While it may be premature to mourn/celebrate the end of another year, I’ve been enjoying the “Best of 2006” posts on a couple other blogs (Aquarium Drunkard and Speed of Dark, especially) and figured, why not post one of my own? Thing is, I don’t usually get a lot of new music, so maybe the list is more of a “The Few Albums That I Heard In Their Entirety Which Came Out in 2006 and I Thought Were Really Really Good” list. Yeah, that’s not cumbersome at all.
People Gonna Talk by James Hunter (Buy It).
My father told me about this album after hearing a story about Hunter on NPR. Listening to the album, it’s easy to tell why NPR would devote time to it. It’s very laid-back British blue-eyed soul, with just a wisp of ska on the title track. Though I don’t know any of Hunter’s previous albums, on this one he comes closer to being Sam Cooke than all those other British singers who tried combined (though I guess Joe Cocker was going for Ray Charles).
James Hunter – I’ll Walk Away
Radiodread by the slightly redundantly-named Easy Star All-Stars (Buy It).
Sure, not all the songs work. But the ones that do work so unbelievably well, especially the song “Let Down” with guests Toots and The Maytals. This version retains the depressing vibe of the original, even when pairing it with a lively reggae beat and a trombone solo. And man, Toots’ voice is still so top-notch. “Let Down” alone makes up for duds like “Subterranean Homesick Alien” (my favorite song from the original OK Computer, so maybe I started with some pretty high expectations), but other gems like “Paranoid Android” (complete with Rasta drums) and “Electioneering” push the album onto this list.
Easy Star All-Stars – Let Down (feat. Toots and the Maytals)
Game Theory by The Roots (Buy It).
So good it inspired two different conversations with two different total strangers on the subject of The Roots. Both of them agreed that though the entire album was amazing, their favorite track was “Clock With No Hands.” There’s a darkness that permeates every song on Game Theory, even the up-tempo track “Here I Come,” but that’s absolutely its charm. The mood of the album serves as a tribute to recently deceased uber-producer J Dilla, specifically the moving closer “Can’t Stop This.” With inventiveness that no other group can match (sampling Radiohead?) Black Thought’s deep verses (with some guest appearances by ex-member Malik B — sounding like he never left — and others) and the band bringing the heat, The Roots are on top of their game (no pun intended).
The Roots – Clock With No Hands (feat. Mercedes Martinez)
Return to Cookie Mountain by TV On the Radio (Buy It).
This album is sometimes odd and dissonant, but always inspired, which is why it’ll end up on a lot of people’s year-end lists. The band doesn’t lose their twisted-r&b falsetto vocals here, but end up with some songs that are maybe more accessible to mainstream rock audiences (“Wolf Like Me,” with its werewolf-themed video, is the standout). But they also retain a sense of art and a skill for writing some of the most interesting music out there.
TV On The Radio – Hours
Fishscale by Ghostface Killah (Buy It)
Like Radiodread, Fishscale has some mis-steps, like the child abuse-mythologizing “Whip You With A Strap” and the bonus track that has a long-dead (it’s no wonder he sounds uninspired) Notorious B.I.G. joining Raekwon and Ghostface on a couple verses. But even if the album consisted of just the first three songs “Shakey Dog,” “Kilo,” and “The Champ,” it’d still be one of the most aggressive and winning-est hip-hop albums of the year. Lucky for us, the album doesn’t stop there, piling hot track on top of hot track.
Ghostface Killah – R.A.G.U. (feat. Raekwon)
The Audience’s Listening by Cut Chemist (Buy It)
From something close to traditional hip-hop DJing (“What’s the Altitude”) to chilled-out Brazilian bossanova (“The Garden”), this album exudes fun and cool on every track. Cut Chemist, a refugee from underground rap superstars Jurassic-5 and latin hip-hoppers Ozomatli, has made an album even haters of DJ music can jam out to. My favorite track “2266 Cambridge,” paints a picture of a lazy summer afternoon, driving slow through the city and listening to the radio with the windows down.
Cut Chemist – 2266 Cambridge (feat. Thes One)
So I hope you enjoy these songs and that the last days of 2006 bring you lots of other good music too.
posted by Adam