Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year! A big welcome to 2007. Bring it, baby!

So, as is customary in early January here in my headspace, I am compiling my lists of the highlights of the last year. In this installment, MUSIC.

I’m not a ginormous music geek, as much as I aspire to it. Time and economic constraints always seem to get in the way. I did pick up a lot of music this year, but much of it was just so-so, not really worthy of slipping into a top ten next to the stuff that really made the grade. So, while there is no top ten for me for 2006, I can definitely eke out five albums that rocked my 2006 like a hurricane.

1. Xiu Xiu, The Air Force
I had blogged about this when it was leaked, and I still feel the same way I did when I first heard this album. Legs apart my eyes lit up. The sky's gone out. This record is absolute brilliance. Both achingly visceral and cerebral, demanding, difficult, and pointed, and poisonous yet womblike -- Xiu Xiu takes the human condition and essentializes it into organic laptop rock that splits your mind open, like musical Butoh. Hands down, my favorite album of 2006.

Xiu Xiu, 'Bishop, CA' from The Air Force

2. Beirut, Gulag Orkestar

Recommended by David J on his website. I was skeptical at first because of the indie darlingism that surrounded Beirut, but this 20 year old from New Mexico shut me up fast. Zach Condon is not breaking any new ground with the Eastern European gypsy meets Sufjan Stevens vocals and instrumentation, but Gulag Orkestar is just so sweet and wistful that I find myself queuing it up all the time and frequently placing the songs on mixes. Wonderful stuff.

Beirut, 'Postcards From Italy' from Gulag Orkestar

3. The Knife, Silent Shout

Brother and sister team from Sweden. They had been around for a while before releasing this album, but I had never heard of them, ostensibly because their previous albums were just general bubblegum electro fare resembling Kylie Minogue. Silent Shout, named best album of 2006 by Pitchfork, changed that. Dark and brooding, with driving electronic beats propping up Karin Andersson’s freaky distorted vocals, it is classic techno turned on its head.

The Knife, 'Silent Shout' from Silent Shout

4. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

I have immense respect for Neko Case. Nevermind that her voice is a soaring wonder of aural bliss, and hearing it live for the first time brought tears to my eyes. She is a singing/songwriting goddess who sticks to her punk rock roots by working with small labels, and playing intimate venues with incredible musicians, all the while making music that speaks first to her experiences. She is all about the creative spark, her music, and her fans, not money or being a rockstar. She walks the walk. Fox Confessor… was the first studio album of Neko’s since 2002’s gorgeous Blacklisted. Lush, with a bleak lining, and full of vocal paintings and truths delivered in a voice like the sun on your back on a crisp winter day. She just gets better and better.

Neko Case, 'Star Witness' from Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

5. Matmos, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast

This record is incredible, if simply for the museum-like untouchable wow factor of its sampling symphonics. I almost didn’t put it in the tops, just because it’s not an album I listen to that often. Its aforementioned sampling makes it less than melodic and more an album to meditate on or zone out to. But it is so genius! My favorite, ‘Germs Burn for Darby Crash’ is an anxiety-ridden, intense song, much like how I imagine it was at an actual Germs show, or how it was to be Darby Crash. The story goes that Matmos’ Drew Daniel was burned by a cigarette wielded by one of the original Germs band members to produce one of the samples. That’s dedication to your craft. Or crazy. Or enough to get you into my tops for 2006!

Matmos, 'Germs Burn for Darby Crash' filmed live in New York, from The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast

So there you have it, my top 5 albums of 2006. There were others I liked that just didn’t make the tops, like Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, Easy Star All-Stars Radiodread, Sonic Youth’s Rather Ripped, and Thom Yorke's The Eraser, just to name a few. Good, but not Xiu Xiu and Neko good. And I really wanted to like TV on the Radio and The Decemberists offerings, but no stick. I haven’t bought Mission of Burma’s 2006 record or Melora Craeger’s (Rasputina) solo effort (released in early December) yet, so I can’t comment on those either, but who knows, maybe they will make my tops for 2006 after I hear them.

A final big yay for 2006 music though: I have to hand it to David J for reissuing Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh (with 5 previously unreleased tracks!), V for Vendetta (so I could actually have an official copy – before I got my vinyl!), and his retrospective from the defunct Glass label On Glass, in 2006. Glorious, timeless solo work from the early to mid-eighties, post Bauhaus and pre-Love and Rockets. Thanks Dave!

David J, 'This Vicious Cabaret' from V for Vendetta


Blogger knaakwood said...

I went over to to listen to samples of Xiu Xiu-
I received Tom Yorke's Eraser for X-mas, which is nice-- has some good moments, but it does't drill as deep into me as Kid A and Amnesiac does.
The Samples I listened to of X X seems to have an energy I need to tap into. A sort of caterwauling apocalyse perhaps would be my initial impression of what I've heard.
I've got to get more of it and the like.

January 4, 2007 at 8:07:00 PM PST  
Blogger saudade said...

I feel the same way about The Eraser. It is good, but nothing to write home about.

January 4, 2007 at 9:46:00 PM PST  

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