Here a few 2006 Top Ten Lists from a few of the Decapolis Reviewers. Enjoy.
10. Krystal Meyers - Dying For A Heart
This is my major guilty pleasure of the year. Yes, I know Krystal Meyers is a Christian pop singer who was signed for the sole reason of being a Christian alternative to Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, and so forth, but the results are just too catchy for me to ignore. I listened through the album several times (getting a free copy through my job) but nothing really stuck out. Then on the day the album released I just put the thing on repeat for background music. It was then midway through the day that I realized how incredibly catchy the album is. I became a believer when I realized that if this was the new Kelly Clarkson album (who I absolutely adore) I would be extremely excited. Like, album of the year excited. So here we are. I've continued to play the daylight out of this CD and can't grow tired of it. (Essential Records)
09. The Residents - Tweedles
Tweedles is the result of a band who has worn several different facades in the past couple of years. There is the smooth sound that we grew to love from Animal Lover, there is some narration and female choirs as found on the River of Crime audio dramas, as well as some new elements in the way an orchestra is used (to great effect.) The first track sets up the album perfectly with it's complex orchestral composition, some refreshingly normal singing from the lead Resident, and a world music feel to the background singer. It eases us into the dark, twisted world of Tweedles. It's not an album for the faint at heart. (Mute/Cryptic)
08. Miss Violetta Beauregarde - Oki Profanum Volgus Et Arceo
I discovered Miss Violetta Beauregarde when I turned on XPN on my way home from work. They played an awesome track from the album. It was short but sweet and displayed a cut-and-paste mentality that, combined with Beauregarde's punk shout and avant garde compositions, was a must-have. The only downside? 16 tracks ringing in at only 20 minutes. We need longer songs, girl! (Temporary Residence Limited)
07. Matthew Friedberger - Holy Ghost Language School
Yes, The Fiery Furnaces released a CD this year. Yes, Matthew Friedberger, their main songwriter/instrumentalist, released a double disc of his own. Yes, he is threatening his career by massively overexposing himself. Everyone says that of his two discs one is great and the other terrible. They are right. However, most of them have it backwards. Holy Ghost Language School, disc two of his set, is not the throwaway. It is instead the rightful heir to Rehearsing My Choir's throne (and considering that is my favorite Fiery Furnaces album that is saying something.) It is another CD driven by a vague story line, and the music reflects the random shifts in mood and tone. While the album feels a bit empty without the grandmother lending her powerful spoken word, the album shows the Friedburger hasn't lost his touch. (859 Recordings)
06. Danielson - Ships
Daniel Smith might be the most creative person to ever release a CD on a Christian label (the only possible exception being Terry Scott Taylor.) His quirky, avant garde vision is usually incomprehensible by most people, even those in the indie scene. His songs are anthems, dressed in a high pitched falsetto and banjos, xylophones, keys and a host of backup singers. The effect is rather insane, which is an interesting contrast to the way Daniel Smith appears when not wearing the Danielson (Famile, Brother) hat. While ultra indie Christian kids and super cool indie magazines have long hailed Smith's genius, only recently has he surfaced into the consciousness of the indie scene on a larger scale. I don't think it is possible for anyone to be so quirky and catchy all at the same time. (Secretly Canadian)
05. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
Rather Ripped a return to the pop that people fell in love with on Goo and Dirty, while adding a more prevalent rock n roll edge that was tempered on those albums. Yet it also manages to feel like a natural progression from their prior two albums. While pop culture tends to view Sonic Youth harshly, mostly undeserved, this album has mostly rallied the critics and casual fans. In fact, the harshest critics are generally fans like me who see this album for what it really is: 3-4 minute shiny pop rock songs with rather empty lyrical content. This is not the Sonic Youth we know and love. Yet I still really enjoy the album despite it's flaws, due in no small part to having seen them live a month after the album's release. (Geffin)
04. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
Hype is a cruel mistress. I learned that several years ago after getting burned on multiple hype machines (Sigur Ros, GY!BE, Bright Eyes, and more) that it really doesn't pay to pay attention to hype. So instead I've been a hype creator. That Sufjan Stevens thing? That was all me, baby. While he's an extreme example, I've gotten into judging music based on what I think of it... not what I should think of it. So that said, when people started jumping on the Gnarls Barkley bandwagon I didn't really pay attention. I didn't even hear the song Crazy until I bought the album. Whatever the case, I picked it up and, yes, Crazy blew me away. But what was even more impressive to me was that the whole bloody album was chock full of songs I liked just as good as, if not better, than Crazy. It was an album I could put on and listen to from beginning to end and just groooove. Granted, Crazy is the song that is easiest to rip from the context of the album and it still make sense ( e.g.: a mix tape) but it is not the song that I look forward to reaching when I hit the play button. Great album. (Downtown)
03. Make Believe - Of Course
I was lukewarm on Make Believe's first full length when I reviewed it for Decapolis last year. And while I think my complaint about it was valid, seeing the band live brought things into perspective for me as they put on a superb set. I was impressed with how well they could pull off the insanely technical guitar work and vocal gymnastics live. While I grew a greater appreciation for their first full length, it still won't enter any of my top-whatever lists. Of Course changed that completely. The album is massive. It is chock full of frantic guitar work, stop and go percussion, and stream of consciousness vocals. Not to mention the songs have gotten really catchy. Make Believe made me a huge believer this year. (Flameshovel)
02. mewithoutYou - Brother, Sister
I got a pre-release of this album over a month before the release date, something I lorded over all of my mewithoutYou loving friends. I talked about mewithoutYou without cease, even to my friends who had dismissed the band. I called it the band's greatest statement to date. I called it album of the year. I called it a masterpiece in a Christian market devoid of such works of art. Brilliant, raw, textured. It was everything I expected out of the band and more. It shows what happens when a band writes the kind of songs they want to write without feeling the pressure to write the album their fans want. The album opens up with the sound of rain and Aaron Weiss mumbling for a minute or two before the chorus hits and a backing chorus (a brilliant re-occurring theme) sends things to spine tingling heights. Wolf Am I! (And Shadow) starts off like a standard mewithoutYou tune, but starts upping the ante. At one point Aaron's voice goes hoarse at the end of one of his shouts, so intensely he was singing. Then comes a bridge where the guitars throw in some great, noodling lines that are totally unexpected. Epic. (Tooth and Nail Records)
01. Gomez - How We Operate
When I reviewed this album for Decapolis, I was fairly sure it was going to be my album of the year. When I acquired the new mewithoutYou I re-thought that for a month and a half. But as both albums grew older, it became obvious that while both are stellar, How We Operate is the one that caused a total 180 degree turn in my thinking. It was my album of the year. And five, ten, or twenty years from now when Brother, Sister is counted among the best of the decade and people barely remember Gomez I will still say I made the right decision here. Gomez is my reminder that as much as I want to pigeon hole a band, or make assumptions based on the label they release music on, it all boils down to the music, which should not be labeled until it is heard. I wanted to hate it. I knew I was going to hate it. I started composing the negative review in my head even while I dreaded writing it. I listened to it. Then I listened to it again. I said, "Those are some fine songs!" I listened to it voluntarily, without thinking about writing the review. I listened to it to drive, while just fiddling around on the internet, before bed. I said, "This album is stunning." Not only is it album of the year, but it is also the most underrated album of the year. No one is talking about it, no one cares. But I am. And I do. (ATO Records)
10. Islands - Return to Sea
While a bit cutesy, this group of ex-Unicorns made one of the most fun albums I heard this year. Great music for a blue-skied spring day.
9. Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
It is quite remarkable that a collection of outtakes can appear on my Top 10. About half the songs on here could rival almost anything on his opus from last year, Illinois.
8. Destroyer - Rubies
The wordplay and lush musicianship found on Rubies make for hours of listening potential.
7. Joanna Newsome - Ys
The five lengthy harp-based compositions on this album reveal more with each listen. One needs patience to fully appreciate the specialness of this work of art.
6. Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up, I am Dreaming
I prefer this set of obtuse pop songs to songwriter Spencer Krug's more well-known project Wolf Parade's critically acclaimed Apologies to the Queen Mary. This guy knows how to write great songs.
5. Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
While not earthshaking in terms of originality, I found this set of indie rock tunes to be endlessly replayable and possessing of an uncanny way to stay in my head.
4. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
While certainly not anywhere close to his best album, a good Dylan record is still better than just about anything else. The cranky old bastard still has the goods on this timeless set of tracks.
3. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - The Letting Go
Bonnie 'prince' Billy came up with a collection of haunting folk songs on The Letting Go that nearly rival his masterpiece I See a Darkness in depth and emotional pull.
2. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
This woman has a voice that needs to be heard to be believed. It is the mark of a great album that every time the last song on this near flawless collection of folk/country songs ends, I wish the album would last just a little bit longer.
1. mewithoutYou - Brother, Sister
My favorite band continued to grow by leaps and bounds as artists on this outstanding album. Aaron Weiss's words once again made me think and feel things that no other lyricist can, and a guest appearance by legend Jeremy Enigk on "O Porcupine" continues to give me chills with each listen.
It seems like just yesterday I was preparing this list for the year 2005. Alas, 2006 has come to a close. The year of my second child's birth was also a great year for music. I was all over the board with my genre choices this year and it caused me to experience some really great tunes. Here are my top ten for 2006.
10. Dave Barnes - Chasing Mississippi
A friend introduced me to Dave at the Exit In in Nashville a while back. In addition to being a stunning guitar player, this is one of the nicest and funniest men alive. He is truly a talent and the songs translate well in the live setting. If you missed the Dave Barnes train, it's time to play catch up. Don't miss this guy. A perfect summer road trip disc.
9. Over the Rhine - Snow Angels
Though technically a Christmas album, this one is so good it deserves play all year round. They continue to amaze me with disc after disc of stellar work. Karin's voice is so emotive on this album. I can actually feel their Christmas memories.
8. Rascal Flatts - Me and My Gang
You can say what you want about this group but they have sold more albums than anyone else this year so it's worth at least looking into. The reason they sell a lot of product, besides being marketed heavily, is the quality of the songs that they pick. The songs on this album make you feel. They speak to some of the deepest places of human emotion, both sadness and elation. This isn't some grand piece of art to be examined and held up as such, it's just a solid album of good human songs. People identify with this music. Gary is one of the best at being able to translate a song vocally, even one that he hasn't written, into the life of the listener.
7. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
I only recently got into Neko. She has a beautiful voice and this album is chock full of it.
6. Rosie Thomas - These Friends of Mine
A lot of people probably haven't heard this album yet, as it came out just before the end of the year. For those of you uninitiated, it's Rosie, Sufjan Stevens, and Denison Witmer doing an entire album together. How could this not be good? The killer track is their cover of REM's "The One I Love."
5. Mat Kearney - Nothing Left to Lose
I am not a fan of hip hop. This album has tinges of hip hop mixed with acoustic stylings and that smooth, nearly Chris Martin, voice of Mat Kearney. The disc is laid back and smooth like a frappocino. He has gotten quite a bit of attention and play via television. This quality pop that should be taken seriously.
4. Hillsong United - United We Stand
I have this on my list for a couple of reasons. One being that I listened to it all the time after I got it. Two being that I like the fact that this church youth ministry is writing their own music. After viewing the DVD that accompanies the disc it is apparent that the focus of these folks is in following God and writing songs that come from their journey with Him. They aren't writing these to sell and from that comes some really great stuff.
3. Anathallo - Floating World
Anathallo is a live band. With that said, this album is almost as crazy as their live show. They have managed to capture something on record that most bands couldn't pull off without sounding contrived or sloppy. For this I give them my respect and money.
2. Jeremy Enigk - World Waits
I feel hopeful when I listen to this album. It makes me want to dream big dreams. It's romantic and full of the kind of art that Jeremy is famous for. As long as this guy is still making music, we can always hold out hope for something fresh and new.
1. Mewithoutyou - Brother, Sister
I feel confident that this album will probably make most Decapolis top ten lists. The thing that sets this album apart is that it stands head and shoulders above most of what anyone else has done musically in the last couple of years. This might be the best thing I've heard in the last five years. Musically they do things that other people hint at but don't fully realize. Lyrically they just hammer the nail on the head. It's uplifting when so many others just end up being cheesy.
I have to give some honorable mentions to: Fair, Jonezetta, Gnarls Barkley, and Starflyer 59.