La Bodega

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Favorite Albums of 2006

I was having a hard time restricting myself to just 10 this year considering the copious amounts of new music taken in this year. Enjoy. Feel free to praise or condemn my choices. Keep in mind these are my FAVORITES and by no means am I saying they are the BEST of the year:

15. French Kicks .. Two Thousand
New Yorkers The French Kicks return with another album full of catchy indie dance rock tunes on par with their last release Trial of the Century. Hip smacking favorites include Also Ran, Cloche, Knee High, and No Mean Time.

14. Mew .. And the Glass Handed Kites
While I really didn't get a chance to listen to this album as much as I would have liked, I knew it was deserving to be included in my year end list after listening to Apocalypso. Had I more of a chance, the album might have fallen in the top 5. Much of the album attacks you with heavy guitar riffage, pounding drum beats, and high pitched, almost Sigur Ros like, vocals. A very ambitious album from a band that is sure to make much more noise in the coming years.

13. Neko Case .. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
The venerable Neko Case returns with another album, showing off her impeccable vocal chops as well as being joined by roots musician Kelly Hogan on back-up vocals. Neko's storytelling ability and mood setting flourishes even more on Fox Confessor, which is proving to be one of, if not the, most solid releases from her yet. Favorites include Star Witness, Maybe Sparrow, and the Needle Has Landed.

12. The Black Heart Procession .. The Spell
Few bands know how to set a dreary and mysterious mood like The Black Heart Procession. While the mood on their most recent release is on par with their previous releases, they have taken another ambitious step since Amore del Tropico, which took a large step itself from it's predecessor Three. The songs are more energetic, while still having that Black Heart Procession dreary piano focus in place. Favorites include Tangled, The Spell, Not Just Words, and The Fix.

11. Oakley Hall .. Second Guessing
With their first release of 2006 (proceeded with Gypsum Strings released later in the year) Oakley Hall fill this one with twangy alt country tunes combined with violin and lap steel guitar. Hiway and Second Guessing serve as such examples. The highlight of the album is the twangy rollicking country jam Volume Rambler. The album finishes nicely with the beer soaked Cod'ine.

10. Murder by Death .. In Bocca al Lupo
As with their 2003 release, Murder by Death have released another concept album. The album has a very dark feel to it as it seems to follow a character beginning a downward spiral into crime and eventually leading him to his death sentence. While the album was made to work as a whole piece, you are able to take away some songs on their own such as opener Boy Decide, Brother, and Sometimes the Line Walks You.

9. White Whale .. WWI
A new sea-faring concept band enters the stage to join the likes of The Decemberists and British Sea Power. And as with the previously mentioned bands, White Whale succeed on that level. While thematically White Whale is similar to the Decemberists, the songs are less folksy and rock a little harder and the lyrics are a little less literary, similarly to British Sea Power, in which lead singer Matt Suggs could be confused with BSP lead singer Yan. Favorites include, Nine Good Fingers, The Admiral, What's an Ocean For, and album closer One Prayer.

8. Thom Yorke .. The Eraser
Lead singer of hugely respected band attempts to satisfy the hordes of said band's fans eagerly anticipating their next release by releasing his debut solo album. This would sound like a gimmick in most situations, but not in Thom Yorke's case. Upon first listen, you might think the album feels as sort of Radiohead-light, but upon further listens, you are really forced to focused on Yorke's lush, untouched vocals, and you really get to appreciate his contributions to the bigger (Radiohead) picture. Musically, the album is full of straightforward electronic blips and bleeps, which work well with Thom's vocals. Favorites include The Eraser, Black Swan, and Harrowdown Hill.

7. Lansing-Dreiden .. The Dividing Island
Lansing-Dreiden return with a more focused album with The Dividing Island, and by focused I mean focused on the 1980s new wave scene. The album works on a much more consistent level than their last release, as each track is heavy on the synthesizer with hazy guitar distortions and deep throated vocals. Two exceptions to this are Our Next Breath, a very poppy with a Beach Boys sunny sound to it. The second being the album closer Dethroning the Optimyth, with a title that would suggest a Lord of the Ring type adventure. The song grabs you with heavy guitar riffs and does not let go until it stops on a dime and drops you flat on your face with no apologies.

6. Oakley Hall .. Gypsum Strings
As soon as you start listening to the first track of Gypsum Strings, you might confuse them with main songwriter Pat Sullivan's former band Oneida. Confidence Man opens with a flurry of electronic psych rock guitar distortion and is present throughout between the shouting dual vocals of Sullivan and co-lead singer Rachel Cox. Lazy Susan also follows the same trend. The rest of the album is full of country flavored guitar twang (If I Was in El Dorado) and banjo playing (Bury Your Burden, as well as Spanish Fandango). The album has somewhat of a moody feel to it and some of the songs are slowed down quite a bit. Another favorite is the riff heavy House Carpenter. As a whole, the album has a less country feel to it's 2006 predecessor Second Guessing.

5. TV on the Radio .. Return to Cookie Mountain
Upstart Brooklynites return with their second album of original sounding genre mixing/defying music in Return to Cookie Mountain. The hype and expectations were great in anticipation of their major label debut and the band certainly did not disappoint. Sonically ambitious and lushly arranged, the band fulfills nearly any musical palate you might be thirsting for. Some parts post-punk, electronica, industrial, atmospheric, and even doo-wop. Rocker Wolf Like Me leads the way as the first single, while the remainder of the album is no short of highlight moments. Rock revolutionary and pioneer David Bowie even lends his backing vocals on Province. Other favorites include I Was a Lover, Let the Devil In, and Dirty Wheel.

4. Secret Machines .. Ten Silver Drops
The lyrical mysteriousness of Now Here is Nowhere is gone. The Secret Machines are not trying to fool anyone on the subject matter of the 2006 release Ten Silver Drops. The album takes a much more direct approach, basing itself squarely on the hardships of failed relationships. While the subject matter is much more suitable to emo and teen angst rock, the Machines deliver their message on a much more grandiose level. They continue to expand on their space rock and guitar reverb with tracks like Alone, Jealous, and Stoned, as well as Faded Lines. Lightning Blue Eyes is very comparable to Nowhere Again from their last album, while they also make another visit to the Kraut Rock genre with Daddy's in the Doldrums, building up steam until the song reaches climax about three fourths of the way though the 8 and a half minute jam. The band does misstep at the end of the album with the last two tracks, finishing the album with sort of a whimper.

3. Built to Spill .. You in Reverse
Doug Martsch and company return with their sixth proper studio album, ditching the 3 and half minute popfest that were their last two album (not that these albums were fantastic), and return to the extended indie jam that was Perfect From Now On. Lead single and album highlight Goin' Against Your Mind combines these aspects, however, by creating a nearly 9 minute track with a flurry of catchy guitar riffs and catchy refrain. The other single out of the album, Conventional Wisdom, would be perfect for format controlled pop rock radio if the last half the 6 and a half minute song did not go into a guitar jam. The band shows it chops with Mess With Time, powering through heavy guitar riffs and vocal distortions. The remainder of the album is filled with mid tempo intelligent guitar balladry that would put most bands attempting the same thing to shame.

2. Espers .. Espers II
If someone were to attempt to define what type of music Espers are, their new release would be best described as Gothic Folk Rock. Much darker than previous efforts, the album still has a renaissance feel to it, but on a much darker and more sinister level. There are no singles to point to on the album, as it must be listened to as a whole to appreciate the balance between the delicate moments and the fist clenching heavy moments. You may find yourself caught in a trance while listening to it on a dark and quite night. Highlights include Widow's Weeds, Mansfield and Cyclops, and Dead King.

1. The Decemberists .. The Crane Wife
I would call these guys one of the most consistent bands out there, consistently releasing one great album after another, but this would mean that each album is equally as good as the last. The truth is, The Decemberists started out on an excellent note with Castaways and Cutouts, and continue to up the anti on each subsequent release. The Crane Wife is no exception, as it is even better than Picaresque. Their major label debut, the album builds upon their sea-faring indie folk rock and touches upon more wider variety of musical genres. Highlights are the proggy multi-part epic The Island, sing-a-long indie pop number O Valencia!, dancey The Perfect Crime, and the uplifting album closer Sons and Daughters.

Others worthy of note:
120 Days .. 120 Days
Beck .. The Information
Brightblack Morning Light .. Brightblack Morning Light
Calexico .. Garden Ruin
Califone .. Roots and Crowns
Comets on Fire .. Avatar
The Walkmen .. A Hundred Miles Off
Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
Calexico - Garden Ruin
Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV
Nomo - New Tones
Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That
The Roots - Game Theory
The Streets - The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living
Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon
Wolfmother - Wolfmother


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