If you were to give the interweb a vigorous poke right now, there's a good chance that you'd end up with a big steaming pile of "best of 2006" lists all over your desktop. Seriously, I haven't been keeping up with the latest wave of music blogs, but it seems like just about every single one has decided to offer up their favourites of the year. Unfortunately, none of those blogs are Awesome Until Proven Guilty. We are.
The following list represents some of my favourite musical moments from 2006 arranged in a loosely ranked hierarchy. It is not a definitive "best of" list, because honestly, I'm way too lazy for that and most people won't bother reading all the way through anyway. No, this is simply a list of music from 2006 that made me want to RTFO (rock the fuck out). Now, let's quit with the yap yap and get on with it!
1. Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope
This album is at the top of my list because Spektor completely side-swiped me this year. I love to be surprised and that's exactly what happened the first time I heard the gently assertive string plucks at the beginning of "Fidelity." Every new song on the album reveals another gem and the whole thing is a bittersweet, eye-opening experience.
2. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
In addition to putting out a great album, The Decemberists were also one of the better live acts I saw this year. The band has been on my radar for several years, but it wasn't until this year that I finally took some time to delve deeper into their body of work. Their latest is a worthy addition to the band's impressive discography. How's that for a boring review?
3. ...Trail of Dead - So Divided
And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead are their own worst enemy, I think. Attempting to marry their punk roots with progressive song structures and epic melodies has yielded mixed results in most critics eyes. Personally, I find the band's identity crisis to be part of their appeal. They continually find avenues to explore that I never would have imagined them going down. So Divided is no exception, brimming with dilligently constructed songs that touch on pop, punk, classic rock, cabaret, blah blah blah. Let's break some shit...
4. The Sounds - Dying to Say This to You
Earlier this year, I spent several Thursday nights playing in local bars and semi-DJing the music between sets (i.e., hitting "play" on my iPod). Inevitably, every time a song by The Sounds came on, somebody would ask, "Who is this? It's really fun!" And fun is exactly what The Sounds are. The chords are kind of rehashed, the beats are simple, and Maja Ivarsson's lyrics don't make much sense, but these folks have enough spunk and style to defeat a thousand bloggers posting their favourite remixes in a vain attempt to make you dance.
5. Tokyo Police Club - A Lesson in Crime
The most likely comparison you'll want to make when you first hear Tokyo Police Club is to The Strokes. However, where The Strokes sound kinda boring and complacent, Tokyo Police Club are vibrant and cathartic. Also, any album that starts with the phrase "Operator? Get me the president of the world!" gets an A+ in my books. These kids really work hard for their rock 'n roll and they pass the results on to you.
6. Thom Yorke - The Eraser
Radiohead's Thom Yorke dropped this little oddity on us in 2006. Considering Radiohead's wacky career path, I honestly had no idea what to expect from a Yorke solo record. For all I knew, it could be a lovely opus of acoustic ballads or 90 minutes of distortion and beeps. Neither would have surprised me, really. Instead, what we got was an album that sounded similar to recent Radiohead material (think "Backdrifts," "Idioteque," "Punch Up at a Wedding," "Packt Like Sardines..."), but with a uniquely personal touch... A singer-songwriter album for the new millenium.
7. A/V - Hot Action
A/V is so punk as fuck that I couldn't even find a digital version of the album cover online anywhere. Hot Action sounds like the bionically-enhanced love child of Devo and Kraftwerk, returned from the dead to make you dance just one last time. You'd better comply.
8. Ratatat - Classics
Here's an interesting tidbit. I haven't even heard the entirety of number 8 on my best of 2006 list. You may ask, "But The Trick... What kind of dumbass puts an album on his best of list that he hasn't heard all the way through?" While I may be a dumbass, I also know a good tune when I hear it. The four songs from Classics that I've encountered have been brilliance through and through. If it didn't go on my list this year, it would probably be on next year's.
9. Hot Chip - The Warning
This album spent a helluva lot of time in my CD player this year. As you can tell by this list, I'm definitely a fan of electronic music. Hot Chip, however, bring something interesting to the table because they take that very coldest of genres and warm it with softly harmonized vocals, memorable melodies, and beats that crackle with gentle electricity.
10. The Rapture - Pieces of the People We Love
There were many things about The Rapture's Echoes that I loved, but there were also many things about it that annoyed me. The band's latest album has plenty of the former, but less of the latter. Maybe it's just 'cause I'm a wuss, but I was glad to hear the band leaving behind some of their dissonance and aggression to focus on constructing all those amazing riffs into pop songs. The resulting album sounds effortless and comfortable as it doles out the dance fuel.
Placebo - Meds
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness - Fear is on Our Side
The Knife - Silent Shout
Headlights - Kill Them With Kindness
The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
NOTE: All those "Listen" links currently go to the artists' myspaces. I'll try to get some mp3s up later, but I can't guarantee anything. Happy holidays!