Thursday, February 15, 2007

JMG's Most Favorite Record Albums of 2006

10 BEST OF 2006 (alphabetical order)

Cat Power “The Greatest” (Merge)

Chan’s been plugging away at it drunk and high for a long time and most of her audience has stood beside her erratic performances because she’s so damn good. Still high as a kite, she journey to Memphis and recorded “The Greatest” and promptly checked herself into rehab on the eve of an American tour, costing Matador tons of money. You ever have one of those rare experiences where the first time you hear a record you get full-body goosebumps that don’t subside until the last note sounds? This is one of those. Gorgeous vocal harmonies, amazing strings and heartbreaking lyrics. It’s a masterpiece, plain and simple. One that I wonder if the new stone cold Ms. Marshall will ever be able to come close to again.

Gnarles Barkley “St. Elsewhere” (Downtown)
Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo make a silly-ass mess. You want to say it’s just a record full of “types” – you know the “hit single,” the “Motown,” the “George Clinton,” the “toy commercial” except the songs are so damn good, so damn funny and so damn intricately produced, that not only do they work, they insinuate themselves into your subconscious.

Keene Bros. “Blues and Boogie Shoes” (Recordhead)
Robert Pollard and Tommy Keene made a one-off that is as strong as the strongest GBV albums. Most of the time, “Blues” comes off as a anti-war album, continuing a theme that Pollard dips into often. Not quite a concept album, more just a song cycle with titles like “Death of the Party, “ Beauty of the Draft,” “Evil vs. Evil” and “Camouflaged Friend.” The songs don’t seem as cryptic as usual and the band, led by Keene’s solid-rock guitar , renders them catchy as hell. I like it a lot.

Mission Of Burma “The Obliterati” (Matador)
Reunions rarely work. I can only think of three within the last couple of years: Gang of Four, Slint and Mission of Burma. Bands reuniting and then recording new material NEVER works, except for one: Mission of Burma. But it took them two records to get it right – 2004’s “Onoffon” was completely hit and miss as the band had no idea what it wanted to say yet. They figured it out for “The Obliterati” another for the most part anti-war album with incredibly strong loud and punky playing from a bunch of 50 year olds. You can almost close your eyes and imagine it’s 1984 with MOB in their prime. And it’s loud just like it should be!

Neko Case “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.” (Anti)
If Chan Marshall won’t have a drink with me anymore, I hope Neko Case will. She exudes sultriness in every one of these songs, transporting the listener with her voice through time, from the Civil War, through the Dirty South, while also conjuring the best of Dusty Springfield and an evangelist preacher so compelling you cannot turn your ears away. Cute as hell too…

The Raconteurs “Broken Boy Soldiers” (V2)
I wanted to hate this. I really did. Alt/Indy Supergroup? The term alone just makes me want to vomit. But it’s the year’s perfect pop album. Kudos to that dude from the White Stripes that stepped back into the shadows a bit and let Brendan Benson and the Greenhornes' dudes shine a bit. You can certainly tell the difference between a Benson song and a Jack White song, but they slide in and out and around each other like oily water soup about to boil. And when Jack lets loose on the guitar, he reminds me that that there are few better living guitarists. Strong statement, I know, but true.

Sonic Youth “Rather Ripped” (Geffen)
What a surprise – a completely melodic, listenable, pretty album by a band that has only hit on those concepts in the past by accident. It’s almost humorous how “poppy” it is, as it must have been really, really hard for Thurston and Lee not to detune into drop K or whatever they normally do. Kim sings! And Steve basically plays a fancy 4/4. It’s mind-boggling that most of the record is catchy as hell. I doubt they’re trying to get radio play, but “Disintegrate” could easily play every hour on K-ROCK.

Tool “10,000 Days” (Volcano)
Guilty pleasure time. These guys just get better and better – math rock coupled with incredibly sarcastic illuminati-inspired lyrics all rolled up into one bombastic cannon and pointed right at your skull. More anti-Bush songs (is there a theme here?), songs about drugs and songs about UFOs – you know, the normal stuff for Mr. Keenan and Co. And the album packaging is, well, mind-expanding.

Thom Yorke “The Eraser” (XI)
The perfect album for all alone, late-night photo retouching in the dead of winter. That’s how I fell in love with it and once you embrace it, it sticks hard. Weird little angry esoteric poems about something, but you get it. It sounds like 4am.

Neil Young “Live at The Fillmore East” (Reprise)
It may be only six songs from two nights. It may be shorter than it should be, but what are you gonna do, call up Neil and complain? What you get is 6 songs from a moment in time – 1971 – with Crazy Horse at their embryonic peak if such a thing is possible. I’ll take what I can get from Mr. Young. I trust him like family and I rejoice in his noise.

ALMOST RANS (alphabetical order)

Blanch “What This Town Needs” EP (V2)

Heard this on KCRW and picked it up immediately. The Louvin Brothers meet The Raveonettes. Twangy, minor key goodness…

Dirty Pretty Things “Waterloo to Anywhere” (Interscope)
Druggy rock ‘n’ roll and it’s the real deal. No one involved, least of all Pete Doherty, remembers one damn thing about making this record. But then again, Keith doesn’t remember coming up with the riff for “Satisfaction.”

Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3 “Ole Tarantula” (Yep Rock)
Robyn’s best record in years w/ Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin. His tribute to Arthur Kane in “NY Doll” is devastating.

The Hold Steady “Boys and Girls in America” (Vagrant)
I ain’t saying it ain’t good, I’m just saying it ain’t as good as last year’s “Separation Sunday” which is a masterpiece – and you can only have one of those…

Tom Waits “Orphans” (Anti)
Too damn huge to comprehend in one sitting. Or two for that matter. Daunting how good these 54 songs are and they are all B-SIDES!

Twilight Singers “Powder Burns” (One Little Indian)
Greg Dulli’s best post-Afghan Whigs record to date. This does seem like a druggy, swampy concept album, the concept being despair.

REALLY, REALLY DISAPOINTING (alphabetical order)

The Flaming Lips “At War with the Mystics” (Warner)

If a Flaming Lips cover band made a record with Dave Fridman producing it would sound something like this. I love these guys, but their turn toward mid-era Pompeii Pink Floyd just stinks up the room in 5:1 surround. I thought it would grow on me, but with each listen, it becomes more and more unnecessary. Strip back to a four-piece, guys and lose the stuffed animals. They’ve had a good run…

TV on The Radio “Return to Cookie Mountain” (4AD)
Their first EP is fantastic. Their first album was okay. This, their second album seems purposely contrived to be “difficult.” I’m in the minority on this one, but fuck it, I’m right.

Yo La Tengo “I am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass” (Matador)
Best album title of the year does not save completely forgettable album of the year. See above under “The Flaming Lips.


Stacy Leigh said...

Gnarls Barkleys 'Just a Thought', is my theme song if you will- Gnarls is the poo!

aeric said...

hmm. 4 of your 10 would probably be in my top 10 too - which is a lot. makes me think i should give the rest a closer listen. and i'll go on the record here to say i too was disappointed by return to cookie mountain. perhaps not as much as you. i think it's a pretty cool album. but i love loved their first one and the eps are great too. compared to those releases, pretty cool doesn't cut it.