January 15, 2016

Best of 2006

I wrote a detailed, thorough best-of 2006 post in early 2007, so this is a rewrite. I am doing it now because these are albums celebrating their 10th anniversaries. Not only that, I missed out on a lot in 2006, and my top 10 is radically different than it was at the time. I don't plan to write much here, and you will get much more commentary and detail in my original list. Ten years ago I ranked the top 10, and then mentioned 10 more honorable mention albums. I am aware of so much more music now, and my current top two albums of 2006 I barely appreciated a decade ago.

Top 25 Albums of 2006:

1. mewithoutYou- Brother, Sister
Where did I rank it at the time? Honorable mention

As I wrote back in early 2007, this album was the first from mewithoutYou that I spent time with and learned to enjoy. Learning that Jeremy Enigk was taking part was what put me over the edge, and his vocal contributions to "O Porcupine" make it my favorite mewithoutYou song of all time. But even in 2006 and 2007, while liking this album, it did not impact me like it does today.

I discovered mewithoutYou very early, when I saw them play Cornerstone 2001 before they had released an album. Their performance I found more strange than anything, and it did not push me towards following their career. But within a year after buying Brother, Sister (near it's release date) I did go back and purchase their prior work. 2004's Catch For Us the Foxes of course is phenomenal, but I missed it at the time. I have followed the band closely ever since, and with the exception of 2009's It's All Crazy..., I adore everything they have released in the last decade.

The Weiss brothers, who are the heart of this band, ranked their albums for Noisey prior to the release of 2015's Pale Horses, and it is fascinating read. Aaron Weiss ranked Brother, Sister number one. And as far as the possibly misstep with It's All Crazy..., he had this to say: "I like folk music better than I like punk music in general, [but] I think we are a better punk band than we are a folk band."

2. Rainer Maria- Catastrophe Keeps Us Together
Where did I rank it at the time? Unranked. Mentioned one song on my blog on a mix CD tracklist.

I became aware of Rainer Maria in the late 90's through a mix tape club I was a part of. (And yes, the club did start as tapes, but eventually morphed into CDs). This was the first Rainer Maria album I bought during it's release year, and even then it obviously didn't have much impact with me considering I did not rank it a decade ago. But since, wow. This album just means so much to me. Lyrically, musically, everything. Both the words that Caithlin De Marrais sings and with the emotion she sings them with.

On December 31, 2014 Rainer Maria played a reunion show in NYC that lasted until 2015. The transition of the Catastrophe Keeps Us Together title track into "Atlantic", my favorite Rainer Maria song, is spectacular, and one of my favorite YouTube finds (despite the low-quality video).


3. Jeremy Enigk- World Waits
Where did I rank it at the time? #3
What I said in early 2007: Jeremy Enigk is the lead singer of one of my all-time favorite bands, Sunny Day Real Estate. Counting albums from that band, the Fire Theft, and solo, this is his 7th LP. His only other solo album, “Return of the Frog Queen”, came out 10 years ago. I haven’t been too excited about any of his work since the last SDRE album (2000) except for the soundtrack he did for the movie “The United States of Leland.” This album takes him back to his glory days, singing with my favorite male voice of all time. Good balance between stripped down acoustic songs and more upbeat rock songs. Entire album is driven by piano and acoustic guitars. I saw Jeremy perform live last November opening for Cursive. That is the most recent show I have been to. It was far and away the best concert I have ever seen put on by a single individual. Jeremy was so passionate, the show was very moving. He alternated between playing piano, acoustic guitar and electric guitar. The highlight of the show was when he performed the SDRE song "How It Feels to be Something On."

4. Fair- The Best Worst-Case Scenario
Where did I rank it at the time? #1
What I said in early 2007: I have been an Aaron Sprinkle fan since I first heard him sing “Ring True” for Poor Old Lu back in 1994 (The only Lu song he sings lead on). I have loved and purchased everything he has ever done, from Rose Blossom Punch to his solo albums and now Fair. I am also a big fan of his production, from bands diverse as Eisley and Demon Hunter. This album is pop-rock perfection, and the best thing Aaron has done outside of the Poor Old Lu albums. Very slick production and some very unique guitar tones and effects throughout. The artwork is beautiful and was nominated for a Grammy!

5. Rosie Thomas- These Friends of Mine
Where did I rank it at the time? Unranked, sort of.
This album was released digitally in 2006, with a physical release in 2007. At the time of my original rankings, I didn't know what year it should be classified as, so called it an honorable mention. This is definitively my favorite Rosie Thomas album, and the only release of her which is perfectly produced as all her music should be (much of it is way over-produced). Rosie Thomas arguably has the most beautiful singing voice I have ever heard. The "friends" in the album title refers to Sufjan Stevens and Denison Witmer, who play and sing with her throughout.

6. Manchester Orchestra- I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child
Where did I rank it at the time? #4
What I said in early 2007: At this point in my life I rarely discover “new” bands. Almost all of the music I buy is from artists I have been listening to for years; whether it is the band they have always been in, a new band they are in, or another solo album. Manchester Orchestra is the only “new’ band to make my top 10. ‘I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child’ is their first LP, releasing in October of 2006. I didn’t get it until January however, and I have been listening to it non-stop since. What I find most appealing is the intensity of the vocals and the lyrics. There is more lyrical depth on this album than I have heard in awhile. Musically, for fans of Lovedrug, Death Cab for Cutie, the Decemberists and Bright Eyes. If I had discovered this album sooner, it could have been number one on this list. As I type this, I am still tempted to move it to number one. It, probably more so than any other album on here, has the potential to become one of my favorite albums of all time.


7. Mates of State- Bring It Back
Where did I rank it at the time? #2
What I said in early 2007: Not your typical husband/wife band, because they rock! Kori on keyboards & vocals, Jason on drums & vocals, this is their 4th and by far best LP. I have been obsessed with them since I saw them perform in front of about 30 people in a small club in Paris in August of 2003. Fun music.

My son, who is almost eight, is a HUGE Mates of State fan. In the first six months of his life, he listened to Re-Arrange Us non-stop. He didn't quite discover his own love for the band until last year, but he has recently been listening to them incessantly as I put their entire discography on the iPad he uses. He has been working his way back through the Mates of State catalog in reverse chronological order, and this is the album he is spinning right now all the time.

8. Cat Power- The Greatest
Where did I rank it at the time? Honorable mention
What I said in early 2007: I have heard Cat Power for years and after reading so many positive reviews this is the first album I actually bought from her. Quiet and sexy.

This is probably my third-favorite Cat Power album, behind 2012's Sun and 2003' You are Free. Those are both upbeat and full of creative rock instrumentation. This album is the complete opposite: stripped-down, piano-based lounge numbers. Radically different, but perfect!

9. Gomez- How We Operate
Where did I rank it at the time? Unranked and unmentioned.
I was unaware the band existed at the time.

Fell in love with Gomez in 2007, and I have followed them ever since. Definitely an eMusic find at the time, as I didn't get a physical album of their until years later. This is my favorite Gomez album, mainly for the songs "Notice" and "Charley Patton Songs", which I have included on many mix CDs over the year. Just yesterday I bought a 5CD set of Gomez's early work, which I have heard none of. I only had this album and the ones after it.
10. Sleeping at Last- Keep No Score
Where did I rank it at the time? #10
What I said in early 2007: Sleeping at Last continues to put out great music just under the radar. Their last album, ‘Ghosts’, was awesome and on a major label, but it led to nothing and they stayed in anonymity. ‘Keep No Score’, the band’s third album, is their masterpiece. Stylistically consistent with ‘Ghosts’, they have added strings to their solid guitar work and it sounds amazing. The highlight of the album is probably the lyrics, the line “You were meant for amazing things” from the song “Umbrellas” often streaming through my head. The packaging is composed of stunning original watercolor paintings.

11. Neko Case- Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Where did I rank it at the time? #5
What I said in early 2007: This is a spectacular folk-country album, and sounds like it could have been released decades ago except for the crisp production. Neko Case has one of the best voices out there today- she can wail!



12. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins- Rabbit Fur Coat
Where did I rank it at the time? Unranked as I incorrectly thought it was a 2005 release. This was the first Jenny Lewis work I purchased, although I had been aware of Rilo Kiley. I have since fallen in love with all of her music, Rilo Kiley especially, and wrote about it quite a bit in 2014.
13. Mogwai- Mr. Beast
Where did I rank it at the time? Unranked and unmentioned.
While I was aware of Mogwai, I was still a year or two away from becoming a huge fan. Have purchased every album since on vinyl.
14. Starflyer 59- My Island
Where did I rank it at the time? #6
What I said in early 2007: Starflyer has been releasing a CD a year for the last 14 years. For awhile, they somewhat lost my attention, even though I have bought every release. They regained my utmost respect two years ago with the great ‘Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice’ and then this album blew me away. The most rocking album they have done in 10 years probably, but absolutely nothing like what they were doing 10 years ago. SF59 reinvents themselves with every-album, this one being bass-heavy and up-tempo.

15. Mindy Smith- Long Island Shores
Where did I rank it at the time? Unranked. While I loved her debut, I didn't get this, her second album, until the following year. "Tennessee" is possibly my favorite Mindy Smith song, as it is written about my home state and features my favorite style of her music.

16. Headlights- Kill Them With Kindness
Where did I rank it at the time? Honorable mention
What I said in early 2007: The debut album from former members of Absinthe Blind. Tracks typically alternate male and female vocals, reminds me a lot of the Anniversary in many ways. Very happy, keyboard heavy indie rock, somewhat a more serious version of Mates of State.


17. Dead Poetic- Vices
Where did I rank it at the time? Unranked and unmentioned. Didn't get it until the following year when I learned how the members of the band had changed.
18. The Appleseed Cast- Peregrine
Where did I rank it at the time? #8. Outside of their weak debut, this is the Appleseed album I struggle to appreciate the most. I know it is brilliant, but doesn't strike me on the same personal level as their other work.
What I said in early 2007 (as I ranked it alongside Brandtson): I discovered the Appleseed Cast and Brandtson about the same time, when Deep Elm Records started around 1998. They each had songs on the first Deep Elm sampler, which led me to seeing them on tour together in the late 90s in the back of a small skate shop in Birmingham, AL. I was most excited about the Appleseed Cast song on the sampler (Marigold and Patchwork), but it was Brandtson who most impressed me at the show. I have been following both bands very closely ever since, buying every release. The Appleseed Cast has pushed the limits with their very diverse body of work ranging from the indie-pop rock of ‘Two Conversations’ to their post-rock masterpieces ‘Low Level Owl’ volume 1 & 2. At their best, there are few bands better. Brandtson has stayed closer to just straight up indie-rock, being very fun music to sing along to. Over the last decade I have seen Brandtson on average twice a year. The Appleseed Cast I did not see again after that first show until summer 2005 in Nashville.

Brandtson has always had great songs, but never really had a great full-length album until ‘Send Us a Signal’, which was my number one album of 2004. Now in 2006, both bands are back on the same label, this time the Militia Group. Neither band is at the top of their game, but they are still talented enough to put out intriguing albums. Brandtson’s album is a complete departure, one member change leading to a completely new dance-based style. Most all of the songs are super-catchy with electronic drums; pure pop. The first time I listened the album I was in shock and somewhat appalled due to the huge shift from their usual organic indie rock. The album grew on me however and now I appreciate their effort to do something new.

The Appleseed Cast’s album isn’t too different than their past work, but for most fans it is a welcome shift back to territory more similar to the ‘Low Level Owl’ albums. However, most Appleseed fans didn’t like ‘Two Conversations,’ which I love. 'Peregrine' is probably my least favorite Appleseed Cast album (excluding the debut), mostly due to the fact that there are no great songs. I love the overall style and guitar work, but nothing makes too much of an impact.

19. Stavesacre- How To Live With a Curse
Where did I rank it at the time? Honorable mention
What I said in early 2007:
20. The Be Good Tanyas- Hello Love
Where did I rank it at the time? #7
What I said in early 2007: I wouldn’t call myself a bluegrass fan, but I LOVE the Be Good Tanyas. A female trio of stripped-down, acoustic bluegrass. This is their 3rd album, and probably best. Mostly very earthy mid-tempoed and vocal-heavy tracks, accompanied by quiet banjo and guitar.

21. Camera Obscura- Let's Get Out of This Country
Where did I rank it at the time? Unranked and unmentioned. Did not become aware of band until years later. The first track, "Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken", is excellent and has been featured in TV and film multiple times. Strangely enough I heard it for the first time while eating in Panera. Mmm, Panera, wish they had those in Europe.
22. The Weepies- Say I Am You
Where did I rank it at the time? Honorable mention
What I said in early 2007: Acoustic pop-rock songs with very soothing vocals and memorable lyrics. Songs alternate between male and female vocals and both voices are outstanding.

23. Pearl Jam- Pearl Jam
Where did I rank it at the time? Unranked and unmentioned. Obviously I was aware of Pearl Jam, as I had their first few albums of the 90's, just as everyone else did. But otherwise in 2006 I had yet to dive into the band's complete discography, and heard no new Pearl Jam nothing after 1999. Four or five years ago I finally went and got all of the albums as very cheap used CDs, and I am glad I did. Album cover is clearly horrible, but many rank this as the band's best work of their second decade.
24. The Swell Season- The Swell Season
Where did I rank it at the time? Unranked and unmentioned. The film Once didn't release until 2007, and I, like the rest of the world, became aware of the Glen Hansard-Markéta Irglová collaboration through that movie. But the Academy Award-winning song "Falling Slowly" appeared on this album, along with the Frames' album The Cost in 2006, before the release of the film the next year. The Once Soundtrack is the best album from Hansard-Irglová, but this is close, and many songs appear in both places.
25. Brandtson- Hello, Control
Where did I rank it at the time? #9

I definitely liked this album much better at the time. Such a huge disappointment and departure from their near-perfect prior album, Send Us a Signal (my #1 of 2004). The only song I still listen to from this album is "Earthquakes and Sharks", which is amazing and hilarious.

Most disappointing album of 2006:

Leigh Nash- Blue on Blue
It is nice to be able to follow up my dislike of this album with now being able to express my love for Leigh Nash's most recent solo album, 2015's The State I'm In. In 2006 Leigh Nash was trying (or at least her label was pushing her) to be a pop singer, and it did not work. But thankfully currently Nash is embracing her country and folk roots, and it is clearly the type of solo music she should have been recording all along. Comparing the two album covers is also a great example of how design and visuals are able to communicate the style of the music and the target audience without even being aware of what the music sounds like...



What I wrote in 2007: Anyone who knows me knows that Sixpence None the Richer is my co-favorite band (along with Poor Old Lu.) They broke up in 2002, so obviously I was very excited to see Leigh making music again. Matt Slocum was the primary song-writer for Sixpence though, and it really shows here. While I don’t dislike Leigh’s solo album, most of the song-writing is weak, cheesy, and shallow. Her voice sounds great, but it is not enough. I can't remember the last time I listened to this CD. (Am I the only person that thinks she looks like Ashlee Simpson on the album cover?)

Other 2006 albums I own and enjoy, in alphabetical order:
Anathallo- Floating World
Annuals- Be He Me
Band Of Horses- Everything All The Time
Built to Spill- You in Reverse
Copeland- Eat, Sleep, Repeat
Crooked Still- Shaken By A Low Sound
Cursive- Happy Hollow
Dustin Kensrue- Please Come Home (I purchased this in 2006, but is officially a 2007 release and have ranked it for that year)
Danielson- Ships
David Bazan- Fewer Moving Parts
Demon Hunter- Triptych
Dixie Chicks- Taking The Long Way
Eisley- Final Noise EP
Evanescence- The Open Door
GRITS- Redemption
Grizzly Bear- Yellow House
Hammock- Raising Your Voice...Trying To Stop An Echo
Hem- Funnel Cloud
Jars of Clay- Good Monsters
Josh Garrels- Over Oceans
Katie Herzig- Weightless
Lovedrug- Everything Starts... EP
My Brightest Diamond- Bring Me The Workhorse
Over the Rhine- Snow Angels
Paper Route- EP
Pretty Girls Make Graves- Elan Vital
Sandra McCracken- Gravity | Love
Snow Patrol- Eyes Open
The Beatles- Love
The Flaming Lips- At War With The Mystics
Thom Yorke- The Eraser
Thrice- Red Sky EP
Thursday- A City By The Light Divided
Underoath- Define The Great Line
Unwed Sailor- Circles EP
Zookeeper- EP

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