favorite albums of 2006

20.The Strokes – First Impressions Of Earth (RCA)

How could any band live up to the hype of Is That It? The Knack and Sniff ‘N The Tears were supposed to save rock ‘n roll as well; however, The Strokes have at least kept a fan base. Their third album released early this year is everything you’d expect from a Strokes album with Julian Casablancas finally stepping out from behind his vocal filters and letting his voice be heard. It sounds pretty good actually. Despite ripping off “Peter Gun” (“Juicebox”) or Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” (“Razorblade”), this collection of songs is fun and poppy even if they are hidden behind a garage-band veneer.

Favorite songs: “You Only Live Once”, “On The Other Side”, “Ask Me Anything”

Favorite lyric: “I’ve got nothing to say/I’ve got nothing to say/I’ve got nothing to say/I’ve got nothing to say” from “Ask Me Anything”

The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth

19.Elton John – The Captain & The Kid (Interscope)

Finally, the hype of the newest Elton album being the one that is a throw back to his 70’s greatness is nearly true. Here is John sounding the most confident in years with some strong songwriting including some of Bernie Taupin’s best lyric in twenty years. Now if he could only get a hit this decade. It would be great give Elton John the distinction of having hits in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and the Naughties (’00’s).

Favorite songs: “And The House Fell Down”, “Blues Never Fade Away”, “The Bridge”

Favorite lyric: “And Richard Nixon’s on his knees/He’s sent so many overseas/He’d like to know if you and me could help him in some way/A little camouflage and glue to mask the evil that men do” from “Postcards From Richard Nixon”

Elton John - The Captain & The Kid (Bonus Tracks)

18.Erasure – Union Street (Mute)

This is Erasure — the queens of 80’s electronic pop — envisioned as a folk and bluegrass band. No joke. Vince and Andy hired a husband and wife duo to help them re-envision some of their previously recorded music. Most of it works quite well with some songs being completely transformed. For instance, “Boy” from Cowboy was lost in the midst of its electronic original, but here the song shines and the beauty of loss is finally felt. The new arrangements sound even better live. Unfortunately, with the exclusion of bluegrass version of “Blue Savannah” and the hoe-down arrangement of “I Love To Hate You”, coming back to the album seems like seeing a childhood moment of fondness through adult eyes. The impact is tarnished by the loss of innocence.

Favorite songs: “Boy”, “Home”, “Rock Me Gently”

Favorite lyric: “And still you dare to change your mind/You’ll be sorry when it’s over/When you’ve had your taste of freedom/Don’t come crying on my shoulder” from “Boy”

Erasure - Union Street (US Download)

17.Nelly Furtado – Loose (Geffen)

No, she hasn’t completely sold out even if “Promiscuous” is the weakest song on the album being nothing but Missy-Elliot-lite. There is still plenty here for Furtado fans starting off with the first track, “Afraid”, which embraces her new sound but keeps the quirkiness of her former work. The strongest song is the single Europe got, “Maneater”. It’s a perfect little pop gem that while extremely familiar actually does attempt and succeeds in its experimentation of the Furtado sound. Still though, this is Nelly Furtado attempt at mass appeal and at times feels as if she may have sacrificed some of her integrity.

Favorite songs: “Afraid”, “Maneater”, “No Hay Igual”

Favorite lyric: “So afraid what the people might say/But that’s okay coz you’re only human” from “Afraid”

Nelly Furtado - Loose

16.Beck – The Information (Interscope)

This Beck album falls in line with Midnight Vultures as a more funky, fun collection only this time around it is tempered with the mature Beck of Sea Change and moments on Guero. In fact, this is a Beck who is trying something a bit different — being clear. When he sings the title of “Think I’m In Love” that’s all he means. No talk of a devil’s haircut or garbageman trees to be found here. The Information finds Beck playing more with rhythms this time around although the hook-laden Beck is still to be found in songs like “Nausea” and “Cell Phone’s Dead” and then ends it all with the highly experiments ten-and-a-half-minute opus of “The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton”. It’s another great Beck album to add to your collection.

Favorite songs: “Think I’m In Love”, “Cell Phone’s Dead”, “We Dance Alone”

Favorite lyric: “But unfortunately the twain got crissed not crossed/Locked in the keys in the car so our legs had to walked” from “We Dance Alone”

Beck - The Information

15.Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love)

Jenny Lewis is the lead singer for the band Rilo Kiley, but you probably have heard her voice on The Postal Service album and what a lovely voice it is. Rabbit Fur Coat is a wonderful collection of quirky folk/pop/soul songs with many spiritual and religious overtones found throughout in such songs as “Born Secular” and “Rise Up With Fists!!” — the latter has one of the most melodic choruses of the year. It’s simply beautiful. The most fun to be had on the album is an indie recreation of The Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle With Care” which includes members of Bright Eyes, Maroon 5 and Deathcab For Cutie. If you have a chance to see the video for “Rise Up…” , you must. It’s a great spoof of Hee-Haw.

Favorite songs: “Rise Up With Fists!!”, “You Are What You Love”, “It Wasn’t Me”

Favorite lyric: “Are you really that pure, sir?/Thought I saw you in Vegas/It was not pretty, but she was (not your wife)/But she will wake up wealthy/And you will wake up 45” from “Rise Up With Fists!!”

Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat

14.Lindsey Buckingham – Under The Skin (Reprise)

Finally, a new Lindsey solo album. Oh, he’s had several planned, but his band, Fleetwood Mac, would talk him into a new album and then proceed to use the material he had to that point written. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but with Fleetwood Mac he is held back with the need to be commercial. On his own, he is free to let his quirk run free. This is not the pop/rock album most will expect (that’s supposed to be out next year), but an intimate recording recorded in his home studio done with such sparse arrangements that the vocals actually invade personal space. It is not recommended for headphone listening if you have space issues.

Favorite songs: “Show You How”, “It Was You”, “Down On Rodeo”

Favorite lyric: “Reading the paper saw a review/Said I was a visionary but nobody knew” from “Not Too Late”

Lindsey Buckingham - Under the Skin

13.The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soliders (V2)

Jack White’s been cheating on Meg and produced an album with an actual bass on it. The Raconteurs is the brainchild of White and powerpop song writer Brendan Benson, and features tunes written by both. Incorporating many Beatles references and east coast garageband stylings, the album has several pops nuggets including what is arguably the most exciting song of 2006: “Steady, As She Goes” which is also the first song White and Benson wrote together. Unfortunately, the rest of Broken Boy Soldiers doesn’t quite live up to the pure joy of “Steady…”, but “Hands” and “Call It A Day” come close. Fun guitar pop.

Favorite songs: “Steady, As She Goes”, “Hands”, “Call It A Day”

Favorite lyric: “Your friends have sown a kink in the single life/You’ve had too much to think now you need a wife” from “Steady, As She Goes”

The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers

12.Nellie McKay – Pretty Little Head (Hungry Mouse)

Was it worth the drama and wait of her breaking it off with Columbia Records? Yes, but this is no “Stay Away From Me”. Regardless, McKay (mc-KEYE) is a fine talent. She got her wish of releasing another double album due to all the material she had ready — most of which is excellent culminating in the powerful “Columbia Is Bleeding”. No, it’s about the country, but you do have to wonder about the choice of that cause to compose a song. There is a great turn with k.d. lang and then an outstanding track with Cyndi Lauper which is easily the most commercial thing McKay has done and deserves to be a single. “Beecharmer” has all the elements of a hit — Lauper’s powerful voice, a dramatic build-up, a great piano hook and when they both hit the “eeieeieei” in the excellent chorus, you can help but sing along.

Favorite songs: “Beecharmer”, “Columbia Is Bleeding”, “Pounce”

Favorite lyric: “Made a pass/Got hand slapped/Didn’t think to face the fact/That while he’s mackin’ on that ass/Columbia is bleeding” from “Columbia Is Bleeding”

Nellie McKay - Pretty Little Head

11.The Presets – Beam (Modular/Interscope)

A pair of Aussies classically trained decided to create electronic music after their idols of the 80’s including Eurythmics can only lead to one thing: pop music turned on its ear. With a healthy dose of disco thrown in, Beams makes for a great dance soundtrack for any party… or strip bar. Oh, yes. “Are You The One?” and “Girl (You Chew My Mind Up)” are songs to recommend to that stripper in your life. Yet, the boys can also turn in a song that breaks in the heart with “Girl And The Sea” about a girl who throws herself into the sea when she can handle life anymore. But for pure energy listen to “I Go Hard, I Go Home” with its driving beat and lyrics obscured in panning effects, it’s an intense introduction to The Presets that will drive you to the dance floor.

Favorite songs: “Steamworks”, “Girl And The Sea”, “I Go Hard, I Go Home”

Favorite lyric: “And the parcel that he throws across the bridge into the creek/It’ll flow towards the sea, it will meet with her tomorrow.” from “Girl And The Sea”

The Presets - Beams

10.The Goldbergs – Hooks, Lines & Sinkers [Unsigned]

This was a discovery of Absolute Powerpop who talked it up as one of the best powerpop albums of the year and they were correct. Easy breazin’ California-style guitar pop abounds on Andy Goldbergs’ basically solo project. The title is extremely appropriate as the album is riddled with hooks that catch and lines that hold the weight of love and loss. As for the sinkers in the tackle box, you’ll be hard pressed to find one, but that’s a good thing. With its boppy and fun sounds, The Goldbergs fit easily in between Fountains Of Wayne and James Taylor in your music collection, but keep it handy come summer. This will be a great album to throw on when you are out back grilling, drinking and hanging out with friends.

Favorite songs: “It Girl”, “Little Darlin'”, “If You Ever Change Your Mind”

Favorite lyric: “You’ll always be/My setting sun” from “Stars To Me”

The Goldbergs - Hooks, Lines & Sinkers

09.Aimee Mann – One More Drifter In The Snow (SuperEgo)

I hear you. “A Christmas album??” Yes. Anyone who knows me will figure out why this album is here. Aimee just does it for me. The end. Now that the disclaimer is over, let’s talk about why this collection of holiday music is truly a cut above the rest. Aimee has never been one to sugar coat anything and while there are the typical melancholy songs and arrangements here, there are also tracks where it’s obvious she’s having fun. Take, for example, her take on “Winter Wonderland”. Not only does her sense of contentment come through in the vocals, but her sense of humor shines when a Hawaiian-style steel guitar takes up the counter melody. Elsewhere, she get Grant-Lee Phillips to do an outstanding take on the narrator of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and when they both start to duet, it causes goose pimples. You just don’t here joy coming from Aimee that much, but she is smart, funny and creative here. Yet, let us not forgot that, for some, the holidays are a time of sorrow, which Aimee reminds us on her re-recording of Michael Penn’s “Christmastime”, the darker “What Ever Happened To Christmas” and her own original and achingly beautiful, “Calling On Mary”. Here is a Christmas album that covers the gamut of emotions the holidays cause all done in a laid-back, lounge-style reminiscent of the great holiday albums of the 50’s.

Favorite songs: “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, “Winter Wonderland”, “Calling On Mary”

Favorite lyric: “And to all the lost souls down below/Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas/What’s one more drifter in the snow?” from “Calling On Mary”

Aimee Mann - One More Drifter In the Snow (Bonus Track)

08.The Beatles – Love (Capitol/Apple)

Before George Harrison passed away, he befriended the founder of Cirque du Soleil and the idea for a new show using the music of the Beatles was born. But it wasn’t enough to just play the classic songs, but create a landscape of Beatles’ sounds. Just as interesting as this one hour, twenty minute mesh-up can be is the liner notes within. George Martin went to his son and said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Hey, how would you like to get your hands on the original Beatles master tapes and do whatever you want with them?” Talk about a aural masturbatory fantasy for any Beatles fan. Yes, you’ve heard all of these songs, but never like this. This is taking the psychedelic intent of the band’s experimentations and putting them through an acid-dipped prism of love. Or as I’ve been touting it: “A stoner album for a new generation”. It is highly recommended that you take-in the audio through headphones whilst relaxing on the couch or your bed. Close your eyes. Go on a journey. Let your mind take you. It’s so much cheaper than a trip to Vegas and $150 orchestra-seat tickets. Although I won’t say no if someone wanted to take me there. …with my eyes wide open. The best part? I just got to review a Beatles album! So how is this collection? I think the title says it all.

Favorite moments: The triple mesh-up of “Drive My Car/The Word/What You’re Doing”, coming out of “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” and going into “I Want You”, and meshing the orchestra section of “Goodnight” with the beginning of “Octopus’s Garden”

Favorite lyric: Easy. “All you need is love”

Buy Love at Amazon

07.Tom Petty – Highway Companion (American)

This is an excellent example of an Americana album ironically produced by an Englishman, but more about Jeff Lynne later on in the list. Highway Companion is just that — an collection of music that is meant to be taken on the road and/or consisting of songs about traveling through life. This is a bit more of a somber affair than Petty’s two other solo projects — the outstanding “Full Moon Fever” and the uneven “Wildflowers”. Listening to the beautiful “Square One” is the first sign of a more contemplative Petty who has been compared to Bob Dylan on more than one occasion. The comparisons are welcome ones as he sings about different characters and lives as they pass through their turmoils. The album is heavily influenced by the blues which you can hear in “Saving Grace”, “Jack” and “Turn This Car Around”, but all-in-all an entertaining pop album culminating in the sad, lament of “This Old Town” which turns Highway Companion‘s concept on its ear by Petty singing about wishing to travel away from misery. This is definitely a must-have for any Petty collection with or without The Heartbreakers.

Favorite songs: “Square One”, “Flirting With Time”, “This Old Town”

Favorite lyric: “It’s on ice/But it won’t keep” from “This Old Town”

Tom Petty - Highway Companion

06.Belle And Sebastian – The Life Pursuit (Matador)

Here is Belle And Sebastian’s happy album, but don’t let that scare you. It seems they have taken some lessons learned from Trevor Horn, who produced their last album, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, and incorporated them in an album that is chock full of their influences. Most of the show is very 60’s with some 70’s harmonies (mostly The Mamas And The Papas) and keyboards thrown in with some 80’s Housemartins songwriting and producing sensibilities. Just listen to “Sukie In The Graveyard” and “We Are The Sleepyheads” and you’ll hear the sounds the Paul Heaton and Fatboy Slim (he went by Norman Cook while in the Housemartins) were doing almost 20 years ago.

Then songs like “The Blues Are Still Blue” and “For The Price Of A Cup Of Tea” could have been on any Zombies or Strawberry Alarm Clock album. They are all flutes, psychedelic keyboards and bubble-gum pop. “Song For Sunshine” is late-Beatles and ethereal but the keyboards are complete Stevie Wonder and the harmonies are Sowing The Seeds Of Love-era Tears For Fears. Yet for all these wearing-our-influences-on-our-sleeves theatrics, the album is surprisingly agile and bouncy. The guitars are jangly, the rhythms have vigor and the songwriting is tight. They made the right move giving band co-founder, Stuart Murdoch, the majority of the songwriting responsibilities. If Dear Catastrophe Waitress was them emerging from the chrysalis, then The Life Pursuit has them with their wings dry and strong and ready to fly.

Favorite songs: “The Blues Are Still Blue”, “Sukie In The Graveyard”, “We Are The Sleepyheads”, “For The Price Of A Cup Of Tea”

Favorite lyric: “Sukie was the kid, she liked to hang out at the art school/She didn’t enroll but she wiped the floor with all the arseholes…She had a slut slave and his name was Dave/She said ‘Be my photo bitch and I’ll make you rich'” from “Sukie In The Graveyard”

Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit (Bonus Tracks)

05.L.E.O. – Alpacas Orgling (Cheap Lullaby)

Love Jeff Lynne? Love Electric Light Orchestra? Then you will love this tribute album. Wait, before you scoff, just know that this is not the typical “re-record classics” tribute. This is a bunch of producers/songwriters studying Jeff Lynne’s production style and trying to recreate it with original songs. And it’s all done with love, care and a batch of catchy tunes.

Most of the songs here are produced in the style of ELO’s mainstream era when Lynne had hit on the perfect balance of experimental and commercial. LEO catches that feeling and — for the most part — nails it. “Ya Had Me Goin'” and “Distracted” both utilize the multi-layered vocal harmonies in so many ELO hits with “Distracted” using Hanson. Yes, the “Mmm-Bop” boys are here celebrating the long overlooked genius of Jeff Lynne. While “Make Me” is basically a re-write of ELO’s “Do Ya” and “The Ol’ College Try” is a duet with a woman (which ELO never did unless you count “Xanadu”), which, while not unwelcomed, does try the ELO spirit’s patience. The rest is like listening to a new ELO record.

Plus Alpacas Orgling ends on its highest note, “Sukaz Are Born Every Minute” — a moody lament to getting fooled in a relationship which is past time that Lynne often wrote about in songs like “Don’t Bring Me Down”, “Evil Woman”, and “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”. This collection comes at a time when interest in ELO is rising partly to Lynne remastering the entire ELO catalogue. In fact, look for the last in the next couple of month’s when ELO’s masterpiece Out Of The Blue is re-released in all its spacey goodness. In the meantime, give LEO a listen.

Favorite songs: “Goodbye Innocence”, “Distracted”, “Sukaz Are Born Every Minute”

Favorite lyric: “I stuffed your things in garbage bags/This time I’ll make you take them back” from “Sukaz Are Born Every Minute”

L.E.O. - Alpacas Orgling

04.Scissor Sisters – Ta-Dah (Polydor)

Jingly guitars, horn stabs, a beat that makes you strut while walking down the street — no, it’s not the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It’s the Scissor Sister’s back trying to buck the sophomore slump. How do they do? Pretty damn well, thank you very much. When they released their debut album it turned into a commercial hit in the UK and a cult hit in the US. It’s a searing blast of raunch, debauchery and warnings of living a hedonistic life that you could, as it happens, dance to. In other words, a very hard act to follow. The first single from their follow-up, Ta-Dah, is “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’.” Not only does it deal with the Elton John comparisons, but includes John in on the song writing and playing. The same thing for the song “Intermission”, which is exactly what it may seem on the surface, but listen to the lyrics and you’ll realize that the Sisters are a bit darker this go around. It also explains why the song sounds like “I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself” from John’s Honky Chateau album.

The rest of the album is filled with the dance songs you’d expect from the Sisters including a song strangely named “Paul McCartney” (complete with a B-52’s style break) which isn’t about the man, but seemingly his music set to a frantic beat. Elton John is on this album. Could they be vying for McCartney to join them on the next? There is no denying that would be an experience worth waiting for. Still, Ta-Dah has enough of the naughty to let you know they want to continue to party, but also has a few more serious moments than their debut. Death comes to play a lot in the words, which makes sense as the woman who inspired the song “Mary” from the first album passed away this year. Not to say they are becoming maudlin; however, the loss gives the band a bit more complexity which garners more respect for the job they are doing and what the Scissor Sisters are becoming — a viable musical force.

Favorite songs: “I Can’t Decide”, “Land Of A Thousand Words”, “Paul McCartney”, “Might Tell You Tonight”

Favorite lyric: “It’s a bitch convincing people to like you/If I stop now call me a quitter/If lies were cats you’d be a litter” from “I Can’t Decide”

Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah

03.Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental (Rhino)

A true return-to-form, Fundamental is simply the best album the Boys have put out since Very. It has all the markings of a typical PSB album — irony, melody, melancholy and danceability. These are the basics of a good Pet Shop Boys album ergo the title. On previous albums, PSB has mostly wrapped their political statements within a gossamer veil of four-on-the-floor dance rhythms; however, there is no denying the meaning behind the last song, “Integral”. A dense dance number that puts the lyrics right up front where you can’t possibly miss them, the song deals with an Orwell-esque government taking complete control under the guise of protecting citizens. Specifically, it was written in protest to the I.D. card proposal now facing the people of Great Britain, but with well-chosen hook words like “mandate” suggesting they are also warning others of government interference in public lives. Pretty damn heavy for four minute dance song.

They haven’t lost their touch for pop either. The first two singles, “I’m With Stupid” (very tongue-in-check) and “Minimal” (spelling as a hook is back!) are both classic Pet Shop Boys and worthy of inclusion beside “West End Girls” and “What Have I Done To Deserve This”, but the real rewards here are the ballads, “I Made My Excuses And Left”, “Casanova In Hell” and “Twentieth Century”. “Excuses” is heartbreaking, “Casanova” is hilarious and “Twentieth Century” not only manages to be the catchiest thing here, but it also teaches a lesson about looking back and learning from mistakes — individual or humanity as a whole. Other highlights include the over-the-top “The Sodom And Gomorrah Show”, which could easily fit into any Sondheim musical, and the lovely “Luna Park”. As much as the songwriting on Fundamental is incredibly strong, some of the credit has to go to Trevor Horn’s production. He may be an insufferable perfectionist, but he gets results. Fundamental is proof positive of that.

…and don’t miss Fundamentalism, either in the special edition CD or separately at places like the iTunes Music Store or you’ll miss “In Public” — a duet with Elton John that is one of the best dance songs of the year.

Favorite songs: “The Sodom And Gomorrah Show”, “Casanova In Hell”, “Twentieth Century”, “Integral”

Favorite lyric: “His lives and lovers and above all/His erection/Will live in history” from “Casanova In Hell”

Fundamental on
Pet Shop Boys - Fundamental

Fundamentalism on
Pet Shop Boys - Fundamentalism

02.Kelis – Kelis Was Here (Jive)

“I brought all the boys to the yard,” Kelis declares very early into her amazing fourth album — an album that is completely devoid of The Neptunes. As much as the producing duo, who did her hit “Milkshake”, helped Kelis develop as an artist, she proves here that she doesn’t need them to create an album that has a bit of everything for anyone into any flavah of pop music. Like Tasty, Kelis Was Here is an eclectic mix of musical styles all grounded in old-school soul. There are songs here that would make Aretha Franklin proud like “Goodbyes”, “Lil Star” and the gorgeous, gospel-choir-inspired, “Appreciate Me” — a song for all the under-appreciated wives in the world and one of many anthems included here.

The biggest is featured in the first single “Bossy” which she utters the quote at the beginning of this review. Ironically, the song sounds like a typical Neptunes song — sparse and weird — yet with female muscle galore and a guest rap by Too $hort that completely validates Kelis’ tough attitude. That resilience is peppered throughout in such songs as the dismissive “I Don’t Think So” (“You think you might have a chance”), the advisory “Handful” (“If you’re having problems/This is how you solve ’em/Tell ’em you’re a handful!”) and the autobiographical “Circus” (“But they told me this is how to get rich, I’ll/Make a hit song/Same lame voice/Same bass/Same kick drum/Buy the record and you became a big, big victim”).

The culmination of all these styles is arguably the best song Kelis has every done: “Living Proof”. This joyous song of the power of hope is the best hip-hop-soul-r&b-dance-pop song of the year. Granted the song won’t resolve humanity’s hatred, but it can banish the vapors of misanthropy for three-and-a-half minutes with its harmonies and message of opening yourself to love. Of course, if you are just looking for the sexy, just wait for “Blindfold Me” with its five-alarm, staccato, siren keyboard and images of sexual favors done with eyes covered; however, don’t be mistaken in your belief that Kelis is suddenly a weak woman. Even with one of her senses taken away, it is quite apparent who has the control in the song.

This is a theme that is repeated throughout the album due to her confidence and integrity in regards to her music. This is Kelis. Much like Mary J. Blige’s attempt to break away from those who would use her as a business commodity, Kelis is here to say that she will only put her name on records that are true and from her heart — not ones that are made merely as calculated money-making schemes. This is also one of the many reasons she is sitting so comfortable at number two on this list.

Favorite songs: “What’s That Right There”, “Living Proof”, “Blindfold Me”, “Handful”

Favorite lyric: “I got something for the lollipop/And your heart’s gonna stop when I drop/Down” from “What’s That Right There”

Kelis featuring Too $hort - Kelis Was Here

01.The Weepies – Say I Am You (Nettwerk)

Here is another album that I need to thank Mateo for introducing me to (the other was Dressy Bessy). Say I Am You is pretty, simple, lush, catchy and emotional. Take one of my favorite tracks, “Gotta Have You”. Not only is it the one of the catchiest pop song this year, it’s the most sentimental without being schmaltzy. Owe it to Deb Talan’s stunningly beautiful and charming voice which conveys yearning with the slow-burning emotion that would make Karen Carpenter proud. Yet Deb doesn’t have the smooth alto Karen had. Hers is a mix of Sam Phillips’ nasal artistry mixed with Suzanne Vega’s deadpan. In other words, it’s hard to stop listening when she is singing.

Especially in the wonderfully heartbreaking “Not Your Year” where she sings, “Your life feels like the morning after/All year long”. Believe it or not, it is a song of hope and determination in its meaning and its need to be heard. It has a slow power after a few listens and demands to be heard. At its heart is the true definition of melancholy — a sadness from lost happiness.

Steve Tannen’s songs on the album (he sounds a lot like Michael Penn) are the darker ones which make the album as a whole a well-balanced mixture of rainbows and thunderclouds. “World Spins Madly On,” which has been featured in Friends With Money starts off with “Woke up and wished I was dead” and then goes into a dark, depressed pining. “Riga Girls” although catchy as hell ends simply with the words, “Oh, I wish I had someone.”

Some of the best pop music is like that though — simple sounding with a happy arrangement and the dark lyrics which gives a complexity that is lost on most listeners. That’s too bad. This is a near perfect pop gem — casual and unassuming. Just the thing to listen to as the days grow colder. Say I Am You is the warm, fuzzy fleece you break out when you’re feeling the cold world outside.

Favorite songs: “Gotta Have You”, “Riga Girls”, “Painting By Chagall”, “Not Your Year”, “Living In Twilight”

Favorite lyric: “Breathe through it, write a list of desires/Make a toast, make a wish, slash some tires/Paint a heart repeating, beating ‘don’t give up, don’t give up.'” from “Not Your Year”

The Weepies - Say I Am You

Bonus Awards

Best EP of 2006

The Myrmidons

Basically, they are one half of Book Of Love (Ted Ottaviano & Lauren Johnson) and their newest musical soulmate, Lori Lindsay. So imagine this: take Book Of Love’s happy melodies, keyboards and cutesy chimes & xylophones, add Lori’s Jack-White-style, fuzzed-out guitar, and you get a great pop band with an alternative twist.

Head over to their MySpace page and listen to their first single, “Clap (See The Stars)”. The song is pure earworm syndrome. It’s a modern 80’s song, which probably explains why I love it so.

The Myrmidons - The Myrmidons - EP

Guilty Pleasure of the Year

“SexyBack” – Justin Timberlake

Yeah, so it’s basically Timbaland not Timberlake, but who cares? Popular, calculated and slickly produced, yet just weird enough to be interesting — it’s still catchy as all get out.

Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland - SexyBack - Single - SexyBack

Album Cover of the Year

Danny Elfman – Serenada Schizophrana

The music is first time Elfman has done a classical piece, but it all has that twisted feel of his. The cover is creepy and wonderful.

Hollywood Studio Symphony & John Mauceri - Elfman: Serenada Schizophrana

Best Musical Comedy of the Year


“White And Nerdy” – “Weird Al” Yankovic He’s still got it. The album has some great moments, but this song is his absolute best in years. Hilarious nerd rap.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Straight Outta Lynwood - White & Nerdy (Parody of "Ridin'" By Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone)

“Shoes” – Kelly

An ode to love of shoes and funny as hell with its mix of punk and acid house music stylings.

Kelly - Shoes

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