I don’t know about you folks out there in cyberspace, but I’ve about had it up to here (gesturing to neck) with all these Top Ten lists these days. I have literally been drowning in year-end lists the past few weeks; I can’t tell which way is up, which lists are sincere and which are sarcastic, and whether I can continue taking notes on all the supposedly great albums that I missed. It’s the New Year, and I need to start focusing on 2007. Everything 2006-related from this point forward is officially for the archive, meaning my buying habits can no longer differentiate between finally picking up the Thermals’ concept album or downloading Jerry Lee Lewis’ Sun Sessions. But if you, unlike me, are still thirsty for meaningful and contradictory “best of 2006″ lists, please direct your attention to the past few days of the Post-Rockist Year-End List-Posting Extravaganza:
And for your Day 5 needs, read on…
TODD’S TOP PICKS OF 2006
10) Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block
“Objects of my Affection”
Bridging the musical arc from Buddy Holly to Wilco, Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John have crafted a remarkable pop album that manages to combine elements of New Wave, British invasion rock and roll, and shoegazer, all while remaining wholly original. Utterly irresistible.
9) Jay Dee aka J Dilla – Donuts
“Time: The Donut of the Heart”
A late addition to the list, but just a few listens to the shuffling high-hats, Holland-Dozier-Holland samples, and successive rapid-fire impact of these 31 instrumental bursts make it painfully clear that Donuts is a strikingly visionary piece of work. That Jay Dee composed and released an album filled with this much joy just days before he died leaves me speechless.
Juana Molina – Son
I can honestly say that I have never heard anything like this before. Juana Molina, former Argentinean TV comedian, has created a breathtaking work on her fourth album that defies all conventional expectations. Son is a rich patchwork of laptop folk, organic noise, acoustic guitars, free-floating electronic blurbs, and her processed, hypnotic native tongue. The song structures appear and disappear with remarkable fluidity, like an enchanting, detached mystery.
7) Belong – October Language
“I Never Lose, Never Really”
The hum of machines, the arc of dreams. To call this record experimental ambience would be to miss the nuanced sway and swell of this New Orleans duo’s debut fuzz. October Language is the perfect prescription for anyone who loves to gets lost in Kevin Shields’ white noise reveries or Fennesz’s endless summer sounds.
6) Bob Dylan – Modern Times
“Beyond the Horizon”
5) Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
I can’t breathe when this album is on, and, while listening to Dennis Coles blaze through the visceral street narratives of Fishscale with unrelenting spitfire intensity, I don’t think he has any intention of letting up and giving me a break. Although there are plenty of tales of uncut cocaine distribution and firearm bravado set to samples with the makings of classic hip-hop noir, the Iron Man still makes time to create affecting odes to ladies who hide him from the Feds and to a mother who whupped him but loved him anyway. This is hip-hop par excellence.
4) I’m From Barcelona – Let Me Introduce My Friends
“We’re From Barcelona”
I’m from Barcelona, you’re from Barcelona, we’re all from Barcelona. This is the magic of childhood as provided by 29 exuberant, adorable Swedes. I couldn’t be any happier.
3) Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
Regina Spektor’s third album is endowed with elegance, raw talent, and, yes, hopefulness. On the upbeat, hip-hop-influenced “Hotel Song,” Spektor sings, “I have dreams of orca whales and owls, but I wake up in fear,” which places in succinct focus the wild-eyed imagination that fuels her songs, as well as the human frailty that gives them so much resonance.
2) The Fiery Furnaces – Bitter Tea
Matthew Friedberger – Winter Women/Holy Ghost Language School
“Police Sweater Blood Vow”
A three-way tie for second place. With the Highway 61 Revisited-for-Grand Turismo of Bitter Tea, and the trans-atlantic, genre-hopping journeys of Matthew’s two albums, the siblings Friedberger have forged a musical universe unto themselves, in which stunning pop melodies emerge out of snarling junkyard pastiches, complex storylines are woven together by hyper-detailed prose paragraphs and alliterative childlike verse, and thunderous guitars crack the heavens wide open. Uneven and accidentally glorious, this output is impressive in both magnitude and impact. This is the stuff obsessions are made of.
1) Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of this Country
“Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken”
Forget the Lloyd Cole references; forget the Belle & Sebastian comparisons. The ten lilting, wistful pop masterpieces on Let’s Get Out of this Country are pristine portraits of heartache and longing, each track flawless in its on right. There is nothing about this album that I don’t like.