No business model seems to be more in a state of flux than the music industry. Each year the idea of selling a traditional record is less likely to happen, as downloading music on to MP3 players is the new mechanism. While Youtube and Myspace were around prior to 2006, it was during this year that they made a large leap in helping sell product. Groups like OK Go and Buckcherry used viral video to put themselves on the radar.
The power of singles hasn't been this strong since the early 60's, which has to be affecting the motivation of music artists to make a great long player. The plus side of this new model is that record companies and corporate radio have lost some control, giving more bands a chance to be heard. 2006 lacked an American Idiot or The Bends, but the depth was impressive. The rock music system seems to be echoing the NFL, as parity rules.
Welcome to our 3rd annual list. For those of you interested in our 2004 or 2005 Top 10 lists. Also, if you haven't done so, check out Will's Top 10 list below this post.
One final thing to mention. If you are just interested in being validated on how cool your obscure music tastes are, please visit Pitchfork or any of the numerous other sites listing their top choices of the year. Will and I try to be honest in what we listen to. We also don't penalize a band for being heard on a larger scale and I personally think it's the ultimate artistic peak to be able to push boundaries within the mainstream.
TOP TEN for 2006
1. Muse- Black Holes and Revelations
It's remarkable when one of music's most derivative bands mangages to take all their different influences and from them create one of the most original sound collages of the past decade. It jumps from prog to electonica to glam to goth to dancepop to metal to baroque, while somehow making it all sound seamless. Read the review from July, as my opinions haven't changed a bit.
2. Gnarls Barkley- St. Elsewhere
The unlikely pair of Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse come together to make the record Andre 3000 has been dreaming of. Cee-Lo brings the best Sam Cooke pipes to the radio since Terence Trent D'Arby. Oh and Crazy was the best single of 2006.
3. Eagles of Death Metal- Death by Sexy
Josh Homme's takes a break from Queens of the Stone Age to play drums with EODM leader Jesse Hughes. Putting a modern spin on classic rock, this release should be played in every strip club in America. The new and improved Foghat? I don't say this as a knock, as the Hat were the funkiest classic rock band of its day.
Download: Cherry Cola, Don't Speak, Poor Doggie
4. Raconteurs- Broken Boy Soldiers
What Jack White does on his free-time is pretty remarkable. (see Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose) While many have focused on the union with Brendan Benson, the rhythm section of Cincy's great 60's revivalist group the Greenhornes is a very underrated element of the Raconteurs. The Raconteurs remind me of some of the early 70's English rock bands like Uriah Heep. Kind of like 1o cuts worth of "Easy Livin'".
Downloads: Steady, As She Goes, Broken Boys Soldiers, Call It a Day
5. Deadboy and the Elephantmen-
So take one part guitarist with a focus on the past and one part slammin' drummer, then record it with a lo-fi, live sounding feel. Despite what you might think it doesn't sound much like the White Stripes, as frontman Dex comes from the Peter Murphy School of singing. This is the album David Bowie should be trying to make.
Downloads: Stop, I'm Already Dead, Blood Music
6. The Hush Sound- Like Vines
Will Carroll turned me on to this great Chicago band. Have you ever wondered what a union of Ben Folds and the Cardigans would sound like? Look no further than here. Sugary sweet deliciousness.
Downloads: Don't Wake Me Up, Wine Red
7. Dixie Chicks- Taking the Long Way
While it is very cool in the rock and roll world to slag the President, in country music you could wind up never getting back on the radio. Before Natalie Maines took a shot at Dubya during the height of American jingoism, the Dixie Chicks just might have been the most popular country band in the world. Pathetic that much of country radio has turned it's back on such quality music. I would argue the first 3 songs on "Taking the Long Way" are the best beginning of any record of 2006. Produced by Rick Rubin, the band has taken the next step up the ladder, as Maines' voice had never sounded purer.
Downloads: Long Time Way Around, Easy Silence, Not Ready to Make Nice, Silent House
8. Little Willies
While her first 2 albums sold better, this is the best work of Norah Jones' career. Taken a collection of old country tunes and making them their own, this band also features Richard Julian on vocals, as well. Julian's Lyle Lovett-esque tone blends nicely with Jones' gorgeous pipes. While the cool kids go for Neko Case or Jenny Lewis, I take off my cowboy hat to the biggest selling female artist of the past 5 years making an eclectic recording that purposedly stayed away from the soft jazz moneymaker she is well-known for.
Downloads: I Gotta Get Drunk Richard Julian Night Life
9. The Hold Steady- Boys and Girls in America
From the Twin Cities by way of Brooklyn, Craig Finn produces the Springsteen album that the Killers only hinted at. Finn brings the snarl of an Afghan Whigs to the Born to Run grooves of the music.
Downloads: First Night, Stuck Between Stations
10. Prince- 3121
Taking the next step after Musicology , 3121 is the triumphant return of Prince at what he does best. The most rocking album he has put out since "The Gold Experience". Don't think the funk isn't represented as well. While recorded before James Brown's death, it is a tribute in many ways to the Godfather of Soul. Black Sweat is the best electro funk song since Kiss.
Downloads: Lolita, Get On the Boat
11. The Pernice Brothers- Live a Little
The great British Pop album this year is recorded by a guy named Joe from Massachusetts. Furthermore, this Joe guy used to front a band named the Scud Mountain Boys. Yeah, I know it sounds hard to believe, but if you have been looking for music which sounds somewhere between early Bee Gees and Badfinger, "Live a Little" is for you. Downloads: Grudge Fu**, Somerville.
12. Phoenix- It's Never Been Like That
The second best British Pop album this year is recorded by some cats from France. Reminds me of some of the good pop/synth groups of the 80's and early 90's.
Downloads: Consolation Prizes, Long Distance Call, Lost and Found
13. Artic Monkeys- Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
The latest example of the next great British rock band hype machine. While not as good as some think, the record does have some great singles on it.
Downloads: Scumbag (When the Sun Goes Down), Dancing Shoes, Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
14. Cold War Kids- Robbers and Cowards
One trend that I think has been great in 2006 is the strong return of piano in rock music. Considering that the Cold War Kids have influences such as Dylan and Waits, the question might be "why don't you have the real thing on your list?" I will agree that Dylan and Waits have put out quality works, but I don't hear anything from their 2006's records that they haven't done better in the past. Lead singer Nathan Willet's voice is more in the vein of Jeff Buckley, which is something I can handle with repeated listening. Waits and Dylan will stand the test of time, where I'm guessing the Cold War Kids will be disbanded within 5 years, but of all the 3 releases mentioned I would choose the Cold War Kids to listen to right now.
Sure they are derivative, but has anyone done the Sabbath/Zep better since Soundgarden? Who they really remind me of is Deep Purple when a young David Coverdale fronted them.
Downloads: Woman, Love Train
16. John Mayer- Continuum
Mayer is probably smarter, probably funnier, probably better looking, and most definitely can play guitar better than you, so why wouldn't you hate him. Oh and then throw in that he's banging smokin' bimbos like Jessica Simpson. Yes, I feel your blood boiling. After his debut record that sold a bajillion copies and put him on the map with every college girl in America, he chose this year to come after their Moms, with one of the top MILF seduction releases of all-time. Mixing Curtis Mayfield vocals and Slowhand Clapton guitar licks and you've got the white boy blues album of 2006. Take that Soul Patrol.
17. Ben Kweller
Kweller puts out pop rock delights every couple years and this is no exception. Listen to the song "Sundress" or "Until I Die" and then tell me you don't feel better about life.
18. Deftones- Saturday Night Wrists
I would argue that the Deftones have been the most consistent hard rock band of the past 10 years. "Saturday Night Wrists" is the most stylistic diverse record of their careers, showing the influence of bands like the Cure, My Bloody Valentine, DJ Shadow, and the Pumpkins. Check out the opening track, "Hole in the Earth", which is better Coldplay than anything Chris Martin put out on his band's last release.
19. Josh Ritter- Animal Years
Best alt.country record of the year, with "Girl in the War" one of the best songs of 2006.
20. Matt Mays + Torpedo
Not far behind the Hold Steady in putting out the best Springsteen-influenced record of the year, Mays goes more the Wallflowers/Petty in his interpretation of the Boss.
Perfect Disco Rock Record of 2006
Scissor Sisters- Ta-Dah; Under the Influence of Giants; Electric Six- Switzerland
While none of these records are a top 20 release, take the best Mp3's from each of them and then you have one of the Top 5 records of 2006. Here are the 12 Songs you should download to make your alternative dance pop mix tape for this year.
Scissor Sisters: I Don't Feel Like Dancin; She's My Man, Ooh, Everybody Wants the Same Thing
Under the Influence of Giants: Mama's Room, Got Nothing, Aha, In the Clouds
Electric Six: Radio Gaga Gaga, Dance Epidemic, Pulling the Plug on the Party, Rock and Roll Evacuation
Best 2006 Release to Make Sweet Love to a Suicide Girl
The Twilight Singers- Powder Burns
I've always thought Greg Dulli was similar to Paul Weller in that he has an inner soul man trapped in a brain developed under punk rock's influence. Weller decided to get his Marvin Gaye on after he left The Jam, but Dulli has stuck to his alternative roots. The Twilight Singers, though, show him pushing a little closer towards traditional soul.
Best Emo Release of 2006*** Click on link to unveil my choice and then go to the end of this piece to find out my reasoning.
The Rap Record that Most Connected with Me in 2006- P.O.S. Audition
The Twin Cities is always been one of the most underrated music scenes. Now the land of Fargo has their own rapper, doncha know? Old school style points for using guitar riffs between beats like classic DMC or Beasties, plus eclectic lyrics like De La Soul makes P.O.S. ill.
Most manipulative record of 2006 that I Still Couldn't Resist
Snow Patrol- Eyes Open
While not as good as the band's last release, "Final Straw", Snow Patrol has figured out the genre kind of like a Scottish Stone Temple Pilots. Sure it was overplayed, but it was hard to top its monster single "Chasing Cars". This was the ultimate Grey's Anatomy/O.C. tune of the year.
Top Mash-up/re-release of 2006
Well it's not like you can screw up some of the greatest songs in music history, but I guess I was hoping the Martin's would have been more creative here. They were under the microscope, though, as they were instructed not to add any music to this that wasn't recorded by the Beatles. I would rather hear Danger Mouse's version, but he wouldn't want to work under these restrictions. As I said, I liked it, but don't think it's that much better than Stars of 45.
Best rock covers album of 2006
Grant Lee Phillips- Nighteeneighties
One of music's best singers takes on some of the best alternative rock songs of the 1980's. "The Killing Moon" and "Love My Way" are good places to start.
Best Record of 2005 that Slipped by Me until 2006
OK Go- Oh No
Loved this Chicago band's 2002 self-titled debut especially "Get Over It", but somehow didn't check out their follow-up, until I caught the video for "Here It Goes Again." If you've never seen it, check it out, as it is my favorite music video of all-time. (It also happens to be my 3 year-old daughter's favorite song of 2006) In regards to the "Oh No" album, if you have ever wondered what the Kinks would sound like today, this release I think answers it.
I Really Tried, but It Just Didn't Happen for Me TV on the Radio
Just Don't Get It Album of 2006 Joanna Newsom
Good, but Liked Their Last Release Better Decemberists and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs
***Emo Phillips is one of the great standups of the past 20 years. Sadly, someone this creative is unknown to so many, while Emo bands wreck the covers of your favorite rock music magazine. Many point to Jimmy Eat World as being the original American emo band, but I guess I see them as more of power pop group, which is the reason I like them. The typical whiny vocals of most emo bands just don't connect with me. Take it from someone who has been under the magnifying lens of a critic numerous times, it's important to keep in mind that reviews are just the thoughts of one person. Feel free to vent in the comments section.