The (Halfway Point) Top Ten Albums of 2006

One of the reasons why I enjoy listing my favorite albums from a certain year is that it’s so highly debatable. There are rarely two publications who have exactly the same order or number one album. There will always be arguments about year end lists, whether it be from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, or Stylus… it will never change. For example, here is my Top Fifty Albums of 2005. At the end of this year, I will do my traditional top fifty albums, but for now, I just thought I’d share my top ten of the year so far at the (sort of) halfway point of 2006. Of course you will disagree with this list, and the one at the end of the year as well, but it’s all in good fun.

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01. Xiu Xiu – The Air Force

To some, Xiu Xiu may appear to be a blimp of random beeps over some Robert Smith wannabe singing in an alien-like voice. To others, Xiu Xiu are one of the most innovative bands of the decade and Jamie Stewart is a musical mastermind. Xiu Xiu has gotten nothing but better in their past three albums, and The Air Force has really defined consistancy for me in the first half of this year. Each and every single song on the album has grown on me tremendously, from hectic ‘Boy Soprano’ to the creepy ‘Wig Master’. Much like La Foret, some songs are as accessible as Xiu Xiu will get, such as ‘Save Me’, which actually consists of a chorus and regular song structure. Every song is extremely diverse from one another and is full of ideas, and somehow the album stills flows in a very reliable way.

Xiu Xiu – Save Me

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/xiu-sav.mp3%5D

Xiu Xiu – Boy Soprano

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/xiu-boy.mp3%5D

BUY
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02. Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye

The Junior Boys’ sophomore album really does not stray too far from the sound that made their debut, Last Exit, one of the most beloved albums of 2004. Their relaxing sound of electronic pop is laid back and rarely frantic. So This Is Goodbye is composed of many songs that are built up into electronic epics, such as the diversifying ‘Count Souvenirs’ and the catchy ‘In The Morning’. The first half of the album is nearly flawless.

Junior Boys – Count Souvenirs

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/jrb-cou.mp3%5D

Junior Boys – In The Morning

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/jrb-in.mp3%5D

Junior Boys – First Time

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/jrb-first.mp3%5D

BUY
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03. Some By Sea – On Fire! (Igloo)

Some By Sea’s third album is full of string accompinaments, vocal hooks, and emotional and often comedic lyrics. It remains one of the most overlooked albums of the year, but it should find some success if publicized a bit more. The album is quite long, with pop songs in the mold of folk and indie pop around five minutes. The names of the songs are unusually long as well. The album takes a few songs before it kicks into full gear, but when it does, you won’t regret it.

Some By Sea – The Beginning Of The World Often Comes

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/som-beg.mp3%5D

Some By Sea – Look What I Made Without Your Heart Getting In The Way

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/som-loo.mp3%5D

BUY
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04. Tokyo Jihen – Adult

It takes quite a bit for a foreign album to be in the top ten of the year for me personally. Not that I dislike foreign music, I actually love it, it’s just that it is hard to remember an album where I have no recollection of lyrics at all (unless it is an instrumental album). Tokyo Jihen (also known as Tokyo Incidents) have such beautiful melodies and precise song structures that it is easily memorable. With famed Japanese songwriter Shiina Ringo fronting the band, it’s easy to see why songs such as ‘Keshou Naoshi’ are irresistably beautiful.

Tokyo Jihen – Keshou Naoshi

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/tok-kes.mp3%5D

Tokyo Jihen – Himitsu

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/tok-him.mp3%5D

BUY
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05. The Divine Comedy – Victory For The Comic Muse

Neil Hannon (aka The Divine Comedy) has been one of my favorite songwriters for years. His style is rich and powerful, commanding a strong orchestral pop feel along with lyrics that form a variety of subjects, all overlapped by Hannon’s rich vocals. Hannon’s ninth album shows how much his songwriting has matured, even while his lyrics remain immature (and fun, in a good way). Take ‘To Die A Virgin’ for example, it is the album’s first track and touches on on a topic that very sensitive and laughable at the same time: virginity. ‘A Lady Of A Certain Age’ is one of Hannon’s finest moments in his career, profiling greed and superficiality. Whatever topics Hannon dwells about, it is sure to be entertaining.

The Divine Comedy – To Die A Virgin

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/dc-virgin.mp3%5D

The Divine Comedy – A Lady Of A Certain Age

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/dc-ala.mp3%5D

The Divine Comedy – Diva Lady

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/dc-diva_lady.mp3%5D

BUY
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06. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit

The Life Pursuit was one of the first albums I heard in 2006 (I heard it in January), and it set a high bar of expectations for the rest of the year. Destined to make many end of the year lists, Belle & Sebastian’s seventh album has a bit more rock n’ roll as evidenced in ‘The Blues Are Still Blue’, but the Murdoch and company keep their lyrical prowess with gems such as ‘Dress Up In You’ with constant catchiness in ‘We Are The Sleepyheads’.

Belle & Sebastian – We Are The Sleepyheads

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/bel-wea.mp3%5D

Belle & Sebastian – Dress Up In You

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/bel-dre.mp3%5D

BUY
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07. Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I Am Dreaming

Whatever project Spencer Krug seems to touch, it becomes successful. From Wolf Parade to Frog Eyes, most of his material is hard to hate. He leads Sunset Rubdown in their debut album of the year, resulting in perhaps the best debut of the year. He can write seven minute epics (‘The Men Are Called Horseman There’) and three and half minute catchy pop songs (‘They Took a Vote and Said No’), and all are equally great. ‘The Men Are Called Horseman There’ is undoubtly one of my favorite tracks this year.

Sunset Rubdown – The Men Are Called Horseman There

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/sun-men.mp3%5D

Sunset Rubdown – They Took a Vote and Said No

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/sun-the.mp3%5D

BUY
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08. Magenta Skycode – IIIII

One of the biggest mysteries of 2006 appears to be why Magenta Skycode hasn’t recieved a boatload of publicity. The Scandanavian band have such an original and distinct sound with beautiful arrangements and vocals that it is difficult to see why a few publications and blogs have mentioned them. Just listen to ‘Go Outside Again’ to see what I mean — the overall ambience and mood is extremely definable and original. The catchy ‘People’ is led by a simple snare along with claps, which seems to be an effective formula on most of the album. Magenta Skycode is certainly a band to look out for.

Magenta Skycode – Go Outside Again

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/magenta_skycode-go_outside_again.mp3%5D

Magenta Skycode – People

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/magenta_skycode-people.mp3%5D

Magenta Skycode – Pleasure Of Love

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/magenta_skycode-pleasure_of_love.mp3%5D

BUY
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09. The Fiery Furnaces – Bitter Tea

After the mass confusion that was Rehearsing My Choir, The Fiery Furnaces rebounded with Bitter Tea, a very long (as most Fiery Furnaces albums are) but rewarding album with a few surprises along the way, such as the 60s inspired ‘Waiting to Know You’ or the piano destruction in ‘I’m In No Mood’. The rest of the album is pretty traditional Fiery Furnaces with wacky song structures and creative lyrics, created by the ultra sibling super-duo of Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger.

The Fiery Furnaces – Waiting to Know You

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/fie-wai.mp3%5D

The Fiery Furnaces – I’m In No Mood

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/fie-imi.mp3%5D

BUY
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10. Morrissey – Ringleader of the Tormentors

The rumors are indeed true… Morrissey has apparently found happiness in his life. Has this affected his music? Somewhat. Morrissey’s latest album had a couple songs of a melacholic proportions, but the majority were Morrissey relieved that he found happiness, and in his words, “finally got laid”. While his lyrics aren’t as strong as his usual self, the songwriting is stunning and Tony Visconti’s production is stellar. The epic ‘Life Is A Pigsty’ is another one of my favorites from the year, as it could fit in on any of Morrissey’s early solo albums from the 90s and is remindable of ‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’.

Morrissey – Life Is a Pigsty

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/mor-lif.mp3%5D

Morrissey – On the Streets I Ran

[audio:http://obscuresound.com/mp3/best06/mor-ont.mp3%5D

BUY

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12 Responses to The (Halfway Point) Top Ten Albums of 2006

  1. K says:

    Thanks for the Some By Sea–hadn’t heard of them before, I like ’em, they’re on eMusic–three important points!

  2. Charlie says:

    Thoughtful list. I am dying to hear Air Force in its entirety.

    Just a note: I believe Shut Up I Am Dreaming is Sunset Rubdown’s sophomore LP, not its debut (which is Snake’s Got A Leg).

  3. bjeck says:

    nice list.

    im guessing xiu is out wherever it is you reside. its just. judging on the songs ive heard its sounding a not quite no.1. for eg. save me. is not good.at all. and sounds, dareisayit, like a bit of mediocre emo poo.

    but who knows.will wait for full album. i dont think itll be a ‘muscles’ though.

    and what abou tv on radio. or thom? … there most attractive. wolf like me has been my favourite song for quite some period of time now.now now now now.

    PEACE. you have talent. much appriestiated.

  4. James says:

    nice nice list. maybe the best i’ve seen. i like the xiu xiu a lot too. magenta skycode is good too, i got that from here.

  5. trev says:

    greta post! thanks.

  6. V says:

    I too thought of “Last Night On Maudlin Street” when I first listend to “Life is a Pigsty” By far I think the best track on the album. Excellent blog.

  7. Alex Rosa says:

    Thanks for introducing to me Tokyo Jihen…great band!

  8. Johnny says:

    Thanks to you introducing to me Xiu Xiu and Magenta Skycode, which especially is great band!! and this is excellent blog too…

  9. woe says:

    well the list is original, yes, but that may not always be a good thing. I’m still hoping the remaining part of the year will uncover better albums.

  10. Jeff says:

    I’m so excited for that Xiu Xiu album. Sounds awesome! And that Junior Boys album is definitely good stuff.

  11. Erock says:

    Junior Boys if fantastic, I’ve been listening to the album on repeat for days.

  12. sven says:

    the Air Force is terrific.

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