Monday, December 18, 2006

2006: My Favorite Songs

Here's a laundry list of honorable mentions, and then the favored favorites with a bit more explanation. (The alternating boldface in the honorable mention is only for visual separation, not some secret code.)

"The Wait" - Built to Spill; "Deep Down" - Calexico; "Where’s My Love" - Caroline; "Patience for the Ride" - Centro-matic; "Voice Inside My Head" - Dixie Chicks; "Hot Soft Light" - The Hold Steady; "Stuck Between Stations" - The Hold Steady; "Chillout Tent" - The Hold Steady; "What You Meant" - Hotel Lights; "Motionless" - Hotel Lights; "The Big Guns" - Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins; "Good Man" - Josh Ritter; "Wolves" - Josh Ritter; "No Backbone" - The Lemonheads; "Out of Control" - Mindy Smith; "Breaking the Ice" - Mojave 3; "Woke Up New" - Mountain Goats; "Star Witness" - Neko Case; "Exeter, Rhode Island" - Jennifer O’Connor; "Sister" - Jennifer O’Connor; "The President’s Dead" - Okkervil River; "Somerville" - The Pernice Brothers; Star Mile -- Joshua Radin; "Sour Shores" - Portastatic; "Getting Saved" - Portastatic; "Life of Leisure" - Rainer Maria; "Barfly" - Ray LaMontagne; "Three More Days" - Ray LaMontagne; "Fidelity" - Regina Spektor; "Canyon" - Richard Buckner; "Before" - Richard Buckner; "Safe Sound" - Trespassers William; "Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives" - Voxtrot; "Painting by Chagall" - The Weepies; "Crowd Surf Off a Cliff" - Emily Haines

"Ootischenia" - The Be Good Tanyas

For some reason, the version that I downloaded was called "Opal," but this seems to be the official title. In any case, I discovered the Tanyas this year, and they're right up my alley: Three Canadian women who channel the American south in a slightly off-kilter way. They do a lot of traditional songs and covers ("For the Turnstiles" by Neil Young, a brave revision of Prince's "When Doves Cry," etc.), but this song is an original, and it's my favorite from the record they released this year. It starts with a shuffling drum-and-banjo beat, and when it's joined by the singer's odd, boozy delivery, you're hooked. Or, you should be.

"Don’t Wait" -- Dashboard Confessional

This wasn't one of my ten favorite songs of the year, but I figured if I put it in the longer list above without explanation, you would all start thinking I look like this guy. I'm not a devoted emo fan. In fact, I'd rather listen to a three-day panel discussion on the films of Rosie Perez than attend a show with all those teenagers who scream along with Dashboard Confessional's songs. Still, the guy has an ear for catchy hooks, and here he's really belting out a stadium sound, more U2 wail than self-recriminating whisper. Plus, as much as I know it's embarrassing to ever listen to DC, there are fairly hip critics out there who take My Chemical Romance seriously, and have you heard those guys? Good lord.

"Crazy" - Gnarls Barkley

What this choice lacks in originality, it makes up for in necessity. It couldn't possibly be left off. It's this year's "Hey Ya," universally loved by all crowds, except I think this one will age better. I came to it late, on a highway in Texas, when a friend played it for me. We were driving around the state to attend baseball games, and for the next several days I probably drove him batty with my continual requests to hear it. As you must know by now, it's catchy as hell, the singing is top-shelf, and (what puts it over the top for me) the lyrics are actually an existential puzzle of sorts.

"Ain’t No Other Man" - Christina Aguilera

Less existential.

There comes a time in a man's life -- say, 8:30 on a Wednesday morning -- when he's getting ready for work and he's shamefully watching VH1 and he's reminded of the fact that, even though her albums are probably sprawling messes of vocal over-reach and pat lyrics about skank-emboldenment, Christina Aguilera can flat-out sing. In another era, she might have been something. And in fact, her double-album this year was an attempt to capture (or at least appropriate) classic sounds, as if she realizes that what she would be best at went out of style fifty years ago. I'm pretty sure she mostly failed in the attempt, but this single, which actually sounds most vintage in its sample but is otherwise very modern, is a home run.

"Trains to Brazil" - Guillemots

I think I've written about this several times already around here, so I won't bore my regular readers. For new readers, just go listen to this. You won't be sorry.

"Break Us" - Kelley McRae

This song about God's grace might be beautiful enough to make Richard Dawkins believe.

"Catastrophe" - Rainer Maria

The band broke up this year, sadly, but they went out on a great note with their last record, which manages to overcome the fact that its first track (this one) is its best. Toward the end, when singer Caithlin De Marrais is playing with the lines "I've got a plan/I'm gonna find you/At the end of the world," I'm more affected by the sentiment than I was by the entirety of the apocalyptic novel that everyone was kneeling before this year. (More on that soon.) In fact, this might have been my favorite song of 2006, except for...

"The Funeral" - Band of Horses

I'll be writing more about these guys, so for now I'll just say that this transcends even the usual and reliable pleasures of other songs (like "Creep" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit") that go "shh, shh, shh" and then "bang-bang-bang."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talk to me about the Dixie Chicks. I mean, school me about them. (It could be in an obscure, 3am post in January; or you could time it to March 25th as a birthday present. Just a suggestion.) I have this crazy budding thing for country music. Am I now banned from ever posting a comment on ASWOBA ever again? -- tavia

1:54 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Dixie Chicks education TK, TK.

Meanwhile, several of the acts listed here -- Kelley McRae, Richard Buckner, Be Good Tanyas, Mindy Smith, etc. -- could be considered country on some level. So, of course you're not banned. Not for this, anyway.

2:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home