Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Best Of 2006 (Part I)

Rather than try to make up for seven months of lost time, cobbling together a bunch of reviews of cd's I've picked up in the interim, I figued I'd just post my annual year-end mix and walk through a few faves. Shop away, people.

The Flaming Lips, "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song." From At War With The Mystics. Already blogged this one before. Not as great an album as the handful before it, but 3 or 4 pretty great songs. This one is far and away the best. Yes, it's also the most annoying song of the year -- after a few dozen Yeah Yeah Yeah's and you want to rip Wayne Coyne's freaking head off. But, at the same time, it's also the catchiest damn song of the year, more or less. Not many bands could balance annoyance and pop so perfectly. Long live the Lips!

Yo La Tengo, "Mr. Tough." From I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. Great title, sure, but also a great album. After two more downbeat albums, including the surprisingly weak Summer Sun, Ass is a return to greatness, with all the insane eclecticism of YLT's 90's heyday. Personally, I would have preferred including the album-opening guitar drone-fest of of "Pass The Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind," but it's like 15 minutes long, and I just didn't have the space. So I went with the next best thing, the delightfully cheesy falsetto loungefest of "Mr. Tough." Buy this album -- probably my fave of the year, or damn close.

Drive-By Truckers, "Aftermath USA." From A Blessing And A Curse. The album's ok, basic Southern bar-band Americana, great for driving around with the windows down but not something I'd otherwise reach for all that often. Great song, though, and funny as hell.

The Essex Green, "Don't Know Why (You Stay). From Cannibal Sea. I always viewed EG as sort of a second-tier Elephant 6 act, pleasant enough Zombie-inspired retro-pop but not all that compelling. But the album is actually quite outstanding, with lots of clever, compelling pop. This may be the catchiest track on the album, but there are a bunch of close seconds.
Josh Ritter, "Girl In The War." From Animal Years. Neo-folkie Ritter got a lot of great press last year. Hell, I think Stephen King (who has a column in Entertainment Weekly) picked this as album of the year. I'm not quite as enthralled, though it's a fine enough album for when you're in an acoustic mood. But this song is just amazing -- great lyrics, great vocals, great all-around ambience. The sort of thing I can play over and over and still want to hear again.

Golden Smog, "Corvette." From Another Fine Day. Probably tied with Yo La Tengo as my favorite album of the year. They may still be something of a "supergroup" side project (with members of Wilco, Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, Run Westy Run, and other middle-American acts), but this is a solid album packed with great (and diverse) tunes. Of everything on this mix, this was the hardest to pick, and I could have just as easily picked 4 or 5 others. Pop, Americana, and straight-out classic rock.

Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins, "Handle With Care." From Rabbit Fur Coat. More fine Americana. Ok, this one's kind of a ringer, a cover of a somewhat forgotten Traveling Wilburys track. Probably should have picked one of the fine country-tinged originals. But damn, it's a lot of fun (featuring some guest vox from Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and others).

Band of Horses, "Weed Party." From Everything All The Time. Great album in a classic rock vein. They follow the lead of My Morning Jacket, wedding Neil Young-tinged vox with classic American guitar rock. Another album with a handful of great tracks where picking one for inclusion here was pretty much a toss-up.

Camera Obscura, "Let's Get Out Of This Country." From the album of the same name. Kinda twee, Belle & Sebastian-influenced Europop with female vocals. I don't love the album from start to finish, but a few charming tracks.

Mojave 3, "Ghost Ship Waiting." From Puzzles Like You. I'm new to this band, who have apparently had a few prior releases, which I understand to lean a bit more heavily on Americana. This one, though, is pure pop, jangly and light, with shades of Teenage Fanclub and Elf Power.

Built To Spill, "Goin' Against Your Mind." From You In Reverse. Already blogged this one. Unlike Yo La Tengo, this time I went with the epic album-opener. Sure, that meant having to cut a few other tracks off the mix, but the tune is just so great I couldn't refuse.

The Mountain Goats, "Half Dead." From Get Lonely. I've always been lukewarm on this band. John Darnielle's lo-fi earnestness has often been both amusing and moving in small doses, but I never really dove all the way in. This album benefits from the production polish, though, and this song in particular is a simple little knockout.

To be continued...


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