Sunday, December 21, 2008

Albums of the Aughts: 2006

By far and away, this was my favorite year of the decade for music—at least half the records on this list are all-time favorites. I could write a whole other post just from my honorable mentions! There were so many great CDs, in fact, I’ve broken my own rule and made this a top 11, instead of a top 10. I just can’t leave any of these treasures to the side …

“Decemberunderground,” AFI
This was the album A Fire Inside had been building to for 15 years: A pure masterpiece from start to finish. Though maintaining the band’s hardcore roots, “Decemberunderground” is an expansive, genre-bending work with mainstream appeal and punk cred that flows seamlessly from one essential track to the next. Two years later, it still seems as fresh and exciting as it did on the first spin.
Favorite Track: “Prelude 12/21”
[original review]

“The Gold Record,” The Bouncing Souls
Another instant and career-culminating classic, “The Gold Record” is the Souls’ most accomplished, mature, and well-crafted album of their career (which hits 20 years in 2009). It’s a unifying, uplifting celebration of the best that music has to offer to anyone—artist and audience alike. The album plays like a humble acknowledgment of how lucky they are to be doing what they’ve been doing for so long, and how grateful they are for the opportunity. They speak for me and so many others when they holler, “We wanna say thanks to the music in our lives.”
Favorite Tracks: “So Jersey,” “For All the Unheard”
[original review]

“The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me,” Brand New
What a journey Brand New took over this decade, going from the pop/punk frivolity of their 2001 debut “Your Favorite Weapon” to this churning barnburner of an album. With its ebbs and flows and segues, “Devil and God” is meant to be heard all in one piece, punctuated by multiple highlights including “Sowing Season,” “Millstone,” “The Archers Bows Have Broken,” and …
Favorite Track: “Jesus”
[original review]

“American V: A Hundred Highways,” Johnny Cash
Cash and producer Rick Rubin saved the best for last with this posthumous American Recordings release. Though the Man in Black’s voice quavers more than it thunders, his utter defiance in the face of imminent death bleeds all over this record. It’s downright heartbreaking in several spots (“On the Evening Train,” “Help Me”), absolutely thrilling in others. Essential tracks abound, such as the foreboding Springsteen cover “Further On Up the Road” and life-defining spiritual “I Came to Believe.” But the shining moment is the thundering …
Favorite Track: “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”
[original review]

“St. Elsewhere,” Gnarls Barkley
Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo blew everyone’s minds with this, one of the landmark discs of the decade. It had twists and turns, moments of grandeur and little idiosyncrasies doled out in equal parts as it broke boundaries amongst genres and listeners alike. Sure everyone remembers smash crossover hit “Crazy,” but there was much more to this album than just one awesome track, like Violent Femmes cover “Gone Daddy Gone,” “Smiley Faces,” “Go-Go Gadget Gospel,” and my …
Favorite Track: “Just A Thought.”

“Ben Kweller,” Ben Kweller
The wunderkind once again sounds mature beyond his few years on this self-titled effort in which he embraces his inner Springsteen and, amazingly, plays every single instrument. Pop, rock, country, blues—it’s all here on the singer/songwriters best work yet. Everything comes together perfectly on his open-road masterwork, one of the best songs of the decade and my …
Favorite Track: “Penny on the Train Track”
[original review]

“Pearl Jam,” Pearl Jam
I’ve written so much about this album over the past couple years (here and here, especially), I don’t know what else can be said. “Pearl Jam” remains as vibrant for me today as the first time I heard it (though I’m backing off calling it my all-time favorite PJ album, I think). It remains their most cohesive work from end to end since “Ten,” and, much like U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” stands as an assimilation of some of the best pure rock and roll produced over the past two decades. This was a make-or-break album for the band; its success will hopefully propel them into further greatness in the years to come.
Favorite Track: “Life Wasted”
[original review]

“Carnavas,” Silversun Pickups
This L.A. quartet exploded onto the scene in 2006 with a blast of fuzzy guitars and swirling riffs. With not a single track clocking in under four minutes, “Carnavas” unspools in measured, patient waves, from grinding “Well Thought Out Twinkies” to lead single “Lazy Eye” to the massive “Little Lovers So Polite” to my …
Favorite Track: the sprawling “Rusted Wheel.”

“Eyes Open,” Snow Patrol
Here Snow Patrol finished the arena rock transition they started three years earlier, delivering one of the most enjoyable records of the decade. “Eyes Open” finds a perfect balance between straightahead rock and roll (“You’re All I Have,” “It’s Beginning to Get to Me”) and tender ballads (“Chasing Cars,” “You Could Be Happy”). So I guess it’s fitting I find I can’t possibly pick between the two categories when determining my …
Favorite Tracks: “Hands Open” and “Set the Fire to the Third Bar.”
[original review]

“We Shall Overcome,” Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen’s career has taken some wild turns over the past 35 years, but perhaps none was more unforeseen than this inspired set of folk songs for the new millennium. Springsteen filtered the classic yarns through his own rock and roll prism and arrived at one of my favorite records he’s ever produced. By directing his huge Seeger Sessions Band on the fly during rambunctious recording sessions, “We Shall Overcome” has a freewheeling, adventurous spirit Springsteen hadn’t managed to capture on a record in more than 20 years. The amazing results are alternately infectiously fun and deadly serious, from “Old Dan Tucker” and “John Henry” to “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” and my …
Favorite Track: “Mrs. McGrath.”
[original review—sorta]

“Show Your Bones,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs
In just one record, the New York trio transitioned from its thrashy, trashy garage rock roots into a full-fledged sonic extravaganza. The upgrade in songcraft is clear right from the outset with powerhouse lead track “Gold Lion.” Lead singer Karen O rightfully receives much of the attention for her dynamic, charismatic vocal power and prowess, but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are equally fueled by the guitar wizardry of Nick Zinner; it was the latter’s shredding on tracks like “Phenomena,” “Fancy,” “Cheated Hearts,” and “Mysteries” that put the band on a new plane and turned “Show Your Bones” into an album of the decade.
Favorite Track: “Gold Lion”
[original review]

“Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” Arctic Monkeys
“B’Day,” Beyonce
“Modern Times,” Bob Dylan
“Whiskey on a Sunday,” Flogging Molly
"Another Fine Day," Golden Smog
“Boys and Girls in America,” The Hold Steady
“Inside In/Inside Out,” Kooks
“Idlewild,” Outkast
“Highway Companion,” Tom Petty
“Broken Boy Soldiers,” The Raconteurs
“Return to Cookie Mountain,” TV on the Radio

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