This is it! the moment you've been waiting for...
Well, the moment I've been waiting for, all year. Without further ado, and I like "ado", here's the Top 5:
5. Easy Star All-Stars- Radiodread (Easy Star) rating: 94
The best band in all of Dub Reggae just got better and ten times more credible. Their previous effort, Dub Side Of The Moon, although instrumentally excellent and full of great ideas, was predictable (because it was a cover album) but was also a bit laughable- the bong hit bubbling at the start of Money instead of the cash register bell and change falling? Ummm, yeah... So they decided to cover the most important band on the planet's most important album. And it comes out perfect and irresistible. Horn lines instead of guitar leads? I never thought something like this could be done, and the list of guest musicians reads like a Jamaican Music Hall Of Fame show: Horace Andy, Sugar Minott, Toots & The Maytals, Morgan Heritage, Israel Vibration... Lord have mercy! Fave Track: Climbing Up The Walls
4. Girl Talk- Night Ripper (Illegal Art) rating: 95
I was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My formative years (musically) were from 1984-1994. I can only think that Girl Talk (Pittsburgh's Greg Gillis) was on the same shit I was on during this same time. Crunk rap mixed with 90s alternative? Grunge and soul? Boston and Ludacris together at last? Notorious B.I.G.'s Juicy mixed with The Pharcyde's Passing Me By mixed with Elton John's Tiny Dancer? Mike Jones' Back Then with Seals & Croft's Summer Wind? Remember that song "whoa- oh, it's magic, I knooow.." from those Time-Life 70s albums? The band is Pilot and Girl Talk cuts that shit with Kanye's Gold Digger. So hype, it's just too much, son. Some critics hate the mash-up. I hope it's here to stay. Fave Track: Smash Your Head
3. TV On The Radio- Return To Cookie Mountain (Interscope/4AD) rating:97
I'm loving the old-school, Scott La Rock-style drum beat that starts this album off. "I was a lover, before this war- held up in a luxury suite, behind a barricaded door- now that I've cleaned up, gone legit- I can see clearly: round hole, round whole, square peg don't fit" I'd like to think that this is about the ending of a couple's relationship, but I think it has a much deeper meaning than that. I think it's about man's divorce from romantic, individual thought and his embrace of technology and information. I think the relevant voices of modern society all echo a similar sentiment- that man becomes destitute by elevating himself, and Return To Cookie Mountain is the soundtrack for the impending apocalypse. But it's a really funky and enjoyable whirlwind of rhythm in the meantime. It also doesn't hurt to have an appearance by Mr. Ziggy Stardust himself on here, either. Fave Track: Wolf Like Me
2. Morrissey- Ringleader Of The Tormentors (Sanctuary) rating: 98
Why do the English keep writing songs aimed at our shitty president? Because they have a better, more worldly and informed point of view? Because most of them are smarter than us? God, I'm a sycophantic Anglophile- and if Anglophoma was a type of cancer, Morrissey is its main carcinogen, and this album is one big tumor. "If your god bestows protection upon you, And if the USA doesn't bomb you, I believe I will see you somewhere safe, Looking to the camera, messing around and pulling faces." Moz really can do no wrong in my mind. He could put out a 46-minute track of him laying wet farts over a detuned violin and I'd happily gorge myself on it and declare it the best record of the year. Except this really is one of the best albums of the year and one of the best of Mozza'a career. Fave Track: You Have Killed Me
ALBUM OF THE YEAR...
1. The Decemberists- The Crane Wife (Capitol) rating: 100
Japanese folk-tale: impoverished man finds injured crane. Brings it in and nurses it back to health. Crane leaves. Enter beautiful woman, whom the man proceeds to fall in love with and marry. To make ends meet, wife weaves wonderful clothes from silk, but here's the catch- he may never watch her at work. His greed increases, she works harder. She becomes ill. He peeks in on her to discover that she is in fact the crane that he nursed back to health and she weaves these beautiful garments from plucking her own feathers and weaving them into the loom. She flies away, never to return. Then Colin Meloy and his band sign to Capitol Records and he writes ten songs about it. I mean to say that he writes about the Crane Wife, not signing to Capitol. Although now that I think about it, I'd love to hear that album, too. Beloved indie band signs to major label. Because Colin could write about anything and I'd totally dig it, maybe even eat the peanuts out of his shit. In my world, Mr. Meloy is approaching Morrissey-level status. I mean, for fuck's sake, he did a six song cover album of Morrissey tunes! I mean, what else does he have to do? Write the best album of 2006? Deliver the best tour of '06 to the world? And on the seventh day he rested! Stylistically, this is closer to The Tain (prog rock) than Picaresque, although not too much unlike it. They changed without changing. So, asking me to pick a favorite song is really tough, but... Fave Track: The Island: Come And See, The Landlord's Daughter, You'll Not Feel The Drowning
Tomorrow: Honorable Mentions...