Each year I make a "Best of" compilation of the best new music I've come across issued that year. This annual tradition dates back a couple of decades to the days of cassette tapes when I'd trade my best of tapes with Pat Gallagher, a fellow Purdue student and the first person I knew who listened to The Replacements. Pat always seemed to be the man when it came to new music and I miss getting his compilations. In the past three or four years, I've been exchanging compilation CD's with Mark "Weed" Need, who happens to be the hippest law professor I've ever known and surely the hippest Indiana University has ever employed. Although Weed's compilations tend to lean heavily towards the alt.country genre, they are still fabulous gifts and lead me to broaden my musical horizons each year.
Alas, 2006 was not a banner year for me in the realm of discovering music. Not only did my spending priorities change from those of my single-man lifestyle, but there was a surprising absence of what I consider new and exciting in the world of music...or at least the part of that world I 'm exposed to.
Some exceptions I should mention:
1. Love Train - Wolfmother.
I was absolutely delighted by the Australian Rock power trio Wolmother's self-titled release. One reviewer claims this band was 30 years late to the rock party, with their hard-hitting beats and "psychodelic" tunes. Not sure I'd go that far, but they get my nod anyway
2. Seer Believer - The White Birch.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Wolfmother is the group The White Birch, another trio but this one hails from Norway. Their 2006 release is their 5th and earned rave reviews internationally, but longtime fans accused them of "moving to the mainstream" with one reviewer issuing this cautionary statement, "Just a word of caution out of the book of Coldplay: we all know what happens when emotional bands move to the center. Millions of records sold, marriages to supermodel actresses and windsurfing in New Zealand. Don't say we didn't warn you guys."
3. Black Swan - Thom Yorke.
What can I say, I love Radiohead. Someone said he should have called this album Kid B, although I wouldn't go that far. Many of the songs don't do it for me, but Black Swan, featuring the phrase, "This is F*cked Up", repeated over and over, gets in my head and won't leave. My message to Thom, keep creating, keep creating.
4. You Could Be Happy - Snow Patrol
I promise I am not selling out...really. Snow Patrol seems to me sometimes to be another one of those Best Buy created bands, although I know that striking generalization is not fair. But let's face it, there IS an awful lot of mass promotion going on in the box stores for this band. Having said that, I really like You Could Be happy. Haunting melody.
5. Paralyzed - Rock Kills Kid.
I seem to be reverting to Pop-Alternative with these last two selections, or maybe pretending I'm a 20-something, I don't know. What I do know is this song, the result of two years of being a squatter by the lead singer, is catchy and post-punkish in its own way.
6. Level - The Raconteurs.
From the early French, a raconteur is someone who tells a good story, in the case of The Raconteurs, it's a damn good story at that. White Stripes, yada, yada, yada...this side project gained steam and then took off.
7. Hey Now Now - Michael Franti & Spearhead.
I really could have chosen almost any song off of the 2006 release, Yell Fire! This is a solid disc perhaps enriched for me since I was fortunate enough to see Michael and friends perform live at the Wilma Theater here in Missoula. This was the best show I've seen in a very long time. He sings his mind and is a positive voice for peace in the world. Yell Fire Michael!
8. Think Long - Mates of State.
I'm pretty sure this song is included because of a very long solo drive I took to and from Salt Lake City this summer. I was on my way to play in an Ultimate tourney and spent some of the trip calling friends to tell them the news I was going to be a Dad...I played this song about 20 times in a row.
9. The W.A.N.D. - Flaming Lips.
Damn, these guys not only have staying power, but they keep getting better. I think this song puts the Lips back in my rotation, after a sad absence.
11. Put Your Records On (Acoustic) - Corrine Bailey Rae .
I'll admit it...I never heard of here before a recommendation from iTunes. What a beautiful voice! Makes me want to sit on a back porch with a group of friends, a guitar and the lovely Ms. Rae.
12. Could We - Cat Power
Charlyn "Chan" Marshall's 7th album is her best. Her minimalist sound, combined with backing from a group of Memphis musicians, is the perfect combination. I hope you agree.
13. Come Together?Dear Prudence/Cry Baby Cry - The Beatles
Love does it for me, not entirely but the recomposition is a nice round out to my Beatles collection.
14. It Beats 4 U - My Morning Jacket.
From the Live recording Okonokos, this song and Off the Record are strong live performances from a funky, wild crazy southern rock band. I'm in.
So that's it for CD1...I'll post more but before signing off I should mention that CD2 will contain many remastered releases, like The Clash, Neil Diamond, Ella Fitzgerald and Neil Young....plus some new stuff from Pavement, Sonic Youth and more.