2006 was a pretty lackluster year in terms of music, with few big releases and little innovation. There were some little nuggets of greatness in there however. I plan to get more into music in 2007, listening to new releases as they come into the music/DVD department I work in, since I feel sort of obligated to expand my knowledge anyway. But the following are the best CDs of 2006 in my little world.
1. Sunlight Searchparty - Val Emmich
Following up his major label debut Slow Down Kid, Val Emmich returns to a small indy label for his ambitious Sunlight Searchparty, where he takes his particular philosophy on music and realizes it. Emmich believes that anything can be done with studio magic, but music should hold mistakes and feel vaguely unpolished. An interesting idea. So before he went into the studio with his band this past summer, they practiced like crazy to create something quite extraordinary. With every song done in one take, the finished product is surprisingly professional. The CD has its flaws - the playful banter of the band on one song feels like they're beating the idea into you that it's live (although it's kind of neat on the flipside, feeling like you're in the studio with them), and the prelude to If They Come Again is interesting its first time around, but grates on the nerves afterwards. But this really is a spectacular CD in the end. Nearly every song exudes emotion with the raw energy that Emmich brings to the thoughtful, interesting lyrics with his vocals. I highly recommend seeking out this CD, though it's only available through a few outlets, Val Emmich's site being one such place. One of my favorite CDs ever, let alone from this year. I also recommend Emmich's Slow Down Kid, a pretty much flawless CD.
Key Tracks: Cover Up, Now Is No Time, High Noon, At the Risk of Sounding, If They Come Again.
2. Nightcrawler - Pete Yorn
Pete Yorn can pretty much do no wrong in my book. He croons like no one else on ballads and rocks out with the best of them. Nightcrawler is a pretty subdued CD in comparison to his previous two efforts, but it's still damn good, with interesting lyrics and classic songs that sit right along with many of his others. Nightcrawler completes the "day" trilogy of CDs that began with morningforthemorningafter and Day I Forgot. It'll be interesting to see where he goes next, but it's certain to be fantastic if his track record's any indicator.
Key Tracks: Policies, Maybe I'm Right, Same Thing, How Do You Go On?, Ice Age.
3. Eyes Open - Snow Patrol
Snow Patrol hit it big this year with Chasing Cars, the mainstream ballad off of an otherwise pretty interesting CD with an electronic sound and interesting beats, doing indy favorites like Deathcab For Cutie one better. A great vocalist and interesting melodies take the pretty straight-forward lyrics to another level. A very welcome one.
Key Tracks: Hands Open, Chasing Cars, Shut Your Eyes, It's Beginning To Get To Me, Headlights On Dark Roads.
Honorable mentions: Taking the Long Way from the Dixie Chicks is a welcome comeback for the trio in wake of the disgusting displays demonstrated by country stations across the US, proving that the group is here to stay and they can hold their heads up high. Long Island Shores by Mindy Smith is a really good folksy-pop CD from the singer whose breakthrough Come To Jesus bombarded airwaves a few years back. It's one of the more consistently good CDs out there. The Decemberists' CD The Crane Wife also kind of came out of left field with an interesting sound and haunting songs. And if you like jazz, Half the Perfect World is a nice CD from Madeiline Peyroux, whose voice boasts comparisons to Billie Holiday, with one of the best CD covers I've ever seen.