Friday, January 05, 2007

better of 2006 list

Here it is, the post you've all been waiting for. Anxiously.

Over the past week, I've been going back over the records that I bought that came out in 2006. It was actually kind of a disappointing experience. Sure, there were some totally, totally great records, but for the most part they were records by bands who, honestly, I expected more from. The new ones by TV On The Radio, The Evens, Drive-By Truckers, Eleventh Dream Day, Mudhoney, Pinebender, and the Minus 5 were all good records, but certainly not as good as some of their other stuff (though admittedly the Mudhoney album in particular was far better than I expected it to be). Robert Pollard's "From A Compound Eye" is quite good, as are the new Victory at Sea and Mogwai, but they just didn't totally blow me away (although admittedly the Mogwai album in particular was far better than I expected it to be). The new Mission of Burma was good, but not as good as "onOFFon" (no matter what the general consensus was). Incidentally, Mission of Burma get my "lyric of the year" award for the line "I'm haunted by the freakish size of Nancy Reagan's head."

However, I was able to select ten records this year that were head and shoulders above the rest. For me, anyway. As I did last year (I'm too lazy to figure out how to link to it, but it was on December 22, 2005), I'll present these in alphabetical order:

Acid Mothers Temple -- "Myth Of The Love Electrique" -- 4 songs of about 20 minutes each, featuring Kawabata Makoto's trademark freakout guitar, Tsuyama Atsushi's twisted genius (and thank god his bass is finally in the mix!), and a new singer.

Bardo Pond -- "Ticket Crystals" -- I saw them live just before this album came out and they started with a new song that totally killed. It turned out to be "Destroying Angel," the first song off this album. It drags a bit in the middle, but it's their best album in a while.

Neko Case -- "Fox Confessor Brings The Flood" -- Hands-down my favorite album of the year. There are very few albums that I like every song on, and even fewer that I listen to start-to-finish every time I listen to them, but this is one. It's a bit on the short side, but every song on here is great. Case gets song of the year for "Hold On, Hold On" from this album.

The Decemberists -- "The Crane Wife" -- Sure it's kind of pretentious and Colin Meloy's voice gets annoying, but if you can get on board with that, it's pretty damn good. It's weirdly proggy, from the mud-in-a-bucket percussion at the beginning of "The Island" (from the beginning of "Easy Money" by King Crimson) to the Keith Emerson keyboards on the same song, but not in a way that detracts from its listenability.

Robyn Hitchcock -- "Olé Tarantula" -- With an all-star backing band (Scott "Young Fresh Fellows" McCaughey, Bill "Ministry" Rieflin, and Peter "some shitty garage band" Buck, all of whom are from the Minus 5), Hitchcock presents his best work since his last record. I can't believe he still writes great songs, but he does.

Motorpsycho -- "Black Hole/Blank Canvas" -- After the departure of longtime drummer Håkon "Geb" Gebhardt, I was concerened that the new Motorpsycho would be kind of cruddy. Especially after I learned that the two remaining band members had essentially recorded a double-album by themselves. The result, however, is easily Motorpsycho's best album since 1998's "Trust Us." Motorpsycho are probably the only band who shatter the "rule" that double-albums would be better off as single albums. They've done it, by my count, 4 times (Timothy's Monster, Blissard, Angels and Daemons At Play, Trust Us, and now Black Hole/Blank Canvas--I don't think Demon Box is that good).

Om -- "Conference of the Birds" -- Ah, Om. The two-man bass-and-drums stoner-doom duo who out-sludge just about everyone. Much better than their debut album, "Conference of the Birds" clocks in at 33 minutes, so it's really more of an EP. But what a great EP it is.

Phantom Buffalo -- "Killing's Not Okay" -- I've gone on and on about how great these guys are, and this EP is no exeption. Beautiful harmonies, surreal songwriting, excellent musicianship -- they've got it all. Available from Time-Lag.

Sun City Girls -- "Static From The Outside Set" -- For their first installment in their "Carnival Folklore Ressurection" series since 2004, the all-guy Girls chose to release a radio program they created for On The Wire. It encapsulates pretty much everything about the Sun City Girls, from virtuoso guitar excursions to spoken word bizzareness to an assortment of covers (I have to say, if anyone out there has any pull with the Girls, PLEASE tell them to release their cover of Love's "Alone Again Or"!), to things that honestly can't quite be described.

Neil Young -- "Living With War" -- Neil is a very impulse-driven guy. Sometimes it's to his benefit, sometimes not. In the case of "Living With War," he's put out his best record in a decade at least. My brother and I have talked about this before, and at this point in his career, it would be totally understandable if Neil never put out a truly great record again. He doesn't owe anything to anybody. And yet, he's still out there making great music. Sure, it's no "Ragged Glory" or "On The Beach," but it's great in its own way.

I also wanted to give special mention to several reissues and special editions that came out this year:

Boris -- "Pink" -- A number of places listed this on their best-of-2006 lists, but I'm putting it in this section because it originally came out in Japan in 2005. Ranging from free-floating ambience to shoegazey rock to head-pummelling thrash, this record's got it all.

Billy Bragg -- "Volume I" and "Volume II" -- Two box sets from the electric troubador, featuring double-disc special editions of all of his albums, including outtakes, demos, live songs, and video. There are some real dogs on here (a dance mix of "England, Half English"? WTF?), but some great revelations as well (solo versions of songs that became cluttered and cruddy on William Bloke).

Uncle Jim -- "Uncle Jim's Superstars of Greenwich Meantime" -- A CD issue of the 2005 LP. Totally, totally great stuff from everybody's favorite chain-smoking horror film fan.

Frank Zappa -- "MOFO" -- Available in 2-disc and 4-disc versions, MOFO (The Making of Freak Out!) is an audio documentary on the making of Frank Zappa's 1966 album Freak Out! featuring the original vinyl mix of the album, contemporary and later interviews on the making of the record, and dozens out outtakes. Purportedly the first in a series. I, for one, anxiously await the Making of Hot Rats.

So there you have it. The music that rocked my world in 2006. Who knows what goodies 2007 will bring?
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