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Favorite Albums of 2006 (and Instrumental albums & EPs, too)

20th Jan 07 (Sat) Leave a comment Go to comments

TOP 15 Instrumental Albums of 2006

1)
EstradaspherePalace of Mirrors (epic and cinematic) : A sibling band of Secret Chiefs 3… Estradasphere got their start on SC3′s label Web of Mimicry (and many of their members from SC3 as well). This is their The End Records debut, and it went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting. Their previous albums have been quite ADHD (a la SC3 and Mr Bungle), but they always had a gypsy-meets-cinematic feel. This album is quite epic and gypsy-cinematic throughout. It’s got a touch of metal in spots and some SC3-type middle-eastern roaming, but the production on this album is masterful compared to their prior works. It truly blew me away. Seeing them perform this year also helped the album’s appeal with me. Brilliant band. Web: http://www.estradasphere.com/

2)
Bobby PreviteThe Coalition of the Willing (groove-laden jazz) : A drummer-led jazz band with inescapable grooves, this CD was a “whim” purchase that totally paid off. It also features some of my fav NYC jazz musicians: guitarist Charlie Hunter & organist Jamie Saft, to name a couple… Web: http://www.bobbyprevite.com/

3)
Irving Fields Meets Roberto RodriguezOy Vey…..Olé!!! (klezmer jazz with a latin flavor) : This album is quite the engaging mix of Jewish and Latino musical culture. More of a collaboration than a mashup, though. Great stuff from a great bunch of musicians. My wife liked it, too… Web: http://www.tzadik.com/

4)
Frank ZappaTrance-Fusion (the return of meedley meedley meeeeee) : Apparently FZ fans have been waiting on this for 10 years… hell, I only found out about it a month before its release, but it’s a great guitar-centric album that fits nicely near the top of my Frank Zappa collection. Web: http://www.zappa.com/

5)
Dweezil ZappaGo With What You Know (the son of the return of meedley meedley meeeeee) : The lead-off track has vocals, but after that it’s an entire shredfest. Wicked fast, but with a nice groove that DZ usually delivers at a level on par with his father… *gasp* Web: http://www.zappa.com/

6)
Dave DouglasMeaning and Mystery (trumpet-led jazz quintet) : After getting into klez-jazz phenom Masada earlier this year, Dave Douglas quickly became one of my favorite jazz soloists. He’s got great sound, composition and groove. Web: http://www.davedouglas.com/

7)
Medeski Scofield Martin & WoodOut Louder (groove-jazz with guitars and a bit more meandering) : I dig MMW a bunch, and MSMW adds a familiar guitar tone to the groove-jazz. Web: http://www.mmw.net/

8 )
Cracow Klezmer BandMasada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 5 ~ Balan (klezmer jazz) : Masada still plays live, but I’m fairly certain that John Zorn’s quit writing tunes for them as a band. His new Masada tunes (“Book Two” as it were) are numbered upwards of 200-300 songs that he wrote over a few years, and different artists are recording them and putting their own spin on the music. Five Masada Book Two albums came out from different artists in 2006, and this one by the Cracow Klezmer Band was the most engaging (Jamie Saft Trio’s & Kobe Israelite’s were also good). 2007 looks to be awesomer, though… as Secret Chiefs 3 (one of my fav bands ever) is going to releasing their Masada Book Two angel-demon incarnation in May (or so). Web: http://www.tzadik.com/

9)
John ZornAstronome (glossolaliac noise metal) : I’m a big avant-garde, screamo fan. I dig many projects from John Zorn and Mike Patton that are so absurd that no one should really listen to them on a recommendation. This one is just that way. I don’t expect anyone to take a recommendation to check out Astronome (or Moonchild). If you’re curious, maybe check it out on iTunes… or shove a guitar into a blender with some avocadoes. I’m a big Fantômas fan — and for both Astronome and Moonchild (below), John Zorn has written some Crowley-influenced, magick-heavy “tunes” with vocal-utterance master Mike Patton in mind. The songs are all fairly instrumental, with the “vocals” not being lyrical, but rather very primitive. He rounds out the trio with fellow-Fantômas bandmate Trevor Dunn on bass and Masada drummer Joey Baron. Astronome beats out Moonchild only due to Mike Patton’s vocal acrobatics being more kooky. The third in the series is due in 2007. Web: http://www.tzadik.com/

10)
Jon Madof’s RashanimShalosh (klezmer rock) : Great fretwork with the sound of old culture seeping through. Of all of the radical Jewish culture series that I’ve gotten into this past year, Jon Madom & Rashanim stands out due to its “rock band” feel… Web: http://www.tzadik.com/

11)
Flat Earth SocietyPsychoscout (orchestral big-band with a sense of humor) : I first heard of FES while getting into bands on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label. They stood out as not really fitting the heavy, screamy type of band. Multi-instrumentalist big band with its hand in jazz and its other hand in orchestral scores. Fun stuff that’s very much “familiar” without being “all up in your junk.” More Ennio Morricone than, say, um… John Williams. Web: http://www.fes.be/

12)
Electric Kulintang (Susie Ibarra & Roberto Rodriguez)Dialects (percussive, yet smooth) : Two drummers making a very accessible instrumental record… crazy, huh? There are some non-lyrical vocalizations by Susie on some songs; but all in all, this is straight up instrumental fun. It’s way more poppy than I would have thought. Web: http://www.susieibarra.com/

13)
TalatThe Growl (klezmer jazz) : Lots of klez-jazz this past year… this one rose to the top. Web: http://www.tzadik.com/

14)
MogwaiMr. Beast (post-rock ) : Mogwai put out some solid material in 2006… the Zidane Sountrack is also good, but more mellow in spots (not head-butty, like I expected it would be). rolleyes.gif Web: http://www.mogwai.co.uk/

15)
John ZornMoonchild: Songs Without Words (glossolaliac noise metal) : Ditto reason as #9 (Astronome) above, ‘cept Moonchild had some neat-o artwork… Web: http://www.tzadik.com/

TOP 5 EPs of 2006

1)
Glen PhillipsUnlucky 7 (poppy singer-songwriter) : His full-length this year was good/OK, but this -EP- is what I feel is up to par with his prior work. Great stuff!! Web: http://www.glenphillips.com/

2)
David BazanFewer Moving Parts (melancholic singer-songwriter) : Two versions of five songs (one acoustic, one band format) from the former Pedro the Lion frontman. PTL was pretty much a one man band; so his “departure” doesn’t hurt me so much. I look forward to his “debut” full-length in 2007. Web: http://www.davidbazan.com/

3)
Thom YorkeSpitting Feathers (twitchy electronic rock) : This -EP- has some nice b-sides, a video and an extended version of “Harrowdown Hill.” Web: http://www.theeraser.net/

4)
O.S.I.Re: Free (progressive rock, remixed) : A great follow-up to a wonderful sophomore album. Web: http://www.osiband.com/

5)
TristezaEn Nuestro Desafío (organic electronic) : This -EP- was coupled with a great live DVD; which is fun, seeing as they never seem to come ’round these parts… Web: http://www.trstz.com/

Best Soundtrack/Score
Mogwai‘s Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (runner(s)-up: OutKast‘s Idlewild & The Beatles‘s Love: Cirque du Soliel)
/ /

Best Debut Album
My Brightest Diamond‘s Bring Me the Workhorse (runner-up: Ellery‘s Lying Awake)
/

Best Concept Album
Estradasphere‘s Palace of Mirrors (runner-up: Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s IBM 1401, A User’s Manual)
/

Best “I Found them on MySpace” Album
Au4‘s soaring On: Audio (runner-up: 8mm‘s sultry Songs to Love and Die By)
/

and now… my favorite albuims of 2006… at the time… note: I got lazy after I had written little blurbs for all of the instrumental and EPs by the time I got to the album list. Eh.

TOP 30 ALBUMS of 2006
1)
O.S.I.Free (prog rock meets trip-hop beats) : Web: http://www.osiband.com/

2)
Nellie McKayPretty Little Head (witty & spunky piano pop) : Web: http://www.nelliemckay.org/

3)
Sean LennonFriendly Fire (John would be proud) : Web: http://www.seanonolennon.com/

4)
Tool10,000 Days (art metal) : Web: http://www.toolband.com/

5)
My Brightest DiamondBring Me the Workhorse (quirky pop with operatic training) : Web: http://www.mybrightestdiamond.com/

6)
Peeping TomPeeping Tom (hard rock meets hip-hop meets pop-avant-garde) : Web: http://www.ipecac.com/bio.php?id=44

7)
Au4On: Audio (sweeping and lush atmospheric rock) : Web: http://www.au4-audio.com/

8 )
NoctalucaTowering the Sum (hard rock masterpiece) : Web: http://www.noctaluca.com/

9)
ElleryLying Awake (passionate Cincinnati songwriting duo) : Web: http://www.ellerymusic.com/

10)
Kim TaylorI Feel Like a Fading Light (singer-songwriter with a Berquistian voice) : Web: http://www.kim-taylor.net/

11)
Pearl JamPearl Jam (rock icons) : Web: http://www.pearljam.com/

12)
Sufjan StevensThe Avalanche (quirk-folk b-sides) : Web: http://www.asthmatickitty.com/musicians.php?artistID=5

13)
Ani DiFrancoReprieve (consistent folk hipster) : Web: http://www.righteousbabe.com/ani/index.asp

14)
BeckThe Information (electronic hip-pop) : Web: http://www.beck.com/

15)
DramagodsLove (melodic hard rock) : Web: http://www.dramagods.com/

16)
Thom YorkeThe Eraser (not kid a… maybe kid b ) : Web: http://www.theeraser.net/

17)
JudeRedemption (golden-voiced songwriter) : Web: http://www.judemusic.com/

18 )
EvanescenceThe Open Door (hard rock, angsty and hooky) : Web: http://www.evanescence.com/

19)
Johnny CashAmerican V: A Hundred Highways (his last complete work) : Web: http://www.johnnycash.com/

20)
IncubusLight Grenades (melodic hard rock) : Web: http://www.enjoyincubus.com/

21)
David GilmourOn an Island (longing for Floyd) : Web: http://www.davidgilmour.com/

22)
PlaceboMeds (post-punk brit-glamrock) : Web: http://www.placeboworld.co.uk/

23)
Red Hot Chili PeppersStadium Arcadium (funk rock?) : Web: http://www.redhotchilipeppers.com/

24)
IsisIn the Absence of Truth (heavy metal ambiance) : Web: http://www.isistheband.com/

25)
The Gotan ProjectLunático (modern tango) : Web: http://www.gotanproject.com/

26)
Ty TaborRock Garden (melodic rock) : Web: http://www.tytabor.net/

27)
Jurassic 5Feedback (rap) : Web: http://www.jurassic5.com/

28 )
Regina SpektorBegin to Hope (quirky piano pop) : Web: http://www.reginaspektor.com/

29)
The Blood BrothersYoung Machetes (screamo) : Web: http://www.thebloodbrothers.com/

30)
RivuletsYou Are My Home (Nick Drake-ian singer-songwriter) : Web: http://www.rivulets.net/

Honorable Mention:
AudioslaveRevelations / Cut ChemistThe Audience’s Listening / DJ LogicZen of Logic / Jars of ClayGood Monsters / MugisonLittle Trip / The ReceiverDecades

Best Album Packaging & Design
Peeping Tom‘s snazy pull-out casing (runner(s)-up: Anathallo‘s Floating World die-cut slipcase and Beck‘s The Information sticker set)

Best Album Artwork
Tool‘s 10,000 Days artwork, including “Net of Being,” by Alex Grey (runner-up: Au4‘s On: Audio)

Biggest Disappointment
Web of Mimicry Records not coming through with their “Fall 2006″ promise… and way too many X-mas albums this year (including Over the Rhine‘s Snow Angels, Sufjan Steven‘s Songs for Christmas, Aimee Mann, Bootsy Collins, your mom, your grandma)… ugh. X-mas albums usually sucked (save parts of Sufjan’s and “Goodbye Charles” from OTR’s)

and since I didn’t want to end on a sour note, here are some more “Best Of” winners…

Best Book on CD
Noam Chomsky‘s Failed States (runner-up: Eric Schlosser‘s Fast Food Nation (Updated))

Best Music-related DVD
Tori Amos‘s Fade to Red (runner-up: Megadeth‘s Arsenal of Megadeth)

Best Live Album
dredg‘s Live at the Fillmore (runner-up: Over the Rhine‘s Live from Nowhere Farm Vol 1)

Best Internet-only Release
Iron & Wine‘s iTunes Live Session (runner(s)-up: My Brightest Diamond‘s Disappear -EP- and Celldweller‘s Remix -EP-)

Best Re-issue

Porcupine Tree‘s Stupid Dream (runner-up: Steven Wilson‘s UEM on black-CDR)

Best “Late Getter”
Masada‘s Alef through Sanhedrin (runner(s)-up: Elysian FieldsQueen of the Meadow and Cibo Matto‘s Stereo Type A)

Best “Best Of”

No-Man‘s All the Blue Changes (runner-up: Medeski Martin & Wood‘s Note Bleu: 1998-2005)

Best Side-project
Electric Kulintang (Susie Ibarra & Roberto Rodriguez)‘s Dialects (runner-up: Xenuphobe (Ty Tabor & Wally Farkas)‘s Xenuphobe 1.0)

Looking forward to in 2007: Secret Chiefs 3 x 6 (or so), Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, OTR, Mum, Megadeth, Andy Yorke, Tori Amos, Amiina, Jenn Ghetto’s S, Silverchair, John Zorn’s 3rd in the Magick series with Patton/Dunn/Baron, Monk (Ric Hordinski), Tegan and Sara, Coheed and Cambria, Time Lapse Consortium, Eisley, Tomahawk, My Brightest Diamond (remix album) …

~Dan

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