Kevin Renick | Albums

goldfrapp2006 was a banner year for music. Cool sounds came from everywhere…big labels, small labels, or no labels at all (via MySpace, MP3s, etc.). Access to the sheer variety of music out there is no longer limited to a small number of adventurous listeners. You wanna check somethin' out these days, you can do it, compadres. And without a doubt, there's been a sonic buffet happening lately for the hungry music fan. In 2006, there was so much great stuff, I could've made a top 20 or top 25 list if I had to. But in keeping with tradition, here's my top 10 recordings that not only knocked me out musically, they also had some extra "edge" that made a difference to me personally. I've listed them in alphabetical order, not by any sort of ranking.

 

theyshoot
They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

 

1. The Black Angels | Passover (Light in the Attic)

Every so often, a band comes along that sounds like they've invented this rock & roll thing, or simply commandeered the genre to their own ends. Austin's Black Angels are this year's entry; they're a fabulous blend of Velvet Underground-like riffs, Doorsian vocals and atmospherics, and a truly razor-sharp rhythm section. A thoroughly accomplished, hypnotic debut.

2. Devics | Push the Heart (Filter U.S.)

There were a lot of wonderful albums this year with alternating female and male vocalists, but Los Angeles-based Devics are truly one of the best of the bunch. Lead singer Sara Lov is a model of emotive purity, and multi-instrumentalist Dustin O'Halloran has arranging smarts and sophistication to spare. This album is a captivating listen from start to finish, with standout tracks such as "Song For a Sleeping Girl," "Moments" and "Come Up" achieving a level of spine-tingling romantic poignancy that few artists ever achieve.

3. Bob Dylan | Modern Times (Sony)

Dylan's voice isn't much more than a croak or a rasp these days, and his live performances generally seem like paycheck cashing. But damned if the 65-year-old icon can't still make a classic recording, as he did on this appealing set of bluesy, authentic Americana-laced romps and ballads.

4. Goldfrapp | Supernature (Astralwerks)

This CD is so hot, it practically sizzles in your hand when you touch it. Vamp-goddess Alison Goldfrapp and musical partner Will Gregory have the melodic, danceable synth-pop thing down pat, but the artful sensuality that informs the grooves of this record can't be faked. "Beauty," "Satin Chic," "Time Out From the World" and many other tunes here have a way of engaging your mind, body and spirit at the same time. Supernature is super-sexy, super-fine.

5. Hot Chip | The Warning (Astralwerks)

Electro-pop came of age in 2006; everyone's doing it, so it's the details and the songs that separate the merely functional from the truly great. Hot Chip achieved the latter with tight male harmonies, fresh arrangements and utterly fetching, stick-in-your-head tunes like "Colors," "Arrest Yourself" and "Over and Over," which already nabbed the "Song of the Year" award in Britain's New Musical Express. This stuff is equally enjoyable on a car stereo, on your headphones or in a smoky club.

6. The Knife | Silent Shout (Mute U.S.)

There's bright electro-pop and there's dark electro-pop. This Swedish brother-sister duo are most definitely in the latter category. The distorted vocals and spooked vibe that permeate this disc make for unsettling, but always compelling listening. You can dance to a few of the tunes, or simply surrender to this dark, coolish, alternative reality. Either way, it's trailblazing modern music.

7. Liars | Drum's Not Dead (Mute U.S.)

There's "Drum" and there's "Mt. Heart Attack," you see, two symbolic characters representing the internal struggle of the creative, self-aware person. But you need not delve into Liars' intended storyline to appreciate the trancey, tribal-flavored music on this fascinating disc. Droning guitars/keys, percussion and mournful vocals combine to spine-tingling effect on a disc that Radiohead's Thom Yorke pronounced as one of his favorites this year. The accompanying DVD is also utterly groundbreaking and visually stunning.

8. Mew | And the Glass-Handed Kites (Sony)

Who said prog-rock is dead? Not these earnest Danish chaps, who structured this melodic set of alternatingly soft/rocking tunes to flow continuously into each other. It's an incredible car stereo album, and it soars to epic heights in the most organic way imaginable, with pleasing, often nostalgic vocals.

9. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? | Boo Hoo Hoo Boo (Kill Rock Stars)

Exuberance…it's a rare quality in rock. But this eight-piece Vancouver ensemble have that trait in spades, and they combine it with always surprising, quirky arrangements and vocals on this amazing platter. Combining influences such as XTC, The Clash and Adam Ant, the nutty Canadians host their own circus here, and they promise a good time for…anyone who shows up. "Hiccup" is one of those rare songs that can instantly put me in a good mood, and the female drummer of this band is truly outstanding.

10. TV on the Radio | Return to Cookie Mountain (4AD/Interscope)

Talk about genre-bending! This arty Brooklyn band put every sound and song idea through their unique sonic blender and come out with something that sounds like Massive Attack, Prince, Ween, Bowie, Pere Ubu, but also like nothing else. Falsetto vocals, electronicized arrangements and a serious love of left field aesthetics help make this band sound amazingly original, even though the influences can be spotted if you work at it. But eerie songs like "A Method" and "Let the Devil In" truly make that a challenge.

Honorable mentions: Danielson | Ships (Secretly Canadian), I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador), Thom Yorke | The Eraser (XL Recordings)

Best Instrumental Album: Lanterna | Desert Ocean (Jemez Mountain)

Best Music DVD: Liars | Drum's Not Dead (Mute U.S.) | Kevin Renick

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