My original list:
1. Cat Power, The Greatest
2. Joanna Newsom, Ys
3. Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
4. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
5. Ali Farka Touré, Savane
6. Camille, Le Fil
7. Beyoncé, B’Day
8. Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope
9. Grizzly Bear, Yellow House
10. TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain
There wasn’t a huge amount to choose from in 2006, at least if you were looking in the usual places. The top sellers were High School Musical, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Nickelback, Justin Timerlake and James Blunt. The Pazz and Jop winners were Dylan, TV on the Radio, Ghostface Killah, the Hold Steady and Gnarls Barkley, followed by Arctic Monkeys, Clipse, Neko Case, Joanna Newsom and a Tom Waits miscellany.
I liked some of those, but not all, and looking back I’m not overwhelmed with feeling for the music of 2006. I stand by The Greatest; never been a huge Cat Power fan but this one really got under my skin, and despite my initial ambivalence it remains very powerful. Beyond that there are a lot of decent records but not many killers. Joanna Newsom only came alive for me in concert, and anyway The Milk-Eyed Mender is more convincing. So I’m moving that down. Arctic Monkeys feels like a blip now, and aside from “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley is more silly than great.
Other than The Greatest, the ones that hold up the best, in my view, are Camille, Ali Farka Touré and Grizzly Bear, so they’re all getting bumped up. I’m adding Justin Timberlake, which I’m not sure why I omitted three years ago, since I liked it then, too; it’s still dazzling, and while it doesn’t take itself seriously enough to really be called “visionary,” it certainly is futuristic. The other addition is Beirut, which now looks like a harbinger of the kitchen-sink multi-culti direction that indie rock was starting to go in, and Gulag Orkestar sums up the aesthetic with grace.
More comments: Camille’s Le Fil is an unrecognized masterpiece, a set of amazingly inventive vocal variations, Savane is spellbinding as Ali Farke Touré’s swan song (he died in early 2006), and Regina Spektor sounds pretty darn near perfection; Beyoncé is less strong but still fun enough to include.
Interesting that my original top 5 didn’t fare as well as the bottom 5. Why? No idea. Theories/challenges/rebuttals welcome.
So, here’s 2006 revised:
1. Cat Power, The Greatest
2. Camille, Le Fil
3. Ali Farka Touré, Savane
4. Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds
5. Grizzly Bear, Yellow House
6. Beirut, Gulag Orkestar
7. Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope
8. Joanna Newsom, Ys
9. TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain
10. Beyoncé, B’Day
Buncha ladies. That’s good.
My postmortems of 2007 and 2008 are coming next. I expect there will be less revision there since they’re more recent, but who knows. You can see my previous entries below, or, for those who are really lazy, here: 2000 and 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 and 2005.
(And 2009 is on its way, eventually.)