Saturday, December 23, 2006

#20 through #16

And now we shall commence with my top 20 albums of 2006.

20. The French Kicks - Two Thousand
The New York scene eats itself each day and pukes itself back up each night. So much is written about those bands that often they will implode under the sheer pressure of it. The French Kicks, however, seem to be above most of that. And they have distinguished themselves musically from their peers by tightening up their sound and filling in the gaps that existed on their previous album with some welcome melodies that wouldn't sound out of place on a New Order record. They also play around with their percussion in a really interesting way; their rhythm section evokes early U2 stuff. They are at all times beholden to the 80's alternative scene, and I for one say it's about time that people started copying those bands rather than Led Zeppelin and Brian Wilson. Let's hear it for tinny guitars and single synth notes!

19. Hank Williams III - Straight To Hell
I feel a whole lot better knowing that there are guys like Hank Williams III out there. It keeps the rest of us a little bit more honest. He's doing country music the way he wants to, Nashville be damned. Kinda like his grandpa. Hank III takes what made his grandpa great and injects a healthy does of punk, weed, and cussing. The result is a lucid and searingly honest portrait of a man living the way he want to, no matter how much it's going to shorten his life. Drunk rednecks are a dime a dozen, but it's rare that they can create art that is this compelling and fun.

18. M. Ward - Post-War
Right off the bat Post-War is both different and the same. It's hard to mistake Matt Ward for anyone else. His raspy drawl, always floating around in the back of the mix, is one of the most distinctive voices in pop music today. His masterful guitar playing is also a dead giveaway. But the band! What a service they do to Ward's intricate, intimate songs. They breathe new life into his music and take it in directions that make it ever so much vital and fun to listen to. I really got thirsty for Ward's full-band potential after hearing "Big Boat" off of last year's Transistor Radio. It was a burst of life in the middle of a wonderful but subdued record. Ward is still pretty heavy on Post-War; even the sunniest melodies sound mournful when Ward plays them. With Post-War he has figured out how to expand his sound without losing it. That's a feat that few have been able to accomplish, and it has sent him into the big leagues of indie rock. I can't wait to hear what he does next.

17. Gomez - How We Operate
Gomez has always been a very frustrating band for me. They have three very talented songwriters in the band but never really lived up to their potential. The albums were always very disjointed affairs, and they never sounded like a unit. Just a bunch of guys playing together. This album is the one that I really feel is the beginning of their golden period. There's still a lot of variety in the songs, and they still switch up singing duties quite a bit. But they've moved beyond the immaturity that tainted their earlier stuff (and probably contributed to the disjointedness) and have turned in a fantastic set of songs. "Notice" is a great opener that shouldn't be a great opener. It works though. The album unfolds from there beautifully, each song revealing nuance and talent that I had only glimpsed in them before. It makes me really happy that they are beginning to realize their potential, and I can't wait for what's next.

16. El Perro Del Mar - El Perro Del Mar
I never really understood teenage girls. I was a pretty awkward guy in middle and high school and thus never had the confidence to attempt to understand them. Now that I am older I like to think that I understand the female psyche a little better. There has been some art that has given me insight. The Bell Jar. Girl Interrupted. Fear of Flying. And now El Perro Del Mar. I had no idea that this record existed until about a month ago when I downloaded it on a whim. Those who know my musical tastes pretty well know that I have a big soft spot for girl group music. There a little mini-revival going on right now with bands like the Pipettes, but I think that El Perro Del Mar has got it all over them. The Pipettes take the sound and forget the substance. El Perro Del Mar takes the substance and crafts her own sound. There is a current of what men view as schizophrenia that runs through girl group music. Women just view it as run-of-the-mill thought process. And that's what I find so fascinating. I'll never be able to understand it, but I am fascinated by someone who can express opposite sentiments and believe them both to be true. It makes for some awesome art. The music itself is quite melancholy, but the ghosts of the Supremes are in the background, adding sha-la-la's that sound like they are from another time and place. It's magical stuff, and criminally underrated.

So that's the first batch. Stay tuned in the next few days for 15-11. Who knows? Your favorite album may be yet to come.

And if I don't get to post tomorrow, everyone have a very happy Christmas. Cherish it.


Post a Comment

<< Home