Lists And Mixes

A Retrospective Top 33 and 1/3: Best Albums Of 2006

kzuu-party-2006

On June 6, 2006, FensePost went live. Since its inception, I’ve written more than 1,000 album reviews and countless features, track reviews, live reviews, and video reviews. My collection has grown exponentially. I have a room in my house devoted entirely to records. CDs go in the living room and I’m out of shelving space. To say FensePost has become a big part of my life would be an understatement. It’s as much a second job as it is a hobby.

Above photo of me taken by an unknown individual at a KZUU party in 2006.

We’re now at the top 33 and 1/3, which is fitting being that ’06 was the first year for a FensePost best of the year list. From now on these Retrospectives will be a reshuffling of past lists, accounting for albums that now hold more power than they did back then, or adding in albums that weren’t on my radar at the time. We begin with a standout single (hence the 1/3, as singles often account for approximately a third of an album).

Here are my favorites from 2006…

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1/3. Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
The song that took this band, sarcastically referencing the crazy NBA star Charles Barkley with the moniker Gnarls Barkley, to the stars. “Crazy” was a pretty impressive song; listen to it today and the chance is you’ll still find it pretty cool.

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33. The Way The Wind Blows by A Hawk & A Hacksaw
A Hawk & A Hacksaw creates a form of classical Balkan-influenced music that focuses on percussion, accordion and fiddle. The duo live is a sight to see, with Jeremy Barnes (Neutral Milk Hotel) playing accordion with his hands and percussion with his feet and head, and Heather Trost on violin/fiddle. The band includes others, but Barnes and Trost are the primaries. The Way The Wind Blows is an absolute must-hear album for 2006.

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32. We Are The Pipettes by The Pipettes
Some bands never live past their initial hype. The Pipettes came very close to succumbing to that fate. After several excellent singles, their album dropped and we enjoyed it for a few months. Then they disappeared into the indie ether. Their anti-Beatles 50s girl group style was fun while it lasted. In other words, We Are The Pipettes would have had a much higher spot on this list back in 2006. Sure, I’ll pick up this album every so often and I’ll genuinely enjoy some of the old tunes, and I’ll wonder what these three quite lovely ladies are up to (I heard a few of them left the band), and when they’ll be giving us a follow up. Will it live up to the band’s former hype? We’ll see.

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31. Bring Me The Workhorse by My Brightest Diamond
My Brightest Diamond is an interesting group. At one moment, creating soft, almost folk-like music, the Shara Worden fronted group swoons listeners in with the soft cooing and sweeps them away with siren-esque monumental emotive bellows. “Something To An End” and “Golden Star” open Bright Me The Workhorse with easy high points that the rest of the album does a fair job attempting to beat. Bring Me The Workhorse and Shara Worden prove that the mythical sirens do exist.

My Brightest Diamond: Something Of An End [mp3]

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30. Fab Four Suture by Stereolab
It’s odd to think of Fab Four Suture as one of my favorite so-called albums by Stereolab. After all, it is a collection of singles and their b-sides released by the band in 2005 and 2006.

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29. Ringleader Of The Tormentors by Morrissey
In my eyes, Morrissey’s solo work will never live up to that he released with The Smiths. It’s a simple fact. Still, Ringleader Of The Tormentors wasn’t half bad. “You Have Killed Me” and “The Youngest Was The Most Loved” both were excellent portrayals of the artist, who (also in my eyes) is one of the greatest around today.

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28. Avatar by Comets On Fire
Listening again to “Dogwood Rust” off Avatar, I cannot help thinking how similar Crystal Antlers sound to Comets On Fire. They fit a similar mold, these two epic bands. Their experimental rock is colorful and larger than life. Avatar is chaotic and hints of a greater 70s influence. In my opinion, this band not only influenced modern experimental rock artists like Crystal Antlers, they also influenced the imaginative collective known as Dark Meat.

Comets On Fire: Dogwood Rust [mp3]

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27. Etiquette by Casiotone For The Painfully Alone
The melodramatic mopey songs of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone are countered so perfectly with lo-fi, twee-ish casio pop. That being the case, the band’s moniker is almost perfect. Songs like “New Year’s Kiss” and “Bobby Malone Moves Home” made you want to cower in sadness, all while putting a smile on your face thanks to oft bouncy little melodies.

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone: Young Shields [mp3]

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26. The Unsung Colony by Norfolk & Western
When folk-pop lapses into loud distorted guitar breakdowns, as Norfolk & Western does throughout The Unsung Colony, something special happens. The songs transcend both genres to a whole new plane of significance. This album is easily my favorite from the band thanks to songs like “The Longest Stare” and “Barrels On Fire”.

Norfolk & Western: The Longest Stare [mp3]

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25. Cansei De Ser Sexy by CSS
There’s an innate sexual pull to virtually every song on Cansei De Ser Sexy, and the same in practically everything CSS does. This Brazilian band knows how to shake things up, rumps and all. And they’re not afraid to turn a few heads as well, a fact proven by their awesome video for “Alala”.

CSS: Alala [mp3]

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24. Six Demon Bag by Man Man
Man Man is a band of maniacs, filled with eccentric individuals clad in all white. Six Demon Bag was pretty groundbreaking upon its release. More tribal than Animal Collective, wilder than Feral Children, it seemed insanity was an inherent part of every man in Man Man.

Man Man: Van Helsing Boombox [mp3]

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23. Math And Physics Club by Math And Physics Club
You could call it lounge-pop, this twee-ish basement and bedroom style of pop. Math And Physics Club fits the description, adding in a nerdy hopeless romantic schoolboy element. Despite the soft melodies, this band puts on one hell of a live performance, and can write one hell of a great song.

Math And Physics Club: Darling, Please Come Home [mp3]

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22. Pet Grief by The Radio Dept.
Following Lesser Matters, The Radio Dept. created a pop album ethereal and dreamy. It lacks much of its predecessor’s fuzzy greatness, but has plenty of excellence on its own. Filled instead with reverb and electronic elements, Pet Grief was the beginning of a new and exciting direction for one of Sweden’s many outstanding bands.

The Radio Dept: The Worst Taste In Music [mp3]

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21. Floating World by Anathallo
Floating World was one of the first album reviews on FensePost and I likened it to Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens for the power it held, and the potential the band had as we neared the end of the year. The group was more a marching band gone wild, with immense drums, found sounds, and non-traditional instruments when it comes to modern pop song-craft. And that’s what made Floating World such a strong album.

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20. Cannibal Sea by The Essex Green
Cannibal Sea is filled with undeniably fun pop melodies and rhythms, many of which are easily The Essex Green’s best work to date. Earlier albums, like Everything Is Green hold their weight, but this one is special in that it is entirely upbeat.

Essex Green: Don’t Know Why [mp3]

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19. The Eraser by Thom Yorke
I recall The Eraser receiving quite a few mixed reviews upon its release in 2006, which is odd because the album is quite brilliant. It’s merely a progression of the more current work from Radiohead, stripped down slightly yet no less significant. Tracks like “The Eraser” and “Cymbal Rush” demonstrate that Yorke stands just as strong alone as he does with his full group.

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18. Yellow House by Grizzly Bear
“Knife” was easily one of the best music videos of 2007, bizarre and almost creepy. As a whole Yellow House was an entrancing collection of dreamy songs on the dangerous cusp between pleasure and nightmare. The album lived up to its predecessor and then some.

Grizzly Bear: On A Neck, On A Spit [mp3]

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17. Kill Them With Kindness by Headlights
Damn. I forgot to include Enemies, Headlights debut EP, in my 2005 list. That should have been in there, pretty high too. Kill Them With Kindness was the band’s follow-up to that EP and it found them straying from those echoing heights that made that EP so good. Instead, they gave us some excellent tracks in “TV” and “Songy Darko”. A favorite was the soft opening track, “Your Old Street”. Headlights have since maintained a balance between orchestration and indie pop, shoegaze and dream pop.

Headlights: TV [mp3]

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16. Return To Sea by Islands
In their first post-Unicorns release, Islands succeeded in creating an album that was just as quirky yet championed a higher production value. Return To Sea featured such excellence as “Where There’s a Will There’s a Whalebone”, “Humans” and “Rough Gem”.

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15. Let’s Get Out Of The Country by Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura has done an excellent job creating a name for themselves despite sharing quite a few traits with fellow hometown group Belle & Sebastian. Similarly orchestrated and influenced by 60s pop, with each new album Camera Obscura does more and more to set themselves apart and Let’s Get Out Of The Country is no exception. “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” to this day remains of their top songs.

Camera Obscura: Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken [mp3]

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14. Writer’s Block by Peter Bjorn & John
“Young Folks” and “Objects Of My Affection” found Peter Bjorn & John writing their most creative songs yet. PBJ maintained their folk sensibilities while fully integrating a modern pop sound that simply couldn’t be ignored. This album was an instant classic, and demonstrated aptly that the band definitely didn’t have writer’s block.

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13. Electric President by Electric President

Distinct memories surround this album. It was the soundtrack to my 2006 summer, post graduate school. I’d listen to it as I walked home from work, when I drove to the store, when I rode my bike to Moscow from Pullman (about an 8 mile trek through rolling fields of wheat). The summer was hot and the weather was beautiful. It was one of the best summers of my life.

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12. Let Me Introduce You To My Friends by I’m From Barcelona
What a great concept for a band! Emanuel Lundgren, the leader of this collective, decided to record an album. He invited his friends. And they came. More than two dozen of them. And I’m From Barcelona was born. The band is enormous, but what sets them apart is the indie pop choir that became an inherent part of the band.

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11. Panic When You Find It by Young And Sexy
This is an album I’ve been obsessed with since first listen. It’s all to easy to get swept up in the excellence of “The Curious Organ” and “Conventional Lullabies”. Part cheerful, upbeat indie-pop and part slow, emotive pop, this album has perfect ballance.

Young And Sexy: Conventional Lullabies [mp3]

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10. Silent Shout by The Knife
Rounding out the top ten is Silent Shout by The Knife. Never showing their faces, this duo crafts eerie electronic songs dark and mysterious. The title track was one of the best videos of 2006, as was “We Share Our Mother’s Health”. The entire album is packed with epic beats and creepy vocals. Silent Shout is truly a one of a kind album.

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9. Dreams by The Whitest Boy Alive
I honestly cannot decide if I like Dreams or Rules better, the latter being this year’s follow-up to the band’s 2006 LP. After releasing one album under his parent-given name, Erlend Øye, half of the duo that is Kings Of Convenience put together The Whitest Boy Alive to continue his super danceable funky electronic pop.

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8. Worry A Lot by The Zebras
I was introduced to The Zebras at SXSW 2007 during the Three Imaginary Girls / Magic Marker Records showcase, dubbed the Indie-pop Hootenanny. Performing several songs off Worry A Lot, I became an instant fan and went so far as to label them one of my top two favorite indie pop bands from Australia, directly alongside The Lucksmiths. I think I said it best myself, in my review of this album back in 2007:

Some artists struggle with musicianship while excelling in songwriting. For others, the vice versa is true. However, after eight straight listens to Worry A Lot, it is clear that The Zebras have the uncanny ability to do no wrong.

The Zebras: You Look Ready [mp3]

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7. Destroyer’s Rubies by Destroyer
I was entirely disappointed when I heard Destroyer’s Rubies in January of 2007 and realized I was not able to put it on my best of 2006 list. The album is stunning; in my opinion Dan Bejar’s best work to date. Opening with the epic “Rubies” and continuing with greats like “European Oils” and “Priest’s Knees”, this album finds Destroyer at his most melodic.

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6. Songs That You Might Not Like by BOAT
Self-deprecation is often a mask for insecurities and personal humor has always sided on self-deprecation for me. I guess that’s why I instantly fell in love with BOAT’s debut LP Songs That You Might Not Like. Throaty reptilian vocals lent themselves well to songs like “Elephant Ears” and “Clogged Castle”. When it comes down to it, BOAT is a band made up of some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

BOAT: Last Cans Of Paint [mp3]

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5. Parallel Plots by Patience Please
Patience Please was ultimately one of the first artists I discovered after starting FensePost, and I went on to befriend many of its members. These indie-pop songs lean toward rock and feature clever metaphors and brainy lyrics about longing and failed relationships.

Patience Please: Little Mouthfuls [mp3]

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4. Mothers Sisters Daughters & Wives by Voxtrot
Their follow-up to one of my favorite releases of 2005, Voxtrot’s Mothers Sisters Daughters & Wives is again jam-packed with excellent tunes. From the title track and “Fast Asleep” to “Rise Up In The Dirt” and “Soft & Warm”, this EP is just as powerful and praise-worthy as Raised By Wolves.

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3. Everything All The Time by Band Of Horses
I think I listened to “Funeral” about 20 times in a row when a note about Band Of Horses’ upcoming release of Everything All The Time arrived in my inbox. The album itself went on to be one of my favorites of the year at the time, and little has changed since. “The Great Salt Lake”, “The First Song”, “St. Augustine”; they all remain excellent tracks to this day.

Band Of Horses: The Funeral [mp3]

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2. The Life Pursuit by Belle & Sebastian
Initially, Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit was among my favorites from the band, but that only lasted about six months. I returned to previous albums and discredited this one’s greatness. However, as time passed I came to realize that it really was one of their better albums. As a whole, this album continues to grow on me, even four years after its initial release.

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1. The Gulag Orkestar by Beirut
The Gulag Orkestar was so different from what I was used to, and I quickly became obsessed with its Balkan sounds. An impressive feat, one could hear the passion and emotion Zach Condon put into the album. It was obvious from the beginning that Beirut would be a band to keep an eye on.

Beirut: Mount Wroclai (Idle Days) [mp3]

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