Top 40 Albums of 2006…So Far (Part 2 of 4)
Welcome to Part 2 (of 4) in my Top 40 Albums of 2006…so far. This week I’ll check out the most badass albums released this year between the letters D through L. A little hip-hop is thrown in the mix amongst the indie rock heavyweights this week.
Click here to check out last week’s Part 1 where I took a look at albums by Art Brut, Built To Spill, and Cat Power amongst others.
Remember, to use this column for its main intention: as a cocktail conversation piece to get cute hipster chicks to talk to you/hop in the sack with you. Trust me, this service has worked with thousands of Americans and hundreds of folks on foreign soil. With my help, you will reign supreme. The rest is up to you.
Let’s get hyphy up in this…
[YTD Rank=Year To Date rank in my Top 40 for 2006…so far]
Destroyer-Destroyer’s Rubies (Merge)
Released: February 21
YTD Rank: #28
Destroyer destroys, plain and simple. Not only does Dan Bejar write the most badical songs for the best Canadian musical outfit, The New Pornographers (sorry, Bryan Adams), but he has also created his seventh album of well crafted pop tunes. This time the reliance on MIDI keyboard is pushed to the side in favor of a full on five-man band (of breathing human beings…yes!). With his kinda Stephen Malkmus-y/ kinda Beck-y, dry humor-y, ‘what the fuck does this word mean…I have to look it up in the dictionary because my professors didn’t teach me enough big words in college’-ness, you’ll be entertained for hours by Bejar and his infinite wisdom. Imagine Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie by way of Pavement and you’re close to Destroyer territory.
E-40-My Ghetto Report Card (Warner Bros.)
Released: March 14
YTD Rank: #26
The King of Hyphy is back to unload a treasure chest full of tight flows and new vocabulary, while suburban White kids are still using the now extremely outdated terms he’s coined, including ‘fersheezie’ (short for, ‘for sure’). Minimalist beats are provided this time by the always hot Lil’ Jon, whose sparse production allows for the attention to be on the rhymes. E-40 has by no means sold out to the South however, as is evidenced by representing the East Bay Area (California) on tracks suck as ‘Yay Area’ and the hit single ‘Tell Me When To Go’. This time around, E-40 pays homage to the late, Bay Area rap legend Mac Dre while pushing lingo such as ‘going dumb’ (acting in an uninhibited fashion), ‘thizzing’ (an exaggerated face such as that when you eat something bitter, especially an ecstasy pill), and ‘ghost riding the whip’ (slowing an automobile to under 5 miles per hour, getting out of the car, and dancing beside it as it rolls along). This is pure, regional rap music of the highest form. His lyrics are intelligently pieced together, often times raunchy, and highly descriptive in painting a portrait of one of the best and most overlooked rap scenes in the United States. Drop the superfluous skits (please) and this set is golden like the grill on an Oakland youth.
Sample lyric from ‘Tell Me When To Go’:
Jesus Christ had dreads, so shake ‘em
I ain’t got none, but I’m planning on growing some
Imagine all the Hebrews going dumb
Dancing on top of chariots and turning tight ones
Lisa Germano-In the Maybe World (Young God)
Released: July 18
YTD Rank: #12
If you’re of the sort who isn’t stirred emotionally by emo-core, but you turn into a pile of mush when listening to Elliott Smith or Cat Power‘s more personal songs, then this is an album you absolutely need to check out. Germano has a spooky way of breathily singing deeply intense words that will pierce hearts, deplete tear ducts, and linger in your mind long after listening. Every time I hear In the Maybe World I pick up on a line or a sound (her production here is unorthodox, complex, and beautiful) that I hadn’t noticed prior. With patience and a handful of spins in the music box, you’ll find an amazing record by a woman who isn’t shy about putting her personal baggage out for all to see.
Ghostface Killah-Fishscale (Def Jam)
Released: Febraury 28
YTD Rank: #37
My only beef with this, the best Ghostface Killah album (see also: best album by any Wu-Tang Clan member) since Supreme Clientele, are the skits and the dreadful collaboration single with Ne-Yo, ‘Back Like That’. Phil had some other complaints in his well thought out review that didn’t really bother me but you should check out his take on the album nonetheless. When he’s on top of his game like this, Ghostface creates the smoothest flows especially aided by some of the top producers in the business. Nobody else in the game paints more accurate, vivid descriptions of street life than Ghostface.
Gnarls Barkley-St. Elsewhere (Downtown)
Released: April 24
YTD Rank: #23
Somehow, two of the coolest fringe artists in hip-hop, producer Danger Mouse and vocalist Cee-Lo Green (ex-Goodie Mob), joined forces to create the surprise success album of 2006 thanks mainly to the infectious hit single, “Crazy”. Danger Mouse’s ability to create ear pleasing harmonies with incredibly bizarre samples (is the hip-hop community ready for prog-rock in their beat soup?) has made him one of the top names in the business. While his work for Gorillaz and Danger Doom made him a household name in college dorm rooms across the country, it’s his teaming with one of the most original soul singers in popular music that won my heart this year. What’s refreshing about Cee-Lo is that he has range for miles while writing unconventional lyrics of paranoia, personal faults, and even necrophilia (?). For anyone who makes complaints about Top 40 R&B and how watered down a commodity it’s become over the past fifteen years, look no further than this collaboration. St. Elsewhere is the most satisfying soul record of the year.
Grandaddy-Just Like the Fambly Cat (V2)
Released: May 9
YTD Rank: #5
Grandaddy’s final album is just as good (if not better) as their previous best work, The Sophtware Slump (2000). The musicianship and songwriting here isn’t as loosey goosey as on the mediocre Sumday (2003). Like on The Sophtware Slump, Jason Lytle and company use outdated electronics liberally, while creating an endless collage of genres ranging from ‘60s neo-psychedelia, ‘70s progressive, and ‘80s new wave to ‘90s indie-rock (a la Yo La Tengo). Lytle’s trembly, boyish vocals recall Neil Young more often than not. Fans of the Flaming Lips style of acid fried pop, who have yet to hear Grandaddy, will be pleasantly surprised at how much better this album is than the ‘Lips forgettable 2006 album, At War With the Mystics. While it’s unfortunate Grandaddy disbanded, at least they went out with a nearly flawless record.
The Husbands-There’s Nothing I’d Like More Than To See You Dead (Swami)
Released: June 6
YTD Rank: #21
There’s Nothing I’d Like More Than To See You Dead is the best garage rock album you’ll hear this year. For those who are unfamiliar with them, The Husbands are three mega hot, San Francisco babes who put out their second album on Swami Records (home to Rocket From the Crypt, Hot Snakes) in June. Their sound is a mix between the bluesy garage rock of a band like The Gories with the soulful retro sound of a ‘60s girl group (see: The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las, The Shirelles). This shit rocks really hard, and while in writing this may sound like a Raveonettes or Detroit Cobras rip-off, The Husbands play a much more stripped down, dirty and angst ridden form of garage-punk. Highlights include the dark and brooding ‘Never Again’, the blues-rocker ‘Nervous’, and ‘Just Like That’ (the latter of which has a melody that sounds oddly like The Drifters classic hit ‘This Magic Moment’).
Islands-Return To the Sea (Equator)
Released: April 4
YTD Rank: #17
From the ashes of pop-weirdo’s The Unicorns comes the equally out of left field Islands. Fortunately, former Unicorns members Nick Diamonds (singer-songwriter/ guitarist/ producer) and Jaime Tambour (drummer) have crafted an album better produced and less haphazardly recorded than anything the Unicorns released. On songs such as ‘Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby’, ‘Humans’, and ‘Jogging Gorgeous Summer’, Islands combine goofy yet heartfelt lyrics with fun musical arrangements that include strings, accordians, Caribbean drums, and vintage synthesizers. If conventional music is your bag, stay away from Islands completely. If you like your melodies skewed and find yourself able to dance spastically to The Talking Heads, by all means pick up Return To the Sea.
Recommended if you dig: Neutral Milk Hotel, The Arcade Fire, Pavement, Of Montreal
Ladyfinger (NE)-Heavy Hands (Saddle Creek)
Released: September 26
YTD Rank: #36
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It won’t come out for a few more weeks but Ladyfinger (NE) has created one of the best aggro-rock albums of the year. They sound like a mix between Helmet in their prime, In Utero-era Nirvana, and maybe a smidge of The Jesus Lizard.
Since it has a street date of September 26 I won’t tell you any more but I’ll leave you with this thought. If you’ve been trying to wean your friends off the nu-metal this’ll be an effective album to start with. It’s powerful, pounding, and much more rocking than anything I’ve heard in many moons.
Lansing-Dreiden-The Dividing Island (Kemodo)
Released: March 20
YTD Rank: #11
It’s really fucking difficult to tell if the mysterious, Boston based multimedia collective known only as Lansing-Dreiden is an ‘in joke’ or if they take their music seriously. On their third album they’ve managed to mix the ‘70s prog-rock of a band like Genesis with ‘80s keyboard aided, modern rock-lite (Tears For Fears and Human League come to mind) and make it sound much better than the sum of its parts. If you aren’t a fan of reverb avoid this at all costs because you’ll hear it all over the drums, bass, vocals, guitar…everything. To be quite honest, there’s little sense to be made of the lyrics on The Dividing Island but it doesn’t really matter because LD has crafted an album of the best music Depeche Mode never made in the ‘80s.
*Check in next week for Part 3 (of 4) in the series of Best Albums of 2006 where I’ll look at albums by The Raconteurs, The Strokes, and Stereolab amongst many others!