5. Grizzly Bear--Yellow House
I picked this up just because so many people on the Animal Collective message boards seem to like it, so I'm far from being an early adopter. It's kind of a little less-morose Iron & Wine maybe, and maybe a little part of the whole freak folk scene that the NYT wrote about a couple of months ago.
4. Cat Power--The Greatest
I wasn't in with Cat Power from the very beginning, but I have been crazy about her ever since What Would the Community Think?, and, I dunno, she's just incredible. The music keeps getting better, and keeps changing, unlike what some friends were saying about Pernice Bros. the other day. Moon Pix may still be my favorite, but not by much. One thing that has to be impressive about Chan is that there has been so little, if any, backlash against her--usually, when you have some alternative-like act achieve some popular success you will have a small school of folks making a name for themselves by dissing 'em, but it's just not happening with her that I can tell.
I think my wife might be the only person who doesn't like her, but it's for personal reasons that trace back the humiliating show we saw at Second Story in Bloomington a while back. She was sitting behind us during the opening act and when it was her turn she starts whining "I don't wanna go!!!" Very sad set, but somehow it charmed me; I probably thought it was cool to see an artistic breakdown in person. I've always wanted to have some kind of artistic meltdown, but don't have any art, no way to express my tortured soul.
3. Boards of Canada--Music Has the Right to Children
I know it's an old record, but this is a list of my favorites for 2006, and I didn't hear it until this year. It was one of those "where have you been all my life?" moments and a "this is the kind of music I would make" moment all put together. It's so good that I think my favorite moment, the moment that I remember most vividly, from the Belle & Sebastian show I saw this summer with C, Joseph, and Kimberle was when "ROYGBIV" was played from the cd before any band had even taken the stage. It was loud, the front of the stage was packed with the tallest crowd I had ever seen a show with (my natural advantage as a tall person eliminated!), and everyone up there just stopped their pre-show milling about and talking to listen and bob their heads to the song.
2. Fiery Furnaces--Bitter Tea
This one took me awhile, and I admit that there are a couple of tracks that I have to skip every time I listen, but part of that is because I can't wait to get to the really great songs. The album first clicked for me on a drive from the Petoskey area of northern Michigan over to the Leelenau peninsula, which is a fairly pretty drive, so that may have helped.
This is their most melodic record, which should make it the most appealing to the general public, but I don't get the feeling that it broke them out at all. One problem may have been their releasing the wackier Rehearsing My Choir before this one--people might have heard that one and assumed they'd lost it.
1. The Liars--Drum's Not Dead
I don't even know what to say. I want my music to come in album sized chunks--forget this new age of "the playlist" (one more bad trend the iPod is starting)--and this album is one great chunk of awesome. What a gift for description I have. It feels like something new, that's all. It's actually reminding me of when Loveless came out, seriously. I know, it's too soon to say that; I'm still in the honeymoon phase with this record. I should settle down, but really. This was #1 for me this year by a long margin.
*Conspicuous in their absence from this list awards:
3. Gulag Orkestar--Beirut. Quite a fun record and what's his name has this amazing voice, but there are only 3 songs at most that I keep coming back to.
2. Joanna Newsom--YS. I don't get it yet, though everyone else in the music world seems to. I thought her last one was super, so it's not like I don't get harp music played by women who look and dress like cute little elves. Maybe I'm not trying hard enough.
1. Yo La Tengo--I am not afraid of you . . . . How could Yo La Tengo not be on this list? Probably because this album sounds too much like a playlist for me, jumping around in style and up and down in quality. What I like is records like Painful and President Yo La Tengo, these records where you would turn it on and just be in one mental place for an hour or whatever. First time I heard President YLT was with my friend Christian and we were outside on his patio on a cold December night because his gf didn't like loud music and didn't want him smoking inside but the record was so awesome that I didn't even care when I discovered later that my car had been towed. Well, that's probably not true, but I like to remember it that way. I wish they could make records like that again.