Monday, January 01, 2007

2006: The Year in Review

Ah, another year gone, and another highly arbitrary list of favourites. Well at least I waited for the year to end before compiling this list (a more truncated version is at the Birdman Sound website, and an even shorter version can be found at

The Hold Steady, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Oct. 29

A lot of old favourites cropped up on my personal "best of." Topping the list is The Heartless Bastards' All This Time. I loved their first album, and like their new one even more. The same goes for The Drones' Gala Mill. Australia's finest now have three full lengths and an excellent odds'n'sods collection under their belt, and don't show any signs of slowing down. Drive-By Truckers did a fine job with A Blessing and a Curse. The Hold Steady's new album, Boys and Girls in America was excellent. I love both Sunno))) and Boris, and to my surprise their collaboration, Altar, did not disappoint (though I confess I think the best track is the one with Jesse Sykes on it). This was something of the "Year of Boris" for me, since I also got copies of Feedbacker and Mabuta No Ura. Jack-O and The Tennessee Tearjerkers' Jack-O is the Flip Side Kid was another killer entry from the former Oblivian. And of course Makoto Kawabata and Co. produced a slew of enjoyable albums, either as Acid Mothers Temple and The Cosmic Inferno or the revived Melting Paraiso UFO. Camera Obscura's Let's Get Out of This Country and Belle and Sebastien's The Life Pursuit were more than respectable additions to both bands' canons. The King Khan and BBQ Show packed a greasy punch live and on their sophomore album, What's For Dinner. Speaking of exciting live shows, while current recording technology doesn't allow for the band wrestling of Henri Faberge and The Adorables, their debut was swell too. The edgy pop-rock of Malajube's Trompe L'Oeil prove their stellar debut EP was no fluke. Neko Case continued her stunning run with Fox Confessor Brings The Flood. Andre Ethier scored a triple whammy: First, the release of Porcella's douple-LP version A Bird In The Hand is Worthless provided a stunning sendoff for The Deadly Snakes; then he released his excellent collaboration with The Silver Hearts, Dear Stranger; finally, he rounded off the year with his second solo album, Secondathallam. I was lukewarm on the Gabbard brothers' previous band, Thee Shams, but their new outfit The Buffalo Killers put out a terrific self-titled 1970s-influenced debut. Danielsen's Ships was another striking, and surprisingly heavy, work from the cracked pop auteur. Comets on Fire's Avatar was a quality work from a band that seems to be in mid-transformation. As for local folks, I have to confess being shamefully remiss when it comes to grabbing local releases this year; of the handful I did acquire, Harshey's and The Weapons of Mass Seduction's appealed the most.

Andre Ethier with The Silver Hearts, Barrymore's, April 21

As for performers I hadn't heard from before, David Picco's Saturday Night, Sunday Morning hits the country-rock-noir spot; and The Ettes' Shake The Dust pleased the ears as well with its fuzzy girl group sonics. Man Man's eclectic Six Demon Bag was also very entertaining, though it was but a pale reflection of their live show. Oakley Hall isn't entirely unfamiliar, being the product of an Oneida veteran, but the fried country rock/noise hybrid of Gypsum Strings is of a different order than that band's fractious psych. The Neil Young-influenced rock of Ladyhawk's self-titled debut struck hard. Beirut's Gulag Orkestar was a remarkable effort from a young performer who seems equally influenced by Stephen Merritt and gypsy brass bands. El Perro Del Mar's mournful pop was touching, too. Daniel Higgs' International Song Seamstress was about as freak-folky as it gets. Indeed most of my favourite new discoveries this year were more in a folky vein (acid or otherwise): Espers' II, Joanna Newsom's wonderful Ys and Wooden Wand's Second Attention.

Man Man, Mavericks, June 4

As for reissues, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better grab bag of hot sides than Vampi's Sencasional Soul. Mighty Baby's A Jug of Love sounds improbably like the product of a West Coast country rock outfit, rather than a bunch of former British white soul combo vets. The Midniters' new Norton comp, In Thee Midnite Hour, rocks hard. Further afield, Shadoks 2-CD comp of Edip Akbayram's early work let fans of the Turkish rock scene of the 60s and 70s dip a little more deeply. Personally, I'm waiting for a good Erkin Koray compilation. More recently, Chavez's Better Days Will Haunt You appealed, as did Harvey Milk's Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men. As a drooling Julian Cope fan, I was also glad to snag the deluxe edition reissue of Jehovahkill in the waning days of 2006. Easy Action's Sonic's Rendezvous Band six-CD box is also killer. I also love Shadok's Blops box. Three CDs of pre-Pinochet Chilean folk rock? Why not? In a heavier vein, I also picked up copies of Trouble's Psalm 9 and Skull albums, complete with bonus DVDs. The Loren Mazzacane Connors three-CD set on Family Vineyard, Night Through, is another excellent showcase for an artist I only knew by reputation. Not exactly a re-release, Sandy Bull's Still Valentine's Day 1969 is another fine work from a genius with strings. Ditto for Neil Young's Live at The Fillmore. Aim's re-release of Geater Davis's early work, The Lost Soul Man, is a must-have for southern soul fans. Relapse dug up a lost Canadian treasure with their release of Warpig's sole album.

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