' erasing clouds film essay: favorites of 2006
erasing clouds

Favorite Albums of 2006

by john wenzel

The most challenging, original records of the year are seldom my favorite. I respect artistic innovation as much as the next music critic, but give me something I can listen to on a road trip, a stroll through City Park or a quiet night at home. Here are the albums of 2006 that never left my CD player or iPod earbuds:

1. Anti-Anti, Snowden: Better known for its math rock and pseudo- orchestral acts, Jade Tree dropped this criminally ignored melodic bomb in late August. This Atlanta band effortlessly transforms its Cure, Interpol and Modest Mouse influences into a surprisingly anthemic, eyeshadow-free entity.

2. Everything All the Time, Band of Horses: Just when you thought Sub Pop couldn't possibly top itself, along comes Band of Horses. Sure, they're hopelessly indebted to Built to Spill, Neil Young and My Morning Jacket, but former Carissa's Wierd members Bed Bridwell and Matthew Brooke nearly tear the heartstrings off with propulsive guitar stompers like "Funeral" and "Our Swords."

3. You in Reverse, Built to Spill: We scoffed when these indie rock torchbearers issued the mediocre Ancient Melodies of the Future, but You in Reverse easily makes up for it. More than a return to form, it's an affirmation of the life-changing possibilities of Doug Martsch's mercurial songwriting gifts.

4. The Information, Beck: Our favorite closet Scientologist will never make another Odelay, so get over it. The Information is the real Beck, an artist masking his increasing paranoia and anger beneath a plastic, childlike exterior of synth samples, languid acoustic guitar and brilliant lyrics.

5. Passover, The Black Angels: Few bands can do psychedelic rock without sounding foolish or retro, so when this Austin, Texas, juggernaut stormed the castle with Passover, the underground music world gasped. Weak comparisons to The Doors or The Velvet Underground were all that most people could utter with their mouths so agape.

6. The Soft Civil War, Everything Absent or Distorted: This Denver collective has no right to be as good as it is. And yet its goofy horns, plucked banjo, crunchy guitars and crisp drumming propel them into the upper echelons of 2006 releases. Somehow they're even better live.

7. Return to Cookie Mountain, TV on the Radio: This Brooklyn quintet actually justifies its critical hype. Their high-pressure sophomore effort continues the trend toward brilliantly dystopian love songs and apocalyptic national hymns. Join them in their somber toast as the world burns through the window.

8. The Greatest, Cat Power: As annoying as her personality is, only a fool could deny Chan Marshall's soulful, honey-soaked voice. Here she joins with a Memphis sessions band for a Southern-friend excursion into her bluesy roots.

9. Self-Propelled, Bright Channel: Who could have imagined that not recording with Steve Albini was this Denver's trio's best move? The raw, face-melting distortion they wring from their guitars could only have been captured in their home studio in Denver. If you think unearthly pleasures don't exist in the local scene, think again.

10. Blues and Boogie Shoes, Keene Brothers: Every so often Bob Pollard releases an album that reminds us why we loved him, and here the former Guided by Voices leader has found a foil on par with Tobin Sprout or Doug Gillard. Tommy Keene, an underrated songwriter and axe man for Paul Westerberg and Velvet Crush, is his new secret weapon.

Note: This article originally appeared in The Denver Post

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2007 erasing clouds