A Random List of the most bothersome musical aspects of 2006:
- Jay-Z's apathetic comeback album, that only served to sully his legacy. He really is the Michael Jordan of rap!
- Any journalist who at any point referred to the Dixie Chicks as "courageous."
- James Blunt
- Good bands that keep getting their stuff stolen! Meanwhile, Hinder and Evanescence continue on with their gear unscathed. Where is the justice?
- Me sitting in LA traffic, scanning through stations, and hearing a DJ say the words "I think that's the best song Nickelback has ever written."
- 1 chorus, 4 words: "This is our country."
- The continued obliteration of the Black Eyed Peas former greatness, brought on by their abysmal frontwoman.
- Songs from Grey's Anatomy.
- Brandon Flowers' mustache.
But why reflect only on the negative when there were many positive stories as well. Many artists put out great albums, with a few of my favorites including The Twilight Singers, Silversun Pickups, Regina Spektor, Jenny Lewis, Band of Horses, Girl Talk, Bob Dylan, and many others. And a few arbitrary categories...
Most Relieving Major Label Debut of the Year:
"The Crane Wife" by the Decemberists
It had all the makings of a disaster - a heralded indie band jumping up to Capitol Records. A bigger studio and a bigger budget for Colin Meloy, who has constantly teetered the line of turning epic parables into self-indulgent sprawling messes. But to my surprise, Meloy did not take the overtly grandiose route. If anything, he scaled things back a bit, focusing on the songwriting and making the most consistent album the band has put out. And they still had time to take on Stephen Colbert.
The Decemberists - The Crane Wife 3 (mp3)
The Decemberists - Yankee Bayonet (mp3)
Best New Ambassador for hip hop:
In a year where Jay-Z's comeback album was eagerly anticipated (only to result in a huge letdown), it was Jay's signee Lupe Fiasco who created not only the best hip-hop album of the year, but also the best ever rap song about the trials and tribulations of skateboarders.
Lupe Fiasco - Kick, Push (mp3)
Best Video of the Year (that everyone has seen):
In a year when dozens of truly great videos were made, many utilizing state-of-the-art technology, shoestring budget camera tricks, and overall ingenuity, who would guess that the most lasting impression would a static one-take shot made by four guys on treadmills.
Best Video of the Year (that very few have seen):
The band (which has 29 members) is called I'm From Barcelona. The song is called "We're From Barcelona" and it will embed itself in your skull. The video is nearly as low-budget at OK Go's, and it features odd-looking Swedes with mustaches. Could you ask for more? I contend that you could not. I predict that this album (due out in March) will be one of the best of 2007 - put it in the paper.
Best Single of the Year:
"Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley
You've heard it dozens upon dozens of times by now, but don't let the saturation effect the essence of the song. Everyone who heard it for the first time was immediately intrigued, and that's something that just doesn't happen much in music any more. An unparalleled blend of neo-soul, funk, and pop music, every second of the 2:58 running time is perfect. And Cee-Lo's pipes are in killer form. This unique alternate version from Top of the Pops is epic as well.
Best Album of the Year:
"Boys and Girls in America" by The Hold Steady
Much ado was made of The Killers aping Bruce Springsteen on their 2006 release, but The Hold Steady truly channeled the spirit of the E-Street Band here, while adding in some old-fashioned Midwestern sneer just for good measure. This album and band are clearly divisive in terms of critical acclaim, and they're not for everyone. Craig Finn's nasally rants are either embraced or reviled, but he actually took a shot at singing on a few songs, and his presence puts this album over the top. The track "Chillout Tent" will take its rightful place as the 21st century indie-rock "Summer Lovin'," and it features guest vocals from Dave Pirner to boot! God bless us all.
The Hold Steady - Stuck Between Stations (mp3)
The Hold Steady - Chillout Tent (mp3)