Monday, December 11, 2006

Best Albums of 2006... #6-10

I promise that I am not building up suspense for the very top...I am just lazy.

6. TOM WAITS- Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards
I know this just came out, but it's Tom Waits. Orphans is a collection of odds and ends throughout the years...covers, songs recorded for films never released, and just general hodge podge. However Waits assembles all these lost songs into three cohesive, standalone records; Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards. Brawlers is reserved for songs that would fit on any of the ANTI-released Waits records, Bawlers is composed of ballads gone wrong, any of which would make a fitting backdrop to drinking whiskey alone in a smoky bar. Bastards is mostly experimental or spoken word songs including a poem written by Charles Bukowski. And in these three records lies some of Waits finest work. From the chugging, demented Delta blues of "Lucinda" to the stark beauty and wistfulness of "You Can Never Hold Back Spring", the whole spectrum of the Tom Waits sound is explored. The man can do no wrong. For some reason, this is what Christmas music should sound like...the despair and alienation that leads eventually to the light up ahead. Beautiful and terrifying, Orphans will warm you up and blur your vision like a shot of Jameson 12-year-old.

The first time I saw this band was opening up for Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and SOUND team...the only thing I really remember is a Neutral Milk Hotel cover and a song that had a super catchy trombone hook. A few weeks later I found them on Myspace and was blown away by the songs online. I actually was nerdy enough to go buy this record the day it came out at Twist & Shout. While it way be a little derivative of other 'collective' groups like the Arcade Fire, NMH, and Broken Social Scene, it captures a feeling and mood that feels distinctly EAOD's own. "The Exit Parade" is one of the best songs I have heard all year...plaintative trombones swim with ethereal guitars and segue into one of the most instantly sing-alongable choruses out there. The album is short and to the point; seven tracks clocking in at 23 minutes. Yet these 23 minutes are chock-full of sugary sweetness. The band has a surname of sorts...they are Everything Absent or Distorted (a love story). This album will make you fall in love with it, and with them.

8. CURSIVE- Happy Hollow
Once upon a time, there was a band named Cursive. They released a record called Domestica, and everyone thought that they had peaked; this was it, their finest moment. Then they released the Burst and Bloom EP, and the shape of things to come looked promising. In 2003, they dropped The Ugly Organ, which instantly cemented them into the indie-rock lexicon. So when Happy Hollow was announced, I felt the exact same way I have felt on the eve of every Cursive release; how can they top what has come before? While this album falls well short of the masterpiece that is The Ugly Organ, it is also it's own beast in and of itself...and welcomes a whole new version of Cursive to the world. Fourteen songs about the saints and sinners of a fictional town called Happy Hollow, catalogued in the final track "Hymns for the Heathens". Tim Kasher's crisis of faith is played out in real-time through these characters...the old songs of ex-lovers are traded in for condemnations of everything from Christianity to America to the current adminsitration. Yet it never sounds preachy or self-serving. So while we might have to wait another three years for the next chapter from Cursive, it would seem that this is a band who keeps topping themselves, even after over ten years together.

9. NEKO CASE- Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
When I was a little kid I had this illustrated book of stories about the adventures of a family of bears that were always getting into trouble or something. I had this one where the little boy bear got lost in the woods, but unfortunately a few pages of the book were missing, so all of a sudden he just appeared back at home good as new. So I would have to make up the rest of the story, fill in the blanks. This is much like listening to Fox Confessor Brings the have to fill in the blanks, and that's the most fun. Neko has really become a dynamic force in music. We know she can sing like the dickens, but with Fox Confessor she has firmly planted herself at the top of female singer-songwriters. In "Hold On, Hold On" (which makes a strong case for being one of the best songs of `06) she tells us "In the end I was the mean girl/Or somebody's in-between girl/Now it's the devil I love/And that's as funny as real love/And that's as real as true love". You're goddamn right. Plus, she's a real doe.

10. ART BRUT- Bang Bang Rock And Roll
Okay, so it's not high art. None of the songs are poignant (except maybe "Rusted Gun of Milan", about not being able to get it up). But it is one of the most fun albums from one of the most fun bands out there today. I admit that at first I did not understand Art Brut...what was this guy mumbling about with these repetitive choruses that make no sense? Then I saw the Brut Like a hurricane wrapped in an earthquake nestled in a box of tsunamis. Eddie Argos singlehandedly wrote my favorite line of any song probably of the last five years, "I want to be the man/Who writes the song/That makes Israel and Palestine/Get along". Get drunk with your friends and put this on. You won't be sorry.

In other really rad news, Largehearted Boy linked to my 2006 best-of list. I didn't know anyone outside of my immediate group of friends read this thing! I guess now I gotta clean up my act!


Blogger Bill said...

We love you. We're playing with the Laylights at the Oriental Theater on Feb. 16th. Come be our guest, and we'll prove it. Sincerely, thank you. (And also sincerely, come to the show if you can on us. Just drop us a line at

9:15 AM  

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