Heads On Sticks & Ventriloquists

The prodigious writings of a tortured genius.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Best Music of 2006

Update: Yo yo yo, dude. Also check out this list of best songs... dude. Yeah dude. Nice.

It's the time of year for my (apparently now annual) best music I heard this year list. It's being made to a.) pander to my own ego and b.) maybe reccomend some stuff you'd wanna hear. Since you're reading this I already assume you have great taste in art and the like. Okay, so the year isn't over yet, but I'll post more later if the greatest album of the millenium is released in the next two weeks (if the new Modest Mouse album is as good as I hope it is, then I'll put it on next year's list). Last year I made the mistake of quantifying the list, which kind of was stupid and there's no reason to place certain albums above others, especially when they are usually quite different. So this year I'm doing it in alphabetical order. It's just better this way.

Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury

I'm usually skeptical of shit that gets overhyped like madness. Remember when everyone was creaming over Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah? And they had like 2 or 3 good songs. The same has been happening to Clipse for the past 6 months. Everyone could not stop talking up this album. Also, I was never really struck by any singles that the Neptunes produced, although I always respected what they had done. Furthermore, I've rarely considered myself a fan of anything labeled "minimalist", usually I'm all about the bombast. However, it all comes together so perfectly on "Hell Hath No Fury" that shorty be all like daaay-uuum dis ish be hotttt! The beats are just about the most evil things I've ever heard (the sci-fi mindfuck of "Mr. Me Too", the Legend of Zelda temple drone of "Keys Open Doors", hell they fucking make steel drums scary under Slim Thug's bassy growl in "Wamp Wamp"). The flow is on spot, and even though every single song is about dealing drugs, I was still entertained by the lyrics ("Pyrex Turs turned into Covalli furs / The full length cat, when I wave, the kitty purs / All my niggas caped up, selling grey and beige dust / Had that money right or end up in the trunk taped up / We don't chase a duck, we only raise the bucks / Peel money rolls until our thumbs get the papercuts". Woof). Something tells me that the sum of this group's parts are greater than the whole, but let's just be thankful that some inadvertant cosmic magic that they all came together like this.

Daughters - Hell Songs

"I've been screaming in bands for 11 or 12 years, and it's fucking tiresome and it's starting to hurt my throat. And it's uncomfortable and it's a waste of anything that I've written where I really feel I wrote something good."
-Alexis Marshall, Daughters

Despite simmering reviews, this is the best album that Daughters have ever released. Their take on angular grindcore with Canada was admirable and largely enjoyable, but hurt by the fact that most of the songs sounded exactly the same. The fact that Marshall now talks, whispers, and growls instead of a piercing demonic shriek makes the music around him even more effective. There's a clear mood that Daughters have always gone for -- a creepy, crushing, overwhelming feeling -- which is at its most fully realized in this album. I commend them for the little experimental flourishes that separate them from their peers, such as the inclusion of strings and horns and general ambiance. It's still evil, so don't let granny hear.

Girl Talk - Night Ripper

This album out-Hollertronixes Hollertronix themselves. It's easily the best mash-up album I've ever heard. The reason it's so good is its wild ambition; there are literally hundreds of samples used on these 16 tracks. Part of the fun is remembering where all the various samples even came from in the first place. On top of that it's an incredibly fun listen. Check out 2 Live Crew gang chant "Heyyyyy, we want some puss-ay!" over Paul McCartney's balmy "I looooove yoooouuu" on the last track. Other fun moments are Three 6 Mafia over Smashing Pumpkins in "Overtime" and Gwen Stefani over The Rentals in "Hand Clap". If your party is starting to suck, just throw this on, it might save your reputation.

The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America

There's something that I find undeniably enjoyable when a band can write music entirely about having a good time. The beauty of this album is not just the awesomely enjoyable backing music, but the lyrics poetically and insightfully portray the ecstacy and the agony of a highly intoxicated night on the town. The Hold Steady don't take themselves seriously, which is one of the most appealing things about them. There are fun lyrics like "She was a really good kisser and she wasn't all that strict of a Christian" and "There were clicks and hisses / and complicated kisses / Gideon's got a pipe made from a pringles can". But they can easily switch to, what I consider, entirely beautiful poetry: "She looked just like a baby bird, all new and wet and trying to light a Parliament / he quoted her some poetry, he's Tennyson in denim and sheepskin / he looked a lot like Izzy Stradlin / they started kissing when the nurses took off their IV's / it was kinda sexy, but it was kinda creepy / their mouths were fizzy with the cherry cola, they had the privacy of bedsheets / and all the other kids were mostly in comas".

Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liquor

Unlike the other hip hop album on this list, Food & Liquor is a grandiose feel-good rocker. Lupe's flow is out of control here. I've been hoping to hear more from this rising star ever since his show-stealing cameo on Kanye's "Touch The Sky", and he certainly delivered. This album is actually very much like a miniature "Late Registration", all the same elements are in play here. Songs like "I Gotcha" and "Just Might Be OK" feature excellent wordplay and really great beats curtousy of 1st and 15th production. His lyrics are also entirely refreshing in a genre that is known for glorifying drug-dealers, mysogynists, and murderers; in "Daydreamin'" he offers a fairly scathing review of popular hip hop: "Now come on everybody let’s make cocaine and cool / We need a few more half naked women up in the pool / And hold this mack ten that’s all covered in jewels / And can you please put your titties closer to the 22’s / And where’s the champagne, we need champagne / Now look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand / And now hold up your chain / Slow motion through the flames / Now queue the smoke machines and the simulator rain / But not too loud cuz the baby’s sleepin". Other topics include absent fathers, zombies, and taking baths... remember, Lupe's quite fresh: "Fragrantly fragrant and they cant escape me / My perfume pursued them everywhere that they went / You don't want a loan leave my cologne alone / It's a little to strong for you to be putting on".

Mew - And The Glass Handed Kites

Where do I start with this band? What exactly do I like so much about them? I first heard "The Zookeeper's Boy" and loved it; it felt like M83 meets Genesis. It's very poppy, but maintains all the usual suspects in the making of a Rush or Yes album (i.e. the bubbling angelic synth drone of the second half of "Chinaberry Tree", the fact that there's an extra track with Japanese lyrics, the fact that they decided to name one of their songs "Apocalypso"[!]). The awesomeness of this record is how incredibly epic it is. I would love to see some sort of "Lord of the Rings" meets "The Wall" concept film with this music in the background. The power of this album actually occurred to me when I was on a cruise this summer staring out at the endless Atlantic with this on my iPod. The sky was an ominous gray, with fits of golden sunlight filtering through. This is the image you have to think of when listening to Mew: transplant yourself into the most magestic, natural scenery and listen.

All I know is that, if heaven exists and I ever get there, I want to hear the opening 20 seconds of "An Envoy To the Open Fields" upon my arrival.

Shook Ones - Facetious Folly Feat

It was a punk rock summer for me, as I spent most of it listening to Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, American Nightmare/Give Up The Ghost and (early) Against Me!. On top of that I would often listen to Shook Ones' first album, Sixteen (featuring such gems as "Bellingham Lads Club", "Please Read", and "Jersey Beach Pail"). These guys are heavily following in the footsteps of the cult icon Dan Yemin and his various musical outings. And they carry the torch that was long ago dropped by Philly's own Kid Dynamite. However, this band is not merely derivative of KD or Lifetime; they expand upon the sound crafted in the mid 90s and early 00s. I've listened to this album just about every day since it was released two months ago. Every song is pretty much great, definetly topping their previous efforts. "CARMS Race" has already reached the most-played song on my iTunes, with most of the other songs not far behind. On top of that I managed to see them twice within the last month, and one time it was an hour away. I've reached a point where I need to hear more from this band... so dudes, keep writing.

TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain

TV on the Radio continue to prove why they are one of the coolest bands around with Return to Cookie Mountain. The sound is dense and hazy, with wonderful vocal melodies and harmonies accompanying it. In many ways I'm reminded of the Beach Boys, expertly combining pop with art.

Honorable Mentions (I listened to these... just not as much):
Abandoned Pools - Armed to the Teeth
Appleseed Cast - Peregrine
Be Your Own Pet - s/t
Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
Converge - No Heroes
Deftones - Saturday Night Wrist (probably the most consistent album they've ever released)
Dr. Dog - Takers & Leavers EP (you must hear "Livin' a Dream")
Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
Gnarles Barkley - St. Elsewhere ("Crazy" is really good, but you have to hear "Transformer")
Islands - Return to the Sea
The Jonbenet - The Plot Thickens
Justin Timberlake - Futuresex / Lovesounds (don't hate)
Ratatat - Classics
Thom Yorke - The Eraser


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