Thursday, December 14, 2006

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.


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