My Music of 2006: Top Twenty Albums...


28 dec 2006, 02:02

As I'm sure will be the case again next year, and probably every year for a long time, I have got through a pretty amazing amount of music in the past twelve months. As ever, I've tried to listen to as wide a range of new stuff as possible, it's quite funny to look back now and try to make a list of favourite albums in a year, and then see how well this reflects that eclecticism. Certainly the list is pretty varied, but as ever the disclaimer would go on that this is by no means a good indicator of how my tastes have developed over the year. 2006 was as much the year of Electronic and Dance music as it was for the Indie albums that mostly fill the list. That genres preference for the single release and mixtapes over albums means that a lot of artists like Justice, 2 Many DJs, and Erol Alkan are absent when they have been as big a part of my musical digestion. I will probably make a Top Tracks list this year that should better reflect this diversity. There are also a huge number of albums that I simply never got around to listening to, or haven't given enough listens to, to make up my mind fully on.

However, this lists most important task is to hopefully introduce a few of you out there to some new music you've never heard, and hopefully share my love of these artists with you. And as the old saying goes, without further ado...

20. DJ Mehdi - Lucky Boy

19. Booka Shade - Movements

18. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block

17. Black Moth Super Rainbow + The Octopus Project - The House of Apples & Eyeballs

16. TV on the Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain

15. Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat

14. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife

13. Midlake - The Trials Of Van Occupanther

12. Cansei de Ser Sexy - Cansei De Ser Sexy

11. Cat Power - The Greatest

10. Beck - The Information

I love Beck's music and have for years. I suppose that’s why it really disappoints me that I can't put this album higher. I think the biggest problem here is that for a man who is renowned for off-the-wall genre defying shifts from album to album, his last two have tread old ground, and frankly, not quite as well. While this is a better album than last year's Guero, it just doesn’t live up to Odelay, which increasingly looks like being his masterpiece. However, on its own merit it's a great album and worthy of its place. Plus, it helps that I not only got to see him perform some of it in the summer, but I got to meet the band... err... well ok, maybe just the puppets that were used in the stage show.

Best Track: Cellphone's Dead

9. Mogwai - Mr. Beast

Mogwai are one of those bands that I have known about for years but never really got around to listening to. Thankfully I chose now to do so as Mr. beast acts as a perfect introduction to a band that could be difficult to get into if you choose the wrong album to start with. Keeping to more standard song lengths this album has all the power of their first release, Young Team, but tones down the metal tendencies a bit and keeps your attention better. Saying that the first half of this album is better and it loses pace a little by the end.

Best Track: Travel Is Dangerous

8. Thom Yorke - The Eraser

The words 'Thom' 'Yorke' 'solo' and 'album' are enough to make Radiohead'heads like myself just a tad excited. Personally I share none of the doubts about the future of the band that many seem to make out of this release. It makes perfect sense to me for the outspoken and clearly musically adventurous lead singer of a band with such a diverse back-catalogue, to want to stretch out and experiment in his own way. Yorke's clear interest in the electronic side of Radiohead's output set the tone and The Eraser sits somewhere closer to Kid A Or Amnesiac than it does to Hail To the Thief, Radioheads most recent album. His ever politically charged lyrics are more to the point than in most Radiohead songs, the title track not at all hiding its relation to the suicide of Dr David Kelly in the aftermath of 'Dodgy Dossier' scandal. However on his own, the intensity just isn't the same as with Radiohead. The album lacks a killer punch, great throughout but never particularly outstanding. Hopefully, with a new Radiohead album on the cards for 2007 Yorke's solo adventure will have helped to inspire another great album.

Best Track:
And It Rained All Night

7. Ellen Allien & Apparat - Orchestra Of Bubbles

The ever evolving and often dubious trends in electronic music are probably one of the biggest factors putting the majority of 'Indie Kids' off it. Everything seems to align itself to a certain genre and within in each there are seemingly never ending lists of sub-genres. This album comes under the currently popular (but likely soon to be reviled by the dance music crowd) minimal techno genre. As this has been the year of my dance music awakening this seems the perfect intro for anyone interested in finding a footing. It has all the beeps, clicks and wobbly synths you can need from a good techno record, but the human touch of Ellen Allien's voice is enough to both make this album sit above much of the rest of the genre, and at the same time make it more accessible to the dance music layman.

Best Track: Way Out

6. Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche

Oh Sufjan, I'm sorry. The biggest admission from my 2005 list was Illinoise, while it topped nearly every end of year list worth mentioning last December, it wasn’t until about February of this year that I finally got round to listening to it. And boy, what had I missed out on. It would be sitting at number two on my list had I heard it a few months earlier. However true to form, Sufjan, as the hardest working man in Indie wasn’t to let me down. The Avalanche is essentially an album of B-sides and a few alternate versions to songs from Illinoise. Despite that, this album alone probably deserves to come higher this year, but yet again I stupidly left it to late in the year to listen to this enough to fairly put it above anything else. Considering this is a bunch of tracks that didn't make the cut on Illinoise, It puts most other artists first choice for albums to shame.

Best Track: The Avalanche

5. Hot Chip - The Warning

Four Tracks of this album is all it takes for Hot Chip to have introduced three of this year's best single releases. Even more impressive is that each of these songs is utterly appealing and fantastic in a different way. Boy from School is a melancholy but still uplifting track. Colours is a cheery, bouncy, and dare I say it, cute love letter, while Over and Over is as close as Indie Disco comes to a 'banger' a tune that has everyone spazzing about like a numpty and singing along to that vocal hook despite not knowing what’s being sung. The strength of these three tracks right at the beginning of the album however is a weakness of the album overall, and the remaining tracks just can't keep up. It by no means however falls apart and The Warning, So Glad To See You and No Fit State all round the album off nicely. And if any nay sayers need proof that indie music and the so-called New-rave movement has made big inroads into dance music territory, Mixmag, a UK dance rag, named this the album of the year, and Over and Over the second best track of the year.

Best Track: Over and Over

4. Joanna Newson - Ys

I already know that one of my New Year resolutions will be to listen to the album that everyone is talking about, before the last week of the year. Despite being told that Ys was a phenomenal album seemingly all year, I left it until the beginning of this week to listen to it for the first time. However, I haven’t really stopped listening to it since then. And quite simply, wow... The tender folksy tunes of The Milk-Eyed Mender are gone but in their place are sweeping, awesome mini-symphonies, ranging from seven to seventeen minutes long. The length of the songs frees Newsom's unmistakeable and beautiful voice to explore its entire range and the quirky and fantastical lyricism explore ideas just as wonderful. I expect to regret placing this at just number four; it should be interesting to see where it would fit in this time next year.

Best Track: Cosmia

3. Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope

Regina Spektor is just this side of a guilty pleasure. While most of her songs, particularly on this album, are unashamed pop songs, their exploration of some of the darker sides of life, and introduction of a huge range of past and contemporary influences, make her much more than the usual chart fodder. The introduction of a much larger palate of instruments compared to her earlier albums has worked very well. Nothing ever tries to outshine the most important part of the album, her stunning voice, and as ever she isn’t afraid to mess around, maybe to a lesser extent than before, no beatboxing, rapping or scat singing on this album, and while they are great fun and a bit sad to see go, this albums more pop orientated and fuller composition doesn't need them. While I cant decide if this is a better album than her previous works, it is definitely a positive evolution of a fantastic singer and songwriter.

Best Track: Samson

2. Guillemots - Through The Windowpane

When It came to sheer joy in 2006, nobody did it better then the Guillemots. The first time I heard of the band was watching the video to Made Up Love Song #43 and the impression was certainly pretty powerful. And following that up with Trains To Brazil certainly helped drive home the fact that this was a band to look out for. This is another group who write fantastic pop songs in an age that is a bit confused on what makes pop songs great. Thankfully, ecstatic happiness isn’t the only emotion this band is capably of creating. The album in full orchestral glory sweeps through songs that are introspective, expressive, sad, happy, sometimes all within a few bars of one another. It is by no means an instant pleasure, it takes a few listens to get fully into, but the patience is more than rewarded. The samba tinged percussion, swooping strings, evocative piano work, a bit of very northern brass band, and most impressively of all Fyfe Dangerfield's incredible voice, the best British vocalist for years, all come together into something that is captivating for its entire length.

Best Track(s): Made Up Lovesong #43
Annie, Let's Not Wait

1. The Knife - Silent Shout

I can't really decide whether having the same pick as Pitchfork for the top album of the year is a compliment or whether I've sunk to a new low, certainly it isn’t a website that I often agree with, but for once they have hit the nail pretty much on the head and on a choice that was pretty daring, even for them. The Knife is a band I certainly would never have expected to be hailing as band of the year. This time last year I don't think I even knew that everyone's favourite José González song was a cover (all be it a pretty altered one) of a song that sits somewhere between eighties synth rock, and nineties Europop, with midi steel drums. But finding that song, and actually really liking it set the ball rolling and it wasn’t long till I got a copy of Silent Shout. You have to suspend your belief and reasoning a bit while listening to The Knife. This music certainly isn’t easy, but then, neither is it that inaccessible. There is something that straight away grabs you, whether its the unusual melody, or the intriguing vocals I’m not sure, but instantly you are somewhere else entirely. Unmistakably dark, especially when compared to the hyperactive, multi-coloured eccentricity of their previous work, Deep Cuts, this is pretty much how I imagine a computer would make music if left to its own devices. Certainly there is emotion in the distorted, pitch-shifted voice of Karin Dreijer Andersson, but its not completely human, not completely artificial.

Best Track(s): Silent Shout
We Share Our Mother's Health


  • schtef

    I've read a lot of lists and I don't think I can relate/agree with you more :) Great writing. Also being a radiohead fan I wasn't actually too keen on [i]the eraser[/i]. Like you said, it lack punch or pizzaz and comes across to me as a lesser form of radiohead, more produced maybe but less enjoyable. This year I adored Hot Chip and Regina Spektor and really enjoyed the beck album as well (despite comparisons to previous works). And you've only made me more determined to get around to listening to The Knife :)

    28 dec 2006, 02:43
  • Linkable

    Fantastic list, I can relate complete on the especially your top 5. I didn't particulary like The Avalanches, it felt like leftovers from Illinois, and more of the same.

    31 dec 2006, 15:43
  • japieee

    I like your list and your writing and I totally agree with you on 'Silent Shout', I absolutely love it.

    9 jan 2007, 08:26
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