It is amazing how many of these lists still get produced after we where in the music department at outsideleft have consistently throughout our organization's lifetime produced the definitive list. I guess one should salute the temerity that the Pitchforks and the Rolling Stones out there exhibit. Bless the hearts.
I considered a more in-depth approach to this task, like producing Venn diagrams with the more important nodes as larger dots, or maybe some kind of vector diagram that displays how The Decemberists saliency factor waned as their intellectual factor rose, but this dodgy bootleg version of Excel I have keeps insisting I give it a registration key, so we will churn our butter the old fashioned way.
Some notes: I listened to almost no jazz this year, and was not aware of a single jazz album of note being released. Ornette Coleman threw in a good punch with Sound Grammar, sounding loose and with a haphazard enough recording to could've erupted from his 50's heyday, but I only heard snippets. Outside of that, and the 1,576 Norwegian spazz-racket side projects hurrahed by The Wire, I suspect no jazz whatsoever was created in 2006.
Same thing for hip-hop, except I did listen to a lot of it. There was a fair amount of it produced but nothing besides The Roots' Game Theory had any shelf life with me at all.
Top 10 records of 2006
10. Film School - Film School
They must be quite a band if it lifted the shroud of guilt I felt about really liking The Cure again. I mean, I don't feel real guilt, but you know, liking the Cure is not something you just want to admit in front of the fellas. Film School surfed atop the tidal wave of neo-shoegazer revisionists.
9. ...nd You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead - So Divided
Held up to glassy eye of hipsters and they respond with a dull "It's no 'Source tags and Codes' and ok it isn't. What it is instead is a lesson on how to make a brilliant, deep heavily orchestrated monster of a record without getting lost in the string section.
8. Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain
Usually mixing metal and pop results in a comic explosion ala Peter brady's volcano, but the Portland, OR horde (I guess they might be a horde, even though they have the loosest tether to black metal) did it right. There was a lot of great activity in this arena: Isis, the Sunn o)))/Boris split, and so on, but Ashes Against the Grain is just a tremendous album of epic melodies and lone-gunman-on-the-mountain-top-riffs with demon growls to bring the thunder.
7. M. Ward - Post War
I think an M Ward album has been on my annual top 10 list ever since I started making them. His latest is once again a masterful sandwich of tenderness and grace garnished with poetry and death. This is what I want shortwave radio to sound like - haunted transmissions from long lost souls.
6. Eyes of Ligeia - A Fever Which Would Cling to Thee Forever
Much like rap was a few years ago, doom metal will be reborn anew in Atlanta. Fuck a bunch of Eastern Eurpoe and their dodgy racial politics encroaching on the people's death knell, for Eyes of Ligeia will barbeque the corpse-paint right off you. Menace, atmosphere and the general contempt for all you weak motherfuckers all swirl into something something that almost becomes pretty, in a barren tree against a full moon way.
5. Cougar - Law
This tiny innocent record took up a ton of my listening time. One of many mixtures of well-mannered guitar twinkling and light synthetic touches to come out after the implosion of post-rock, Cougar is one I was so enthusiastic about I forced at least three people to sit and listen to it in its entirety, and two of those asked for a copy.
4. Boris - Pink
Love me some goddamn Boris. The split by them and Sunn O)) held some promise but failed to play on either of the bands' tectonic strengths, but this record is down right lethal. Ranging from brown-acid psychedelia to break-neck garage thrash, this album rolls up the history of rock-n-roll into the kind of spicy burrito a guy like me hungers for.
3. Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds - Philosophy and Underwear
Almost nobody heard this record, but those who did sighed with relief that humor and noise and sleaze can still co-exists without becoming a pompadored tattoo-festooned Juxtapoz magazine self-parody, riding around with fuzzy dice around its neck. Every cocktail party of the damned would be doubly improved with this on the hi-fi.
2. The Drones - Gala Mill
Many people tried to join the armada of the apocalypse this year but no one had as ragged a mast as Australia's The Drones. Epic despair whipcracking on hypnotic zombie guitars with hair on fire and eyes bloodshot to the point of blindness. This came very close to becoming my number one but...
1.The Hold Steady- Boys and Girls in America
No one but the Hold Steady gets it any more. Indie rock has completely devolved into a lifestyle accessory, having about as much teeth in it as does an ironic souvenir throw pillow. Pianist Franz Nicolay is, I suspect, largely responsible for applying the jumper cables to Born to Run to raise this monster to life, but its Craig Finn's Bukowski swagger that gives it its power. Every time I listen to this record, I think no one even came close to this record. Nobody. Take it off and I can appreciate some pleasantries of inide pop or some good old-fashioned self-debasement to some metal but once I put Boys and Girls back on, I have to clear the table. "Chips Ahoy" is the song of the year. And the runner ups are the rest of the songs on the record.
The Moore Brothers - Murdered by the Moore Brothers
Current 93 - Black Ships Ate the Sky
Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
Tapes'n'Tapes - The Loon
The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
Joanna Newsome - Ys
More like Joanna Nuisance. Merle Haggard once said he liked the lulls in his career because he didn't want to be loved to death like Elvis was. I think we may have appreciated Joanna Newsome to death. The album itself is OK, good even, but there is just so much that an elf with a harp can do. It's a curiosity. The seashell the revealed the cosmos to you when you found it while stoned at the beach is but a clich?© knick-knack when you get it home.
Bob Dylan - Modern Times
Cmon, really? This made it to everbody's list? Has the iconoclastic music dork elite given way to the Academy's hump-the-leg-of-the-Grim-Reaper tendency to award 'em before they croak? This album sounds great and has some great musicians on it, but someone with Bob Dylan's pocketbook should have a great sounding record. The problem with it is that the guy that used to be "Bob Dylan" just can't make hash of the world like he used to. Because no one can, I'll give him that. But we don't need to keep wheeling him out like that, do we? Didn't we learn this lesson with Muhammed Ali and that torch?
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com