By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
Everything All the Time
Everything All the Time is achingly beautiful from end-to-end. From the first wash of guitars that introduces the album, to the plaintive arpegiated intro of "The Funeral," which swells seamlessly into sweeping grandeur, to austere ballads like "Part One" and disc closer "St. Augustine," which spotlight Ben Bridwell's (ex-Carissa's Wierd) helium-pitched vocals, Band of Horses' debut is the most exhilarating listening experience you'll have this year. Giddy up.
3. The Hold Steady
Boys and Girls in America
Led by front man Craig Finn, who delivers dependably engaging narratives with his patent threadbare beat poet-like delivery, the Hold Steady has outdone itself on its third full-length. This time out, the arena-sized riffs are even Thinner, Lizzy, augmented by swaggering piano and organ lines. As Finn spins the ballads of this year's also-rans and otherwise romanticizes various outcasts, his mates continue to brazenly indulge their affinity for bygone rock. End result: Boys and Girls is an instant classic.
4. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's
The Dust of Retreat
Although The Dust of Retreat was unleashed on the masses this past spring by Artemis Records, the outstanding debut from this Indy outfit was originally issued on the Standard Recording imprint in 2005. Regardless, the act's folksy chamber pop still sounds fresh. Understated orchestral flourishes perfectly complement Richard Edwards's beguiling compositions, which are as charming as his tuneful croon, whether he's ruminating about love being an inkless pen or meowing (no shit!) like a house cat.
The Crane Wife
The Decemberists have always come across as a bit precious. But on their major label debut, the band seems... ah, what am I saying here? You still need to be decidedly erudite to appreciate Meloy's subject matter (in this case, a Japanese folk tale), and he still sings with an accent that makes Jeremy Enigk sound like Merle Haggard. Even so, his songwriting remains solid and there are enough interesting organ-heavy prog moments to make the pretense palatable.
How We Operate
Never really cared for these cats. Always seemed interchangeable from the endless parade of thumb sucking messy hairs from across the pond. But dang if they didn't put together a nice one here that stands out. The perfect Sunday-morning-coming-down record, Operate is gentle and engaging. The act's trio of vocalists shine, whether it's on tranquil acoustic numbers such as "Notice" and the Nick Drake owing "See the World," semi-brooding, bass-driven tracks like "How We Operate," or Brit pop janglers like "Girlshapedlovedrug."
7. Kevin Devine
Put Your Ghost to Rest
It's not hard to see what Capitol saw in Former Miracle of 86 front man Kevin Devine. Dude's burnished tenor and his phrasing so evokes Ben Gibbard, that if the Cab driver were ever to go on strike, Devine could easily slide behind the wheel. Devine himself cites Elliott Smith as a touchstone, going so far as to tap Rob Schnapf as a producer. Whatever the case, fortunately, Devine has his own way with words and a penchant for crafting memorable, heartrending tunes.
Brightblack Morning Light
Brightblack Morning Light is the product of Nathan Shineywater and Rachael Hughes, a couple of nomadic tree-huggers from Alabama, who left their homes to live in tents somewhere in Northern California. Psychedelic doesn't begin to describe the contents of the disc. Judging from the rambling, reverb-drenched vocals that drift aimlessly above the smoldering haze of organs and drowsy guitars before evaporating, these freaky folkers obviously smoked some of those trees or something, man.
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
This past spring, the Arctic Monkeys were on the tongues of tastemakers and (ack!) hipsters everywhere. The hype machine was stuck in overdrive, and I swore that I wouldn't fuel it. In the end, though, I finally succumbed and bought in to the quartet's spunky, tangled, three-chord rock and roll swindle. I was drawn in by the messy, frenetic bedlam of "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" and "Dancing Shoes," and now I can't get the monkey off my back. Sucker? Guilty as charged.
She Wants Revenge
There's plenty of reasons I shouldn't dig She Wants Revenge. For starters, the act's sound is completely derivative. (Obviously so. I mean, really, a song titled "Tear You Apart"?) And the skuzzy, minimalistic electro come-ons seem just a little too calculated in a Hot Topic Goth sort of way. In spite of all that, though, there's something oddly riveting to me about a band that can deliver lines like, "She's in the Bathroom/She pleasures herself," with a straight face. Dave Herrera
Recordings of DJ mixes have been multiplying like email spam over the last decade. The sheer volume of said releases is overwhelming, and it makes one wonder: Who the hell is buying them? There must be a demand if labels keep issuing the things as if the music industry has a future (such quixotic earnestness warms the heart as 2006 limps to its dismal conclusion). Whoever you are, bless you for keeping this art form financially solvent. For your efforts, you deserve a top-10 guide in alphabetical order, even to the year's most excellent DJ mixes. Happy holidays, lovers of intelligent track selection and ingenious segues!