Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Year Behind

Every year, I try to a review of the best albums of the previous year, and I also like to take note of what we can look forward to in the next year. This is the former.

I try to read a lot of critics’ “best of” lists and in particular always pay attention to the lists of Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot from Chicago newspapers and the radio show Sound Opinions. The reason I do this is not so much to shape my own list, but mostly because they get the opportunity to listen to hundreds of albums every year, and typically they come up with some nuggets I haven’t considered.

This year, Jim and Greg made a point to dismiss those who claim 2006 was a weak year, but their argument was simply that their lists were huge. To me, that does not necessarily mean it was a great year, though it does imply that it was a busy or productive year. A great year of music, to me, is when there are a large amount of great albums – meaning albums that are truly end-to-end great. This year, especially in comparison to prior years, I don’t think that was the case. In fact, I struggled thinking of even 10 albums that are end-to-end great and can stand next to the same esteemed albums from years past, though I purchased and listened to many more albums.

Well, that aside, here’s my list of the year’s best. I tend to divide them into two categories – my favorites and albums that critics are raving that either I didn’t hear or didn’t care for. I include the second list because I do give respect at least to some critics and appreciate that I may have selective preferences and thus my biases may steer others away from albums that they may end up loving.

Saurab’s Best of 2006
In alphabetical order

  • Art Brut – “Bang Bang Rock and Roll”: the most fun I’ve had in an album for a long long time

  • Gnarls Barkley – “St. Elsewhere”: probably the consensus album of the year in terms of popularity. The song “Crazy” is definitely the song of the year

  • Isis – “In The Absence of Truth”: musically, I think this is a real masterpiece and might be my own album of the year. It flew under the radar a little, maybe because of the genre, but it’s absolutely stunning

  • Secret Machines – “Ten Silver Drops”: an end-to-end solid outing from one of my favorite current rock acts. More mature and complex than their previous works

  • Yo La Tengo – “I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass”: enough great songs on this album, including one of the strongest tracks of the year in “The Story of Yo La Tengo”. And I just can’t get “Mr. Tough” out of my head!

Assorted Critics’ Picks
Albums that are consistently found in many critics’ lists

  • Decemberists – “The Crane Wife”: I think I’ll like this album but I just haven’t tried

  • Thom Yorke – “The Eraser”: I think this will go down as the “pretentious pick of the year”. It’s not a great album as it’s mostly just filler noise, but it seems everyone feels like the need to put it on their list. I think it will be completely forgotten by next year (or at least the next real Radiohead album)

  • Clipse – “Hell Hath No Fury”: have not heard

  • Jay-Z – “Kingdom Come”: have not heard

  • Lupe Fiasco – “Lupe Fiasco’s Food And Liquor”: have not heard

  • TV On The Radio – “Return To Cookie Mountain”: very polarizing album across critics. Some love it, some hate it

  • Cold War Kids – “Robbers & Cowards”: have not heard the album, but have heard several EP’s including songs on this album and really enjoy them

  • Mission Of Burma – “Obliterati”: solid album and I almost included it in my list, just not quite

  • Bob Dylan – “Modern Times”: not a massive fan but hear this was a great effort from him

  • Neil Young – “Living With War”: not a fan and this album feels overly preachy to me

Well, that’s it. Here’s to hoping for a better year in music, 2007!


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