The 22 Best Records of 2006 (According to Me), Part 2
Alright, enough wi' that. On with the countdown!
11. Ugly Duckling - Bang For the Buck: Party record of the year. Old-school beats that drop asses and don't resort to tacky posturing. It's all playful boasting, and DJ Young Einstein is one of the best in the country. One of the best bands I saw live this year. Put this on the next time you're hosting a bunch of rowdy drunk hooligans, show off that you still know how to do the Humpty Dance, and you'll enter into hipster legend.
10. Lucero - Rebels, Rogues, and Sworn Brothers: Lucero finally flexes their classic rock muscles and rides Crazy Horse right through the best keggar you've ever been to. The ballad/loveable loser aspect is still intact, but there are more rockers than lonesome walkers for the first time in the band's history, and they wear it well. Barbed-wire rhythms and whiskey-throated howlings of a lonesome loner? I'd bet the mortgage that both Paul Westerberg and Bruce Springsteen kept this in steady rotation this year.
9. The Falcon - Unicornography: Brendan Kelly continues his winning streak with these 11 pipe-bombs. Funny, sad, drunk, and pissed-off all rolled up like multi-colored, mashed-up ball of Play-Doh used as a pre-emptive weapon against an unsuspecting sibling. "R. L. Burnouts, Inc." is the best junkie song since "How Low?", "Blackout" turns your car stereo into the best basement show you've ever seen, and "The Longshoreman's Lament" and "Little Triggers" lets melody bubble to the surface inbetween sputtering fits of rage. It may be a side project, but I hope this isn't the last we hear from these dudes.
8. The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine: Attention music dorks of America: yes, the Thermals no longer record on cheap boomboxes. DEAL. They're still one of the most thrilling bands in the country. Besides, compared to shit like Jet, they're still as fuzzed-out as the Sonics fanatics on Teenage Shutdown. Even though if was the galloping thunder of "Here's Your Future" and "Pillar of Salt" that got all the attention, songs like "St. Rosa and the Swallows" prove they can play at mid-tempo and still knock the wind out of you.
7. Armalite - Self-Titled: I honestly believe I am the only person in the country who likes this record. How could people at least not be interested in checking it out? Listen to this pedigree: Kill The Man Who Questions, Atom & and His Package, and Lifetime/Kid Dynamite/Paint it Black! Holy shit! Talk about supergroup. The Travelling Wilburies ain't got a day-old turd on Armalite. Shit, I'm just happy to hear Adam Goren's voice again. And Dr. Dan Yemin absolutely killing it on bass? What's not to love? I figured the Orgcore kids would have been all over this like black on Uncle Ben.
6. The Pipettes - We Are the Pipettes!: I'm such a sucker for the girl group sound that I'll go along with a calculated rehash, down to the matching outfits and predetermined "personalities" of the group members. That said, this record had some of the catchiest, most consistently hummable, memorable pop songs that it burrowed it's way into my brain, refusing to leave. Plus, there's a little spin on the old girl group approach; instead of being heartbroken victims or ecstatic lovers, these are nasty girls, more likely to cheat than to lament being cuckolded. These are the gals that act bitchy in order to drive away nice guys because they've "had just about enough of sweet." Got-DAMN!
5. Channels - Waiting for the Next End of the World: J. Robbins can do no wrong, it seems. He joined Government Issue right as the band peaked, he started one of the best alt-indie rock bands of all time with Jawbox, and Burning Airlines and Channels still slay. Two years after their debut EP, they finally delivered a full-length, but it was worth the wait. J. and his wife Janet lead on the guitar front while Darren Zentek kills in on the kit. "To the New Mandarins" and "New Logo" might be the most political songs Robbins ever wrote, but it's the haunting dread of "Mercury" that sticks with you after the thing ends.
4. The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!: Brendan Kelly makes his second appearance on the list as the Lawrence Arms deliver their fourth classic in a row. A blazing burst of punk energy fueled by beer, coke, pot, and speed as much as apathy and exhaustion, it sprints from the starting line on, pausing only for brief moments of morning-after malaise. When Kelly menacingly exhales "I've heard the devil call me by my name," you believe it, bucko. An Alkaline Trio for all us bored, drunk, depressed 20-somethings.
3. Mission of Burma - The Obliterati: Like Bad Religion, I'm sometimes really surprised by dudes in their 40's and 50's making music that's as vein-crushingly muscular (or moreso) than their counterparts barely into their 20's. I saw MoB live this summer, and it was like the evil side of acid, all feedback and jittery bass, thundering along with the pummeling of a million BPM beating of a slave galley drum. The Obliterati is their best album yet, and that's saying something.
2. Morrissey - Ringleader of the Tormentors: As most of my friends are aware, I am completely fucking obsessed with Morrissey. Like Sammy and her unhealthy interest in Christopher Walken, Mozzer and I go way back, and it's a fan devotion that hasn't wavered, even as it's been tested time and time again. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with his "comeback" album from a little while back, You Are the Quarry. I didn't care for the synth-pop backbeats (who was he, freakin' Dido?) or the directionless ballads like "Come Back to Camden." (Although, to be fair, if you'd mixed the best of the album tracks with the best of the b-sides, you would have had a smoking disc.) That said, my pop hero's offering this year was nothing short of amazing. It's his best solo album ever (well, other than Bona Drag, but that one doesn't really count), even more than Vauxhall and I. It hits all the right notes and never falters, and pairing Morrissey with Ennio Morricone is the best pop music pairing since Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. "To Me You Are a Work of Art" hits me right behind the eyeballs, "The Youngest Was the Most Loved" will creep me out for the rest of my life, "I Will See You in Far-Off Places" is HEAVY, "In the Future When All's Well" might be my favorite single this year, and and and...I could go on. You get the idea. I need to clean myself up.
1. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America: Even though it came out late in the year, I think the album I listened to more than any other was this one. I had it on loop for days straight, playing air piano and hollering along. Craig Finn's hyperliterate burnout poetry has the lived-in feel of an ancient studio apartment that smells of old weed and record sleeve cardboard. If the deliberately detached generation Y Not? finally having its own Dorothy Parker wasn't enough, the band finally says "the hell with it!" and makes no attempt to cover up their love of Thin Lizzy and Let it Be (the Replacements' one, not the shitty one from the 70's). It's rocking, rollicking, raucous, and a two-step riot waiting to find a pair of ears in order to go off. Boys and girls in America may have such a sad time together, but it's probably not while this record is blaring out of dumpstered speakers.