Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rebecca Danton - Top 10 Albums 2006

10. The Fratellis – Costello Music

Two words: ‘Chelsea Dagger’. Highlight: ‘Chelsea Dagger’.

9. Lily Allen – Alright Still

This is probably going to be next year’s Top Ten List regret, but it’s such a ‘2006’ album and she’s one of the few female singers who don’t leave me cold. Plus she makes up for The Streets’ shit new stuff. Highlight: Her voice - she sounds like a cross between an angelic choirgirl and a chavvy ‘Landan’ girl-next-door. Perfect.

8. Damien Rice – 9

To be fair, I haven’t given this sufficient listening time to strictly justify an entry, but in my opinion anyone who even has the guts to THINK about releasing a follow-up to the epic ‘0’ must be pretty amazing. I want to remove his vocal chords and put them in a safe place. Highlight: ‘9 Crimes’ - the combination of DR’s and Lisa Hannigan’s voices is so amazing it’s almost unbearable.

7. The Kooks – Inside In/Inside Out

I HATED this, and them, at first, believing they were whiney and over-hyped. But they grew and grew on me and, despite horrendous overplaying on Radio 1 and similar, I just love this more and more every day. Highlight: Joint between ‘Naïve’ and ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’.

6. Duke Special – Songs from the Deep Forest

I rediscovered him after a few years’ musical amnesia and kicked myself at what I almost missed. Almost poppy on this album, the delicateness of his voice remains, despite some of the darkness having been lifted. Still not Damien Rice, but he’s a damn sight easier to listen to. Highlight: His voice. It makes you want to wrap it in cotton wool and put it in a box for safe-keeping.

5. Basement Jaxx – Crazy Itch Radio

Classic Jaxx, in so much that - just like their back catalogue - there’s no surprises, no big musical departures. Highlight: The lyrics, which, as usual, sound like they were written in dedication to my last night on the tiles: “With a glass of bubbly and my brand new shoes. Found the restaurant on the internet - this Mexican place – but they haven’t finished it yet”…”He’s an M.I.N.G.E.R, minger minger!! Run for cover!!!” More style than substance, but I love it all the same.

4. My Chemical Romance – Black Parade

Yes, yes, emo again. This album - 2006’s ‘American Idiot’ - is such a grower I’m gonna have to get a separate mp3 player for it. Like all good music, the theme of death is coupled with theatrical undertones Andrew Lloyd Webber would be proud of. Highlight: All of it; like American Idiot, flicking through tracks doesn’t do it justice.

3. Panic! At The Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

Are they or aren’t they emo? Who gives a f***k? Their jingly-jangly pop set to ridiculous lyrics even surpasses some of Hot Hot Heat’s offerings. Highlight: Song titles such as ‘Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off’.

2. Muse – Black Holes and Revelations

When I finally managed to listen to this with an open mind - rather than shouting Absolution song lyrics over the top - I forgave them for the poppy, synthetic single ‘Starlight’, realising that, much like Absolution, the whole is greater than the sum of parts. BH&R is a musical, lyrical, emotional masterpiece and an intergalactic journey through the mind of Matt Bellamy which is in turns frustrating, invigorating and just plain confusing. While missing some of the trademark riffs of earlier work, in so many ways I think this album is the one that finally sticks two fingers up to Radiohead comparisons. Highlight: The galloping, glorious, partially Queen-esque ‘Knights of Cydonia’.

1. Dirty Pretty Things – Waterloo To Anywhere

While not one to jump on the Pete Doherty-bashing bandwagon, this album proves his absence doesn’t spell destitution for the immensely talented Carl Barat, whose unwavering passion comes through in every single song on this emporium of gems. From the sweaty, angsty ‘Gin & Milk’ – ‘No-one gives a FUCK about the values that I’d die for…give them something to die for!’ to the beautiful ballad ‘BURMA’, Barat et al refuse to let their vigour compromise the production, unlike certain other ex-Libs. Highlight: ’Deadwood’ – The Barat at his fast and furious best.

Top 10 Songs

10. The Killers - When You Were Young

9. Lilly Allen - Smile

8. The Kooks - Naïve

7. The Kooks - She Moves In Her Own Way

6. Panic! At The Disco - I Write Sins Not Tragedies

5. Black Eyed Peas - Pump It

4. Shakira & Wyclef Jean - Hips Don’t Lie

3. The Fratellis - Chelsea Dagger

2. Dirty Pretty Things - Bang Bang You’re Dead

1. Dirty Pretty Things - Deadwood
As above in albums. If my faith in music ever dwindles, this is the sort of song that’ll put me back on track. Well-produced, tambourines, awesome lyrics, sung by the one of the sexiest, most passionate, best hat-wearing men on the planet.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dean Best - Top 10 Albums 2006

10. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers

Starts with one of this year’s highlights in ‘Steady As She Goes’ and maintains that standard throughout. What could have been Brendan Benson playing second fiddle to a dominant Jack White instead becomes a perfect partnership, visiting bands like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin but presenting what it finds on its own terms.

9. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene

A frankly astonishing album from the Toronto collective that for many were this year’s Arcade Fire. Broken Social Scene, however, is something different. Neither as bleak nor uplifting as that from their fellow Canadians, this album still succeeds in taking us on a magical indie rock journey that stops in on The Cure and many lounge bars in between.

8. The Rifles - No Love Lost

First, a confession. I haven’t listened to this in its entirety (please Santa, I’ve been a good boy this year) but I can’t stop playing the bits I have. Leaning heavily on The Jam - and, like Weller, infused with lyrics about everyday life - this album is perfect for the Mods of the 21st century.

7. Boy Kill Boy - Civilian

Felt an initial twinge of embarrassment upon finding breakthrough single ‘Civil Sin’ was a firm favourite (were Boy Kill Boy yet more dross from the make-up-wearing, emo conveyor belt that this year spawned the likes of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance?) However, Civilian offers so much more, from the throat-grabbing ‘Killer’ to the surprising tender closing ballad ‘Shoot Me Down’.

6. The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth

For some, a return to form after a disappointing second album. In truth, just another example of The Strokes’ brilliance. The New Yorkers are still thumbing their Velvet Underground/Television back catalogue but First Impressions… is somewhat of a departure from debut disc Is This It. Tracks like ‘Heart in a Cage’ prove there are some balls in those oh-so-skinny jeans.

5. The Kooks - Inside In/Inside Out

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they don’t pretend to be anything they’re not - and tunes like ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’ were the indie sing-a-longs of the summer. Too commercial for some but never fails to put a smile on my face. Not sure about his ‘do, mind.

4. Kasabian - Empire

An album so grandly titled it had to deliver - and it did. From the call to arms of the title track to the glam stomping ‘Shoot The Runner’, it’s full of ambition, grandeur, swagger – and even some Kraftwerk. Okay, they come from Leicester, but let’s face it, where would rock be without a bit of swagger?

3. Morrissey - The Ringleader of The Tormentors

Moz returns with an even better follow-up to 2004 comeback You Are The Quarry. This gives us Morrissey’s most sexually charged lyrics - “explosive kegs” anyone? - but also showcases his trademark isolationism and despair - and no-one does that better. Some may frown at such a high spot in the list but Morrissey merits his position - if only for the buzz he gave us at Ally Pally in May. WHAT a gig.

2. Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah! - Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah!

Another album that seemed to reach a different plane after seeing the artist live. The opening bars of opener ‘Clap Your Hands!’ bring a wide grin to your face - and the smile won’t leave your face for the rest of the album.

1. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Had to be. For a band so young to produce such an extraordinary record out of the ordinary of everyday life is astounding. Never stops sounding so fresh, raw and full of energy. An absolute juggernaut of a record. They demand everything to be done their way - and why not? The world is at their feet.

The ‘It’s Not THAT Good’ Award

Razorlight - Razorlight

After Johnny Borrell launched a scathing attack on The Kooks in the music press this spring, he had to deliver something over and above the Brighton band’s effort. But he didn’t. For someone to deride a band for “wanting Radio 1 to f*ck them”, how he can release an album with the tripe that is ‘America’ is beyond me. Trying to break America are we? Good in places – utter bab in others. Next!

The ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ Award

The Killers – Sam’s Town

A double dose of disappointment. After the band’s solid debut, expectations about their follow up were relatively high. But, then, after The Killers released the majesterial ‘When You Were Young’ as the opening single from Sam’s Town, hopes were raised far too high. This is a let down, pure and simple.

Top 10 tracks of 2006

10. Justice vs Simian – We Are Your Friends

9. The Kooks – She Moves In Her Own Way

8. Dirty Pretty Things - Wondering

7. The View – Wasted Little DJs

6. Morrissey – Life Is A Pigsty

5. The Strokes – Heart In A Cage

4. Kasabian – Shoot The Runner

3. Arctic Monkeys – A Certain Romance

2. The Raconteurs – Steady As She Goes

1. The Killers – When You Were Young

We thought it was a statement of intent from the US band - alas, we were wrong. But take this track on its own and savour it. Or is it so good because it sounds like U2…

Toby Castle - Top 10 Albums 2006

10. The Futureheads - News and Tributes

There were quite a few difficult second albums out there. The Futureheads could have done a Killers, but they ended up with a much finer, richer and listenable album than their first.

The only good thing to come out of Sunderland.

9. Camera Obscura - Lets Get Out of This Country

Rachel made me get this... She liked the cover – we’ve got the same wallpaper in our house! I’m glad she did. Contains one of the singles of the year in ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken’. Great vocals with lush orchestrations.

8. Captain - This Is Hazelville

Outstanding album. Great vocals - female/male singer harmonies mix with fine tunes. It’s not pop and it’s not rock but it works. ‘Broke’ is ace single.

7. Ali Farka Toure - Savane

Was introduced to this guy on a Gilles Peterson mix downloaded from colleague in the summer.Cool guy and sounds great - stripped down rhythms and beats with great vocals.

Recorded in a mobile studio on the banks of the Niger River in Mali and it shows.

6. The Automatic - Not Accepted Anywhere

Quality rock. Not for a quiet moment after work, more for getting ready to go out, driving very fast or hitting the running track.

5. Boy Kill Boy - Civilian

‘Suzie’ is one of this year’s top singles. Album of pure post-punk outpourings.

A modern day Charlatans.

4. Hot Chip - The Warning

Dismissed as over-rated electro pap. In fact, the only electric beats album to have found its way onto my iPod this year.

Blissed out, plinky-plunky tunes.

3. The Sunshine Underground - Raise the Alarm

These Leeds boys remind us how bad the Arctic Monkeys really were. Indie disco at its best.Air drumming-tastic.

2. The Young Knives - Voices of Animals & Men

“You were screaming at your mum and I was punching your dad” - lyric of the year. Would have been No. 1 if not for Jarvis. Exactly what Razorlight want to be, really.

1. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis

The last album I bought and straight in. Lyrically brilliant at some times, deeply melancholic but epic without all of Pulp’s overbearing indie cheese. This is the album that should have followed up Different Class.

French civilisation obviously appeals to this Sheffield lad.

Over-rated or whatever name you gave it...

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Snow Patrol - Eyes Open

Scott Harrison - Top 10 Albums 2006

10. Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah! – Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah!

Released in the US last year but didn't get a UK release till the end of Jan this year & I'm still listening to it regularly. It had to make the list. Key track: ‘In This Home On Ice’.

9. Bag of Toys - Nooner

Again, another January release that I'm still playing regularly. Acoustic surf rock that doesn't suck. Think Jack Johnson or G Love with the wit of Sublime but so much more. Unsigned but soon to be seen on the ad for Microsoft's new attempt to dislodge the iPod from the top of the ‘ace’ list. Key track: ‘This Stuff’.

8. The Fratellis - Costello Music

OK, so it's a pop record but I fucking love it. Not a dud track in sight. Great fun. Key Track: ‘Chelsea Dagger’.

7. Goo Goo Dolls - Let Love In

OK, so they've gone a bit Bon Jovi (especially with the live show), but they still have a knack for writing quality tunes. Can get a little samey-samey by the end, but worth a place on the list for the first half of the album alone. Key track: ‘Better Days’.

6. The Spinto Band - Nice and Nicely Done

Didn't find these guys until T in the Park, but they were just about the highlight of the whole weekend. This is what indie should sound like. The brevity of the 10 tracks on here just leaves you gasping for more. Key track: ‘Oh Mandy’.

5. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade

They did a Green Day. They're probably sick of people comparing this to American Idiot. As my album of the year for 2004, I just couldn't ignore this. It's big, it's brash, it's emo, it's screamo, it's a fucking great record. It's not quite as good as American Idiot, though. Key track: ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’.

4. Joshua Radin - We Were Here

Ever heard The Shins ‘New Slang’? Well, this is a whole album that is that beautiful. If you’re a Scrubs fan, you may recognise some of the songs on here. Terribly difficult to get hold of in the UK, but worth all the effort, it is immediate but stands up to repeated listens. Key track: ‘These Photographs’.

3. Matt Nathanson - At The Point (Live)

A live album? At number 3? Yep, this is a fantastic showcase of the true talent of this lad. Great songs, a superb sense of humour and a rapport with a crowd that I'm yet to hear anyone better. You just don't get sick of this album. Key track: ‘Lost Myself in Search of You’ (including the banter before the song).

2. Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

This was a late entry to the list - almost made album of the year too. People say it's not as good as their previous effort and I'm inclined to agree with them - a little. It's still better than most things released this year. It has everything. The loud/quiet we associate with the Pixies or Nirvana, the sound of early REM, the lo-fi beauty of Elliott Smith or Guided By Voices and the harmonies of the Byrds. Oh yeah, and it'll rock your fucking socks off. Key track: ‘Archers’.

1. Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther

This took some getting into. There was no doubt that ‘Roscoe’ is a fabulous track, but the album seemed to wane a little after track three. Fear not, repeated listens have revealed the true genius of this record. Every single song on here has the power to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. A true five star, ten out of ten album. Key track: ‘Roscoe’.

Honourable Mention

The Shins’ new album would have been ahead of this if it had been released in 2006. Instead it won't hit shops till January next year. Arse.

Top 10 Songs of the Year

Not in any order with the exception of number 1

Midlake - Roscoe

Dresden Dolls - Backstabber

Sunshine Underground - Commercial Breakdown

My Chemical Romance - Welcome to the Black Parade

The Lemonheads - Poughkeepsie

Longcut - A Tried and Tested Method

The Automatic - Monster

Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine

Mumm-Ra - Out of The Question

1. Fell City Girl - February Snow

Some debate as to whether this would top the list or not. I've listened to this countless times since its release in October, I've seen it performed live five times (including once in their studio) and I still can't get enough of it. A fabulously uplifting song that deserves to be heard by everyone. Watch out for FCG in 2007.

Top 10 Gigs of the Year
(same rules as songs)

Fell City Girl @ The Zodiac (May)

The Decemberists @ The Zodiac (May)

Jason Mraz @ Shepherds Bush Empire (Feb)

Dave Matthews @ Carling Academy Birmingham (May)

Fell City Girl @ The Zodiac (October)

Rodrigo Y Gabriella @ The Zodiac (May)

Death Cab For Cutie @ Brookes (March)

Mumm-Ra (supporting Fields) @ The Zodiac (April)

Belarus @ The Water Rats (September)

1. Pearl Jam @ Reading

Pure fucking magic. No other words for it.

Chris Brook-Carter - Top 10 Albums 2006

10. Howe Gelb - Sno’ Angel Like You

The surprise of the year. Canadian songsmith Howe Gelb teamed up with a gospel choir to produce this little gem. Over a whole album it sounds like it shouldn’t work, but Gelb’s low-fi garage blues are offset beautifully by the harmonies of his backing singers and his Lou Reed drawl somehow given a complete overhaul.

9. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers

Brendan Benson meets Jack White. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Crunching guitars are softened by an impeccable sense of pop bombast. It could have been higher up the list, if only they had been more than the sum of their parts rather than exactly the sum. Rumours suggest this works even better live – given White’s propensity to tinker with his songs on stage, perhaps they should have waited to release it 'til they had been on the road a bit.

8. The Long Blondes - Someone To Drive You Home

Blondie meets Pulp in this update of the great British pop swagger. Jarvis would have been proud of the lyrics of suburban lust and net curtains. The tunes are the freshest thing to have come out of the Britpop scene in a few years. If you hark back to the days when Echobelly and Elastica ruled the indie dancefloors, this is for you.

7. Bonnie Prince Billy - The Letting Go

More lush than Master and Everything and sparser than Greatest Palace Music, this is Will Oldham’s best since his debut. Haunting tunes and great lyrics are par for the course for Oldham, but the backing vocals and string arrangements bring a new dimension to this album, adding a European folk element to the usual country output. Great wintertime listening.

6. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones

Just pure punk brilliance. A polished follow up to their debut, Karen O continues to deliver some of the sexiest vocals around at the moment, but this time she is backed by a whole set of swaggering tunes. Even I feel cool listening to this.

5. Joanna Newsom - Ys

So nearly the Emperor’s new clothes. In the end, after several listens, you can’t help but wonder at the sheer scale of this piece of work. The voice is harsh, the songs average out at about 10 minutes, the lyrics are a tad weird and the harp is hardly the stuff of easy listening. But, something keeps drawing you back in. After a while you realise it’s just that your subconscious realised this is amazingly beautiful long before the rest of you did.

4. Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah! – Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah!

Came out so early this year that I almost forgot it. Listen to the hype for a change, this hurtles along at a fantastic pace - superb tunes that demonstrated to the Strokes how to make good NY underground music. And really, that voice is not that tough to fall for.

3. Guillemots - Through the Windowpane

At its heart, this is a pop album of uplifting anthems and mournful ballads, but it is hidden beneath layers of other influences from jazz and indie to classical music – it’s all the better for it. A pop masterpiece made for rainy days.

2. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

The Alt-country fave this year. Dark, brooding lyrics and tunes are juxtaposed by Case’s powerful vocals. An album of dense and varied songwriting – all the bases are covered here from pop to gospel, often all at once.

1. Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther

A perfect blend of 70s Americana and alt-country. This album has crept up on the UK music industry with its lush harmonies and Neil Young-style lyrics, which look back at a rural America that never existed. Romantic and nostalgic, but with a modern twist, which owes something to those other Americana troubadours Mercury Rev and Wilco.

Honourable Mentions

Bob Dylan - Modern Times

It’s good, but doesn’t scale the heights of his earlier work.

Cat Power – The Greatest

So good in places, it hurts to leave this out. Just a couple of songs in the middle that count against it.

Top Ten Songs

10. Bob Dylan - Thunder on a Mountain

9. The Raconteurs - Intimate Secretary

8. Bonnie Prince Billy - Cursed Sleep

7. Johnny Cash - Like the 309

6. James Dean Bradfield - Bad Boys and Painkillers

5. Sufjan Stevens - Chicago (Adult Contemporary Version)

4. Beirut - Postcard from Italy

3. Guillemots - We’re Here

2. Midlake - Head Home

1. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins - Rise Up With Fists

The 2006 ‘It’s Not That Good’ Award

TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain

The press and David Bowie seem to love them. I am sure there are some good tunes in there somewhere, but I’m buggered if I am spending this long looking for them.

The 2006 Emperor’s New Clothes Award

The Feeling – Twelve Stops and Home

This sort of music was crap when Hall and Oates were doing it. Guess what? It’s still crap now.

Olly Wehring - Top 10 Albums 2006

10. Joanna Newsom – Ys

A very, VERY late entry. Would probably be higher had I heard it earlier, but even after only a handful of listens it’s clear that something very special is going on here. A harpist from the US, who sounds like Lisa Simpson, produces an album of only five tracks, the longest of which goes on for over a quarter of an hour. Sounds hateful, I know, but this is magical stuff. I’ve never heard anything quite like it before.

9. Thom Yorke – The Eraser

Anyone who knows me will think that, should Radiohead fart on record, it’d make my top ten every time. Until they do, however, that will remain just a theory, for this is as good as anything they’ve done since OK Computer.

Granted, this album is not without its challenging side but, like all Radiohead’s output, your patience is ultimately highly rewarded.

‘Harrowdown Hill’ – which deals with the suicide of Dr David Kelly in 2003 – carries the lyric “Did I fall, or was I pushed?” In one line, Yorke prompts more food for thought than all of the mainstream media has on this matter – we need people like him to keep us all sharp.

This side project was released with little fanfare, for Yorke’s fear was that many would suggest the end of Radiohead. If it is, then that may be no bad thing – this is an excellent listen that brings music bang up to date.

Just don’t go looking for any singles.

8. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not

What to say that hasn’t been said before? The hype almost got too much – almost. “Don’t believe the hype,” they said. So, don’t.

Seeing them live early in the year, however, sealed the deal. Not a weak track on an album that is - obviously - the strongest debut album since Definitely Maybe. Don’t argue, it just is.

7. Guillemots – Through the Window Pane

Without meaning to gloat, I knew them first, having seen them at both King’s College and Scala prior to the release of this (their next stop in town? Brixton Academy). They were my private little treat, and I’m thrilled this year has been so good for them.

Their Mercury nomination was richly deserved, having dragged my musical palate into a direction it had never been before. A double bass, a Brazilian death metal guitarist and some mild weirdness at their live stage shows (marching through the audience on their way to the stage, a wooden ‘throne’ for lead member Fyfe Dangerfield) suggests a hodge-podge of an album.

That would be fair. Adjectives like ‘eccentric’, ‘irreverent’, ‘out there’ and ‘whacky’ – all overused by critics to describe them - are also fair. The lack of quality control, however, lets this album down in places (‘Blue Would Still Be Blue’ is utterly pointless), and yet, with two of my tracks of the year on one album, Guillemots (oh, and it’s a stupid band name) have been a treat of a discovery.

6. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope

A turn-up for my books, this one: My sexist, indie-white boy guitar textbook gets blotted by this fantastic album. Hailing from New York (you can tell by her drawl at times), this piano-based songwriter has introduced a few extra layers to some pop nuggets. The strength of the songs balances neatly the ‘quirkiness’ (for want of a better word) of moments where ‘better’ is pronounced ‘be’er’ and the odd burst of Russian and French. Hearing her sing “Summer in the city means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage” pricks the interest as well.

A great album either for late evening or on a train, this has one of the strongest opening salvos of any album this year – the first four tracks are all excellent.

5. The Long Blondes – Someone to Drive You Home

Keeping up the angular, edgy pop end, this is Franz Ferdinand with a rose and a flick-knife. According to NME, lead singer Kate Jackson is incredibly ‘cool’. I think they’re all pretty good to go. Similarities to Pulp are fair, not only because they’re also from Sheffield – it’s no longer grim up north, but don’t ask them – they’ll probably cut-cha.

A cross between Franz Ferdinand, Sleeper (good Sleeper, mind) and Echobelly (ditto), this is great guitar pop with girls – superb. And ‘Separated by Motorways’ would be ace to hear on a dancefloor - bounce, bounce, bounce.

4. Jarvis Cocker – Jarvis

There are certain creative people that are sorely missed – folk who are so incisive, so funny and oh-so clever. Bill Hicks is one example. Jarvis Cocker is another. He’s been hiding under a bushel in Paris for the last few years but, the odd side project notwithstanding, he’s clearly been hard at work, as this debut solo album shows.

Too much has been said about the secret track, download-only single ‘Running the World’ (particularly the line “cunts are still running the world”), because elsewhere on Jarvis, there are rallies against the asbo-collecting ‘Fat Children’ who murdered him for his mobile, the police, who were busy elsewhere “putting bullets in some guy’s head for no particular reason” and the plastic non-fantastic vision of life embodied by Disney.

Hearing this confirms one thing – he should never go away for that long again.

3. James Dean Bradfield – The Great Western

A pretty obvious point, but if you don’t like the Manic Street Preachers, then you probably won’t like this. Then again, if you don’t like the Manics, then you’re already on a hiding to nothing, aren’t you?

This is a superb album of guitar driven melodic rock - it’s not too heavy, it’s not too political, and it’s not too angry, alienated or full of despair. In fact, it’s what any man JDB’s - or, indeed, my - age is.

The only real common ground with the MSPs is that the voice is the same - peel off a layer of the ‘issues’ the Manics used to bring to the table, and add a sprinkling of tuneful sensibility, and you have one of the surprises of the year. James Dean Bradfield has been unshackled and he’s skipping along happily.

2. Keane – Under the Iron Sea

Don’t flash me that withering look. And don’t call this my guilty pleasure, because it’s not. Keane have struck a chord with me since their first hit almost three years ago. This second album is supposedly a view into the “dark world of Keane”. Maybe a bit much has been made of their quarrels, and the rehab thing is just funny (“Christ, if Keane sound this bland when they’re boxed and battered, how staid would they sound sober”), but Under the Iron Sea has done it for me since day one.

This is pop as it should be.

1. Panic! At the Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

Dismissed by many as ‘Emo’, this has been my discovery of the year – it’s guitar-based pop for the 21st century, and I can’t stop listening to it. They’re sickeningly young, they’re from Las Vegas, they wear eyeliner and the girls’ screams when I saw them at Brixton were deafening.

What’s not to like?

With song titles like ‘Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off’, and ‘The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage’, many reviewers dismissed P!ATD as pretentious - that’s as maybe, but what fun this album is. The kids are all right, it seems.

Make hay now, though, because, with so many ideas bouncing around on one album, the brightest sparks tend to shine only briefly.

Top 10 Songs of the Year

10. James Dean Bradfield – Say Hello to the Pope

9. Mew - Special

8. Morrissey – Life is a Pigsty

7. Keane – A Bad Dream

6. The Long Blondes – Separated By Motorways

5. Keane – Leaving So Soon

4. Guillemots – Made Up Love Song #43

3. Pet Shop Boys ft. Rufus Wainwright – Casanova in Hell

2. The Killers – When You Were Young

1. Guillemots – We’re Here

The 2006 ‘It’s Not That Good’ Award

The Killers – Sam’s Town

This second offering has appeared in almost every ‘Top Albums of 2006’ chart going. The first album, Hot Fuss, should have acted as a warning, however – four or five killers, the rest was nothing but filler.

Sam’s Town works in exactly the same way, yet tilts more in the wrong direction. When You Were Young is undoubtedly one of the best songs of the year - the rest of it? Humdrum at best, pretty painful at worst. Brandon Flowers’ vocals on ‘This River Is Wild’ are pitched high enough only for dogs to hear, and the clunky faux-rudeness of ‘Bones’ (“Don’t you wanna feel my bones, on your bones?”) grates more than it titillates.

Thankfully, this hit-and-miss approach to albums doesn’t stretch to their live performances – in the flesh, The Killers remain formidable.

Runner-Up: Muse - Black Holes and Revelations.

The 2006 Emperor’s New Clothes Award

The Feeling – Twelve Stops and Home

Within one week of this offering being awarded album of the month status by Observer Music Magazine, I’d not only bought a copy, I’d also forked out for gig tickets.

This bland slice of pap has been made for one reason alone, and that’s to give ‘Fifty-Pound Man’ something to acquire on his annual trip to a record shop. Claiming it’s okay to embrace the cheese is one thing, but writing lyrics like “b-b-b-b-b-baby, you’ve got me going c-c-c-crazy,” and “I want you now, I don’t care how, we’re far too young to be saying a vow,” is lazy, fatuous, pointless and demeaning to us both.

Katie Melua has described this album as the best thing she’s heard all year.

Jim Parker - Top 10 Albums 2006

10. Cat Power - The Greatest
This year's best Sunday morning album.

9.Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
A real improvement on the debut album, real drive and great tunes.

8. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
I suspect this would be further up the list, but lack of listening time has held it back. The opening track is just perfect on the early morning dark commute.

7. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
Just a refreshing country take.

6. Blood Meridian - Kick Up the Dust
Another great commuting album- though it tempts me to stay on the train and go home again.

5. Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah!
Inventive, light, melodic, with a hint of angst.

4. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Took me a while and didn't want to like it, but it's just a fantastic debut, lyrics don't always appeal to me but the incisiveness of them is impressive. Would easily be my number one if I was 10 yrs younger - did I just write that?

3. Micah P. Hinson - Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit
Beautiful, helped by being my best gig of the year too. So simple but effective - could make a lesser being cry surely.

2. Camera Obscura - Let's Get out of this Country
Try not to sing along all summer.

1. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
Everything I wanted from them, Brendan beefed up, extra rythm for Jack, and sublime drumming too.

The Emperor's New Clothes Award
Kasabian - Empire
Posturing nonsense.

The 'It's Not THAT Good' Award
Guillemots - Through the Window Pane
It's good, but....

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Joe Ayling - Top 10 Albums 2006

10. The Fratellis - Costello Music
Another top UK band for us to go and see.

9. Mark Knopfler - All the Roadrunning
Former Dire Straits front man goes country - one for the road.

8. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
He can still do it!

7. Dirty Pretty Things - Waterloo to Anywhere
BURMA takes you up and down. Now we know where the catchy Libertines licks came from.

6. Snow Patrol - Eyes Wide Open
Sturdy - everyone knew this would not disappoint.

5. The Kooks - Inside in/Inside Out
‘She Moves in Her Own Way’, although overplayed, makes this album great.

4. Razorlight - Razorlight
He said it was better than Dylan. It’s not, but it’s better than the Kooks.

3. Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah! - Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah!
Uplifting, you don’t want it to end.

2. The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth
Great guitar riffs from the start, starting with ‘You Only Live Once’.

1. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
“Last night what she said to me, it made so much sense. But now the haze has ascended, it don’t make no sense anymore” - full of spellbinding observational lyrics.

Top 10 Songs of the Year

10. Scott Matthews - Passing Stranger

9. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy

8. Take That - Patience

7. Pussy Cat Dolls - Don’t Cha

6. Bono and Mary G Blige - One

5. The Kooks - Naïve

4. Razorlight - America

3. Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars

2. Paulo Nutini - Rewind

1. The Killers - Bones