2006 represented my real initiation into the indie music scene. I started listening to new and more interesting music through my good friend/butt buddy Derek and I had been reading his blog for some time, but we didn’t start ATG until January, so 2006 was my first real dive into the scene. This doesn’t mean that I’m only familiar with albums from 2006 (obviously), but I didn’t start getting free music or even start writing about music until this year, so I have a fairly inexperienced approach to the whole blog thing. I know that every “major” blog writes an obligatory top albums list each year that exaggerates their superior and intellectual music tastes…and I’m no different.
I have chosen my top 40 albums of 2006, with 40-21 in no particular order, and with 20-1 in a particular order. Remember that these may not be your top 40, or they may not be the BEST albums of 2006, they are just the one’s that I got by far the most enjoyment out of. Also, be aware that this list was compiled solely by me without the input of Adrian or Nicholas, so don’t hate on them if you don’t like my list. Anyways, here’s my top 40, with a little writeup about each and a higlight track off the album.
40-21 (in no particular order):
Voxtrot – Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives EP and Your Biggest Fan [buy]
Huge buzzband still yet to release an LP, but the EP’s and singles are creating some serious clout.
Highlight Track – Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives
The Little Ones – Sing Song EP [buy]
Awesomely fun group from Los Angeles perfectly exemplifies my favorite style of music: Upbeat, adorable, sweet indie-pop. Im expecting big things from these guys in the future.
Highlight Track – Cha Cha Cha
Mew – Frengers and And the Glass Handed Kites [buy]
Austin is absolutely in love with these guys, and their unique Danish sound was featured here way back in the early days
Highlight Track – Am I Wry, No?
Nas – Hip-Hop is Dead [buy]
Flawless album by one of hip-hop’s veterans, and actually comparable to his best release, Illmatic. I love this album more and more with every listen. Technically released in 2007 but I listened to it in 2006.
Highlight Track – Black Republican (ft. Jay-Z)
We Are Scientists – With Love and Squalor [buy]
Made 2006 list only by technicality (released in UK in 2005, US in January). Would’ve made top 20 if I had discovered it this year, rather than last.
Highlight Track – Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt
The Streets – The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living [buy]
Mike Skinner is the man. This album doesn’t quite live up to expectations created by Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come For Free, but it’s still good in it’s own right.
Highlight Track – Never Went to Church
Ghostface Killah – Fishscale and More Fish [buy]
Wu-Tang veteran has major breakthrough solo album, though the best tracks feature other Wu-Tang members. Hopefully Ghostface can keep the intensity up.
Highlight Track – Kilo (ft. Raekwon)
Zero 7 – The Garden [buy]
Ethereal folksters/genre breakers quietly release The Garden to very little fanfare, which is unfair. A quality album, especially the collaborations with Jose Gonzalez. Awesome for studying.
Highlight Track – Waiting to Die
Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther [buy]
Chris of GvB may have a hard-on for these guys, and they’re deserving of the praise. I have no way to describe them, so just have a listen.
Highlight Track – Roscoe
The Strokes – First Impressions of Earth [buy]
Claire Cafritz would kill me if I didn’t put this in my top 40. The played-out police would kill me if I said this wasn’t as good as their previous albums, so I wont. But I’ll secretly think it inside.
Highlight Track – Red Light
Phoenix – It’s Never Been Like That [buy]
Another band originally introduced to me by Derek. This album came out with more praise than their first, but wasn’t quite as good. Still worth listening to, though.
Highlight Track – Rally
Rhymefest – Blue Collar [buy]
Chicago rapper/co-producer of Kanye’s “Jesus Walks” makes a solid debut, especially when he samples (The Strokes and The Foundations, for example).
Highlight Track – Devil’s Pie
Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds [buy]
Owen Pallett is a genius, and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview him. Intelligent, original, unique, Owen is pioneering a new genre with simple violin loops and constantly changing time signatures.
Highlight Track – Many Lives for 49 MP
NOW, THE MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR: MY TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2006:
20. Ray LaMontagne – Till the Sun Turns Black [buy]
Ray’s voice pretty much speaks (zing!) for itself. Full of smoky, soulful vocals and a mix of carefree and profound tracks, Till the Sun Turns Black can be universally enjoyed. This album makes me feel like my music taste is more diverse and mature, without feeling like a snooty d-bag.
Highlight Track – Three More Days
19. The Beatles – LOVE [buy]
This would rank #1 if these songs were completely original, but, alas, they aren’t. Original producer George Martin keeps the authenticity intact in this remake of Beatles classics for the Cirque du Soleil show, LOVE. With new harmonies and modern drum beats, this remake is a must-have for anyone that considers themself a Beatles fan.
Highlight Track – Get Back
18. The Roots – Game Theory [buy]
If you’ve read ATG before you’d know that I absolutely worship The Roots, and this album only adds fuel to my fire. With poignant politically-charged lyrics and ?uestlove’s signature drum beats, Game Theory is right on par with their previous releases. Black Thought keeps his title belt as one of the reigning hip-hop heavyweights.
Highlight Track – Baby
17. Brett Dennen – So Much More [buy]
I’ve written about Brett before, but haven’t truly demonstrated how much I love this album, so the #17 spot is justified. I’d compare him to a more upbeat, higher-pitched Ray Lamontagne, but with a more New Orleans vibe and a sunnier disposition.
Highlight Track – When You Feel It
16. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain [buy]
This was the fairly unanimous pick for top album by most bloggers, but I must say that I wasn’t blown away by it. Granted, I do love a few songs, but I’m not ready to give these guys the top spot yet. I am glad, however, that these guys are getting the love they deserve.
Highlight Track – Wolf Like Me
15. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife [buy]
Another trendy pick for top album of 2006, and it would’ve been had I been able to get into it like I did with their previous release, Picaresque. I loved the first song “The Crane Wife 3” so much that the rest of the album felt like a disappointment because it couldn’t hold a candle to the incredible ballad. The only reason this album isn’t #1 for me is because I have such incredibly high expectations for them.
Highlight Track – The Crane Wife 3
14. The Album Leaf – Into the Blue Again [buy]
Definitely the sleeper album of 2006. I originally heard of The Album Leaf through the OC, and their ethereal, airy, instrumental sound has got me hooked ever since.
Highlight Track – Always for You
13. Middle Distance Runner – Plane in Flames [buy]
I recently did an interview with these guys, and I must say they are five of the funniest artists I’ve come into contact with. Their music isn’t half-bad either. Their debut effort, Plane in Flames, was unfortunately overlooked by many of the top blogs, but I have a strong feeling these guys will be getting some serious press in the near future.
Highlight Track – Naturally
12. The Format – Dog Problems [buy]
This might just be the cutest, most adorable, cuddly album ever. I wasn’t a huge fan of Interventions & Lullabyes, but Dog Problems really has no weak points. You can’t take this album too seriously, so if you approach with an open mind, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and unable to keep from smiling.
Highlight Track – Snails
11. Sufjan Stevens – The Avalanche (Outtakes & Extras from the Illinois Album) [buy]
Another flawless album by arguably my favorite musician? I would’ve thought Sufjan would run out of inspiration, but apparently he has an endless supply of it. Also worth mentioning for this list is his Christmas songs box set, full of traditional Christmas songs and originals.
Highlight Track – Dear Mr. Supercomputer
10. Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor [buy]
Lupe got his big break with his verse in Kanye’s “Touch the Sky”, but his real strengths shine in his debut effort. I was discussing Lupe with a friend on my floor, and we came to the conclusion that he’s awesome not only because his name is Lupe Fiasco, but also because he doesn’t pretend to be a gangster with 9mm’s and an army of bitches. The Chicago native raps about skating (“Kick Push”) and heartbreak (“Hurt Me Soul”). Lupe Fiasco is officially on the map.
Highlight Track – Daydreamin’ (ft. Jill Scott)
9. Teddybears – Soft Machine [buy]
Goofy, versatile reggae-indie-hip-hop-pop from Sweden. They’ve already been featured in FIFA 2006 and car commercials, but let’s hope that doesn’t stop them from creating upbeat dance music and adorable ballads like the ones featured on Soft Machine. I nominate these guys for newcomers of the year.
Highlight Track – Cobrastyle
8. Girl Talk – Night Ripper [buy]
Girl Talk is a super group of about 500 different famous artists that come together and form one supergroup, blending parts of their hit songs into an incredibly danceable album. Wait…Girl Talk is just one DJ? Apparently Gregg Gillis is the only man behind Girl Talk, and he seamlessly blends bunches of elements of hip-hop, pop, rock, and pretty much all other famous songs together to make super-hybrid-mashup-style masterpieces. Where else can you hear Biggie rapping over Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” while the OC theme plays in the background?
Highlight Track – Once Again
7. T.I. – King [buy]
2006 is the year of T.I. as the king of hip-hop. With an album chock-full of club-bangers and epic anthems, T.I. has taken the music scene by force. It may be fairly chauvenistic and “gangsta”, but it’s not inaccessable for those not really into hip-hop, and King is the ultimate pre-game album for me.
Highlight Track – What You Know
6. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit [buy]
This was my most anticipated album of 2006 because I’ve been a huge fan of B&S for years. Many people wrote this album off because it didn’t quite compare to Tigermilk or Dear Catastrophe Waitress, but I loved each and every track. This is one of those albums that, every time I listen to a song off of it, it becomes my favorite song for a week.
Highlight Track – Another Sunny Day
5. Ratatat – Classics and 9 Beats EP [buy]
Ratatat released its second full-length, Classics, which was much like their debut; incredibly fun, and unparalleled in badassness. Less talked about, however, was their free release of 9 Beats, which were (surprise) 9 one to three minute long beats that Ratatat had made for remixes or the LP’s but that didn’t quite make the cut. The beats are raw and short, but are incredibly fun, and show a sign that the future of Ratatat is quite bright.
Highlight Track(s) – Wildcat and One
4. Islands – Return to the Sea [buy]
I originally heard of these guys through Austin, who also introduced me to The Unicorns. This album is so incredibly upbeat and wildly experimental, with polished perfections (“Rough Gem”) and unique folk-pop (“Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby”). I can’t wait to see what they do next, and needless to say, Islandsareforever.
Highlight Track(s) – Rough Gem and Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby
3. The Long Winters – Putting the Days to Bed [buy]
Anyone who knows me knows about my obsession with John Roderick and The Long Winters. With a whimsical, sometimes shy, sometimes sweet style, this album is an instant upper for me. I also like a few of the more experimental songs on the album. John and the gang really show their versatility in this generally upbeat release.
Highlight Track(s) – Clouds and Fire Island, AK
2. The Blow – Paper Television [buy]
I have been non-stop listening to this album, and The Blow’s (a.k.a. Khaela Maricich’s) older albums this finals week. Her music is so lo-fi, with an unmatched and utterly unique style, like a complex, beautiful M.I.A.. With breathy vocals and a careless approach, The Blow has quickly become one of my favorite artists of 2006. What’s scary is that this is #2 in 2006, and isn’t even my favorite Blow album (2004’s Poor Aim-Love Songs takes that prize).
Highlight Track(s) – Parentheses and True Affection
1. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope [buy]
This pick surprised everyone who I told about my top 20, including me. I was just listening to all the albums I was considering from the list and realized that I am completely unashamed to admit that I love everything about this album. From the airy, bouncy vocals on “Fidelity” to the more serious, thoughtful lyrics of “Samson”, Regina creates an incredibly accessible album. I’ve been sucked into it since I first heard it, and her songs are always stuck in my head. She definitely deserves the number one album of 2006.
Highlight Track(s) – Samson and Hotel Song
Wow, that took a long time, and I’m surprised if you’ve even made it here to the bottom. Congratulations. And also, congratulations to the artists that made 2006, my first year of music journalism, a fantastic one.