goin’ up to eleven for twenty ten

This is the music that powered the year for me:

  • Bertrand BelinHypernuit: heard this on the radio. He has an awesome voice. Seeing as it’s all in French, I have no idea what it’s about, but that’s okay.
  • Calvin, don’t Jump!Under Bridges: Kirk Pleasant’s first major outing from his Canadian location. Combines E6 ambient and skronk with some thoughtful songwriting.
  • Colleen and PaulColleen and Paul: happy, sunny, folky, lovely. Enjoy it before it becomes car ads.
  • Dum Dum GirlsI Will Be: Motown meets The Jesus & Mary Chain, with screamy lofi fuzz. Like Strawberry Switchblade (DDG are big fans) with maximal noise.
  • Entertainment For The BraindeadRoadkill: Julia did a banjo album! It’s great — and free!
  • Frightened RabbitThe Winter of Mixed Drinks: juddery Scottish gloriousness with full miserability ahead.
  • JónsiGo: this album’s so sunny it farts marigolds.
  • Peter Stampfel & Baby GrampsOutertainment: dementedly demented, with demented bits gleefully stuck to it. Gramps sings like Popeye’s ancestor, and Peter’s got the caterwauling yawp down pat. They’re having so much fun making this, they don’t care what you think.
  • The Ruby SunsFight Softly: don’t you dare call them Animal Collective Lite. They can dance better, for one thing.
  • Stereo TotalBaby Ouh!: “irritating” is not usually a word one associates with a favourite album, but Stereo Total are completely annoying. I love them for it.
  • Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz: this is a hard album to like. I was about to completely give up on it when I played it on a long subway ride home. I’m sold. Charming, but difficult.

Here’s six not from 2010 that also helped make the year:

  • Brett DennenBrett Dennen (2005): he’s got a weird little voice in his first album, but Don’t Forget is as catchy as anything.
  • Charlotte GainsbourgIRM (2009): it’s a Beck album! Not sung by Beck!!
  • Kyle CreedLiberty (1977): this is the clawhammer album. Kyle played such a clean banjo; e-v-e-r-y note’s in the right place, the volume’s right, he doesn’t dominate (bluegrass pickers, take note). So brilliant, and finally available on something other than cassette.
  • Major Organ And The Adding MachineMajor Organ and the Adding Machine (re-release): squee! An expanded version of 2001’s mad outing complete with the movie. Spot all your favourite E6 musicians!
  • Raymond ScottSoothing Sounds For Baby (1963): The first volume (designated for one to six months) is about my level. I’d have been tripping spheroids if this had been playing near my crib.
  • The TurtlesThe Turtles Present The Battle of the Bands (1968): a delightful confection of phenomenal songwriting and playing making a very silly concept album. You’d hardly believe it was all done by one band.

Podcast: scruss-best_of_2010 [mp3]

2010 contenders

Dammit, is it really December? Anyway, this is what I listened to this year:

  • Albemarle Ramblers — Gentleman from Virginia
  • Amanda Palmer — Amanda Palmer Performs The Popular Hits Of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukulele
  • The Apples in stereo — Travellers in Space and Time
  • Arcade Fire — The Suburbs
  • Bart Veerman — Some o’ Mine and Some I Like (2003)
  • Basia Bulat — Heart Of My Own
  • Belle & Sebastian — Write About Love
  • Ben Veneer — Ben Veneer
  • Bertrand Belin — Hypernuit
  • Bill Holt — Dreamies (1973)
  • Brett Dennen — Brett Dennen (2005)
  • Brian Wilson — Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin
  • Broken Social Scene — Forgiveness Rock Record
  • Calvin, Don’t Jump! — Under Bridges
  • Caribou — Swim
  • Carolina Chocolate Drops — Genuine Negro Jig
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg — IRM (2009)
  • Chris Coole & Ivan Rosenberg — Farewell Trion
  • Colleen and Paul — Colleen and Paul
  • The Corin Tucker Band — 1,000 Years
  • Dan Jones — Dan Jones and The Squids:Live 09
  • Dan Jones & Peter Wilde — My Name Is John Smith
  • The Delgados — The Great Eastern (2000)
  • Dum Dum Girls — I Will Be
  • Eels — End Times
  • Eels — Tomorrow Morning
  • Elf Power — Elf Power
  • Entertainment For The Braindead — Roadkill
  • Final Fantasy — Heartland
  • Forest City Lovers — Carriage
  • Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People — The Sacred Prune Of Remembrance
  • Frightened Rabbit — The Winter of Mixed Drinks
  • Frontier Ruckus — Deadmalls and Nightfalls
  • Germans — Elf Shot Lame Witch (2008)
  • Goldfrapp — Head First
  • Gonja Sufi — A Sufi And A Killer
  • The Good Right Arm Stringband — The Good Right Arm Stringband
  • High Places — High Places vs. Mankind
  • Hold Your Horses! — 70 Million
  • The Hungry Moment — Phantom 45
  • Hurray for the Riff Raff — Young Blood Blues
  • James Blackshaw — All Is Falling
  • Joanna Newsom — Have One On Me
  • Jónsi — Go
  • Kyle Creed — Liberty (1977)
  • Ladies of the Canyon — Haunted Woman
  • M.I.A. — Maya
  • Macy Gray — The Sellout
  • Major Organ And The Adding Machine — Major Organ and the Adding Machine (re-release)
  • MGMT — Congratulations
  • Miles Kurosky — The Desert of Shallow Effects
  • Mojave 3 — Ask Me Tomorrow (1995)
  • Nana Grizol — “Ruth”
  • Nesey Gallons — Southern Winter by Smouldering Porches
  • The New Pornographers — Together
  • of Montreal — False Priest
  • Old Man Luedecke — My Hands Are On Fire and Other Love Songs
  • The Open Letters — Bicycle EP
  • Peter Stampfel & Baby Gramps — Outertainment
  • Peter Stampfel & Zöe Stampfel — Ass in the Air
  • Pocahaunted — Make It Real
  • Princess Pangolin — Princess Pangolin
  • Raymond Scott — Soothing Sounds For Baby (1963)
  • Robyn Hitchcock — Propellor Time
  • The Ruby Suns — Fight Softly
  • Smoosh — Withershins
  • Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin — Let It Sway
  • Stereo Total — Baby Ouh!
  • Suckers — Wild Smile
  • Sufjan Stevens — All Delighted People EP
  • Sufjan Stevens — The Age of Adz
  • Sunbear — Moonbath
  • The Superions — the Superions
  • The Tallest Man On Earth — The Wild Hunt
  • Tune-Yards — Bird-Brains (2009)
  • The Turtles — The Turtles Present The Battle of the Bands (1968)
  • Vampire Weekend — Contra

Must be getting old; two of the albums (Bertrand Belin and Brett Dennen) I bought because I heard tracks on the radio. Consequently, I predict Lawrence Welk in my best of 2011.

best of 2009 (top 10 for hexadactyls)

Again, to my own rules; what I discovered this year, and not necessarily ten:

  • Spoils — Alasdair Roberts. Alasdair’s transformed from a good (if somewhat doleful) Scottish folkie to a full-on demented psych-folker with this record. The Wyrd Meme EP is nifty too.
  • Banjo — Billy Faier. I know this album was recorded in the 1970s, but it’s as far away from tedious lick-based picking that most people link to the banjo. The fact that Billy’s giving it away free now doesn’t hurt, either. It’s kinda prog banjo, if you must.
  • Old Dog — Chris Coole. Chris has been recording for more than a decade, but this is his first solo album. Fabulous songwriting (Old Dog, and The Bottle Got the Best of Me is sounds like something that Porter and Dolly should’ve sung), brilliant playing, and all this from a man who can smack himself inadvertantly on the nose with his own coffee grinder.
  • Signal Morning — Circulatory System. Only five years late. Worth every minute.
  • Clifton Hicks — Clifton Hicks. Zero production; just a guy singing along with his banjo. But both so well.
  • Hypersomnia — entertainment for the braindead. Julia Kotowski makes achingly beautiful lo-fi noises.
  • Sing the Greys — Frightened Rabbit. Visiting Scotland, and having a crappy job over the summer, made this my singalong-driving album of the year. The Midnight Organ Fight has a high nift-factor too.
  • Yours Truly, The Commuter — Jason Lytle. Probably better than anything he did with Grandaddy. His free christmas album of piano music is pretty spiffy too.
  • Lord Cut-Glass — Lord Cut-Glass. I didn’t get into the Delgados when they were around (silly me; there was some fine fine music in Scotland while I still lived there), but Alun Woodward belted out a classic this year. Bought on a whim (a small Scottish coin, or unicycle) at Monorail in Glasgow, it’s a favourite when stuck in traffic on the 401.
  • Waxing Gibbous — Malcolm Middleton. Who knew that miserabilism was so much fun? Actually, it was Devil and the Angel from his first album that got me back into his work.
  • Love It Love It — Nana Grizol. And I do love it; noisy punk from the friends of Elephant Six. Technically the new album Ruth comes out next year, but it’s out already if you’re not hung up on physical media.
  • These Four Walls — We Were Promised Jetpacks. Scottish – yeah!

Quite a bit of Scottish content in there, I know.

Some late arrivals and miscellaneous:

  • I was probably supposed to like Goodnight Oslo by Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 more than I do, but there was so much music this year it kind of got buried.
  • My sister  (Wendy Arrowsmith) has a new album out, Seeds of Fools.
  • Dunno what Friendly Rich was thinking releasing Pictures at an Exhibition so late in the year. It’s a twisted jazz take on Mussorgsky, and nothing to be modest about.

2009 contenders

This year, I can revert to my own slightly unusual system of the music that found me during the year. I listened to a lot in 2009:

  • Délivrance — A Hawk And A Hacksaw
  • Reservoir — Ah Holly Faml’y
  • How To Get To Heaven From Scotland — Aidan Moffat + The Best Ofs
  • Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free — Akron/Family
  • Spoils — Alasdair Roberts
  • The Wyrd Meme — Alasdair Roberts
  • Alela & Alina — Alela Diane featuring Alina Hardin
  • The Pirate’s Gospel — Alela Diane
  • To Be Still — Alela Diane
  • Old Crows / Young Cardinals — Alexisonfire
  • Danse Manatee — Animal Collective
  • Merriweather Post Pavilion — Animal Collective
  • Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’re Vanished — Animal Collective
  • Monday At The Hug And Pint — Arab Strap
  • Calling Out of Context — Arthur Russell
  • Springfield — Arthur Russell
  • Litany — Arvo Pärt
  • March of the Zapotec & Realpeople: Holland — Beirut
  • Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant — Belle and Sebastian
  • The Life Pursuit — Belle and Sebastian
  • Both Sides Of The Gun — Ben Harper
  • let’s do something… — Bill Evans & Megan Lynch
  • Banjo — Billy Faier
  • Banjos, Birdsong, and Mother Earth — Billy Faier
  • Live at the Cafe Lena — Billy Faier
  • The Art of the Five String Banjo — Billy Faier
  • The Beast of Billy Faier — Billy Faier
  • Travelin’ Man — Billy Faier
  • In The Future — Black Mountain
  • Together Through Life — Bob Dylan
  • Blood Bank — Bon Iver
  • For Emma, Forever Ago — Bon Iver
  • The Very Best Of Booker T. & The MG’s — Booker T. & The MG’s
  • Words of Wisdom — Brian Dewan
  • Another Green World — Brian Eno
  • I Just Wasn’t Meant For These Times — Brian Wilson
  • Gold — Buddy Holly
  • My Maudlin Career — Camera Obscura
  • Underachievers Please Try Harder — Camera Obscura
  • Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) — Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band
  • Modern Silence — Casper & The Cookies
  • Jukebox — Cat Power
  • Bird and Diz — Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie
  • Old Dog — Chris Coole
  • Inside Views — Circulatory System
  • Signal Morning — Circulatory System
  • Bring Me Your Love — City And Colour
  • Clifton Hicks — Clifton Hicks
  • Outer South — Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
  • Superfly — Curtis Mayfield
  • Hey Everyone — Dananananaykroyd
  • 1990 — Daniel Johnston
  • Dirt of the Angel — Danny Barnes
  • The Folkways Years 1959-61 — Dave Van Ronk
  • Curse Your Branches — David Bazan
  • David Henman Band — David Henman Band
  • …For The Whole World To See — Death
  • Venus on Earth — Dengue Fever
  • Pioneers Who Got Scalped: The Anthology — Devo
  • Fly — Dixie Chicks
  • Home — Dixie Chicks
  • At Newport — Dizzy Gillespie
  • Heavy Ghost — DM Stith
  • Hombre Lobo — Eels
  • Mountain Meadows — Elliott Brood
  • Elvis Perkins In Dearland — Elvis Perkins In Dearland
  • What Is Free To A Good Home? — Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton
  • Watch The Fireworks — Emma Pollock
  • Dead Relatives — Emm Gryner
  • The Summer Of High Hopes — Emm Gryner
  • hydrophobia — entertainment for the braindead
  • Hypersomnia — entertainment for the braindead
  • Raw Timber EP — entertainment for the braindead
  • seven (+1) [aaahh.005] — entertainment for the braindead
  • Distillation — Erin McKeown
  • Sing You Sinners — Erin McKeown
  • We Will Become Like Birds — Erin McKeown
  • Liege & Lief — Fairport Convention
  • Reservoir — Fanfarlo
  • Fleet Foxes — Fleet Foxes
  • Flight Of The Conchords — Flight Of The Conchords
  • Lungs — Florence and The Machine
  • Folk Uke — Folk Uke
  • Roughin’ It — Fred Spek’s Camp Combo
  • Quietly Now! — Frightened Rabbit
  • Sing the Greys — Frightened Rabbit
  • Swim Until You Can’t See Land — Frightened Rabbit
  • The Midnight Organ Fight — Frightened Rabbit
  • St. Elsewhere — Gnarls Barkley
  • Felt Mountain — Goldfrapp
  • Seventh Tree — Goldfrapp
  • Supernature — Goldfrapp
  • Veckatimest — Grizzly Bear
  • Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill — Grouper
  • Ellipse — Imogen Heap
  • Speak for Yourself — Imogen Heap
  • The Creek Drank the Cradle — Iron & Wine
  • Keep Me In Mind Sweetheart EP — Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
  • Privilege — Ivor Cutler
  • The Inspiration Of William Blake — Jah Wobble
  • The Glass Bead Game — James Blackshaw
  • Yours Truly, The Commuter — Jason Lytle
  • The Utmost — Jayme Stone
  • Riceboy Sleeps — Jónsi & Alex
  • Ramblin’ Son — Julian Fauth
  • Autobahn — Kraftwerk
  • Tour De France — Kraftwerk
  • World of Goo Soundtrack — Kyle Gabler
  • Of Whales and Woe — Les Claypool
  • Alright, Still — Lily Allen
  • It’s Not Me, It’s You — Lily Allen
  • Lord Cut-Glass — Lord Cut-Glass
  • The Liberty of Norton Folgate — Madness
  • Snakebite — Magic Slim & The Teardrops
  • Kiss Me Quick — Makita Hack And The Log Rollers
  • 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine — Malcolm Middleton
  • A Brighter Beat — Malcolm Middleton
  • Sleight Of Heart — Malcolm Middleton
  • Waxing Gibbous — Malcolm Middleton
  • Dibango: Rough Guide to Manu Dibango — Manu Dibango
  • Little Hells — Marissa Nadler
  • Youth — Matisyahu
  • Big Meal Time! — Max & Frank Evans with the Family Supper Stringband
  • Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? — Metric
  • Oracular Spectacular — MGMT
  • Armchair Boogie — Michael Hurley
  • Ida Con Snock — Michael Hurley
  • Singing Insects of Missouri — Missouri Department of Conservation
  • Toads and Frogs in Missouri — Missouri Department of Conservation
  • The Hawk Is Howling — Mogwai
  • Hold Time — M. Ward
  • Love It Love It — Nana Grizol
  • “Ruth” — Nana Grizol
  • Middle Cyclone — Neko Case
  • Obligatory Villagers — Nellie McKay
  • Lipstick Killers — New York Dolls
  • At My Age — Nick Lowe
  • Chelsea Girl — Nico
  • Hymns and Hers — Oliver Schroer
  • Achilles’ Heel — Pedro The Lion
  • At 89 — Pete Seeger
  • Wonderland — Pogo
  • Like Hearts Swelling — Polmo Polpo
  • Porn Sword Tobacco — Porn Sword Tobacco
  • The Rubber Room — Porter Wagoner
  • Tales From The Punchbowl — Primus
  • Different Class — Pulp
  • The Essential Ramblin’ Jack Elliot — Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
  • Raising Sand — Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
  • Goodnight Oslo — Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3
  • Exit Strategy Of The Soul — Ron Sexsmith
  • Time Being — Ron Sexsmith
  • Sam Hinton Sings the Song of Men — Sam Hinton
  • Whoever Shall Have Some Good Peanuts — Sam Hinton
  • Smokin’ and Drinkin’ — Scotty Campbell and His Wardenaires
  • Secret Machines — Secret Machines
  • Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols — Sex Pistols
  • The Remix Album…Diamonds Are Forever — Shirley Bassey
  • Color Voice — Sinkane
  • Stand! — Sly and the Family Stone
  • Love.Life.Ukulele — Sophie Madeleine
  • African Spirit — Soweto Gospel Choir
  • Tres Tres Fort — Staff Benda Bilili
  • Telescope — Steve Dawson
  • Let’s Get Small — Steve Martin
  • The Crow — Steve Martin
  • Never Gonna Touch the Ground — Still Flyin’
  • Barn Yard Banjo Pickin’ — Stringbean
  • The BQE — Sufjan Stevens
  • 25 O’Clock (Remastered) — The Dukes of Stratosphear
  • Psonic Psunspot (Remastered) — The Dukes of Stratosphear
  • Buddha Electrostorm — Thee American Revolution
  • I Thought You Knew — The Ebony Hillbillies
  • Sabrina’s Holiday — The Ebony Hillbillies
  • Hex Enduction Hour — The Fall
  • Are You Sleepy? — The Gerbils
  • Shout Monah — The Haints Old Time Stringband
  • The Smell Of Our Own — The Hidden Cameras
  • Tyrannosaurus Hives — The Hives
  • 21 Singles — The Jesus & Mary Chain
  • At Large — The Kingston Trio
  • Something Else by The Kinks — The Kinks
  • Monk’s Music — Thelonious Monk
  • Bootleg Six-Pack — The Mammals
  • Evolver — The Mammals
  • Mount Eerie — The Microphones
  • Thieves — The Organ
  • The Phonemes — The Phonemes
  • There’s Something We’ve Been Meaning to Do — The Phonemes
  • The End of the World — The Real Tuesday Weld
  • England’s Newest Hit Makers — The Rolling Stones
  • New Seasons — The Sadies
  • Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters — The Twilight Sad
  • The Flat Earth (Collector’s Edition) — Thomas Dolby
  • The Golden Age Of Wireless (Collector’s Edition) — Thomas Dolby
  • The Singular Thomas Dolby — Thomas Dolby
  • FeelingPulledApartByHorses — Thom Yorke
  • O — Tilly and the Wall
  • Music for Spaceships and Forests — twi the humble feather
  • Introducing Vakoka — Vakoka
  • Tight Knit — Vetiver
  • At the Cut — Vic Chesnutt
  • Unmap — Volcano Choir
  • How Can I Keep From Singing — Wendi Hunter
  • Seeds of Fools — Wendy Arrowsmith
  • These Four Walls — We Were Promised Jetpacks
  • Let’s Talk About It — White Denim
  • Dos — Wooden Shjips
  • Fever To Tell — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • It’s Blitz! — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Show Your Bones — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Crusp Srexstling — Zumm Zumm

best of 2008

Best albums; and yeah, even in order of preference:

  1. Shall Noise Upon — Apollo Sunshine: came to this completely cold, having never even heard of them. Stylistically all over the place: whisky and hellfire on one track giving way to mellow dippiness that I think even McCa would blanch at. Ultimately, it’s Singing To The Earth (To Thank Her For You) that sold it to me.
  2. Funplex — The B-52’s: worth the wait from 1992. Fun dance music with gleefully smutty lyrics. Now my very favourite B-52’s album.
  3. Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes — The Music Tapes: look, it’s got Freeing Song By Reindeer on it. If it doesn’t make you shed tears of joy while you caterwaul Ride the elves’ cloven-hooved horsey … along with Julian, there’s something wrong with you.
  4. Proof of Love — Old Man Luedecke: Chris Luedecke just gets better and better as a songwriter, and his self-deprecating stage persona as Old Man Luedecke is a hoot.
  5. Recapturing the Banjo — Otis Taylor: great banjo work from this bluesman.
  6. Everytime! —Sheesham & Lotus: the high-steppin’, cake-walkin’ fiddle, banjo and harmonica duo release their first official album, recorded in crackly faux-78 “Sepiatone”. Almost as much fun as seeing them live.
  7. Earth Sciences — Laura Barrett: Toronto’s queen of the kalimba‘s second EP wins out over her full length release (Victory Garden), in that the EP has Robot Ponies, and doesn’t have the annoying final track which appears to be all of the other tracks layered on top of one another.
  8. Luna — The Aliens: Piper-era Floyd mixed with the Beach Boys, all fed through a special Fife filter.
  9. Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust — Sigur Rós: I still have no idea what they’re singing about, but I wish they’d keep doing it.
  10. Then We Were Older — Ideal Free Distribution: another slab of catchy psych-pop from Kentucky.

Near Miss: Holler and Stomp — Dressy Bessy: angular bubblegum pop, quite delightful.
Definitely Demented: Live! From CarnEGGy Hall — Orriel Smith: seriously, coloratura chicken impersonations. Beyond weird, and beyond brilliant.
It Came Out Last Year, So Now It’s All Car Ads: Oh, My Darling — Basia Bulat: despite that, it’s great. And she plays autoharp.

2008 contenders

I fear I may have to play by the “best of” rules that everyone else plays by this year. As I have had to rip and encode all of my albums this year, I can’t tell which older releases I bought this year. So here are the 2008 releases:

  • A Sound Legacy: 60 Years of Folkways Records and 20 Years of Smithsonian Folkways
  • Accelerate — R.E.M.
  • April — Sun Kil Moon
  • Bad Case of History — Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians
  • Cheap — Seasick Steve
  • Como Now: The Voices of Panola Co., Mississippi
  • Conor Oberst — Conor Oberst
  • Devotion — Beach House
  • Earth Sciences — Laura Barrett
  • Electronic Projects for Musicians — The Apples in Stereo
  • Everytime! — Sheesham and Lotus
  • Funplex — The B-52’s
  • Holler and Stomp — Dressy Bessy
  • In a Cave — Elf Power
  • Live at the Moonshine Café — Steve Payne with Al Lerman
  • Live! From CarnEGGy Hall — Orriel Smith
  • Luna — The Aliens
  • Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust — Sigur Rós
  • Modern Guilt — Beck
  • Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes — The Music Tapes
  • Proof of Love — Old Man Luedecke
  • Recapturing The Banjo — Otis Taylor
  • Sea Lion — The Ruby Suns
  • Shadow Cat — Robyn Hitchcock
  • Shall Noise Upon — Apollo Sunshine
  • Skeletal Lamping — Of Montreal
  • Soft Airplane — Chad Van Gaalen
  • Spectrum 14th century — Final Fantasy
  • That Lucky Old Sun — Brian Wilson
  • The Living and The Dead — Jolie Holland
  • The Singing Saw At Christmastime — Julian Koster
  • Then We Were Older — Ideal Free Distribution
  • Third — Portishead
  • Turn the Water on, Boy! — The Coal Porters
  • Victory Garden — Laura Barrett
  • Volume One — She & Him

best of 2007

I said I’d bend the rules a bit, but here’s the ten best albums I heard this year, in alphabetical order:

  • The AliensAstronomy For Dogs: add a Lone Pigeon to a few remaining Betas, and the result is funkiness. This album has more earworms than is safe. They are even better live.
  • Animal CollectiveStrawberry Jam: I pretty much have to be alone and sitting down to listen to this. For Reverend Green especially; it’s all involuntary limb movements, sinuses exploding with joy (this probably doesn’t happen to you, I hope), and ullulating Oo oo weeuh yeh … ee yeh yeh etc for me. Other Animals didn’t do so badly either this year: Panda Bear’s Person Pitch was joyful, and even the bafflingly backwards Pullhair Rubeye from Avey and Kría had something.
  • ColleenThe Golden Morning Breaks (2005): very sparse but beautiful notes. I’ll Read You a Story is the sound that angels make.
  • A Hawk And A Hacksaw And The Hun Hangár Ensemble: featuring magyar madness, crafty cimbalom, and the only piece of bagpipe music that won’t make you want to hack your ears off with a meat cleaver. It’s doubly nice that it features Zach Condon actually playing with his heroes, rather than just trying to sound like them.
  • Ideal Free Distribution: lush 60s rhythm and harmonies, with a ton of mellotron laid on top. Poppy enough that no-one I’ve played it to doesn’t like it.
  • Dan Jones and The SquidsTotally Human: Dan has clearly listened to a lot of both Robyn Hitchcock and The Minutemen, and has come up with a noisy but thoughtful album, which we play all the time.
  • Old Man LuedeckeHinterland (2006): merge sly alt.country lyrics with pretty clawhammer banjo, and you’ve got the Old Man. Bonus points for coupling the words “oracular bent” in a song, and getting away with it, too.
  • Ken ReaumeFour Horses: Ken quite modestly compares himself to Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. He’s easily the equal of both. Beautiful fingerpicking and whispered confessional lyrics.
  • Jesse Sykes & The Sweet HereafterLike, Love, Lust, & The Open Halls of the Soul: you’ll fall for Jesse’s world-weary lisp and the drawling psych guitar. I did (and unfortunately discovered her other two albums, Reckless Burning and Oh My Girl, are almost identical. Oh well; very good, but very samey).
  • Porter WagonerWagonmaster: if you’re gonna go, go out on a high note. That’s exactly what The Thin Man From West Plains did. It’s very straight country, but the decades of experience polish it brighter than rhinestones.

2007 contenders

I’m going to play the blogger’s best of the year game differently this year, but I need to keep the rules roughly the same so that I am (for once) on the same planet. I’m going to choose ten best albums, but they’re what I discovered in 2007, not just those released in 2007.

So these are my contenders:

  • A Hawk And A Hacksaw And The Hun Hangár EnsembleA Hawk And A Hacksaw And The Hun Hangár Ensemble
  • AirPocket Symphony
  • Akron/FamilyLove Is Simple
  • Akron/FamilyMeek Warrior (2006)
  • Animal CollectiveStrawberry Jam
  • Architecture In HelsinkiPlaces Like This
  • Avey Tare & Kría BrekkanPullhair Rubeye
  • BeesOctopus
  • BeirutThe Flying Club Cup
  • Black LipsGood Bad Not Evil
  • Bonnie Russell and the Russell FamilyMountain Dulcimer Galax Style (1995)
  • Bright EyesCassadaga
  • CaribouAndorra
  • Cathy FinkBanjo Talkin’
  • ColleenThe Golden Morning Breaks (2005)
  • Dan Jones and The SquidsTotally Human
  • Devendra BanhartSmokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
  • Dock BoggsHis Folkways Years (1963-1968) (1998)
  • DonovanBarabajagal (1969)
  • DonovanHurdy Gurdy Man (1968)
  • DonovanMellow Yellow (1967)
  • DonovanSunshine Superman (1966)
  • Enoch KentI’m a Rover (2006)
  • Erynn Marshall & Chris CooleMeet Me In The Music
  • FeistThe Reminder
  • Fountains of WayneTraffic and Weather
  • Fred Spek’s Camp ComboRock Paper Scissors (2006)
  • GrindermanGrinderman
  • Hamish ImlachCod Liver Oil & Orange Juice (2006)
  • Howe Gelb‘Sno Angel Like You (2006)
  • Ideal Free DistributionIdeal Free Distribution
  • Jeffrey Frederick & the ClamtonesThe Resurrection of Spiders in the Moonlight
  • Jesse Sykes & The Sweet HereafterLike Love, Lust, & The Open Halls of the Soul
  • Joanna NewsomJoanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band EP
  • John FaheyThe Best Of John Fahey Vol. 2 1964-1983 (2004)
  • Johnny CashAmerican I & II
  • Judee SillJudee Sill (2006)
  • Ken ReaumeFour Horses
  • Kevin DrewSpirit If…
  • Kilby SnowKilby Snow: Country Songs and Tunes with Autoharp
  • Kimberley RewRidgeway (2006)
  • Marissa NadlerSongs III: Bird On The Water
  • Michael HurleyFirst Songs (1964)
  • Mimi & Richard FariñaVanguard Visionaries – Mimi & Richard Fariña
  • Monica GrabinContinental Village
  • Neil YoungHarvest (1972)
  • Of MontrealHissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
  • Okkervil RiverThe Stage Names
  • Old Man LuedeckeHinterland (2006)
  • Otha TurnerEverybody Hollerin’ Goat (1998)
  • Panda BearPerson Pitch
  • Po’ GirlHome to You
  • Porter WagonerWagonmaster
  • RadioheadIn Rainbows
  • Ragged But RightDown Harmony Road
  • Robert Force & Albert d’OsschéTiger Dreams
  • Sons of the Never WrongNuthatch Suite (2005)
  • StewGuest Host (2000)
  • The AliensAstronomy For Dogs
  • The Apples in StereoNew Magnetic Wonder
  • The Arcade FireNeon Bible
  • The Besnard LakesThe Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse
  • The Carter FamilyThe Carter Family 1927-1934 (2001)
  • The Foggy Hogtown BoysPigtown Fling
  • The Harvey GirlsThe Wild Farewell (2005)
  • The High Water MarksPolar
  • The HouseplantsLivingroom
  • The HylozoistsLa Fin du Monde (2006)
  • The IciclesArrivals & Departures
  • The Ladybug TransistorCan’t Wait Another Day
  • The Negro ProblemPost Minstrel Syndrome (2002)
  • The Polyphonic SpreeThe Fragile Army
  • The Soft MachineThe Soft Machine (1968)
  • The UnicornsWho Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (2003)
  • They Might Be GiantsThe Else
  • Tiger Lillies (with Kronos Quartet)The Gorey End (2003)
  • Uncle Dave MaconClassic Sides
  • Various ArtistsSkiffle – The Best Of (2006)
  • Various ArtistsThe Old Time Banjo Festival
  • Vashti BunyanSome Things Just Stick in Your Mind
  • Wendy ArrowsmithNow Then…?
  • WilcoSky Blue Sky
  • Willie NelsonRed Headed Stranger (1975)

(Before you freak out at the number of CDs I bought, I do subscribe to emusic, so a bunch of these were MP3 only.)

best of 2006

In no order you’d care to guess:

  • The Information — Beck
  • Awoo — Hidden Cameras
  • The Optimist’s Club — Casper & the Cookies
  • Cue Are Es Tea You — Mayor McCa
  • The Sole Inhabitant — Thomas Dolby
  • The Jig Is Up — Peter Stampfel
  • Black Gold — King Biscuit Time
  • Calico — Erynn Marshall
  • Ys — Joanna Newsom
  • Olé! Tarantula — Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3
  • Cannibal Sea — The Essex Green
  • Just Like The Fambly Cat — Grandaddy
  • Back To The Web — Elf Power
  • The Eraser — Thom Yorke
  • The Crane Wife — The Decemberists
  • either Tales of the Rat Fink Original Soundtrack or In Concert Vol. 1 — The Sadies
  • The Way the Wind Blows — A Hawk and a Hacksaw

Discoveries of 2006: Karen Dalton, Nic Jones, Lee Hammons.

best o’ 2005

2005 was a pretty good year for music, but you had to dig for it. My maximal list, in alphabetical order:

  • A Hawk And A Hacksaw — Darkness At Noon
  • Animal Collective — Feels
  • Beck — Guero/Guerolito
  • Bright Eyes — Digital Ash In a Digital Urn/I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
  • Caribou — Marino Audio: yes, it’s a promo. A combination of the audio tracks from the Marino DVD release and the 2005 tour CD, I much prefer it to The Milk of Human Kindness.
  • The Decemberists — Picaresque: I know all the hip kids had it as MP3s last year.
  • Dressy Bessy — Electrified
  • The Fruit Bats — Spelled in Bones: folk, with just the right tinge of bubblegum
  • Malcolm Middleton — Into The Woods: anyone who can sing about the existential possibilities of Falkirk High station, and also about love & chips, is deep into the Scottish psyche.
  • Of Montreal — The Sunlandic Twins
  • Kate Rusby — The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly
  • Sigur Rós — Takk …: and yet I still don’t know what they’re singing about.
  • Sufjan Stevens — Illinois
  • Teenage Fanclub — ManMade
  • Vashti Bunyan — Lookaftering: don’t dismiss this as merely fey hippy nonsense; it’s beautiful fey hippy nonsense.

We like them, they like us:

  • Dan Jones — Get Sounds Now: Catherine’s elementary school friend rocks out
  • Lazerlove5 — Flicker Mask: fine funkiness from a fellow feg.

Excellent compilations from 2005:

  • Ivor Cutler — An Elpee and Two Epees
  • Charlie Poole & The Roots of Country Music — You Ain’t Talking to Me

Some excellent tracks, but not entirely memorable as albums:

  • Devendra Banhart — Cripple Crow: I’m a Child is crazed genius, but lose the Spanish lounge music, eh?
  • Eels — Blinking Lights And Other Revelations
  • Jennifer Gentle — Valende: I Do Dream You is the perfect garage punk song.
  • John Parish — Once Upon a Little Time
  • Sleater-Kinney — The Woods
  • Wolf Parade — Apologies to the Queen Mary: what was with the lumpen first few tracks?

Next year, look out for The Lollipop People’s We Need a New F-Word. I like their offensive avant-cabaret noise more than I should.