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Monday, January 01, 2007

Music: Best of 2006.

Happy new year, everybody! Sorry I didn't get this post in by the end of 2006, but it'll have to do. Here's my take on the year's music.

Best Records Of The Year

Jars of Clay : Good Monsters
Jars' best record. Oh yes, I said it. Better than their debut (though sentimental attachment to the self-titled will no doubt keep others from agreeing with me). "Work" is a brilliant rock song (and will melt your face when you hear them open with it in concert), "Dead Man (Carry Me)," "Oh My God," "Light Gives Heat"-- any of these could be the best song on the album, but instead all of them are. And the songs I've not mentioned are still better than the best songs on other bands' records. I hope this can get a second promotional wind in 2007, because it deserves it.
The Beatles : Love
Here's the setup: Cirque de Soleil gets permission to do a Las Vegas show based on the music of The Beatles. A soundtrack album is commissioned, put together by George Martin's son. This should have been, at best, a bore. Instead, it's a revelation. Songs are blended together in surprising ways, and the sonically stunning mixes make you realize all over again that The Beatles made perfect music.

Andrew Osenga : The Morning
Former lead singer of The Normals' third solo CD is his best-sounding yet, and there are songs on here that I will love for the rest of my life. The album's only fault is that it doesn't hold together as cohesively as his other two do. But in an age of iPod shuffles, maybe that doesn't matter so much-- this is a must-buy. Oh, and I even get name-checked on the song "House Of Mirrors" (which also happens to be the best song on the record).

Red Hot Chili Peppers : Stadium Arcadium
I know, I know. Their lyrics are offensive. And I'm not talking about some of the suggestive things-- the sheer absurdity of the lyrics are offensive to the ear. Still, I can't get enough of this record, and probably listened to it more than any other 2006 release. And it's a double album, no less. Their harmonies and John Frusciante's guitar playing are sheer musical pleasure.

Griffin House : Homecoming
Singer-songwriter and Best Rock Star You've Never Heard Of. "Live To Be Free" is the best single that will never get played on the radio. I heard that Homecoming is not getting a CD release, so be sure to pick it up on iTunes or eMusic.

Daniel Tashian : The Lovetest
The Bees' lead singer makes the most fun record of the year, and barely bothers to mention it, much less put it out for people to buy it. Download it for free here.

Thom Yorke : The Eraser
I want a new Radiohead album. This'll do quite nicely for now.

Worth Mentioning

Easy Star All-Stars : Radiodread
Reggae version of Radiohead's OK Computer. Sounds like it would be terrible, but is actually captivating, and a reminder that Radiohead are some of the best songwriters out there.

David Mead : Tangerine
Nashville pop virtuoso moves to a more "expansive sound" on this record, but I don't like the songs as much as his previous albums.

Wilco : Kicking Television
Live record from an amazing live band. I saw them at the Ryman this year.

Sandra McCracken : Gravity|Love
Strong collection of songs from one of Nashville's best, though Peter Collins' production is too bland in places for my taste.

Matthew Perryman Jones : Throwing Punches In The Dark
MPJ finally returns after too many years, and I'm so glad he did. "Refuge" is his best song yet, though this record is full of great tunes.

Counting Crows : *New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall
A live record that reminded why I love this band.

Johnny Cash : American V: A Hundred Highways
Didn't catch my ear as much as his previous records, or the excellent Unearthed, which I gorged myself on in 2005.

Katy Bowser : All Of My Friends
Quirky? Yes. Americana? Yes, whatever that means. Subversive? Absolutely. Katy comes back with an EP that will disarm you with its charm (including its packaging-- get the CD rather than the digital version) and lightness, but runs deep with truth and beauty.

Leigh Nash : Blue On Blue
Nice pop album from the former Sixpence singer. Good tunes, but of course not as good as Matt Slocum's were. "My Idea Of Heaven" is a wretched song that is the unfortunate first single. If that's all you've heard, give the rest of the record a chance.

The Bees : High Society
Not as good as Starry Gazey Pie, but still amazing. Love these guys.

Red Mountain Church : Help My Unbelief
My friend Clint wrote much of this record and co-produced. Red Mountain's best yet.

Tom Petty : Highway Companion
I had high hopes for this collaboration with Jeff Lynne. Doesn't have the magic or the big songs that I need from Petty. Still good though.

David Bazan : Fewer Moving Parts
Bazan drops the Pedro The Lion name and makes an EP. A little too biting at times, but I look forward to his first solo LP.
Mute Math : Mute Math
Just got this last month. MM are the band that I want to hate (for their uber-hipness and absurd lawsuit), but they are undeniably good and this record delivers.

The Cardigans : Super Extra Gravity
Nothing compared to Long Gone Before Daylight, but "I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer" is one of the best rock songs of the year. "Don't Blame Your Daughter (Diamonds)" is superb as well.

Records I Didn't Hear But Should Have

Bob Dylan : Modern Times
Several of my friends loved this record. I've never been a huge Dylan fan simply because I see him as more focused on lyrics than on melody, and I'm a sucker for melody.

Willie Nelson : Songbird
Ryan Adams produced this record, with The Cardinals as Willie's band. I'll get it soon, but I've heard it didn't turn out as well as it should have.

Beck : The Information
Don't know why I don't have this one yet. Beck live on SNL was one of my favorite musical moments of the year.

Jeff Tweedy : Sunken Treasure
I actually own this but haven't listened or watched yet. For shame.

Biggest Disappointments

U2 : U218 Singles
A single-disc "greatest hits" for your favorite band is bound to disappoint, but this is really terrible. Not only is nothing included from Boy, October, Zooropa, or Pop, but the sequence makes no sense whatsoever. "Window In The Skies" is wonderful though.

Gwen Stefani : The Sweet Escape
She could be great. "Wind It Up" is the worst single of 2006. I bought "Early Winter" and "Wonderful Life" from iTunes, and that's all I'm getting from this train wreck.

Most Anticipated of 2007

Derek Webb - I hope the FreeDerekWebb campaign (that he did for Mockingbird) helped raise his profile enough to make people take notice of this next record, as he is one of the great songwriters (and singers, for that matter) of our time. Expect rock.

U2 - Oh, please get this out by November 2007, guys. Rick Rubin is producing. Supposedly they're taking it to the next level. Here are my expectations: not experimental like I want them to be, but more intricate melodies and harmonies than they've ever had. Can't wait.

Wilco - Love them. Not too thrilled with the song I heard on Conan, but I'm sure I'll warm to it.

Ryan Adams - Rumor has it that after a one-year hiatus from releasing records (ha), Ryan is going to put out three new albums in 2007. Bring it.

Counting Crows - Finally. Hard Candy was like, a century ago. This one is almost done, I hear.

Daniel Lanois - This one is speculation, but I'd love a new (non-instrumental) record from Dirty Dan in 2007.

Fountains Of Wayne
- It's called Traffic and Weather, and it should have melodies for miles.

Radiohead - I'm hoping that this one will be their best since OK Computer.

Jeremy Casella
- Jeremy is going to gain many new fans with his upcoming record, which will be very different from anything he's ever done.

How about you? What music were you listening to in 2006? What are you looking forward to hearing in 2007?


Blogger Steve said...

I just don't get all the buzz about JOC. It's okay, but it's nothing special to me. Maybe my tastes are changing.

I recently heard a podcast with the producer of the Beatles album. Can't wait to pick that one up.

Yorke's Eraser was good, but new Radiohead hunger is better. Looking forward to it.

Thanks for the list Matthew.


3:38 PM

Blogger Geof F. said...

So I should break down and get the Jars, huh? I'll be honest ... I just got tired of them after a while. But if you're arguing that it's better than either of the first two, well ... I'll give it a try.

My list is up if you're curious.

4:01 PM

Blogger Matthew Smith said...

Steve-- if you have a 5.1 system, definitely get the CD/DVD combo version of Love. I don't have a system like that, but a friend does and I loved listening to that version.

Geoff-- Jars aren't breaking new, experimental ground or anything, but Good Monsters is a very solid pop/rock record, and I think it would win over the most jaded former Jars fan.

4:15 PM

Blogger Steve said...

Thanks for the tip on Love. Oh, and you are right on Wilco's live album (though I haven't seen them live). It's great.

5:20 PM

Anonymous April said...

Hmmm, thought your 'best of 2006' would include more things actually put out in 2006, obviously not with the beatles inclusion- but some good recommendations nonetheless

8:11 PM

Blogger Matthew Smith said...

I'm pretty sure all of these records were released in the U.S. in 2006. Especially the Beatles one, which came out last month.

8:25 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Great stuff, Matthew. I'm definitely going to pick up the Griffin House and Thom Yorke albums now. The RHCP pick totally surprised me, though! Not sure if I can go there with you...

Anyway, I've been enjoying the second release from
The Weepies
, Say I am you. These two singer/songwriters have really found something great as a duo. The songs are solid and the vibe is incredibly soothing. Oh, and this one's on emusic - sweet.

8:38 AM

Blogger Brian said...

thanks for the mention. and I love looking at 2007 lists. this year promises to be glorious.

7:27 AM

Blogger Matthew Smith said...

Jim - It is hard for me to admit, but Stadium Arcadium is my record of the year. It is delicious and I can't deny it.

Brian - I think that more great records will come out in 2007 than in 2006.

11:42 AM

Blogger Brannon said...

Great post. I agreed with a lot of what's here. Thought I'm not quite the rocker you are, here are a few favorites---though some may be last year actually:

Neko Case
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Floating World

Fiona Apple
Extraordinary Machine

Funnel Cloud

My Brightest Diamond
Bring Me the Workhorse

Mindy Smith
Long Island Shores

Looking forward to:

Seeing if Mat Kearney is a one hit wonder, or here to stay.

Steven Delopoulos' new album Straightjacket, due early in the year.

Of course, U2's next.

8:56 PM

Blogger Marissa Miller said...

"Gwen Stefani : The Sweet Escape
She could be great. "Wind It Up" is the worst single of 2006. I bought "Early Winter" and "Wonderful Life" from iTunes, and that's all I'm getting from this train wreck."

I liked it and bought the actual album, but I can see it getting old by March and sitting on my shelf doing nothing. I find it better than L.A.M.B. though.

7:00 PM

Blogger Michael Krahn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:32 PM


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