The Glide 20 From 2006: The Year’s Best Albums

On the surface, with iPods selling in the millions, downloads becoming more and more accessible, and the actual coining of the moniker, ‘The MySpace Generation,’ 2006 may appear to be a relatively quiet year for the good ol’ album.  But taken as a whole, it was actually another solid year for LP releases.   Sure, there were less blockbusters and a few too many prematurely hyped ‘next best thing’ mp3s, but when we eventually sat down to go over the piles of potential list-making CDs, there were more than enough quality titles that had to be reluctantly voted off the island.   In the end, what we ended up with was a list that offered a little bit of everything – a heavy blurring of genres and styles, featuring artists who created definitive statements – easily identifiable as 2006, but timeless all the same. 

In alphabetical order

Built to Spill  –  You In Reverse

Sure, it’s not their best record ever, Perfect From Now On is still safe on the mantel, but Built To Spill’s first album since 2001 is easily a discography highlight and one of the strongest guitar albums of the year.  Doug Martsch lets his fingers fly with Brett Netson delivering the goods right alongside.  With the opening track, “Going Against Your Mind” and the rather unconventional single, “Conventional Wisdom,” you can forgive them for that five year layoff.




J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton  –  The Road To Escondido

Finally, after all these years, Clapton and Cale have taken their mutual admiration to the next level, teaming up on what will surely become a blues guitar classic. Where Slowhand can credit Cale with penning his staple hits, “Cocaine” and “After Midnight,”  Cale returns the nod providing Clapton the room to reinterpret his country-funk flavor as his own. Unlike those recent Santana disasters, this record epitomizes the possibilities that can only come from a truly collaborative effort. This should be in every dad’s stocking this Christmas.   


Neko CaseFox Confessor Brings the Flood

The much anticipated follow-up to 2006’s Blacklisted finds the ever-sultry Case collaborating with Calexico, Howe Gelb and The Band’s Garth Hudson, as she boldly alleges no specific genre, evoking jazz, folk and the country tradition of Patsy Cline. Between her solo work and her ongoing contributions to The New Pornographers, Case is quickly becoming a ‘best of’ list given.  With the body of work she’s amassed, it’s difficult to pick favorites, but Fox Confessor stands as her strongest work in years.


Cat Power  –  The Greatest

To work on her latest effort, Chan Marshall ventured to where else but Ardent Studios in Memphis to record with many of the original architects of Southern soul music.  In the resulting, The Greatest, Marshall delivers a new portrait of an old painting, recreating vintage 60’s and 70’s soulful R&B in elegant form.  It’s a presumptuous title, one that leaves little room for failure, but Marshall keeps her promise.  Add this one to your ‘might get lucky tonight” iPod mix.


Elvis Costello & Allan Toussaint  –  The River in Reverse

Inspired in the wake of Hurrican Katrina, The River in Reverse features musical chameleon Costello and his band the Imposters, along with R&B legend Toussaint and the Crescent City Horns in a poignant New Orleans tribute.  Featuring five new songs and seven from Toussaint’s expansive catalog, The River combines respectful sorrow with hopeful joy, and even pays a little piece of mind to the Bush administration in a monumental effort.  


Decemberists The Crane Wife

Switching to a major label usually spells disaster for most bands, but The Decemberists have rewritten the book, as there is nothing remotely commercial about The Crane Wife. Colin Meloy’s nasally vocals weave intricate tales for weary seafarers and comforting recollections of simpler days gone by, but this time they’ve added a spice of anthemic prog-rock to liven the journey. It’s the album Frodo and Samwise would make if they formed a band.


DestroyerDestroyer’s Rubies

Hiding behind A.C. Newman and Neko Case in the New Pornographers, Dan Bejar has primarily been an afterthought, but that is sure to change now that his flagship band has made their crown jewel, Destroyer’s Rubies. A solid collection of clever pop and Nashville-inspired songs, there is enough tunefulness in the band’s sixth LP to make this ruby worth pocketing.  


Earl GreyhoundSoft Targets

The crashing cymbals, thick bass, wailing guitar and soulful vocals of this NY power trio lead you straight back to those gritty rock clubs of the 70’s you always see captured so eloquently in faded black & white photos.   It’s stripped down to the core, and built up larger than life – in much the same way Zeppelin attacked it.  But that’s not just a blanket reference. The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones went so far as to say Earl Greyhound could actually pull off opening for the masters.


Gnarls Barkley  –  St. Elsewhere 

"Does that make me craaazy?" After hearing James Blunt’s nauseating cry of “you’re beautiful” a few thousand times, this was the second most heard phrase of 2006.  Call it pop or hip-hop or whatever you want, Cee-Loo and Dangermouse deliver on their genre-bending debut that holds up to what a 40 minute album should sound like: unconventional, thought-provoking and upbeat.  




The Hold Steady  –  Boys and Girls in America

When does an indie band sound like classic rock radio? The answer is Boys and Girls in America.  In their grand statement, which comes as their debut on Vagrant, Boys and Girls in America shows how far this Brooklyn via Minneapolis bar band has grown. Thanks to a tinkering piano up front and the bold and blasphemous voice of Craig Finn, this record is a pure rock out with hooks, riffs and a whole lotta fun.  It’s Springsteen for the blog generation.  


Midlake  –  The Trials of Van Occupanther

Easy-listening has finally found its way into earning some well-deserved hipster cred.  Midlake’s 1976 throwback harks early Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young in a comfortable collage that will single-handedly restore your faith in Texas.  Despite the bouncy MASH themed single, "Roscoe," Van Occupanther is far from a pick-me-up record, but with its sweet harmonies and catchy melodies, the album manages to haunt you for days.  Every song swims in the same vein, but the title track stands above the rest in near perfection.


Muse  –  Black Holes and Revelations

Muse have always been on the edge of a major breakthrough, but have been constantly hindered by Coldplay and Radiohead comparisons. On their fourth album, they completely drop the potential for such notation altogether to create an ethereal epic that travels through synth-pop, metal, prog-rock and a full-body sound that is best heard from beginning to end.


Joanna NewsomYs

Where she stunned hipster nation with her debut, The Milk-Eyed Mender in 2004, the young harpist with the rather creepy Bjork-tinged voice has released her long awaited follow-up, which is even more out of the box than it’s predecessor.   A five song epic at 50 minutes and no instrumental brakes, Ys is more than psych-folk, its Sigur Ros material in a class by itself.  You won’t exactly grab this one off the shelf when the boys come over for beers, but it’s an essential addition to the collection and a must-hear with stellar headphones and no interruptions.


The RootsGame Theory

On their Def Jam debut, Game Theory, ?uestlove and company release what he described to Rolling Stone as their ‘most serious record to date.’  Tackling darker issues and laying down even darker textures, the result is a 13 song cycle of top-notch musicianship, conscious thought and an underlying groove that holds it all together. Longevity is a hard ticket to earn in the hip-hop world, but the Roots continue to stay one step ahead of the game.


Silversun Pickups  –  Carnavas

Although its still a bit too early for a 90’s revival, Silversun Pickups “pick up” right where the Smashing Pumpkins left off.  Solidifying themselves in the L.A. scene with the well received 2005 Pikul EP, the sspu show their true prowess with the debut LP, Carnavas.   Combining loads of distorted guitars and melodic songs into a soaring burst of fuzz, it captures the moody nature of the aggressive 90’s in the best effort since an album called Loveless.


The SlipEisenhower

 Eisenhower may come across as a striking change from The Slip of old, but this evolution has been in motion since those early, experimental Gecko days. Melding noise rock with indie pop sensibilities, the Boston/Montreal trio have artfully captured the vibrant rock landscape painted by fellow innovative contemporaries.  Eisenhower may prove to be just another step in the ongoing Slip journey, but it stands as the band’s monumental achievement nonetheless.



TV On The Radio  –  Return To Cookie Mountain

Some bands just seem to do no wrong – and lately many of them seem to be living and recording in Brooklyn.  TV on the Radio sits at the top of that hotbed.    After their stunning 2004 release, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, TV on the Radio’s penchant for loud-soft dynamics make Return to Cookie Mountain a revelation in indie rock reinvention. Art-rock is twisted into a bizarre element where rules are meant to be broken, but somehow remain purely listenable.  


Viva VoceGet Yr Blood Sucked Out

Kevin and Anita Robinson are the hardest hitting husband-wife rock outfit since Jack and Meg White, and they never even pretended to be siblings. Viva Voce (Italian for "word of mouth") are living up to their name, touring furiously and building a wave of momentum way beyond their secluded shores of Oregon. Dark and mysterious, the Robinson’s third LP and Barsuk debut is everything you could ask for in a marriage – strong, seductive and spontaneous.


Wolfmother  –  Wolfmother

Molding together the best of Sabbath, Deep Purple and Zeppelin, these Aussies pushed the envelope by revisiting the past in ways that other neo-classic rockers (Jet, Living Things) haven’t been able to do. From hard psychedelia to metal, Wolfmother explore a larger than life sound that grabs you for a wild ride.



Yo La Tengo  –  I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

Twenty Years into the game, Yo La Tengo, like their New York-area contemporaries, 
Youth, continue to churn out bold, expansive recordings that force every kid who
ever bought a guitar and Chuck Taylors to trade in the LES for Hoboken.  This most
recent effort (their 11th LP) is a pinnacle of sorts for the veteran indie rockers, twisting
up new sounds and with tongue-in cheek humor that leaves a lasting impression –
not to mention the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll album title.




 Honorable Mention


The Album LeafInto The Blue Again
Band of HorsesEverything All The Time
Bonnie “Prince” BillyThe Letting Go
CalifoneRoots & Crowns
Fort Recovery
Jason CollettIdols of Exile
Comets on FireAvatar
The Dears Gang Of Losers
Bob DylanModern Times
Jeremy EnigkWorld Waits
Emily HainesKnives Don’t Have Your Back

Jolie HollandSpringtime Can Kill You
Mark Knopfler and Emmylou HarrisAll The Roadrunning
The Long Winters Putting The Days To Bed
Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s The Dust Of Retreat
Medeski, Scofield, Martin, and Wood Out Louder

Oxford Collapse –  Remember The Night Parties
Pearl JamPearl Jam
Red Hot Chili Peppers Stadium Arcadium
Josh RitterAnimal Years
Sonic YouthRather Ripped
SparklehorseDreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
Bruce SpringsteenWe Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Summer Hymns Backward Masks
The Thermals –  The Body, the Blood, the Machine
The Derek Trucks BandSonglines
Tom WaitsOrphans
The WalkmenA Hundred Miles Off
Thom Yorke The Eraser
Zero 7 The Garden





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