John Walker's Electronic House

Top 7 Albums Of The Year Everyone Forgot

by on Jan.02, 2007, under The Rest

I’ve realised what the problem has been with me and music this year. Everyone likes the rubbish. Totally ignored in all the lists (and I don’t want to hear about the ones that include them, as it will only spoil my rant) are some of the best albums of 2006. And because I thought of putting in YouTube links before I saw Kieron had done it, I’m doing it too, but totally not copying, so there.

1. Some By Sea

And absolutely beautiful album that finds a midpoint between the fictional genre of post-chamber music and the all too real one of pop. Cellos and violins swell through each track, underlining Chris Du Bray’s gorgeous voice, as he meanders through melancholy poems. The sad news is the band have broken up. The happy news is Du Bray has started a new one called Ghosts & Liars, featuring other SBS members, and a similar, if slightly poppier sound.


2. Bishop Allen

The Christian Rudder-containing band did something excellent last year: they released an EP every month (August’s being a complete live show). Even better, each was wonderful, serving as an audio diary of the titular month. There’s little better than a favourite band offering brand new music once a month. Completely independent, they did this without losing money to a record label, selling the EPs through their own site, hand posting each one. And at $5 a go, it was a cheap way to get 44 new songs and a live show in one year. Highlights include February’s Queen of the Rummage Sale, January’s wonderful Corazon, and June’s incredibly happy The Light of the Lost, especially it’s ULTRO-FAST guitar solo. They’re all available at the band’s site, along with a few free mp3s.

Official Site

3. Howe Gelb – ‘Sno Angel Like You

The former Giant Sands singer is endlessly brilliant, and never discussed. With the exception of Tom, thank goodness, who let me know about the new album. On ‘Sno Angel his leathery voice is given a surprisingly complimentary boost by a gospel choir (Voices of Praise). But I Did Not (featured on the MySpace page) probably does the best job of combining what everyone already loved about Gelb with the Gospel sound, but it’s Howlin’ A Gale and Worried Spirits that give you brand new things to love about him. If churches sounded like, it would only be the Christians not turning up on Sunday mornings.


4. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Ballad of Broken Seas

Mark Lanegan is one of the few survivors of the 90s Seattle Sound, former lead singer of the Screaming Trees, and occasional member of Queens of the Stone Age. Isobel Campbell sings the even girlier bits on Belle & Sebastian records. So obviously they’re the ideal match! Except, of course, they are. Lanegan’s voice has found a surly depth that matches Gelb’s, and even Cave’s, while Campbell’s whimsical floating instrumental voice is as pure and perfect as ever. The two meet in the middle in a folky sound of broken ballads (a phrase I used entirely without remembering the name of the album – what a good choice of name), that reminds of Nick Cave’s most gentle outings (even sharing the lyric “We fucked up the Sun” with Cave’s A Boatman’s Call). Cellos ensure all remains sombre, creating images of barren desert towns and broken whiskey bottles. Oddly the single, Rambling Man (video below), is almost entirely unrepresentative of the album, and probably the weakest track. It sounds far too much like a missed attempt to be Tom Waits, and not nearly enough like the album they were otherwise recording. Far better would be the grown up lullaby of Deus Ibi Est, where Campbell’s accompaniment plays a game of chase with Lanegan’s defiant and bold invitation for her to “come walk with me”, occasionally catching up, and sometimes taking the lead.

Campbell’s MySpace with two album tracks
Deeply odd YouTube video of Rambling Man

6. Mellowdrone – Box

Surely it’s not forgotten because it came out on the 22nd January 2006? Surely not forgotten because people missed its joyful brilliance? Imagine if OK Go! weren’t held back by accidentally becoming a novelty video band, then rock it up a bit. There’s a 90s feel about the vocals, but not so much you want to go and write a bloody comic about it or something. It’s modern enough to be relevant, and wry enough to be worth attention. The album bounces out of the gate with Oh My, which escalates as it progresses, and then suddenly becomes the Cure for about five seconds, before sniggering at itself and getting back on with bouncing. “Oh my what a wonderful day!” is exactly how albums should start but never do. Four Leaf Clover wins special attention for wonderful use of the word “behooves”. What I like best is that it’s the first album since Ani Difranco’s Little Plastic Castle where each song sounds like it should have been the first single, but no, this one, no wait, the next one, no, hang on, wait, all of them! Having beautifully abandoned their record label, the band are now making their money by touring. However, just before they did squeeze one video out.


7. Regina Spektor – Mary Ann Meets the Gravediggers and Other Short Stories

The Most Mainstream Of Mainstream People started noticing Regina Spektor this year, and she even hit top 10 lists with her lovely new album, Begin To Hope. However, when compared with her previous Soviet Kitsch, (with the exception of three exceptional songs) it suddenly sounds like Tori Amos. ARRGGGHHH! Fortunately the very beginning of the year contained the splendidly named Mary Ann… a sort of Bits And Bobs Of, containing some tracks from Soviet Kitsch, and some other leftover pieces that retain minimalistic nature of her pre-Begin To Hope sound. Mary Ann replaces the lonely piano with an equally isolated double bass, but there’s nothing more wonderful than Consequence of Sound, even with its ear-hurting interrupting scales. One of my songs of the year.


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