Sunday, December 31, 2006

Best of '06, Pt. 1

...so that Christmas Podcast never happened. Oh well! It would've rocked you too hard anyway. On to the year end albums list!

The Rant Presents: The Top 14 Albums of 2006

This gets harder and harder each year. Not because there is less good music coming out every year (there isn’t), nor was there a spike in good music this year (there wasn’t) – I simply am becoming less interested in buying exclusively new records. And that has nothing to do with the records themselves – my tastes are just bursting at the seems, and while new music is still my passion, I find myself going backwards as much as I go forward, which never used to be the case. It sort of freaks me out that in one year I could have bought a “obscure [jazz] classic” in the words of the Bad Plus’s Ethan Iverson, a collection of soul/funk from Belize, a reunion record of a late 70s punk trio, a 3-disc retrospective of an obscure British prog label, a compilation of disco-type stuff featuring the cello as the main instrument, the entire Jawbox catalogue, at least 6 Christmas albums and Gnarls Barkley's St. Elswhere. And only three of them came out this year (and none made my Top 14).

Most of my new music this year, however, has come courtesy of emusic.com. This is not a shameless plug; this is a great site. I pay $20 a month and (since I am grandfathered into a now-obsolete plan) get 90 song downloads – usually around 7 full-length albums a month. This makes it much cheaper to enjoy so much new music – and would explain why (by my most recent and hopefully accurate count), I have in my collection, both electronic and physical, 56 albums released this year consisting of all new material – that means no compilations (save one, I’ll explain later), no live records (ditto last retracrtion), no box sets, etc. The unfortunate side effect of this is that through emusic I get so many songs that certain albums I have in my possession I have not heard yet (8 of the 56 have not received enough listening time [or in some cases, any at all] to be considered for review).

So by doing a “Top 14” of the year, I’m roughly deciding which quarter of the albums I bought and have absorbed this year are worthy of praise (which is a bit unfair, since I think all of them deserve at least something positive said about them – I wouldn’t have bought them if I didn’t think they were worth my time). Why 14? Of my list, 14 immediately stood out as my favorites – so I’m not going to cough up 6 more or cut 4 to make the list tidy. It is my list, and I’ll do as I please. And of course, there are loads of albums that were released in 2006 that I have not heard, or even heard about, that I will someday own and love, as well as albums that I currently own that will one day surpass my Top 14 as my favorites from this year. In other words, this list is pretty much a crock. But a crock I hope you enjoy.

-B

14. Bob Rice – Nowhere Else To Go (Monster Ants Records)



Bob Rice is a songwriter of the highest caliber. Yet, because of people’s lack of open-mindedness he will never be as revered as any of the other musicians on this list. Why? Because he sings exclusively Christian music, and people associate Christian music with lameness. And granted, there are plenty of lame Christian artists, but there are also plenty of lame secular artists. However, Bob falls in neither camp. His songs are melodic, dense and rewarding, and this album – a sort of genre exercise to include a ‘bluegrass’ feel to his songs – is no exception. Maybe I just have a strong familiarity with the sound Bob is going for, but this sounds a lot like his other stuff to me, which is more than ok. Stand-out track: “In the Land of My Exile”

13. Beach House – Beach House (Carpark Records)



Many albums give you a cornucopia or sounds and colors; Beach House doesn’t. It gives a pretty consistent listening experience throughout its nine tracks. Saturated with fuzz and reverb, this beautiful album takes you to a place not unlike Mazzy Star did ten years ago. Similarities may exists between Mazzy and Beach House, but BH has a sound all its own – a bit noisier and more dirge-like at times than Mazzy Star ever were. Stand-out track: “Apple Orchard.”

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Bad Plus DO THE MATH Questionnaire

GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OR TWO OF AN ESPECIALLY GOOD OR INTERESTING:

1. Movie score. "Brick" by Nathan Johnson (plus a great modern day noir-ish piece - highly recommended [both the score and the film])
2. TV theme. "Quantum Leap" by the ubiquitous Mike Post (gets stuck in your head for years), "Six Feet Under" by Thomas Newman
3. Melody. Seasonal answer: "Christmastime is Here" - Vince Guraldi/Lee Mendelson
4. Harmonic language. Frank Zappa - "Peaches En Regalia," The Band - "The Weight"
5. Rhythmic feel. Tom Waits - "16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought-Six," Minutemen - "Swing to the Right"
6. Hip-hop track. "What's Up Fatlip?" by Fatlip
7. Classical piece. Shostakovich String Quartet #4
8. Smash hit. "Take on Me" - A-Ha, "In Dreams" - Roy Orbison, "Kiss" - Prince
9. Jazz album. "Mingus Ah Um" - Mingus, "Turning Point" - Bley/Gilmore/Motian/Peacock, "A Love Supreme" - Coltrane, "Believe" - Scott Amendola Band
10. Non-American folkloric group. Bembeya Jazz National (Guinea), Mamadou Diabate (Mali)
11. Book on music. "Our Band Can Be Your Life" - Michael Azzerad, "Chronicles, Vol. 1" - Bob Dylan, "The Beatles Complete Recording Sessions"

BONUS QUESTIONS:

A) Name an surprising album (or albums) you loved when you were developing as a musician: something that really informs your sound but that we would never guess in a million years: "Rocks" by Aerosmith

B) Name a practitioner (or a few) who play your instrument that you think is underrated: Nate Mendel/Sunny Day Real Estate

C) Name a rock or pop album that you wish had been a smash commercial hit (but wasn’t, not really): Mike Watt's "Ballhog or Tugboat?"

D) Name a favorite drummer, and an album to hear why you love that drummer: Tim "Herb" Alexander, "Frizzle Fry" by Primus

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Back later this week with my "Brian's Guide to Christmas" Podcast...