Friday, December 22, 2006

My Favorite Albums of 2006

Okay, I've been mulling over my favorite albums of 2006 for the last few days, and I think I'm ready now to get it here. Once again, I have to add that this is my favorite albums of 2006, and not an attempt to pinpoint the best albums of 2006. I haven't even heard 1% of the albums released in 2006, so I don't know if these are the best...but I sure like them. [aside: I look forward to compiling this list at the end of the year almost as much as I look forward to opening presents on that weird?] And without further ado...

15. Derek Webb Mockingbird - I was simultaneously impressed and disappointed with this album. I think it nailed 2 of the big three areas (music and message), but fell short in one (execution). First, the musicianship. It's excellent, and Webb stretches himself a bit more than he has in the past. It is another long step in distancing himself from Caedmon's Call. Second, the "bite" of the album. I love the boldness and the statement made by the album. However, the statements weren't always executed in the greatest ways. Some things were edgy for the sake of being edgy (such as the bridge to "King and a Kingdom") and some was just a bit cheesy.

14. Pearl Jam Pearl Jam - I like a good comeback, especially when it's from my favorite band from the mid 90's. Their last couple albums were a bit too meandering and unfocused, but this is a return to straight rock. It is a bit too clean cut for my taste (I miss the dirty sound of Vitalogy), but it still rocks pretty hard. I also enjoy the new territory explored by songs like "Parachutes". Good ol' Pearl Jam.

13. My Brightest Diamond Bring Me the Workhorse - I didn't get to listen to this one an awful lot, but I love it. Shara Warden's voice goes from over the top theatrical (see "Freak Out"), to touchingly intimate to just plain fun. "Golden Star" is a song I have gotten to listen to more than the others, because I had it on a couple compilations before I heard the album, and it drew me in. Very unique, yet accessible. I guess that's the kind of music I like. Unique, yet accessible. Don't we all, though? Overall the album is very dramatic, and like I said, I haven't gotten to digest it fully, though I love what I've heard so far.

12. Cat Power The Greatest - Another one that I didn't get to spend enough time with, but it's smooth as butter. The song "Where Is My Love" is absolutely great. I recommend downloading that song to everyone on the planet. It's great. Like I said, like sliding a pad of butter into your CD player and letting it melt into your eardrums. Is anyone else getting hungry?

11. Bob Dylan Modern Times - I know #10's guitarist is going to freak out that I put them ahead of this one, but I did it anyway. Dylan is obviously a genius, and I know that if I listened to this 1000 times, I'd still have metaphors to unpack and lyrics to deconstruct, but I just haven't had time for that. I like the groove of the album, and the lyrics are...well...Bob Dylan's. No further explanation necessary, if you ask me.

10. Ammi Imitation - Now I have a vested interest in this band, because they are dear friends and some fellow alumni from Trinity, but it doesn't change the fact that the are amazing. They have exhibited significant growth over each of their releases (The Hymnal EP and Laodicea, respectively). I know they were heavily considering putting re-recordings of some of the older songs onto the full length, but I'm kind of glad they didn't. The album is original, atmospheric, rocking, profound and catchy all at once. I do, however need to resist the urge to keep telling my daughter to "be part of culture mechanique." I don't think she understands the sarcasm.

9. Half-Handed Cloud Halos & Lassos - John Ringhoefer is a genius. I saw him live at North Park in the winter of 04/05, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. He was singing catchy, almost kitschy Bible songs to a room full of indie hipsters donning sweaters, scarves and horn-rimmed glasses, and they were enthralled. I was enthralled. I didn't want to miss a word, a clever wordplay (of which he is an absolute master) or a silly melody. He plays with toys, a Casio organ, a trombone, guitar and mp3 player. It doesn't translate entirely onto an album, but the album is still a top 10-er.

8. Beck The Information - Did you know that Beck's mom was in the band Black Flag? Amazing! I've probably only heard this one about five times, but it is great. It's got a very consistent groove that makes for great background music, but its complicated lyrics and structures also make a good attentive listen. Beck is the master of genre-bending, and though I wouldn't say that this album blazes a lot of new ground, it is perfectly executed. I love the first seconds of the album that begin "one, two, you know what to do." It's almost a declaration that though this album might be fairly serious, don't take it too seriously.

7. mewithoutYou Brother, Sister - I've only heard this one twice, but I am ranking it number seven in faith that I'll be listening to it nonstop fairly soon (when I can afford a copy). I know I love mewithoutYou already, and I can tell just upon a couple listens that they have broken new ground musically, experimenting with vocal melody (gasp!) and featuring the acoustic guitar much more prominently. It's a more earthy sound that fits well with their very earthy message and lifestyle. Aaron Weiss's lyrics are always spot on and always challenging. One of the most innovative bands out there, if you ask me.

6. Thom Yorke The Eraser - You probably know that Radiohead is one of my favorite bands. Based solely on the music, they might be my favorite band, so naturally, I would be interested in Yorke's solo release. The solo album is excellent, but since I cannot help but listen to it in the same way I listen to a Radiohead album, it's not mindblowing. I don't get the sense, however, that he even wanted this to be as good as a Radiohead album. It's just him, only 10 songs mostly recorded on a laptop. I wish I could do all that with a laptop. "Atoms for Peace" is definitely my favorite track, with soaring vocals that are pure ear candy.

5. Sufjan Stevens The Avalanche - The only reason this isn't higher is the principle of the fact that it's supposed to be a b-sides and outtakes album, and because of the unnecessary quantity of "Chicago" remixes. Some of this stuff is just as amazing as the stuff on Illinoise. "Pittsfield" might be in my top 5 Sufjan songs of all time. Sufjan is just one of those guys that I like, and I just really want to like everything he releases. I don't have to try too hard, since he writes such great music. I'm ready for the next one...I'm so greedy.

4. Johnny Cash American V: A Hundred Highways - I know, the top three must be awesome if I place them ahead of this posthumous Cash album. They are, but enough about them. A Hundred Highways is full of great songs, including the last two songs ever written by Cash. "I Came to Believe" made me cry at the first listen, given the circumstances. Between that and his rendition of "God's Gonna Cut You Down", I am in Cash heaven. But he's in the real thing.

3. The Decemberists The Crane Wife - I've listened to this album more times than I can count, and it hasn't even been out that long. It's epic, it's melodious, it's emotional. Colin Meloy uses words I've never heard of, and I think he actually uses them in their proper context. This disc has been spinning in our minivan with very little rest since it came out. I'm building up Addison's vocabulary before she can even speak. I don't understand a lot of what is happening in the album lyrically, but I am willing to keep listening to figure it out. It's amazing that an album can be so catchy and so intelligent at once.

2. Sleeping at Last Keep No Score - This album is tied deeply to my emotions of the past year. We had it playing in the van for most of our trips back and forth to the doctor's office for our many doctor's appointments leading up to Addison's birth. This sort of became the soundtrack for that whole experience. The other day, I had my iPod on shuffle while I was watching Addison, and the song "Umbrellas" came on. I looked at Addison and began to cry. I know I'm just a big baby, but hearing Ryan O'Neal, in his beautifully delicate voice, sing "We'll bring a child, we'll bring a child into this world. We'll say the one thing every child should hear: 'You were meant for amazing things'," it brings it all to me. The weight of expectancy of becoming a father, the sadness of this world that we've brought her into. This album addresses pretty much all of it.

1. Anathallo Floating World - Right after I got this album, I posted a "review" of it. Actually, they ended up posting a link to my review on their website, which I thoroughly appreciated, and totally didn't expect. I first heard them at the same show at North Park that I was introduced to Half-Handed Cloud. They blew my mind then, and I waited impatiently from that day for the release of Floating World. It didn't let me down. For some reason, when I listen to Anathallo, I feel like they're the band I've been hoping to hear for years. They are exactly what I love about music. They're unbelievably creative, they utilize unpredictable time signatures, they write great melodies, along with superb female background vocals, experimentation with unorthodox instrumentation, etc. Though many of the lyrics are based on a Japanese folk tale, not all are, most notably "Genessaret (going out over 30,000 fathoms of water)," which is a touching tale in which I see the struggles of Peter as he attempted to walk on water in parallel with my own faith struggles as a child and now as an adult. This album is in my top 5 of all time, and I don't expect it to be knocked out of its position for a long time, if at all.

Special Category: Box Set - Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas - Yeah, I really like Sufjan.

Special Category: EP - David Crowder Band B Collision - A Collision is amazing, and B Collision does a great job of capitalizing on the fact that I am now willing to buy anything by Crowder because they put together one of the greatest worship albums I've ever heard. I love the reworkings with banjo as well as the full version of "Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven But Nobody Wants To Die." Very nice.

Honorable Mentions - Most of these honorable mentions are just albums that I heard once or twice and liked, but not enough to put on the list (or I haven't given them enough time to permeate my consciousness).

Muse Black Holes and Revelations, Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions, M. Ward Post-War, The Dears Gang of Losers, The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America, Josh Ritter The Animal Years, Mute Math Mute Math.


At 11:52 AM EST , Blogger Emma said...

Hey! Terrific list.

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