Not every year can be a great year for music, and 2006 was just okay. It didn't help that this year was sandwiched between 2005—which gave us great albums by Kanye West, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Sufjan Stevens—and 2007, which promises new releases from Wilco, Arcade Fire, and Timbaland. While choosing my Top 10 for the year was a cinch, coming up with the bottom 10 was tough.
Thankfully, I managed to scour enough of the year's music to bring you this four-part series, BuzzSugar's Top 20 Albums of 2006. Now for Part II: albums 11 to 15. (Read yesterday's installment on albums 16 to 20.)
15. Destroyer, Destroyer's Rubies
Dan Behar is a refreshing anomaly in the power-pop paradise of his other band, The New Pornographers. For fans of “Jackie” and other Behar-penned Pornographers’ tunes, his Destroyer’s Rubies solo album is a welcome indulgence. There’s something very lively about the way his incessantly staccato vocals exchange pleasantries with acoustic guitars and clanging percussion, but his fast-paced rock also has a sinister air. Somehow, Behar manages to be at once completely bizarre and bitingly fun.
14. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat
Like her band’s 2005 album More Adventurous, Jenny Lewis’s first solo outing is tragically inconsistent. But it’s still hard not to be charmed by her singing and songwriting, both of which have just enough edge to keep them from being too cute. In this stripped-down, more honky-tonk version of Rilo Kiley’s pop, Lewis alternates between celebratory and cynical and even gets a little help from her friends (including M. Ward) on a great cover of the Traveling Wilbury's song “Handle With Care.”
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13. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
If there's one thing to be said—over and over and over again—about Neko Case, it is that she has the best voice in indie rock. But the descriptor is ubiquitous only because it's true. Case's disconcerting pipes are at once velvety and rough, and while her genre falls somewhere between pop, rock, and country, the all-important unifying factor is how she belts out her lyrics, which are at once totally off-kilter and entirely identifiable. Just listen to the opening track, "Star Witness," with its bell-like guitars, brushed drums, and Neko-domination, and you'll understand perfectly.
12. Califone, Roots & Crowns
In its more organic moments, Califone's latest album sounds born out of some folksy, dreamy forest with its whispy vocals, harp-like acoustic guitars, and gentle woodsy bass clarinets. But lest you think you've got Califone figured out, the music will suddenly move from folksy to totally far-out, like a sci-fi jam band propelled by industrial machinery. While it's undoubtedly experimental, Califone's music is very easy to digest, and the jazz-influenced complexities don't translate into cacophony.
11. M. Ward, Post-War
It’s often puzzling to me why M. Ward isn’t more popular and challenging the dominance of someone like John Mayer. The singer writes perfectly compact little pop songs sung in a plucky boyish voice, then weaves them together with head-bobbing beats and lively pianos. Maybe it’s because his jovial lyrics, like those in “To Go Home,” have an occasional dark tinge: “God it’s great to be alive / takes the skin right off my hide / to think I’ll have to give it all up someday.” Regardless, this is Ward’s most cohesive album yet, and it’s a shame more people haven’t discovered it.