It’s that time of year again, when all the critics and music fanatics share their picks for the best new albums released during the year. This was one of the hardest years for me yet. I usually have a pretty good sense of my 10 favorite albums of the year, but this year it seems there were only 5 or 6 sure things and about 15 other really great records that I found hard to rank. It was a great year, but too many really good albums yet not as many that jumped out of the pack.
Another huge problem for me was the fact that the best album released this year (in my humble opinion) is not even eligible for my year-end list. I’m talking about The Beatles Love album. That was far and away my favorite release of the year. But because it’s not technically new material I don’t feel it meets the Top Ten list criteria. Frank Zappa’s Trance-Fusion is another record that came out this year that would have made it, but it’s all live recordings and it was recorded years ago, so that’s out. There is yet a third album that probably would have at least made my top twenty and that’s the new Weird Al Yankovic album called Straight Outta Lynwood. No matter what your opinion of comedy or novelty records, if you’re a fan of music and you have a sense of humor, you have to love Weird Al and this is one of his best. I just wanted to mention those 3 albums because they are exceptional and I recommend them highly but for one reason or another they don't meet the Best Of list rules.
On to my year-end lists…
Dr. Shore’s Top Ten CD’s of 2006
1. The Feeling – Twelve Stops and Home (UME/Interscope)
Pure-pop brilliance. Heavily influenced by 10cc and pop of the 70’s. Hooky and fun. It doesn’t get better than this.
2. The Slip – Eisenhower (Bar/None)
A sleeper that snuck up on me! I picked it up on a whim late in the year and it’s been hard to stop listening. Hard to describe…quirky indie-rock with guitar, piano, keys and great melodies! You’ve got to hear this one!
3. Pivitplex – The King in a Rookery (Hawley)
This is alternative power-pop done right. Beatle-esque with Brian Wilson style vocal arrangements mixed into great alternative rock with beautiful melodies and infectious hooks. This is exactly the kind of music I love.
4. Lost Dogs – The Lost Cabin and the Mystery Trees (independent)
Songs... It’s all about great songwriting and melodies. Those of you that know me know my love for Terry Taylor and his many bands (Daniel Amos, Swirling Eddies, etc.) but on this one he gets help from Derri and Steve of The Choir who contribute heavily this time around.
5. Mew – And the Glass Handed Kites (Sony)
If you like Pink Floyd, Muse, Yes or early Radiohead you must get this album. It sounds exactly like none of those, but fans of those bands will appreciate the artistry and originality.
6. Fair – The Best Worst-Case Scenario (Tooth and Nail)
Aaron Sprinkle should be a household name. His production and songwriting are fantastic. This is his first outing with a band in awhile after putting out 3 great solo albums. Alternative Rock with a great pop sensibility and the songwriting will blow your mind.
7. David Mead – Tangerine (Tallulah)
Another Power-pop gem…highly recommended to fans of Crowded House. It’s beautiful, hooky and fun.
8. Jars of Clay – Good Monsters (Essential)
Forget anything you’ve ever heard from or about this band. This album is fantastic and should probably be higher on this list. This is easily their best. Stylistically it covers the orchestral alternative pop and rock genre and again, the best thing about this one are the great hooks and melodies.
9. Keane – Under the Iron Sea (Interscope)
I love Keane. Beautiful keyboard pop…Nuff said.
10. Mute Math – Mute Math (Teleprompt/Warner Bros)
The final commercial release of this album didn’t do the original indie version justice. But either way it’s a great album with all sorts of early Depeche Mode influence mixed into U2 style rock with some weird prog and pop sprinkled throughout.
The rest of my top twenty…
11. Woven Hand - Mosaic
12. Roger Joseph Manning Jr. – The Land of Pure Imagination
13. Cheap Trick – Rockford
14. Persephone’s Bees – Notes From the Underworld
15. Beck – The Information
16. Starflyer 59 – My Island
17. Wisely – Parador
18. Badly Drawn Boy – Born in the U.K.
19. Grandaddy – Just Like the Fambly Cat
20. Belle and Sebastian – The Life Pursuit