10. belle and sebastian: the life pursuit - finally, the belle and sebastian i used to love is back! they tested my patience with their 30-minute set at the 40 watt in college, then lost me completely with "fold your hands," but it seems the isobel scourge has finally lifted and the band has finally remembered how to have fun. "another sunny day" is classic b&s, "white collar boy" is swinging and a little grimy, and if you ever laid in your dormroom bed and listened to "if you're feeling sinister" feeling wistful, "dress up in you" will take you right back to that place. not that i ever did that. and that doesn't even touch the remaining 2/3 of the album, packed with songs sure to keep b&s dancenights well stocked for years to come (not that i've ever been to one... ok, busted again.).
09. tapes n tapes: the loon - noisy and unpredictable, this is probably the most straight-ahead "indie rock" album on my list. my sister first played me "insistor" early in the year (her smart BF put it on a cd for her) and the "i'll be your badger" refrain stuck in my head for months, but the album didn't really take with me, as a whole, till after i saw them live and realized i was bouncing along and chiming in with virtually everything they played. the relentless "cowbell" and soft "omaha" are other standouts that aptly demonstrate the range of the tapes' sound.
08. the weepies: say i am you - this is absolutely the album on this list about which i am most embarassed, but i couldn't honestly leave it off. i first heard the weepies on npr's "weekend edition saturday." in the interview, deb talan - half of the weepies - describes how she and her bandmate/husband, steve tannen, got the name from old movies that guaranteed a good cry - weepies. she says, "we want to be able to provide that for people. we want to make music that touches them and moves them in that way; the place where tears come from, for joy and for sorrow." barf, right? i mean, can you get any more sappy? but there's something incredibly honest in that objective that carries me past the cringe factor, and while the songs don't make me cry, they're definitely affecting. the production is rich and warm, and songs like "take it from me" and "world spins madly on" make me crave a rainy day and a fireplace. the round-like refrain from "gotta have you" (no amount of coffee/no amount of crying/no amount of whiskey/no amount of wine, no no no no no, nothing else will do, i gotta have you) wound through my brain for weeks on end this fall. there are two real duds - "suicide blonde" and "love doesn't last too long" - and this record is DEFINITELY not for everyone. but i'm going to stop apologizing for liking it and move on to what some people will consider an even more embarassing pick...
07. justin timberlake: futuresex/lovesounds - i don't care that he was on the mickey mouse club. i don't care that he was in a boy band. i don't care who he's dating and i don't care about his clothing line. i DO care about this record. it's everything you want from the pinnacle of industry music - incredible collaborations (t.i., three 6 mafia), incredible production (timbaland, rick rubin), and hooks hooks hooks. when i first heard "sexyback," i thought justin had blown his load but i bought the cd just in case. then i heard "my love" and knew this release is for REAL for real.
06. toumani diabate's symmetric orchestra: boulevard de l'independance - often when i see international music (other than british isles artists) on critics' lists i think "oh SURE tengir-too's "mountain music of kyrgyzstan" made your list*... i'm SO sure you listen to that," but this is not my stab at elitism - it really is a great album that i came across simply because of the free cds i get at work. i didn't search it out because i'm some music archeologist, but i sure am glad it crossed my desk. diabate is music royalty in mali, and he's joined by an all-star band of 50 on this cd. they open with the exuberant "toumani" and then take it down a couple notches with the slower-paced title track and "mali sadio." "africa challenge" picks the pace back up, and the mounting storm of horns and percussion on "tapha nang" are sure to find their way onto a rap record in the not-too-distant future.
05. regina spektor: begin to hope - regina crept up on me this year. credit to my sister (and her BF) again - she first played "fidelity" for me early this year, singing along with this impossible-to-sing song, and shortly thereafter that song was cemented for me as the girl-anthem of 2006. i bought the album late in the summer, gave it a cursory listen, and forgot about it for a few months. i'm glad i did, because when i rediscovered it the timing was finally right.
04. jenny lewis and the watson twins: rabbit fur coat - i listened to this album almost exclusively last winter. lewis on her own is talented, but backed by the watson twins' harmonies she really shines. it seems everyone's searching out their alt-country roots these days, and lewis's sad stories and voice lend themselves well to this cross-pollenation. the titular "rabbit fur coat" seems an obvious nod to dolly parton's "coat of many colors" but transcends pure imitation, and the "handle with care" cover (originally performed by the all-star traveling wilburys [george harrison, roy orbison, tom petty, bob dylan, and jeff lynne], it's a classic in my family) is suprising and fun - not even an appearnce by conor oberst can keep it down. standout songs include "charging sky, the," "you are what you love," and "rise up with fists!!!"
03. gnarls barkley: st. elsewhere - what can i say that hasn't been said? maybe, for anyone who doesn't know, that there's a lot more than just "crazy" here. so wait for a sunny, warm day, get in your car, roll down the windows, and start driving. start with "go go gadget gospel" and sing with cee-lo "i'm freeeee! look at me!" scroll past "crazy" to track 5, "smiley faces." make sure you're at a stoplight or stop sign, because you will need to snap your fingers on both hands to swing with this one. get rolling again with #7, "feng shui," followed by #8 "just a thought," the contemplative part of your journey. then break out of your head, pull over, and open all the windows and doors of your vehicle: you're starting a block party with #9, "transformer." it's official!
02. eric bachmann: to the races - the love of my life hits another one out of the park. this record is a clear departure from his most recent crooked fingers album (my #1 of last year - "dignity and shame"), and at first i missed the horns and dark vitality of that release. but with further listening, i realized this may be his best yet. its sparse instrumentation pushes his voice and lyrics to the fore in a way the more produced crooked fingers records can't, and the occasional vocal harmonies, provided on the record by miranda brown, ease his talents into sharper focus. the soaring "man-o-war" makes my heart ache, and in spite of all his warnings (you ain't my woman, and woman, i am not your man), i just want to be his "carrboro woman."
01. mates of state: bring it back - i haven't seen this on a single "best of '06" list anywhere on the internet, a criminal oversight! it probably wouldn't be my number 1 if not for this gross negligence, but it really is a gorgeous, crazy-fun record. the refrains of "think long," "beautiful dreamer," and "for the actor" are tailor-made for screaming along to with a ridiculous smile on your face (which i did with my friend sara at the state theater, and many times in the car throughout the summer). it really is a great album, too, with highs and lows but no songs to skip (even if i do play "think long" three times in a row before moving on).
best random find: tarkio: omnibus - tarkio was colin meloy of the decemberists former band. i randomly picked up the 2-cd "omnibus" ages ago, didn't know anything about it, and didn't listen to it till just a couple weeks ago, when i realized i liked every song and was moved to actually take a look at the liner notes. no wonder i like it!
best album i have yet to purchase: the clipse: hell hath no fury - i know i'm going to like it. i just need to buy it!
*i actually own this, but only because i got it at work - i'm sure i won't listen to it till i need some music from krgyzstan. and i really did see it on someone's list on metacritic. whatEVER!