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Sean’s Top Ten Albums of 2006

By Sean Smith

Fort Wayne Reader

2006-12-20


At first I thought it would be easy to pick the ten best albums of 2006. But as is often the case, by the time November swung around there were plenty of great albums piling up, all fighting for contention. Fear not, after careful consideration and meticulous multiple listens, I have compiled what is certainly the top ten to end all top tens for 2006. There's everything from post-punk to folk to country to rock n roll, plus a few other genres that I'm not sure even exist yet.

Brand New — The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

Brand New's first album, Your Favorite Weapon, spawned a minor hit. Their second album, Deja Entendu, spawned an even bigger hits. Their latest release contains: No hits, thank you very much! Something strange happened on the way to superstardom. Rather than wear the King of Emo crown that their sophomore album ensured they were destined to earn, they decided to leave that genre to the Pete Wentz-a-lots and Disco Panicers. In the three years since their last album, Brand New has grown mentally and musically. The major-label debut weaves together songs dealing with love, fidelity, and mortality. An even more serious thread dealing with the afterlife and whether or not it exists pops up throughout the album as well.
Key Tracks: “Jesus”, “You Won't Know”, “The Archers Bows Have Broken”

Richard Buckner — Meadow

Richard Buckner's seventh full length album is a joyous event. Not only does it mark the return of producer JD Foster, who last worked with Buckner on The Hill, but it melds the songwriting style of both pre- and post- The Hill. Early Buckner albums saw the husky voiced singer-songwriter howling and spitting songs about love, loss and distance. Lately, Buckner has taken a more esoteric turn and released a pair of challenging albums (Impasse and Dents & Shells). This album finds him still slurring his way through obtuse lyrics, but the good news is that the music is a return to the solid, straight ahead style he honed on Devotion + Doubt and Since.
Key tracks: “Lucky”, “Before”, “Kingdom”

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova with Marja Tuhkanen and Bertrand Galen — The Swell Season

Glen Hansard is possibly better known as the frontman of The Frames or maybe that guy from 'The Commitments'. This album came about in just four short days after Hansard and Irglova were approached to record a few songs for an Irish film. Not wanting to waste the handful of days they were given to record two songs, they sought to record as many as they could and ended up with enough to create this album. This is the furthest thing from background music. It’s an album that demands your attention. Beware, when you give it your attention it will also take your footing and your tears.
Key tracks: “Falling Slowly”, “When Your Minds Made Up”, “Leave”

The Hold Steady — Boys and Girls In America

Thanks to a quote from Kerouac, we have this down and dirty, not to mention raucous, album from America's best bar band. Vocalist Craig Finn doesn't so much sing as he verbally accosts the listener with his vivid and sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant look into the world of 'sex, drugs and rock n roll' and how that all floats around the messy teenage years.
Key tracks: “Stuck Between Stations”, “You Can Make Him Like You”, “Chillout Tent”

Damien Jurado — And Now That I'm In Your Shadow

OK, let's get the weird stuff out of the way right off the bat. Damien Jurado is now a band. But somewhere in between releasing the excellent, On My Way To Absence and this album, Jurado decided to name his band after himself. Eric Fisher, Jenna Conrad and Jurado all do their best to follow up a great album with another and they succeed. Building on the same themes as the prior effort, songs deal with murder, betrayal and disillusionment and sometimes never manage more than a whisper. It's all that is necessary. There's no need to dress up great songwriting and the simple arrangements work in the album's favor.
Key tracks: “Denton, TX”, “What Were the Chances”, “There Goes Your Man”

Kris Kristofferson — This Old Road

I have a feeling this album was overlooked for all the right reasons. At first glance it may appear that Kris Kristofferson is attempting to pull a 'Johnny Cash' and re-invent himself with this collection of songs produced by Don Was. The good news is that is all completely wrong. Kristofferson isn't really attempting to do anything other than sing some of the most important songs he's written in his entire career. There really isn't anything fancy about this album. No covers, no wild production and no flashy duets or guest appearances. Just deceptively simple songs and melodies that upon closer listen reveal some honest musings on modern life and the troubles that knock on our door daily.
Key tracks: “Pilgrim's Progress”, “In the News”, “Chase the Feeling”

Mew — And the Glass Handed Kites

Maybe if I had been reading reviews of new albums this past year I would have never listened to this album. I'm glad I didn't keep up. The majority of people who hear this seem to think it's right in line with Sigur Ros. Maybe that's a good thing. In my world, it isn't. I'd rather listen to John Cage than some crazy kids playing a rock n roll version of classical music while singing a made-up language overtop. I'd also rather listen to this. And I have. Over and over and over. It's one of the most exciting albums I've heard in awhile and after just a few listens you swear you've heard some of these songs before, they are so instantly catchy and fun.
Key tracks: “Apocalypso”, “Special”, “The Zookeeper's Boy”

mewithoutYou — Brother Sister

The third release from Pennsylvania's mewithoutYou finds the band simultaneously softening things and hitting hard as ever. The difference is that this time the real blows arrive via the lyrics. There is nothing taboo to lead singer and lyricist Aaron Weiss. From his virginity to his self-aware selflessness, Weiss tackles all his traits, foibles and faults and still finds time to sing about a wolf, a porcupine and some different colored spiders.
Key tracks: “A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains”, “C-Minor”, “In a Sweater Poorly Knit”

The Possum Trot Orchestra — Harbor Road

Fact: John Minton, Susan Suraci, Rob Suraci and Dave Kartholl have created some of the best Americana music to be released this year. They also made some of the best last year. What makes this batch even better is their return to rock n roll. There are elements of The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and Richard and Linda Thompson throughout this release. Everyone gets a chance to shine. Minton has a real masterpiece in the form of “Billy” and nearly closes the album with a modern lullaby, “Winterlight.” Susan offers a handful of honest and direct political songs: “Ed,” which touches on the Katrina aftermath, “The House That We Can't Buy,” about the rising cost of real estate, and “The Content of Your News,” which takes the FCC to task. Rob first drops jaws with an amazing backward guitar solo during “The Content of Your News” and then takes lead vocal duties for a wonderful interpretation of Blind Lemon Jefferson's “Bad Luck Blues.” Kartholl lends essential mandolin to the album. This is an album that is bound to become a classic. Fact.
Key tracks: “Ed”, “The Content of Your News”, “Heart Like Railroad Steel”

The Tragically Hip — World Container

When I first learned that famed music producer, Bob Rock, had worked on the latest album from The Hip, I was excited. As much as I love The Hip, as great as their last few albums were, there was a sense that they were 'resting'. For World Container, Rock was able to harness the pure magic of a Hip live performance on record, something no other producer has been as successful at over the years. The lyrics are, as always, top notch, courtesy of Gord Downie and on this album he seems to be a little more personal than he has in some time. This, along with the most overt pop song of The Hip's career, “In View,” make for a very interesting album, something both The Hip and their fans have been wanting for awhile now.
Key tracks: “In View”, “Fly”, “The Kids Don't Get It”

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