Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears: December means year-end lists and oh giggity do I love lists. A pretty good year in music if you ask me; what follows is my much-agonized mix, a combination of “best of,” “my favorites,” and an “2006 sampler.” These 30 are loosely in order but many of the rankings are dependant, obviously, on my mood and/or the alignment of the moon & stars…
1. M. Ward – “To Go Home” from Post-War
Since this is my #1 pick it would make sense to wax eloquent here… but sometimes great songs become very personal and thus hard to write about; ie I love this song and feel no need to defend or explain it.2. Bob Dylan – “Spirit on the Water” from Modern Times
3. TV on the Radio – “Wolf Like Me” from Return to Cookie Mountain
Undeniable power. One of my favorite musical moments of ’06 starts around 2:20 — you’ll know what I mean when you hear it. Also, guitarist Kyp Malone wins Best ‘Fro + Beard Combo.
4. Destroyer – “European Oils” from Destroyer’s Rubies
5. Band of Horses – “Funeral” from Everything All the Time
6. Midlake – “Roscoe” from The Trials of Van Occupanther
7. The Decemberists Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sons and DaughtersÃ¢â‚¬Â from The Crane Wife
Frank at Chromewaves sums it up perfectly for me: “It’s funny, I never think I’m an especially big Decemberists fan until they release a new record, and I’m reminded of how singular, engaging and idiosyncratic – and with their latest record, moving – their music can be.” My Crane Wife epiphany came somewhere in the middle of “The Island” where I just stopped whatever I was doing and said, probably out-loud, “Holy shit this is fantastic.” That song, however, is 12 minutes long so I went with “Sons & Daughters” instead since it’s also great and much more accessible.
8. Beirut – “Postcards from Italy” from Gulag Orkestar
Beirut is essentially just 20-year-old Zach Condon and I really have to give props to any single individual who can re-create an entire gypsy band all by himself. Oh, and there’s a good brass part to this song and I’m a sucker for horns.
9. My Morning Jacket – “One Big Holiday” from Okonokos
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m cheating a little here since technically this song is off 2003Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s It Still moves but this is actually the live version from a concert at the Fillmore. MMJ kick so much ass that I had to sneak them on this list one way or another.
10. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m From Barcelona Ã¢â‚¬â€œ “This Boy” from Let Me Introduce My Friends
It’s tempting to label I’m From Barcelona (who’re actually from Sweden) as a “guilty pleasure” — after all, they kind of stand in stark contrast to the rest of the “serious artists” on this mix. But you know, I’m From Barcelona (let’s also note what a truly shitty band title this is) makes some ridiculously infectious music that’s provided me with hours of musical bliss. This 29-member collective seems a bit less cultish than The Polyphonic Spree (though the Spree only have 24 members: noobs!) but share the same OMG-SO-HAPPY aesthetic. Their songs are short, simple, and a lot of fun. They make me smile and hit repeat and that’s enough to qualify for the list this year.
11. The Stills – “Destroyer” from Without Feathers
12. Shearwater – “Seventy-four, Seventy-five” from Palo Santo
13. Final Fantasy – “This Lamb Sells Condos” from He Poos Clouds
Nerdy boy wonder Owen Pallett first found acclaim by arranging the strings for The Arcade FireÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Funeral. Final Fantasy is his own geeky creative outlet, love songs to Zelda included. -10 points for the horrible album title though, Owen.
14. Cold War Kids – “Hospital Beds” from Robbers & Cowards
15. Tobias Froberg – “God’s Highway” from Somewhere In the City
16. David & the Citizens – “The End” from Until the Sadness Is Gone
17. Danielson – “Did I Step on Your Trumpet?” from Ships
I was going to post this or the other song I really love, “Ship the Majestic Suffix.” There’s probably a pretty good chance I went with this one simply because of the title. Daniel Smith is one of those Christians that nobody in CCM listens to but is a fairly well-regarded artist in the secular underground. His voice may be a bit off-putting at first but his stylings can really grow on you.
18. Jeremy Enigk – “World Waits” from World Waits
19. Sufjan Stevens – “The Henney Buggy Band” from The Avalanche
20. Guillemots – “Made-up Love Song #43” from Through the Windowpane
21. Islands Ã¢â‚¬â€œ “Rough Gem” from Return to the Sea
22. Two Gallants – “Steady Rollin'” from What the Toll Tells
23. Elected Ã¢â‚¬â€œ “Not Going Home” from Sun, Sun, Sun
24. Sparklehorse Ã¢â‚¬â€œ “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away” from Dreamt For Light Years In the Belly of a Mountain
Anybody whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been clinically dead for two minutes, as Mark Linkous has, deserves a few minutes of my time. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been five years since the last Sparklehorse album, but Linkous is back and apparently doing better than ever.
25. Sunset Rubdown Ã¢â‚¬â€œ “Stadiums & Shrines II” from Shut Up I Am Dreaming
26. Grizzly Bear – “Knife” from Yellow House
27. Ray Lamontagne – “Gone Away From Me” from Till The Sun Turns Black
28. Joseph Arthur Ã¢â‚¬â€œ “Too Much to Hide” from Nuclear Daydream
29. Joanna Newsom – “Cosmia” from Ys
Eek, if I had to predict the “Song Most Likely to Be Hated by the Majority of My Readers” it would have to be this gem. I mean there’s no middle ground here – either her voice is completely unbearable or totally bewitching. Now I was by no means an instant fan of Newsom’s music and really struggled with “getting it” for a long time. But somehow I just kept coming back to her crazy songs, vocal squawks and squeaks and all. Newsom, to me, is punk rock done by pixie and she’s provided 2006 with some of the most creative and original work out there.
30. The Hold Steady – “Chips Ahoy” from Boys and Girls in America
So who else did I miss? Which songs completely suck ass? Leave me a comment and let’s start a internets fight!
p.s. – most mp3’s provided by Insound, the rest are from various corners of the web.