We spend a lot of time looking far backward here in the IRA, but that is more an artefact of the 'rare and out of print' criteria for blog posts. What, then, are the greats of today? And why on Earth would we wait until AFTER the new year to print the obligatory best of '06 list?
OK, a few things.
1) It's not a list of the best of 2006. That implies a level of objectivity and a breadth of listening I couldn't hit if I were sober.
2) I'm a jackass, and I hate everything.
3) My budget got tight last year, and I didn't buy as many new things as I do most years.
I'll respectfully submit that we'll look back in 20 years at 2006 as the year that the great creative burst of the new millenium petered out. Each of the last several years found a dozen or more new bands that really seemed unique and special. This year, eh, not so much. Fully half of my year end favorites are dinosaurs - 20 years old or more.
THE IRA FAVORITES OF 2006 (In no particular order):
Espers: Espers II (OK, this is my favorite, the rest are in no order)
Great mix of well-miked folky guitars, breathy women, and out electronics. Could have been made any year between 1974 and tomorrow. Hot poop.
Joanna Newsom: Ys
Gosh, this is a nice record. The Malvina Reynolds singing voice, the crazy-ass lyrics, the oblique song construction (no verse/chorus, this), the Van Dyke Parks charts - this has got it all. I think a lot of folks find this irritating, and of course it is, but don't hold that against it. This is the record that everyone seems to think that the Fiery Furnaces make.
Television Personalities: My Dark Places
Great to have Danny back. Continues right where he left off, which I think is near the top of his game. I love the downer vibe.
Sparks: Hello Young Lovers
How weird is it for a band that has been up and down for 30 years to all of the sudden put out two albums that are stone masterpieces? Their last two albums have been a couple of the best of the decade. If you missed them, you suck.
Matmos: The Rose Has Thorns
I don't usually go for this type of thing, but the feels are so varied, that it works. I'm surprised not to see this on a lot of the Mojo/Uncut type of year end lists.
Scott Walker: The Drift
Of course, it's a great album. Since when are his not? I'm afraid he might be in a rut. I hope the 2013 release is a bit of a change of pace.
Flaming Lips - At War With the Mystics
Speaking of a rut, I think that the critics were pretty hard on this one. C'mon guys. Quit with the backlash. There's some great pop songs on here. It's better than the last one, and y'all called that album of the year.
I saw them live this year, and they were the bomb. I felt like I'd had a kidney massage when they were done. They kicked the shit out of both Earth and Sunn, a coupla mighty bands, themselves. I still think they've got a better one in them.
OM: Conference of the Birds
These guys do a single thing, and I'm convinced that pretty much every song is built off a variation of the same bass riff, but it sounds so damn good. Man, that bass tone is a-frickin-mazing.
Milman-Brignall Enigma: Bafflemania
Raise your hand if you expected this. A second-line veteran of the '70's NY punk scene makes a comeback with a CD that covers all the bases from Appalachian folk to crooning to psychedelia to avant garde tape loops. Sometimes the ambition is bigger than the execution, but that adds to the fun. I think at least one of these guys on this album is a regular IRA reader, so say nice stuff about it.
Bonnie Prince Billy: The Letting Go
A nice bounceback from that Superwolf / live album pairing of duds. A middling BPB album kicks the shit out of 99% of the mere mortal output.
Robert Pollard: From a Compound Eye
Again, a middling GBV-related release is better than the Mojo top ten list. Let's see that damn Jack White try and hang with uncle Bob.
I'm sure that there's a couple others that'll occur to me over the next couple days. Please post stuff that you think ought to be here. You'll probably be right. I just haven't heard it yet.