Perfect Sound Forever

PSF: 2006 Writers' Poll
What we loved last year

Nels Cline, Neko Case, Hacienda Brothers, Mission of Burma, Karen Dalton

Yes, it's time once again for us to impose our views on you. Hopefully, you'll find some things you agree or disagree with here. Also, the fun of these kind of lists is discovering items you didn't even know about. Rather than one big all-encompassing list to note all the "winners," we thought it would be better just to show you what each of the writers and editors really liked to listen to last year. And instead of the usual top 10, we culled 15-20 albums from everyone because for music freaks, ten albums to love in one year just ain't enough. If you think we missed something, feel free to let us know.

Michael Baker

Well, I proved this year that music cannot change your life let alone save it: if you go to sleep with a crackhead she will be a crackhead in the morn, regardless of how many times Shakira is played next door through the crumbling-plaster tenement walls; if you either need to listen to the Kinks or leap from a bridge, you will leap, regardless of the notes or the words. Through divorce, despair, or death, music will get you from one sad moment to the next, but it, and all of art, does not transform—it reminds us of empty promises, rekindles savage disappointments, and befriends us mockingly when we are friendless. It lies to us and taunts us with its transparent and futile evanescence. It mostly sickens me. We must change our lives. But some of these albums have some songs that prevented the heavy weather from moving entirely in.

Dr. Kyle Barnett Other faves this year: Camera Obscura Let's Get Out of this Country (Merge); Gentleman Caller Until We Are Missing (Affirmation); Neko Case Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti); Bob Dylan Modern Times (Columbia); Mysteries of Life Beginning to Move (Musical Family Tree/Affirmation), The Black Keys Magic Potion (Nonesuch).

Darren Bergstein To paraphrase a line out of Robocop, good music is where you find it. Of course, like a tilt-a-whirl, the music 'industry' continues to function in a state of virtual chaos amid an absolute loss of identity and prescience, its innards on the verge of collapse. As always this leaves the best music out on the margins. Labels, particularly those based solely on the CDR model, flourish much like the cassette underground of the 80s — long live DIY! So in some respects music still released on media (CD, CDR, vinyl) seems to be holding its own against the death march onslaught of downloading and MP3s, formats which have practically negated the idea of high fidelity in sound. Despite this all, 2006 was again a superb year for music; much to be discovered, relished and savored, crossing boundary and style. Labels such as Soleilmoon still consider the record as objet d’art, not just data, which is a blessing for all of us (at least those of us who care not a w hit for MP3s). Artists such as Steve Roach, Vidna Obmana and Zoviet France continue to release fascinating, absorbing work, even decades on.

Marty Bricketto

Tim Broun

Mairead Case

Sweetest Moves (tie):
Erase Errata's Jenny Hoyston (mic in armpit) & the Goxxip'

Josh Coe

* highly recommended

Ignoring hard edges and artistic statements, 2006 was a great year for independent pop music. With CFTPA's Etiquette, one-man-Casio-band Owen Ashworth becomes refreshingly less lo-fi while retaining his desolate scenes and characters. After teasing the world with two EPs, the Headlights release a proper album of beautiful, addictive pop that's been stuck in my player all year. At least a few indie wallflowers have broken into a jerky dance at the sound of Phoenix's It's Never Been Like That. Get over the name, "He Poos Clouds" (and the name Final Fantasy for that matter), and you'll find some honest, creative melodrama and intense string arrangements. Get over the fact that Christmas albums aren't cool and you'll find several classics given an ethereal Sufjan overhaul, as well as some fun originals, e.g., "Come On! Let's Boogie to the Elf Dance!" On the calmer end, the Album Leaf's new record coasts on a placid lack of tension that makes it great for background music or catharsis. And god damn, I wish I was Tom Waits.

Robin Cook

Ken Cox

Jorge Fernandez

Kelly Ferjutz

Jason Gross

As usual, I'm still finding out about music from last year long after other music polls closed- this list is probably as definitive as I'll be for '06. Runner's-up include Pearl Jam Pearl Jam (Sony), Phoenix It's Never Been Like That (EMI), The Mountain Goats Get Lonely (4AD), Belle & Sebastian The Life Pursuit (Matador), The M's Future Women (Polyvinyl) and Run the Road 2 (Vice). There were also some great box sets this past year: Steve Reich Phases (Nonesuch), Fats Waller If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It! (RCA Victor), Johnny Cash At San Quentin (Sony), Rockin' Bones: 1950s Punk and Rockabilly (Rhino), The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (Yazoo) and How Low Can You Go? Anthology of the String Bass (1925-1941) (Dust to Digital). As far as comments, I'd give Pearl Jam much more credit for breaking out of a rut to make great music again (or at least half a great album) over Neil Young finally making a political statement years after the fact or Tom Waits opening his vaults: the later two will get lots of praise for their stances but in the end, that's what scribes are propping them up for rather than their music per se. Also, is it a coincidence and/or sign of the times that American Idol's ratings beat out the Grammys by a mile in head-to-head competition?

Jesse Jarnow Resissues:

Polysics, Ut, Akron/Family, Ike Yard, Phoenix

Dr Elwood Mole

(note: Robin Gibb's "My Favourite Carols" was intentionally left out for not including White Christmas and The Friendly Beasts.)

Marc Philips

Graeme Rowland

Ryan Settee

Tim Shannon

Al Spicer

Barry Stoller aka Day Tripper

I can't speak of this year's releases per say, but here are some of my latest faves.

Mark S. Tucker - "Best of What I'VE Heard in 2006"

Gregg Wager

In a year when Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson's "The Long Tail" glosses the rise of independent markets thanks to the Internet, perhaps the mainstream recording industry is slipping out of senility into an irreversible coma. I really try to give credit this year to its nonetheless talented people like John Mayer and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but their new albums are ordinary at best. The year's surprise phenomenon, James Blunt's "You're Beautiful," might be the most fatuous song to reach #1 since "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" (call Guinness World Records!). Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with Dweezil Zappa, who couldn't have thumbed his nose any better at nepotism than this jazzy item far more nourishing than his old cooking show. Stockhausen begins a fresh new cycle of dodecaphonic pieces called KLANG, while son Simon is penning an extraordinary score to a film entitled "Trip To Asia". Fatboy Slim gives us the best collection I've ever heard out of the techno world, which these days has been sending me wares by the bushel. To sum up the year in proverb: The Long Tail shall inherit the earth. Not necessarily "beautiful," but rest assured "it's true."

Keith Walsh

Kurt Wildermuth

Mike Wood

Xiu Xiu, Yellowhouse, Conrad Schnitzler, Kelly Stoltz, Mudhoney

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