my thing, no matter how good everyone else says they are:
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Beirut - The Gulag Orkestar
Cat Power - The Greatest
Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds
Girl Talk - Night Ripper
The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
The Knife - Silent Shout
The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
Tom Waits - Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
5 albums that let me down:
Built To Spill - You in Reverse
The Flaming Lips - At War with the Mystics
The Futureheads - News And Tributes
Morrissey - Ringleader Of The Tormentors
The Streets - The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living
18 artists whose 2007 album I'm really excited about:
British Sea Power
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Nine Inch Nails
01 January 2007
This is a re-post of EAR FARM's top albums list. Regular posting will resume tomorrow.