Let’s do this again, just like last year’s list. This is not really a list of the best music of 2006, but the music that defined 2006 for me.
Album That’s Pretty Good That I Actually Thought Would Suck The Whitest Boy Alive – Dreams This band is a project of Kings of Convenience’s Erlend Øye. I heard a little Kings of Convenience about a year ago and didn’t care for it much. Dreams sounds like a better version of New Order between Movement and Power, Corruption and Lies. It’s thinly textured, only leaving the essential bits of good tracks. Admittedly the first few tracks are the best, but they’re good enough for me to consider giving Kings of Convenience another shot.
Album Which Made Me Feel Geeky and Proud
Thomas Dolby – The Sole InhabitantFuck yeah! Thomas Dolby got bored making cell-phone ring tones and decided to go on tour! The Sole Inhabitant is the result of his one-man shows. I haven’t seen the DVD, but it’s apparently got visuals and footage of him tweaking his knobs. The Sole Inhabitant is also my first exposure to “Leipzig Is Calling”, which may be my new favorite Dolby track.
Album That Demands Butt-Shaking, But Not Necessarily My OwnThe Rapture – Pieces of the People We Love I first thought I’d miss the lo-fi production of “Echoes” but the newest from The Rapture still shows the band’s high energy – cowbell and all. The strongest track is the opener “Don Gon Do It,” but I also like “Whoo! Alright-Yeah…Uh-Huh” that has the lyrics “People don’t dance no more, they just stand there like this. They cross their arms and stare you down and drink and moan and piss!” It actually describes what it’s like to go see The Rapture live.
Album I Thought I’d Never Buy In A Million YearsMadonna – Confessions On A Dance Floor True. I wouldn’t want to be caught dead with this album, but there comes a point when sometimes you buy an album for its wonderfully crafted songs and you buy an album to listen to its production. The album insert is also adorned with pictures of Madonna on her knees and in sexually suggestive positions, which is kind of cool as long as you don’t remember how much older she is than you.
Album I Thought I’d Never Buy In A Million and 1 Years Madonna – Self-TitledAnd other times you buy an album because you’re on a roll and you can’t get “Holiday” out of your head. Madonna’s debut sometimes sounds like Nintendo music, which is awesome because it was released before the NES was even on the market.
Best Debut The Presets – BeamsEven with the eurotrashy album cover. Check out “Girl and the Sea” and “I Go Hard, I Go Home”. And if you can’t get enough they have a remix album out, kind of what Bloc Party did.
Album That Set Off The Quest To Get Everything In The Artist’s Catalog Of Montreal – The Sundlandic TwinsFrom last year, yes, but I hadn’t heard “The Party’s Crashing Us” until this year, and that just set the whole thing off.
Album I Wish Came Out In 2006 So That It Would Have Justification On This List Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon LoveNo point in this being here other than that it’s AWESOME!
Collection With Most Screwed Up Track List MF Doom – Special Herbs Box SetI got Special Herbs: Vol 1-2 late last year, so when I heard that a limited edition box set of all the Special Herbs was being released I pre-ordered. Thing is, it’s not really a box set, just a trifold with 3 CDs of edited (and sometimes sloppily mixed) Herbs and old KMD instrumentals. Plus, the track list was way off and I spent a few nights trying to correct it until I saw that someone else already did it. I would say that makes me the nerdiest owner of this set, but I think I’m at least a few ranks below the guy who figured it out first. This collection is pretty much the reason why MF Doom is number 1 on my Last.FM artists list; not because I listened to it a lot, but because I listened to it once.
Album Most Reminiscent of Beverly Hills Cop Jimmy Edgar – Color StripDetroit Techno. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, and Color Strip is one of the better electronic albums of the year, including “My Beats” and “I Wanna Be Your STD.” If you want to be reminded of a young Eddie Murphy, turn up “Personal Information.”
Album Most Reminiscent of the Album Most Reminiscent of Beverly Hills Cop Plus Device – PunctureSounds like it’s heavily modeled after the Jimmy Edgar album. Probably not, but you can sing “My Beats” over “Body Heat.” I like “Ultra Seductive” the most.
Album Most Like a Radiohead Album Home Video – No Certain Night or MorningBetter than Thom Yorke’s project. Home Video was supposed to release their full length album on Warp in 2005, and then nothing happened. Finally 2 years after their EP we get “No Certain Night or Morning.” Very dark sound here with reverb and delay tails on the vocals that go on for hours…or, in a more realistic way, over 3 seconds.
Album Composed By Someone Who Feels Drums Are Boring and Went Into a Hot Air Balloon To Make New Sounds Herbert – Scale Not really being an engineer at heart I don’t understand the sense in recording drums 2,000 feet above the Earth in a hot air balloon. I would think that you would be able to mold your sound however you wanted in the studio with your favorite software. Pretentious? Maybe, but still a good album.
Best Album From A Trance/Dance Guy That Isn’t Either BT – This Binary UniverseIt’s appropriate that both this and Thomas Dolby’s album are on this list since the two of them toured together this year. “This Binary Universe” comes with a DVD with visuals set to the music. I watched one of the cuts. This effort from BT completely departs from his trance reputation into something more sophisticated and sometimes more enjoyable.
Local Artist Award The Mathematicians – Level TwoIt’s not hard to get this award. All you have to do is be the one band to release a CD around where I live. The Mathematicians win. Check them out if you like Devo.
Album With Awesome Instrumental Rock Battles – EP C/B EPIntelligent guitar rock, very rhythmic, but really an album of EPs. “TRAS” is in 5/4 – 4/4 mixed meter and is the most accessible cut here. Strong rhythm sprinkled throughout, but not used to the point of boredom like some other people do.
“Ahh, Ya Got Me!” Award For Frivolous Emusic Download TIE!: The Format – Dog Problems, Andy Caldwell – Universal TruthProving that it’s better to have an incredibly bad album than a mediocre album… I’ve seen “Dog Problems” on a lot of year-end lists, but I haven’t heard its greatness yet, which makes me skeptical as to whether it even exists. “Universal Truth” is neither very strong nor very weak, which ultimately makes it forgettable.
“Killing Satie” Award Isan – Trois GymnopédiesI like Isan, but they’re take on these Satie compositions make me want to puke. They completely kill all the life in them and turn them into elevator music. Producing this probably took about as much effort as finding the MIDI files, importing them into a sequencer, picking some presets, and mixing it. They could’ve done it in a day.
“Please, Stop Already” Award Sufjan Stevens – The AvalancheThis album sounded a lot like listening to Illinois for the 20th time in a row on a long car ride. I really liked Illinois the first time I heard it. Same thing with Michigan. However, two states in and the formula is already tired. I had to really think about this, and the best analogy I could come up with is hot dogs. Some musicians could work all their lives to compose an album that they really put their heart and soul into. They’re slaving over their pork roast, trying to make it just right and use the spices that best compliment it. Sufjan Stevens, through projects like the State albums and his new 5-disc Christmas release really indicate that he doesn’t have to put much thought into his music. Relative to Illinois, any project that’s not a State album hasn’t done so well. It could mean that he’s maturing as a musician, but maybe it indicates that left to his own devices he’s not a particularly talented songwriter. But add in a formula or gimmick like making an album about every state and people start paying attention. He allows himself to completely sidestep any pouring out of his personality or emotional being by following a template (States) and writing music to whatever he finds in an encyclopedia. It’s bottom-dwelling songwriting. No originality – all he’s doing is boiling hot dogs. The fact that he writes some songs in 5/4 is nothing more than ketchup and relish.
Best Album I Am Robot and Proud – The Electricity In Your House Wants To SingIt really is appropriate that the cover art of “The Electricity In Your House Wants To Sing” is of a bird, because these tracks sound like birdsongs. This is really some of the most beautiful electronic music I’ve ever heard. Maybe I’m biased because this album hasn’t gotten a lot of exposure. I first heard of this on NPR’s All Songs Considered. Since then I’ve listened every week for gems as shiny as this one.
Best Song of 2006 I Don’t KnowI have some ideas, but nothing immediately strikes me as the song you have to hear before midnight. It could be: Final Fantasy – This Lamb Sells Condos But it’s done a disservice by lyrics that I’m either too dumb to understand or too ridiculous to take seriously (it goes from merchants in a village to massive genitals that refuse to cooperate). Or maybe: Herbert – Something Isn’t Right But maybe that’s not fair because his album was already on here. So I think I’m going to go with: Jamie Lidell – Game For Fools (Live In Paris) Sure, his studio album was released last year, but this is off the album of remixes released during the summer. What can I say? Dude can sing. I don’t usually like songs in a lounge style, but this song is so easy to relate to and it’s just so good.
Runners Up: Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds Thom Yorke – The Eraser Ratatat – Classics Ms. John Soda – Notes and the Like Morrissey – Ringleader of the Tormentors Goldfrapp – Supernature Ferry Corsten – L.E.F Electric President