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Top Ten

The Year in Music

Uli Loskot

Top Ten 2006

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Posted 12/13/2006

A bad year for hip-hop? People kept saying that throughout the last 12 months, but you'd never know it to look at the results of our 2006 Top 10, with no less than six rap albums placing. Maybe hip-hop really is the last populist genre in town worth a damn. That certainly seems to be true among many critics; none of ours seemed too interested in stumping for Sugarland or Hinder or Rascal Flatts or any of 2006's chart-topping non-rap. (Whether that's evidence of a hip-hop bias or the fact that all that stuff, like, really sucks is up to you.) And even the populist part is up for debate, given that many of our hip-hop picks were, well, commercial flops. Commercial flops on major labels and by artists whose names your rap-hating uncle might even recognize, but nonetheless.

But then, at this point, what isn't a commercial flop? Hot artists with a huge online and/or press buzz can sell exactly squat. Better to just find the stuff that moves you, right? Ballots for this year's Top 10 were diffuse things whether coming from jazz cats, rock fans, or pop snobs, filled with obscurities and personal obsessions and stuff we've never even heard of. (My own No. 1, the bratty teenpunksploitation of Be Your Own Pet, didn't come close to placing. But I'm not that bitter.) The one thing everyone seemed to agree on was "you do your thing and I'll do mine." Which is not to say catty pop sniping and dead horses weren't everywhere this year. When you absolutely have to air your opinion on the same leaked Jay-Z track everyone else is talking about before lunch, only blogs will do.

So if you want to know who was moved and grooved by the psychedelically saturated noise of the Yellow Swans or who loved the best album in decades from a newly revitalized Ornette Coleman or who was the lone nut who voted for the Lindsay Lohan album--OK, he later recanted--you can check out the individual ballots on our web site. But for now, here's our democratically decided upon, totally official Top 10. And, of course, no one should read too much armchair sociology into numerical data gleaned from two dozen finicky music nerds, right?

Our 2006 National Music Top 10 was compiled from numerically weighted ballots from 24 regular City Paper contributors--J. Bowers, Jim Breihan, Tom Breihan, Michael Crumsho, Raymond Cummings, John Darnielle, Lee Gardner, Ian Grey, Jess Harvell, Geoffrey Himes, Joel Hunt, Marc Masters, Michaelangelo Matos, Bret McCabe, Anthony Miccio, Kevin O'Donnell, Ethan Padgett, Makkada B. Selah, Al Shipley, George Smith, Rod Smith, Jason Torres, Tony Ware, and Mikael Wood. Numerical ties were broken by determining how many individual voters nominated a particular record. (Jess Harvell)

1
T.I. King (Atlantic) Unlike other hip-hop poll toppers like OutKast or Kanye West, T.I. doesn't play to the cheap seats of critical respectability or pop crossover. He's never going to record with Jon Brion or write a novelty smash like "Hey Ya." What makes King such an understated triumph is, give or take a Jamie Foxx collaboration, T.I.'s unstinting commitment to the formalist purity of hardcore beats and rhymes. In an era when friggin' Fergie is the biggest selling rapper in the world, the King of the South goes hard for the long haul of a whole album, the true inheritor of turn-of-the-'90s New York's crown. Grumble and gripe all you want, but when it comes to the two things pop music has promised since rock 'n' roll--attitude and rhythm--the man born Clifford Harris is the best thing going. (JH)

2
Ghostface Killah Fishscale (Def Jam) "Do you think comparing Fishscale to Mama Said Knock You Out for Top 10 is misguided?" "How so?" "It's a tour de force. It sounds revitalized. It's like a comeback album from a guy who didn't actually need one." "Yeah. Except for the fact that Ghost has never had LL's commercial profile." "Well, yeah. To be honest, it was hearing Ghost rhyme `Wanna step to me' with `Rip your guts out like a hysterectomy' over background cheering that made the connection for me." "Well, Ghostface sounds like LL in `Mama Said' mode pretty much all the time." "Yeah, he does. But I hear this as what he did pretty well on The Pretty Toney Album--the tour-de-force factor--done perfectly." "Fine, go ahead." "Thanks." (Michaelangelo Matos)

3
Clipse Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up) Just brutal. Virginia Beach brothers Malice and Pusha T pop their 'plosives with concussive force, and when they talk about bad things, they do it with such vivid, economical clarity and sneering hauteur that morality melts away. The stuff they talk about is appalling: craxploitation, needless death, meaningless sex. And they don't even seem to be enjoying their ill-gotten gains: "Talk about your day, I pretend to listen / And you don't gotta love me, just be convincing." The Neptunes' bleak, spacey tracks inflate all that nihilism into something apocalyptic, an unrelenting masterpiece of bad faith. (Tom Breihan)

4
Sonic Youth Rather Ripped (Geffen) Exeunt ubiquitous indie louse Jim O'Rourke, whose brief Sonic tenure mysteriously revitalized these AARP-bound avant-scenesters. Kim, Steve, Lee, and Thurston were able to once again pull off the now-perennial trick of laundering their patented sound fountain-of-Youth fresh; Ripped marks the conclusion of Sonic Youth's major-label contract, captured at midsummer twilight. But for every quiet, coral-tinted "Turquoise Boy" or ever-so-chamomile "Do You Believe in Rapture?" SY turn to something more corporeal--the asphalt vortex of guitars on "What a Waste" or "Incinerate," with its showy invocation of mid-'90s Dinosaur Jr. (Raymond Cummings)

5
The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant) More upbeat than 2005's Separation Sunday, the Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America expands upon the band's "sex/drugs/rock 'n' roll = spiritual salvation" motif without losing the sarcasm, humor, and bar-band crunch that made it popular in the first place. Though Craig Finn's hyperliterate spoken-word delivery is still a love/hate proposition, his tales of hipster triumph and woe continue to ring hilariously true. "Chillout Tent" features an oddly appropriate guest vocal by Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum fame, playing a kid who ODs at a rock festival and ends up banging some girl in the medics' tent. Badass. (J. Bowers)

6
Lil Wayne and DJ Drama Dedication 2 (Gangsta Grillz) Compared to his last actual album, late 2005's Tha Carter II, Lil Wayne's typically oblique and bizarre metaphors actually feel a bit lazy at times on this relentlessly long 78-minute mixtape hodgepodge of bootleg beats. Even so, this New Orleans rapper taking it easy is still better than 90 percent of the rest of the hip-hop that's out there at the moment. And when he starts attacking the government's response to Katrina and spitting conspiracy theories on "Georgia . . . Bush," his eccentric swagger hits a direct and visceral new plateau. (Jim Breihan)

7
Joanna Newsom Ys (Drag City) Please, quit quibbling over such pedestrian matters as lyrics' literal sense, inflated song lengths, and that warbling voice. Joanna Newsom's bewitching Ys is, quite simply, the prettiest five songs in 55-ish minutes to caress the ears in ages, ripe with gossamer string sections, tremulous melodies, and a gorgeously winsome sprit. (Hey, some of us have a girl who made her own clothing in our dating past.) And if imagining Newsom as the vocal love child of Dolly Parton and Björk doesn't do it for you, just move along to Robyn already. (Bret McCabe)

8
The Roots Game Theory (Def Jam) Despite their rep as the best--well, only--live band in hip-hop, the Roots' records always sounded a little flat, ?uestlove's drums too crisp and thin to knock like the 808s and sampled breakbeats of traditional rap production. On Game Theory, though, he finally starts to fuck with the levels, pushing the snares into the red and scaling back on the lite-jazz production values. They may be forever destined for modest backpacker success, but it's a shame that Def Jam fucked up the opportunity to effectively promote the first Roots album that sounds amazing coming out of car speakers. (Al Shipley)

9
Scritti Politti White Bread Black Beer (Nonesuch/Rough Trade) Green Gartside's last return to record-making, 1999's meandering Anomie and Bonhomie, suggested that the Scritti Politti frontman's love of hip-hop had begun to short out his hard-wired melodic gift. Not so on this terrific--and typically overdue--follow-up, which the Welsh pop whiz opens by calling rap's boom boom bap "the beat of my heart." With its Brand Nubian quotes and chewy home-studio grooves, White Bread Black Beer bears out his claim, but not at the expense of gorgeous twee-funk tone poems like "Snow in Sun," whose "Kokomo" echoes couldn't frighten the kids in Kris Kross. (Mikael Wood)

10
Lupe Fiasco Food and Liquor (Atlantic) We don't know what happened to Lupe Fiasco. The 25-year-old Chicago native seemed like a marketing and promotions rep's wet dream. From endorsement deals with Reebok to being co-signed by Jay-Z to being blessed by the King Midas touch of Skateboard P on production, the critically acclaimed Food and Liquor was still a commercial brick, despite Fiasco showing emotional depth on joints like "Hurt Me Soul," lyrical acrobatics on "I Gotcha," and wrangling guest appearances from Jill Scott, Mike Shinoda, and Kanye West. Maybe it was the glasses. (Jason Torres)


The Unabridged List

Tom Breihan

  1. T.I. - King
  2. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds
  3. Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
  4. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
  5. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
  6. Lily Allen - Alright, Still
  7. Lil Wayne and DJ Drama - Dedication 2
  8. Trae - Restless
  9. The Long Blondes - Someone to Drive You Home
  10. Mastodon - Blood Mountain

Jim Breihan

  1. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
  2. T.I. - King
  3. Johnny Cash - American V
  4. Chamillionaire - The Sound of Revenge
  5. Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
  6. Pitbull - El Mariel
  7. Lil Wayne and Dj Drama - Dedication 2
  8. Little Big Town - The Road to Here
  9. The Game - Doctor’s Advocate
  10. Lupe Fiasco - Food and Liquor

Michael Crumsho

  1. Burial - Burial
  2. Scott Walker - The Drift
  3. Tim Hecker - Harmony in Ultraviolet
  4. Andrew Chalk - Blue Eyes of the March
  5. Wzt Hearts - Heat Chief
  6. Mordant Music - Dead Air
  7. This Heat - Out of Cold Storage
  8. Masayuki Takayanagi - Eclipse
  9. Harvey Milk - Special Wishes
  10. Joanna Newsom - Ys

Raymond Cummings

  1. Various Artists - Women Take Back the Noise
  2. Yellow Swans - Psychic Secession
  3. Sightings - End Times
  4. Taylor Deupree - Northern
  5. The Magik Markers - A Panegyric to the Things I Do Not Understand
  6. Bardo Pond - Ticket Crystals
  7. Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
  8. Coachwhips - Double Death
  9. Various Artists - Less Self Is More Self: A Benefit Compilation for Tarantula Hill
  10. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped

John Darnielle

  1. Christine Fellows - Paper Anniversary
  2. Om - Conference of the Birds
  3. Anouar Brahem Trio - Le Voyage de Sahar
  4. Lil Wayne and DJ Drama - Dedication 2
  5. Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
  6. Metallic Falcons - Desert Doughnuts
  7. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
  8. Amon Amarth - With Oden on Our Side
  9. Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
  10. Regurgitate - Sickening Bliss

Lee Gardner

  1. Boris - Pink
  2. Ricardo Villalobos - Achso
  3. Erase Errata - Nightlife
  4. Sunn 0)))/Boris - The Altar
  5. Ornette Coleman - Sound Grammar
  6. T.I. - King
  7. Nels Cline - New Monastery—A View Into the Music of Andrew Hill
  8. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
  9. Fujiya and Miyagi- Transparent Things
  10. The Necks - Chemist

Ian Grey

  1. Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way
  2. Muse - Black Holes and Revelations
  3. The Cardigans - Super Extra Gravity
  4. Mastodon - Blood Mountain
  5. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
  6. Goldfrapp - Supernature
  7. Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops
  8. Edenbridge - Grand Design
  9. Joan as Police Woman - Real Life
  10. Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther

Jess Harvell

  1. Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet
  2. Pissed Jeans - Shallow
  3. The Paper Chase - Now You Are One of Us
  4. T.I. - King
  5. Scritti Politti - White Bread Black Beer
  6. Lil Wayne and DJ Drama - Dedication 2
  7. Henrik Schwarz - DJ Kicks
  8. Black Pus - Black Pus 2
  9. Love Is All - Nine Times That Same Song
  10. Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury

Geoffrey Himes

  1. Drive-By Truckers - A Blessing and A Curse
  2. Allen Toussaint and Elvis Costello - The River in Reverse
  3. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
  4. Various Artists - SpongeBob SquarePants: The Best Day Ever
  5. Los Lobos - The Town and the City
  6. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
  7. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
  8. Less Than Jake - In With the Out Crowd
  9. The Roots - Game Theory
  10. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America

Joel Hunt

  1. Scott Walker - The Drift
  2. Pissed Jeans - Shallow
  3. Wzt Hearts - Heat Chief
  4. The Weird Weeds - Weird Feelings
  5. Joanna Newsom - Ys
  6. Daniel A.I.U. Higgs - Ancestral Songs
  7. The Dead C. - Vain Erudite and Stupid: Selected Works 1987-2005
  8. Brightblack Morning Light - Brightblack Morning Light
  9. Times New Viking - Dig Yourself
  10. Valley of Ashes - Cavehill Hunters Attrition

Marc Masters

  1. Excepter - Alternation
  2. Charalambides - A Vintage Burden
  3. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
  4. Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
  5. Alan Sparhawk - Solo Guitar
  6. Sightings - End Times
  7. R. Keenan Lawler - Music for the Bluegrass States
  8. Peeesseye - Commuting Between the Surface and the Underworld
  9. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - House Arrest
  10. Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice - Gipsy Freedom

Michaelangelo Matos

  1. Various Artists - Golden Afrique, Vol. 2
  2. Various Artists - A Tom Moulton Mix
  3. Girl Talk - Night Ripper
  4. Ghostface Killah- Fishscale
  5. Various Artists - Rough Guide to West African Gold
  6. Coachwhips - Double Death
  7. Etran Finatawa - Introducing Etran Finatawa
  8. The Modernist - Collectors Series Pt. 1: Popular Songs
  9. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
  10. Various Artists - African Pearls 1: Congo: Rumba on the River

Bret McCabe

  1. Ornette Coleman - Sound Grammar
  2. Keak da Sneak - Kunta Kinte
  3. The Paper Chase - Now You Are One of Us
  4. Converge - No Heroes
  5. Gang Wizard - Byzantine Headache
  6. Shawnna - Block Music
  7. Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55
  8. Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
  9. Joanna Newsom - Ys
  10. The Thermals - The Body, the Blood, the Machine

Anthony Miccio

  1. CSS - Cansei Dei Ser Sexy
  2. Eagles of Death Metal - Death by Sexy
  3. Electric Six - Switzerland
  4. Lady Sovereign - Public Warning
  5. Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah
  6. Tiga - Sexor
  7. Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet
  8. Love Is All - Nine Times That Same Song
  9. Kimya Dawson - Remember That I Love You
  10. Thom Yorke - The Eraser

Kevin O’Donnell

  1. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
  2. Scritti Politti - White Bread Black Beer
  3. The Futureheads - News and Tributes
  4. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
  5. Mute Math - Mute Math
  6. Lupe Fiasco - Food and Liquor
  7. The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
  8. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls In America
  9. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
  10. Lily Allen - Alright, Then

Ethan Padgett

  1. T.I. - King
  2. Yo Gotti - Back 2 Da Basics
  3. Spice 1 and MC Eiht - Keep It Gangsta
  4. Young Dro - Best Thang Smokin’
  5. DJ Scream - Only the Crunk Survive 12: Kings of Snap Edition
  6. The Boss Hog Barbarians - Every Hog Has It’s Day
  7. Killer Mike - I Pledge Allegiance
  8. Lil Wayne and DJ Drama - Dedication 2
  9. Jedi Mind Tricks - Army of the Pharaohs: Torture Papers
  10. The Roots - Game Theory

Makkada B. Selah

  1. T.I. - King
  2. Tapes n’ Tapes - The Loon
  3. Kelis - Kelis Was Here
  4. Tanya Stephens - Rebelution
  5. Dem Franchize Boyz - On Top of Our Game
  6. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
  7. Shawnna - Block Music
  8. Macka Diamond - Money-O
  9. Mason Jennings - Boneclouds
  10. Ornette Coleman - Sound Grammar

Al Shipley

  1. T.I. - King
  2. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
  3. The Roots - Game Theory
  4. Lupe Fiasco - Food and Liquor
  5. Jon Auer - Songs From the Year of Our Demise
  6. The Who - Endless Wire
  7. Donald Fagen - Morph the Cat
  8. Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
  9. Pitbull - El Mariel
  10. Prince - 3121

George Smith

  1. Leanne Kingwell - Show Ya What
  2. The Who - Endless Wire
  3. Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse - Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse
  4. Def Leppard - Yeah!
  5. The Sweet - Sweetlife
  6. Cheap Trick - Rockford
  7. Britt Black - Blackout
  8. Solar Anus - Skull Alcoholic
  9. David Rovics - Halliburton Boardroom Massacre
  10. Witchfinder General - Live ‘83

Rod Smith

  1. Joanna Newsom - Ys
  2. Battle of Mice - Day of Nights
  3. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
  4. Tortoise - A Lazarus Taxon
  5. Animal Collective - Hollinndagain
  6. Opeth - Ghost Reveries
  7. Jan Jelinek - Tierbeobachtungen
  8. Robert Henke - Layering Buddha
  9. Noah Georgeson - Find Shelter
  10. Muse - Black Holes and Revelations

Jason Torres

  1. The Roots - Game Theory
  2. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
  3. Jay-Z - Kingdom Come
  4. Clipse - Hell Hath no Fury
  5. Lupe Fiasco - Food and Liquor
  6. Bilal - Love for Sale
  7. She Wants Revenge - She Wants Revenge
  8. The Bronx - Bronx
  9. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
  10. Jenny Lewis With the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat

Tony Ware

  1. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
  2. The Knife - Silent Shout
  3. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
  4. Phoenix - It’s Never Been Like That
  5. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
  6. Mastodon - Blood Mountain
  7. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer’s Block
  8. Various - The World Is Gone
  9. Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
  10. Ellen Allien and Apparat - Orchestra of Bubbles

Mikael Wood

  1. Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
  2. Joanna Newsom - Ys
  3. Panic! At the Disco - A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out
  4. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
  5. Scritti Politti - White Bread Black Beer
  6. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
  7. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade
  8. Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah
  9. Sean Lennon - Friendly Fire
  10. Fergie - The Dutchess
 

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The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
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The Year in News (12/9/2009)

The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)

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