The Year in Review :: The Songs

For me, 2006 involved a lot of music downloading. And oddly enough, most of it was legal. With bands promoting one or two tracks on myspace and various music blogs, it's like we've entered a new Era of the Single. Forget that iTunes Era of the Single we had a few years back. So here's a list of my favorite songs of the year, most of which I downloaded free and legal if you can believe it.

20. Ratatat – “Lex” - Classics (XL)
Kicking off with an in-your-face beat and fading out with a Gameboy-meets-Mozart blipfest is the exact kind of thing I want from my Ratatat.

19. Pink Nasty (featuring Bonnie “Prince” Billy) – “Don’t Ever Change” – Mold the Gold (Independent)
I’m a big fan of songs where a couple can’t stand each other almost as much as they can’t stand being without each other (The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” and John Prine’s “In Spite of Ourselves” come to mind), and this one’s right up there.

18. The Thermals – “A Pillar of Salt” - The Body, The Blood, The Machine (Sub Pop)
Damn you, bouncy keyboard licks! Why do I love you so?! I’m also a sucker for fairly dark lyrics over crazygonuts fun music.

17. Jarvis Cocker – “Running the World” – Jarvis (Rough Trade)
Jarvis, I haven’t heard you sneer like that in five years (since the last Pulp album, really). Good to have you back, old son.

16. Bishop Allen – “Corazon” – January EP (Independent)
This is a sweet, jangly anthem about finding a free piano on the side of the road on the surface, but listen harder, and you can hear how this piano changed the way that the band created their music.

15. The Pipettes – “Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me” – We Are The Pipettes (Naïve)
Man, the part where Gwenno croons “And you might try to hold my hand again,” and then Riot Becki gleefully yells, “But you don’t know!” absolutely melts me.

14. Ladyhawk – “The Dugout” - s/t (Jagjaguwar)
This sounds like either an amazing Dinosaur, Jr. track that should have been on the Reality Bites soundtrack or an amazing Replacements track that should have been on the Single soundtrack. I can’t decide which.

13. Murder By Death – “Brother” - In Bocca al Lupo (Tent Show)
This might just win for catchiest song of the year. I would wake up in the morning humming it, find myself singing it while working, etc. I can’t explain it, but it definitely got to me.

12. Boris – “Parting” - Pink (Southern Lord)
Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in years. I don’t speak Japanese (and probably couldn’t understand the droning vocals even if I did) so I have no idea of the lyrical content of this song, but with the translated name “Parting” (or “Farewell” as I’ve seen it some places), you can take a wild guess. And honestly, the song perfectly conjures up “parting” and all the associated feelings.

11. Cat Power – “The Greatest” - The Greatest (Matador)
A lovely ballad by Chan Marshall about a boy wanting to be a boxer was not exactly something I expected, but I’m quite glad it’s out there.

10. Junior Boys – “In the Morning” - So This Is Good-Bye (Domino)
With an 80s new wave groove that beats the heck out of anything Postal Service ever did, “In The Morning” sounds like a long-lost Michael Jackson tune that was cut from Thriller but picked up by Basement Jaxx and remixed.

9. CSS – “Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above” - Cansei de Ser Sexy (Sub Pop)
This song has all the earmarks of a great club single: cute Brazilian singer with an accent named Lovefoxxx, tasty bass line, and sex-charged lyrics like “I know how you’re doing by looking at your pants / And this is how we call it a comeback.”

8. Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy” - St. Elsewhere (Downtown)
This song somehow stayed fresh after being massively overplayed – a feat that even Outkast’s “Hey Ya” couldn’t pull off. Its wide appeal is further substantiated by the fact that it was the most covered song of the year, inspiring versions by everyone from Diplo to Jude to Billy Idol.

7. Midlake – “Roscoe” – The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bella Union)
If you told me a year ago that one of my favorite songs of 2006 would be very Fleetwood Mac-ish and feature an opening that sounds like the theme from MASH, I might have slapped you right on the mouth, but that’s before Midlake taught me better.

6. The Hold Steady – “Stuck Between Stations” – Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant)
While not completely won over by these guys like most people (calm down, Pitchfork), I can’t deny this song’s clustered beauty. It sounds like Jello Biafra fronting Springsteen’s E-Street Band covering a Replacements song, which works out far better than you would imagine.

5. Killer Mike – “That’s Life” - Pledge Allegiance to the Grind mixtape (Independent)
In a year when official hip-hop releases generally left me cold, it’s the underground mixtapes that shined. On this track, Killer Mike just goes off, falling out of his flow occasionally to just plain preach against the hypocritical castigation of rappers. Oprah, Cosby, O’ Reilly, FEMA, Bush – no one’s safe.

4. Band of Horses – “The Funeral” - Everything All The Time (Sub Pop)
“Funeral” is one of those songs that manages to speak to everyone who hears it, even if it means different things to each. Ben Bridwell’s empyreal vocals combined with escalating indie rock guitars makes for a track that can define a moment of your life.

3. Sparrow House – “When I Am Gone” - Falls EP (Independent)
A side project of Voxtrot’s Jared Van Fleet, Sparrow House (this song in particular) dominated my iTunes’ Top 25 Most Played this year. Comparing the end of a relationship to the end of one’s life may not be the most original idea, but here it’s handled better than I’ve heard in a long time.

2. Peter, Bjorn, and John – “Young Folks” - Writer’s Block (Wichita)
The catchy whistling, the dueling vocals between Peter Morén and Victoria Bergsman (ex-Concretes), the driving percussion imitating the bustle and noise of a night on the town – it’s no wonder this song was so heavily remixed this year. But, really, how can you improve on perfection?

1. Ghostland Observatory – “Midnight Voyage” - Paparazzi Lightning (Trashy Moped)/Ghostface Killah – “Be Easy” – Fishscale (Def Jam)/Car Stereo (Wars) – “Ghostface Observatory” – Internet download only
I love the Austin indie dance duo Ghostland Observatory, and Ghostface’s Fishscale was my favorite hip-hop album of the year. However, I would never have thought that throwing the two together would produce such incredible results. Thank goodness that Car Stereo (Wars) did, creating one of the best mash-ups ever.

1 comment:

patrick said...

that john prine song is fantastic.