Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Best Music of 2006 - Part One

It seems that no matter what I say about ending this site I always manage to continue it for some particular reason. Because I refuse to go the multiplex and Binghamton has no independent theatres, it's impossible for me to go into a best films of 2006 yet because I haven't seen enough of the candidates yet. But what I can do is post my best of 2006 in terms of music. My top ten will be posted later on, but here are the honorable mention candidates as well as some miscellaneous awards.

Best of 2006 Honorable Mention

The Be Good Tanyas - Hello Love
The first of a surprising number of Canadian acts on the list. A subtle blend of country, folk, bluegrass gospel and sublime vocal harmonies that make a quiet yet effective album.
Choice cuts: "A Thousand Tiny Pieces", "What Are They Doing In Heaven Today"

Sarah Harmer - I'm a Mountain
Harmer leaves AAC territory behind and heads towards a more rootsy approach. The bluegrass instrumentation and arrangements fit her vocal style just fine.
Choice cuts: "I'm a Mountain", "Will He Be Waiting For Me?"

Gomez - How We Operate
A little too polished at times but I think it's still a much better album than some reviews have said. Having seen them live twice in the past year, this material does have more vitality live, which is its greatest plus.
Choice cuts: "Hamoa Beach", "All Too Much"

Derek Trucks Band - Songlines
Bands that get labeled as "jambands" get stereotyped as being incapable of making solid studio albums. Trucks & co. are much more than a simple jamband and they prove it here, a enjoyable blend of blues, R&B, and traditional Pakistani music. And Derek Trucks may be the best slide guitar player on the planet.
Choice cuts: "Sahib Teri Bandi - Maki Madni", "Crow Jane"

Comets on Fire - Avatar
Proto-metal guitar fireworks, screeching vocals, lots of noise; it's the exact opposite of anything else on the list so far. Even though its noisy, the band can still get a serious groove going on "Sour Smoke." Still not the best Ethan Miller related project of the year however (more on that later).
Choice cuts: "Dogwood Rust", "Sour Smoke"

Built to Spill - You In Reverse
Overall, it may not be the best Built to Spill album, but it has its moments that made the wait worth it. "Conventional Wisdom" easily gets the award for guitar riff of the year.
Choice cuts: "Conventional Wisdom, "Liar"

Drive-By Truckers - A Blessing & A Curse
I don't think this comes anywhere close to the previous three albums, mostly because of the lack of stronger material from Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell. But the Truckers have proved they are more than just a "Southern Band."
Choice cuts: "Gravity's Gone", "Goodbye"

Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
The thing with Neko Case is that her exceptional voice always overshadows her songcraft. This albums has her strongest songs to day but it's still her voice that carries the album. The Sadies have added a distinctive foundation her sound that suits here just fine.
Choice cuts: "Margaret vs. Pauline", "Star Witness"

Califone - Roots & Crowns
One of the best discoveries I made this year was the genre that has been labeled 'alt-folk' or 'freak folk'. Califone seems to get lumped into this category but their music seems to go beyond that ridiculous category. These songs take a while to get into, but one you do, they continue to grow.
Choice cuts: "Spider's House", "The Orchids"

Brightblack Morning Light
Another 'freak folk' group that is re-inventing the neo-hippie aesthetic. No longer are hippies associated with jam bands; they can also create atmospheric, trippy music made for listening to in a cabin in the woods with a good amount of a certain weed. Also, this album has the best use of a Fender Rhodes I've heard in a long time.
Choice cuts: "A River Could Be Loved", "Come Another Rain Down"

Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops
The Machines' second albums finds them greatly improving their songcraft as from start to finish, I think this is a stronger, more compact album of songs than their debut. While some may like the more spacey approach, I feel more concise songs greatly improve them.
Choice cuts: "Lightning Blue Eyes", "1000 Seconds"

Cold War Kids - Robbers & Cowards
One of those blog buzz bands that I happen to like quite a bit. Their appeal lies in intriguing vocals and disjointed melodies that sound new and yet have something old and familiar about them.
Choice cuts: "Hang Me Up to Dry", "Red Wine Success"

Lucero - Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers
If your looking for plain and simple Alt-Country album, you're not going to find anything closer than Lucero. While their sound doesn't stray too far from the Uncle Tupelo template, this album finds them adding piano and accordion prominently to their sound. Not as good as Nobody's Darlings, but their willingness to expand their sound gets them credit.
Choice cuts: "San Francisco", "I Can Get Us Out of Here Tonight"

Biggest Disappointment of 2006
Ray LaMontagne - Until the Sun Turns Black / Damien Rice - 9
These albums aren't disappointments in that I think they are bad albums; they both have their strong points. The problem is that I loved each's debut so much that both these albums pale in comparison. I think no mater what each released, I was bound to be let down.
But still check out: Ray - "Empty", Damien - "Grey Room"

Live Band of 2006
My Morning Jacket
Their nearly four hour Bonnaroo performance was the best live show I saw all year, nearly reaching the greatness of their rain-drenched 2004 performance. Their live Okonokos re-enforces the fact that they may be the best live band in the country right now. Plus, besides The Flaming Lips, they're the only band that can unite the hipsters and the hippies.

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