The rest of the best, Honorable mention-style...
We Are Scientists- With Love And Squalor (Virgin)
Technically, this was an '05 release (in the UK) but wasn't released until January 10th here in the States. And I didn't get it until March, after seeing these cats on Conan one night when I was battling insomnia. Another band that played it big overseas, selling out recent gigs over there in less than 5 hours. But here, we like our polished crap-pop way too much. Huh...
Calexico- Garden Ruin (Quarterstick)
I never understood the term "Americana", as if a slice of America could be accurately represented by a song or a band or a genre of music. But I still use the term quite often, it's just easier. Calexico=Americana, easy enough. But there's a stab at some French chanson pop and a few rockers on here, too. This album is what I would expect to hear between a block of Wilco and The Eagles on a radio station while driving between Chicago and Lincoln, Nebraska.
Islands- Return To The Sea (Equator/Rough Trade)
Yeah, if you're not humming these tunes within 3 seconds after the start of each song, check yourself for a pulse. Canada pretty much rules these days, and The Unicorns aren't dead, they've been reincarnated as Islands. My only knock is that it's fun-time, happy-go-lucky, so-sweet-it-hurts-your-teeth pop music, with no serious side. Like They Might Be Giants or Ween. Which isn't a bad thing, I'm just wondering if these guys occasionally have bad days, too. They like hip-hop, that's good...
The Raconteurs- Broken Boy Soldiers (V2)
It's like the White Stripes with a much better drummer! Imagine Jimmy Page getting a hold of Paul McCartney's melodies and then sending a reel-to-reel to Detroit so that Jack White and Brendan Benson could write some words and rock it out with their guitars. I think that song "Level" might be one of the tastiest rockers of the whole year. Bet?
Grizzly Bear- Yellow House (Warp)
Freak folk was huge this year. These guys remind me of Cass McCombs and/or Nick Drake. Call it freak-folk, psychedelic folk, acid folk, whatever. I just know that I like it. It's like coffee-house folk music but someone slipped something into the coffee. Colorado may just be one of my tracks of the year, it's haunting, yet comforting and beautiful. I got this too late in the year, check back soon and it'll probably be in my top 10.
Psapp- The Only Thing I Ever Wanted (Domino)
Tastes like: sickly sweet, candy-coated, pop-aliciousness from Psapp, pronounced like the blood of trees that makes the liquified candy substance you pour on top of pancakes. Sounds like: trashcan lids and pots and pans and bells, cuckoo clocks and nail files. Those are just the samples. Not bad, ladies, not bad. Not great, but what would this review be if I didn't knock you down a notch, eh?
The Mountain Goats- Get Lonely (4AD)
I've seen this described as "somber", "sad", "heartbreaking", but I hear more than that. All I knew of these guys was 2002's All Hail West Texas, which is basically an indie rock opera, or IRO for short. This is also a "concept" album, but for me it didn't have the concepts of a great album. But good is almost great...
The Knife- Silent Shout (Rabid)
Pitchfork's #1 album of 2006? You've got to be kidding, guys. Okay, whatever. Basically, dark, Swedish dance-synth that's very a) precise b) serious c) European. But not a) pretentious b) sucky c) un-listenable. Some dance music I can't even get through, this I got through and re-listened. And listened again. We Share Our Mother's Health is a jam-and-a-half, yo!
Sunset Rubdown- Shut Up I Am Dreaming (Absolutely Kosher)
There was so much hype surrounding this album that when I discovered said hype I downloaded the teaser tracks from the band's website. I thought, okay, this doesn't suck, and my biggest knock on it is that it doesn't suck, but it doesn't rule. It doesn't "do" anything except do what it does.
Califone- Roots & Crowns (Thrill Jockey)
Elements of world music, 60s pop, americana (which looks better in lowercase, now that I think about it...). Here's another album full of broken strings and trash can lids and samples of detuned radios buzzing like a fridge stuffed with violins. I think I even heard a hurdy-gurdy in there, too.
Next: Albums that completely missed!