Okay, I know I said I was starting the wrap up with the Best Movies of 2006, right? Well, we rented a couple movies that we're going to watch over the course of today and tomorrow that I feel stand a legitimate chance of making the list. So I'm pushing that post back to tomorrow and gifting you all with the Best Albums of 2006 instead. Is the trade okay? Please say yes. Please?
Unlike last year, I've got a boatload of 2006 releases that I'd like to include. For this reason, I'm expanding it from a Top 5 list to a Top 10 list. I can't believe the sheer volume of music I picked up this year. And paring it down to ten was tough as well. I've still got an additional ten albums that I'm simply going to list as honorable mentions. Suffice it to say, it was a good year for music.
Oh yeah, and I don't tend to include live albums on my top lists of the year. Dunno why, I just don't. Besides, there's more than enough new studio releases to fill the list.
Well, here you go, regardless of if you preferred reading the movie list or not...
1. Thom Yorke - The Eraser
You know, you hear that the lead singer of a hugely popular band is putting together a solo effort and you begin to sweat. "Ohmigod! What's wrong with the band? Are they breaking up? Why couldn't he just do this new music with the band???" Well, the reason why is because this album is pretty far removed from what you've come to expect of Radiohead. Simply out of a desire to have more of a focus on his voice and be a bit more experimental with electronics, Yorke graces us with this album that shot to the top of many charts around the world and a couple songs were featured in soundtracks for films such as The Prestige and A Scanner Darkly. It's a fantastic and mesmerizing album that I can listen to over and over again without becoming bored. That says a lot. Check out "Black Swan" and "Harrowdown Hill."
2. Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam
I think in any other year, this would have been the tops of my list. And, for a majority of this year, it was my favorite album. But, sorry PJers of the World, it got bumped to #2 and by no fault of their own. Thom Yorke was just that damn good an album. This, however, is easily the finest release by Pearl Jam since, I'd argue, Vitalogy, which was one of the best albums of the 90s, in my humble opinion. For this album, the Boys du Jam pull out all the stops and give us one helluva rocker. I only wish I had been able to see them on tour supporting it. Alas, tickets for concerts just cost way too damn much these days. From the get go, my personal fave was "World Wide Suicide," but I also recommend "Severed Hand" and "Gone."
3. Amos Lee - Supply and Demand
Katie and I have been freaks for Amos Lee since we saw him open for Norah Jones at the Chicago Theater a couple years ago. He was a fantastic entertainer both musically and personally. He got the crowd into his act more than I have ever seen an opener do in the past. And we have purchased every album of his since that time. And not a single one has let us down. It's hard to nail down genres with many musicians and Lee is one of them. All I can say is that it's really great acoustic guitar music that does a great job of helping you kick back and take a load off. Check out "Shout Out Loud" and "Supply & Demand."
4. Landon Pigg - LP
It's amazing how many up-and-coming artists can thank the iTunes Store for their breakthrough success. The folks at iTunes like to pick up on a new artist each week and feature them as a free single. Landon Pigg was one such artist in 2006 with "Sailed On." Hey, it was how I discovered him. Just some good Brit pop/rock spanning both the mellow and harder-edged arenas with catchy riffs and memorable lyrics. Well, I liked it. You might know "Can't Let Go" from the radio and it is good. But so are "Great Companion" and "Tinman."
5. KT Tunstall - Eye to the Telescope
When I first saw her perform on, I believe, Late Night with David Letterman or The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (damn if I can remember which it was), I was enthralled. She was a one-woman act who looped her effects as she played them to build what amounted to a multi-piece band sound. It was fantastic. And, yes, while I know that pop radio picked up on her songs "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" and "Suddenly I See" pretty heavily (practically to death), I still enjoy them immensely. But if you are tired of those two, check out "Other Side of the World" and "Miniature Disaster" instead.
6. G Love - Lemonade
It's kinda funny, but I've known of G Love for years. I had friends who listened to him as part of G Love and Special Sauce back in college. He was everywhere. But I never heard his music. Not one... that I'm aware of. This year, he's back in more ways than one. Collaborating with everyone from Jack Johnson to Tristan Prettyman, he's put together one heckuvan album here that I love and I am now very happy to call myself a fan. Download "Ride" and "Holla!"
7. The Killers - Sam's Town
This is probably one of the most critically anticipated albums of the year. Its release was heralded with all kinds of praise and yadda yadda yadda. I guess that's what happens when you're a nothing band from Las Vegas whose debut album Hot Fuss winds up going stratospheric on the power of three huge hit singles. So how does a band possibly reach that bar that they personally launched so high up that no one can seemingly grasp it? Well, it's tough to say the least. And I'm still not sure that this album will quite hit that mark, but it's still a good album. Just not quite as out-of-the-box great as the first. I'd recommend giving it a couple listens before passing final judgment, please. "While You Were Young" will be the song that is always played on the radio despite any other singles that come off the album much like "Mr. Brightside" was on Hot Fuss. Also check out "Bling (Confession of a King)" and "For Reasons Unknown."
8. The Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way
This was actually one of the top albums on my "most anticipated" list for the year. And it was worth the wait. The Chicks, in their first album since their in-concert anti-Bushie rant a few years back have smartly decided that they might need to broaden their appeal a bit since many of their old fanbase was turned off by their "un-American" attack. Bah! I say. Everyone has an opinion and we, as a country, support the right to have and share such opinions (even if the rant occurred in England). Anyway. Yes, this is still a country album, but with more of a crossover appeal than before. I highly recommend it. "Not Ready to Make Nice," "Voice Inside My Head," and "Taking the Long Way" are good starting points.
9. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris - All the Roadrunning
I'm a junkie for Mark Knopfler, I'll admit it. I've been a fan of Dire Straits since I was a kid. I became fascinated just watching Knopfler finger pluck his electric guitar to perfection. And I've followed his solo career quite avidly. I own all his solo work and love every last bit of it. It has always had a bit of a crossover feel spanning both a lighter rock and harder country genres, so seeing him put out a full album's worth of collaboration with a well-known country artist such as Emmylou Harris was an inevitability. And I love it. The two voices blend together beautifully and the musicianship is spectacular as we Knopfler fans would expect. Try "This is Us" and "Red Staggerwing" on for size.
10. Eric Lindell - Change in the Weather
Once in a while, you make a mistake that turns out for the better. This was one such mistake. I was trying to download the free single of the week from iTunes from Lindell and accidentally clicked the "Buy Album" button instead. I was not happy. Instead of spending nothing, I waxed $10. Grrr... Thankfully, I've made the most of my money. Quite a bit, in all honesty. With a mix of blues and rock bringing life to this album, it's a thoroughly enjoyable album. Check out "Two-Bit Town," "Feel Like I Do," and "Sunny Daze."
Following is a list of honorable mentions. They're all still damn good, but just not quite good enough to edge their way on a Top 10. You should seriously give these a listen as well, though. In no particular order this time:
- The Wreckers - Stand Still, Look Pretty
- Matisyahu - Youth
- Daughtry - Daughtry
- Nas - Hip Hop is Dead
- Guster - Ganging Up on the Sun
- Jack Johnson - Sing-a-longs and Lullabies for the film Curious George
- John Legend - Once Again
- Dashboard Confessional - Dusk & Summer
- Justin Timberlake - Futuresex/Lovesounds
- Christina Aguilera - Back to Basics
I hope you were able to find at least one album that could pique your curiosity. There's quite a variety of genres represented here. But that's just what I'm like when it comes to music, I listen to a little bit of everything.
I really need to consider signing up for that iTunes affiliate program. I could make some serious dough off all this potential linkage.