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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!

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Field Music Debut LP (Turns 1) August 9, 2006

Posted by reidmix in Album Reviews, Free MP3, Labels, Memphis Industries, Music, Reviews.
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Field MusicAccording to Field Music’s website, their eponymous debut LP was released on August 8th of last year, which means the album turns 1 today. Not that I bought the album year ago, I discovered it early 2006.

I put Field Music in my “Save for later” list was when it was first recommended by eMusic. I liked the band name and cover (so much for don’t judge a book by yadda yadda. I judged lesbians and lacrosse: so I was wrong). I bookmarked it when I noticed they came from Memphis Industries, the label that brought us that endearing, lo-fi cheersquad, the Go! Team. When eMusic offered 2 free samplers — It Came from Memphis 1 and 2 — I finally listened to the charm that is Field Music.

Allmusic gives us a more detailed biography, but interestingly Field Music is comprised of Andrew Moore and brothers David and Peter Brewis — the latter sibling a founding member of the Futureheads. I picked up the extended release from Tower and it’s sweet, sweet candy that I keep coming back to soothe my sweet tooth.

The album begins simply with rhythmic guitars and drums, they drive every song on the LP. Each song has its own signature by layering unique instruments such as maracas, bells, glockenspiels, saxophones, and harmonicas. The first song, “If Only the Moon Were Up,” continues simply but hooks you with the first chorus and its enigmatic lyrics, “Taking apart the dark / The talk is all gone / Taking apart the dark the moon is on.”

But it’s “Tell Me, Keep Me” and its falsettos and harmonies that keep me hooked like heroine. The simplicity of these songs is misleading and I find that I’m grasping for the melody when I wake up in the morning and need to queue up a song like “Tell Me, Keep Me” to pin it down.

The middle of the album unfolds like a story — it feels like a concept album but no specific concept comes to mind. We move to “Shorter, Shorter” [mp3] which explains “Shorter shorter /
No time to spare / We will soon disappear / But you can never be sure”. The even the chord changes imply that there’s a story to be told, with Beatle-esque guitar lines and string instruments playing minor roles.

As we approach the the last songs we hit a pop gem “You Can Decide” [mp3]. “Time is getting faster now / Time you should speak / Make up your mind,” is the urgent answer to the question put forth by the earlier songs — like a bookend to “Shorter, Shorter” the song pushes “Faster, Faster”. Musically, the song is urgent with clapping, a sharp melody, and a repeating (piano?) note that drives through most of the song.

The last three songs are definitely a set, even if I do clump songs in threes. “Got to Get the Nerve” is the desperation after the decisions made; the more upbeat “Got to Write a Letter” is the relief when action is taken; and “You’re So Pretty…” [mp3] is the message. Engaging in the progression of song, I feel like I also am confessing my infatuation.

The extended album includes “You’re Not Supposed To” a could-be tribute to Bartleby the Scrivener, which is also packaged as an adorable music video on the CD-ROM portion of the album. “I’m Tired” [mp3] closes out the album leaving me wanting more and forcing me to put the album on repeat.

Field Music reminds me of True Love Always at their best with their album When Will You Be Mine. Whereas, Field Music’s execution less whimsical and meandering but (thankfully) just as precious with a stonger focus.

I hope for good things to come with future releases and have their new release of B-sides, Write Your Own History, to tide me over until then.

Here are the albums:

And the mp3s (again) available from Memphis Industries: