I hope you haven’t been holding your breath for this! It has been another year of good music, and another year where I’m really not ready to produce a “Top of the Year” list in December and it takes until January. I made a late-year push to catch up on a great deal of music that I missed earlier on, but fell short in getting familiar with most of those releases. So I have assembled a Top 5 that I’m pretty sure of, 10 other top records that I really don’t know how to rank, and a local list. Enjoy!
1. Ghostface Killah, “More Fish”
A wide variety of critics have placed Ghostface’s first album of 2006, Fishscale, in their year-end lists. I don’t agree with that assessment, however, as I have a handful of “rap nerd” quibbles with that album, and there’s some songs I just don’t like. I did like the album, however, so when this sequel came out, I was ready to love it. And love it I do! After a short skit rings in 2007, Ghost starts ripping the old Eric B & Rakim “Juice (Know the Ledge)” beat to pieces, and doesn’t really let up. Though this definitely feels like a Theodore Unit album at times, the contributions from folks like Trife and Shawn Wigs don’t let their mentor down. The beats provided set a fine backdrop for the varied subject matter, especially in the case of “You Know I’m No Good,” Mark Ronson’s sultry funk bomb which also features vocals from Amy Winehouse. There are many ways to define quality, and what exactly an “album of the year” is. For me in 2006, More Fish came out at exactly the right time (right after that Nas album LET ME DOWN) and hit me where I live. Thanks, Ghost!
2. The Lindsay, “Dragged Out”
In a year where Columbus put out an ungodly pile of solid recordings, this one stood above the rest. Dragged Out is an instant Columbus classic that begs for hours of repeated listens. Here’s what I said upon its release.
3. Eagles of Death Metal, “Death By Sexy”
Sometimes you just have to throw up your devil horns and rock out. Josh Homme, Jesse Hughes, and their cast of characters put together a nonstop headbanger that helped get me through the year. Yes, it’s cheesy, but what’s wrong with that?
MP3: I Want You So Hard
4. The Blue Van, “Dear Independence”
I got around to their 2005 album The Art of Rolling much too late to consider for last year’s list, but this year’s album from the Danish rockers builds even more on their promise as harbingers of tuneful rock with real soul. There are plenty of snazzy uptempo rockers on this plate, but ballad-ish “Don’t Leave Me Blue,” which oozes heartachy soul all over the place, takes the cake as the best song here and one of my favorite songs of 2006.
5. SSM, “SSM”
These Detroit boys’ debut on Alive Records is a bit on the confusing side, as there’s some garage, some electronics, some songs about alien love, and other wackiness. Overall, however, they are mainly concerned with rocking out however they see fit. I would often listen to this one a few times in a row without even noticing. Strangely addictive.
My “Other 10″ and “Local 10″ after the jump.
The Other 10 (Albums 6-15, in alphabetical (indecisive) order)
The Blow, “Paper Television”
A testament to the value of downloading those free Itunes singles of the week. “True Affection” will surely sell you as well, and the rest of the album lives up to its promise, with the awkwardly soulful vocals of Khaela Maricich gliding yearnfully over the bouncy, glitchy, not-quite-hip-hop beats constructed by the other half of the duo, Jona Bechtolt.
The Clipse, “Hell Hath No Fury”
After 4 years of record label hassles, Malice and Pusha T come back with another album full of bouncy keyboard beats from The Neptunes and hard rhymes about pushing weight and spending money. They never let up, and all 12 tracks could be bonafide singles.
IsWhat?!, “The Life We Chose”
The second full-length album on Hyena Records from the Cincinnati multi-generational duo of MC/beatboxer/producer Napoleon Maddox and saxophone/flute man Jack Walker is an engaging blend of classic jazz, inspirational hip-hop, and the world around you. With contributions from various producers, MCs, and instrumentalists, they touch on many topics and styles and even manage to cover “Kashmir!”
Murs & 9th Wonder, “Murray’s Revenge”
Following up their first collabo, 2004′s “Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition,” the Cali MC and North Carolina producer got together again for another concise sonic treat. The beats still bang (say what you want about 9th, but an inventive and entertaining flip of “Nautilus” is pretty amazing to hear in 2006) and Murs still has lots to say about mixed-race women, California, and growing up in the hood. Good jams.
Necropolis, “The Hackled Ruff & Shoulder Mane”
The Columbus masters of beerful, noisy rock finally lived up to years of patience from its fans by delivering its debut album, and it is a sight to behold. Though various styles and sounds rear their ugly heads, the boys and girl of Necropolis maintain focus somehow and arrive at the end of the disc with an album of lo-fi indie rock wonderment.
Oh No, “Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms”
While being Madlib’s brother seems to have made it difficult for this producer/MC to emerge in his own right, this ambitious project has hopefully done it. The album contains 22 tracks all composed from samples of the music of Galt MacDermot, most renowned for composing the music of the ’60s musical “HAIR.” He then assembled a bevy of talented MCs (Posdnuos, Murs, AG, Vast Aire, etc.) to romp over his creations and form a very fun hip-hop album.
People Under the Stairs, “Stepfather”
These California beatmongers have been together for over 10 years now, but their fifth full-length is still a fresh concoction of hand-crafted beats and heartfelt rhymes. Though they’re not exactly lyrical miracles, Thes-One and Double K spin some good yarns over their sample-delic masterpieces.
Project Pat, “Crook By Da Book: The Fed Story”
You can tell your old man that he ain’t goin’ back to jail. Long-time Three Six Mafia affiliate comes out of prison swinging with another album that personifies the Southern sound: grim reality and ridiculous observations all at the same time. It was a good year for amoral bangers.
Quantic, “An Announcement To Answer”
The British master of soulful instrumental electronica and modern live-band funk (as leader of the Quantic Soul Orchestra, who backed Spanky Wilson on another excellent 2006 album) released another solo album in 2006, full of energetic beats brimming with African, Central American, and otherworldly flavors. Great music for relaxing or cocktailing.
Skerik’s Syncopated Taint Septet, “Husky”
Skerik’s seven-piece collective of open-minded jazz types put out another smokin’ long-player this year. He again employs the wise tactic of opening with a fist-pumping groove (“The Third Rail”) that kickstarts the rollercoaster ride to come. Lotsa saxes, horns, organ, and drums are woven into lengthy soundpieces that rock alot harder than “jazz” is supposed to.
The Local 10 (My Favorite Columbus, OH Releases)
1. The Lindsay, “Dragged Out”
2. Necropolis, “The Hackled Ruff & Shoulder Mane”
3. Mors Ontologica, “Dead And/Or Famous” (my review)
4. The Proper Nouns, “Birds & Butterflies” (my review)
5. Zero Star, “Forever’s Never Reallly That Long” (my review)
6. Spitball, “Welcome To Spitsville”
7. LDB3 & Friends, “Blue Bop”
8. Soul Position, “Things Go Better With RJ & Al”
9. Pretty Weapons, “Pretty Weapons”
10. Church of the Red Museum, “Church of the Red Museum”