Monday, November 27, 2006

Best of 2006 (from a UK perspective)

I write for New Noise, a site based in the UK. The email was sent out a few weeks ago - "It's time to send in your Best of 2006 list" - and I started going through the CDs I had listened to over the past year. Definitely making the list are The Damnwells and The Shys, definitely.

And then I re-read the email and see that the only albums that can appear on the list are ones that were released in the UK in 2006. Okay, so that'll wipe out a few of my picks, but I'll still get a majority of my "real" favorites up there. Right? Wrong.

I haven't really come up with a solid top 10 yet but as I looked up CDs on my list (which numbered something like 28), I found that nearly half of the albums I was even thinking about weren't released in the UK in 2006.

We're in the height of the Internet era, where people can buy imports cheaply through a number of different sources, including Amazon. On top of that, imports can be purchased through iTunes so really the idea of an "import" has lost significance in the Internet era (as far as I'm concerned).

But, rules are rules so here is the list I turned in. New Noise tallied up the votes of all their writers and then picked the top 20 releases (I think) based on point totals.

As NONE of my list made it to the official New Noise list, I don't feel too bad sharing it here - though if you're a reader of New Noise, I guess I'm slightly spoiling the surprise by showing you what DIDN'T make the cut.

1. Snow Patrol – Eyes Open - When U2 decides to hang it up as the reigning king of the arena rock circuit, Snow Patrol may be there to fill the big shoes. Yeah, you’re sick to death of ‘Crashing Cars’ but the duet with Martha Wainwright (‘Set Fire to the Third Bar’) is audio gold.

2. In Flames – Come Clarity - The best mainstream metal album since Pantera’s ‘Vulgar Display of Power,’ ‘Come Clarity’ is a mish-mash of headbanging styles, from the thrashing guitar assault of ‘Take this Life’ to the acoustic-based, prog-rock title track.

3. Dixie Chicks – Taking the Long Way - With the help of producer Rick Rubin, the ladies from Texas are transforming from country gals to pop queens while dealing with the backlash directed at them for their political views.

4. Cosmic Rough Riders – The Stars Look Different From Down Here - Pure sugar in the form of power-pop songs. While Teenage Fanclub has veered off in a more adult contemporary direction, the Cosmic Rough Riders have picked up the slack. If only the Posies would go back to writing songs like “When You Come Around,” the world would be a perfect place.

5. Drive By Truckers – A Blessing and A Curse - Want to know what good American bar rock sounds like? The Drive By Truckers exemplify the beer-drinking, t-shirt aesthetic of Southern rock bands and deliver an album’s worth of country-fried, whiskey-soaked rockers.

6. Howe Gelb – Sno Angel Like You - The Giant Sand singer teams up with a Gospel choir on an album of stark contrasts – Gelb’s weathered desert voice and the choir’s full-sounding spiritual praises. It’s a fascinating combination and the choir gives the songs a depth that has to be heard to be believed.

7. And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – So Divided - It’s easy to see why purists of the band hate the new direction that Trail of Dead has gone over the course of the last couple of releases. The post-punk white noise of previous releases has been replaced with a coherent and melodic commercially-viable sound.

8. Clearlake – Amber - Clearlake has been lost in the crowd, releasing a powerful Brit-rock album just as indie darlings as the Artic Monkeys and others capture all the press. But this eclectic rocker, which fits nicely alongside Blur, Radiohead, and Primal Scream in a CD collection, deserves notice.

9. People in Planes – As Far As the Eye Can See - Why this band hasn’t exploded on the radio is one of 2006’s greatest mysteries as the bands long-awaited debut album, ‘As Far As the Eye Can See’, is filled with anthemic songs that make young boys dream of being rock stars.

10. Slayer – Christ Illusion - The return of drummer Dave Lombardo gave new life to this thrash metal band that was stuck in a rut for the better part of the last 10 years. ‘Christ Illusion’ harkens back to the band’s classic days (‘South of Heaven’, ‘Seasons in the Abyss’) when they scared old ladies and religious leaders alike.

My "real" list will be posted at the end of the year. But, for now, enjoy my favorite CDs that were released in the UK this year! :)