Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2006 Music in Review - Part 1

This is the time of year when you about all you see in the media is the famed ‘Best Of’ list. Indeed, the blogosphere contains hundreds, if not thousands of Best Of 2006 lists. I am always amused at the blogs that list dozens of best songs by obscure bands, as if saying “Look how cutting edge I am. These are the best tunes I’ve heard this year, and you’ve probably never even heard of these bands.” At least that’s the feeling I often get reading some of this stuff. Who’s to say what is the best, anyway? Music, like beauty, is a very personal matter. The bloggers told me that Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah, Tapes & Tapes, The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens and The Arcade Fire were the cream of the crop, but I wasn't overly impressed. In the case of Clap Your Hands, it was almost unlistenable. Massive hype is running rampant in cyberspace, and often misdirected.

I’ll admit that at 43 I’m pretty set in my ways musically, and tend to stick to artists I've listened to for years. This year I’ve made an extra effort to seek out some new music. I know there’s worlds of music out there that I’ve missed, so instead of giving you a Best of List, I present my Preferred Songs of 2006. The following, in no particular order, are songs that really made an impression on me. Some of these songs were not even released this year, and in one case, were recorded 36 years ago. There's no hype in what follows here, just my honest opinion of what I liked this year.

Z Off The Record – My Morning Jacket, Z. Ok, right off the bat I'm talking about an album released in late 2005, but I bought it in early 2006, so it's this year for me. This song is probably their most accessible and not the best one on the disc, but I couldn’t get enough of it. Simple and catchy, with a moody, Floyd-like finish. A band to see live, I’m told. I will try to see these guys in 2007.

guster Ruby Falls – Guster, Ganging Up On The Sun. Guster is one of those bands that been around for a while, writes great pop songs, and supposedly is a great live act, but ask 100 people if they’ve heard of them, and you’ll get a lot of ‘nos.’ A 7-minute pop masterpiece, also with a Floyd-like ending (there is no theme here, I promise).

wolfm Woman – Wolfmother. Fuzz-tone, power chords, wailing vocals and big hair. Wolfmother is so immersed in 70’s rock that at first you think the whole thing is a parody. The fact that they’re serious makes this even better. And best of all, a new band that my 11-year old son and I can both appreciate. Rock On!

neil Down By The River - Neil Young, Live At The Fillmore East (March 6-7, 1970). Speaking of distorted, feedback drenched music, there’s ‘Ol Neil. This disc is a fantastic piece of rock music history, and let’s hope it’s the first of many releases from Neil’s archive. It’s only 43 minutes long, but it is glorious. From a guy with a ridiculous number of live albums out there, we need more.

greenland The Riverside– Cracker, Greenland. A comeback record of sorts, Greenland is an exotic mix of musical styles that I haven’t fully absorbed yet, but this hard rocking track stands out for the moment. I’ve always admired Cracker and David Lowery; they have steadfastly defended their artistic integrity, although it has clearly cost them some commercial success.

More tunes in the next post.



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