Top 10 Albums of 2006
I’ve been contemplating this list for a while—well for a few months anyway. A couple of these choices were last minute additions. Anyway, enjoy, discuss etc. And no, right off-no BNL or Justin Timberlake on my list. If you only watch one video, watch Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins. Seriously awesome.
10) Camera Obscura “Let’s Get out of this Country”--With lyrics like "Shedding tears for affairs/ I'm a funny little thing" and the instant pop classic, “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken” this album deserves a place on this list.
9) Heartless Bastards “All this time”-- Although “Stairs and Elevators” by the Bastards was one of my favorite albums of 2005, this album is above and beyond quality wise. Erika Wennerstrom’s voice was the first thing that drew me to their debut album, but in just the course of one album, she has evolved into a serious song-writer. I’m looking forward to her next album.
8) Tom Waits Orphans; "Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards"-- okay, it’s a coincidence that entries 8 and 9 have a word in common. Tom Waits is king, and this album of rarities (not outcasts—just rarities) only cements his iconoclast persona. A three piece set, divided into three discs: down-and-dirty rockers ("Bawlers,"), ballads ("Bawlers") and experimental outcasts ("Bastards").
7) Rhett Miller “The Believer” -–Rhett Miller is not only one of the prettiest rock stars out there, he’s also a talented musician. The title song refers to Elliot Smith and is one of my favorite songs of 2006. The album is mostly solid, with only a couple of throw-away songs, but worth listening all the way through.
6) Cat Power “The Greatest”—Chan Marshall has been a favorite for 3 years or so, and although I was disappointed with this album the first run-through, luckily I listened to it again, and find myself amazed by her talent. Personally, I’m glad she’s finally been able to exorcise her demons, get sober and produce her greatest album yet.
5) Beck “The Information”--I’ll let this quote from Paste Music Magazine article excerpt speak for my love of Beck, and this album-which may even be better than Guero (and I love Guero).
It’s tempting to describe this method of composition as stream-of-consciousness, but it’s not quite as soul-baring because he has the opportunity to revise and erase. “It’s like a conversation with another person,” he explains. “Both people willfully talk about what they want to talk about, but it’s not scripted. There are times when I go up on the mic when it is just stream-of-consciousness because I don’t know what’s coming next, but anyone who writes has to have some kernel of an agenda or plan. But we’re all ultimately talking out of our necks. We’re all making it up as we go along.”
Back in the ’90s, especially after the success of “Loser,” Beck was being hailed as a Dylan for Generation X. Allen Ginsberg even called him “the most important voice of his generation.” But, given the ambiguous, fragmentary nature of his lyrics, was this too optimistic a claim? If Beck is simply holding up a mirror to his culture, smashing it and then reassembling the shards, is he offering any kind of real commentary?
“I’m definitely saying specific things,” he says when asked if Beckologists who revere his words are engaged in a wild goose chase. “I articulate things, but in a way that’s encoded. I’m not always saying it in plain language because if I did it would come out trite. It’s a song, not an essay, so I include images and wordplay. Each song is about something specific to me, but I like to add random pieces so that the picture is more blurred—more like life. Life is full of extraneous parts so I like to have these things in my songs.”
4) Josh Ritter “The Animal Years”-- Although I’m still a little irrationally angry at Josh Ritter (anyone who knows anything about songbirds doesn’t write a song about Starlings-the ultimate trash birds), I’ve been listening to his newest album since it came out at the first of the year. The whole album is solid and his strongest yet. “A Girl in the War,” “Monster Ballads,” “A Thin Blue Flame,” “Wolves,” and “Here at the Right time”
3) The Raconteurs “Broken Boy Soldier”—I love the White Stripes, the Jack White produced Loretta Lynn album, and Brendan Benson’s three albums. This album is awesome, and what’s even more impressive—it was better live (one of the times I’ve thought the live material was hands down superior to the recorded version) and the few new songs they performed lead me to wonder if their next album is going to blow this classic away. Brendan and Jack appear to be a really quality team, both profiting on the other’s strengths.
2) Bob Dylan “Modern Times”—The real question is why Bob isn’t #1. This album has been on steady play since it came out in September. Although the medleys are basically traditional, some of the lyrics have been based on existing lyrics, Bob is still the master lyricist. The beginning intro of this album is one of the strongest on a Dylan albums (at least the ones I’ve listened to). There’s too many classic tracks on this one, but I’ll share the lyrics from “Spirit on the Water” that never fails to make me chuckle:
“I wanna be with you in paradise
And it seems so unfair
I can’t go to paradise no more
I killed a man back there”
1) Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins “Rabbit Fur Coat”—I realized that as much as I like the 9 other albums, every time I listen to I find myself liking everything about this album. She’s a gifted songwriter, her voice impresses each time I listen to this album, I really like the harmonizing with the Watson Twins, and its an album that I find myself talking about more than the others, and popping into listen.