Top Ten Albums of 2006 - Luke

Though it was a struggle to arrive at the proper list, the ten albums here will let no listener down when it comes to sonic goodness. The top EPs, Singles, and Compilations of the year will follow in a later post, along with the other yearly awards I usually give out

10. South – Adventures in the Underground Journey to the Stars

The follow up to their outstanding 2003 release, With the Tides (which was, incidentally, my number 1 album that year), Adventures in the Underground Journey to the Stars is filled with the complicated song structures and intricate melodies which have become South’s signature, but the album as a whole becomes jumbled with a few missteps between the great moments. Whereas With the Tides was South’s attempt at reigning themselves in after a debut album that featured sixteen tracks including six which clocked in at almost five minutes or more, Adventures in the Underground Journey to the Stars finds them again with shorter songs, but without the thought of With the Tides. Songs like Up Close and Personal, A Place in Displacement, and You Are One are fantastic space rockers which elevate the album to incredible heights, but the album is brought down to earth by folk-y love songs which are not only quite terrible, but almost laughable at times. On the whole, though, the great moments of the album more than make up for the occasional ridiculous song.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – Show Your Bones

I have to admit that I loathe Karen O’s voice, but Show Your Bones is such a barnstorming rock album that I could not help but fall in love with the songs. Guitarist Nicolas Zinner takes his cues from the best of the noise rock and punk guitarists of the mid 80’s to early 90’s and puts incredible power and melody into each guitar line. The guitar is what makes the album the intense rock experience that it is, not the squealing of Karen O, despite what any mainstream media review might say. Add the ribcage vibrating rhythms of Brian Chase into the mix and you are left with an album which is nothing short of the “make your ears bleed” indie rock which is in far too short of supply these days.

8. Glen Hansard – The Swell Season

Anything written about this album fails to capture the depths of the beauty which is translated into audio by the perfectly matched voices of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. It is simply a stunning piece of exquisite songwriting and delicately balanced composition which transcends any kind of accurate description. The only thing I can tell you is to buy it, put it on in a dark room, and allow it to seep into your soul.

7. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Any band who receive as much critical praise and media attention as the Arctic Monkeys have this year elicit a great amount of skepticism from me, partly because I have never quite understood or liked the bands which magazines like NME have crowned as the “next big thing” and partly because I’m simply the type of person who usually shies away from massive media attention. Add to this heightened skepticism the fact that Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not became the fastest selling debut album in UK chart history, dethroning my beloved Oasis in that category, and you are left with an extremely agitated Luke. However, the album eventually grew on me, thanks in large part to my girlfriend falling in love with it, and despite the album and band’s massively overblown hype, it is a very good album, which has definitely influenced a large population of current UK acts. The songs are quick, fun, and ridiculously simple, with lyrics which capture the everyday doldrums and events of singer Alex Turner’s life, in a very Libertines inspired way. It’s a great album to put on and simply have fun with.

6. The Kooks – Inside In Inside Out

At first glance it may seem that the Kooks are simply a clone of Arctic Monkeys, as they play similar music with a similarly routine lyrical style and a singer who sings in a similarly heavily accented way, but The Kooks prove themselves better musicians and songwriters than the Arctic Monkeys. The song structures are more complicated and mature than the Monkeys and the musicianship on songs such as Jackie Big Tits, Ooh La, and She Moves in Her Own Way set them far apart from the occasionally sloppy play of the Monkeys and create an album of many different layers. In the then end Inside In Inside Out is another fun album which manages to combine the elements of pop and rock perfectly.

5. Hope of the States - Left

Another band who was a former recipient of the top spot in my top ten of the year lists (earning the number one spot in 2004 for The Lost Riots), Hope of the States gave us their second and final album Left in 2006, transposing their orchestral, apocalyptic rock onto a more hard rock album. The themes of Left are similar to those of The Lost Riots, the evils of industry and big government and the guiding theme and mantra which has carried Hope of the States from their inception, through the suicide of guitarist Jimmy Lawrence, and through their chart successes: hope in the face of adversity. Listening to a Hope of the States album absolutely changes the expectations a listener has for any album or artist that is listened to after, because they approach their albums in such a theoretically correct musical way. Whereas most bands today could tell you which key a song was in and little else, Hope of the States challenge the listener with epic melodies and orchestral arrangements while remaining a great rock band. Left departs from The Lost Riots and most of their previous work, focusing more on being a hard rock guitar band, but they keep enough of their flourishes, violin, and piano to create an atmospheric album of revolutionary proportions which is a fitting swan song for one of the best bands I have ever heard.

4. Human Television – Look at Who You’re Talking To

Oftentimes in music there are albums which a listener connects with and falls in love with despite the fact that the album is perhaps nothing special to anyone else. Look at Who You’re Talking To could very well be one of those albums, though I would expect anyone who listened to the album to enjoy it, even if they wouldn’t put it at the number four spot in a countdown of the top ten albums of 2006. However, the fact that it is a very personal album in terms of how much I love it should not scare anyone away because it is one of the most straightforward and charming albums I have ever come across. The songs and the entire make up of the band is very much in keeping with standard American Indie rock and the band can, at times, sound like The Shins, Nada Surf, or Ambulance Ltd. but Human Television manages to put enough raw emotion and appeal into each track that they are completely unique. Listen to Mars Red Dust or Untitled and you will find yourself instantly charmed.

3. Muse - Black Holes and Revelations

What do you call songs about aliens, the apocalypse, space cowboys, and hatred of George W. Bush? Other than Black Holes and Revelations I would call it strangely addicting and positively genius. Mathew Bellamy, probably among the most talented men alive today (he is a piano and guitar virtuoso), crafts song after song of hard rock beauty, his Thom Yorke-like falsetto operatically stretching to hit notes which no human should be allowed to hit whilst thrashing through an intensely complicated guitar solo. Apart from the abysmal track names (Knights of Cydonia?) Black Holes and Revelations is epic in its scope and reality, encompassing the greatest parts of music from the last forty years, referencing Queen, The Who, The Beatles, The Smiths, and Radiohead, but never coming close to ripping any of them off or becoming hackneyed. From the incredible opening track Take a Bow, through the intensity of Map of the Problematique, and into the epic finale of the aforementioned Knights of Cydonia, Muse have crafted not only the best and most unique hard rock album of 2006, but certainly one of the best of all time.

2. Mellowdrone – Box

After touring with the likes of The Killers, Elbow, Johnny Marr, and The Secret Machines, two incredible EPs, and unending label problems and delays, Mellowdrone (the project of Jonathon Bates) finally released its debut album in 2006 and it, despite the cliché, was definitely worth the wait. Jonathon Bates has among the greatest and most versatile voices I have ever heard, from whisper-soft to full out scream he communicates emotion into every syllable he puts across on this album. With songs as varied as the soft 60’s era R&B pop-rock of Orange Marmalade, the perfect indie rock of Whatever the Deal, and the dark synth of Four Leaf Clover, Bates crafts sonic genius in every guitar line and perfectly married combination of voice, bass, and percussion.

1. Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther

Anyone who has talked to me about music since spring will undoubtedly have heard me ramble on endlessly about how much I love this album by Midlake. It is a departure from their Flaming Lips-ish debut album and is more in line with 70s folk artists like America or Neil Young, but the songs are so incredibly perfect that the retro synths and prevalent harmonies don’t feel dated in the least. In fact, they manage to make the corniest parts of the 70s seem not only cool, but topical in today’s music. Much like the Decemberists, Midlake’s songs are really stories told about people living either in rural areas or the late 1800s, lending the album a homespun feel which manages to go hand in hand with the retro influenced music. The arrangements and layering of the songs is absolutely beautiful, allowing a song about a scientist attempting to create a special type of drink to become a universally touching song about rejection and strength of character. The Trials of Van Occupanther is a record which has managed to mean more to me than any album put out by a band concerned with songs of love, loss, regret, hope, despair, or any other emotion bands try to put across in song and it manages to do it without being obvious or cheesy, which is really the mark of a great album and what most of us who love music look for in a band and an album: songs which truly impact the listener.

NOTE: Select songs from Midlake, Hope of the States, Human Television, and Glen Hansard are available to listen to on our myspace page at



Jameson said...

Your album covers are bigger than mine...does that mean they are better/louder? Just kidding. Good list though...i was not even aware South released an album this year, which upsets me because i was a big fan of With the Tides. Also, that Midlake album is a great. I wanted to put it on my list, but did not feel i had invested enough time into it to warrant it a spot (although everytime i listened to it, i was thoroughly pleased). To anyone reading this is definitely worth your time. To me, it sounds very familiar, but eerily out of place as an album recorded in the year will take you a good way.

Luke said...

It just means I didn't feel like resizing them after I got them off of allmusic, heh. I had forgotten about the South album until I had gone through my music files more in depth. It's a pretty good album, though I doubt it would have cracked your top ten because it is a bit weak in some moments. I do tend to play favorites with my favorite bands so they made the list.