Songs of 2006: As told by Jameson

To break songs (as opposed to albums...which are considerably more substantial in content)down to a definitive list of best and worst for given period of time can be a somewhat arduous task. Primarily, this is due to the fact that with something that is as mood-dependent as songs are, what an individual likes at a particular moment in time can vary based on the weather, or what you ate for breakfast. While i know this is a bad way to go about doing business (especially as someone who is trying to maintain credibility to all those faithful readers), it is just the honest truth.

Anyways, i had previously posted a songs of 2006 list on my old site, and this one will be pretty similar to that one for the most part. There are some differences though...i have decided to expand the list to 14, and changed the order up a little bit (as well as wording). Unfortunately, even with the expansion of the list, Christina Aguilera's, "Ain't No Other Man", was still snubbed...im pretty close to demanding a recount though.

14. Ray LaMontagne - "Empty": In a year where when the words disappointment and Ray LaMontagne were synonymous (canceled shows, and a halfhearted attempt to follow up his gem of a debut album, Trouble), this was certainly a bright-spot for me. Sounding like the Ray LaMontagne from yesteryear, this track captures everything I fell in love with on the first album: minimal, dreary arrangements, combined with sheer desperation in LaMontagne's (trademark) vocals/lyrics. It is no secret that LaMontagne's music is better when his life is in shambles, so maybe this past year of disappointments will give us all something to look forward to on his next album.

13. Fujiya & Miyagi - "Photocopier": Don't be turned off by the band's moniker. They happily declare that "they were just pretending to be Japanese" anyways. In fact, there is nothing remotely Japanese about this group besides the name (not that there would be anything wrong with that...). The group is actually out of England, and they are in the business of light-hearted electronic pop music. Still skeptical? Id be willing to wager that the non-believers would all be on the dancefloor after a couple drinks if they actually heard this song. It's fun, it's got a beat, it's pop music. Sounds like a winning recipe to me.

12. Justin Timberlake (featuring T.I.) - "My Love": Somehow Justin Timberlake has escaped the black cloud that has hovered over so many other "pop" stars to come from his class. I guess it doesn't hurt that one of the best producers in (pop) music, Timbaland, just happens to be in his back pocket. Timberlake's vocals are spot on here, and laid over the top of one of the stickiest beats/tracks Timbaland has put out in his storied career, one cannot help but enjoy the song. Throw in T.I. who contrasts Timberlake's bubblegum sheen perfectly, keeping the song lighthearted enough for it to still be "fun", and you have most people's song of the year. People can continue write-off Timberlake all they want, but team Timb(er/a) won't be going anywhere for a while if they can keep churning out tracks like this.

11. Phoenix - "Napoleon Says": The opening track to the Phoenix album, It's Never Been Like That, is like an alarm sounding for those expecting to dance, but waiting to rock. For a band that has been primarily been known for music that would be more suitable in the club, Phoenix mixes it up on their third album with a whole lotta guitar, and "Napoleon Says" is the perfect introduction to this new direction. It's a fun, sparkling clean pop-rock song that will move your whole body...sounds accesible enough for me.

10. Arctic Monkeys - "Fake Tales of San Francisco": From the moment Arctic Monkeys frontman, Alex Turner, opens his mouth, there is no mistaking where his band hails from. These boys are British, and they make no attempt at masking that. While "Fake Tales of San Francisco" is less super-charged than the rest of their debut album, it still drips of that bastardized form of britpop-punk that they pump out (a style that leans heavily on equal parts Strokes and Libertines...among others). The guitar hook on the verse is simple, but will keep your head bobbing throughout, and the chorus screams singalong. The song is great, and I must say that it had me at hello with this line..."His bird said it's amazing, though, so all that's left is the proof that love's not only blind but deaf". Brash and British...what an unlikely combination.

9. My Chemical Romance - "Welcome to the Black Parade": Those who know me, know i have a soft spot in my heart for those with a flare for the dramatic. Well, My Chemical Romance was all over that train this year with their 2006 release, The Black Parade. This track, the spearhead single from the aforementioned album, puts it all on the table. There are horns, marching band drums, and an intro (and climax) that sounds more like Queen than Blink-182. Following the path paved by fellow pop-punk gone concept-album buddies, Green Day, My Chemical Romance went for the gold with "Welcome to the Black Parade", and fared pretty well. I must admit that i tried to hate this song, but the bleeding heart in me could not resist the grandiosity that is "Welcome to the Black Parade".

8. Josh Ritter - "Girl in the War": Josh Ritter should be a star...but im glad he isn't. The Idaho born singer-songwriter has crafted intimate folk songs on his first couple albums, but his third full-length release, Animal Years, finally sees some of these songs getting fleshed out. "Girl in the War" opens the 2006 release cheery-sounding, but as Ritter's (not so) ambiguous lyrics roll-out over the top of the bright music, we find a more mature Ritter speaking on the casualties of war, and an apathetic nation that just assumes everything will work itself out. Political views aside, Ritter's songwriting skills have grown stronger with each album, and with well-crafted songs like "Girl in the War", he will soon rise to the top of the ever-growing heap of singer-songwriters fighting to differentiate themselves from the pack.

7. Destroyer - "European Oils": From the first stroke of the piano keys on the best track off of Dan Bejar's solo project, Destroyer's, fifth full-length album, it is difficult not to be intrigued. It is once Bejar opens his mouth however, that the listener is won over. Bejar's clever (sometime clumsy) way with words immediately creates a sense of character in his songs, that pulls you in. "European Oils" is no different, with a number of quotable lines sprinkled throughout. None of this would matter though if the music didn't hold up, and Bejar's talent as a (more than) capable multi-instrument musician is visible throughout "European Oils"...fluttering pianos, dirty guitar solos, and la la's, what a fucking maniac.

6. TV on the Radio - "Wolf Like Me": Best track off an album that every critic in the world thought was this year's masterpiece. I didn't exactly fall for the album, but one cannot deny the brilliance of some of the tracks. On an album that knew no genre, "Wolf Like Me", is TV on the Radio doing their best attempt at rocking out (which for them means, rock and roll with thick layers of noise/sound/vocals stacked on top of one another). It's impossible to listen to this song without having your foot tapping though. Throw in the most accessible melody on the album, one of the best voices in "indie-rock", a flip-the-switch slowdown of a bridge (that accentuates the fervor of the rest of the song), and you have my only nod to TV on the Radio for the 2006 year in music (gasp!).

5. The Killers - "Enterlude" -> "When You Were Young": While technically two songs, i couldnt help but include the 49 second "Enterlude" as part of this entry. Following suit of My Chemical Romance, The Killers went for grandeur with their 2006 release, Sam's Town, only they came up short (or maybe didn't push it high enough?). Either way, they did stumble upon greatness with these tracks. While i should be deducting points for blatantly ripping off both Sgt. Peppers and Bruce Springsteen in a four and a half minute span, i couldn't help but acknowledge the ambition here (like i said, i have a soft spot for bands trying these kind of things). With bombastic guitars and giant-sized lyrics/vocals that make religious references and touch on everything from travel to lost youth to broken hearts, "When You Were Young" is the Killers trying to make themselves the biggest band in the world, and if they could have kept up this pace, they may have had a shot.

4. The Decemberists - "The Crane Wife 3": Every article that has ever been written about the Decemberists, inevitably alludes to the literary quality of Colin Meloy's (Decemberist front man) lyrics. Often times lost in the mix though is how much Meloy has developed over the past couple years as a singer and a songwriter. An excellent example of this metamorphosis is "The Crane Wife 3" (The Crane Wife's slow-rising opener, which, ironically enough, is the conclusion to a 3 part story based on a Japanese folk tale). Musically, "The Crane Wife 3" is the Decemberists doing their best impression of the Decemberists (full bodied acoustic guitar teamed with galloping drums and piano), but the inflection in Meloy's voice carries the story further than any Thesarus could, allowing him to say more while saying less. At about the 3:12 mark of the song, Meloy's made-for-indie-rock voice hits just right (or wrong), chills ensue.

3. Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy": The eccentric love child of DJ Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo, Gnarls Barkley, was introduced to the world through one of the most simple, and yet so soulful songs of the past few years. "Crazy" should not have worked, but it did. A simple drumbeat and guitar, a cooing choir, soaring strings drenching the chorus, and the smooth silk that is the voice of Cee-Lo. It doesn't sound like pop music to me, but throw it all together, and you have one of the most infectious pop songs of recent memory. Gnarls Barkley, i don't know who you think you are, but bless your soul.

2. Damien Rice - "9 Crimes": This was the only track on the new album that Damien's leading lady, Lisa Hannigan, has much of a part on, and it is no surprise that it is the best track on the record. The whole thing is haunting. A barely there piano, and Lisa's voice start the song. Before you know it, they are singing over one another and the cello is bellowing over it all. Of course, Rice's ambiguous lyrics hold it all together, and the fact that neither of these singer's have a "beautiful" (by traditional standards) voice makes this story of cheating lovers all that much more believable. It is the only track off of the new Rice album that wasn't an old track polished to look new, so here's to hoping it's a look at what is to come from Ireland's most depressed busker.

1. The Hold Steady - "Stuck Between Stations": The song opens with one guitar, cue the piano and drums, and then it all kicks in to place. The Hold Steady are one of the best rock bands out there right now making records, and "Stuck Between Stations" is exactly why. The song is soaked in rock and roll; it's everyman vocals, it's loud guitars, it's pounding pianos, and it's lifelike lyrics that tell a story of an America you won't see on television. It has my favorite opening line of the year..."There are nights when i think that Sal Paradise was right, boys and girls in America, they have such a sad time together". It has my favorite chorus of the year..."She was a really good kisser, but she wasn't all that strict of a Christian, she was a damn good dancer, but she wasn't all that great of a girlfriend, he likes the warm feeling, but he's tired of all the dehydration, most nights are crystal clear, but tonight it's like he's stuck between stations on the radio". It has my favorite bridge of the year...the song is about to explode at the 2:40 mark and the doors actually blow off at about 2:55 (one cannot help but take the reigns on air guitar when this all comes to a head). The whole thing just rawks out...


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2 comments:

Michael said...

you forgot your #4 song on the list... maybe there is room for christina after all...

Jameson said...

Maybe it's a sign?...(omission fixed)