my top albums of '06

Here are my top ten albums of the past year. These are albums that I found myself listening to over and over again and coming back to repeatedly. I struggled mightily to pick a number ten and failed miserably so three albums ended up in a tie.

10c. TV on the Radio | Return to Cookie Mountain
These guys use a mix of blues, jazz, rock and pop to produce an album that makes you feel happy to sing along with all the while tapping your toe with complete abandon. This is their second full-length album which outstrips their debut by a long shot.

10b. Damien Rice | 9
I'm a little in love with this guy, so I may be a little biased when it comes to his latest effort. I'll admit that it's not as good as 'O', but it's still pretty solid and there are some pretty amazing tracks. I get the impression that he's stretching himself a little, and in some instances it doesn't really work all that well, but in others it soars.

10a. Anathallo | Floating World
Surprisingly, there's a lot of good music coming out of Michigan these days, and these guys are a small part of that crowd. Many people write them off because their roots are in faith-based music, but here, their fourth issue, they break away from their beginnings and explore a Japanese fable in lyrical terms.

9. Band of Horses | Everything All the Time
Southern indie rock from the Northwest? Yes. And it's good. These guys are critic darlings and for once the critics were right. I'm eager to hear their sophmore album to know if they can sustain what they've started.

8. The Kingdom | K1
This debut album is about a fictional race in which 'the Kingdom racer' pilots a variety of vehicles through a diverse landscape. Now, on the surface, this sounds kind of cheesy, but in reality, the story is just a recurring undertone and not very apparent. What is apparent are some catchy melodies and a sound not unlike Echo and the Bunnymen.

7. Calexico | Garden Ruin
This is Calexico's most listener friendly album to date. Up to this point they could probably be best described as 'experimental,' mixing such things as flamenco, jazz and mariachi music together to create a distinct, vibrant sound. 'Garden Ruin' sees them turning more to straightforward rock, something they pull off just as easily.

6. M. Ward | Post War
A lot of people didn't like this album as much as his earlier efforts, but I think it's pretty stunning. I may be a little biased because this was the album I saw him perform live in Chicago, but there is still some really amazing stuff here.

5. Silversun Pickups | Carnavas
These guys are also from the Northwest and have a sound that is not unlike the Smashing Pumpkins. I love the Smashing Pumpkins and was extremely sad when Billy Corgan finally let the crazy out and broke up the band. Now, there's something to fill the void. I'm afraid it may be short-lived however, as the lead singer looks like he may have a serious addiction to heroin and probably won't make it too much longer.

4. The Decemberists | The Crane Wife
I still say that 'Castaways and Cutouts,' (their debut) is their best album yet, but this album is a pretty close second. Another album based on a Japanese fable, it tells a story of a man who finds a wounded crane on his doorstep and nurses it back to health. The next day, a woman appears at his door and they soon get married. She quickly makes him rich by weaving this extraordinary fabric. When he discovers that she was the crane he saved and is using her own feathers on her loom, she flies away and he never sees her again.

3. Tapes 'N' Tapes | The Loon
This line from a Pitchfork review sums this band up better than I could, 'Inconsistency, Tapes 'n Tapes understand, adds character and colorizes personality; it also keeps listeners off-balance and wanting more.' I bought this album on a whim because a friend recommended it, and I'm very glad that I did. They're almost as good as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

2. Josh Ritter | The Animal Years
People are really sick of hearing me rave about this guy. As is evidenced by the glazing over of their eyes and the yawns not so subtly hidden behind their hands. But I can't help myself. This is his third album and his best one yet. I never really thought I would be a huge fan of a folk musician, but his songs are so honest and compelling that it's hard not to be.

1. Califone | Roots and Crowns
I discovered this album accidentally (it was on a 'best of' list somewhere a couple of months ago) and I'm immensely happy that I did. It's one of those albums that is solid from beginning to end and one of those that makes me feel happy I'm alive when I listen to it. Scratchy, dirty, synthesized Americana music from a Chicago-based band that has been devloping their sound for the past ten years or so. With this, the apex. Again, from Pitchfork, 'It is old and new, dirty and clean, alienating and accessible, sweet and ugly, organic and industrial, doting and vicious. It is one of the most quintessentially American records imaginable.'

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