The Year in Review :: Tug's Favorite Albums of 2006

So, welcome to GoGoIndieRocket. No pretentious indie rock blog is complete without some end of the year lists, so we'll be posting our various lists over the next few days with regular GGIR content to follow. Hopefully, the lists will give you an idea of what kind of music we're into and will be talking about in the future. Enjoy, folks!

20. Ratatat – Classics (XL)
19. The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes (Na├»ve)
18. Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)
17. Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bella Union)
16. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti)
15. Malajube – Trompe-L'Oeil (Ninja Tune)
14. Islands – Return to the Sea (Equator)
13. Be Your Own Pet – s/t (Ecstatic Peace!)
12. Cat Power – The Greatest (Matador)
11. Band of Horses – Everything All The Time (Sub Pop)

10. Girl Talk – Night Ripper (Illegal Art)
The biggest problem with mash-ups is that once you’ve learned the tricks of the tracks, the songs don’t have much to offer in the way of surprises. Greg Gillis, under his moniker Girl Talk, changes all that by creating such complicated mixes that you always catch something you missed the first time around. In just one track, he throws in 50 Cent, James Taylor, Weezer, and I can’t name how many others. With this album, he single-handedly legitimizes the mash-up as an art form.

9. Love Is All – Nine Times That Same Song (What’s Your Rupture?)
This Swedish group of indie popsters are very lo-fi in spirit but make so much noise that you forget about that fact. Saxophones, synths, some mad drumming, and the fuzzy squeals and yells of lead singer Josephine Olausson all make this cacophony of sound that’s undeniably affecting.

8. Beirut – Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing!) Only 19 years old, Zack Condon (Beirut) made an impressive debut this year with Gulag Orkestar. While most kids his age are just cutting their indie teeth on Modest Mouse and the Decemberists, Condon has created a sound influenced by Neutral Milk Hotel, Tom Waits, and Stephen Merritt and rooted in Balkan folk and gypsy music. As his low, wavering voice floats on the waves of horns and mandolins, it really does feel he’s tapped into the heretofore unknown genre of gypsy pop.

7. Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies (Merge) Dan Bejar should really receive some kind of indie rock Man of the Year award. Riding off the success of the last New Pornographers record, he burst into 2006 with Destroyer’s Rubies, which immediately got tagged to appear in many Top Ten lists, and now Swan Lake, another of his side projects, is getting added to some of those lists as well. This is the best of seven Destroyer records, managing to be both accessible and mind-bogglingly intricate at the same time.

6. Joanna Newsom – Ys (Drag City) I hated Joanna Newsom at first. The buzz surrounding her 2004 debut The Milk-Eyed Mender seemed like much ado about nothing to me. Indie folk was just starting to get on my nerves a bit, and this squeaky harp player’s folk pop songs just didn’t do it for me. However, on Ys, Newsom has created five epic tracks that shift constantly and tell strange and personal stories. It’s a bold change in direction that pays off in spades, helped even more by hiring the legendary Van Dyke Parks (known mainly for his work with the Beach Boys) to arrange the songs. The beauty of his arrangements sometimes overshadows Newsom’s contributions to the album completely.

5. Tom Waits – Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, & Bastards (Anti) Since it’s a compilation, it’s almost unfair to include this box set, but almost a third of it is new and unreleased material, and that third is still better than most of the albums that came out this year. This collection cements Tom Waits as a true music legend. There’s not much more I can say without writing a three-page essay on why everyone should own this album.

4. Man Man – Six Demon Bag (Ace Fu) The unending descriptions of Man Man as Zappa meets Waits meets Beefheart were what originally sparked my interest, but after listening to the album, these guys definitely have more going on than some intriguing influences. The songs are huge sonically and massive in scope. Like no other album this year, Six Demon Bag is something that must be experienced, not listened to.

3. Annuals – Be He Me (Ace Fu) Another wunderkind on my list, Annuals is led by Adam Baker, who was only 19 when he arranged the songs for Be He Me. The album itself runs a gamut of musical genres and influences, making it one of the most ambitious albums of the year. It definitely doesn’t always succeed, but when it does, it’s absolutely stunning. Check out my little test review that I posted back in November for more.

2. Boris – Pink (Southern Lord) Japanese drone metal certainly isn’t a genre that gets a lot of exposure here in America, but Boris decided to change all that with this album. Arguably their most “mainstream” release, Boris tries their hand at everything on this album. Opener “Parting” is a subtle twist on drone that almost seems as if Boris are playing with My Bloody Valentine and Wire just to show us that they can outdo them, and then from there they drop the sound and go straight into some of the finest metal ever produced.

1. Grizzly Bear – Yellow House (Warp) For an album recorded in the lead singer’s mother’s house (hence the album title), Yellow House features some of the best production of any album this year. Like that old, dusty house, the band’s psychedelic folk-rock almost seems to breathe on its own, expanding into something huge and unfathomable then deflating into something soft and intimate. The album is filled with magical moments that words can’t even describe, flowing into each other to create an album that’s feels like the consistent pressure and warmth of a blanket. Yellow House’s ambition is met only by its imagination, making it something of a masterpiece.

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