|By Zach Patterson||Monday, 13 Sep 2010|
Did you forget about this? Or assume we did? Well we’re still working on it, and I must give commendation to anyone who compiles massive lists like this with many people. It is a LOT of work, and keeping everyone together on it is difficult, much less writing it yourself. Anyway! Without further ado, come inside and see what our top albums for 2006 were….
Why it’s on this list: What a difference an album makes. While their first album was of a very similar style and sound, it sounded like you were listening to it from another room, and the perceived lack of intensity on the record made it sound like some highly skilled indie rock robots had composed it. But where was the soul?? Robots have no soul. But that said, it was a good album, but it was long at 26 tracks, and I wasn’t sure I was any more than a casual fan of their work. But Elf-Titled is pretty much the ultimate second album. It’s a much more lively sounding album, mixed much better, and the songs feel like people actually made them this time. It’s also a tight, compact album with excellent game cover selections. Not a ton of predictable ho-hum stuff, but not so out there that there’s no nostalgia associated with them either. This album in general is much more varied in content than their self-titled. There’s the fist pumping action of the opener “Batman – Stage 1″, the indie metal feel of “Contra – Alien Lair & Boss”, the beautiful pristine melody perfection of “Ducktales – Moon”, and the drunken singlalong feel of the closer “Wizards and Warriors”. But perhaps what I love most about this album is that it has a voice, an identity. It isn’t just METAL NES TUNES YEAAAAHHH or VG orchestrated stuff…it’s music that can be appreciated outside of knowing the source material because it has a clean, unique sound, excellent song selection, and outstanding production. - Zach Patterson
Batman Stage 1
Solar Jetman – Braveheart Level (link)
Wizards and Warriors
Why it’s on this list: More psychedellic, more spacey, more structured, more big. More. Compared to their previous albums, Trumpery Metier marks a huge level of growth in the band’s songwriting. The songs have a lot more going on within them, each instrument having their part carved out and the songs themselves having more varied structures. This album exudes a cool and dark psychedelic vibe with the synthesizers setting a thick haze for the guitars and horns to rest upon and emerge in and out of. The energy level flies over peaks and valleys and there are some amazing climaxes throughout (see the 2nd half of “The Land of Sherry Wine and Spanish Horses”). Trumpery Metier certainly pushes more into the prog arena than Crime in Choir have done in the past, and thankfully it’s all improvement. - Andrew Raub
Octopus in the Piano
The Hollow Crown (link)
Why it’s on this list: Like a lighthouse on the coast, Gang Of Losers is the album that has The Dears breaking through their customary fog-like atmospherics for some good ole depressing and slightly boisterous rock. The change of pace is welcome, surely, as their previous album (2003′s No Cities Left) was almost funereal in its lackadaisical pacing and stretched out songs of post rock-esque build ups that washed away into nothing. I saw them live while touring in support of that album, and was rather surprised with how the album’s sound differed from their live interpretations. However, Gang Of Losers gathers the full band feeling, with light, whimsical guitar riffs tinkling over Murray Lightburn’s odd, insistent voice. The songs themselves are definitely more pop-y in structure, but still have that lazy, half-melancholic half-vitriolic sound, with the usual adamantly delivered yet despondent lyrics. Gang Of Losers is a nice change of pace. It is rather simple sounding, and probably an almost too obvious evolution of sound for the The Dears, but the album is all in all a strangely satisfying slice of meandering thoughts from the far north. - Mike Callahan
Hate Then Love
Why it’s on this list: While I liked the idea of EODM (and they were quite entertaining live), their first album didn’t do much for me. It was a novelty, a thin-sounding one-off project with a great cover in “Stuck in the Metal With You”. Much to my surprise, a second album surfaced a few years later and became one of my favorite albums of the year. Dripping with machismo, charisma, and irony, it upped the song writing, and even better, the music finally matched the personality of the lead singer. Much more beefy sounding songs with thick bass lines and catchy melodies and a dirty, sleazy coat of guitar fuzz through the whole affair. Most of the songs sound like they should be the soundtrack to trying to a smoky southern bar where you are trying to get some random chick nice and loaded to take back to your pad for a wild nightcap. And that is awesome. It’s also a remarkably solid album that is great from start from finish, with the album mostly mixing and matching southern rock tendencies with a desert rock sensibility, occasionally dabbling in elements of country and punk. It ain’t highbrow stuff or anything, but that’s exactly why I love it. - Zach Patterson
I Like To Move In The Night
Why it’s on this list: “II” is another deeply personal and reflective album for me, and one that I most associate with deep change. Centered around mellow folk-arrangements with echoplexed guitar fuzz and vintage synths that build up over time and feel almost fittingly out of place in what are otherwise very natural arrangements, the overall sound is somber and introspective, representing loss and change. “Dead King” and “Dead Queen” perhaps represent this best, as they are effectively two sides of the same coin and represent the regret and ultimately acceptance that comes along with loss. Espers make long, sad, beautiful songs for the winding and dangerous road ahead. I still listen to this album today, when I need to know I’m not the only one here. - Matt Gburek
Why it’s on this list: I think I ended up being the third (and final) person assigned to talk about this album, simply because, man, what can you truly say to describe it? It’s dramatic, it’s whimsical, it’s middle eastern, it’s metal, it’s orchestral, it’s Danny Elfman-esque, it’s Secret Chiefs-y, it’s horror soundtrack, it’s this huge fucking mishmash of genres and sounds and instruments that seems on every level like it should just be a ramshackle that devolves into crap, but instead, it’s a masterful, layered work that is both intriguing and deep but also seems to know enough to not take itself too seriously. Holy hell that was a long sentence. Anyway, it’s probably not an album that everyone will instantly love, but regardless of that, it’s just such an interesting and entertaining listen that it definitely belong on a list of best albums of the year. The rich productions values and the variety of sounds here just create such a fun listen that seems like it has something new to uncover with every listen.
A Corporate Merger (link)
Why it’s on this list: I know a lot of people aren’t wild about this album. A cursory review by most people usually ends with the conclusion that the album starts with one pretty decent song, one moderately annoying song, and then the rest of the album sounds like it was taken straight from 1973 classic soft rock radio. I don’t know if that’s a terrible way to put it or not, but I love this album. “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” is surprisingly thoughtful in its lyrics and catchy as hell, “Free Radicals” is better than it’s given credit for, and while most of the rest of the album does in fact sound a bit different than the openers, it’s good for different reasons. It’s mostly a very chill, sun drenched album that I always want to listen to on lazy summer days. Also, for a band that mostly drifts through psychedelia, this album actually hits on a lot of issues and questions, which works in context with the tone and feel of the album. Songs like “Vein of Stars” ponder if higher powers are calling out our names, and if there isn’t a heaven, then at least there probably ain’t no hell. It’s also a sadder feeling album, with songs like “Mr. Ambulance Driver” painting a bit of a downtrodden feel to the latter part. Then there’s stuff like “The W.A.N.D.” which is more in the vein of “Yoshimi”, and I was a huge fan of that album, so that’s definitely welcome. I dunno, it’s a bit of a mishmash album which may lead to people not really liking it, but it dabbles in a lot of different directions and new ideas, and I pretty much liked all of them. - Zach Patterson
Vein of Stars
Why it’s on this list: There are two fundamental aspects of this album that I adore. First is the song choice (and the associated brilliant arrangements). With the video game music scene continually growing and new participants joining in to give their own take of Metroid or Mega Man 2 songs it comes as a great joy to see oft overlooked songs get their own spotlight. This spotlight is none other than the musical virtuosity that only housethegrate can deliver. I confess, it took me a few years to come around and begin appreciating house’s musical perspective having preferred strict and faithful recreations of the music I remembered. His arrangements on this album are nothing short of perfect; evident from the first track, the Bloodlines tune “Sinking Old Sanctuary” morphs into Symphony of the Night’s “Crystal Teardrops” and Castlevania 2′s town theme, never failing to evoke a chill down my spine. Various instruments are expertly wielded and layered yet never once does it feel overly complicated or audacious. One aspect of albums that I almost never discuss, the production value, is absolutely stellar here. Boss themes, iconic and esoteric level tunes, they’re all covered here and span a variety of consoles making Houseworks truly a joy to listen to. - Sherv
Seized With Fury
Waltz of the Dolls (link)
La Hora es Tarde
Why it’s on this list: This is the album that I’ve listened to the most times of anything in my large collection and it’s an album that’s been highly influential in my own musical development. Simple as that!
This album finds Justin Broadrick developing the sounds he explored on Heart Ache and the self-titled and adding a bit more of a pop tinge to them. When this came out, comparisons to shoegaze were rampant and most folks agreed that this was a heavier version of Slowdive.
That got me curious and I started checking out other shoegaze bands and found myself loving a style of music that had become popular and burnt out 15 years previous. That style of music still holds up really well, which is likely why Justin was so influenced by it.
That’s not to say he’s completely aping the style – this Jesu EP blends pop sensibilities with crushing heaviness, which isn’t surprising with Justin using a 7-string guitar and tuning to A (a fifth below standard tuning). The songs are memorable and go by in a blink of an eye, even with their 6-8 minute lengths. All said, this album has meant so much to me over the years. - Jason Vincion
Why it’s on this list: Ys is one of those albums that has deep personal meaning to me- each of it’s lovingly crafted songs says something poignant and meaningful about human interaction and the sensation of bewilderment that comes from existence. What’s great about this album is that nestled within the cradle of knotty, heavy prose and complex arrangements, Ms. Newsom manages to tell stories and tackle numerous difficult personal subjects at once- and like any good story, absorbing all of its nuanced aspects may take more than one passing, but the result is something that becomes a part of you. As for the music itself, Joanna Newsom’s voice sounds real- yes, after rewriting this several times, that’s the best word that describes it. “Real.” Not rehearsed, or forced, or polished to a ridiculous degree, but honest and warm and straightforward, which matches her harp playing and the wonderful string arrangements courtesy of Van Dyke Parks. Ys is one of those albums where no amount of description or explanation will really tell the listener what it attempts to convey. All I can do is tell you how it makes me feel, and hope it makes you feel the same way. Give it a try. - Matt Gburek
Emily (Part1) (live)
Why it’s on this list: It may be the heaviest Killing Joke album yet and it’s a great swansong for the bassist Paul Raven, who passed away in his sleep the year after the album was released.
Their previous work (their 2nd self-titled release) was a return from a seven year hiatus and Hosannas sees them building on the intensity the captured with that album. They also chose to use all old recording equipment for the sessions that came from the ’70s in order to acquire a darker atmosphere.
It definitely worked, as this album is a rather pummeling affair all the way through. It blends a lot of the elements of their 80′s and 90′s work, with Geordie’s signature guitar work, Jaz’s mix of singing and shouting, Raven’s bulldozer basswork, and new drummer Ben Calvert’s explosive strikes and precise playing.
Jaz also put some of experience scoring music for the New Zealand and Czech symphony orchestras to work as he added a full orchestral section on the “Invocation” track, which is quite possibly one of my top three all-time favorite Killing Joke songs. For a band that has had a career spanning close to thirty years when this album came out, that’s quite a feat indeed. - Jason Vincion
Hosannas from the Basements of Hell
Why it’s on this list: Simultaneously more and less weird than their first album, Six Demon Bag reaches into the dark corners of the soul, pulling out twisted tales of love and madness. On paper that does not sound much different than the previous Man Man songs, but the level of emotion here is so deep and mixed up that it hits even harder. Songs like “Skin Tension” are somber, lovelorn stories that pull the listener into the heartache and sadness. Other songs like “Black Mission Goggles” tell of bizarre scenes of love which drag the listener into the thick of the madness. The song “Van Helsing Boombox” is told like a man trying to reconcile the duality of these opposing emotions. A schizofrenic, manic depressive carnival ride is what Six Demon Bag is. - Andrew Raub
Van Helsing Boombox
Why it’s on this list: Upon starting Blood Mountain, you are besieged by a fury of drums and a bone-breaking metal punch to the face in “The Wolf Is Loose”. It’s such an amazing start to an album. It’s designed to make you go “wow, holy shit.” And honestly, that’s kind of how I see the whole album. This is some straight up metal, man. On this album, Mastodon more deftly mixes melodic and
harsher vocals for, me personally, a much greater effect. I know some people see it as mainstreaming and all that, but this album just speaks to me a lot more than much of their earlier work. And while this may have been their big breakthrough album, the music doesn’t suffer. The songs are intricate works of prog metal, hard hitting and brutal, but they know when to lay off the pedal and slow it down a bit. Additionally, all these songs sound like they are goddamned impossible to play. My hats off the them musically, because the time signatures in this album are ridiculous and instead of sounding like excessive guitar wank, it still works well and sounds amazing. - Zach Patterson
Colony of Birchmen
Sleeping Giant (link)
The Wolf Is Loose
Why it’s on this list: To be perfectly honest I was not looking forward to writing this. It’s been years since I’ve given this album a good listen and I wasn’t even sure if it was as good as I remember it being. But it is. Peeping Tom takes aspects from every Mike Patton project and throws them in a blender with a ton of guest artists to create a smooth and delicious blend of smooth, thick beats and chunks of abrasive nuggets. It’s nearly impossible to describe this album, as it contains hip-hop, metal, soul, R&B, and world music in a way that no other Patton album really has. It’s crazy, sexy, and cool all in one. The guest artists (including beatbox champion extroidinaire Rahzel, Dan the Automator, Amon Tobin, Kool Keith, and Norah Jones) add individual flavor to each song. The album can drag a bit if you’re just sitting down listening to it, which is part of the reason I sometimes doubt it. But this album is packed with party potential. Plus, for anyone who thinks Norah Jones is just a cheesy jazz-pop singer, listen to her sing the chorus of “Sucker” in the most sultry and seductive voice: “There’s one born every minute / Sucker. Sucker. / So keep it in your pants, boy / Sucker. Sucker. / What makes you think you’re my only lover? / The truth kinda hurts don’t it motherfucker?”. If that doesn’t get you hot, you must be one cold son of a bitch. - Andrew Raub
Why it’s on this list:The anticipated follow-up to “At The Soundless Dawn”, this album delivers. Once again we are treated to growing soundscapes and crashing waves of emotional crescendos. It was with some apprehension that I approached this album, after all how could this band trump such an epic first release, and listened to it from start to finish in one sitting. Another concept album, the intended theme is plainly evident from the album and song titles alone, but it’s much deeper than just a storied retelling of brainwashing and unforeseen consequences. The songs, much like their titles, are long and interconnected, and cover the gamut of human feelings. What makes this album special is not just the content but the subsequent tour: I saw the band perform in March 2007 and it complemented the album perfectly. As was their style at the time, ruined cityscapes and derelict structures reduced to rubble were projected over the band as they performed their music, taciturnly and morosely. Sound, light, and vibrations intertwined into one of the best performances I have witnessed, even if it left me melancholic afterward. - Sherv
We Stood Transfixed in Blank Devotion As Our Leader Spoke to Us, Looking Down on Our Mute Faces With a Great, Raging, and Unseeing Eye
Like the Howling Glory of the Darkest Winds, This Voice was Thunderous and the Words Holy, Tangling Their Way Around Our Hearts and Clutching Our Innocent Awe (link)
Why it’s on this list: Oh boy. The pasty, white Irish dude talking about hip hop. I’m sure it could easily be construed as this was added to increase the breadth and scope of our list, but to be perfectly honest, I just like this album a lot. Now, I’m no hip hop professional and I won’t profess to, but I know what I like. And while the Roots have been doing this for awhile, I feel this album is a perfect meshing of hip hop, rock, and pop sensibilities. I have a lot of respect for the band for simply playing their own music live. I’ve seen them play live twice now, and they have electric and amazing live shows, and this often in turn shows up on their albums. Here, we get songs like “Here I Come”, which are legit fresh dance-pop mixed with smooth, excellent rhymes, moody harmony tracks like “Don’t Feel Right” and introspective slower songs like “Long Time”. But what I respect most about the Roots (and this is true of all their albums) is that they don’t promote getting drunk and fucking and violence like the wave pop hip-hop that’s been on the radio for the past 15 years. Instead they talk mainly about issues; fallen friends, hard times growing up, God, war, taking dumps, that kinda stuff. - Zach Patterson
Here I Come
Why it’s on this list: Disclaimer: I’ve never played Bully. But, I don’t think I should have to to enjoy this soundtrack. It is just eclectic enough to engage, thanks to the fact that each track is based on different levels/characters/events in the game. However, this necessary diversity is a blessing, because you’re treated to Shawn Lee’s superb production and instrumentation tackling a huge menagerie of styles and nailing them all with gusto. Punishment is a creeper, with driving drums, gritty synth samples and a brief bit of a hymn, lacing the track with a feeling of foreboding. Comic Klepto is straight out of the early 80′s cop/sci-fi/Night Rider style series theme bank. Beach Rumble channels the cast encompassing brawl scene in cheesy drama movie. Chase Adult and Chase Prefects snatch the wonderful envelope filtered funk guitars, Italian combo organs, ominous strings and punchy horns from 70′s cop movie montages. There’s no cohesive string holding the soundtrack together, but every track is supremely solid and excellently put together, and all bring to mind the days of TV and cinema scoring that had that funky, live band feel and not our new millennium’s oft-recycled Hans Zimmer tripe. When will get to hear the wonderful greaser surf-swing of Fighting Johnny Vincent in this day and age? I’m going to give you all more than my usual four recommendations, only because I feel this album is such a rarity in this day and age, and also because many of the tracks are two minutes or less – short and sweet. Remember, each track is nearly its own special style, but all have that smooth Shawn Lee “feel” to them, so if you like one or the other, check out the whole album. There are nearly thirty tracks on it, so a lot to listen to and enjoy. - Mike Callahan
Why it’s on this list: What a strangely normal album after the trippy Murray Street and Sonic Nurse! I think this album should be nominated “Best Sonic Youth album for people who don’t like Sonic Youth”. Certainly that is only a bad thing if you are a Sonic Youth fan who thinks it’s still 1994 and that they peaked at Dirty. Beneath the pristine veneer there is still elements of the noisy and dirty aspect of SY that we all love. Songs like “Incinerate” may be built upon pop-like chord progressions and cleanish guitars, but Steve Shelley’s drumming makes sure to keep everything strictly within the realms of Sonic Youth’s style. Many of the songs, such as “Do You Believe in Rapture?” utilize noise in such a way that it fits so well into the song that it’s not jarring and rather just fills up the song. And we stil have proto-punk jams like “Sleepin’ Around” and “What a Waste”. The vibe of the previous two albums is not totally forgotten. The driving drums and meandering melodies of “Turquoise Boy” create a wash of good times psychedellia. The album peaks long into it’s playlist with “Pink Steam”, a nearly 7 minute jam with an intro that takes up more than half the song, sultry verses, and pleading choruses. It certainly may not be the best Sonic Youth album, or even tenth best, but it’s still a damn fine album full of damn fine songs, and it’s an album I can come to regardless of what type of SY mood I’m in. - Andrew Raub
Pink Steam (link)
Why it’s on this list: Before Endless Wire, the last Who album of new material came out in 1982. When they released that album, It’s Hard, there was something missing. There was a spark that no longer existed within the band. Most think that spark was Keith Moon, and when he died in 1978 people could never fathom a replacement for Moony. The Who spark further dimmed when bassist John Entwhistle passed away in 2002. So, how could Endless Wire succeed with only half the band left standing? It succeeds because this band has a new energy. The spark that made this band so great is renewed on this album. Pete and Roger (mostly Pete) unite to create a gem in their elder years. Endless Wire is an intimate experience. Pete’s arrangements and guitar work invite the listener to sit down and enjoy the music without any head banging or fist pumping. Roger’s vocals are deeper and at times much more passionate then they ever have been. The drumming doesn’t try to replicate Moon, nor could it ever, and the bass playing is subdued compared to that of Entwhistle. The two remaining members do not try to recreate something that once was. They press on with what is left. And what is left is a fantastic journey provided to you by a rock genius and his friend with a powerful voice. - Charlie Goodrich
Why it’s on this list: It’s a fine example of how to properly cross the ambient and progressive genres. The playing skill shown on this album is top notch and the songs are very interesting to listen to while at the same time, rather hypnotic.
My first introduction to Zombi was reading about their upcoming Cosmos album (which is listed in the 2004 section of this feature) and hearing them being compared to Goblin was enough of a selling point for me. I was (and still am) a huge fan of all those Dario Argento horror films that Goblin scored, and their scores were one of the reasons why.
So, after listening to and thoroughly enjoying Cosmos, I was ecstatic to hear that they were putting out a new album. When I finally heard Surface to Air for the first time, I was blown away. This was the Zombi album I was waiting for.
I like Cosmos a lot, but I thought there were a few meandering passages that were a bit unnecessary. With Surface to Air, everything is tight, well put together, had no meandering (even on the 18+ minute song), and is a joy to listen to from beginning to end. - Jason Vincion
|Comets On Fire – Avatar – Comets on Fire changed their focus from blowing out your speakers to cleaner songwriting techniques with some crisp production. While it doesn’t rock quite as hard, the songwriting and buildups are memorable and never let down.- Matt Gb.
Listen: “Lucifer’s Memory” link
|Ratatat – Classics – My first introduction to Ratatat, I threw the album on shuffle and started with Lex, track 2. The first image that leapt to mind once the song got started was that of a kazoo marching band. Ratatat’s unique sound has placed them in many of my playlists, and this is one album that can suit a variety of moods, all with hypnotic appeal. - Sherv
Listen: “Lex” link