Saturday, December 30, 2006


Took a blizzard for me to finish this...

Drum roll please...the grand finale!

1. TV on the Radio- Return to Cookie Mountain
DUH. Come on! Even Entertainment Weekly chose this album as the best of `06. It really is that good. It was good when it first leaked a million years ago. I am a TV on the Radio fan anyway, but some of their material left me in the dark at times. Not here. Cookie Mountain is literally bursting at the seams with choice cuts. Did they release the best single of the year with "Wolf Like Me"? Absolutely. But then there is "I Was A Lover", with it's elephant calls. Or the doo-wop of "Dirtywhirl". Maybe the Bowie cameo on "Province"? You can go anywhere. The nonsense at the end aside, this might be a perfect record. If this is the future of rock and roll, count me in. We are fucking howling forever, ooh ooh.

2. Joanna Newsom- Ys
Pronounced 'yeese', Ys -to me- is a stand-alone piece of art. It belongs in a museum. An incredibly ambitious album, the ravishing beauty and playful arrangements of these five songs have a timeless feel about them. Like they are classics in the lexicon, standards. As if "Monkey and Bear" was a nursery rhyme you heard when you were little. Like listening to a story. And though the average run time of a song is in the area of ten minutes, they never feel that long. Absolute beauty, in and out. I read somewhere that in Joanna the US had finally found it's answer to Bjork. And then some.
BONUS: Wikipedia article about the ancient mythical city of Ys. Recommended. Read it. Right now.
REQUIRED LISTENING: Sawdust and Diamonds

3. Russian Circles- Enter
You can take the boy out of metal but you can't take metal out of the boy...Enter straight up shreds your face right the fuck off. Of all the bands doing the prog metal thing currently (ISIS, Pelican, Red Sparowes, etc) these guys have got to be the most accessible. It's like throwing those bands into a pot and adding Explosions in the Sky. However at no point do they drone, or meander around a theme; everything is crisp and fresh and, well, totally shredding. "Carpe" opens the record with sparse haunting guitar and some nice tap work, then jolts you out of your seat with the opening onslaught, from seemingly out of nowhere. The fact that a three-piece can sound like a full orchestra is incredible...drummer Dave Turncrantz holds the frenetic chaos together with precise drumming that leads the band charging into the fray. Amazing, amazing record. Now that I think about it maybe it should be in the number one spot, just on the sheer volume of repeat-listens alone.

4. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins- Rabbit Fur Coat
A perfect little snack of an album. In a scant 37 minutes Jenny comes in, melts your heart and leaves again, looking back at you over her shoulder and winking. She mixes heartbreak, history, gospel and faith into a beautifully stark snapshot of herself. The album is already steeped in nostalgia before you even hear it; it feels warm and comforting and ever-so-slightly familiar. Some reviews I read called her lyrics trite, I rather enjoy them (They warn you about killers and thieves in night/I worry about cancer and living right /But my mama never warned me about my own/Destructive appetite" or "It's bound to melt your heart/For good or for bad/It's like a valentine/From your mother/It's bound to melt your heart"). I hope this record has the lasting power I think it does.

5. SOUND team- Movie Monster
Half the fun of SOUND team is trying to explain to people what they actually SOUND's impossible. Moog-infused rock n' roll? Fuzzed out psychedelia? Electronic prog rock? Whatever they are, they sound distinctly Austin. While not immediately accessible, Movie Monster is a veritable treasure trove of hidden delights. The little synth part that swims around the meat of a song. The pulsating bass line hiding behind gritty fuzzy guitars. The pop song ready for the radio buried in static. It's meaty. Spend some time listening to this record through headphones. Added bonus: bass player looks just like Denver Dan.

6. TOM WAITS- Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards
8. CURSIVE- Happy Hollow
9. NEKO CASE- Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
10. ART BRUT- Bang Bang Rock And Roll
12. BLOOD BROTHERS- Young Machetes
13. HOT CHIP- The Warning
14. GIANT DRAG- Hearts and Unicorns
15. MASTODON- Blood Mountain
16. THE RAPTURE- Pieces of the People We Love
17. BAND OF HORSES- Everything All the Time
19. THE DRAFT- In a Million Pieces
20. MARITIME- We, The Vehicles
21. THE THERMALS- The Body, The Blood, The Machine
22. RATATAT- Classics
23. LIARS- Drum's Not Dead
25. SUFJAN STEVENS- The Avalanche

You can do a full recap here or here.

And a special consideration for the best album of 2005 I didn't 'get' until 2006...

Wolf Parade- Apologies to the Queen Mary
It's so fucking amazing. Just a fantastic record, which I might also label a 'perfect' record. It has become like comfort food for me. When I am sick of all music I throw this on. From the opening crunch of "You Are A Runner And I Am My Father's Son" (which they segue live into "Fancy Claps"- it's mind-melting) to the go-out-on-a-high-note of "This Heart's On Fire", Wolf Parade hacked it's way into my heart this year.
REQUIRED LISTENING: I'll Believe In Anything


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