Top Ten of '06
Here are Jordan's picks for the best of 2006.
1. Deftones - Saturday Night Wrist - When Saturday Night Wrist came out, I left it in my CD player for three monthes. No kidding. The record is like if you painted a picture of a stunning, naked beauty, but instead of paint, used sludge and muck from the sewer. It's wonderful. It's not the Deftones peak of musical ability, but it is their highest artistic peak as far as song-writing.
Stand-out tracks - Hole in the Earth, Beware, Kimdracula, Xerces
2. Bob Dylan - Modern Times - Dylan is back. Again. I swear, this man is some kind of miracle. Modern Times is a bluesy, twangy, swingy, deep, rich, and amazing record. Again, it's Dylan. We get Dylan's version of classic blues motifs and melodies, melding in those classic themes like lamenting lost love and questioning God, with Dylan's poet's command of language and sentiment.
Stand-out tracks - Thunder on the Mountain, The Levee's Gonna Break
3. Pearl Jam - S/T - Pearl Jam re-emerges from pretty much obscurity with this, their eighth studio record. The band has evolved into something of an anachronistic totem in the midst of all the changes in music. They still play The Who style stadium-guitar rock, write socio-political songs, and want a little bit of crunch in their guitars and may have a solo or two. This album propels them further in to that role, with blue-collar anthem "Unemployable" and intro/retrospective songs like "Life Wasted" and commentary songs like "World Wide Suicide". And I am enjoying the hell out of, because I like The Who, I like Bruce Springsteen, and I like Pearl Jam.
Stand-out tracks - Unemployable, Life Wasted, Gone
4. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife - This is The Decemberists fourth album, and their first on a major label (Capitol). Fortunately, the band has kept in tact their tendency of intelligent, inventive song writing. Colin Meloy really anchors the band with his literate and fanciful lyrics that make for great storytelling, and his fantastically unique voice. The Crane Wife is a more than worthy follow-up to their final album with Kill Rock Stars, Picaresque.
Stand-out tracks - O Valencia!, Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then), Summersong
5. Band of Horses - Everything All The Time - This is the Seattle band's second album (or first, depending on what chronology you want to use) to make my "top list". The best thing about the record is that no matter how intimate the material, lyrically, we are rarely pandered to with balladry or less intensive vocals. Even on the acoustic "St. Augustine", Ben Birdwell still carries it by only softening a little bit. Birdwell does us all a service there, becuause his vocals are really the driving force behind the band, being its best instrument of all. The timbre is something like Neil Young, but with better use of pitch and more melodious. Good stuff.
Stand-out tracks - The Great Salt Lake, The Funeral
6. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale - Ghostface's fifth solo album is, in this reviewers opinion, his absolute peak. Delivering his patented imagery-heavy rhymes accompanied by some very good beats (even without RZA), Ghostface takes us back to the Slick Rick days a little bit with tracks like "Shakey Dog", in which we witness some of that classic, story-tellin' rap. Good stuff.
Stand-out tracks - Shakey Dog, 9 Milli Bros
7. Mastodon - Blood Mountain - A very strong follow-up to the Moby Dick concept album Leviathan, Blood Mountain is just as balls out and in your face, but with even more of weird folklore imagery. Now, of course, mythology has been a metal staple for years, but I don't recall ever hearing a song about a "Cysquatch" (that being a half-cyclops, half sasquatch hybrid). Sonically, Mastodon are terrific. Drummer Brann Dailor kicks provides a driving force behind the band that really sets the tone. It's a tight, very technically proficient albums filled with terrifying woodland creatures, what's not to love about that?
Stand-out tracks - Colony of Birchmen, Capillarian Crest
8. Johnny Cash - American V: A Hundred Highways - This was Cash's final album, released posthumously, and he sounds absolutely exhausted on it. The bare, stripped down perfomance suits Cash in his final days. The majority of the songs are covers (including the Springsteen song "Further On Up the Road", which is a stand out), with just Johnny and an acoustic guitar. Rick Rubin has provided us with an extremely bittersweet retrospective of Johnny Cash through his five albums that he produced for The Man in Black, and this one is no exception. If you dig old country at all, you'll enjoy American V.
Stand-out tracks - Further On Up the Road, Like the 309, On the Evening Train
9. Islands - Return to the Sea - Rising out the ashes of Canadian band The Unicorns, Islands are an exciting band that should have a bright future. With their mix of melodious clanging, funky basslines, the occasional MCing, evocative vocals, and a dash of classic pop sensibilites Return to the Sea becomes one amazing record.
Stand-out tracks - Where There is a Will There is a Whalebone, Rough Gem
10.Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That - This French outfit really knows how to put together a smooth record, even with sometimes frenetic energy. Even the instrumental tune "North" keeps your attention. I've read comparrisons to The Strokes, and I can't see it on certain tracks (like "Napoleon Says"), but I really find them a lot easier to listen to, but maybe not as exciting.
Stand-out tracks - Lost and Found, Long Distance Call
- Jordan M.
Sulphur Springs, TX