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Top 10 Albums of 2006 January 22, 2007

Posted by reidmix in Album Reviews, Asthmatic Kitty, Best of 2006, Free MP3, Labels, Lists, Marriage Records, Matador Records, Music, Reviews, Silver Mountain, States Rights, Tomlab, Warp.
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Enough with the lead in posts, January is coming to a close and I need to commit to my top 10, already! 🙂

This task is always difficult, to quantitize and qualify all those albums that were released over the prior year. And you know you missed some good ones (Annuals!), cuz no matter how much you listen to new releases, you can’t listen to ’em all and you’re always playing catch up.

The great thing about personalized lists is that they suit the individual — they aren’t based on statistics (Amazon we love you) or music snobs (Pitchfork we love you too!) — but are as acute and offbeat as the listener is adventurous to try new sounds and play them over and over and over.

These 10 albums gave me great joy throughout the year, and anytime during they year they could have been rearranged in any order. But alas, I’ve decided on a final order, and here they are:

Parenthetical Girls - Safe As Houses10. Safe As Houses by Parenthetical Girls

I had trouble placing this 10th place position and even though I discovered Parenthetical Girl’s panic-pop in the last week of the year, I love both this album and their first (((GRRRLS))). The standout songs on this album are the angry I Was the Dancer and The Weight She Fell Under. I love Zac Pennington’s (vocal) androgyny, the damaged women who are the subject of the songs, the glockenspiel, and clearly the funniest Pitchfork review I’ve ever read. Pennington’s own label, Slender Means Society, offers us these gems:

Sol Seppy - The Bells of 1 209. The Bells of 1 2 by Sol Seppy

Sparklehorse collaborator Sophie Michalitsianos as Sol Seppy offers us this dark and sincere The Bells of 1 2. The album came to me through eMusic’s Obscure Gems, a list I’m still mining. Human‘s “I am Human and I come from love” lyric has an honesty about it but Move is my favorite with its haunting notes rising from the depths before going into jangly guitar before going back down into the dark again. Every song is a jewel with electric beats, indie guitars, and roots that may have come from Mazzy Star — but don’t be fooled — Sol Seppy has certainly grown into something much more. Grönland doesn’t offer much outside of videos:

His Name Is Alive - Detrola08. Detrola by His Name Is Alive

HNIA holds a special place in my heart and with mastermind, Warren Defever’s, first release on his own label Silver Mountain Media, Detrola finds its way right along other amazing albums like Ft. Lake and Livonia. This album was actually released in several series which included the Raindrops Rainbow and Summer Bird EPs both which we got the first look of my favorite song off the album Here Forever Always. The song revives the amazing electronic manipulation of guitars and voices (both?) to create a remarkable pop song. Among other releases, the UFO Catcher LP offered us a more academic view into the construction of the songs off the album with their jazzy roots and muted beats.

Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche07. The Avalanche by Sufjan Stevens

I don’t care that these are outtakes and off-casts from its mother album Illinois. The secondary nature of these songs still do not belittle the fact that they are still more consistent and polished than most Top 40 albums. Three versions of Chicago? I like the Multiple Personality Disorder version. I named my Abyssinian kitty after Adlai Stevenson — the song not the person. And you know which song I listened to most. The complexity of this album does not reveal itself until several listens, the instrumentals are essentials and each song a story within a story which only enhance the prior release. Although none of these songs from Sufjan’s own Asthmatic Kitty are on the album they are still such a joy. C’mon, drink the kool-aid:

Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit06. The Life Pursuit by Belle & Sebastian

The best thing to come along since their debut Tigermilk and follow up If You’re Feeling Sinister. Those other albums were just growing pains, really. This album was such a joy to listen to with the pop stylings of We are the Sleepyheads, the sweet synths on and Sukie in the Graveyard, and the happy funk of Song for Sunshine — all the songs are good. Sure, it may not have the pathos found on their first album but it gives enough twee for us fanboys to go on until their next album. Matador doesn’t like the deeplink (clever engineers!), but you can get the first song off the band’s page.

The final 5 bands were all new to me as of 2006, there was so much good music I’m glad I could add new favorites to my old stalwarts!Lucky Dragons - Widows05.Widows by Lucky Dragons

Buy this album! I’m currently obsessed with it. It’s another December discovery and I can’t put it down. Its like heroine to me. Each song have a personality living within them. My favorites include the epic The Sound of Waves and anthemic tones of Snowing Circle (also, a possible joke on the name of his compilation album A Sewing Circle). And it’s just that kind of humor that these beautiful “sound poems” don’t take themselves too seriously. Sheep and Sneezes is just that. V Pattern honks the familiar geese pattern onto your imagination. Parenthetical Girl Zac Pennington said it best on his links page:

Luke [Fischbeck] makes music that sounds like computers have feelings.

They sure do, enjoy these from Luke’s site, Marriage Records, and the very cool States Rights Records:

Grizzly Bear - Yellow House04. Yellow House by Grizzly Bear

I love this album, my introduction to the Grizzly Bear boys. Amazing in concert, the Beach Boys induced Easier still gives me chills. These songs are epic and size and say so much with so few words, such as Colorado, where the title of the song is repeated over the course of the full tune. The album feels both fresh and moody and begs for greater things to come. Okay, my dirty little secret, I adore the remix album of their debut, Horns of Plenty, more than this album. Simon Bookish, Dntel, Phiiliip and Final Fantasy rock my dub-world. Whichever album you buy, you cannot go wrong.

The Flaming Lips - At War with the Mystics 03. At War with The Mystics by The Flaming Lips

I think this album really resonated with me this year. You know the first song, The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song played with every Little Miss Sunshine preview — it’s a tongue in cheek ditty about limits of (political) power and the lack of altruism. Another of my favorites, Vein of Stars, proposes “Maybe there ain’t no heaven / There’s just you and me” and “If there ain’t no heaven / Maybe there ain’t no hell.” And you can really get going with the groove of Haven’t Got a Clue which goes something like: “And every time you state your case / The more I want to punch your face.” Yeah, I voted.

Ms. John Soda - The Notes and the Like02. The Notes and the Like by Ms. John Soda

I la-la-love Ms. John Soda. I love this album (I mean, if you can get past the first song, A Nod on Hold, which I couldn’t for like 3 weeks, it’s that good). I’m sure I was searching for something Lali Puna when somehow, unimaginably I came across this album at Tower Records near the release date.

The next song is great too and the next one, Scan the Ways, is the ultimate in German avant-garde lyrics. And this is before you even get to the indie-rockin’ No. One; knob-twiddler, puh-lease! I played this album the whole summer even when my mom came to visit and when I saw her this Christmas, she specifically asked me if I brought this album. Mother approved! Listen to tunes off their website, Morr is stingy with MP3s.

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Etiquette01. Etiquette by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

This album is one of those perfect, raw albums. I may be alone in this (heh), but each song on this album reflects the 7th track, Scattered Pearls: each song a jewel, lost, rolling about on a dance floor, and sad because of their loss and sentimental value. Every song is a story, every story is a character analysis. Even the album cover is fascinating.

New Years Kiss follows the Jan 1 journey to recover what happened the night before and ends in pancake mix. Young Sheilds reminds us of those penniless and shallow college days. Nashville Parthenon is looking to recapture love that has moved on and out of Tennessee. And Love Connection ends us where we started: with a cover of the Parenthetical Girls and lyrics “find me quoting Pennington.” MP3 reposted, enjoy!


Preorder Neon Bible from Merge! January 21, 2007

Posted by reidmix in Labels, Merge Records, Music, Upcoming Releases.

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

I just pre-ordered Neon Bible from Merge Records. The record comes in a plain-jane version, LP version with MP3 companion download, and a deluxe version with a lenticular lens cover and booklet.

There’ve been many leaks of songs from the new album. None that I have to share here, today. But you can get a listen of the first single, Black Mirror, at http://www.neonbible.com.

I enjoy buying directly from the record label and even though you can buy these at the equivalent prices from Amazon ($10, $17, and $15), Merge throws in a few bonus items:

All preorders will receive free with purchase a Neon Bible poster and other assorted goodies! More on this as it comes in…

The last time I bought directly from Merge, they wrote me a personalized note, gave me posters and stickers, and all their love.

Top 10 Bands in 2006 (According to Last.fm) January 14, 2007

Posted by reidmix in Asthmatic Kitty, Band Reviews, Best of 2006, FatCat, Free MP3, Kanine, Kill Rock Stars, Labels, Lists, Music, PawTracks, Reviews, Silver Mountain, Tomlab, Warp.
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I started using Last.fm just over a year ago, and the top 10 bands are representative of what I’ve been listening to for the past year. Granted, it doesn’t log the songs I listen to in the car or on my iPod, but Last.fm is still spot on!

In fact, I’ve been debating whether to reset my account so that it will regenerate a new list over the next year. I don’t have this reset ability in iTunes (well, not without losing things like all my ratings), and my top 10 tracks have been the same since 2003.

I love top 10 lists, they are such a good cross-section of someone’s listening tastes and when you find a common band that you and the reviewer love, then it’s like a free pass to try out up to nine other bands if you’ve never heard of them. I found (free, legal) tracks for each band and I hope that you enjoy what you hear!

01. Animal Collective on FatCat Records and their own Paw Tracks
Last.fm has it right, I was completely overtaken by Animal Collective this year. Both completely (re) inventing their own genre of music and becoming masters of it, their realization of “Freak Folk” is more like electronic tribalism. This band is not for everyone (esp. critics), and each album has their share of stinkers, but I adore this band.

02. The Books on Tomlab and their official site
Highly intellectual (look at those track and album names below), The Books are mesmerizing genius. It was such a joy to see them live and discover that their songs could be stripped down to the core sound of cello and guitar (or banjo). Again, this band may not be for everyone, their songs demand your full attention, but they will get under your skin.

03. The Flaming Lips on their official site
First with the anime-riffic album Yoshi Battles the Pink Robots and then the Bush bashing At War with the Mystics, this major label band often gets indie band status. (You try to find free legal mp3s, thanks Warner!)

04. His Name Is Alive on their official site
HNIA was my favorite band in the ’90s before they went into a soul searching tangent into blues. The last album Detrola brought back everything they learned and amped up their sound to the happy discovery of a new generation of listeners. I’m glad they are still in my top 10.

05. Of Montreal on Polyvinyl Record Co. and their official site
Of Montreal use their distinctive sound (like no other) on a full discography of kaleidoscopic (theme? beatles-esqe?) albums. By the time I discovered them, there was quite a back catalog to examine. I highly recommend their KCRW appearance if you come across it.

06. Deerhoof on Kill Rock Stars
You can gain a great perspective on Deerhoof’s growth from all their free mp3s. Such a great band to see live, simple, sparse, and songs that are so anthemic that fans could name that song in just 3 notes.

07. Sufjan Stevens on his own Asthmatic Kitty
The boy genius from 2005 with the release of Illinois, came back this year with both a scrappy little sequel called The Avalanche and the official release of Songs for Christmas which had been floating around the internet prior. I look forward to another States album or something akin to Seven Swans.

08. Lali Puna on Morr Music and thier official site
Lali Puna and Ms. John Soda both may sound similar but are the best bands on Morr. And you can find members of Lali Puna come up in many incarnations such as John Yoko (highly recommend this single). I just adore Lali Puna and their albums get better and better. Morr Music might allow you to freely download high-res artwork and bios from their press-desk, but forget trying to find mp3s: go check out some songs on Epitonic or Bleep.

09. Grizzly Bear on Kanine Records and Warp Records
The harmonies these guys can do are comparible to the Beach Boys or The Beatles, and man they can belt it out in a live perfomance. I have to admit, their remix album of Horns of Plenty is my favorite, and a gateway album to amazing artists like Final Fantasy, Simon Bookish, Dntel and many others.

10. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone on Tomlab and their official site
It’s no surprise that CFTPA ended up on my list, I would guess that if I had discovered them earlier in the year they would have ranked higher. Check out the Young Shields EP with the Cyndi Lauper cover (ok, Prince wrote “When you were mine”, but he wrote everything back then).

Top 10 Tracks from 2006 Releases (According to iTunes) January 8, 2007

Posted by reidmix in Asthmatic Kitty, Best of 2006, Kanine, Labels, Lists, Memphis Industries, Music, Reviews, Silver Mountain, Song Reviews.
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Other interesting things my iTunes told me are the top tracks from 2006 releases. Normally, my music purchases are relatively limited but the 200+ CDs I bought from Ameoba, Manifest, Tower and off of online services like eMusic, Amazon, and Boomkat, I’ve become much more aware of releases throughout the year.

In fact, on Tuesdays, I’ve gotten into the habit of perusing through the release list on AllMusic. This was the first year that I not only recognized, but knew most of the bands nominated for Plug‘s Independent Music Awards! Usually, I voted for the band I knew, if there was a band I knew for the category.

Here are the top tracks I listened to of all the releases in 2006. This is different from the prior list, those tracks were from releases in any year.

01. The Sailor by Terrestrial Tones from Dead Drunk
#7 on overall list, this track is the clear standout on the album, wish the other songs were as well.

02. Easier by Grizzly Bear from Yellow House
Beach Boys goodness in an indie package, these guys were phenomenal in concert too.

03. Here Forever Always by His Name Is Alive from Detrola
So glad to see HNIA go back to their roots and draw from what made them so special.

04. Your the Kind of Girl by Mixel Pixel from Music for Plants
This song is so much fun! I also enjoyed the Momus cover of “What are you wearing” on the single.

05. Tell Me Keep Me by Field Music from S/T
Memphis Industries brought us “The Go Team” and “The Pipettes” but nothing as infectious as this song.

06. We are the Sleepyheads by Belle & Sebastian from The Life Pursuit
So glad B&S pulled themselves out of the disaster which is their last album — somebody had to say it…

07. Scattered Pearls by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone from Etiquette
This song is both so sad and so dance-able. CFTPA would have ruled my lists if I discovered them earlier in the year.

08. The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song by The Flaming Lips from At War with the Mystics
This song defines the political outrage on the rest of the album — now what if Mr. Bush actually listened to this album?

09. Dear Mr. Supercomputer by Sufjan Stevens from The Avalanche
Not bad for scraps from the prior album — hello! amazing! — this is the first song that got my attention.

10. Move by Sol Seppy from The Bells of 1 2
Sol Seppy snuck up on me like a dark force — thank you Obscure Gems eMusic dozen

Top 10 Tracks I listened to in 2006 (According to iTunes) January 8, 2007

Posted by reidmix in Best of 2006, FatCat, Ghostly International, K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Labels, Lists, Music, PawTracks, Song Reviews, SubPop, Tomlab.
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In anticipation of writing up my best albums of 2006, I thought I would publish some statistics found in my iTunes and on Last.fm. I’ll begin with iTunes:

I bought and listened to:
Winter: 34 LPs 11 EPs 0 Compilations
Spring: 33 LPs 10 EPs 2 Compilations
Summer: 40 LPs 18 EPs 4 Compilations
Autumn: 88 LPs 38 EPs 3 Compilations
Total: 196 LPs 77 EPs 9 Compilations

My autumn purchases spiked because of Tower going out of business (Boo!) Of these purchases, the top 10 tracks I listened to are as follows:

01. Kicking the Heart Out by Rogue Wave
I’m honestly surprised about this track, it was on such a weak album.

02. Venice by The Books
This tiny little track cracks me up everytime I listen to it.

03. Prospect Hummer by Animal Collective
Gorgeous track about kitties featuring Vashti Bunyan.

04. Dog Days by Matthew Dear
I blame Ernest, he makes me play it.

05. Of Pressure by Mirah
Like Mirah and Ginger’s “Oh September” but for 2006 – the words are genius.

06. The Loving Sounds of Static by Mobius Band
Loved it and wrote about it.

07. The Sailor by Terrestrial Tones
Animal Collective / Black Dice collaboration produced this gem.

08. I Want Wind to Blow by The Microphones
The power in this song knocks me over.

09. Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Arcade Fire’s cover of this song led me to this band

10. Sealed with a Kiss by Deerhoof
You can find an edgy version of this song on the new 81+ EP