2006 is the year independent music found its ground. The smaller labels were finally churning out albums of freedom and artists were able to experiment and mix genres with the financial backing of their labels. It was a mediocre year for music, with many albums being 'duds', but it wasn't all doom and gloom, especially for the list below which stood out as the top albums of the year. Like with every yearly list, the 'not so top 10' find a mention.
Hot Chip - The Warning
Boris - Pink
Bob Dylan - Modern Times
TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
Burial - Burial
Cat Power - The Greatest
Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
Grizzly Bear - Yellow House
M. Ward - Post-War
Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That
10. Mogwai - Mr. Beast
Mogwai released Mr. Beast after a string of poorly received albums, that's not to say Mr. Beast was critically acclaimed, because it wasn't. Mr. Beast has all the ingredients of a respectable Mogwai album, and they still haven't released an album quite as good as Mogwai Young Team. Mr. Beast puts the use of piano ahead of guitar, strips away the drones and replaces the long tracks with three minute wonders of distortion. 'Auto Rock' had the structure, whilst 'Friend of The Night' had the powerful energy. The little imagery this album possesses is outstanding. One glance at the album cover will confuse the listener, then the onslaught of 'Glasgow Mega-Snake' will shake you up.
9. Thom Yorke - The Eraser
During the four-year break/hiatus of one of the UK's most prolific and respected acts of the last twenty years, Radiohead front-man Thom Yorke went off to record his first major solo release. The Eraser - a gloomy, roomy conjuring of electronics, pianos and guitars - may have been seen as a major political finger-pointing, but its aesthetic distortion of traditional story-telling and contemporary experimentalism truly reflected Yorke's undeniable gift as a writer and illustrator of the harshness of present-day life. It may not have won the Mercury Prize it was nominated for that year, but The Eraser still stands as a reminder as to the turning point in contemporary society...and the much-predicted gloom that followed it.
8. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
2006 saw one of the biggest and most surprising resurges in British rock for almost a decade. Arctic Monkeys - Sheffield's four-piece of rowdy lads and just-as-rowdy song-composing - decided against a typical foray of metaphoric dressing-up and brought us into the grimy, filthy outbacks of working-class culture with a debut fully loaded with catchy guitar riffs and blatant realism, all led by lead singer Alex Turner's retaliatory, but heartfelt, deliverance. The resulting effects thereafter may have been for better, they may have been for worse, but Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not will, in whatever light, remain one of the biggest game-changers of modern British music, for all time.
7. Gotye - Like Drawing Blood
Years before the TV and Radio would start remarking and repeating a solitary recording of this part-Aussie, part-Belgian welder of multiply-spanning sounds and genres, Gotye's follow-up, 'Like Drawing Blood', was released to a less-than-knowledgeable globe of fans and listeners alike. But amidst the silence and anonymity, the album was one of the great feel-good listens of the year, springing and slinging in skips of sampled orchestration, pittery synthesizers and de Becker's hopelessly hopeful mutterings. It spoke volumes of the joy of musical exploration and was nothing less than a honorable insight into the fascination of artistic production.
6. Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
Only so much can be said about Belle & Sebastian. They are essentially the most successfully and in my opinion the greatest chamber pop/indie pop act. That as well as being the pride of Scottish music. The Life Pursuit had more of an alternative edge over the previous few albums. The poppy tracks were much more formal and had many different real life references and analogies than the previous storytelling structures. It has the bands masterpiece 'Another Sunny Day' and the bands most successful single 'Funny Little Frog'. Belle & Sebastian improved their stature on the music scene, they may not have increased in musical skill, but the structures and lyricism is far superior than the back catalogue may suggest.
5. J Dilla - Donuts
The soulful vibes and many many many many many many samples make up J Dillas final studio album Donuts. Hip-hop has always been a sample filled genre, and Dilla's beats make up the most impressive and sophisticated of instrumentals. The funk vibes are present, as are the jazz and soul. It's one huge genre mix of sounds. 31 tracks make up this album, with a length at 43 minutes. It's fast paced and never fails to grab the listener. His collaboration skills are fantastic and the pulled samples from pop/soul are ingenious.
4. The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
This Flaming Lips album is a lot different to the previous few. A few comparisons could be made to some of the very early work, but the truth is, this is one of the weaker 'modern' Flaming Lips albums. The sounds are there and the lyricism, structures and imagery is all present and happy-do-larry, it's just not as sharp and 'different' as the previous albums (and the future albums I may add here..). The ambient tracks are among the least artistic because they have nothing to grab the listener, compared to songs such as the politically fuelled 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song' and the riff happy 'It Overtakes Me'. The later tracks are far more enthusiastic and bolster a range of genre shifts, such as the progressive rock ode 'Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung', and the synth frenzy 'The W.A.N.D'.
3. Beach House - Beach House
Beach House released their debut album in 2006 to an outstanding amount of critical acclaim. The majority of support was directed at the duo's ability to create textured dream pop structures with such calm sounds and melancholy atmospheres. Beach House covered the Tony, Caro and John psych-folk track 'The Snowdon Song'. All of it's textures were drawn out by Beach House, with the addition of a melodic keyboard and the typical heavy bass. To date, the album is the most ambient and post-rock like. The dream pop and spacey atmosphere is present, but was developed further on the bands future albums, their self titled album was more of an experimental piece of delirious sounds.
2. Joanna Newsom - Ys
Ys is Joanna Newsom most courageous album. The lengthy compositions are exactly that, compositions. The beauty of her harp techniques are backed by the huge ensemble of orchestration enough to fill the stage at the Royal Albert Hall. It really does show, as does the production with Steve Albini lending his superb skills as a studio engineer. Veteran experimental producer Van Dyke Parks arranged the orchestration and also produced the album. The making of Ys seems complicated and recordings seemed to have been passed on between a hefty production team. The album was finally mastered at Abbey Road Studios, as you would expect. Tracks such as 'Emily' catch the ear by surprise. The true magnitude of this album is the story telling ans supreme lyricism by Joanna Newsom. Her written tracks are poetry, and she manages to get her written work across so perfectly and smoothly with her classical music. This album is unusual and throws the listener into ambiguity, all for the good. 'Cosmia' ends the album with such calm sounds and the initial harp melody that seems to have been looped, but with many variations comes across as a magnificent creation.
1. The Knife - Silent Shout
Silent Shout is nothing short of amazing. The best things in life are truly free, as are The Knife. Released on their own record label, produced by themselves and two studio albums under their belt which includes one of the decade defining tracks, 'Heartbeats'. It's not just about the deep house beats and the surreal vocals. This album has an immense atmosphere which many artists, especially electronic artists crave. The dark, eerie atmosphere is built up with great sounding beats and a very light and trickily synthesizer. Every track is it's own composition and neither rely on eachother to keep the flow from being disputed. In other words, it's a damn good album. The tracks are nicely laid out with just about enough reverb and a stack of distortion being applied when the moments arise. The later half is much cooler and the least accessible, whilst the first half is very dance-like and riff crazy.
~Music Review Database