10 Best Albums of 2006

I hope that Brent and Dave put out their own best of 2006 albums, too.

The 10 Best Alums of 2006, According to Kent

10. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain – I know it doesn’t really sound like a complement, but this album sounds muddy. The sounds develop slowly, in layers, and always seem to be slightly slower than you want them to be. I love the effect, it pulls you in.

9. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife – The eight minute prog-rock song The Island is the best eight minute prog-rock song I’ve heard in a long time.

8. Eagle*Seagull – Eagle*Seagull – BK turned me on to this band. He says they’re great live. I’ve never seen them. I like the slow, sad mood of the singer’s voice, and the song with fireworks for percussion is fantastic. Their name is terrible. Am I supposed to pronounce the asterisk?

7. Cold War Kids – Robbers & Cowards – I first heard of these guys as the the opener for Tapes and Tapes. I loved them then, and got copies of all the EPs they had released up until then, as they didn’t have an album out yet. Then when the album came out, I though, eh, I have all the same songs on EPs, I don’t need to get that. I’ve since got the album and guess what? It’s got all the songs I like off the EPs! It’s a winner!

6. Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I Am Dreaming – Besides Tom Waits, Sunset Rubdown may have been the best live show I saw all year. The Hold Steady came close, but Sunset Rubdown just blew me away. Spencer Krug’s voice is enough for me to keep this album on heavy rotation this year. I dig his lyrics about snakes with legs and big dumb scared kids, which remind me of Neutral Milk Hotel’s rambling imagery.

5. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat – I fell in love with this album early, then stopped listening to it for awhile and kind of forgot it came out this year. I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville while at a library conference, which got me on a country music kick, and Jenny Lewis’ gospel/country album went right back in my playlists. The real stars of this album are the Watson Twins, who provide back up vocals, and I’ve always been a sucker for Lewis’ surprisingly soulful for a skinny white girl from California voice.

4. M. Ward – Post-War – M. Ward sounds old. Everything from his voice to his lyrics to his record production sounds like it was recorded in the Forties. It’s impressive. His distinctive gravelly voice is a lot softer than Tom Waits, but there’s a good deal of similarity between the two.

3. Tom Waits – Orphans – I can’t not put him on the list, even if it’s hard to really give a 3-cd album a worthy listen. While the 3rd Bastards CD is a little tough to listen to (normally Waits cuts the spoken word stuff down to one or two tracks per album, here there’s a lot more), but Brawlers and Bawlers are beautiful all the way through, even the 7 minute song about suicide bombers in the Middle East.

2. Beirut – Gulag Orkestar – The most original album of the year. Beirut sounds traditional, but who knows from what tradition. It’s part klezmer, part balkan, part electroinc, part whatever Americans think the music in Eastern Europe sounds like. It doesn’t sound like Gulag Orkestar, but Gulag Orkestar makes me miss Poland.

1. Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions – There hasn’t been an album that I have listened to more this year than this one. Springsteen’s voice sounds just like his band: at once extremely tight and on the edge of falling apart. Apparently people are calling this a protest album, but I never really thought of it that way, just that it’s a bunch of rocking traditional songs. Hearing him play My Oklahoma Home at JazzFest with the entire crowd singing “Blown Away!” is a memory of the storm and its aftermath that I’ll cherish for a long time. I’ve never even really been a Springsteen fan until this album. I liked the hipster-approved Nebraska, but that was it. This album made me delve into the Boss’ back catalog more deeply, even if I still can’t get into Born To Run‘s saxophone cheese.

Miscellaneous Awards
Album of 2005 That I Didn’t Put on Last Year’s List, Which May Have Been the Best of 2005: Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy

Album That I First Listened to in the Past Week, Which May Have Made the Top Ten If I Had More Time to Listen to It: Annuals – Be He Me

Album That Would Have Made the Top Ten If Not For That One God-Awful Song That Ruins the Whole Thing (The Motel Candlewasters Honorary Award): The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America

The Phoned It In Award, or Most Disappointing Album: The Flaming Lips – At War With the Mystics

3 thoughts on “10 Best Albums of 2006”

  1. Good idea on the year-end music lists. I’m happily surprised ours are so different. I thought they would be chapter and verse. I’m delighted that Eagle*Seagull made your list. I love it too, and I wish I could have put the new M.Ward higher, but I think it fell out of the rotation somehow. You have a lot of CD’s that I really liked one or two songs (Sunset Rubdown, Jenny Lewis, TV on the Radio) on, but had issues with other songs. It takes me a long time to warm up to difficult music though. I have a feeling I will really like TV on the Radio when it is all said and done. Although I never warmed up to the old one. Who knows….

  2. If I saw a band live, it really boosted my appreciation for them. The Jenny Lewis show was one of my favorites, and Sunset Rubdown just plain blew me away.

    If it makes you feel better, I don’t like TV on the Radio’s first album at all. That acapella crap they do on it stinks.

  3. I think my experience was the reverse. I liked CD’s, and then went to see bands play, and was disappointed. Except Flaming Lips, who’s CD was so lame, that their live show really helped their cause.

    We had multiple occasions to see Jenny Lewis, so I really blew it on that. I heard she was really good. Stupid Sunset Rubdown didn’t come anywhere near us. Jerks! And then I was working the night Cold War Kids came through. Poor Brent. Lives in a small city, and has to work all the time. At least fat Greg Dulli loves him.

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