Top 50 Albums 2006


Nov 1 2008, 18:24

Lair of the Minotaur
The Ultimate Destroyer
Southern Lord
Metal hath no fury like death done well. People will tell you overly fussy and ineffectual complexities of Mastodon and the 'Matt Pike so it must be amazing' High On Fire are the hipster bands with the riffs, but compared to the 'Lair, that simply isn't so and few bands laid down the metal law with as much impeccable fury as The Ultimate Destroyer.

Subliminal Genocide
Hydra Head
A move to a major label and the purists cried foul but it didn't stop Malefic from creating another amazingly atmospheric, skin-crawlingly close and complex album. A beautifully bleak antithesis to the veneer of beauty surrounding him. No sun shines and no trees grow in this Californian's world.

Cthonic Rites
Aurora Borealis
Southampton's crushing black noise doom outfit Moss coughed up an epic and airlessly dense monolith of anti-music. Seriously heavy and seriously dark, this sucked the soul right out of all the other filthy drone around it.

La Grande Infamie
Christhunt Productions
High-pitched Canadian shrieking from this Quebec band of one, Akitsa created their most impious work to date. Insistently hooky riffs that smeared fuzz fucked rock and roll all over the black metal template.

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
The Letting Go
Palace/Drag City
After the underwhelming Superwolf and a film cameo in Junebug , Will Oldham returned to his best sombre form with female vocal embellishments and flourishes of optimistic light, a shining counterpoint to the unremittingly bleak reverie of I See A Darkness.

Your Desire Is My Business
A Touch of Class Recordings
Aggressive guitar ravaged dance-floor beats with some of the best non-sequitur sloganeering of the year, this beat mash-ups acts like Girl talk at their own game fusing hip-hop and metal into a amphetamine fuelled kaleidoscope of chaos. Who's got the chops?!

The Gossip
Standing In The Way Of Control
Kill Rock Stars
Righteous soul-punk disco strut that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, with a couple of slow-burners to give it some classy depth. The vocals of Beth Ditto were a high point of the year despite their ubiquity .. simply a measure of how much they can withstand and how much they can deliver.

Telescope Mind
Smalltown Supersound
This was the year Krautrock returned to form and Tussle locked low-slung grooves to piston hard percussion like it was about to go out of fashion. Which it probably will next year.

Built to Spill
You In Reverse
Warner Bros.
This was also the year that I came to appreciate certain kinds of nasal American college rock (for my sins), and Built To Spill made two of the most sky-blazing songs of the year in 'Goin' Against Your Mind' and 'Mess With Time'; both epic euphoric surges of strung out guitar that bound the cosmic milieu of an album intent of shirking conventional wisdom.

Rough Trade
And it was the year that Jarvis came back to us. He said he would be gone for good but he just couldn't keep away. Thank you Lord. An album of big sounding tunes with intimate details and acerbic one-liners, Jarvis continues to be the king of the cutting retort. Long may he reign.

Fujiya & Miyagi
Transparent Things
Brighton based krautrockers delivered an album of consummate canned Neu! stylings with each track a space age lazer beam of direct dance rock. Far out and way cool like it was assembled on some intergalactic operating table by the most deft and delicate handed of cosmic surgeons.

Blut aus Nord
Metamorphosis of Realistic Theories is an impossibly bleak album from a band who continue their descent into ever deeper forms of alienating black metal. Producing an album of mind bending sounds and gruelingly inhospitable atmospheres that made for a dense and deeply unsettling listen Blut Aus Nord stand apart from anyone you'd attempt comparison to.

Comments Of The Inner Chorus
Full Time Hobby
An album of magical feats and dark desires and it often used one to achieve the other; an album that evokes a subtle melancholic prettiness with enigmatic samples and a seamless blend of percussion and electronic elements. This was the sound of that oft-referenced folktronica taking on a mystic form to produce something beautiful.

Les Georges Leningrad
Sangue Pro
When the self-styled petro-chemical rockers kicked up a gear and left the discordant abrasion of Black Eskimo to reach further into their own demented world of leathery silhouettes and glittering dust they created one of the most violently surreal records of the year and one that seared it's impression on me like burnt rubber tread across my head.

Holy Shit
Stranded At Two Harbors
Uunited Acoustic Record Company
Ariel Pink and Matt Fishbeck's four-years-in-the-making album must have taken a whole lot of hash to fug it up to the narcotic haze it finds itself drifting in. A restless album that swung from Vapours inhaled kimono-core to elegant swooning as easily as I succumbed to its charms.

The Big Sleep
Son Of Tiger
French Kiss
These New Yorkers rocked out in huge fat chunks of flying fur, teeth and claws in wonderfully realised songs that pushed the noise-rock barrier out into the strung-out underground as much as they pushed it onto the dancefloor. One for listening to on the sofa and getting your head wrecked too and you don't get too many of those that will last you all year.

To Find Me Gone
FatCat can really do no wrong and with Devendra's friends they found a dusty road movie of an album that was all wide open vistas by day and close campfire camaraderie by night. An album that evoked the feeling of sleeping out under the stars as the Earth slowly rolls around.

Thrill Jockey
Yoshimi Pee-Wee's troupe of girl drummers tightened their circle and beat out rhythms of impenetrable speed , agility and out and out euphoria. To my mind, they were the catalyst for Eye to drop the Bore and add the Vroom to the Boredoms. Taiga was the album that encapsulated that shift in mesmerizing detail.

Kirb And Chris
Niggaz And White Girlz
What's this? A concept album about hip-hop's relationship with white girlz? Black girls aint got shit on white ones you say? Kirb and Chris pretty much close the case with their essential party album that did it like it was err…1985? Yup. Backing their raps and skits to The Cure, The Smiths, Talking Heads and Berlin, Kirb and Chris made their way through a load of skinny white ass and embedded themselves into my head. Some kind of freakin' genius, for sure.

skygreen leopards
Disciples Of California
A sumptuous, spellbinding slacker folk album from a label that, like FatCat, are unopposed in the consistency of their releases. The Skygreen Leopards have been building up to this moment and it captures that balmy summer spirit like sunshine in a bottle, ready to be let out in the depths of winter and release it's burning glow into the coldest corners and melt it all away.

Psalm II - Infusco Ignis
Total Holocaust
Bettering last years Psalm I by a long way, Swedish one man legion Skamfer's solo outfit brought black and death metal toward a perfect unison of groove, riff and atmosphere that bore an enormous weight along fluid structures. Five tracks that continue the sonic tradition begun by Mayhem, this album smoldered and burned fiercely and mercilessly.

Candy Bars
On Cutting Ti-Gers in Half and Understanding Narravation
New Granada
An orchestral monument to pop music that sounds absolutely enormous and as limitless in interpretation as its title suggests. Candy Bars debut album brought with it a lush world of blurred images and words like the world from the window of a train. Strain focus and fixate on distant points and the details emerge, or lay passive and let it rush past in an effervescent flurry of colour and sound.

Secret Passage
Six piece band of three boys and three girls battering the shit out of bass, strings, drums and brass in an utterly focused form of chaos that was intimidating on first listen and several months later still hasn't yielded its assault. Coughs are rumoured to have split up which is a tragedy but testament to the adage live fast die young, and this band fucking fly.

The Research
Breaking Up
At Large
Homespun cheap as chips casiotone break-up songs with witty barbs and kettle's on comfort, styled by a brutal commitment to emotional honesty, Russell's lyrics described both the magical moments in romance with lines like "I bet if we kissed the city would plunge into darkness" and the hopeless "I love you, but I'm scared I'll fuck it up." Never better said all year.

Return To The Sea
Formed from Diamonds and Unicorns members, this band and album more than equaled the sum of their parts, it bettered them by making a record that ventured far into uncharted realms of modern psychedelia. It also contained probably the best song title of the year in 'Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby'

Holy Room
The years greatest psychedelic, sun-burned free abstract forest folk record surely came from Wovoka, though the chances of many hearing it were limited by its 100 cd run. Probably the biggest crime of the year was to deny more people these ramshackle, tribal ragas, their skeletal frames like trees against the blue night, hunched figures fluttering rhythmic shuffling fingers across string, wood and skin. A rare album of super laid back acoustic hypnotics.

The Trials Of Van Occupanther
Bella Union
In an album set in the 1890s with a protagonist stuck on the outside and struggling to deal with the disquieting changes in the simple life around him, Midlake produced a work of gossamer beauty and hearty tunes that stuck in my head for months, especially the title track and its' eerie foreboding chorus. An ancient pastoral album with a narrative that leads you through it hand-in-hand like a Sunday stroll through a flower carpeted forest.

Grizzly Bear
Yellow House
From the delicate swelling intro to the abrupt end, grizzly Bear were in full control of a masterpiece of modern pop orchestration. Yellow House is a beautifully rendered, compelling album that, like shafts of light cutting into the darkened room on the cover, is the aural equivalent of that attic full of dusty junk that takes years to search through and uncovers gleaming treasures on every visit.

October Language
October Language is an album drawn from shades of blinding white; of multi-coloured fireworks and steaming ice-lands of untouched beauty. Some parts of this record shift and crack open, hissing gas and boiling water frothing onto the frigid surface, revealing the kind of awe inspiring majesty you always knew sound was capable of achieving.

Yo La Tengo
I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
I was afraid of this album at first. Not because of the indier than thou in the playground title, but because the last couple of albums, after their career peak of And Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out were wholly disappointing. IANAOYAIWBYA is a totally different beast to Nothing… and the churning velvet's headfucks contained within it sound more like the precocious snot spitting of teenagers, not the product of a couple who've been married for twenty five years. By rights, they should be settling into slippers and sign posting their lives with remortgages and grandchildren, not unleashing this kind of raw power on our unsuspecting asses.

Akron Family
Meek Warrior
Young God
Waves of cacophonous distortion and serene hypnotics are plucked from strings, drums patter out accompaniments or lead the charges in rumbling storms while multi-part harmonies soar from ethereal laments to Gregorian chanting. Meek Warrior continues from the greatest parts of their joint album with Angels Of Light from last year and pushes this stellar band skywards, further out into the cosmos of headshaking tribal fire gatherings.

Royal Shit
Supermarket Records
The Royal We was not expecting such a forcefully potent follow up to 2004's exceptional Cheap Shots but Royal Shit has the duo of Michael Conroy and Bruce Magill on finest rhetoric spewing, bile busting form, releasing the album from their own label. Propping up Conroy's caustic, confrontational yet hazily soporific flow are stronger beats with more complex song structures building some real headnodders.

Catfish Haven
Please Come Back
Secretly Canadian
This may be the mini-album that preceded the full length Tell Me later in the year, but it is in this that the better trailer park blues hollered skronk can be found. The southern soul grooved hardest on tracks like 'Please Come Back' and 'You Can Have Me', both indicative of the earnestness that posses this band, and they stand as a testament to the breadth garage rock can travel.

Dwelling In A Dead Raven For The Glory Of Crucified Wolves
Aurora Borealis
What Moss began with Cthonic Rites Wolfmangler finished and tore to shreds, rolling round in the carcass and decaying mulch. A sickeningly harrowing listen, horrifying in the scale of the depths sound can sink to and as charismatically bleak as an album can be draping itself in cobwebs, heralding the snap of twigs, distant horns and howls from the deep. Wolfmangler pitch doom perfectly into the yawning abyss that every soul has been taught to fear. This is why you shouldn't get lost in the woods.

Planet Mu
Volume. It's a dangerous tool. This is one album that will make you lose your bowels functions quicker than you can say baile funk. The deepest bass quaking furrows carve gorges for some of the dankest urban beats this year has dropped. Extend builds it's cityscape from dark electronics, dancehall, jungle and grime and everything from the depth-charge terrorism of 'Mr. Bad News'to the white out malice of 'Tony Sombrero'. Broadsheets that know shit will tell you that Burial has changed the way dubstep will continue. Fuck that.

Heartless Bastards
All This Time
Fat Possum
Between Stairs and Elevators, the bastards 2004 album and All This Time, something sesmic must have shifted. The Ohio three-piece sound as if there are twice as many of them in the studio, the same yearning billowing songs are there but they have been embellished with layers of lush feral guitars and the lungs of Erika Wennerstrom have been honed to a silken roar. This is why Beth Ditto's band aren't higher up my list.

TV on the Radio
Return To Cookie Mountain
The coffee table album of '06 that was so cool to name drop probably confused the shit out of those that patted their own backs for mentioning it over the cheese board, yet 'Wolf Like Me' probably made my year as it's lycanthropic drone struggled to contain it's beastly subconscious and 'I Was A Lover' and 'Blues From Down Here' made me want to dance in all directions at once. Simply put, as imaginative as great albums should be.

Happy New Year
Retrogressive analogue workshop or forward looking masters of the past? If opinion was divided over Oneida's Happy New Year, then it was due in most part to their reductionist musical approach compared to last year's The Wedding which sprawled further across the psychedelic landscape, compared to the way Happy New Year begins softly softly before locking itself down into the deeply grooved mindset of a band pulling world-worn sounds from well-worn vintage equipment. No shame in that at all.

Goliath Bird Eater
Blood Venus
One look at the sprawling tentacles of that red alien foetus thing on the cover and you just knew this was an album by freaks for freaks, and a whole lot of bassy six-string freaking goes down too. Two pitch-black long-haird dudes who worship at the twin altars of the beat and the riff, galloping towards the 4 Horsemen to meet them head on in an apocalyptic showdown that kicked up a duststorm of noise. There is nothing else between the listener and this band except sheer volume.

Ashes Against The Grain
The End
Crossing musical boundaries in the same way as TV On The Radio and Milanese (Though not the same ones, of course), Agalloch seen as some kind of scene leaders in the gradually developing Grey Metal scene; a term which has yet to fully justify itself other than a reference to a wintery palate of sounds and the title of the bands Grey ep itself. Agalloch took the pagan Viking elements of black metal, the atmospheres and structures from post-rock and the direct brutality of death metal to create an epic production of sublimely mastered songs to confound all expectations.

Blood In Our Wells
Supernal Music
This Ukranian bands strain of folk-centric black metal has been steadily developing over the last few albums and they even managed to release two this year. Latterly, Songs of Grief and Solitude, an ancient sounding traditional eastern European folk album of indigenous instruments and meter, though it was Blood In Our Wells that truly captivated with it's mix of burnt out drone melting over epic scales encompassing a sprawling sepia tinged vision that had majesty deeply embedded in it's rustic core.

The Goslings
Grandeur Of Hair
Archive Recordings
Last year's Between the Dead was a thick serpentine album of dense noise smothering steel cabled songs. Grandeur of Hair pushed that noise closer together, shoring up reserves of doom-laden slow motion riffs that uncoiled through foggy feedback, casting long shadows of songs across thick-boned skeletal frames. Beneath the swirling clouds lay immense shapes as if this band were impertinently hiding perfection beneath a veil that demanded the attention it took to reveal them.

Wolf Eyes
Human Animal
Like microbial bacteria colonising the charred remains of Burned Mind, Human Animal slowly takes it's time to develop into the ferocious predator Wolf eyes are. This record patiently circles the listener, snapping at its ears and wearing it down before unleashing the full crashing force of its not fetid maw, decimating everything in its path in a relentless avalanche of splintering bone and tearing flesh. Far more measured and far more powerful for it, this was feral noise with an instinctive purpose.

Down Below The Fog
UK black metal just isn't getting the same attention as its US counterparts for reasons completely unbeknownst to me. While Xasthur and Leviathan weave their labyrinthine records from an ethereal haze, Crebain and Nachtmystium drop their shoulder, bare their claws and go for the jugular, British bands like Axis Of Perdition, Hateful Abandon and Extinction do exactly the same things to undeservedly less exposure. Extinction draw their sound from the misty lowlands and attack under cover of an impenetrable fog. The album most aptly titled this year, Down Below The Fog is the noisiest chilling black metal to meet these ears all year, coming on like a solid wall of malevolence, a churning maelstrom with the grace to slow itself into eerie ambience and suffocating atmospheric passages. A record to truly experience.

The Young Knives
Voices Of Animals And Men
Bizarrely publicized by Transgressive as the Young Knives debut album despite 2002's The Young Knives…Are Dead on Shifty Disco which wasn't that bad, come on. It even had heroic bassist House of Lords fully resplendent in the liner notes, so wool was pulled over my eyes, but still , the difference between that and their second is phenomenal enough to warrant a re-writing of the history books. Humorous, quick-witted enigmatic, catchy and urgent sounding there was only one indie band this year to hone everything down finer than the Knives. This didn't leave my stereo all summer and is still making me throw shapes to all its choruses, not least 'She's Attracted To' – probably the best song of the summer. When they dropped down a gear and swooned all over 'Another Hollow Line' and 'Loughborough Suicide' the results were captivating in the glorious way the best eccentric British pop can be. The Young Knives are well and truly alive.

Arctic Monkeys
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
So this is the indie album that had sharper darts than TYK. Hype. It's the dirtiest word in the English language, and almost always misused (Don't believe the hype? That's what hype actually means, fools). Was the frenzy surrounding the Arctic Monkeys (I don't even think the name is that bad either) really exaggerated and misleading? A deception? When the chorus of '…Dancefloor' breaks from the pause was it really not the most incinerating condescending double bluff you heard all year? The furious vitriol packed into 'Fake Tales of San Francisco' - How was I misled? The only people I really want to be listening to are the ones telling the world to "Get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook." That's the lyric of the year, and a sterling voice of reason.

Joanna Newsom
Drag City
Who would have thought that Steve Albini and Van Dyke Parks would ever work on the same album? And who would imagine the results to be so ambitiously beguiling. From the first harp stroke, Newsome had me with her impish charms and it will take the best exorcist in the business to release me from my rapture. With her strange personal mythology and references she has such an unreal take on reality that it's hard to believe she's talking about the same one the rest of us inhabit. Sure, she can go to the bottom of her garden and see fairies and we can't, but I can see them in music and hers is full of them. An album of shifting baroque movements, romantic sonnets, swaying stabbing ragas, caressed and attacked by a compelling vocal performance in one of the most unique records I have ever heard.

Negura Bunget
Code 666
Eastern Europe is producing some of the best music in metal, or across any genre for that matter. Two in my top ten for starters. Romania's Negura Bunget have created a record of painstaking detail it's a wonder that they managed it in just two years from their superb 'N Crugu Bradului album. This sounds like it has taken a lifetime to craft and is a work of enormous vision, an intricate landscape beautifully textured and realised in cinemascopic sound. From the slow heavily fuzzed build to the surly rocking surges of 'æsarul de Lumini' and 'Cunoa Terea TÄcutÄ' to the tribal breakdown of 'Norilor' out to the folk infused 'Hora Soarelui', this band display a complete control of their art and have a profound understanding of what they want to do with it on their own terms. Where others are happy to let others lead them Negura Bunget are out in the deep uncharted forests, forging new paths of their own.

Drums Not Dead
Liars have come a long way from their caustic artpunk beginnings of They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top. Their previous album They Were Wrong, So We Drowned was conceptually based around witchcraft and its conjurous tracks were all cryptically potent spells but Drums Not Dead saw the band move to Berlin in an attempt to clear their minds and musical palette and it is a move which has served them very well. The result was an album charting the battle between Drum and Mountain that was almost the most mesmeric album of the year. The Drum tracks lurch and pound with the motorik energy imbued by the teutonic surroundings, dexterous and direct while the peaks and valleys of the atmospheric mountain tracks served as the counterpoint to the chaos. Live, Liars rank with the Boredoms as one of the most entrancing, transcendental bands on the planet and Drums Not Dead is a fittingly recorded document of their abilities.

Wolves in the Throne Room
Diadem Of 12 Stars
The ultimate black metal record of the year was also the ultimate album of the year. Wolves in The Throne room have created the first truly post-black metal record; one that is indebted to its forbears as much as it eclipses the original vision in its ability to reconceive and broaden the genre further. The Americans have beaten the Scandinavians at their own game and any rules that governed structure and form have been realigned. The four epic tracks of restlessly shifting atmospheric drone are accompanied by the guttural and histrionic growls and shrieks of Nathan, Luke and guest vocalist Dino Sommese though it is Jamie Myers beautiful feminine tones that sweep across 'Face in a Night Time Mirror part 1' and '(A Shimmering Radiance) Diadem of 12 Stars' that add the extra dimension missing from almost all black metal releases and are the one vital element that makes this album so special. A true force of nature that builds its tracks like Mogwai or Godspeed with a relentless hunger to create something new, this is a band whose flights of technical fancy and grinding segments produce songs that undulate like rivers, ghosting through the misty forests of the cover art. The essence of Black Metal has always been a rejection of wasteful peripheral materialism and distracting influences, of rejecting normalities and dogmatic instruction, of free spirits and the value of individual expression. The old order has been deposed. The wolves are in the throne room


  • Omega_Switch22B

    Excellent list, far better than anything I would have made myself!

    Nov 3 2008, 16:53
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