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Monday, January 29, 2007

Jenny Tatone's Favorite Recordings Of 2006


Neumu's Michael Goldberg writes: In case you're wondering why things slowed down to a crawl at Neumu last year, the answer, in a word (and in a web site), is MOG (www.mog.com). I've been spending most of my time working on MOG, the awesome music-focused social networking site, and Neumu has suffered (if you haven't been there yet, check out my MOG: www.mog.com/Michael_Goldberg). Still, with 2006 over, I asked Neumu contributors and friends to share some of the albums that rocked their world. Today, Neumu Senior Writer Jenny Tatone provides us with her faves of last year. Jenny, by the way, has a MOG that you'll find here.



Jenny Tatone writes: Two thousand and six. 2006. What the hell happened to 2006? A lot of bad things, some good things. And it went by too fast for me to remember much of anything. 2006 was the year I fell from music. Just wasn't much into it. Hate to admit it. But it's the damned truth. Well, not entirely. Let me clarify by saying I just wasn't into new music. I re-discovered a lot of old favorites (Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Elton John, Dizzy Gillespie, et al.) and reinterpreted my perspective on music-less space (that it's OK; that you hear more birds and wind and your own train of thought, and that's nice).

Most of the year was spent, once again, redesigning my life, returning to school, starting a new job, moving a few times (classic) and writing about things outside of music. While I didn't devote myself to scouring the world of music for new and exciting things, I did manage to catch a few great listens — and they each made music more than worth listening to again. In no particular order:

The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant): I can't get enough of them. It's become a bit ridiculous, how often I put them on, looking over my shoulder each time as if someone in the back will be snickering at my silly obsession. But I still can't stop myself. Boys and Girls is produced to the nines, polished and ready for big things. It's a beautiful album from a bunch of beer-drinking dudes who dig classic rock, all-nighters and clever words. They never meant to be so good — it just kind of worked out that way.

Califone, Roots and Crowns (Thrill Jockey): It's interesting because of its instrumental arrangements. Tinny, clunky, jingly, smoky, shaky, the collection of sounds on Roots and Crowns is electronic, organic, antiquated and modern, building slowly into an enticing melody and emotion here and there. It's so many things, yet it's entirely its own thing; it's the kind of album you don't have many like, and the kind of album that will prompt friends and family to ask: "Who is this?" Keep burnt copies on hand.

Herbert, Scale (K7): Thick and sexy, oozing with sensuality and dance grooves, Scale moves and brims with warm, tickling energy. I clearly remember the first time I heard this. I was at work, coming down off caffeine, when Scale perked me up and — in an instant — had me reinvigorated about my day ahead. Swimming in female croons, electronic jitters and brisk, slapping beats, the album fits as well with a weary workday as it does a steamy dance floor — it's the kind of universal-feeling album not limited to a certain time or place.

Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City): I look at the harp a bit like the piano: there are many notes/keys to be played, and I love hearing so many escape in intricate order from the same source. Joanna Newsom is an incredible harpist, and this is just the start of why I appreciate her so. This five-track album — of songs so long and fluid that it's hard to know when one ends and another has begun — is a moving and gorgeous piece of art that clearly required intense thought and emotion to create. Building from slow and small to big and belting, Ys feels like a brief journey through time, complete with low points, high points, climaxes and sad resolutions. The massive string section in the back helps — a lot.

The Decemberists, The Crane Wife (Capitol): Colin Meloy likes to read. He likes old literature and all the funny words found in old lit — like an antique chest full of clothes from ages past. He borrows the funny old words and makes songs out of them. Accompanied by many old-feeling instruments, Meloy sings with an accent that suggests he's from another time and place. He never expected this antiquated approach to music-making would catch on. But it did. And so he gave the masses a concept album — part pop, part prog — about a man who married a crane who left him. And they liked it. But they're still a little confused. And with such an antiquated band in the mainstream, we all are, a little.

Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (Downtown): I walked under the hot summer sun down the boulevard to Jackpot Records. I needed the one and only Ray Charles for my dad's birthday. Checking out at the counter, I saw St. Elsewhere on display, snapped up a copy — I'd heard great things — and added it to my purchase. Back at the house, I listened while I painted the walls. I listened while I moved furniture and listened while I unpacked. I listened while I cleaned house, listened while I ran, listened while I had people over, listened on winding road trips, listened on the patio with the BBQ and listened on clear summer nights on the front porch. I couldn't get enough, and now I can't really listen anymore. Albums I love are often like a new pair of shoes: I wear them out fast. But I'll be back. St. Elsewhere is too good — too full of big beats, soulful cries and magical one-liners — to neglect for too long.

TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain (4AD): This one took me a few tries. On first listen, I felt uncomfortable; my ears even itched a little. But on, I think, my fourth try, it clicked into place, and I turned up the volume. Drenched in emotion and soul, Cookie Mountain features multiple sonic happenings, directions and appearances. A new instrument or sound pops up with each listen, and you're like, I didn't expect you but I'm glad you showed up. A complex, meandering and soulful journey of a listen — one-upping previous efforts — punctuated by TV on the Radio's love for classic '80s dance pop.

Beirut, Gulag Orkestar (Ba-Da-Bing!): I've heard some talk about this not being authentic enough, or that if the pop culture masses truly understood Middle Eastern music, they would see that Beirut's songs are crap in comparison. Well, never one for snobbery or competition over musical obscurities, I like it, very much. Sure, he's from New Mexico. And sure, perhaps the young kid has no handle on real Middle Eastern sounds. But he somehow still managed to write an intensely moving album full of genuine passion and a well-honed collection of classical Indian instrumentation. I think it's gorgeous.

The Mountain Goats, Get Lonely (4AD): I can't say I fell for this album as hard as I did for The Sunset Tree. But it's still one of 2006's best. John Darnielle (who records as the Mountain Goats) is a wildly gifted songwriter; it's hard for him to do wrong. Get Lonely is — surprise — a very lonely-feeling album. As usual, Darnielle captures perfectly the feeling of hardship and agony, parlaying it into creatively detailed lyricism and stark guitar melodies. It's a sad and surreal break-up album — it will make you feel sad and surreal. I would advise the unprepared and already down-and-out against listening.

Honorable mentions: Heartless Bastards, All This Time (Fat Possum Records); The Little Ones, Sing Song EP (Astralwerks); Mika Miko, C.Y.S.L.A.B.F. (Kill Rock Stars); The Prototypes, The Prototypes (Minty Fresh); Sebastien Schuller, Happiness (Minty Fresh); Viva Voce, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (Barsuk); Wet Confetti, Laughing Gasping (Pampelmoose/Rice Bird Records); and Spoon's Telephono/Soft Effects reissue.

The InsiderOne Daily Report appears on occasion.



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