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 III: albums 6 to 10. (Read yesterday's installment on albums 11 to 15.)
10. Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds
Personally, I don’t find Justin Timberlake the slightest bit attractive, but like Prince before him, JT somehow manages to embody sex in musical form. On FutureSex/LoveSound, his boyish vocals collide with the oozing electronica and throbbing keyboard rhythms in a way that just makes you feel dirty — particularly on the unsterilized album versions. From the banjo- and string-laden “What Goes Around” to the groaning masterpiece that is “Sexy Back,” Timberlake and his production team have crafted a record impossible not to dance to.
9. The Pipettes, We Are the Pipettes
Admittedly, the Pipettes are a gimmicky band, but the British trio’s debut is easily my favorite pure-fun album of the year. The band’s quirky, carousing songs owe a great deal to Phil Spector’s 1960s girl-group sound, but the swinging strings and edgy British-accented vocal harmonies also lean toward 1990s riot-grrl rock. This may not be an album you hand down as a family heirloom, but it was the perfect party album to get me through the summer of 2006.
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8. Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
In addition to having the greatest album title of 2006, Yo La Tengo's newest release returns the veteran indie rockers to their former glory, after 2003's lackluster Summer Sun. With the shredding exploration that is the album opener, "Pass the Hatchet, I think I'm Goodkind," the New Jersey critical darlings remind us that they can rock, and rock hard. But this CD also has all of the high points you expect from a YLT album, including demure, folksy ballads ("Black Flowers") and charming doo-wop ("Mr. Tough").
7. Drive-By Truckers, A Blessing and a Curse
This album isn't the best of the Drive-By Truckers' discography, but on A Blessing and a Curse, the Alabama rock quintet shows its range like never before. Using its standard three-guitar attack, the DBT proves it still has some of the best three songwriters in rock, alternating between exquisite arena rock on "Daylight" and Southern-rock sass on "Gravity's Gone," which boasts some of the year's best lyrics: "She woke up sunny-side down and I's still thinking I was too proud to flip her over."
6. Islands, Return to the Sea
With his former band, The Unicorns, Islands frontman Nick Diamonds was more concerned with being silly than breaking ground. So when he forged such a bizarrely new sound on Return to the Sea, it was a complete and utter surprise. A rock band with a slightly psychedelic bent, Islands manages to veer from slow-building theatrical ballads to high-speed hip-hop while still crafting a highly cohesive and addictive sound.