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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Top 10 albums of 2006

Published: December 1, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

Theres no word that can possibly describe the past year in music other than Crazy. Yes, the surprise single of the summer helped to define a year in music that no pompous internet-based music review site or increasingly commercial New York based magazine could have seen coming from miles away. So, on that note, here are the years ten best albums, starting with the one that defined it all:

10. Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere. With a performance pseudonym that slightly skews the Round Mound of Rebounds, who could have expected anything interesting to have been produced? Then again, how could the combination of soul-man extraordinaire Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse, arguably the most important musician of the 21st Century, possibly go wrong? While Crazy took the country by storm just in time for the release of St. Elsewhere, music fans hungry for hip-hop got to munch down on a platter of tasty sound bites, from the devastating emotion of Just a Thought to the sweet soul of Last Time. A brilliant introduction, but with these two behemoths behind the music, the best is yet to come.

9. Hot Chip The Warning. There was no warning from Londons Hot Chip about the breadth of their latest release;

after the release of Coming on Strong, the band seemed to be on pace with Har Mar Superstar for this generations best faux soul act. Fortunately, The Warning packs electronic beats into meticulously well-woven sheets of pop perfection while frontmen Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard grow vocally as their songwriting technique travels through maturity. From the jarring guitar work in the extremely catchy Over and Over, to the slow build-up in Colours, to the emotional frailty of And I Was A Boy From School, Taylor and Goddard showcase a remarkable control of songwriting craft all in just the first half of the disc.

8. Beirut- Gulag Orkestar. It used to be that you had to live in some shtetl in Eastern Europe to experience the best music of the Balkans;

now all you have to do is fork up 20 bucks to see Beirut in concert. At the tender age of nineteen, Zach Condon created a musical montage of Eastern Europe, complete with sweeping accordions, penchant drumming, a barrage of trumpeting, a chorus of ukuleles, and Condons mysterious baritone. With Condons voice taking command and rising above a stark keyboard arrangement in After the Curtain, the beauty manages to transcend every track, seeping into the slow burst of The Canals of Our City, and all the way to the musically adventurous and sweeping instrumentals of Postcards from Italy.

7. Girl Talk Night Ripper. More of a forty-minute dance party than an album, Gregg Gillis hits any and all adventurous music listeners from all sides with hundreds of genre-hopping samples. As if to vilify the very idea of mash-ups itself, Gillis tosses every last Jay-Z remix out the window through seamlessly combining James Taylor with Ludacris, Young Gunz with the Pixies, Missy Elliott with Neutral Milk Hotel, and a stream of others into a string of hip-shaking singles. While all the tracks flow together unlike any mash-up before, they all manage to stand out on their own musical ability: standout Bounce That moves around instrumentals from LCD Soundsystem, the Breeders, and the Emotions while Purple Ribbon All-Stars rhymes carry through a swirl of musical montages, and all in the first minute.

6. The Format Dog Problems. After the pop paunch of Interventions & Lullabies, the first encounter with Dog Problems will sound like a thousand-person orchestra who know their way around Risk has attacked the band. Fortunately, Format helmsmen Nate Ruess and Sam Means have the orchestras will in their hands, bringing undo bolts of sunshine and classic Disney-era instrumentation into their pop world. From the swirling carousel of opener Matches, to the somber a cappella opening of Im Actual, to the horn bombast and adult-themed Sesame Street spoof letter countdown of Dog Problems, Ruess and Means loose some of the pop pizzazz of their first release, but gain a whole realm of auditory amusement in the process.

5. Milosh Meme. Coming from nowhere (Canada actually), Miloshs sophomore release Meme vindicates every positive statement ever made about electronica music, as the wistfully prepared album laments a broken heart over a years worth of healing. Milosh speaks softly but carries a big stick, his voice barely and rarely rising above the beautifully textured instrumentals that manage to carry more emotional depth with each whispered, hurt-filled word. The epitome track off the album, Couldnt Sleep, offers a breathtaking musical experience mulling about a world of mistakes that is sure to keep you up for hours.

4. Maritime We, the Vehicles. In just eleven short tracks, Maritime manages to erase every single horrible mistake produced by pop and emo related artists of the past decades. Although their first release, Glass Floor, was a thunderous dud, Maritime thankfully culled from their musical roots, taking the sweet pop charm from the Promise Ring and marrying it with the instrumental bombast and musical spontaneity of the Dismemberment Plan. From the soaring melodies of Tearing Up the Oxygen to the sweet pop instrumentation and poetic prose of German Engineering, to the pop perfection of Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts, We, the Vehicles will have all listeners yearning for more than the measly thirty-six minutes of emo at its best.

3. Say Anything – Is/Was a Real Boy. Sure this album was originally released in 2004, but its still better than most albums that have been produced in those two years. After signing to J Records last fall, the record label decided to repackage Is a Real Boy with a companion piece of un-released songs entitled Was a Real Boy. The original album still packs a punch, and with the real life antics of frontman Max Bemis, traveling from one insane asylum to the next, bring even more weight to the emotionally wrought lyrics in the story of the next-next punk version of Bob Dylan with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Although Was a Real Boy lacks the dynamic and flow of its predecessor, with the exception of the unabashed single Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too, the original album still holds the most complete rock-opera of the last few decades and packs a world of philosophical ideas into thirteen breathtaking tracks.

2. Oh No! Oh My! Oh No! Oh My! Resting along the outskirts of the blogosphere for over a year, Oh No! Oh My! have been waiting to explode over the music landscape, and the release of their self-titled disc brought a heap of attention their way. Most of all, it made their music available to the masses, and whatever masses could get their hands on it were thankful and better for it. With a taste for penchant pop and a quirky use of electronics, hand claps, and acoustic guitar, Oh No! Oh My! seemed to have packaged happy thoughts and memories into each and every one of their songs. From the sweet barks that fill Reeks and Seeks, to the somber hand-clap driven Farewell to All My Friends, to the danceable keyboard work breakdown of I Love You All the Time, this album is sure to stick in your head long after the year has passed.

1. TV on the Radio Return to Cookie Mountain. Without question, Return to Cookie Mountain is the worst album name in years, but its also the best album released this year. TV on the Radio have created a masterpiece of sound, a swirling, feedback-laden portrait of music at its best that will no doubt stand the test of time and stand out as one of the best albums of the decade. It takes just a few seconds of listening to the opening track, I Was a Lover, to realize how incredibly powerful, passionate, and personal of an album TV on the Radio has emerged with, and it takes the first few seconds after Wash the Day ends to emerge out of the bands spell, only to re-start the cycle. Theres not a bad track on here, and the Brooklyn band has achieved something thousands of other bands wish they could attain: an album that captures a moment and makes it live on forever in pure artistry.