as the year draws to a close and we prepare for Yuletide festivities once again, our thoughts turn to the records which have accompanied us like friends throughout the previous 12 months, the albums we have danced to, pondered upon, been moved to weep by, and sung along to with boozy abandon when we thought no one was watching. And so Stylus Magazine would like you to join us in celebrating the art of the long playing record in 2006…


#50: Benoît Pioulard – Précis

The debut long-player from Thomas Meluch (the 21-year-old craftsman behind the pseudonym) finds acoustic-based tunes and Meluch’s hushed vocals surrounded by layers of soundnoise to the point where you aren’t exactly sure which part of the music to focus your ear on. The album’s greatest success is that it doesn’t lose the forest for the trees—the songwriting is top notch, encouraging the listener to pick them out through the dense haze rather than letting the haze overwhelm you. Précis’ stealthy strength comes from the swirling green blend of grainy sounds, exotic instrumentation, and subtle pop hooks working in perfect harmony to create a whole far larger than the sum of its parts.
[Stylus Review]
[Todd Hutlock]


#49: Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds

Owen Pallet's poetically homoerotic roleplay pop inhabits an alternate universe where everything sounds like Noel Coward singing "Eleanor Rigby," only instead of Father Mackenzie the principals are D&D characters and Canadian real estate tycoons. So much so that Canada's inaugural Polaris Music Prize actually chose the token scatological chamberpop entry as winner. But don't let the band name, album title, or violins put you off—Pallet didn't make some kind of unlistenably bizarre noise record about shit and balrogs. He Poos Clouds is an intensely listenable and musical sojourn through a landscape of strings, pianos, percussion, voices, and odd vignettes about failed marriages. Besides, singing about Gollum didn't do Led Zeppelin any harm.
[Stylus Review]
[Nick Southall]


#48: Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat

Alt.country is the pastime of lowlifes—reckless scofflaws who make bad art out of mistreating a genre until it finally becomes their own fake vision of the realest of music. Jenny Lewis comes with the pure alchemy on Rabbit Fur Coat though, because she's made this most grotesque of styles... pretty. The spirit of Bobbie Gentry gazes over the album, whether Jenny's testifying indie-rock style, crooning lullabies just like her momma did, or covering “Handle With Care,” accompanied by the kind of negative influences (Conor Oberst, M.Ward) she’d best stay away from if she wants to record a second non-shit album.
[Stylus Review]
[Dom Passantino]


#47: Alan Jackson – Like Red on a Rose

Who knew that what Alan Jackson most needed to make great art was Jesus and Alison Krauss? On the heels of his quietly gorgeous gospel album, Precious Memories, came this gorgeously quiet countrypolitan album produced by Krauss. She knows what she’s doing, too, spotlighting Jackson’s rich, creamy tenor atop the warm, organ-seasoned tracks, all ballads and mid-tempo numbers. Secret weapon: Krauss’s songwriter of choice, Robert Lee Castleman, who contributes four songs here including the sweetly romantic title track. Opener “Anywhere on Earth You Are” is one of 2006’s finest songs/ performances, well, anywhere, and the album closes with an appropriately tender reading of Leon Russell’s “Bluebird.” Rose is proof that soft, quiet music needn’t be uninteresting.
[Stylus Review]
[Thomas Inskeep]


#46: Espers – II

I worry that it might be too late for people who haven't heard II yet. A Drag City release with a two-letter title that found most of its reviews riffing on the Renaissance, it could very well be found guilty by association with the record that caused 2006's most bitter message board brawls. But even if the obscure instrumentation and incantation have the whiff of fairy dust, Espers masterfully incorporated touches of sludgy noise, ambient, and "No Quarter" into a bewitching, immaculately recorded album as lithe, limber, and graceful as an Olympic gymnast. The seven tracks on II are long and winding but never ponderous, leaning on a melodic sense as keen as any pop album. Also: a good reminder that "Ring Around the Rosies" might have originally been sung to ward off the black plague.
[Stylus Review]
[Ian Cohen]


#45: Califone – Roots and Crowns

A trip to SoCal to soundtrack films and a stint as the O.C.’s Most Autumnal Being under his belt, Old Man Califone Tim Rutili returned to Chicago walled in smudgy pop music. Roots and Crowns burns deceptively bright, energetically even, so some thorny post-rock codgers sound like lovers. “Thin my blood / California,” Rutili sings on the disarming “Sunday Noises”; could be romance, religion, drugs—it’s difficult to say. But by the time “3 Legged Animals” arrives couched in big, major chords, the distinctions between them barely exist, and Rutili sounds as if he might miss the coastline. If he wasn’t such a knotty, mumbling old Joad, that is.
[Stylus Review]
[Andrew Gaerig]


#44: Joan as Police Woman – Real Life

It starts with an unambiguous declaration of love (“we’re real life”), building up to an arresting “reveal”: the real life name of the lover himself. Thereafter, the experience of love is explored from varying angles: from the slow-burning exultance of “I Defy” (a duet with Antony Hegarty, whose multi-tracked entreaties bring the song to climax), to the mournful sorrow of “Save Me” and the almost post-coital stillness and resolve of “Flushed Chest” and “Anyone.” The dominant mood is one of resolved reflection, tenderly expressed, and only punctured by the remembered adolescent yearnings and Banshees/Cure goth-pop stylings of “Christobel,” the sole up-tempo interlude. Joan Wasser’s voice is soft and strong, velvety and honeyed, coaxing and caressing, uncommonly intimate and quietly compelling.
[Stylus Review]
[Mike Atkinson]


#43: Beirut – Gulag Orkestar

Band of Horses crashed the funeral, but Beirut held one on record. With its deep grey-mourning waltzes, Beirut emerged close to the top in what was admittedly a weak year for breakout indie acts. Sure, it’s blogfare to a fault—aieeee, more wailing broken youth, with fucking horns no less—but Zach Condon and his shaggy Balkan compatriots sank us deep in a salty morass that tasted just oddly other-enough for those of us without a working knowledge of Gogol Bordello or Kurt Weill. And that vibrant sense of antiquity, that recreation of a secondhand world we couldn’t fill without someone else’s framing—always more right-time than timeless—made Gulag Orkestar seem a bitter fit for .wav than under-glass.
[Stylus Review]
[Derek Miller]


#42: Amy Diamond – Still Me Still Now

In Amy Diamond, the racist creeps at Stylus finally found their wettest dream—a fourteen-year-old Norwegian girl squeaking out agonizingly precise pop music about subjects she probably has no real concept of. It's not a Lolita complex. It's weirder, even. Because Amy sings about rallying kids to war against the evil adults, consoles her friend after a tough break-up, tries to act as love incarnate, and does this awkward "Material Girl" routine, which comes off like a 'tween's dress-up party with well-funded stylists—garish to the point of disturbing. It's all insidiously catchy. And don't forget that some Scandi men even sicker than us put her up to it.
[Stylus Review]
[Mike Powell]


#41: Burial – Burial

Dubstep was the sound of the future that wasn't. I know about the 'ardcore continuum, but dubstep has too much precedent for anyone but the inner circle to feel much real excitement. Then there's Burial, whose self-titled album turns these criticisms back on themselves, his compositions paying tribute to the pioneers of the 2step swung beat whilst also going somewhere new. Everything here is disturbingly murky at the edges, a hiss like heavy city rain masking the beats, whilst vocal slivers disconnected from their source and wrapped in layers of convolution reverb speak of ineffable loss.
[Stylus Review]
[Patrick McNally]


#40: The Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

This album isn't good because it's catchy, or confident, or meticulously observed, or even British. It's good because, beneath his hedonist minstrelry and idealistic belief in the nobility of the grinding guitar, Alex Turner preserves a romantic's perspective on his panoply of grim dance clubs and devil costumes. Hyperspecific, yes, but that Turner and company are describing your life—or your friends' lives—isn't the point. Sheffield could be as real as Yoknapatawpha; the point is: there’s no romance round here. This is as elegiac as these guitars get.
[Stylus Review]
[Theon Weber]


#39: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones

When last heard on 2003’s Fever to Tell, singer Karen O was incorporeal; if and when she assumed human form she chose from a rather limited repertoire of characters: harridan or Medean avenger. There was one exception. Remember why “Maps” became a hit? O’s crinkled vocal—half embarrassed to hear itself mouthing such trite sentiments and believing them—sold the not-bad song to the prom crowd. For two-thirds of Show Your Bones, O is a woman for the first time, without sacrificing a whit of her force. Now content to enunciate her gnomic but never obscure romantic vagaries rather than shrieking over them, O evinces a welcome confusion on “Gold Lion” and “Mysteries.” Nick Zinner’s guitar provides shading and counterpoint, like a great harmony singer. Of course Show Your Bones’s sales didn’t match its predecessor’s; its intended audience balked at adult admissions of failure like “I messed up the missing of you” and qualified affirmations like “Sometimes I think I’m bigger than the sound,” which suggested that the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s considered the wages of sins too high to merely funnel them into 10 more versions of “Y Control.” They shall be telling this with a sigh: maturity’s no fun.
[Stylus Review]
[Alfred Soto]


#38: My My – Songs for the Gentle

Like Crowdpleaser & St. Plomb's 2006 this spring, My My's Playhouse full-length debut is a sleeper, even a sneaker—approaching in the night, stripping you of your defenses, seducing you into the land of milk and honey with its sensuous beatitude and succulent tones. It's all too easy to consider electronic music of this rarefied strata the 21st century version of lounge music—easy listening for horny youth. All respect due, but Martin Denny (may his soul rest in peace) never played my body like a fucking marimba—Songs for the Gentle does just that, delivering a pattern of ceaselessly undulating waveforms that cajole, caress, and canoodle the human form until it, too, is but a naked whisper dancing on the breath of God. Beautiful and sacred materia prima for the children of the neue welt. Gesundheit!
[Stylus Review]
[Mallory O’Donnell]


#37: Marit Larsen – Under the Surface

Marit Larsen knows how to soft-sell pathos; she was the unassuming wallflower to Marion Raven's spotlight-jacking diva in M2M, often imbuing their music with familiarity and subtle melancholy. It's in her voice—cautious, knowing, bittersweet—and on Under the Surface, she manages to keep the sound intact while boldly announcing a promising solo career. For all the bells and (slide) whistles making it such an eclectic and whimsical singles album, the underpinning sadness and thematic unity make the whole thing coalesce. Lyrically, Larsen offers a more mature variation on well-worn material: obsessive second-guessing about her love life and a pervasive sense of disappointment in herself and others. Yet the music is almost uniformly joyous; she bears her pain with a smile and a self-effacing shrug.
[Stylus Review]
[David Moore]


#36: Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra – Boulevard de L'Independence

Afropop is frequently given third-string status even amongst the world music faithful, partially because it too often shunts itself down stylistic corridors—2005’s In the Heart of the Moon (which paired master Kora player Diabate with the late Ali Farke Toure) was a perfect example—gorgeous epics of tone and timbre, but a shade monochromatic to transgress genre boundaries. With his Symmetric Orchestra project, Toumani seems hellbent on carving out a place for the Kora that's simultaneously respectful of Malian traditions and unbound by them. There's even a "Salsa" on Boulevard de L'Independance, an album which shows Diabate delve into everything from disco to Arabic-influenced textures, a balance of ancient and modern sounds which reflect the region that once was encompassed in the Middle Ages by the Mande Empire. This highly personal tightrope walk of tradition and rebellion is best summed up on opener "Toumani," where Diabate lists his forerunners, then asks and answers: "Where is Toumani? Toumani has arrived!"
[Stylus Review]
[Mallory O’Donnell]


#35: The Game – The Doctor's Advocate

Major label rap albums in �06, the redux: mixtape, rap press hype, mainstream press hype, leak, sudden disappearance of hype, release, accountants angrily waving feeble second week sales figures in your face, embarrassing war of words with blogger du jour, lather, rinse, repeat. As the past 18 months of his career have proven, nobody bothers to tell Jayceon anything. The Doctor's Advocate is sixteen tracks of emotionally exhausting self-flagellation, pity, and club bangers made with an overbearing sense that Game had to drag himself out of a darkened bedroom to record—and yet ended up as a fascinating, engaging, and, y'know, “fun” piece of work.
[Stylus Review]
[Dom Passantino]


#34: Band of Horses – Everything All the Time

Those of us melancholy enough to have treasured the gauzy Carissa's Wierd, whose songs seemed assembled from old diaries during a long rain, came of age with Band of Horses. Everything All the Time scatters sadness with warm winds: it's big and open and chiming, and Ben Bridwell lets loose bellows and strained sighs like a man trying to keep up. And those diaries are still around, but opened with a smile: the lyrical centers of the two big set pieces here are, respectively, "At every occasion I'll be ready for a funeral" and "If I am lost it's only for a little while." How quickly optimism follows resignation.
[Stylus Review]
[Theon Weber]


#33: J Dilla – Donuts

The basic theory of why the American Midwest has produced more internationally recognized artists (more Nobel lit winners than any other region in the world) goes like this: it’s the New World’s region of synthesis, bits and pieces of other stories and images remade on a landscape of hard earth and cold water. But on an album, Donuts, that should have never become a memorial, the recently departed Detroit rap producer J Dilla makes his Detroit and his Midwest more than just some weigh station of flattened, almost hissing bass, Ellington horns, and vocal loops from decades-old safety videos. Donuts drags the listener through hip-hop’s melodic history like a book of Apocrypha, pulling up diamonds (“Mash,” “Gobstopper,” “Lightworks”) and fragments of legend (“Walkinonit,” “Time: Donuts of The Heart,” “Airworks”) along the way.
[Stylus Review]
[Evan McGarvey]


#32: Thom Yorke – The Eraser

We have never known quite what Thom Yorke discusses, primarily with himself or an anonymous You, but his private messages have never been as pulsating, as bittersweet, as inviting as on this solo effort, where gunky synth basses trundle alongside muted, creepy piano arpeggios, gravelly guitar riffs, and the kind of ominous repeated one-liners the singer has always been known for (“It gets you down,” “I can see you, but I can never reach you,” etc.) The atmosphere is seamless throughout: hazy, dim, scintillating, and somehow plush. Delicate bitcrushing enhances—or reduces—the drum effects on nearly every track, creating a kind of lazy, dulled urgency, a feeling of transience and cluelessness.
[Stylus Review]
[Liz Colville]


#31: Monkey Swallows the Universe - The Bright Carvings

All the references to acoustic indiepop and Sarah Records might make you think that Monkey Swallows the Universe are twee, but nothing could be further from the truth. Nat Johnson writes songs that, even when dark and despondent, are clear-eyed about human frailty; “22” and “You Yesterday” may sympathize with their hapless protagonists but not to the extent of excusing their foolishness, and the more first-person “Wallow” and “The Chicken Fat Waltz” aren’t so much self-deprecating as self-aware. Johnson and Kevin Gori wrap her humane insight in a richly melodic web of acoustic guitar (they’re the best acoustic duo since Simon and Garfunkel), which means that The Bright Carvings is as endlessly listenable as it is oddly comforting.
[Stylus Review]
[Ian Mathers]


#30: The Roots – Game Theory

In a recent entry from his YouTube tour diary, Roots drummer ?uestlove (intentionally?) courted self-parody when he confessed that, while visibly upset that his band's latest album had failed to make Mojo's year-end list, he makes albums "for critics more than I make 'em for the fans." Well, ?uest, take heart! Stylus, at least, is willing to recognize that Game Theory is the band's best since Things Fall Apart. Black Thought is still hopelessly bland (the most memorable lyric on the album is easily Peedi Crakk's line about takin' a dump), but ?uest and co. stepped their game up with warped drums and hostile grooves to spare.
[Stylus Review]
[Al Shipley]


#29: Scritti Politti – White Bread, Black Beer

At first the ricky-tick demo arrangements were an annoyance. This wasn’t resurgence; it was retrenchment, initiated by an artist too besotted with Welsh exile and frightened by Simon Reynolds’ ambivalence towards the world-historic Cupid & Psyche �85 in Rip It Up and Start Again. Then the arrangements began to shiver, and ever so faintly crack, like Green Gartside’s falsetto—supple and intact after all these years. That’s what tracks like “After Six” and “Petrococadollar” evoke: a sliver in an edifice that looks like ice to unbelievers. This is the sound of distance as intimacy; of intimacy shadowed by despondency; of a sensibility who trusts words when his fellow human beings no longer do. Because the success of “Perfect Way” and “Wood Beez” funded years of black beer exile, an artist of Green’s avidity also understands (in the spare, silky dynamics of “No Fine Lines”) why the rigors of assembling correspondences and coherence pales before inertia.
[Stylus Review]
[Alfred Soto]


#28: Scott Walker – The Drift

The Drift apparently took seven years to write, which makes sense as it’s hard to imagine being able to conjure up this level of paranoid terror without a fair bit of preparation time. The sprawling pieces alternate between absurdly dissonant and unnervingly quiet, while Walker’s tortured wail intermittently intervenes with some fresh piece of disturbing imagery just as you’re starting to think he’s gone away; Mussolini’s girlfriend gets executed, Elvis’ stillborn twin brother is used as a metaphor for a terrorist attack, and a hapless donkey gets knocked the fuck out in Galway. It’s pretty much like being beaten about the head with a stick fashioned entirely from brain-paralyzing dread by a guy who’s unusually dexterous when it comes to hitting people on the head with stuff. Or something like that.
[Stylus Review]
[Fergal O’Reilly]


#27: Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I Am Dreaming

Shut Up I Am Dreaming is Spencer Krug’s symphony for the damned, a tour through a dystopian universe populated with collapsing buildings, late night graveyard rambles, venomous snakes placed in ovens, wild beasts and fiery four horsemen visions. Pure apocalypse. Forget Wolf Parade. That’s the stuff for the masses. Sunset Rubdown is high-art, ten haunting lo-fi dirges, stuffed with sinister organs, possessed piano licks and Krug’s eerie off-kilter bray that sounds perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The energy builds until the finale: the seven-minute-plus miracle of “Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Loves Have Wings.” For those who weren’t convinced by Apologies to the Queen Mary, this song is the proof. Spencer Krug has Arrived.
[Stylus Review]
[Jeff Weiss]


#26: Annuals – Be He Me

“I've got the sounds to send you back home with peace of mind,” sings Adam Baker, the 20-year-old wundkerkind behind North Carolina’s Annuals; it’s as fine an opening manifesto a young band could hope for. With Be He Me—all hushed acoustic-by-firelight simplicity drenched in euphoric sonic eruptions—Baker and company have crafted the year’s definitive autumn record, texturally ambitious and stitched throughout with a childlike innocence that betrays its frighteningly sophisticated arrangements.
[Stylus Review]
[Barry Schwartz]


#25: Tom Zé – Estudando o Pagode

Don’t pat Tom Ze on the back for being 70 years old and composing an ambitious operetta; Lou Reed will probably do the same thing sometime around 2012, and it’ll be horrible. No, stand in awe because Ze has gone against centuries of gummy septuagenarian convention and written about something besides his aging self (in this case, the plight and oppression of women). Even better, he's impishly set his feminist musings to a style of samba (pagode) that’s culturally associated in Brazil with the lower classes as well as with pervasive misogyny. Imagine: Dylan celebrating the strength and courage of women (rather than grousing about “some young lazy slut”) over reggaeton beats instead of whitey-codified blues pillaging. And making it sound heartbreaking and hilarious and wonderfully expressive to boot.
[Stylus Review]
[Josh Love]


#24: Liars – Drum’s Not Dead

None of this should have worked: Liars moved to Berlin, presumably because the drugs were cheaper, and recorded a concept record about a battle between a mountain and a drum, a move plucked straight from chapter six of Rock’n’Roll Fuckups for Dummies. But Drum’s Not Dead is on some last-night-a-fife-and-drum-band-saved-my-life-type shit, a horny, eclectic, and ultimately redemptive affair that rarely feels as batshit arty as it is. Angus Andrews aches very much like someone not ostensibly singing about percussion instruments and rock formations; by the time he arrives at “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack” he sounds like he’s singing “Maps” right back at Karen O through a very quiet foghorn. Or he’s singing about a mountain. Who’s to say?
[Stylus Review]
[Andrew Gaerig]


#23: Belle and Sebastian – The Life Pursuit

Dear Catastrophe Waitress was a much-needed return to form for Belle and Sebastian, but it lost some of its potency through its emphasis on presenting A Bold New Approach. Its successor suffers no such hitches, happily blending continued explorations of previously ignored swathes of pop with the delicate, self-effacingly witty songs about outsiders that the band has always done best. “Dress Up in You” is heartbreaking, the two-part “Act of the Apostle” is superior old school B&S on a wonderfully expanded scale, and “Funny Little Frog,” “The Blues Are Still Blue,” and “White Collar Boy” made for an exceptional run of singles for a group whose albums used to have none. Awkward introductions out of the way, The Life Pursuit is where Belle & Sebastian Mark II really hit their stride.
[Stylus Review]
[Iain Forrester]


#22: Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of This Country

Let us jettison the imperative for originality and innovation we seem to demand from musicians for a minute and consider the challenge of crafting songs that pay tribute to the past without the need to destroy or escape it. Retro ain’t easy—imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, sure, but slavish copying is dull. With Let’s Get Out of This Country, Camera Obscura have hit the elusive sweet spot between those two poles with a rearrangement of familiar sounds that couldn’t exist without an attentive appreciation of 50-odd years of classic pop and rock & roll. For all the catchy songwriting going on here, it’s the subtle touches that make these tunes truly special—carefully placed horns and organ, a delicate layer of reverb, deftly employed backing vocals. Not to mention Tracyanne Campbell truly coming into her own after assuming the role of lead vocalist following the departure of John Henderson. Her presence is a lopsided smile through slightly chapped lips at the inexplicable jouissance and sadness of life and love, a perfect focal point for an album that pushes time-worn buttons of our cultural memory— emotional memory, even—while knowing full well how satisfying that can be.
[Stylus Review]
[Ethan White]


#21: Thomas Mapfumo – Rise Up

That this album was recorded at all, let alone hit Stylus’ high-stakes end-of-year list, is something to wonder at. Mapfumo has been looking thinner and sicker each year, as though despite his exile from Zimbabwe he suffered a physical version of the country’s woes. But shorn of his trademark dreadlocks, recording with a stripped-down band and an American horn section in the wilds of Oregon, Mapfumo has made one of the most ambitious albums of his career. Rise Up weaves in an out of the revolutionary chimurenga, dub, reggae, and rock that Mapfumo has always favored, concocting something unusual: a record of genuine, slow-burning fury and aching loss that suits the times (Zimbabwean, American, everywhere) perfectly.
[Stylus Review]
[Andrew Iliff]


#20: Lindstrøm – It's a Feedelity Affair

I've got this time machine, and it's pretty sweet. Just after I used it to push Steve Bartman three feet to the left and just before I time traveled back to tenth grade to rig my geometry final, I grabbed my copy of It's a Feedelity Affair and transferred each of the songs to vinyl copies. I then went to the Loft in 1973 and dropped off "Limitations" with David Mancuso, "There Is a Drink in My Bedroom" at Studio 54, "Another Station" with Larry Levan at Paradise Garage, and "I Feel Space" in Derrick May's bedroom in Detroit. And everyone went nuts.
[Stylus Review]
[Tal Rosenberg]


#19: Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental

“In the crowded court of your love / I was now a supplicant.” Direct lyrical confirmation of a Pet Shop Boys record on majestic form. Cast off any ill-fitting doubts, Tennant and Lowe are as sleek as their peak—and just as sumptuous, courtesy of Trevor Horn’s return as production-fluffer and orchestral fetishist. Best since. Return to. Still got. Tick all those boxes and start mingling. Pop and politics rub shoulders with doubt and despair, but everything comes clean in the wash at the dancefloor cocktail party that time forgot. The air here is cool, sharp, and perfect to the closing breath. Despite the occasional reference to heartbreaking flaccidity, this is anything but a flop.
[Stylus Review]
[Peter Parrish]


#18: Grizzly Bear – Yellow House

More albums should be named after descriptions of the buildings they were recorded in. More albums should sound like Yellow House. Grizzly Bear, now a proper band, pulled an unexpected trump for their sophomore—suddenly they were obliquely autumnal folk / psyche / Beatles troubadours par excellence, and without telling anyone or asking permission. Yellow House clatters, harmonizes, and plays a bizarre array of instruments. Its songs are shattered into tiny pieces and reassembled seemingly haphazardly, lost at sea one minute and sitting on the side of a mountain drinking gin the next. They're timeless, crazy hermits. I want to be a crazy hermit.
[Stylus Review]
[Nick Southall]


#17: Asobi Seksu – Citrus

With a name meaning "playful sex" and an album called Citrus, you better be talking one tasty LP. Luckily, Citrus more than lives up to its nomenclature. Coming a few years after M83 jump-started the nu-gaze movement, Citrus takes the shoegaze revival in the reverse direction—out of the laptops and back to the pop/rock-based days of Kitchens of Distinction and early My Bloody Valentine. Even if Asobi Seksu aren't reinventing the dreampop wheel, the dozen shimmering concoctions on display here do their predecessors proud with enough hooks, energy, and potential to make you think it's only going to get better from these guys in the future.
[Stylus Review]
[Andrew Unterberger]


#16: Justin Timberlake – FutureSex / LoveSounds

For FutureSex/Lovesounds, Justin Timberlake upgraded Timbaland from producer to collaborator—aka Thomas Crown co-produced all but two of the tracks—and in doing so, linked himself inextricably with Timbo’s avant-garde vision for pop music. Like Prince and Michael Jackson before him, Timberlake established himself as a career artist by pursuing uncompromising individualism before sales-shoring safety. Transcending the self-consciousness of his embrace of experimentalism, he grabbed the collective lapels of the entire pop music world and shoved it into the future, showing Coldplay how to do a proper rock ballad with “I Think She Knows,” schooling passive-aggressive emo boys on schadenfreude with “What Goes Around… Comes Around” and instructing everyone else on how to cause a proper scene with the (still) unfathomably bizarre lead single “SexyBack.”
[Stylus Review]
[Jonathan Bradley]


#15: Peter Bjorn and John – Writer's Block

The genius of Writer's Block lies in its sense of populism. This isn’t the brooding impenetrability of Pynchon and Radiohead, this is the everyman pop sensibility of Catcher in the Rye and The Beatles. Try playing this in front of people. Watch how the single “Young Folks” sucks in your blue-haired grandmother with its faraway but familiar whistling and sets her babbling about the price of Depression-era stuffed cabbages. Play “Amsterdam” for your stoner friend and watch him snort smoke out of his nose and talk about how “totally awesome” Amsterdam (and the song) are. Or take “Paris 2004”’s opening line: “Sunday Morning / On the bed / To have fruit and croissants.” Really, how can one be opposed to fruit and croissant breakfasts in bed on Sunday morning? It’s like hating Holden Caulfield or “Strawberry Fields Forever” or Peter Bjorn and John.
[Stylus Review]
[Jeff Weiss]


#14: T.I. – King

When T.I. began proclaiming himself "the king of the South" a few years ago, he was barely known outside of Atlanta and seemed too big for his britches when beefing with more popular rappers like Ludacris and Lil’ Flip. But by the time his fourth album, King, broke the record for first week sales by a Southern hip-hop artist, the title had long since become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Although the album is hardly a revelation—you won't learn anything about T.I. that wasn't apparent on 2003's Trap Muzik—it doesn't falter with pop concessions like 2004's Urban Legend. King is a model of efficiency, and in a year when most rap albums couldn't even feign adequacy, that's a real accomplishment.
[Stylus Review]
[Al Shipley]


#13: Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped

Since almost every review of Rather Ripped describes Sonic Youth as dinosaurs it’s only fitting we summarize the album using nothing but quotes from Jurassic Park. Hold on to your butts!

He left us! He left us! God help us; we’re in the hands of engineers. There is no doubt that our biological attractions will drive children out of their minds. How can we possibly have the slightest idea of what to expect? That’s when the attack comes: Not from the front, but from the side, from the other two you didn’t even know were there. Clever girl. She’s... uh... tenacious. (More like a six-foot turkey.) Look at all the blood! Do you know what this is? This is a dinosaur egg!! You think they’ll have that on the tour? The point is... you are alive when they start to eat you. So you know ... try to show a little respect.
[Stylus Review]
[Barry Schwartz]


#12: Guillemots – Through the Windowpane

After building hype with last year's I Saw Such Things in My Sleep EP, Fyfe Dangerfield and his international band of musical mercenaries issued a global mission statement with Windowpane. In just under an hour, Guillemots hopscotch through the resolute sincerity of pop and jazz and turn the cynical world of indie listeners on its head. There's the obvious one-two punch "Made Up Love Song #43" and "Trains to Brazil," but it's the dizzyingly upward-looking rockers like "Annie Let's Not Wait" where the thick-knit mufflers of irony used to weather the perfect storm of Coldplay suddenly seem like they're going out of style.
[Stylus Review]
[Mike Orme]


#11: Booka Shade – Movements

Nimbly sliding around warm / cold, human / inhuman dance dichotomies, Movements is aptly named, its sprightly momentum pivots itself around sounds of past and future then stretches them out into the infinite now. These tracks cascade unashamed out of the dark corners of club land and into the bright lights of popular consciousness. It surrounds in skeins of varying shades then slips under the skin, at once large enough to fill the floors of high street multi-room mega-clubs yet complex, rich and detailed enough to be studied by attentive audiophiles. It rises above cynicism and stagnation, confirming expectations and opening up new possibilities, forever escaping the complacency of mediocrity. It feels like something happening.
[Stylus Review]
[Paul Scott]


Though the mean may boil it down to Ren-faire harp-girl, Joanna Newsom's Ys persists as a record notable more for its alarmingly individual vision than for its unique and unwieldy sound. Its idiosyncrasy by no means mandates praise, but the tumble of internal rhyme turning to broken meter occasions attention, while the singular emotions avoid the traps of the maudlin. With words suspended between song lyric and reflective poetry, the album makes its own space, negating the utility of critical explication. Amid the broken rafters and ever-mending bears, an uneasy grace emerges with the central condition: landlocked joy and its low dissolution. Recovery, loss, and resolve make a strange adhesion and a world full of blessings, but one that is ultimately uninhabitable.
[Stylus Review]
[Justin Cober-Lake]


So this is how you avoid a sophomore slump. The hushed synth-pop of the JB’s second album is clearly by the same group as the first, but never feels like a retread. Lyrically, the band is more insecure than ever, but musically, their confidence has grown impressively—it'd be impossible to imagine them having the audacity to cover a Frank Sinatra song on their first album—and the mix of the two makes for an album that proves nearly the equal of their debut. Not to mention that with "In the Morning," the Boys prove that they can kick out the electro-funk jams without sacrificing their sound or vulnerability—inspiration for emotionally overwhelmed would-be-clubbers all over the globe.
[Stylus Review]
[Andrew Unterberger]


“Bullets like birds, you can hear them bitches hummin’ / Don’t make that bird shit, he got a weak stomach / Niggas know I’m sick, I don’t spit, I vomit / Got it? / One egg short of the omelet.” Birdshit and vomit, hummingbirds, eggs, omelets—this is what you get when Lil’ Wayne starts boasting.

Throughout, Wayne’s free-associating flow scans like a series of startling afterthoughts, each one stranger and wilder than the last. But this wouldn’t matter if Lil’ Wayne sounded like Papoose. His real achievement is his own voice, an instrument that he plays on this mixtape for as many different notes as he can. He rasps, he whines like a baby, he moans “Katrina turned my city to a seashore,” and he fills up the background with a never-ending stream of exclamations, playing congregation to his own preacher.
[Stylus Review]
[Jayson Greene]


Sometimes Craig Finn rhymes slow and sometimes he rhymes quick. And sometimes he listens: amidst the effusive praise for Separation Sunday was the concern that his, um, unique songwriting voice was boxing the Hold Steady in. Boys And Girls In America ratchets down the verbosity and ditches the concept, and the difference this time is that Finn tells great stories that become even better tunes. With a newfound soft spot, Finn waxes hysterical ("Chillout Tent"), heartbreaking ("First Night") and often, both at the same time ("You Can Make Him Like You"), taking advantage of his band's boundless confidence and their finest riffs. When the drums come in after the indelible a cappella intro to "Southtown Girls," you realize this album is something truly special: the Hold Steady growing from being merely a niche band for disciples of Chuck Klosterman to scripting a soundtrack for the massive nights and massive hangovers of anyone who fits into the album title.
[Stylus Review]
[Ian Cohen]


Longtime colleagues in the Berlin club scene, DJs Ellen Allien and Sascha Ring (aka Apparat) joined forces for an album of rich montages that makes use of the best elements of several electronic subgenres. The equipment used—two sharp, inventive, ingenious German minds and an unimaginable slew of delicious decks, midi sequencers, instruments, and drum machines—creates eleven thoroughly developed, multilayered, steadily evolving masterpieces that are instantly discernible and unforgettable.
[Stylus Review]
[Liz Colville]


No one packs more self-loathing, barely-contained anger, paranoia, or internalized heartbreak into a clever punch line than Pusha T and Malice. In a mocking, sing-song voice, Pusha recites “Through despair I traipse / Baking pies, making cake,” summoning an image of some sort of poisoned gingerbread man barely escaping the misery he leaves in his wake. Later, he brutally informs a woman: “You can talk about your day, I’ll pretend I listen / And you don’t have to love me, just be convincing.” The music matches the queasy, hyper-alert atmosphere; where most rap records are built from round bass tones, Hell Hath No Fury is all sharp, needling treble, eating away at your comfort zone. It’s the perfect analogue to Malice and P’s flat, thin voices, which offer no moral solace—only diamond-hard observation after observation.
[Stylus Review]
[Jayson Greene]


I never liked Desperate Youth’s cerebral scare tactics as much as I wanted to, but how can one resist an album called Return to Cookie Mountain, replete with all the imagery of a “Sesame Street” interpretation of Lord of the Rings> The title alone guaranteed magnificence, but what a treat that the music fit the part so well. A direct rebuke to the recidivism of revivalist bands, Cookie Mountain brazenly makes a point of sounding like nothing else while doubling down the awkward grooviness of its predecessor and drawing on a musical vocabulary nerdish in its gleeful, concupiscent omnivoraciousness: Fela’s horns, Depeche Mode’s synths, while the multi-tracked vocals sound like a horde of righteous five year-olds, frightening and awesome in the same strangled, falsetto breath.
[Stylus Review]
[Andrew Iliff]


No more phony steel drums. Silent Shout found the Swedish sibs in the Knife in oriental costume drama mode—embracing Kabuki theatrics with their increasingly complicated beat-programming and bringing a new dynamism to their synthetic compositions. But their invitation is stern, daring you to say you’ve got other plans, �cause they know just how luscious their walk home will be without you; to accept, to become trapped in their cloaked atmospheres, is to forget the colordead tones of your own afterhours. Surely this is what they mean by night. So if on Deep Cuts the Knife was a singles-band with enough throwaways and caustic noise-stunts to round out an album, Silent Shout proved they could mold their dizzy techno-slur into a snow globe whole, and sun it with a blacklight.
[Stylus Review]
[Derek Miller]


For those of us who approach the juxtaposition of “electronic” and “pop” with a appropriately metallic pall, Hot Chip has the remedy—the magic of digital smirks, sneers, pouty lips, narrowing eyes, and, most importantly, churning brains all firing off together, bathing the human into the digital (“Colours”) and mainlining frazzled computers some humanity (“Over & Over”). If The Warning’s intelligent, game phraseology (“What can you find in a drain?”) won’t win you over, peep the destructive, cleansing swagger: “I’m a mechanical music man, and I’m starting a fire. / Hot Chip will break your legs / Snap off your head / Hot Chip will put you down / Under the ground.”
[Stylus Review]
[Evan McGarvey]


Why all of the time with the Ghostface? While pinups ten years his junior clamor for a throne Jay-Z metaphorically abandoned in a gesture designed to stir lame notions of grand narrative in the minds of rap fans, Ghost has, plain and simple, kept making good records. Because being showy about your aspirations sounds desperate after a while. So he spends a few minutes with "The Champ" and has plenty of time to act like your possibly senile uncle sailing off into reveries about whuppings his mom gave him, play a ruthless thug that still gets feverish and scared shitless in a snafu, and sing—totally and enchantingly off key, of course—the praises of the next girl he's going to bed. But most of all, it’s the spectrum of his soul—where one rapper writes a blood feast, Ghost writes a noir; where one writes a reluctant, clumsy diary entry, Ghost dreams a soap opera. [Stylus Review]
[Mike Powell]


Stylus Magazine’s Top 50 Albums of 2006 [Individual Writer Lists]



By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-12-18
Comments (122)
 

 
Today on Stylus
Reviews
October 31st, 2007
Features
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
Reviews
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Features
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews
buy viagra online
buy viagra online
buy viagra online
online casino