2006 will not go down in history as a banner year. Period.
If you had a good year please feel free to comment because I'd sincerely love to read about it. Take a moment, share your joy. The best I can say about 2006 is that some unlikely individuals squeezed out babies and December's weather here in NYC has been downright pretty. Broadway had a good year apparently but who honestly gives a rat's ass other than a few of my homosexual brethren. I did see my first Broadway play this year: George Bernard Shaw's 'Heartbreak House' which had something to do with dithering Capitalists welcoming war with wide-open arms. I don't know what that has to do with Britney's vagina but my date seemed to think it was all somehow relevant.
Here are my picks for 'albums' of the year (for real now, no fudging for hipster-cred):
10. Teddybears 'Soft Machine': Remember ABBA? The nostalgia machine won't let us forget. Thankfully 'Chiquitita' doesn't suck half as bad as I had thought at the time, back in the late 70's, when their synthetic harmonies were all over the radio. Sweden is once again Bubblehead Pop Ground Zero (other Swedes hogging Pitchfork hype: The Knife (technically techno), El Perro Del Mar, The Concretes, The Hives etc. etc.) but for me Teddybears' 'Soft Machine' is the motherlode. Every track would be ubiquitous radio smashes in a perfect world. The States should be suffering Teddybears fatigue right now but because Hip-Hop Nation has radio under lockdown, the only exposure they'll get is via car commercials and MySpace. Tracks of note: 'Yours To Keep' featuring Neneh Cherry's honey-sweet vocals and somewhere deep in the mix, Norway's Annie. Also 'Punkrocker', featuring Iggy Pop phoning it in. It's about as 'punk' as the theme from 'The Rockford Files' but you'll have to undergo laser brain-erasure after hearing it but one time. Both tracks are on Satisfaction Pony setlist heavy rotation.
9. Beth Orton 'Comfort Of Strangers': A lot of my friends must think she's dull as paste because they can never remember who she is but I think her voice is irresistable comfort food. It's like that slant of light that bathes the house you grew up in, just before the sun sinks in the west on a Sunday evening. Or fuck Dickinson, she's more like a slightly remorseful shiraz buzz. Plus she hangs out with very cool producers like Ben Watt and Four Tet. Starbucks never got around to co-opting her so you can still forge your own relationship with her, sans corporate endorsement. Standout tracks: 'Worms' and the title track which trips along gently like your babysitter on a couple caps of 'shrooms.
Um, some guy just knocked on my window and asked for five bucks. I know, I know...it's Christmas Eve and I should have forked it over but: Five bucks?! WTF?!
8. Justin Timberlake 'Futurelove/Sexsounds': Okay, okay...'Dick In A Box' was pretty fucking funny and 'What Goes Around...' is an amazing track, worthy of Al Green. I give up already. Jesus. It still feels like a Pat Boone whitewash. It's a Timbaland record for God's sake!
7. Black Lips 'Let It Bloom': I confess, I've never actually heard this album (mostly because I can't find it anywhere) but if it's half as good as their Springtime set @ Madison, Wisconsin's High Noon Saloon then it's a freaking classic. Look, I never said I was a critic...I'm a d.j. and a fan. Look out for their upcoming release. The buzz is strong. Jack White watch yourself.
6. 'Marie Antoinette' Original Soundtrack: I'll say this much, that Sofia Coppola sure can throw together a pretty soundtrack. Her 'Virgin Suicides' playlist made me weep like a wee little girl. And now she's introduced me to The Radio Dept. and reacquainted me with Gang Of Four in one fell swoop. Hatch some more Coppolas, Sofia...somebody needs to fill the Robert Altman void (r.i.p.).
In putting together this list I'm realizing that I don't actually listen to 'albums' anymore like I once did. iTunes has changed everything. Have I lost something here?
5. Louis XIV 'The Best Little Secrets Are Kept': I'm not actually certain when this was released but I've been discovering it and re-discovering it throughout the year. I'll put on iTunes Party Shuffle, walk away to shoo away this chip-hungry rat or that window-knocking vagrant and I'll hear something naughty that sort of sounds like Bon Scott's AC/DC and lo and behold it's always Louis XIV! Dirty dirty boys these Louis XIV. 'The Grand Apartment' is laugh out loud retarded and it's as fresh today as when I first heard it way back in February. Rock n' roll showmanship isn't dead, it's just a crime punishable by incarceration.
4. Vince Guaraldi Trio, 'A Charlie Brown Christmas': Why are you looking at me like that? Is there anything more perfect than the brush-snare wisp of 'Christmastime Is Here'? No. There isn't.
3. Spank Rock, 'Yoyoyoyoyo': Okay, this is what I'm talking about. This is what hip-hop once was and will be again: Total DIY, homebaked goodness. If you don't have a good time shaking your ass-hams to 'Sweet Talk' ('tap that ass/tap that ass/tap that ass') then you're without hope or purpose. Funny, beatcentric, melodic good-timing. And that's what it's all about.
2. Cat Power 'The Greatest': All of a sudden I love this bitch. I've hated her, almost irrationally, for so long and now I've been set free. Her mopey voice makes so much sense in the context of tune-impaired honky-tonk pianos recorded in somebody's gay uncle's rim-chair/sling hung from the ceiling room. She sounds as old as methuselah and as drunk as I tend to be and goshdarnit she's a looker on top of it all.
'Once I wanted to be the greatest/
No wind or waterfall could stop me/
Then came the rush of flood/
The stars at night turned you to dust.'
I'm sorry but that shit is wrenching. That's heartbreak etched into the walls of your cardiomyopic heart (or mine, rather).
1. Goldfrapp 'Supernatural'/Tom Waits 'Orphans' (tie):
As far as I'm concerned, Madonna can just retire because Goldfrapp is here to liberate dancefloors and groove-hungry aesthetes from their respective lock-step, drug-dependant stupors. Here's a diva who has taken classical romanticism absolutely seriously and then spins it to suit her own decadent, Weimar Germany needs. She is exactly what Bush-era America in decline requires. Her voice lacks American Idolatry because she's an iron goddess for the blitzkrieg but she's winking too. She's a populist, one of us...unlike Madonna, who makes it clear to us again and again that she's over us and that her producers will deal with her fanbase by proxy. Ultimately, I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about here, it's just that I'm feeling Goldfrapp whereas I can appreciate Madonna, much like I can blandly enjoy a waxwork.
Goldfrapp is the distaff version of Tom Waits. The Real Tomkat has been deep into fat beats for fifteen years or more and he keeps crowing in interviews about how his Tomkittens (Sullivan and Casey) keep him plugged into banging on shit and beat-boxing and whatnot and I pretty much believe him: He's definitely not faking the funk on 'Orphans', a collection so dense it would take you a month hunkered down in a cabin somewhere in the sticks, just you and your iPod, to sort it all out and absorb it. I certainly haven't managed to take it all in and I've been living with it for several weeks. All I can say so far is that his version of 'Goodnight Irene' is quite possibly the definitive (Leadbelly notwithstanding) and judging from 'Never Let Go', well, if Goldfrapp and Tom Waits ever did collaborate it would be an immaculate conception so delicious flashlights all around the world would spontaneously combust. (NOTE: I've been drinking).
So that's my list. Big whoop, I know...hey...I left out LeeAnn Womack who is responsible for the best country album of the year bar none. She evokes Nashville circa 1972 without getting lost in nostalgia and her restraint alone is worthy of inclusion on the PonyList. Sorry, LeeAnn. But you know that I love you.
I love you.
I really do.