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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Anthony Carew's 13 Fave Albums 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 (and if you haven't been there yet, check out my MOG: www.mog.com/Michael_Goldberg ). Still, with 2006 over, I asked Neumu contributors to share some of the albums that rocked their world. Today, I present longtime Neumu contributor Anthony Carew.

Dear Humans of the Internet: In previous seasons, I've scrawled up at least 20 discs a year for the discs-o'-th'-year bit, b'cause, let's be honest, the top 10 is an entirely inadequate way to r'call the hundreds upon hundreds of records heard over a past year.

Yet, in this past year, I discovered stealing music. Meaning: instead of hearing merely hundreds, I heard thousands upon thousands. Meaning: things soon b'came quite the overload, and stolen things oft sat, neglect'd, never listen'd to once they'd crawl'd down my internerd wires. It seems that having literally too much music to listen to made me concentrate on certain specific things. Specifically: the most unlucky 13 on this hott countdown:

1. Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City): With a harp and a halo she roams the great prairie, the warbling songbird caroling her zeugmatic wordplay and vocabulary-stretching lyricism in twittering tones intoned in shifting metres, whilst she plucks her Lyon & Healy-style 15 harp with the dexterous fingers of a gonzo virtuoso. And the second time around, she does it so fearlessly: letting loose that screech, rambling on for 10 minutes at a stretch, stretching her bloody wings and taking wing on fanciful flights of artistic freedom. It feels nice to be alive at the same time as Newsom, it truly does.

2. Jenny Wilson, Love and Youth (Rabid): Letting her shoes lead her forward, the Swedish songstress pirouettes her way through tales of bleak adolescent angst set to softly-stepping disco beats; her sugary melodicism and salty lyricism make for the sweetest of sweet/sour dishes.

3. El Perro del Mar, El Perro del Mar (Memphis Industries): Sarah Assbring's sad, sweet sound sounds like Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift for You buried under six feet of Swedish snow, the one-woman-girl-group's icy walls of sound building a Brill building out of shed tears and exhaled breaths.

4. Montt Mardié, Drama (Hybris): Whilst it's, on cursory listen, p'rhaps the gayest, twee-est, Swede-est album ever made, subsequent spins (and spins and spins) r'veal David Pagmar's Montt Mardié bit to be a work of substantial cultural genius in which he regurgitates three decades' worth of bad American AM radio in falsetto-sung songs so warp'd he's like a more-tuneful twin to Ariel Pink.

5. Destroyer, Destroyer's Rubies (Merge): After six albums of fighting for his right to make ridiculous records sung in over-the-top, anthemic, voice-of-a-generation Bowie-isms, Daniel Bejar finally made the record on which it all made sense. This definitive Destroyer disc (with all its familiar literary lyrics, hysterical falsetto-ing, camp piano, and soaring guitar-solos) is his most glittering compact-digital jewel yet.

6. Sunset Rubdown, Shut Up I Am Dreaming (Global Symphonic): After writing all of the good songs on that Wolf Parade gear, Spencer Krug turns his Sunset Rubdown bit-on-the-side into a grandstanding glory, fashioning towering monuments of strident, strangely symphonic out-rock angst sung in a cathartic caterwaul that delivers blood in every note.

7. The Blood Brothers, Young Machetes (V2): In which twin bansheeist vocalists Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie hold the lyrical blades of their Young Machetes to Uncle Sam's throat. Surrealist texts with dreamscape imagery, depicting the belligerent nation as dystopian nightmare made manifest.

8. Beirut, Gulag Orkestar (Ba-Da-Bing!): Zach Condon's one-man-gypsy-band rumpus took the indie-kid out of the bedroom and into the Balkans; Beirut's rapturously romantic record, at once boyish and brassy, essentially casts Jens Lekman amidst an Emir Kusturica film.

9. Phoenix, It's Never Been Like That (Virgin): For a band born as somewhat the joke — mixing unerring Steely Dan knock-offs with French house production — Phoenix's evolution into band-teetering-on-the-brink-of-pop-perfection has been quite the unexpected sight for sore eyes. Their third set sets hearts aflutter as it amps up the killer and reins in the filler.

10. Be Your Own Pet, Be Your Own Pet (XL): Undoubtedly the greatest album ever authored by a troupe of Tennesseean teenagers ripping off Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Be Your Own Pet's first-ever longplayer was the surprise set of the ought-six, the searing two-note guitar-riff on the 83-second "Wildcat!" an explosion of youthful musical enthusiasm that still burns bright nine months after this gear was released.

11. Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl): This actually comes out in 2007, but given I spent so much of 2006 listening to it, it'd seem out of place in the future. Built around the Bataille-referencing 11-minute-epic "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal" — the best big-production number from Of Montreal since "Nickee Coco and the Invisible Tree" — Kevin Barnes's latest kaleidoscopic pop jamboree is oft kept to a kraut-rock beat that keeps the knees-up knocking.

12. Gepe, Gepinto (Quemasucabeza): The comparison is easy/obvious/offensive, but ever so spot-on: Imagine if José González was actually musically Latino, and not boring. Twenty-four-year-old Chilean Daniel Riveros may've sold several million fewer records than Mr. Sony this year, but his debut album is a quietly thrilling racket of tinkling hand-percussion and charm'd acoustic croonery.

13. Javiera Mena, Esquemas Juveniles (Indice Virgen): Befitting the modern times Dylan isn't moaning about, I came to love this Chilean songsmith less by dint of her debut disc (as it is), than by the five preceding years of demos in circulation, the bewilderingly uneventful no-budget video for its title track, and an amazing live-in-2004 recording of her duet with Gepe, "Sol de Invierno," which, the first time I heard it, made me cry and cry.

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