Close, but no cigar! A-L of the The Twenty Albums From 2006 I Kept Eight Or More Songs From!
Jon Auer, Songs From The Year Of Our Demise
His voice and songsense are pretty in a way that can be expected from a Big Star sideman who sang Grant Hart's "Green Eyes" a few years ago and wrote a song called "Grant Hart" a few years before that. What's surprising is that, ten years after the Posies were thrown from DGC and forced to breastfeed off their indie cult, his debut solo full-length would be so memorable and grand. Like Grant Hart, his morbid lyrics are usually less convincing than his melodies, but he's putting more work into his craft than I expect from semi-pop lifers who only need preach to the converted.
Blowoff consists of two well-toned and shorn gay dudes who throw shirtless parties in DC and make the kind of techno-rock you'd find on late 90's soundtracks (that "Setting Sun", Crystal Method Vs. Filter shit). I'm not familiar with the work of DJ Robert Morel, but I know the discography of the other guy, Bob Mould, pretty well, and it's official that he's at his best when he has to share credit with other people. This would have had to come out right after Sugar's Besides to sound remotely hip, but Mould's more engaged over these dance beats than on recent solo efforts (the author of "The Biggest Lie" now sighs about trying to get to "Overload"! Yow!) and Morel's shoutinglagerlagerlagerlager holds up to David Barbe if not Grant Hart. (I can't find any Blowoff youtube, so check out their Myspace page and enjoy some Husker Du)
Ciara, Ciara: The Evolution
Meta interludes sound stupid from just about anyone, and Ciara's no exception. But there's way too much fun on this album for me to sweat it much. Her voice is tender but assertive, her restraint less about being demure than simply knowing her limits. Her persona on the less literal tracks is one of a nice, romantic girl with enough common sense not to put up with crap from boys. From this context, her retro moves just seem like a taste for reliable pleasures (hey, I too love "Planet Rock" and "It Takes Two"). As long as her silly pretensions stay mostly on skippable skits, we're cool.
Kimya Dawson, Remember That I Love You
I hope that motherhood gives her something new to write about, because constant touring is leading to fewer novel rhymes and more livejournal-style status reports. But she's still capable of great twee ("Joey never met a bike that he didn't want to ride/ and I never met a Toby that I didn't like/ Scotty liked all of the books that I recommended/ and even if he didn't I wouldn't be offended") and "My Mom" and "12/26" are proof she hasn't lost her gift for heartbreaking empathy. Comparing the MP3 demo of "Loose Lips" to the version here reveals how much better she sounds without her buds hollering along. But when she busts out a batshit road-radio medley (Bette Midler into Metallica into Third Eye Blind into Edwin McCain) I can see why she wants her sing-alongs to include other singers.
E-40, My Ghetto Report Card
Judging from his overly g-funked best-of and the faceless if enjoyable Hyphy Hits comp, E-40 and this Bay Area brand of disco clap have a mutually beneficial union. The veteran swagger that seperates him from other crime-fetishizing egomaniac misogynists (is there anyone else today that sounds like they may have been influenced by KRS-One?) is most easily appreciated when the music supplies enough firecrackers for all asses in earshot (Keak Da Sneak also works better as a firecracker than as a track's focus). The album eventually trails off into uncharming ho dismissal, but thanks to Rick Rock and Lil Jon, the first half or so boogies past any qualms.
East River Pipe, What Are You On?
First, you think that East River Pipe songs, especially bitter jokes like "What Does T.S. Eliot Know About You?" or the resigned ballads like "Druglife," are begging for covers from folks who can get them more attention than the bedroom recordings of a shy guy who works at Home Depot usually receive. But then you wonder if any singer could resist the urge to add pathos or smirk to his slices of despondent life. You also realize that the vocals and music are pretty damn coherent for bedroom recordings. Finally, you just wish more people would hear his music.
Field Mob, Light Poles And Pine Trees
In which amiable if corny also-rans offer spins on other people's sounds and stand behind Ciara and Ludacris in the videos. "At The Park," which literalizes the food metaphors and jacks the vibe of Trick Daddy's "Sugar," is the highlight. "I Hate You," with the guy from Lazyeye(?) barking the chorus from "Caught Out There," is the dorky low. But the celebrity collabs seem more evenhanded on disc than on MTV, "1,2,3" is as good a screwed southern brag as I heard this year, and the sex rhymes are as cute as they are vulgar.
Ghostface Killah, More Fish
Also more Theodore Unit, which sucks (though I love to hear Eamon try out for Three Times One Minus One on Shawn Wigs' "Gotta Hold On"). The cover's unpromising enough that I planned to ignore this like I do most mixtapes. But rather than freestyles with commercial interruption, these are tangents and ephemera that didn't fit Fishscale's overriding narrative (waiting for GQ to declare this album "the black Amnesiac"). I love the fantasies about Minnesota, Hollywood and the World Poker Championship, "Josephine" deserves a video, and some of those group tracks would have been fine on Fishscale. I do wish the Beyonce remix was here along with the excellent Ne-Yo and Amy Winehouse.
Grandaddy, Just Like The Fambly Cat
Jason Lytle goes on a bit for somebody who says he's tired of going on and on, but I believe his new year's resolution of "50% less words" and that this is the last album he'll ever do. These noised-up fuzz-odes to old girlfriends, summers gone and outdated technology are some of his strongest - he wants to leave you something to remember him by. I did enough talk about moving on myself this year that I'm more than sympathetic, though in general I think you're better off going somewhere rather than leaving. If he changes his mind about retirement, I hope he takes longer than Jay-Z did and does a better job explaining why he came back.
Lyfe Jennings, The Phoenix
Rich's review on FourFour (last time I'm kissing his ass for a while, promise) got me to check out the album, so you should read it too. Lyfe is hands-down my favorite lyricist of the year: unbelievably eccentric, but so visionary and convincing that I never feel like laughing. If it wasn't for the excruciating intros before EVERY song, The Phoenix would probably make my top ten.
(Previous entry: The Twenty Albums From 2006 I Kept Eight Or More Songs From! (M-Z))