Sunday, December 17, 2006

Year in Restrospect: The Best Albums of the Year.

My 30 Favourite Albums of 2006

My taste in music really is quite varied and diverse. Some of my inclusions on here shouldn’t surprise you, others I know will be certain to raise an eyebrow. Still… I chose them, and I will try to justify my inclusions. If you don’t like it, fine, but I’m so convinced that these 30 CDs are worth your time that I’ll happily send you songs if you request them.

01. Begin to Hope (Regina Spektor)
A woman I discovered around a pivotal point in my life, and even though it’s been a mere 3 months since I found her, I feel like I’ve known her all my life. That probably sounded a little psychopathic and lesbian. OK, let me try again: Regina Spektor is a Goddess. There’s simply no other way to put it, she sings & plays the piano like Shakespeare wrote, like Lean made movies, like I think. I connect with her songs totally. And really, I feel guilty sharing her with you guys, because she’s so wonderful that I just want to steal her songs for me to hear and no-one else, but alas, I guess Christmas is the season to share, and I shall spread the love. Her songs exude a heavenly beauty that has rarely been matched before in music. Her re-recording of the best song of all time Samson, in my opinion, betters it, so that should give you an indication of the eargasm you can expect on this wonderful, wonderful, piece of mastery.
Best songs: Samson, Fidelity, 20 Years of Snow

02. All the Roadrunning (Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris)
I was re-discovering the folksy, country music style this year, and when I came across this album, featuring two of my favourite singers (he, I love from Dire Straits, she I loved from that heartbreaking song in Brokeback Mountain), I just knew that this was meant to be. And I was right, because, amazingly, there isn’t a single weak song on this album. Furthermore, there’s a song to suit every hour of the day. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris have established an amazingly, inimitable chemistry, and their voices gel perfectly. There’s a gem in every song, and the instruments are instrumental to their music making. I really, really, love this album.
Best tracks: Belle star, Love and Happiness, Beachcombing

03. Savane (Ali Farka Toure)
This album was released after the death of Ali Farka Toure, and it serves as a wonderful epitaph to his Ali Farka Toure's recording career. All of his releases have been a joy to listen to and this final album epitomizes this. Last year, when he discovered that he was diagnosed with cancer, and, with that sense of time running out, gives us his best album, expertly nurtured by his long-term producer Nick Gold. Has to be heard to be believed.
Best tracks: Soko, Njarou, Beto

04. Taking the Long Way (The Dixie Chicks)
I keep reminding myself to find out more about these Dixie Chicks, and I keep forgetting too. Prod me next time. Anyway, they were also present in my love for country music. These girls are just great, their songs are catchy without being too artificial, their lyrics are deep but not too confusing, and the violin in the background is great too. I don’t care too much for Lubbock or Leave It because of it’s annoying quickness, but the slower, more chilled out tracks are sublime, in particular Lullaby, one of the sweetest songs I’ve ever heard in my entire life. The combination of the soothing guitars and the mellow lead make it a beautiful, mellifluous melody that I really can go to sleep to (in a good way.)
Best tracks: Lullaby, Silent House, So Hard

05. Testimony Vol. 1 (India.Arie)
The opening lyrics in her intro are some of the deepest, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This paves the way for a lot more of her soul, elegance and wisdom that follows, all sung to a sparkly music mix of R&B, jazz, blues and pop. There’s something to admire in practically every song, but The Heart of the Matter is the standout track and the one that holds a special place in my heart. A cover of Don Henley’s song of the same title, she sings wonderfully about love, forgiveness, and redemption. Absolutely wonderful.
Best tracks: the Heart of the Matter, I Am Not My Hair, Private Party

06. Ys (Joanna Newsom)
Only five tracks long, with instruments including violins, oboe, and French horn, this is non-commercial music at its best. Highbrow, obscure, weird, and cool, Newsome sings about all things from birds and death, and her unique voice is beautifully set with a wonderful sparseness which allow it to rise high, but never sound scratchy. If that sounded confusing, you must just buy this CD to understand what I mean. But really, this woman is amazing.
Best tracks: Emily, Monkey & Bear, Cosmia

07. St. Elsewhere (Gnarls Barkley)
Trust me, there’s more to this album than the breakout hit, Crazy. The rest feature many musical styles that have been all over radios before, but here, there’s just something special about it all. Very listenable indeed.
Best tracks: Feng Shui, The Boogie Monster, Crazy

08. Back to Basics (Christina Aguilera)
Someone I’ve never been a huge fan of, Christina surprised me a lot with her modern take on vintage jazz and blues. By going back to basics, she managed to experiment with some styles that really complimented her strong voice. But the lyrics are rather good too, as she sings about things from heartbreak to domestic violence (Oh Mother). Oh Mother is actually the best song of the album, and from the minute I heard the sampling of the French song Vois Sur Ton Chemin, a tune that I simply adore, I knew that I’d end up either loving or hating this album. It was a gamble, but it paid off.
Best tracks: Oh Mother, Hurt, Back to Basics

09. Future Sex/Love Sounds (Justin Timberlake)
*looks sheepish*
Yes, I admit, I like, the many million other girls on the planet, was won over by Justin this year as well. Well… how can you blame us? Sexyback is a VERY cool song, and became “the” song to be playing in gyms this year, for its thudding beats, JT’s confident vocals, and just all them sexyback riffs. They were cool! Anyway, the rest of the album is basically a testimony to the fine female form and how great sex is. It wouldn’t work for most people, but JT got lucky.
Best tracks: sexyback, Summer Love, What Goes Around Comes Around

10. Miami Vice OST (various)
I didn’t care for the movie at all, but the soundtrack was utterly eargasmic, and, truth be told, deserves a higher rank on my list of albums, but the bad memory of Miami Vice the movie just won’t leave. Anyway, I’d only ever heard Nina Simone’s Sinnerman in its entirety before, so hearing the Felix da Housecat Remix certainly threw me off my guard, but I love it. The presence of Goldfrapp’s very sexy Strict Machine is a welcome one, as is the Spanishy track that follows, Pennies in my Pocket, from Emilio Estefan, which makes me want to get up and dance. Generally, the album features all the nightclub anthems in the movie, as well as the ones that reflect the character’s emotional states. And it’s a really good collection.
Best tracks: Strict Machine, Pennies in my Pocket, Ready for Love

11. Loose (Nelly Furtado)
12. Volver score (Alberto Iglesias)
13. Ta-Dah (Scissor Sisters)
14. Sam’s Town (The Killers)
15. Bande a Part (Nouvelle Vague)

16. The Sweet Escape (Gwen Stefani)
Gwen’s follow-up to Love.Angel.Music.Baby is a disappointment in that it never manages to capture the genius of her first solo album, but there’s still a good deal of quality from an insanely talented woman on here. She switches the Harajuku girls and Vivien Westwood referencing for yodelling and sampling A Sound of Music, but, this being Gwen, it pays off. There aren’t any songs which stand out quite as much as those in L.A.M.B, but the sass, style, and soul present in each and every track make Gwen a good deal better than a lot of the female vocalists this year.
Best tracks: Orange County Girl, Wind it Up

17. Rudebox (Robbie Williams)
The Sun rudely slated Rudebox as “the crappest song ever”, but that really should be the song you should pay the least attention to on here. The Actor just took my breath away, and it’s such a shame that it’s not coming out here in the U.K., because THAT is quality music. That aside, I was also touched by Louise, which combines slushiness and story-telling to good effect. Basically, the songs on here are very different from Robbie’s style, and I think audiences found that hard to take, especially when on about 4 of the tracks here, he does fall short rather miserably. The rest, though, is wacky experimentalism.
Best tracks: The Actor, Louise

18. Whatever you Say I am, that’s What I’m Not (Arctic Monkeys)
The Arctic Monkeys did Music Technology for A-level, you know.
Best tracks: I Bet That You Look Good on the Dance Floor, Mardi Bum

19. The Sound of Girls Aloud (Girls Aloud)
I loathe manufactured pop bands from X-Factor/Popstars with a passion, but Girls Aloud surprised me with their a) consistency and b) quality, so they are truly exceptions to this category. Their compilation album featuring their greatest hits features some great tracks, from their debut with the Tomoyasu Hotei-esque bass guitar, Sounds of the Underground, to the toe-tappingly snazzy Biology and No Good Advice, to their recent Something Kinda Ooh, which I still have no idea what it is about, but I enjoy the sound of. The weak points do test your patience, especially when they try to cover a good song (see: I Think We’re Alone Now, I’ll Stand By You), but Girls Aloud, are, refreshingly, a band best at being themselves, and I respect that.
Best tracks: Sounds of the Underground, Cold Inside, Something Kinda Ooh

20. Black Cadillac (Rosanne Cash)
21. Costello Music (The Fratellis)
22. 20 Y.O. (Janet Jackson)
23. Eyes Open (Snow Patrol)

24. The Da Vinci Code score (Hans Zimmer)
The film may not have quite been the masterpiece that us Dan Brown fans were expecting, but I really have no qualms about the score, which feature some excellent vocal choir work, clashing cymbals, orchestral crescendos and the climaxes that we expect from any Hollywood blockbuster. Hans Zimmer may have done very wrong with his terrible work on Pirates of the Caribbean II, but forgive him, because he was being overworked to the limit with his score for this movie. And I think it paid off.

25. Wintersong (Sarah McLachlan)
My favourite “concept” album of the year. McLachlan takes some very well-known Christmas songs, and adds her own personal twists to them, making them very beautiful and listenable.

26. Oral Fixation Vol. 2 (Shakira)
27. Room for Squares (John Mayer)
28. Stadium Arcadium (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)
29. Impeach My Bush (Peaches)
30. B’ Day (Beyonce)


Anonymous said...

Great reviews! I love Back to Basics too

A Dixie Chicks Fan said...

Since you asked someone for a little persuasion, here goes.

Please take the time to find out more about the Dixie Chicks.

YOU MUST, MUST, MUST go see the Dixie Chicks new documentary, Shut up and Sing. Take off a day, drive for miles if need be, whatever is necessary to see this movie.

It is a heart-felt, honest and revealing look into the lives of the Chicks after the Incident. Guaranteed to impress.

Anonymous said...

Some of my favourites albums of the year:

Arctic Monkeys' "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not"
Christina Aguilera's "Back to Basics"
The Killers' "Sam's Town"
The Kooks' "Inside In Inside Out"
Lily Allen's "Alright, Still"
Missy Elliott's "Respect M.E."
Pink's "I'm Not Dead"
Regina Spektor's "Begin to Hope"

Thank you so, so much for introducing me to the wonderful Spektor. I love you for it.


starbender said...

Luv the list--but, this yr. has been off music wise, I don't think I have bought any music this yr.
Shhhhhhh, don't tell anyone!
' ]

-Princess Shin- said...

Ooh.. do you have all 30 of them? =)

Simon A said...

I only found Regina Spektor maybe one month ago, and I feel exactly the same way.

Emma said...

I do indeed, Princess Shin! and then some.

Anonymous said...
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