Damn it, Jim, I'm a rock journalist, not a political analyst
When the hell did this blog become solely about politics? Good God, what a miserable business. What the hell is my problem. I've had enough, dammit! I came here to rock! We're about half way through the year now, so what follows is my Top 10 albums of the year so far, plus a Top 10 worst (not necessarily the worst, just the worst of the popular) and a few other tidbits.
My Top 10 of the first six months of 2006
(disclaimer: Of course, it's not officially the first six months, and this could change by June 1. Especially if Grandaddy's final album is any good). Note that these are in alphabetical order by artist, not order of preference.
Whatever People Say I am, That’s what I’m not by Arctic Monkeys: Yeah, yeah. I know. Totally overrated. The hyperbole from the British press was so over the top, it completely lost sight of the top and went blazing into outer space. One mag named this album in the Top 10 British albums EVER. Such ridiculousness aside, there's a reason critics wrote that garbage.
Chosen Lords by Aphex Twin: A Best Of of Richard D. James' best work, the Analord series. Must have for any fan.
You in Reverse by Built to Spill: One of the greatest bands in indie rock releases its greatest album of the 21st Century. OK, OK. Admittedly, this is only Built to Spill's second album of the 21st Century, but this definitely beats 2001's Ancient Melodies of the Future. It's not as good as the holy trinity of 1990s albums -- There's Nothing Wrong With Love, Perfect From Now On and Keep It Like a Secret -- but it doesn't have to be. Doug Martsch is a god. Speaking of gods, it's not just Martsch's guitar playing. Lyrics like "Thought I saw an alien, turned out it was just God" will totally blow your mind, man!
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case: Every year, I have to stick one gorgeous-voiced woman on the list. This looks to be this year's pick. If she pours any of her real self into her lyrics, I think our souls may have been separated at birth. A lot of other people probably feel the same way, but that's just a testiment to her songwriting, not to my unoriginality. I hope.
Black Cadillac by Roseanne Cash: Country album of the year; The Cash is strong with this one, Lord Vader.
Pick a Bigger Weapon by The Coup: Hip-hop whose funk is so deep, it almost makes you forget about the cover to 2001's Party Music, which featured The Coup's Boots Riley blowing up the World Trade Center -- whoops! The album was pulled after the WTC did, in fact, blow up. Meanwhile, though, the duo has evolved into a great hip-hop/funk act whose radical politics cannot be ignored, even among the tight rhythms.
The Boxing Mirror by Alejandro Escovedo: The greatest album of a brilliant career. Seriously -- this is the best thing Escovedo has ever done. It's probably the album of the year. Buy it.
At War with the Mystics by The Flaming Lips: Not as good as their last couple of albums, but it still makes my top 10, which is a testiment to just how cool the Flaming Lips are. As a protest album, this is probably a little too surreal for most people. But as a soundscape, it's worth having.
Pearl Jam by Pearl Jam: I don't get the avocado either. But it's a really good album. Besides, this is one of the two major, influential acts from the early 1990s still making music that matters (along with Green Day).
Elan Vital by Pretty Girls Make Graves: Good stuff. (Can you tell my reviewing endurance is getting low?)
Living With War by Neil Young: As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry somewhere around here, this is the best protest music to come from our era.
PWN3D!!! (Or: Why your favorite band sucks)
Here's my least favorite albums of 2006 thus far:
The Black Magic Show by Elefant: What happened to these guys? This album only kinda sucks, but compared to their last album it FREAKING BLOWS
Morph the Cat by Donald Fagan: Steely Dan sucks, Donald Fagan sucks, Walter Becker sucks. Fagan's songwriting is witty, but only if you're a bit slow on the uptake yourself. It's ironic, but only slightly moreso than Alanis Morissette. Fagan writes several times about attempted suicide on this album. Hey, here's an idea, Donny ... nah. Not even I'm cruel enough to finish that joke.
Let Love In by The Goo Goo Dolls: Eh, not too surprising. Goo Goo Dolls have always been kinda trifling
Todd Smith by LL Cool J: After this, the only way Cool James could regain his fandom is if he got shot. It's worked for Tupac.
Testify by P.O.D.: If you dig this album, there's nothing I can do to help you.
We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions by Bruce Springsteen: Yeah, that's right. I said it. This album sucks. Mind you, I'm a big Springsteen fan -- in fact, I don't think I've ever said this about a Springsteen album before. But let's face it: The world did not need another version of "Froggie Went A-Courtin.' " And I sure as shit didn't need to hear Springsteen sing it. Jesus, Bruce.
Fab Four Suture by Stereolab: This album's not that bad -- it's just that it's the worst album Stereolab has ever done. It says a lot about the band that their worst album is better than most bands' masterpieces.
First Impressions of Earth by The Strokes: Back when Is This It? came out, I heartily welcomed The Strokes. The way I saw it, if they could blow up big, they and bands like them would knock all of that irritating bubble-gum pop off the charts. Say what you want about The Strokes, but I'd rather see them at No. 1 than Britney Spears. But now, three albums in, I grow weary.
10,000 Days by Tool: When did Tool become A Perfect Circle? But putting that aside, I'll say it again -- pretension does not mean it's "prog." And if there's one word that describes this too-clever, overwrought bullshit, it would have to be pretension.
For Me, It's You by Train: How the hell did these guys ever get big? Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single more-derivitive band. Ever. In the history of music.
Song I hate to admit I like
"As Good As I Once Was" by Toby Keith: I know, I know. As a flaming liberal, I'm not supposed to like Toby Keith. And as a rock critic, I'm not supposed to like him either. But, dammit, this song's like the country version of Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days." And on the eve of my 30th birthday, the lyrics speak to me as age shows its first signs.
Album I hate to admit I like
It's a tie, between two so-bad-they're-good debut albums
Morningwood by Morningwood: Utterly meaningless, coldly calculated, soullessly slick – and a hell of a lot of fun.
Wolfmother by Wolfmother: Ridiculously derivitive, sloppy, turn-it-up-to-11 cock rock – and a hell of a lot of fun.
P.S. Yes, I know my Top 10 is, in fact, a Top 11. It's my little way of honoring Spinal Tap.