mxdwn Top 20 Albums 2006: 5-15. Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped
In a year where dozens of breakthrough bands were all the buzz, grunge favorites Sonic Youth still managed to shine through with their fifteenth album, Rather Ripped. Though some fans may be disheartened at the lack of their characteristic feedback noise, Sonic Youth has changed with the times to become clean sounding and harmonious. Kim Gordon no longer doles out beat-poetry, but instead takes on serious vocals much like husband Thurston Moore. Rather Ripped is full of jams (one track is even titled â€šÃ„ÃºJams Run Freeâ€šÃ„Ã¹) and shows the polished side of Sonic Youth. They may not be young anymore, but theyâ€šÃ„Ã´ve stayed sonic all these years.
– Danielle Reicherter
4. Thom Yorke – The Eraser
Thom Yorkeâ€šÃ„Ã´s The Eraser, the angst-ridden solo debut from the Radiohead frontman is what one hopes for. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s sophisticated and weird. In a word, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s brilliant. The sound is much like Radiohead, as Yorke mixes piano with electronic repetitive beats along with his haunting vocals as heartache prevails, but it is much more focused and precise. It begins with the standout title track, â€šÃ„ÃºThe Eraser,â€šÃ„Ã¹ which illustrates the complexities and emotions enveloping a significant relationship. It feels very real. A near perfect piece from a visionary.
– Jacquie Frisco
3. Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways
Johnny Cash always wore his heart on his sleeve, flaws and all. His songs of love, misery and anger were effortlessly honest and deeply personal each time. The appealing American V: A Hundred Highways, his last CD, is no exception. This bittersweet farewell, producer Rick Rubinâ€šÃ„Ã´s labor of love, recorded months before Cash passed away in 2003, is heavy on soulful, intimate ballads with inevitable depth and meaning. It feels good to hear Cashâ€šÃ„Ã´s voice, like visiting an old friend who has a hundred life-stories to tell and he tells them with great affection and humility. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s a more than fitting goodbye that suits Cash. Just donâ€šÃ„Ã´t expect to listen without a twinge of sadness.
– Jacquie Frisco
2. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
The Life Pursuit is Belle and Sebastianâ€šÃ„Ã´s 7th release since 1996 and like the rest of their records; it showcases their originality and talent as songwriters. This album is a prefect blend of Belle and Sebastianâ€šÃ„Ã´s soft and breathy sound with a folk-rock twang. The Life Pursuit has sold more than any other previous B&S release because of its accessibility to pop listeners and indie rock fanatics alike. In the past 10 years Belle and Sebastian seem to have gotten better and better and in turn, deservingly more popular. Be sure to check out â€šÃ„ÃºThe Blues are Still Blueâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºTo be Myself Completelyâ€šÃ„Ã¹ which appear on the mxdwn Song of the year list.
– Brendan Welsh
1. The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers
From the remnants of Gorillaz’ multimedia assault to premier collabs like Gnarls Barkley and the Minus Five, 2006 may have finally killed the term “side project.” How else do we explain the Raconteurs’ success? On Broken Boy Soldiers indie popster Brendan Benson and White Stripes frontman Jack White (backed by the Greenhornes’ capable rhythm section) find room to breathe and chances to merge in an actual group.
Benson needs no session musicians and White’s outside of a duo, so they get to play to the hilt roles of “good cop” and “bad cop,” respectively. When Benson owns or shares the spotlight, the mood brightens (“Steady, As She Goes”) even if some of the lyrics don’t (“Intimate Secretary”). When White takes charge, he projects spitfire anger (“Broken Boy Soldier”) or sinful Robert Plant blues (“Blue Veins”). Their buddy movie soundtrack cops to Tarantino, or maybe Dazed and Confused: an intersection of Sabbath, Tull, Stones, and Led Zep influences, with a gratifying aberration in the Funkadelic wave of “Level.”
Some would argue that Broken Boy Soldiers at least feels slapped together. Calculated or not, the point-counterpoint in Benson and White’s performances is executed with gusto. Besides, have we begrudged the Who or Sonic Youth or R.E.M. the same opportunity to establish at least three thematic/harmonic voices in a band context: his, mine, and ours?
– Adam Blyweiss