by Casey Rea
It’s nearly 2007, and there ain’t a damn thing we can do about it. So what have I learned in the last twelve months? That there are some arguments you just can't win, for one.
But let's move on. Inspired by Jay's lovely list, I've decided to reveal a few of my choice picks for '06.
That doesn't mean there weren't a handful of pleasant revelations. But let's not call it a "Best of." I think "Records I Happen to Dig" is more appropriate. Oh, and the ranking is completely arbitrary.
#1. Kayo Dot — Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
Is it metal? Is it experimental? Is it a quasi-pretentious mess? I still have no idea. But my puzzlement is no hindrance to enjoying this titanic slab of art-rock.
#2: Comets on Fire — Dogwood Rust
There are a lot of psych bands out there these days, and some of them should probably take more acid. These fellas don't need to. On earlier outings, COF's synapse-scrambling jams tended toward orgiastic squalls of fuzz. Here, they experiment with sun-baked ephemera, sounding like a grizzled cross between (here we go again) early Blue Oyster Cult and the Dead.
#3: Espers — II
I used to not like Espers much, but this record rules. Previously, they were a pale imitation of several acts, including Pentangle and Vashti. Now they've metamorphosed into an acoustic/prog chimera of remarkable strength. And how can I not include a band that sparked the "what is folk" discussion on this very blog?
#4: John Phillips — John the Wolfking of L.A.
Somehow being betrothed to the foxiest member of the Mamas & Papas wasn't good enough for this guy. Originally released to critical antipathy back in 1970, this long out-of-print album has aged better than many envisioned. It chronicles Phillips' post-fame dalliances with women and drugs — hardly groundbreaking in and of itself. But everything is set to a flaky, country-rock groove that goes great with whiskey 'n' Quaaludes. Yee-haw!
#5: Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins — Rabbit Fur Coat
Jenny, Jenny, Jenny. Let me count the ways I love thee: First is your razor-sharp wit that cuts to the quick yet leaves no permanent scarring. Oh, you surgeon of the coyest cruelties! Second is your voice — a sweet 'n' sour mix of tender resentment. Third is your fetching appearance. Umm, I think I need to stop there. I'm almost a married man.
#6: Mastodon — Blood Mountain
Major label metal kicking ass in ’06? Who could’ve imagined? As an aging shredder, I have to admire the sheer intensity this band brings to the table. To my ears, Mastodon sound like the missing link between ‘90s miscreants Kyuss and the new generation of technical hardcore brats. Besides, where are you gonna hear another song about a Cyclops this year? Well, besides my second pick.
#7: Matmos — The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast
San Francisco duo Matmos are one of the best bands working in electronic composition, hands down. They’re not exactly “underground” (nor is this list, for that matter) but M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel possess a level of artistry that makes all of their releases worth investigating. And this one is no exception. Although I often forget to listen to it, when I do, I something new is revealed.
#8: Loscil — Plume
Another album I forget lives in my iPod. Scott Morgan, a.k.a Loscil, creates gracious, patient music that actually goes somewhere. He’s really hit his mark with Plume, an album that provides frosty ambient with a pulse. If you like dark drone, but find Lustmord too oppressive, this one is for you.
#9: Serena Maneesh — Serena Maneesh
Technically this was available in ’05, but I got it upon domestic release in May. I’m including it to prove that I can like Norwegian bands heavily influenced by the styles of yesteryear! This is straight-up shoegaze, no doubt about it. But I haven’t heard such a satisfying take on the sound since the genre’s heyday. And the publicists by and large left me alone.
#10: M. Ward — Post-War
I like his rough, manly voice. And the fact that he doesn’t use AutoTune.
#11: Woven Hand — Mosaic
Christianity has never sounded so bleak. Except during the crusades. And the Inquisition. And the Salem witch trials. Aww, forget it. Anyway, David Eugene Edwards’ post-16 Horsepower work is like M. Gira’s Angels of Light in Sunday School. Which is to say, brooding, ironhanded and totally devotional.
#12: Sunn 0))) & Boris — Altar
Beauty + Doom = Altar. This review will further elucidate.
#13: Brightblack Morning Light — Brightblack Morning Light
Wow — two Matador releases made my list! Maybe co-owner (and sports enthusiast) Gerard Cosloy will take back the mean things he said about me for pissing on the now-defunct Prosaics. But I doubt it. Anyway, this record was pretty hyped, and a lot of people found it dull. To that, I say: drink more Robitussin and get back to me.