Time for my top CD's of 2006. I was going to do the top 10, but I'm taking it up a notch. Too many good ones to limit it to 10.
Disclaimer: My funds are limited and I can't buy or listen to every CD worth listening to. These are my top CD's of 2006. There are probably some that would make my list or at least put up a fight: Grizzly Bear, Asobi Seksu, Midlake, Jeremy Enigk, The Mountain goats, and more. But I can't live on what I don't know, so on with the list...
21. Wolfmother: Wolfmother
Break out the air guitar and nail down a few power chords. Wolfmother is the real deal. It hints at old Ozzy, but without Satan. I noticed that "Woman" is stadium music in the new Madden 07 for PS2. My kids have also noticed it on commercials. It's powerful, blood-pumping stuff.
Download: "White Unicorn," "Woman"
20. Alan Jackson: Like Red On a Rose
The best popular level country album I've heard in a long time. And it encourages slowing down, making out, and all that good stuff.
Download: "The Fireflys Song," "Nobody Said It Would Be Easy"
19. Decemberists: The Crane Wife
The last Decemberists CD was pretty good, not great. This is a great CD with a few unexpected sounds and melodies. Really enjoyable.
Download: "The Island," "Sons & Daughters"
18. Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
This one was slow to grow on me, but it's become a regular listen now. Neko can sing, and this alt/country is worth every penny.
Download: "Maybe Sparrow," "Star Witness"
17. The Avett Brothers: Four Theives Gone
After hearing a cut from this CD on NPR I spent a few days searching for this CD. After picking it up I had to get their other stuff. This is alt/bluegrass/emo/screamo/country at its best. And yes, I know that's a strange thing to say.
Download: "Left on Laura, Left on Lisa," "Famous Flower of Manhattan"
16. Josh Ritter: The Animal Years
I really debated putting this higher on my list. Stephen King puts it first. It's great acoustic, Dylanesque stuff. Ritter is a master songwriter. His earlier stuff is good too.
Download: "Thin-Blue Flame," "Girl in the War"
15. Mat Kearney: Nothing Left to Lose
In 2004 Kearney released Bullet, which was a small release and just fantastic. This CD is the big release of some of Bullet and some new stuff on a new label. It blows Bullet away.
Download: "Crashing Down," "Where Do We Go From Here"
14. M. Ward: Post-War
This is the first M. Ward CD that doesn't encourage me to skip over a song or two as I listen. His style is a bit strange; it took me some time to enjoy it. But the genius of the music pushed me onward, and I'm thankful.
Download: "Poison Cup," "Post-War"
13. Beirut: Gulag Orkestar
Wow, this CD is something. It's so different for me, and so enjoyable. I remember listening to it on a road trip with Joe Thorn to the Southern Baptist Convention in North Carolina. We both just loved it. I think you would too.
Download: "Brandenburg," "Postcards From Italy"
12. Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins: Rabbit Fur Coat
I didn't think I'd like this CD. I wasn't impressed with the reviews so I just forgot about it. Something recently led me to buy it, and I'm glad I did. You know, there are some songs in the world that pop into your head at unexpected times and annoy you. Most of the 80's comes into mind. Then there are songs and melodies that haunt you. For some reason Lewis' voice is always around.
Download: "Rise Up With Fists!!!," "The Changing Sky"
11. Espers: II
I read a few obscure reviews before this CD came out and figured it would be good to try. This album still blows me away. It's stunning. It leaves you dazed and dazzled at the music and the harmonies. It's a melancholy 70's folk masterpiece.
Download: "Cruel Storm," "Dead Queen"
10. Joanna Newsome: Ys
Running through a forest of fairy tales and melodies plucked on a harp. Beautiful, wistful, powerful. Newsome's syrupy voice fits the genre, and her poetry is even better.
Download: "Emily," "Cosmia"
9. The Black Angels: Passover
I heard the dude at KEXP say that this is his album of the year. That was enough for me to give it a try. The Black Angels are a bit of a rock flashback, conjuring up 70's war-related stuff. But it's every bit today as well. When I need to crank it up a bit, I go here.
Download: "The First Vietnamese War," "The Prodigal Sun"
8. Regina Spektor: Begin To Hope
This is a recent purchase, but it has been the CD of choice for our family ever since. This is Fiona Apple without the deep voice. Spektor's voice is a jewel, and she uses it brilliantly. She is strong, but playful. And when she's playful, she is at her best.
Download: "Fidelity," "Samson"
7. Cat Power: The Greatest
Chan Marshall's CD has been in my blood for months. This was an early front-runner for #1. This music is full and meaty because of great songwriting.
Download: "Lived in Bars," "Willie"
6. Tom Waits: Orphans
This is a difficult CD set for me to explain. It's three CD's: Brawler, Bawlers, and Bastards. The set is full of rarities and new stuff. Waits' voice is gravel and acid at times, other times he sounds broken and hurting. I was really afraid Orphans would lose iPod rotation quickly. Man was I wrong.
Download (a few selections from each CD): "Low Down," "Rains on Me," "You Can Never Hold Back Spring," "Never Let Go," "Books of Moses," "Two Sisters," "Home I'll Never Be"
5. Sleeping At Last: Keep No Score
When Sigur Ros gets converted and sings in English, they may sound a little like Sleeping At Last. This is Coldplayish, melody-driven, and fantastic. This is the one CD I own where the lyrics are more important than the music.
Download: "Careful Hands," "Hold Still"
4. Band of Horses: Everything All the Time
Yeah, this is on most lists. And it should be. "The Funeral" will be on most lists of best songs, and it should be. What a debut CD. I think "Monsters" is the best song by a mile, and that is saying a lot. If you don't have this one, get it.
Download: "The Funeral," "Monsters"
3. Page France: Hello, Dear Wind
I so wanted to make this #1. This album is incredible. This is what Christ-haunted music is supposed to sound like. This is what redemptive music sounds like. The theology is storied and not outlined. The Cross bleeds through the music.
Download: "Chariot," "Feather"
2. Joseph Arthur: Nuclear Daydream
I think Arthur's stuff is masterful. It's creative and thoughtful. Good beats, winsome melodies.
Download: "Black Lexus," "Don't Tell Your Eyes"
1. Shearwater: Palo Santo
This CD is unbelievable. I listen to it over and over and it just keeps impressing me. It's the CD I go to for time in my study and sermon work. It's haunting, at times so gentle, and at times in your face. It's amazing.
Download: "Nobody," "Hail, Mary"
A few honorable mentions: Anathallo, Danielson, Jose Gonzalez, Phoenix, Serena-Maneesh, Silversun Pickups, TV on the Radio.