- Top 50 Albums of 2006 (#31-50 and honorable mentions)
Top 50 Albums of 2006 (#16-30)
Top 50 Albums of 2006 (#1-15)
15) Nas - Hip Hop Is Dead
Nas feat. Jay-Z - Black Republican (MP3)
This album blows up most of the hip-hop competition like napalm. "Hip-Hop Is Dead" is easily his best LP since the classic debut "Illmatic". It's ironic that this album comes after burying the hatchet with HOV, as this album may prove to be to Nas what "The Blueprint" was to Jay-Z. The album is a bold statement as he proclaims his genre is defunct, then proceeds to dissect the scene while putting naysayers in their place.
14) Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
Clipse feat. Slim Thug - Wamp Wamp (video)
Clipse feat. Pharrell - Mr. Me Too (video)
100% Neptunes-produced coke rap. This eagerly anticipated LP confirms the brilliance you've already come to expect from their mixtapes. It's their most cohesive release to date. The in-your-face opener "We Got It For Cheap" is an appropriate intro to this tour of the pusher lifestyle. The album culminates with the dark electro rap of 'Chinese New Year' followed by the introspective 'Nightmares'.
13) The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth
The Strokes - Juicebox (video)
The Strokes - You Only Live Once (video)
12) Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
Neko Case - Hold On, Hold On (MP3) | (video)
Neko Case - Star Witness (MP3)
Neko Case - Maybe Sparrow (live on Letterman video)
11) Persephone's Bees - Notes From the Underworld
Persephone's Bees - City of Love (video)
Persephone's Bees - Nice Day (chris cox club edit) (video)
This fun album makes me yearn for the summer. Combine funky pop, hot guitar licks, and a frontwoman with an irresitable Russian accent, and you've found the 'Way to Your Heart', which by the way is a good introduction to the sound of their album. You may recognize 'City of Love' from a RAZR commerical, but there is so much more to this album than these two excellent aforementioned songs.
And now, without further ado, the TOP 10...
10) Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liquor
Lupe Fiasco feat. Jill Scott - Daydreamin' (video)
Lupe Fiasco - Kick, Push (video)
Lupe Fiasco - I Gotcha (video)
After numerous production delays, this album was well worth the wait. After hearing him on Kanye's Touch the Sky and early demo tracks, I knew he would make Chicago proud. Not a bad scene we got here with Common, Kanye, Lupe, Rhymefest, and Twista. In addition to the skater anthem 'Kick, Push', don't miss the standout track 'Daydreamin' featuring Jill Scott and the collaboration with Jay-Z, 'Pressure'. There is hardly a dull song on the album.
9) Hot Chip - The Warning
Hot Chip – Boy from School (video)
Hot Chip - Over and Over (video)
When I first heard 'Careful', I knew I was in for a different album. The songs are a cacophonous electronic clash of genres. You can hardly anticipate what the next sound, let alone the next song, will bring. 'Boy From School' has been on more than a few of my mixtapes and is a polite introduction to the band for any of your less musically adventurous friends. 'Over and Over' is a joyful ode to repetition in electronic music.
8) The Knife - Silent Shout
The Knife - Silent Shout (video)
The Knife - We Share Our Mother's Health (video)
The Knife - Like a Pen (video)
This album is a futuristic horror movie soundtrack, a dystopian antidote to the generally more upbeat Mylo/Royksopp/Fischerspooner electro sound. In many ways, the Knife have more in common with Front 242 or Nitzer Ebb, altough I wouldn't file them in the EBM/industrial category either. Almost every song has an eerie, disconcerting feel, as if you've stepped onto unexplored soil and risk being blasted by alien ray guns. 'Silent Shout' is mind-blowing as is 'We Share Out Mother's Health', but don't limit yourself to just these two tracks.
7) Rodrigo y Gabriela - Rodrigo y Gabriela
A selection of lo-fi MP3s from their site to sample
Rodrigo y Gabriela - Juan Loco (video)
If you aren't a fan of virtuoso flamenco/folk/rock/metal instrumental guitar work, you will be after you hear this impressive album. This Mexican duo slummed it on the streets of Dublin until their talent could no longer be kept a secret. The guitars sing with passion and the finger picking on many of the tracks has to be heard/seen to be believed. If you are able to track down their Letterman performance or any other live performances, I highly recommend it. Actually, here you go. It's a performance of 'Diablo Rojo' from 12/18/06 on the Letterman Show. Look at Gabriela's hands in this clip! Here's some more: a live performance of 'Tamacun'.
6) Devics - Push the Heart
Devics - Distant Radio (MP3)
Amazingly, early in the year, I posted about the song 'Come Up' without realizing how great the rest of the album was. The album somehow slipped under my radar until October. I was listening to the Marie Antoinette soundtrack and was intrigued by Dustin O'Halloran's piano solos, who as it turns out does musical arrangements, piano, and guitar for the Devics. Paired with Sara Lov's lovely vocals, which sound like a cross between Chan Marshall and Hope Sandoval, it's a dreamy slice of indie rock heaven. "Lie to Me" is tragic and haunting in its desperate, yearning pleas for love. Sara's voice soars on "Distant Radio", one of my favorite songs of the year.
5) Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
Ghostface Killah - Back Like That (video)
The hard-hitting rhymes, MF Doom's funky production, and the varied collaborations make for an enjoyable listen throughout. From 'Shakey Dog' to 'Kilo' to '9 Milli Bros' to 'Whip You With a Strap' (featuring a Dilla-selected riff) to 'Back Like That' to 'Be Easy' to 'Jellyfish' (ever notice how good he is at writing rap love songs?), this album is packed with hits. It easily enters the top 10 of Wu albums.
4) TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me (video)
Listening to this album can be a daunting task, even for those familiar with their debut LP. The soundscape is complex as guitars sound almost foreign next to clashing electronics, varied sampled and live drums, and haunting vocals. TVOTR is moving experimental rock forward into new and exciting territory. The influence of David Bowie (who contributes vocals on 'Province') and the Talking Heads is evident in their unique sound. The album starts with "I Was a Lover", an electronic dirge that mourns the complexity of modern love. Lyrics like "Ennui unbridled, let's talk to kill the time/How many styles did you cycle through before you were mine?" add lyrical depth to an already musically complicated song. By the time you get to 'Wolf Like Me', you begin to realize what a special album this is.
3) Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Gold Lion (video)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Cheated Hearts (video)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Turn Into (video)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Honeybear (BBC live video)
It seems that many critics and even some fans are divided on this album. Personally, I don't see what's not to like. The album is certainly a grower. I didn't think much of it when I first heard it, probably because I was slightly caught off-guard by their evolved sound. Sure, it is more introspective and certainly not as hard as 'Fever to Tell'. However, I wouldn't say Karen O is holding back and I would hesitate to call it subdued. While there's nothing that emotionally jolts you like "Maps", there is more consistency overall on this album. The lo-fi edge is smoothed out but Karen O's raw energy is still a potent force.
2) Lily Allen - Alright Still
Lily Allen - LDN (video)
Lily Allen - Smile (video)
Lily Allen - Littlest Things (video)
This debut is the most fun my ears have had in a while. It's a testament to the power of the Internet and, dare I say it, Myspace-based promotion. To go from virtual unknown to #1 in the UK with mostly internet-based promotional channels would have been unheard of even 3 years ago. Her sound is an ambitious blend of hip-hop, pop, and ska. I ate up her demos and mixtapes earlier this year and looked forward to this album, whose bouncy, cheery sound belies a dark undercurrent: the thoughts of a street-smart, spiteful 21-year old girl who's not to be f*cked with.
AND NUMBER ONE
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - Rise Up With Fists | (video)
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - You Are What You Love (London Live video)
As much as I love Rilo Kiley, I feel like Jenny Lewis more than holds her own without her usual bandmates on her debut solo album. In fact, her vocal talent is spotlighted on this LP whereas on previous Rilo Kiley releases, her contributions somehow seemed limited by the indie rock formula. This is a heartfelt tribute to her folk and country influences and the backing vocals by the Watson Twins really complement her nicely. 'Rise Up With Fists' and 'You Are What You Love' won't seem to ever leave my playlist.