2006's Best Music: Albums, etc.
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.
Part 1 of our discussion of the best of the year, wherein Dan and Jordan discuss their favourite albums, and Jordan also lists his favourite songs. Sean's favourite songs of 2006 to follow tomorrow.
The world's population can be divided into two distinct groups: List People and The Others.
There was a movie made about The Others starring Nicole Kidman as (spoiler alert) one of them, and the philosopher and cultural critic Edward Said wrote a great deal about Others. Anyway, I am one of them. Lists bring me no pleasure. I remember as a little kid asking my dad who the greatest baseball player of all time was, and him treating this as a deeply misguided question, explaining to me that there were a great many great baseball players and what made each one great was a set of qualities so abstract that it couldn't be meaningfully judged against another's. This made sense to me (though I knew for a fact that Jesse Barfield was the greatest player of all time). So it is too with music, of course. What does it mean to say that Coltrane is better than Fahey, Charles Ives better than Marvin Gaye? Their respective greatnesses are, in mathematical terms, incommensurable. Which is not to say that no kind of judgment of relative merit in music is possible (otherwise we'd be out of a job) - we can surely distinguish between the great and the very good (Coltrane is better than Modest Mouse, right?), the merely good and the not so good - just that at a certain point, when dealing with music of comparable value (leaving aside what exactly "value" means here), such judgments start to break down.
So why a list at all? Well,
1. Joanna Newsom - Ys
And in no particular order:
Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
In no particular order:
"Only Skin" is a song ostensibly about a bonectomy. As my grandmother used to say, "What could be bad?!"
These are three of the most surprising, ingenious, and powerful songs my little ears have ever had the pleasure of receiving. [Previously]
All of Carey Mercer's songs remind me of "The Monster Mash," and there's nothing any of you can say to change that. The mechanism that causes this association is a subtle thing but has something to do with the union of the upbeat and the scary, the quick and the moribund. When I interviewed Swan Lake for Ukula, I asked Carey Mercer "Other than Bobby 'Boris' Picket, are there artists whose work you view as related to your own?" He responded, "I don't know who Boris Picket is, I hope he's not 'Monster Mash...'" I assume he's reacting against the frivolous nature of Picket's masterpiece. Perhaps he views "Monster Mash" as a novelty. And so it is, but so too is "The Partisan" a novelty. The former like alphabet soup, the latter like Fischer's against the King's Gambit - deep and sublime. [Previously]
Neko Case - "That Teenage Feeling" [Previously]
For my list, I feel sheepish about trying to present this to you. I feel like every one needs to be justified, as if in a sentence or two, I could represent to you the reason these artists are vibrant, present, alive. All I can say is that they are to me and I just want to share with you. So, in reverse order, here goes 2006:
12. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar
11. The Low Lows - Fire on the Bright Sky
10. Swan Lake - Beast Moans
9. Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
8. Horse Feathers - Words are Dead
7. Parenthetical Girls - Safe as Houses
6. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Etiquette
5. Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds
4. Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up, I'm Dreaming
3. Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
2. The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth
1. Joanna Newsom - Ys
I am glad to see The Red River up there.Posted by Matt at December 11, 2006 7:30 AM
It kind of bothers me from a music-snob perspective that Ys is getting all this love (particularly as I was so late to the JN party) but I have to agree that it is in the running for top spot in the "made by anyone ever" list.
Oh and thanks for another great year STG!Posted by Andy at December 11, 2006 8:37 AM
I have to admit, "The Partisan But He's Got To Know," was, on first listen, my least favourite of all the Swan Lake tracks, but it has indeed grown on me over time, much like a pleasurable fungus.Posted by Catbird at December 11, 2006 9:54 AM
None of Jordan's linked songs, nor Blood on the Snow, nor This Lamb Sells Condos, will play on my computer.Posted by Caroline at December 11, 2006 10:17 AM
Thanks for that note, Caroline. It seems that Himelfarb and Beirne are incompetents. I was able to fix all the links (yay!) except the Final Fantasy track.Posted by Sean at December 11, 2006 10:28 AM
Destroyer's Rubies is a very satisfying omelette.Posted by Jeff at December 11, 2006 1:46 PM
Jordan's links are still broken but Dan's are fixed.Posted by Bryan at December 11, 2006 2:07 PM
I don't really get the "I can't make lists" thing; if evaluation is possible (which I think you must accept to be doing what you're doing), then you can rank, give stars, give grades, make pie charts, anything ... they're all just different representations of the same analysis. But, if you don't like 'em, you don't 'em. Great non-list, though.Posted by Eric at December 11, 2006 4:53 PM
Eric - First of all, I don't deny that I can make lists. It's actually quite easy for me to do so. Get me started on the natural numbers, and I can go forever.
Second, just because something can be qualitatively analyzed, doesn't mean that it can be usefully quantitatively analyzed. Or that any such quantitative analysis would yield a useful basis for comparison. My introduction was meant only to say that whereas lists seem to provide pleasure to many, they do nothing in particular for me, and also to explain why so many albums/songs on my list are tied, so to speak - because they are good in strange and wonderfully different ways that don't fit nicely into a pie chart.Posted by Jordan at December 11, 2006 6:02 PM
I can only agree that Ys is probably my favorite album ever.Posted by Margot at December 11, 2006 10:50 PM
I am very glad that I've been introduced to Said's Orientalism and am glad to be reminded of it. It also makes me think of Sut Jhally who made a video for that work, among other things. And this reminded me of how much I like Rubies. Thanks many things.Posted by Mark at December 11, 2006 11:19 PM
never heard of horse feathers before, but i am in love with blood on the snow...thank youPosted by ellie at December 12, 2006 4:17 AM
I love Ys too. One of my top three of the year. Easy.
But possibly the greatest album of all time?
*shoots self in the FACE*Posted by JT at December 12, 2006 8:23 PM
Count me in with "the others" . . . and I'll quote DeLillo who said, "lists are a form of cultural hysteria."
That being said, both contain some fine choices . . . .Posted by Jennings at December 12, 2006 9:36 PM
One more in the other category... I will not be making a list on popsheep this year(nor did I last year). Down with lists! You should have been stronger Jordan. Don't let Sir Sean "List-a-lot" Michaels push you around!
(nice bunch of songs though!)Posted by jay at December 13, 2006 1:36 AM
what can i say, you described sunset rubdown and destroyer in such a way that i got it immediately, thanks for a great listPosted by wayne at December 13, 2006 5:45 AM
um....tv on the radio anyone? if "young liars" was the sound of the streets, then "return to cookie mountain" is the sound in the minds of everyone walking those streets.Posted by that dude jeff at December 13, 2006 3:49 PM
Great list -- I know this has been said a thousand times but I stil can't believe "Razorblade" pays homage to "Mandy"--- I can remember the album coming out way back in Jan. Brings a nice close to the year to see it on this list.Posted by fairest at December 13, 2006 8:33 PM
Thanks, Dan, for mentioning "First Impressions of Earth" in your list. I liked it quite alot even though most say that this album wasn't as good, "the Strokes are just some rich-kid boy band", etc. A bunch of people even criticized me for liking the Strokes.
Anyways, thanks.Posted by J.S. at December 15, 2006 5:10 PM
THE RED RIVER is a great band!!! thanks for putting them on there!Posted by allison at December 16, 2006 12:59 PM
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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.
Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.
Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.
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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)
Back to the World
La Blogothèque ◊
Weird Canada ◊
Destination: Out ◊
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe) ◊
Ill Doctrine ◊
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music ◊
Petites planétes ◊
Gorilla vs Bear ◊
Silent Shout ◊
Clouds of Evil ◊
The Dolby Apposition ◊
Awesome Tapes from Africa ◊
Matana Roberts ◊
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews ◊
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan ◊
CKUT Music ◊
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater ◊
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden ◊
Passion of the Weiss ◊
Juan and Only ◊
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin) ◊
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad ◊
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross) ◊
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet ◊
things we like in Montreal
le pick up
au pied de cochon
vices & versa
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drawn + quarterly
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casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
cinema du parc
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe
The Morning News