JEREMY HART (The Head Honcho):
Damn, this was harder than I'd guessed it would be. I started out this list confident that I could easily pick my top 10 favorites from the varied realms of music, lit, and film, but the more I looked, the more I found that absolutely, positively, had to go on here. Turns out that while I wasn't looking, 2006 happened to be an impressive year for music in general, despite the seemingly neverending stream of flash-in-the-pan "they're the next big thing!" acts. (Arctic Monkeys? Tapes 'n Tapes? Really? I swear, it's enough to make me swear off ever reading a blog again...)
The funny thing is that the year ended up being a musical homecoming of sorts for yours truly -- 2006 was the year I rediscovered my musical roots, so to speak, and started paying attention to metal again. I'd written it off for a long damn time, particularly with the whole nü-metal trend in its ascendancy, but finally took the plunge back in and found that there're some damn good metal bands out there these days.
At any rate, the result of all this is that picking and choosing which albums, books, etc., should go on this list was a painful, gut-wrenching process, and sadly, a lot of deserving albums, films, and what-have-you got cut (hence the fairly length "Honorable Mentions" bit). Here's what was left.
I never would've guessed an album I picked up on a whim from a band I'd barely heard of (I heard the amazing-amazing-amazing "Well Thought Out Twinkles," plus "Kissing Families" off the Pickups' previous disc) would've ended up my No. 1 for the whole freakin' year. But there it is -- Carnavas hit me like a speeding truck on the first listen. Silversun Pickups are like one of those "what would happen if...?" dream bands, really, the kind where you and your buddies try to think of the craziest, coolest combinations of your favorite bands and musicians, except that in this case somebody out there apparently thought the same thing I did. The band is like the next incarnation of the Smashing Pumpkins back when they were good, before the overdoses, ego, and infighting took all that promise and potential and blew it on Billy Corgan's baroque escapades. Better still, Carnavas takes that beautifully-done rock sound and mashes on pieces of MBV-style dreampop, Sonic Youth-esque noise, and Kyuss's bass-thick, desert-bred brand of stoner rock into something Corgan couldn't have ever dreamed up, never in a million years.
Honestly, this one was pretty much a foregone conclusion, at least for me -- the band's same-titled EP back in the spring of '06 was so sublimely awesome that even if Noelle, Vazquez, & co. hadn't released the full-length, I would've been overjoyed. Having twelve freakin' tracks of the most crystalline-pure, flawlessly-crafted, female-fronted pop-rock since Veruca Salt's Eight Arms to Hold You is almost overload. Seriously, it's like wolfing down a cake made of solid icing. This is the album I dreamed Joan Jett might make someday way back when I was a kid, combining Noelle's girl-next-door-who-rawks voice with gorgeous melodies, heroic guitars, and a heavy dose of, well, balls to form one of the best rock albums -- and yeah, I may be stepping onto dangerous ground, but what the hell -- ever.
Ah, the Wu-Tang. I've never been a huge fan of the Clan or their bazillion offshoots, mostly because they tend to be fairly inconsistent -- you'll get an album like Raekwon's hard-ass Strictly 4 Cuban Linx or the Gravediggaz' Six Feet Deep, and then you'll get one like Method Man's overblown-as-shit Tical 2000: Judgement Day. With Fishscale, though, Ghostface Killah's thrown down a true hip-hop classic. Sure, there're some uneven bits -- "Whip You with a Strap," for one -- but the sing-song-y, playful-yet-dangerous "Kilo" (which has to be the best use of an educational jingle ever in a rap track), the thundering, stereo-rattling "Be Easy," and the street-level play-by-play of a heist gone wrong on "Shakey Dog" make it worth a little skipping around.
At first, I blew Max Brooks off. I ran across his first book, the entertaining Zombie Survival Guide, a year or two ago and thought it was funny, quirky, and a little bit obsessive -- it was kind of like one of those gimmicky, ironic "how to" manuals that hit the shelves a while back, albeit in this case aimed at serious horror-flick afficionados. (Hell, I didn't get half the references, myself.) Then my little brother got me World War Z for Christmas, and while reading it dawned on me: this guy's really good at this. In his shot at novelizing the same subject matter of his first book, Brooks throws the horror-movie "history" out the window and rewrites it out of whole cloth. The best parts, really, aren't what's said or described in detail but what is mentioned in passing -- the Claremont students fighting with homemade against hordes of the undead, the grim fate of Iceland, the tragic South Asian nuclear exchange, all of it. You get a real sense of the world beyond the confines of the story. Throughout, Brooks paints an eerie, well-thought-out, incredibly persuasive picture of a world gone insane, rendering both the good and horrible sides of human nature in day-glo colors. This one stuck with me for weeks afterwards; bizarre as it sounds considering the subject matter, I didn't want it to end.
Yep, it's the year we finally brought sexy back, but that's no thanks to Justin Timberlake (Timberlake sexy? Sorry, not on your best day, pal). Personally, I'd like to bow down and offer up the credit to NYC-ers the Rapture, who with this album make me smack myself in the forehead for not paying much attention since 2001's Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks. Pieces is background music for robot sex, the kind we'll see someday when, um, robots are built to be really sexy (c'mon, you know it's going to happen eventually). Booty-rockin' and addictive, the album mines a funky, technological groove without losing an inch of soul in the process. Throw in the closing one-two punch of "The Sound" (which beats Trent Reznor at his own game) and "Live in Sunshine" (a gorgeously psychedelic Chemical Brothers/Gang of Four mashup), and the Rapture's come up with an album I can't stop wanting to hear.
Where the hell were these guys when I was fifteen? Back then I was a pimply Dungeon Master (and no, I doubt I'm losing any indie-cred points here; it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody who knows me) who maniacally combed the bins of the local record store looking for the ultimate soundtrack to the epic quests and battles my friends and I came up with. I found some stuff that was good, but it never really "clicked" -- all the fantasy-themed rock out there just didn't rock like Metallica or Anthrax could. Nearly twenty years later, I've finally found the perfect album for those long afternoons spent rolling dice and killing orcs. Blood Mountain marries that same geeky love of elves and faeries with a full-on metal assault, and tempers the whole thing with some seriously prog-rock guitars (parts of "Capillarian Crest" could've been lifted straight from Rush's Moving Pictures). Then there's the tribal-sounding drums, the frantic breakdowns, the occasional "Southern rock"-sounding vibe...put together into one big, thundering mess, and it makes me feel like a kid again.
This guy deserves a medal. Back when the heyday of Houston punk rawk was in full swing, there was no such thing as the Internet. Bands like Really Red and Bark Hard promoted themselves in ways that probably seem as far distant in time as The Flintstones to most teenagers ("flyers"; hey, what're those?), and once they were gone, there were no MySpace pages to document how cool they were. Enter Craig Flint. He's been working hard at compiling everything you could ever want to know about old-old-old school H-town punk in one place (with MP3s? of Legionaire's Disease and the Pain Teens? Whoa...), and it's one of the coolest things I've seen in years. Let's hope he keeps it up for a long time to come.
Nope, I can't deny the collective genius of Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green any more than the next reviewer, much as I've tried. I went through a weird progression with this album: I heard and loved "Crazy," as did every other music lover with a soul; I started hearing "Crazy" in supermarkets and electronics stores; I got sick of "Crazy"; I bought St. Elsewhere for completeness' sake more than anything; I put off listening to it, still irked that "Crazy" was suddenly everywhere; I finally listened to it and was knocked off my feet. Yes, I'm an idiot. Cee-Lo Green is the best soul singer going today (particularly with the passing of the Godfather; R.I.P.), and Danger Mouse does things to sound that sure seem like voodoo to me; the end result is magic. Whatever the hell they decide to do next, it's bound to at least be interesting.
This film has the distinction of being the only Christmas-themed movie I've ever seen that made me cry. Hey, I'm man enough to admit it; when Sprink's voice rings out over the battlefield, I wept. It was stunning, as is most of the rest of the film, although at least at that point the tears were tears of joy -- not all of the movie is quite that uplifting. I won't screw up any more of the story, don't worry, but I'd like to commend writer/director Christopher Carion for making a war movie that manages to humanize all the sides of the conflict without coming off as trite or patronizing. In the process, Joyeux Noël becomes a war movie that's truly an anti-war movie. Damn shame there aren't more of those.
Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat. As Daylight Dies is a darn good album, but I'll grudgingly admit that I haven't yet listened to it enough times for it to completely blow me away -- I think it'll happen, but it's going to take a while. I feel like I've got to make room for Killswitch Engage on the list, however, because '06 was the year I finally heard the band's last album (and pretty much their masterpiece), The End of Heartache -- consider this a somewhat premature Lifetime Achievement Award, if you want. So, why bend the rules to put the new album on here? Well, because over the course of the past two albums, Killswitch Engage has pretty much defined a wholly new genre of metal; call it "emo-metal," for lack of a catchier tag. The band marries heavy-as-hell metal guitars and crushing drums, the most positive/rely-on-yourself/keep-struggling lyrics this side of an Oprah episode, and Howard Jones's incredible screaming/singing vocals, and it works, against all odds. Sure, the idea of emo lyrics sung anthem-style over pummeling guitars and Lars Ulrich-style drums may not sound particularly enticing to some, but eh, fuck 'em -- it's my list, dammit. Welcome to the new face of metal.
Sorry, folks -- the list this year started out long, and some of the cuts were painful even to me. Some of these were close-close-close; here're the runners-up (in alphabetical, not priority, order):
I worry about the strangest things. For the third time
in the last eight years, I'm simply unable to pick a top album, and it ate at me for a while. But three times is a pattern, not an anomaly, so I've come to grips with the fact that there will be years when there's no overwhelming favorite that claws its way to the top. (It doesn't hurt that some of my colleagues at the Boston Globe
acknowledged a similar problem when listing their own top tens.) There were plenty of albums that I enjoyed this year, and if many of them could only sustain their greatness half the time (some of which contributed widows and orphans below), that sure beats the vast majority of what finds its way to iTunes and the rapidly dwindling shelfspace of brick-and-mortars. The following eight albums would make fine additions to any of my previous Top Ten lists. All they lack is a leader.
After everything that's happened to them over the past few years, the Dixie Chicks had to have known that making an album like Taking The Long Way meant that there would be no going back, but there's not an ounce of hesitation to be heard anywhere. Offering a middle finger to their attackers and a hug for their loved ones, they offer not righteous anger but well-considered, perfectly modulated anger, which is far rarer and infinitely more effective. It's hard to know whether country music will ever have them back; the genre has always had room for independent-minded spitfires, but songs like "Lubbock Or Leave It" and especially "Not Ready To Make Nice," where Natalie Maines is so angry that tears come to her eyes, may cut too close to the bone. So be it. If Nashville refuses to open its ears to the blue-eyed soul of "I Hope" or the impossibly gorgeous harmonies of "Baby Hold On," it's their goddamned loss.
It's obvious by now that Rosanne Cash is constitutionally incapable of making a bad album, but some are better than others, and Black Cadillac is one for the plus column. Having weathered a brutal period that saw her lose the people from whom she got her very identity, Cash addresses the question of how to live in her new world and structures her album like a wake, not a funeral. There is pain (the title track, "The World Unseen") but there's also spirited celebration of those being mourned ("World Without Sound," "Burn Down This Town") and, in "God Is In The Roses" and the concluding "Good Intent," an understanding that our mortality is one of the things that makes us human. So are our tears.
Sometimes excitement supersedes such niceties as perfection and consistency, and no album and no band excited me with their energy and explosiveness as the Subways did this year. Equally adept at the dead simplicity of "Rock And Roll Queen" and "Oh Yeah" as with the gradually unfolding headrush of "I Want To Hear What You Have Got To Say," the Subways got buried as hype steamrollers the Arctic Monkeys nabbed all the press and publicity despite being inferior in practically every way. Hell, even the Subways' story -- involving a music fanatic barely in his twenties, his drummer kid brother, and the teenaged, bass-playing girlfriend that he's loved for years -- is sexier. The Arctic Monkeys' story is purely about money.
It's rare that any band has its sound so honed down and distinctive that electric blitzkriegs like "Stubborn Stitches" and "Lion Rip" can still sound like close siblings to echo-laden slow-burners "Hello To The Floor" and "Bottom Of The Sea." The fact that the Duke Spirit reached that point with its first album is just plain unnerving.
Rilo Kiley's frontwoman may have launched a thousand rock critic crushes, it's true. But in a neat reversal of the norm, it seems to be because her physical appearance, rather than being the fuel that fires our ardor, doesn't contradict the illusion that we've created based on what we hear in her music and her sublimely empathetic vocals. I initially greeted Rabbit Fur Coat with disappointment after succumbing to the considerable charms of Rilo Kiley's More Adventurous, only to find myself gradually warming to its charms over the course of the year, thanks in no small part to the two times I saw Lewis and the Watsons in concert. I finally got to see it as a collection of sweet and occasionally heartbreaking songs that's tethered to the folk ("Rabbit Fur Coat"), country ("You Are What You Love"), and western ("Happy") traditions while still wandering far afield. Lewis gets most of the credit, but Rabbit Fur Coat is indeed just as much a triumph for Chandra and Leigh Watson, who reintroduce us to the art of the backing vocal, deepening the self-fulfilling prophecy of "Melt Your Heart" and turning "Born Secular" into atheist girl-group gospel. For me, the sleeper of the year.
A live reunion album -- the best of the Smoking Popes' career, with sharp performances, focused enthusiasm and almost perfect song selection -- that portended a delayed but well-deserved renaissance for a previously ignored band that combined punk wallop with a sense of melody seemingly taken from the pre-rock era. The second time the Popes played Boston after its release, they could barely fill a quarter of the club. I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted, fellas.
Australia's best band's worst album was emblematic of the aforementioned problem that I had with so many of the albums that I enjoyed this past year, in that half of it came and went with barely a wave, no matter how many times I tried to get its attention. So why does You Am I make the list when, say, Regina Spektor doesn't? Tradition, mostly, though it certainly helps that songs like "Thuggery" and "By My Own Hand" light a fire under bandleader Tim Rogers, who is tired enough of being a drunken mess that he pulls out of it with the help of his mates while still longing for it enough to write paeans to the condition of being a drunken mess. It comes out in the U.S. in a few months, so don't bother searching for the import unless you want the live Convict Stain bonus disc. Which you probably should.
a.k.a. Ashes To Ashes, Ziggy Stardust to Ziggy Stardust. Admittedly, I don't know how this glam-punk concept album about making some sense of (and giving some meaning to) death is going to hold up, as I've only listened to it for the first time with less than 14 hours to spare until 2007 comes knocking. But even though I know I run the risk of jumping the gun (at this moment in time, I lack the proper data to decide whether "Teenagers" is funny, disturbing, or crass marketing to a naïve demographic, or possibly all three), to my ears, it's already better than American Idiot.
WIDOWS AND ORPHANS:
I was more than a little relieved that the swell Begin To Hope
ultimately wasn't strong enough to grab the #1 position this year, since if topping my list with quirky, piano-playing women three times
is a pattern
, then four makes a fetish. "Apres Moi" is a gem in its recorded version, but onstage, Spektor gave it the epic treatment that it deserves. From the solo-piano beginning to the full-band bombast later on, with guttural noises punctuating Spektor's vocal and an interlude in Russian along the way, the thing felt like the world was threatening to come crashing down around our heads. There are certain transcendent moments that I always look for but rarely get from live performances. Spektor nailed hers.
Here's what's wrong with Rtina's speakeasy hip-hop funk track: a by-now mandatory tendency to oversing the thing, the gleeful dorkiness disguised as strut on the line "You're badass," the curious fact that she sings "Something moved me deep inshide." Here's what's right about it: every blessed thing, including the above. "Dirrty" tried so hard to announce that Aguilera had gotten laid proper. "Ain't No Other Man" is actually convincing. Ebullience can be a beautiful thing.
In which the band's robot heart suddenly gets what human love is all about and starts rhapsodizing about it before it can remember that it's made of nothing but circuits and wires.
In early September, I named the relentless, razor-sharp title track to Damone's second album Song Of The Day
. Three weeks later, it won Song Of The Year at the Boston Music Awards. Way to steal my thunder, jerks.
The title track to Other People's Lives, Davies's first collection of new material since I was a teenager, was dull, obvious and hamfisted, and the placement of "Stand Up Comic" immediately afterwards seemed to indicate that he knew it. Sharp, funny and insightful, it took the exact same subject matter -- the obeisance of a populace numbed by media overexposure to matters of little import -- and turned it into a marvelously nasty and satirical gem with the added shock of an actual call to action. The Georgie Fame groove didn't hurt a bit, either.
Most erudite punks are content just to read Lipstick Traces. World/Inferno Friendship Society is actually doing something about it.
It's strange to catch her being lucid for a change, though it's probably a more sustainable career path (to say nothing of her mental health). Where most folks talk about what they want played at their funerals, McKay has decided that she'll be singing to her mourners from beyond the grave herself, thank you very much.
Well, sure. Just think: two years ago, Danger Mouse was at risk of being shut down completely, thanks to his creatively brilliant, legally dubious Jay-Z/Beatles mashup. Now he runs the place. Copyright law is for losers, kids.
I have yet to hear a Rainer Maria album that thrills me nonstop, start to finish. I also have yet to hear one that fails to thrill me at all. Catastrophe Keeps Us Together upped the band's average over the last two studio jobs, and "Terrified" was part of the reason, a sweet and gentle recognition of vulnerability that singer Caithlin De Marrais vows never, ever to take advantage of.
I could be mistaken, but I thought I saw the air around my stereo rippling the first time I played this. Discomfiting, to be sure, but once I found its wavelength, I just rode the thing to safety.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER:
When I started playing guitar in the late 1980s, one of the recurring themes than ran through the guitar magazines that I bought by the pound was the superiority of the guitarists that found themselves in the employ of Steely Dan over the years. (The lack of praise for the exact same guitarists' work with Joni Mitchell quietly underlined another recurring theme.) But no matter how much my interest in learning about my new hobby opened my eyes to bands like AC/DC, Metallica, and Van Halen, all of which I had previously disregarded, I could never crack the shell surrounding what Steely Dan was doing. And so, despite the vinyl copy of Aja
that I have no idea how I acquired (I can guarantee that I didn't buy it, that's for sure) and my adoration of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," I closed the door on them. So why have I suddenly fallen in love with Pretzel Logic
(MCA, 1974) and given it this year's Better Late Than Never Award
? Beats me; my best guess is that I'm finally old enough to both appreciate and look beyond the collegiate smartassery of what Steely Dan doing in their mixing of jazz melodicism and pop structure (though it should be noted that both Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were in their mid-20s when they pulled it off). The entire first side (or what was once considered same) is some kind of marvel, veering from the atypically openhearted romanticism of "Rikki" to the cynical, biting funk of "Night By Night" to the gentle but unresolved "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" and so on and so forth. The playing is immaculate, of course; even the band's detractors (including me, way back when) admitted that. But even with that and a passel of strong songs, it's Fagen's vocals that really shine. Afflicted with a voice that would get him mocked during the first week of American Idol
, he spots his limitations, learns how to use them to his advantage and becomes devastatingly expressive in the process. If a man that sounds like Fagen becoming one of the best singers of the 1970s isn't pretzel logic, then I don't know what is.
Ahhh...another year of Brittany Spears drama and horrendous political maneuvering is behind us! Thankfully, I was able to escape reality from time to time and immerse myself in some of 2006's finest concoctions.
More often than not, there are artists who consistently put out incredible music but seem to float right below the radar. Post-War will most certainly bring this musician to the surface with his comforting voice, poetic lyrics, and musical prowess.
Finally! Brendan Benson's rocking goodness is released to the masses. The energy that resonates between Brendan and Jack White makes for one damn good rock album.
Jenny Lewis speaks for her adorable self. The album is a masterpiece of lyrical storytelling and melody.
BTS hasn't put out an album in five years, but You in Reverse is proof that the years gone by have served them well. The songs are consistently fresh and a pleasure to devour.
Pure eccentricity. The songs are funky and sung in one of several languages that many probably won't understand, and they're produced with a flamboyance and integrity that makes you want to love electronica-centered pop music.
Two guys from Austin have never made a keyboard and guitar such a pleasure to dance to. These guys played a show a few months back at Warehouse Live and I can honestly say it's been years since I've seen a Houston crowd get so revved up and excited about music.
Two words: lovely & loud.
I'm sure all of Straight Outta Lynwood is hilarious, but this video and song is just wit and humor at its finest. With lines like: "I edit Wikipedia / I memorized Holy Grail really well / I can recite it right now and have you R-O-T-F-L-O-L," how can you not laugh?
Yeah. I know it's a show about people making clothes you'd probably never wear. But this competition is such an amusingly fashionable hodgepodge of distraction.
The premise for this show is just classic: suburban mom selling bud to the neighborhood. There are so many unbelievably funny twists and turns, and you can't help but love and identify on some level with the characters.
I have a hard time with year end "best of" lists. They are so cliché. You know, they pick a random day to assess the previous 365 days. Is there a point in that? Oh, I hate them so much. And then I hate myself even more when I find myself reading them. They just pull me in. And since there always so many of these lists, clearly you are a sucker like me. Man, I'm such a sucker.
So here's my chance to get back at the world by producing my own hastily-assembled Top 10 list for the year 2006. These are in no particular order and, as such, they are not numbered.
I'm not much of a festival-goer because it's often the worst possible way to see a band play. You stand there in a crowd of thousands. The sound is bad. It's usually really hot. The bottled water is expensive. The free water is nonexistent. The food is bad. It all makes for a miserable day. But despite being really steamy hot in Chicago the day of this festival, it was a good time. The bands were good, the water was not overpriced, and the food was passable. How can you go wrong with the deep dish pizza that Chicago is famous for? For my money, this is the only kind of pizza. It was really hard to complain about the festival and believe you me, I'm good at complaining.
I've just been a casual fan of these guys over the years, but they put out a stellar new album this year (The Obliterati), and the performance at the abovementioned Pitchfork festival was, hands down, the highlight of the show. And even though they were the main draw for me, I had no idea they would be that good. The best part is I don't think they even realized they were that good.
Brian Eno and David Byrne were way ahead of the game as usual with this album. It's a mixture of found audio -- "found" in the sense that they found it on the radio -- David Byrne's twitchy guitar playing, Eno's layered production, and a few hotshot musicians that make them look good. And it's a whole lot of fun to listen to. And just to prove they are still hipper than you, Eno and Byrne put together a really cool website (http://bush-of-ghosts.com/
) where you can listen to songs from the album or even download tracks from individual songs and remix them yourself. It's interactive!
Time magazine made you (that's right -- you!) person of the year this year, because of all you have done with the Internet. You and your YouTube and all its web 2.0 brethren. You changed the world by making videos and interacting! Or at least I hear that's what Time said. I didn't read it. In fact, I can't remember the last time I read Time. Instead, I check Reddit more than is probably healthy. There are lots of places to find your links, but this is my favorite this year.
I think that one speaks for itself, but it remains to be seen if it will make a damn bit of difference.
I have a soft spot for Robyn Hitchcock, but I haven't really had anything to justify that for well nigh a dozen years. Finally, though, he's put out an album that can compare with some of his classics. If you were jonesing for the more stripped-down Hitchcock rather than the syrupy overproduced stuff, your album has arrived.
It's a play on Mystery Science Theater, the low-budget TV show where robots make fun of movies that were almost as low budget as the show. Well, there are no robots, but this Austin comedy troupe made fun of some of your favorite bad movies. And they sometimes even had the stars of the movies there, so they could make fun of them in person. There was a particularly relentless evening with Greg Brady in support of A Very Brady Christmas that stands out. The Sinus guys have recently called it quits after six years of making fun of movies (and who could blame them?), so if you never got a chance to see them, you'll have to take my word on how good they were.
Speaking of funny, this was some good comedy. Even the opening comics were good. When has that ever happened before? He claimed it was all being recorded for an upcoming CD, so if you weren't there, maybe you'll get a chance to listen in the near future.
Or at least there are two on Austin cable. Every town should have two. That way you have something that isn't reality TV to turn to when one of them plays Antiques Roadshow.
These are little books that cover a single classic album. They are like extended liner notes and can be read in a single sitting. Or two single sittings, if you're a slow reader. Or three, if you're me. I think I've read a dozen or so of these this year, and while they aren't all good, the ones that were make the series worth mentioning. I know there are more music obsessives out there like me. These are for you.
The top 10 CDs released in 2006 (in no particular order), as compiled by Josh Macala.
After Who Will Survive And What Will Be Left Of Them, I had been eagerly anticipating the next release from Murder By Death. Let's just say that it didn't disappoint. Anyone who's a fan of their chaotic mix of stringed instruments, alcohol, and grit understands why this CD had to be spinning practically non-stop in your CD player. Anyone else, well... They need not be mentioned.
Ugly/Heartless hits you like a sharp stabbing pain in your chest. It continues to repeat this process over and over again until you can't take any more. But once you begin to enjoy the pain, once you become comfortably numb, it's time to hit Play again. Do I really need to talk up this CD? It should be obvious to anyone who's heard it why it is here.
I Am Hollywood is one of my all-time favorite CDs. How do He Is Legend follow that up? With Suck Out The Poison, one of the releases I was looking most forward to in 2006. Though it may have left some hardcore fans wanting more, it hit just the right spot for me. Less growling and more sounding like Stone Temple Pilots can never be a bad thing.
On their third full length, mewithoutYou proves that it's possible to maintain a solid foundation of hardcore with almost spoken lyrics. I think they overcame any idea of them being a novelty act some time ago, but with every release it just seems like they're getting better and better.
The Throes was one of my favorite CDs when it came out, and I didn't think Two Gallants could ever possibly get better than that. And then they released what the toll tells, and it turns out I was wrong. This just blows The Throes out of the water. In some cases, a follow-up can make or break a band for the long term. Two Gallants got louder, they got faster, and they got more outspoken in their lyrics. Sometimes less really is more.
When I first saw Fear Before the March of Flames, they had just re-released Odd How People Shake on EVR. Following that, we got Art Damage. 2006 saw the release of Always Open Mouth. FBTMOF are still proving why they are to be taken seriously, no matter what genre you want to throw them into. You think people can't make thrash-artsy-hardcore for more than one CD? Think again. While keeping their basic foundation, FBTMOF is constantly growing and changing. This is proof that they're in it for the long haul. And I'm glad.
While the quality of releases from Fearless Records has declined in the last few years, we cannot overlook this CD, which was released very early on in 2006. Portugal. The Man is just one of those bands that takes a lot of different song styles and sort of meshes them all together. They sound exactly like everything and nothing all at once. This is the real standout CD of the year for me, in terms of being different and sounding literally nothing like anything else released. And I also really enjoy this CD because I hide behind such an ugly face.
I've always been a fan of bands like Prevent Falls, Kane Hodder, and Gatsbys American Dream, bands that don't follow the traditional standards of songwriting and set their own rules. While people feel the need to constantly compare Forgive Durden to Gatsbys American Dream, I truly feel Forgive Durden have carved their own mark with Wonderland. The whole thing -- though seemingly very separate from song to song, and even within certain songs -- has a very structured sense of storytelling. When you listen to it all the way through, you really feel like you've just been told a great story, seen a great movie, etc. I really like CDs that make me feel like that, and this one instantly became one of my favorite CDs in 2006.
In a sea full of bland bands that all sound the same, a band like Escape the Fate is hard to come by. The criteria of great guitar riffs, powerful singing, and monstrous screaming can easily describe any number of bands today. Sadly, most of them aren't that good, and despite their intensity, they all just end up sounding alike. Escape the Fate took that mold, fit into it, broke out of it, and then threw the pieces into the faces of anyone else who may have ever worn it. One of the hardest-hitting CDs of 2006 without being metal or even really hardcore, Dying Is Your Latest Fashion has a sound that I can only liken to a modern version of Guns N' Roses. The lyrics make you want to sing and think, and both are important.
It's not that often that two of my favorite bands can come together to form one. Jason Gleason, formerly of Further Seems Forever and Affinity, joined together with Chrissy Gleason and Salvatore Ciarevino, both formerly of Element 101, and the result is amazing. It's not hardcore to the point where it's right up in your face and overly loud. Nor is it too poppy and bouncy, like something along the lines of The Rocket Summer. But Action Reaction finds the perfect space in between. It just rocks and will blow you away no matter what genres you like or dislike. The lyrics are also somewhat dark in certain songs, and I really enjoy that as a post-Tooth & Nail type of project, if you will. This is overall one of the single best CDs released ever, and definitely for 2006, as well.