The New Year is a time of change, resolution and, many times, a reflection on the year before. With a wave of new artists and more readily available technology, the music industry is booming faster than ever before, and it’s easy for bands and music to get lost in the chaos. So, to curb the madness and to give 2007 artists something to build upon, here’s a list of the top 10 best albums of 2006.
Sonic Youth – “Rather Ripped” – Geffen
New York indie rockers Sonic Youth have aged like a fine wine and provide one of their best, and most accessible, releases to date with “Rather Ripped.” The group parted ways with guitarist and uber-producer Jim O’Rourke for the album. Bassist Kim Gordon takes on a larger portion of the vocal duties than on previous albums. Gordon’s sultry vocals serve as a perfect complement to Thurston Moore’s beautiful guitar work. This album fills you up like a KFC buffet, or any buffet for that matter, freaks you out with the dark and gloomy “Lights Out” and brings you right back to radio friendliness with “Jams Run Free” and “Incinerate.”
Murs and Ninth Wonder – “Murray’s Revenge” – Record Collection
Who would have thought hip-hop could be this happy without being Will Smith cheesy? Los Angeles rapper Murs gets a little Southern flavor from Raleigh, N.C., producer Ninth Wonder on “Murray’s Revenge.” The album is surprisingly uplifting, with Murs effortlessly flowing over tasty beats in the flavor of De La Soul and Common (not sold-out). Murs shines as one of today’s premier lyricists on the soul-inspired “Yesterday and Today” and the old-school shout-out tune “Barbershop.” Ninth Wonder picks up the torch from the late J Dilla and gives hope to the future of rap producing outside the realm of commercial records. “Revenge” returns rap to its roots and is perfect for anyone sick of over-commercialized hip-hop.
Chin Up, Chin UP – “This Harness Can’t Ride Anything” – Suicide Squeeze
This former math-rock Chicago quintet found a new home at Suicide Squeeze Records, an amazing indie label with an impressive growing roster and a new sound on “This Harness Can’t Ride Anything.” Singer/guitarist Jeremy Bolen’s baritone voice hangs brightly over spacey guitar riffs to provide an impressive pop record that sounds like a hyperactive Arcade Fire without becoming gloomy. Pianist Greg Sharp adds subtle key work underneath all the action, but gives listeners a chance to settle down and enjoy the album. Sharp gives the album that accessible pop feel instead of the same old indie music spin. This record is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Wolfmother – “Wolfmother” – Modular/Interscope
Sabbath meets AC/DC and an insane Aussie yell. “Wolfmother” might be getting just a bit too much airplay on radio and overexposure in every major music magazine, but the record still hits you like a tidal wave. Frontman Andrew Stockdale belts out his rebel yell on the album’s opening track “Dimension” and continues his high-vocal attack over psychedelic drumming and a brutal, sonic bass throughout the record. The group waited four years to perfect their sound before playing live, and rock fans have reaped the rewards on this powerful, eponymous debut. If you think you can handle the gut-busting sounds with some inspiration from the White Stripes and an amped-up version of Queens of the Stone Age, then enjoy all that is Wolfmother.
TV on the Radio – “Return to Cookie Mountain” – Interscope
TV on the Radio’s major label debut is more polished than the band’s previous album and has exploded as an instant classic. Uber-fan and music icon David Bowie lends his chops and multi-instrumental prowess on the eerie “Province,” the best track on the entire album. TV cut back on the overly ambitious sound that can sometimes overwhelm the average listener, but “Mountain” still hypnotizes listeners with fading guitars and enveloping synth noises while not oversaturating the music. “Mountain” is impressive and holds a pure, new sound that could frighten timid listeners regardless of their tastes.
Thom Yorke – “The Eraser” – XL
It’s only fitting that the lead singer from one of the most influential bands of our time releases a solo album that challenges an already impressive body of work. Yorke takes a break from the spotlight in Radiohead to immerse himself in the electronic synth feel similar to the most recent trio of Radiohead records. Yorke’s vocals shine with substantial clarity over jumpy hip-hop style beats and subdued guitars. “Eraser” uses a variety of synth textures and relies on soft, intricately layered sounds to complete the record. Yorke’s glowing vocals stand out as the highlight of album.
Cold War Kids – “Robbers and Cowards” – Downtown
This Fullerton, Calif. band uses fictional tales of sensible despair and heartbreak on their debut full-length record — perhaps the most refreshing record without a genre to call home. “Robbers and Cowards” is filled with radio hits that sound like a mix between Billy Joel and Peanut Butter Wolf beats. Frontman Nathan Willet is at his finest when wailing his vocals over bass-happy tunes on the record, most notably “Hang Me Up to Dry,” where he cleverly uses his songwriting skills to compare a distraught relationship to laundry. “God, Make Up Your Mind” mellows you out like a soft jazz tune, explodes into a crazy pop masterpiece, then instantaneously chills out again with Willet choosing to sing an entire octave higher over lush piano. The album isn’t at all depressing — virtually every track is a radio hit, and Willet uses his songwriting suave to write happy pop songs, too. This band is definitely the most impressive newcomer of 2006 and everyone can appreciate the album.
CSS – “Cansei De Ser Sexy” – Sub Pop
Sextet Brazilian band CSS, short for Cansei de ser Sexy — translated to “tired of being sexy”— got picked up by Sub Pop records and put out a record that is so funky good you can’t resist the urge to bust a move. Fronted by Karen O-like singer Lovefoxxx, CSS devotes its attention not primarily on lyrical substance (Lovefoxxx learned English from listening to Madonna records) but on likable pop hooks. And it works beautifully. Lovefoxxx sings in her occasional raspy voice of being overtly violent over deceptively charming pop, funk and insane new wave. “Cansei De Ser Sexy” is a brilliant record that makes you listen or dance along without feeling guilty.
Rhymefest - “Blue Collar” - J Records
Rhymefest’s “Blue Collar” is a rap record that is exactly what its title infers — the working man’s hip-hop. “Blue Collar” isn’t shiny or glossy but simply solid; it flows from severely underrated rapper Rhymefest (Che Smith). The record has a roster packed with an all-star cast featuring Q-Tip, fellow Chicagoan Kanye West, Mario, Malik Yusef and even surf rocker Citizen Cope. Make no mistake about it though, Rhymefest is the star of this J Records release rivaled only by phenomenal beats that you want while cruising. Like every other stellar recent hip-hop release, “Blue Collar” leaves out bad lyrics about being thuggish and opts to focus on true-to-life tunes that people can relate to, allowing Rhymefest to put more effort on production.
Royal Bangs – “We Breed Champions” – Self Released (local band)
Knoxville band the Royal Bangs provide a nine-track testament to Knoxville talent with the aptly titled “We Breed Champions.” The disc, filled with plenty of melodic chirps and well-placed electronic touches, sounds like a release fitted for Sub Pop Records with hints of influence from the Shins, Wolf Parade and the Thermals. “Champions” exudes near perfection with the effort and character the Bangs placed on this album. This release has plenty of musical talent on exhibit and will have to hold music fans over until the band returns from a year-long hiatus and begins work on another record.
Top albums may reflect trends for 2007
Published: Fri Jan 12, 2007 | Modified: Fri Jan 12, 2007 10:02 a.m.