Hudson's Best of 2006

It seems hard to believe that it was exactly twelve months ago that I was sprawled out on my bed with two computers and dozens of CD’s. Yes, it’s that time once again to come up with Hudson’s Best of the Year.
What a year it’s been. Stacks and stacks of discs in almost every room (including the bathrooms) are waiting to be filed, and Teagan the Ipod has over 6500 new songs competing for listening time.
Yet it’s also an extremely hard year to put together this list. While there are arguably more great releases than in recent years, nothing has really jumped out to declare itself a true candidate for album of the year. There’s little distance between the top and bottom of the list, and if I was asked to redo this next month I’d probably have a completely different running order.
Besides a wealth of new music, the record business did an amazing job with the odds and ends in their vaults. There has never been such a wealth of reissues, with almost all of them expanded with demos, outtakes, and live performances almost as great as the initial recordings that made these releases so worthwhile.
Instead of wasting more space with my thoughts and opinions of the past twelve months, let’s jump right in with the best albums of 2006

  1. Beck, The Information. Over the course of his fifteen year career, Beck has generally alternated between wacky, hiphop-ish pop and quiet, introspective folk. On his latest album, Beck combines the formats in what may be the album of his career (particularly when accompanied by the DVD of low-budget yet beguiling videos).

  2. The Decemberists, The Crane Wife. Eyebrows were raised when this literary-minded baroque band signed to Capitol Records. Could the band’s wide-range of styles possibly survive with integrity on a major label? The answer is a resounding yes.

  3. Bob Dylan, Modern Times. Who knew that the grand old bard is actually a funny guy? Between his radio show and this actual album, Dylan is full of great one-liners that showcases a personality long hidden behind an indifferent scowl. The ironically-titled Modern Times sets these witticisms in front of an old-school backing of blues, gospel, folk, and other old-time forms of music.

  4. Muse, Black Holes and Revelations. With no Radiohead album this year, leave it to Muse to step into the British art-rock void. Much more pop-oriented than Radiohead ever was, Black Holes and Revelations is a career-making album for this veteran band.

  5. Willie Nile, Streets of New York. Nile has been hanging around the fringes of the New York underground rock scene since the late 70’s, releasing numerous albums that have disappeared within weeks of their release. Recasting himself as a singer/songwriter, Streets of New York could be the best record Ryan Adams never recorded.

  6. Golden Smog, Another Fine Day. Although Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy’s presence is minimal, the latest release by this alt-country supergroup is quite possibly the most rewarding of their three albums. Recorded at their leisure on analog equipment during a month-long working holiday in Spain, Another Fine Day’s warm sound harkens back to the days of vinyl, when you listened to an entire album instead of the “hottest” tracks on your Ipod.

  7. The Twilight Singers, Powder Burns. I didn’t know former Afghan Whigs leader Greg Dulli even had a new album until actor/comedian Denis Leary hyped the album on both the Daily Show and Opie and Anthony. If only their record company gave them so much publicity, as Powder Burns is the most rewarding post-Whigs album Dulli has released, combining the intensity of his former band with the sultry haze of his last few albums with his current band.

  8. Ray Davies, Other People’s Lives. It’s simply amazing that the former leader of the Kinks has never released a solo album. Well, it was definitely worth the wait. Other People’s Lives may not have the intensity that made the Kinks so legendary, but it proves that he still possesses songwriting skills equaled by only a select few.

  9. Primal Scream, Riot City Blues. After two messy albums of hazy electronica, Bobby Gillespie returns to the British charts with this organic collection of Rolling Stones and New York Dolls-influenced swagger.

  10. The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America. Books, bars, and babes are obviously Hold Steady leader Craig Finn’s obsessions, and the band’s latest album is the perfect soundtrack to a Friday night bender.

  11. The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers. Maybe the garage-rock supergroup of Jack White, Brendan Benson and two members of The Greenhornes was not the blockbuster insiders predicted before its release. Yet it’s still the catchiest power pop album of the year.

  12. Morrissey, Ringleader of the Tormentors. Pairing Morrissey with legendary producer Tony Visconti (Bowie, T. Rex) was certainly an inspired idea, and while the resulting album may not match the quality of 2004’s You Are the Quarry this is still one of his best albums since the dissolution of the Smiths almost twenty years ago.

  13. Pernice Brothers, Live a Little. Joe Pernice is one of the true unsung heroes of American pop music. Every year or so he releases amazing music yet he’s virtually unknown outside of his fanbase that’s followed him since his years with the Scud Mountain Boys. This year’s release carries on the blueprint of memorable melodies and lush vocals, but the quality of the tunes is a slight step above his last few albums.

  14. Bruce Springsteen, The Seeger Sessions. Who could have predicted that an acoustic album of songs associated with old folkie Pete Seeger could be so upbeat and…well, fun? Many of these tunes date back to the 19th century, yet the performances by Springsteen and his dozen or so friends are every bit as energetic as the wildest E Street Band encore.

  15. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere. Every year, the Hudson list has a surprising appearance by a group outside of his comfort zone. This year, it’s the debut pairing of Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo. Any hiphop act that can get away with covering the Violent Femmes deserves a spot on my list.

  16. Joseph Arthur, Nuclear Daydream. I must thank my good buddy Casey for informing me that one of my favorite songwriters had quietly released a new album. Featuring a more stripped-down sound than on his previous couple of releases, Nuclear Daydream is also easily his most varied album.

  17. Built to Spill, You in Reverse. It’s been five years since indie rock’s version of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse released an album, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. Doug Martsch has cut down on the layers and layers of guitars, and the result is the most organic album of their long career.

  18. The Flaming Lips, At War With the Mystics. It says a lot about the quality of Wayne Coyne’s music that even his band’s most disappointing album still ranks so high on my chart. There’s just a little bit too much funk and 70’s prog rock (and maybe too little actual songwriting) present on this album, but even at their most pretentious they’re more interesting than anybody else in the music business.

  19. Calexico, Garden Ruin. After years of updating and interpreting various Tex-Mex sounds and genres, Calexico dropped their more esoteric elements and released this more accessible album. While this could have spelled disaster for Garden Ruin, the elevated quality of the songs on this album are proof that the words “more accessible” doesn’t necessarily mean a drop in artistic worth.

  20. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas. I doubt if anybody could have predicted that a pairing of a former member of Belle and Sebastian with the former leader of the Screaming Trees could be so endearing. Not since Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra has such a “beauty and the beast” set of duets resulted in such a strong album.

  21. Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped. After 25 years and 21 albums, Sonic Youth continue to roll on. While undeniably a SY album, what’s shocking about this album is its pure pop sound. Thurston Moore cuts down on the guitar histrionics and Kim Gordon’s tunes are much more melodic, yet the rawness that we’ve come to expect from these legends still carries the day.

  22. Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. Like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo just continues to create inspired music. Their latest is sort of a career overview, jumping from genre to genre. Book-ended by lengthy guitar drones, the rest of the album includes garage rock, jazz, surf, R&B, country, and seemingly every other known style of music.

  23. Sparklehorse, Dreamt For Light Years In the Belly of a Mountain. Mark Linkous may be a troubled man, but he’s a songwriting genius, and his first album in five years is also his most varied release. Aided by Gnarls Barkley leader Danger Mouse, Linkous adds elements of electronica to his indie folk-rock sound.

  24. Belle and Sebastian, The Life Pursuit. Every B&S album is an expansion of their previous, and The Life Pursuit is no exception. Just as 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress added higher production values to their patented 80’s indie-folk sound, their latest sees them exploring elements of Motown and even a bit of funk.

  25. The Arctic Monkey, Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not. It seemed inevitable that this album would find itself in the upper regions of my list when it was released at the beginning of the year. Months later, it’s still one of the best British albums of the year yet it’s lost a bit of its initial luster.

  26. Grandaddy, Just Like the Fambly Cat. The final album by Jayson Lytle’s renowned California psychedelic pop group may not be the band’s finest moment, but it’s a fantastic final chapter for an act that should have been as big as Radiohead and the Flaming Lips.

  27. Cat Power, The Greatest. Chan Marshall, the “American PJ Harvey”, set aside her indie rock influences and hired some of the great 60’s soul sidemen to accompany her on quite possibly her best album to date. The results may be quieter than her previous albums, but it reveals an amazing voice that fits perfectly with the low-key professionalism of her acclaimed sidemen.

  28. Mission of Burma, The Obliterati. As if to prove that 2004’s Onoffon was no fluke, the second reunion album by this legendary hardcore band stands proudly with anything they recorded during their early 80’s heyday.

  29. Cursive, Happy Hollow. Bright Eyes may get all the press, but Cursive is quite possibly the more deserving Omaha act. Happy Hollow continues the band’s winning combination of leader Tim Kasher’s distinctive Cure-ish vocals with dissonant yet melodic guitar styles carrying a set of songs primarily dealing with small-town malaise.

  30. Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, The River in Reverse. This pairing of two legendary songwriters obviously came about as a result of Hurricane Katrina, but there is no forced sentimentality present on this album. Costello and his band members bring a raging intensity to Toussaint’s songs, while Toussaint’s crew certainly brings out a more soulful sound to this collection of old and new songs.

  31. M. Ward, Post-War. For his fifth album, the acclaimed Americana songwriter expands his sound beyond well beyond the traditional indie folk that has made him a music magazine favorite. Hell, some songs could even be considered “alternative”.

  32. Camera Obscura, Let’s Get Out of This Country. For their third album, Scotland’s Camera Obscura go the full-fledged Phil Spector lush pop sound…and succeed.

  33. Lloyd Cole, Antidepressant. The former Commotion leader goes acoustic with songs about middle age, prescription drugs, and Scarlet Johansson.

  34. Johnny Cash, American V. In a year that saw the marketplace deluged with Cash compilations and reissues, American V is the real deal. The only real deal, as this is not a “cash”-in. These are the tracks that the Man In Black was recording in the weeks leading up to his death, and while the vocals are at times rough they’re still full of the intensity that made him such a beloved artist.

  35. Cocktail Slippers, Mastermind. There are few things hotter than female rock ‘n’ roll. Unfortunately, there aren’t many “chick rockers” left these days, so almost by default Mastermind is the best album of this sort since the first Sahara Hotnights album.

  36. Mogwai, Mr. Beast. Stripping away most of the electronic elements of their more recent recordings, Mogwai’s latest is a back to basics collection that could be their most accessible album of the Scottish band’s career.

  37. Thom Yorke, The Eraser. The first solo album by the lead singer of Radiohead could be considered a successor to Kid A if it wasn’t such a low-key effort. In fact, it actually sounds like a collection of Yorke demos, with electronic blips and bleeps accompanying Yorke’s trademark expressive vocals.

  38. The Long Winters, Putting the Days to Bed. Let’s just say if you like their pals Death Cab For Cutie, you’ll love this album. Yet put aside the intimate pop lyrics and melody and you’ll find an innovative band who have made a giant leap with this album.

  39. Killers, Sam’s Town. There’s a lot to hate about Las Vegas’ biggest (and seemingly only) rock band. Yes, they’re ambitious, and it seems that stardom is more important than art. Yet nobody can deny they know how to write a catchy, anthemnic pop song.

  40. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones. One of the most anticipated albums of the year, YYY’s latest couldn’t possibly live up to expectations. Ignore the hype (and subsequent letdown), though, and you’ll discover a band most likely to last years longer than the Strokes, Interpol, and the rest of the New York class of 2002.

Best Compilations
  1. The Replacements, Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was? Besides being the first release to compile the highlights of their entire career, this best-of package deserves notice for bringing the band together for the first time in 15 years.

  2. R.E.M., And I Feel Fine…The Best of the IRS Years 1982 – 1987. Long considered the band’s glory days, this compilation (in both one and two disc versions) samples the highlights of classics such as Murmur, Reckoning, and Life’s Rich Pageant.

  3. Oasis, Stop the Clocks. Criminally ignored by Americans (with a couple of charting exceptions), this double disc set makes the case that Oasis was one of THE best bands of the past ten years.

Best Box Sets
  1. Tom Waits, Orphans. This triple-disc collection created almost a week of obsessive thought. Where does one classify it? Is it a new album eligible for the main list? (I realize I’m coming off as a High Fidelity caricature here.) I finally decided that even though almost half of the tracks are “new”, the fact that this is really an outtakes collection. Either way, though, this is an amazing set of tunes that deserves a slot in the library of any Tom Waits fan.

  2. Andy Partridge, Fuzzy Warbles Collector’s Album. The former leader of XTC empties the cupboard of seemingly every demo and fragment he’s ever recorded in this nine-disc set. Overkill? Maybe, but any fan of the acclaimed 80’s band will revel in the treats he’s stockpiled over the years.

  3. Rockin’ Bones. Rhino Records has always been the leader in themed box sets, and this four-disc set of 50’s punk and rockabilly is recent proof. Sort of a precursor to the Nuggets’ 60’s garage-rock box, these 101 tracks are as ferocious as anything recorded since.

  4. The Clash, The Singles. Ok, the material on these 19 singles could be combined into a rather nifty two-disc set. But there’s something really cool about having these singles stand alone with their original artwork. Yes, I’m a geek.

Best Reissues
  1. Pavement, Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition. While not the band’s top-selling album, many fans consider Wowee Zowee the greatest album the band ever released. It’s certainly the most varied, especially when expanded with b-sides, outtakes, radio sessions, and concert excerpts into a 50-track double disc. Think of it as Pavement’s White Album.

  2. The Cure. Six Robert Smith-led albums were given the deluxe edition treatment this year, including The Glove, a rare collaboration with Steve Severin from Siouxie and the Banshees. Each of these releases, which also included arguably their greatest albums (The Head On the Door, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me) were accompanied by a second disc of rarities and unreleased material.

  3. The Jesus and Mary Chain. One of the most underrated 80’s British bands had their entire catalog reissued as DualDiscs. Although no rarities were added to the package, the sorely-needed remastering is enough reason to toss away those original versions.

  4. The Pretenders. Along with a great box set, the first two Pretenders albums (and the only ones necessary for any collection) were given the double-disc treatment.

  5. The Pogues. The band’s entire catalog was remastered and reissued, complete with rare tracks from EP’s and singles.

  6. The Monkees. It may sound crazy, but the deluxe treatments of both their self-titled debut and More of the Monkees is chock full of excellent outtakes and rare tracks.

  7. Mott the Hoople. This criminally-neglected early 70’s band’s catalog was also given a reissue campaign this year. Like all the others listed here, various rarities are included in each title.

  8. Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. If there is a deluxe edition reissue that deserves a bit of criticism, it’s this one. The recording of Lucinda’s definitive album went through a number of different sessions with numerous producers. Yet despite the outtakes and alternative mixes that have been floating around collector’s circles the past few years, only a couple of rare session material was included in this set. But who can complain when an entire concert from the era comprises the second disc?

  9. Dinosaur Jr. Last year saw the reissue of this great band’s indie catalog. It’s only appropriate that Warner Brothers would finish the job this year with remastered versions of their major label output.

  10. Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend. One more “Deluxe Edition” of a classic album that everybody should own.

Best Tribute or Covers Albums
  1. Grant Lee Phillips, Nineteeneighties. The former leader of Grant Lee Buffalo gives the acoustic treatment to old alternative songs by acts such as the Cure, Pixies, Psychedelic Furs, and New Order. Somehow it works.

  2. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Love Their Country. Hank Williams, Johnny Lee, Dolly Parton, and other country legends are given the punk rock treatment in this latest installment by members of NOFX and the Foo Fighters.

  3. We’ll Inherit the Earth: A Tribute to the Replacements. 23 relatively unknown punk bands tackle the catalog of somebody’s favorite band of all-time. Like all tribute albums, the quality varies from track to track, but at the very least the raucous spirit of the Replacements’ early days is evident from start to finish.

Best Soundtracks.
  1. Open Season. Of course, this Westerberg-penned collection would top my list…even if it is for some silly animated feature. But I have no issue with the eight Westerberg tracks included in this soundtrack.

  2. Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny. Many soundtracks are better than the accompanying movie. In this case, however, the soundtrack explains the movie’s plot better than the script.

  3. The Beatles, Love. This soundtrack to a Cirque de Soleil production could have been a disaster. Cutting up the Beatles’ master tapes just seems like a terrible idea. Yet the surviving members of the band allowed original producer George Martin and his son Giles to radically reinterpret the band’s catalog. The drums from “Tomorrow Never Knows” becomes the backbeat for “Within You, Without You”. The drum solo from “The End” is crafted as an intro to “Get Back” Somehow it all works, particularly in surround sound.

Best Live Album

Chris Difford, South East Side Story. Reportedly, Difford has been clamoring for a Squeeze reunion. Since Glen Tillbrook has no desire to reunite, Difford recorded this low-key acoustic live album as sort of a “goodbye” to these songs.

Comments

Nothing from The Ditty bops?
You gotta be kidding!
Andy Howes said…
Top 75 Albums of 2006

1.) "Living With War" - Neil Young
2.) "Rabbit Fur Coat" - Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
3.) "A Blessing and a Curse" - Drive-By Truckers
4.) "Boys & Girls in America" - The Hold Steady
5.) "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" - Arctic Monkeys
6.) "Pearl Jam" - Pearl Jam
7.) "Ammunition" - Tim Easton
8.) "We Shall Overcome" - Bruce Springsteen
9.) "Nashville" - Solomon Burke
10) "Tunesmith Retrofit" - Kelly Joe Phelps
11.) "How to Grow a Woman From The Ground" - Chris Thile
12.) "Fox Confessor Brings The Flood" - Neko Case
13.) "Post-War" - M. Ward
14.) "Fort Recovery" - Centro-Matic
15.) "The Devil You Know" - Todd Snider
16.) "Modern Times" - Bob Dylan
17.) "East to West" - Paul Burch
18.) "Rebels, Rogues, & Sworn Brothers" - Lucero
19.) "Tea & Sympathy" - Bernard Fanning
20.) "Til The Sun Turns Back" - Ray LaMontagne
21.) "Both Sides of the Gun" - Ben Harper
22.) "Give 'Em All a Big Fat Lip" - The Whigs
23.) "Broken Boy Soldiers" - The Raconteurs
24.) "Wolfmother" - Wolfmother
25.) Return to Cookie Mountain - TV On The Radio
26.) "Rodrigo y Gabriela" - Rodrigo y Gabriela
27.) "The Information" - Beck
28.) "Sno Angel Like You" - Howe Gelb
29.) "Zoyzia" - The Bottle Rockets
30.) "All The Roadrunning" - Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris
31.) "Long Trip Alone" - Dierks Bentley
32.) "Once Again" - John Legend
33.) "Long Way Around" - Dixie Chicks
34.) "Move By Yourself" - Donavon Frankenreiter
35.) "Songbird" - Willie Nelson
36.) "Ten Day Bender" - The Whipsaws
37.) "The Road to Escondido" - J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton
38.) "Electric Rodeo" - Shooter Jennings
39.) "Yonder Mountain String Band" - Yonder Mountain String Band
40.) "Born Again in the USA" - Loose Fur
41.) "12 Songs" - Cory Branan
42.) "Stadium Arcadium" - Red Hot Chili Peppers
43.) "Anders Parker" - Anders Parker
44.) "Songlines" - Derek Trucks Band
45.) "Subtitlo" - Josh Rouse
46.) "Eisenhower" - The Slip
47.) "Little Willies" - Little Willies
48.) "Earth to America" - Widespread Panic
49.) "Nothing But The Water" - Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
50.) "Southside Sessions" - Charlie Sexton & Shannon McNally
51.) "Tuesday Letter" - Greensky Bluegrass
52.) "Full" - Jon Dee Graham
53.) "The Trials of Van Occupanther" - Midlake
54.) "Highway Companion" - Tom Petty
55.) "The Greatest" - Cat Power
56.) "The Believer" - Rhett Miller
57.) "The World We Live In" - Radney Foster
58.) "Blinders On" - Sean Watkins
59.) "California Country" - I See Hawks in L.A.
60.) "Getting Somewhere" - Allison Moorer
61.) "The Endless Wire" - The Who
62.) "Game Theory" - The Roots
63.) "Just Another Fine Day" - Golden Smog
64.) "3D" - Casey Driessen
65.) "Ways Not to Lose" - The Wood Brothers
66.) "Nightcrawler" - Pete Yorn
67.) "The Avalanche" - Sufjan Stevens
68.) "Death Songs For The Living" - Gob Iron
69.) "West of the West" - Dave Alvin
70.) "Cold As Clay" - Greg Graffin
71.) "Change In The Weather" - Eric Lindell
72.) "Every Waking Moment" - Citizen Cope
73.) "The Boxing MIrror" - Alejandro Escovedo
74.) "Magic Potion" - The Black Keys
75.) "Bar 17" - Trey Anastasio


TOP LIVE ALBUMS

1.) "Okonokos" - My Morning Jacket
2.) "Live at the Fillmore East" - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
3.) "Real Live Roadrunning" - Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris
4.) "With Strings" - Eels
5.) "Live at Irving Plaza" - Shooter Jennings


TOP DVDS

1.) "Heart of Gold" - Neil Young
2.) "Okonokos" - My Morning Jacket
3.) "Sunken Treasure' - Jeff Tweedy
4.) "Live in Slow Motion" - David Gray
5.) "Real Live Roadrunning" - Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris


REISSUES/NOT ENTIRELY NEW

1.) "Love" - The Beatles
2.) "Live at Fillmore West" - Aretha Franklin
3.) "The Complete Reprise Sessions" - Gram Parsons
4.) "The Complete Atlantic Sessions" - Willie Nelson
5.) "Lost Crowes" - The Black Crowes

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