Friday, December 15, 2006

Tops In Pops '06

While I'm still wading through a myriad of film releases, I feel prettty confident that I've listened to a good majority of music out there so far this year. The following are my favorite albums of the year. Now, granted, the scope of this list is pretty narrow and I can only claim these are favorites. I certainly have no room to contemplate a "best of" list in music when I've listened to probably 3% of the music released this year. See Rolling Stone for that exhaustive year end list!. After number 1, you can pretty much interchange any one of the remaining titles. Enjoy.

1. Thom Yorke, "The Eraser"- Dramatically low key and endlessly inspiring, Yorke's feature debut album after a break from fronting Radiohead showcases his emotive voice. I remember hearing rapper Ludacris cite Yorke's vocal prowess recently, stating he was one of the rapper's favorite artists because his voice shows "raw emotion". That's a fairly accurate way to sum up "The Eraser", an album that segues naturally between the electronica rock of Radiohead with more subtle and stripped-down singles that express voice and mood over sound. This album is pure bliss from start to finish.

2. The Appleseed Cast, "Peregrino"- I discovered this band early this year and immediately bought up everything I could find. From Kansas, this rock quartet carry on the somewhat cosmic sounds of Radiohead mixed with pop-tinged influences (I guess "emo" its called?). They don't sound like anyone else out there and the lyrics are often haunting. I urge everyone to check them out here and broaden your horizons.

3. Broken Social Scene, "Broken Social Scene"- This ensemble band from Toronto combine so many dazzling elements, their sound threatens to overwhelm. I've featured their work on a YouTube post on this blog before, scoring a minor hit on the soundtrack to the film "Half Nelson" back in the summer, which is where I first heard them. Their music (intermingling horns, Sonic Youth-frazzled guitars, a crescendo of voices) is unique in modern music, creating large and expansive songs that play like free form jazz pieces. As with everything else these days, the best exposure to their music is here on MySpace.

4. The Mars Volta, "Amputechture"- A bit of a letdown after the sprawling masterpiece that was last year's "Francis the Mute" (which is probably the best album I've heard in the last 5 years), "Amputechture" is still light years ahead of 99% of the other stuff out there. Their sound hasn't changed- The Mars Volta are still 10 minute plus jam freaks who love progressive rock and song titles like 'vicarious atonement' (so basically those who feel they whank off with their guitars too much will still think they whank off with their guitars too much). Don't listen to the words, but get lost in their complex arrangements and stunning use of vocal and sound.

5. Black Tie Dynasty, "Movements"- This Dallas based band covers the 80's scene pretty well. Cashing in on the much heralded success of bands like The Killers and The Strokes- bands that mine a groovy 80's sound with a retro makeover- The Black Tie Dynasty are something more than that. The seem genuine in their lust for the past, plus they put on one helluva show. While their best known hit, "Tender" is probably their weakest, this is a band that I'm sure will continue to expand their sound into somemething special. You can learn more about this band at their site. One glance at their influences tell you all you need to know.

6. Muse, "Black Holes and Revelations"- Epic in every word, from the opening chords to the last. Invoking spaghetti western sounds (that seem to come from the long lost vaults of some Ennio Morricone music sheet), political commentary and brash vocals, Muse's lastest album feels playful and direct.

7. People In Planes, "As Far as the Eye Can See"- Originally from Cardiff, Wales, the vestiges of 70's hard rock seem to remain in distant parts of the world (see the next band as further proof). They scored a minor hit early n the year with a song called "If You Talk Too Much, My Head Will Explode", which has to be the best song title ever. There's nothing flashy about People In Planes. You've got straigh-forward rock that echoes back to the influences of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. And this is the one band that I was less than 100 yards away from seeng, but didn't. They were the first band to play on the second stage, which was way before my friend and I even knew where the hell the second stage was. I heard they rocked, though. Give them a spin at their website.

8. Wolfmother, "Wolfmother"- See above. Pure unadulterated hard rock. Great stuff.

9. The Killers, "Sam's Town"- Noy quite as relevatory as their debut album, but The Killers carry an unmistakable style that causes a nice discussion. Are they 80's rip offs or new wave extraordinaires? Either way, I dig their unprentitious rip offs of 80's hits.

10. Bands I picked up this year that would've made the list if these albums were released this year- so sue me for shameless plugs!:

Fair To Midland, an excellent Dallas band whose album features some of the best (and worst) tracks I've heard from a local band in a very long time.

The Twilight Singers, former Afghan Whigs front man Greg Dulli's band. Listen to their rendition of Bjork's "Hyperballad" and be in awe...

Bands and albums I've overlooked that deserve much more listening- TV On the Radio, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (I loved their first album), Dylan's Modern Times (to see what all the fluff is about), Surfjan Stevens, The Arctic Monkeys, new Tom Waits (his past album are very hit and miss with me) and Midlake.

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