Archive for the ‘Ambulette’ category

The Best Albums of 2006 (Part II)

December 24, 2006

These are the best albums of 2006 as heard through the ears of a 24 year old rock enthusiast. I tend to gravitate towards music that is vivid, dynamic, and pushes the limits of musical genres. As a consequence, it also makes it difficult to describe with words. For that reason, I recommend checking out a sample or two from the provided links. Without further ado, here are the top 40 albums of 2006:

The Top 40

40.
The Black Angels – Passover
The Black Angels - Passover
B
The first full-length release by this Texas group sounds much like a 60’s era psychedelic rock revival. Unlike some other recent retro groups (The Darkness and Wolfmother come to mind), The Black Angels are able to conjure the past without sounding insincere. The album connects America’s current political struggles to those faced in Vietnam, which casts something of a shadow on the mood of the album. Still, the incessant drumming and droning guitars push the album forward providing ample opportunity for head bobbing and foot tapping.
Note: The logo used by The Black Angels is a stylized photograph of Nico
Song Highlights: Young Men Dead, Better Off Alone, Black Grease, Bloodhounds On My Trail
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

39.
Sparta – Threes
#
B

The other half of the disbanded group At the Drive-In releases their third album. Being the offspring that received all of the striaght-forward rock genes, Sparta finally sound like they’ve come into their own with their aggressive emo-rock.
Song Highlights: Taking Back Control, Erase It Again, Untreatable Disease
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

38.
The Knife – Silent Shout
#
B

Silent Shout is as cold and inorganic as anything you’ll hear this year, but this electronica album is alien and creepy in a way that tugs at your curiosity.

Note: The Knife shunned touring and live performances in general until 2006, six years after they began making music together.
Song Highlights: We Share Our Mother’s Health, Neverland, Marble House
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

37.
Tool – 10,000 Days
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B

This is Tool at it’s most progressive and the album maintains their reputation for musicianship with intricately constructed songs. Unfortunately it doesn’t always “wow” you the way this band can, but that’s just a consequence of the song writing approach in which most of the pieces are longer than six minutes and use every minute to make its mark. If you are looking for that Tool sound circa Undertow, read on to the top 10.
Note: The album cover and booklet for 10,000 days are all 3 dimensional images that can be viewed using a pair of stereoscopic lenses that are also part of the cover.
Song Highlights: Vicarious, Jambi, The Pot
Links: HomepageLast.fm

36.
Audrey – Visible Forms
#
B

The debut album by this Swedish quartet. The music contains a range of sounds: shimmery pop, delicate instrumental melodies, and somber tones. Cellist and keyboardist Emelie Molin adds a lot of dimension to the music, including vocals.
Note: All four women in the band share vocal duties.
Song Highlights: Views
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

35.
Jeniferever– Choose a Bright Morning
#
B

Sweden’s Jeniferever create one of the most beautiful albums of 2006 with their debut Choose a Bright Morning. The music swells and fades with post-rock and ambient tones, with singer Kristofer Jönson’s voice accenting appropriately. The album opens with the wonderful “From Across the Sea”, which is sure to capture you for the entire journey. Also of note is the album’s colorful fold-out artwork.
Song Highlights: From Across the Sea
Note: This, the band’s first full length album, comes a decade after the band first formed.
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

34.
The Velvet Teen – Cum Laude
The Velvet Teen - Cum Laude
B
Fans of The Velvet Teen’s 2004 album Elysium will likely tell you that, among other things, they enjoy the album for it’s slow building elegance and instrumentation–qualities that are on full display throughout all thirteen minutes of the song Chimera Obscurant. On their latest disc, you won’t find a song even half as long as that, nor will you find the grandiose piano playing that pervades the formerly mentioned Elysium. Instead, Cum Laude cuts to the chase with a sometimes frenetic urgency to the music, and trades piano for loops and sequences a la The Helio Sequence. All in all, it makes for a really good album in it’s own right–just as long as the listener is prepared for a very different texture.
Note: Judah Nagler sang “Return Our Lives” for the musical collective Neverending White Lights.
Song Highlights: Tokyoto, Noi Boi, In a Steadman Spray, Building a Whale
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

33.
Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
#
B

Begin to Hope is a singer/songwriter album abundant in playful piano and lush vocal melodies. It’s enchanting because so much of Spektor’s personality shines through, quirks and all.

Note: Regina lived in soviet Russia until moving at the age of 9 in 1989.
Song Highlights: Fidelity, On the Radio, Better
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

32.
Thursday – A City By The Light Divided
Thursday - A City By the Light Divided
B
Thursday returns from a brief hiatus and shows that the time off hasn’t dulled their edge. A City By the Light Divided hits with the raw energy that has made them the standard bearers of the so-called “screamo” genre, yet maintains the steady refinement that they’ve shown from album to album. The disc starts with a nod to the now classic album Full Collapse (“car crash came and car crash went”), but show just how flexible they’ve grown on tracks like “Sugar in the Sacrament”, “The Lovesong Writer”, and “At This Velocity”, a song that seems to epitomize their growing versatility.
Song Highlights: Counting 5-4-3-2-1, At This Velocity, Telegraph Avenue Kiss
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

31.
Lacuna Coil – Karmacode
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B

This Italian metal band combines heavy rock riffs with melodic vocals led by metal-diva Cristina Scabbia. This is how Evanescence should aspire to sound as they grow as songwriters.

Song Highlights: Our Truth, Closer, To the Edge
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

30.
Joanna Newsom – Ys
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B

Joanna Newsom’s beautifully orchestrated album is unusually epic for a singer/songwriter album, with its 5 songs clocking in at over 55 minutes. Whether her voice is backed by an ensemble of strings or just the gentle plucking of her harp, the result is whimsical and charming.
Song Highlights: Only Skin
Links: HomepageLast.fm

29.
Agent Sparks – Red Rover
#
B

It was a sad thing to the band Audiovent break up after a couple of great albums, but all of their potential has new life in the band Agent Sparks. It is the creation of former Audiovent bassist Paul Fried and guitarist (and now vocalist) Ben Einziger, who join forces with vocalist/keyboardist Stephanie Eitel and drummer George Purviance. The music of Agent Sparks bears minimal resemblance to Audiovent’s turn of the century southern California rock; instead using the harmony of their two vocalists lead a combination of indie rock and pop punk.
Note: Red Rover was produced by the older brother of Ben Einziger and step-brother to Paul Fried, Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger.
Song Highlights: Waving By, Face the Day, Polly Ann
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

28.
Sparklehorse – Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
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B

Sparklehorse’s first album in five years is electronically infused downtempo folk-rock. Most notably attractive are the two opening tracks, but the album remains pretty as the album progresses and the songs are stripped down to their most primitive.
Notes: Dangermouse and Tom Waits (on piano) collaborated with band founder Mark Linkous for the making of this album.
Song Highlights: Don’t Take My Sunshine Away, Getting It Wrong, Shade and Honey
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

27.
Zero 7 – The Garden
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B

After releasing two jazzy downtempo albums, Zero 7 release a jazzy uptempo album. With more pep and reliance on it’s assortment of guest vocalists than ever before, the music and the wonderful mood it creates are still at the heart of Zero 7’s sound.

Notes:José González adds vocals to four songs on The Garden.
Song Highlights: This Fine Social Scene, The Pageant of the Bizarre, You’re My Flame
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

26.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones
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B

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs release an album that shows growth from their previous in all the right places as the songs are generally catchier and more interesting.
Song Highlights: Gold Lion, Fancy, Way Out, Cheated Hearts
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

25.
Hundred Year Storm – Only When It Is Dark Enough Can You See the Stars / Hello From the Children of Planet Earth
Hello From the Children of Planet Earth

B
Hundred Year Storm’s existence has been relatively low-key thus far, with their self titled EP from last year and two full length releases in 2006 going largely under the radar. It’s surprising given how inviting their music can be. The second song from their first album, “Someday You’ll See”, has the kind of sound that would fit right in on top 40 playlists. That’s not to say that this band is strictly radio friendly either, as they have a likeness for explorative instrumentals, sometimes highlighted with audio clips (on this album they lay Martin Luther King Jr’s final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, over top of the song “Mental”). Their second album of 2006, Hello From the Children of Planet Earth, picks up right where the first left off. All in all, these two albums make for a great post-rock introduction.
Note: Several tracks from each album were recorded for their self-titled EP released in 2005.
Song Highlights: Someday You’ll See, Consider This, Mental, 00:01, Pilot’s Last Broadcast
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

24.
Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
#
B

Indie hip-hop beatmaker Dangermouse made a huge breakthrough this year with Cee-lo Green as Gnarls Barkley, and their album St. Elsewhere has been a buzzworthy success with several hit singles. The album is easily the most lively, soulful, and fun hip-hop album to be released in 2006.
Song Highlights: Crazy, Smiley Faces, Gone Daddy Gone, Just a Thought
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

23.
Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton – Knives Don’t Have Your Back
#
B+

Emily Haines, full-time vocalist/keyboardist of Metric and part-time contributor to Broken Social Scene, returns to focusing on her own solo work with Knives Don’t Have Your Back. Haines’ voice is as beautiful as ever and serves as the focal point for the music, with piano and an assortment of support players providing the backdrop. The music is melancholy and the lyrics sobering, but its honesty is endearing.
Song Highlights: Dr. Blind, Our Hell, Detective’s Daughter, Winning
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

22.
Maritime – We, The Vehicles
#
B+

The second album released by former members of the now disbanded groups The Dismembement Plan and Promise Ring. The group has taken their indie-punk and emo roots and created a fun indie-pop album that reflects the growth and maturation of it’s members.
Song Highlights: People, the Vehicles; German Engineering, Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts,
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

21.
The Static Age – Blank Screens
#
B+

The third album by this new england band. Much like Mute Math, this band has revived the flavor of early 80’s dance/pop-punk reminiscent of The Police and given it a modern spin. It is an album accented by electronic sounds, yet retains a warmly organic feel. In general the album is full of great drum beats and a killer guitar licks, particularly on the standout track Trauma.
Notes: The Static Age is taken from the Misfits album of the same name.
Song Highlights: Trauma, Skyscrapers, Cherry Red
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

20.
Dropping Daylight – Brace Yourself
#
B+

Brace Yourself, title of the debut album by Minneapolis’s Dropping Daylight, may also appropriately serve as notice that this band is loaded with potential for a mainstream breakthrough. At their core, Dropping Daylight are a fairly straightforward rock band. What makes their album special are the extremely catchy melodies of keyboardist/vocalist Sebastian Davin. The keyboard parts in particular add a unique sound to their up-tempo rock sound.
Notes: The band was originally named Sui Generis, latin for unique. The name was changed due to it’s obvious pretentiousness.
Song Highlights: Brace Yourself, Waiting Through the Afternoon, Answering Our Prayers, Apologies
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

19.
Grandaddy – Just Like the Fambly Cat
#
B+

The closing chapter on Grandaddy’s career is a collection of everything that has made them notable over the past decade. Crisp, distorted guitars give way to spacey, dreamy, electro-laced pop. Jason Lytle warbles on about the road the band has traveled and where it leads, with some lamenting of where it might have gone. The final track closes the bands career beautifully and with some sadness as Lytle sings, “I’ll never return… I’ll never return to Shangri-la.”

Song Highlights: Jeez Louise, Disconnecty, Rear View Mirror, Campershell Dreams
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

18.
The Secret Machines – Ten Silver Drops
The Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops
B+
The Secret Machines return with the follow-up to their debut album, Now Here is Nowhere. This new offering, much like the first, is filled with Pink Floydian psychedelesism layered over droning, huge sounding rhythm guitars. The quality of the music is evident quickly and has enough melody to get you humming along on the first listen through.
Song Highlights: Daddy’s in the Doldrums, All at Once (It’s Not Important), Lightning Blue Eyes
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

17.
Opus Däi – Tierra Tragame
#
B+

Opus Dai are an alternative rock band risen out of the ashes of the group OHM. Their avante-rock approach and wide reaching musical and cultural influences make their debut album a soaring and inspirational experience.
Song Highlights: Rain, Sora, Firefly
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

16.
The Dears – Gang of Losers
#
B+

Don’t worry guys and gals, things aren’t that bad for The Dears. In fact, this Montreal sextet have been widely praised since their 2003 release No Cities Left. Their newest release Gang of Losers is more of a straightforward indie rock album than its elegant precursor, but is for the most part equally enjoyable.
Song Highlights: You and I are a Gang of Losers, Whites Only Party, Hate Then Love, Fear Made the World Go ‘Round
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

15.
In Reverent Fear – Stomacher
#
B+

Stomacher is the second album by In Reverent Fear, a band from Concord California. The band blends an array of sounds, with guitars that sound heavy one moment and airy the next, and with smooth vocals that command the listeners attention.
Song Highlights: The Greatest Love, Twin, Nurse Katie, Ride the Black Horse
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

14.
TV On the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain
#
A

TV on the Radio have been one of the most highly regarded new groups since the release of their Young Liars EP in 2003. Their major label debut Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes in 2004 furthered their reputation as avante-rock pioneers. While that album showed off their ability to write impressive music buzzing with electronic psychedelia, there still seemed to be something special about that first EP. Return to Cookie Mountain is something special too, finally harnessing that magic for a full length disc. Amazingly enough for an album with so much of it’s atmosphere stemming from it’s production, the band actually sounds better live.
Notes: TV On the Radio have been a favored band of David Bowie for several years, prompting his collaboration on the track Province.
Song Highlights: Province, I Was a Lover, Wolf Like Me
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

13.
The Appleseed Cast – Peregrine
#
A

With the spirit of emo, and the patience and vision of post-rock, The Appleseed Cast’s Peregrine is a well crafted and refined album by a veteran group with experience in both genres. Instrumentally, the band shows a willingness to keep it’s full force in reserve for most of the album, while instead relying on gentle and beautiful guitar play to lead the music towards each satisfying climax.
Note: Peregrine contains perhaps the best rock track of 2006 with February
Song Highlights: February, Mountain Halo, Sunlit and Ascending, An Orange and a Blue, The Clock and the Storm
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

12.
The Fiery Furnaces – Bitter Tea
#
A

Nobody else makes pop music sound quite so interesting and captivating as The Fiery Furnaces. As usual, the music on Bitter Tea is complicated and difficult with Matthew Friedberger indulging in Zappa-like excursions, and it makes for a challenging album to follow the first time through. Eleanor Friedberger’s quirky lyrics and bubbly delivery are equally distinctive, and help to anchor the listener to the melody (as long as they’re not being played backwards).
Song Highlights: Nevers (vocals forwards mix), Benton Harbor Blues (shortened mix), I’m In No Mood, Bitter Tea, Teach Me Sweetheart
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

11.
The pAper chAse– Now You Are One of Us
#
A

One of the most unique releases of 2006 comes from The pAper chAse. Singer, guitarist and principle songwriter John Congleton is the mastermind behind the creations of this unusual group, which sounds like a strange cross between Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Modest Mouse at their most odd. Strangely catchy melodies emanate from this odd contraption of discordant piano and twisted guitar rhythms, with paranoid, neurotic lyrics so absurd that they’re impossible to take at face value. The over-the-top nature of the songs makes them fun though, and eventually this strangely glorious album begins to make perfect sense.
Note: John Congleton also produced The Appleseed Cast’s Peregrine
Song Highlights: The House is Alive and the House is Hungry, We Know Where You Sleep, The Kids Will Grow Up to Be Assholes, Wait Until I Get My Hands On You, You Will Never Take Me Alive, You’re One of Them Aren’t You?
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

10.
Cire – Wholesale Buyout
Wholesale Buyout
A

Cire is intelligent rock created by blues guitarist Eric Johanson. Drawing comparisons to Tool and A Perfect Circle in terms of tone and structure, Cire’s guitar driven rock is intended for more than just it’s killer sound. It is equally important as a vehicle for Johanson’s intellectual lyrics. Inspired by philosophy, psychology, science and current events, Johanson aims at stimulating the mind with his thoughts on Big Brother, tyranny, religion, and so on, all by way of Johanson’s smooth vocals. On Catastrophe he declares, “There’s reason to fear catastrophe, but it’s not from overseas / It’s in D.C. and on Wall Street and hiding behind your TV screen.” Wholesale Buyout is a must-listen for anyone seeking challenging music and thought-provoking lyrics.
Note: Johanson has also crafted a masterpiece in 2003’s Adrenalogical, and another acoustic wonder last year with Emptyself
Song Highlights: Catastrophe, Highly Specific, Brand X Misery, Together We’ll End This All
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

9.
Katatonia– The Great Cold Distance
#
A

Katatonia have been around for nearly 15 years, with this their seventh full-length album. I was first impressed by Katatonia in 2001 after the release of Last Fair Deal Gone Down, and they continue to be a leaders in the metal genre. Admirably versatile, the band makes use of melodic vocals and electronic elements to compliment it’s melancholic sound. One of the most impressive aspects of The Great Cold North is the almost telepathic level of cohesion between bandmembers. Though there is a high level of complexity to the music, it meshes so very well.
Note: Originally, singer Jonas Renkse sang in harsh growls and screams typical of many forms of metal, but was forced to adopt a more melodic tone after suffering problems with his voice, forever changing the band’s songwriting approach.
Song Highlights: Leaders, Deliberation, Soil’s Song, July
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

8.
Muse – Black Holes and Revelations
Muse - Black Holes and Revelations
A
Muse return to the spotlight after turning out two near-perfect albums, 2001’s Origin of Symmetry and 2003’s Absolution. It would be difficult to say that new album Black Holes and Revelations has matched or surpassed these works, so we’ll throw out any comparisons to them and focus on what it is: a fine, solid album in it’s own right. The disc features songs that play off of the band’s established strengths, like the catchy pop tune “Starlight”, featuring Matthew Bellamy’s outstanding voice and adept piano playing; or “Exo-Politics”, driven by hard, aggressive guitars. Other songs show the band pushing their borders in new directions, with the slinky single “Supermassive Black-Hole”, or the space-cowboy epic “Knights of Cydonia”. All of these songs work very well on the album and help to add to the band’s reputation as one of the top bands of today. The one complaint about the album would be the presence of an unusual number of filler-type tracks for a Muse album. For me personally, songs like “A Soldier’s Poem” and “Hoodoo” sound too much like old territory to be terribly interesting. Luckily, they’re mere stepping stones to the many great moments on this album.
Note: Matt Bellamy’s lyrics are typically drawn from his interest in science, the future, theology, the supernatural, and conspiracy theories.
Song Highlights: Starlight, Supermassive Black-Hole, Map of the Problamatique, Exo-Politics, Assassin, Knights of Cydonia
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

7.
The Mars Volta – Amputechture
#
A

For going on five years, the Mars Volta have been one of the most talked about–and indeed promising–bands in music. Their first full length, Deloused in the Comatorium, was released to an audience craving their passion for creating challenging and interesting rock, and it went on to be a major success while relying almost completely on word of mouth promotion. The follow up, Frances the Mute, was another ambitious undertaking, but ultimately fell short while providing an almost impenetrable listening experience. However, on their third album Amputechture, the Mars Volta deliver on all of the buzz with their most consistent and engaging release. It’s every bit as creative and artistic as the two previous, but finally gives a sense that all of the dots have been connected.
Note: The theme of religion as social sickness is intricately woven into Amputechture‘s lyrics and song structures.
Song Highlights: Meccamputechture, Viscera Eyes, Vicarious Atonement, Day of the Baphomets
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

6.
Incubus – Light Grenades
#
A

Incubus illuminate with their fifth album, Light Grenades. The band’s style has consistently managed to bend and twist into new forms without totally warping from album to album, each of which has delivered on the band’s characteristic intensity and soul. From early on, as far back as their SCIENCE era metal days, it was evident that there was something special about this group. Though the band has matured considerably since then, the band continues to make music with a unique touch, particularly in the realm of mainstream rock. Mike Einziger is chiefly responsible for making Incubus one of the most consistently interesting alternative groups with his guitar work. Still able to let loose a rocking riff, he has fine-tuned his playing over the course of five albums and stands as a highly dynamic songwriter, which is in full effect on A Kiss to Send Us Off, an album highlight. The most obvious element of the bands success has always been singer Brandon Boyd’s vocals, and once again he is front and center with his surfer-poet musings and smooth delivery, guiding the song Dig to what should be an inevitable hit. The rhyhthm section of Ben Kenney on bass, Jose Pasillas III on drums and DJ/multi-instrumentalist Chris Kilmore provide the backbone for songs like the title track and the album climax, Pendulous Threads. Overall, the band is as tightly knit and focused as they’ve ever been, and it makes for a great album.
Song Highlights: A Kiss to Send Us Off, Anna Molly, Light Grenades, Pendulous Threads
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

5.
Mute Math – Mute Math
Mute Math - Mute Math
A

If you didn’t know better, you might think The Police had reunited. Not so. Mute Math are fresh on the scene, but on their first full length album they bear the traits of a savvy, seasoned group. Their debut album has a rich, classic sound dripping with melody, yet leaves enough room for a fair amount of electronic innovation and spacey noodling. After a brief build up, the album is in full swing on “Typical”, setting the tone for the album. “Chaos” follows soon after, another bouncy upbeat tune that brought the burgeoning band a lot of attention as their first single. The band cuts you loose to drift through the dreamy “Stare at the Sun” and into the jamming of “Obsolete”. The mood is again airy on the beautiful “You Are Mine”, but Mute Math manage to stay grounded by Darren King’s skillful drumming. Clearly, there is no mystery surrounding their sudden explosion onto the rock scene in 2006.
Song Highlights: Typical, Chaos, Noticed, Stare at the Sun, You Are Mine
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

4.
Placebo – Meds
Placebo - Meds
A

For over a decade, Placebo has walked the line between the periphery and outright stardom. The band has maintained a unique, edgy style irrespective of passing fads, and Meds is no different. Brian Molko’s instantly recognizable croon is framed by an ever expanding array of sounds: bombastic guitars on the song “Infra-Red”, a trip-hop vibe for “Space Monkey, a haunting piano melody on the song “In the Cold Light of Morning”, an addictively jagged melody for “One of a Kind”, and so on. Allison Mosshart of The Kills and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. add to the flavor of the vocals for the title track and “Broken Promise”, respectively. Fans of the band’s previous work and new listeners alike should enjoy this immensely.
Song Highlights: Blind, Infra-Red, One of a Kind, Space Monkey
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

3.
Deftones – Saturday Night Wrist
#
A

The latest album by the Deftones, Saturday Night Wrist, is an album that epitomizes their ability fuse new sound with the considerable arsenal of sonic weapons at their disposal. Their strengths begin with the loud thrash metal/punk intensity that was unleashed on their first LP Adrenaline and perfected on it’s follow-up Around the Fur, and are augmented by the assimilation of atmospheric experimentalism, the likes of which made White Pony a surprising and refreshing hit. The self-titled album that followed appeared to be somewhat of a retreat (though with it’s bright spots), but the Deftones have once again established that they can push boundaries while exercising their mastery of the genre they helped to define.
Song Highlights: Kimdracula, Combat, Xerces, Cherry Waves, Pink Cellphone
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

2.
Ever We Fall – We Are But Human
Ever We Fall - We Are But Human
A

The three piece group Ever We Fall release a flawless emo album with their debut, We Are But Human. It’s fun and upbeat without being trite or repetitive, as guitars drift back and forth between power-pop riffs and intricate finger work. The vocal performance is outstanding, building towards several anthemic moments throughout the album.
Song Highlights: Youth Like Tigers, No Sleep For Dreaming, State Bird: The Mosquito, No Words to Describe, My Dog the Senator
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

1.
Pure Reason Revolution – The Dark Third
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A+

The Dark Third is the place between waking and dreaming, a transition phase where the domain of the slumbering gives way to reality. It’s exactly the kind of surreal landscape that Pure Reason Revolution find themselves with their first full-length album, which conceptually explores these kinds of contrasts throughout the album: quiet and loud, light and dark, hot and cold, the real and the imaginary. The album opens with Aeropause (which is literally the name for the region between a planet’s atmosphere and outer space), an astrally inspiring piece that fades in with bass before being joined by guitar and piano. The album moves seamlessly from this opener to the next song and onward towards its most notable moment, the climax of the twelve minute single The Bright Ambassadors of Morning. Pure Reason Revolution’s The Dark Third creates layers of rich rock guitar with lush pop melody and beautiful male and female vocals. The songwriting is well grounded in structure and melody, but shines with dramatic changes in tempo and mood. Much like Mew’s superb 2005 release And the Glass Handed Kites, it is creative and intelligent enough for fans of progressive music, yet well rooted and catchy enough to appeal to those who typically aren’t. For such an ambitious undertaking, it is executed to near perfection and stands as the most enjoyable and impressive release of 2006.
Song Highlights: Aeropause, Goshen’s Remains, Apprentice of the Universe, The Bright Ambassadors, The Exact Colour, Voices in Winter, The Twyncyn
Links: HomepageLast.fmMyspace

Honorable Mentions
Besides the albums I’ve already listed, there have been plenty of enjoyable albums that came out this year.

Thom Yorke – The Eraser
Typical of Radiohead’s artistry; sounds pretty much like a Radiohead album with the other four members turned down.

Allrise – These Questions Have No Answers
SoCal rock band with a musically and lyrically well written debut.

This Will Destroy You – Young Mountain
A very good post-rock/instrumental album.

Émilie Simon – Végétal
This French singer’s electronic music is growing in popularity here in the US after gaining success in Europe.

The Streets – The Hardest Way to Make An Easy Living
A clever hip-hop album that is filled with entertaining anecdotes and humorous musings.

Alien Ant Farm – Up In the Attic
Alien Ant Farm is getting better at playing music in a subset of rock that just doesn’t attract many new listeners anymore.

Evanescence – The Open Door
While most of Evanescence’s music doesn’t stand out all by itself, Amy Lee’s voice is among the best in all of music, and her performance alone makes this album worth listening to.

Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s – The Dust of Retreat
A melodic indie-rock/pop album that is amazingly mature for this band’s first go at making music together.

Ben Kenney – Maduro
Multi-instrumentalist Ben Kenney has practiced his craft as a member of the roots and current bassist for Incubus, yet still has enough creative energy left over to release a couple of solo albums along the way. The most recent, Maduro, is another fine rock and roll album.

Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped
Mature and accessible, this is one of the best albums of their long career.

Jurassic 5 – Feedback
Not their best, but still one of the better hip-hop albums of ’06 (which says a lot about the volume of listenable hip-hop this year).

ISIS – In the Absence of Truth
ISIS do some reaching early on in the album, but the parts that retreat to Panopticon‘s metallic post-rock pattern are very satisfying.

Beck – The Information
This album probably requires more listens for full absorption than I’ve given it, but it’s all around another good album by Beck.

The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
This is the first album by these indie giants that I’ve enjoyed from beginning to end. The music is more interesting and relies less on Colin Meloy’s quaint peculiarity.

Gym Class Heroes – As Cruel as Schoolchildren
Rather than releasing a more mature album than last year’s The Papercut Chronicles, the Gym Class Heroes release an album that sounds less like a band and more a showcase for lyricist Travis McCoy.

Hoobastank – Every Man For Himself
Too bad Hoobastank now gets such a knee jerk reaction from many people now that they’ve become totally mainstream, because a lot of what was great about the band from the beginning (of the Hooba years) is still great today. Let’s face it, it’s not as if very much at all has changed about their music over the last three discs. Dan Estrin’s guitar and Doug Rob’s voice continue to please.

The Sound of Animals Fighting – Lover, the Lord Has Left Us
Though I enjoy this album, I’m predominantly frustrated by the unseen potential in many of these songs, partially sabotaged by the band’s desire for unmitigated weirdness. “My Horse Must Lose” sounds like a masterpiece buried under the rubble of a 10 story building.

Ebu Gogo – Chase Scenes 1-12
Another glorious Grüvis Malt side project. This is easily the most stripped-down incarnation we’ve seen from it’s band members, but this garage-recording sound appropriately captures the jamming featured on this disc. A very fun record.

Arab Strap – The Last Romance
Arab Strap’s most lifting album is also their best.

Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit

Gomez – How We Operate

Helios – Eingya
I first heard this ethereal instrumental album while lying on a beautiful beach in Hawai’i. The music was really the perfect compliment to the scene, and the sound of rolling waves in the background seemed to fit so well, I actually checked to see it was playing through my headphones.

Jenny Lewis With the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
Though I prefer her work as a member of Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis’s Rabbit Fur Coat is a nice storytelling album.

The Album Leaf – Into the Blue Again

Band of Horses – Everything All the Time

Mouth of the Architect – The Ties that Blind

The Robot Ate Me – Good World
Short and unorthoox, Ryland Bouchard makes another album that ignores convention in making an indie-pop album.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Rodrigo y Gabriela
A must for acoustic guitar fanatics.

 EP’s

I’ve also got to give mention to a few really excellent EP’s that came out in 2006:

Kaddisfly – The Four Seasons EP
This is the lead-in to Kaddisfly’s eagerly anticipated follow up to Buy Our Intention; We’ll Buy You a Unicorn. I have a hunch that this one will be not only the best album of 2007, but the launching point for much bigger and better things for a band that truely deserves them.

Ambulette – The Lottery EP
This is the first release by former Denali singer Maura Davis and her new group, which will be releasing an album sometime next year.

Billy O’Neil & Dan Wean – You Are Beautiful EP
Billy O’Neil from oh my god and Dan Wean from Easy Tiger put out this charming EP after writing and recording these songs in between other projects.

God Is An Astronaut – A Moment of Stillness EP
Five wonderful post-rock tracks are a tease (by instrumental standards) for their next long player.