Monday, December 25, 2006

List 2006, Part 2: Special Albums and EPs/Singles

Special Albums (Live, Compilations, Splits, CD-Rs, MP3, etc.)

1. Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, “Seven is the Number” – Dave is becoming folk music’s Tupac Shakur, with continuous new releases coming out four years after his death. Tracy spent that long remixing his early album “Snake-Handlin’ Man,” adding a few new twists along the way, and the result is as good as anything that came out during Dave’s too-brief life.

2. Various Artists, “Women Take Back the Noise” – As John G., pointed out, “This must be good, I’ve never heard of a single artist.” Relatively unknown women making experimental improv music that you’ll never forget. Three CDs in a clear plastic purse with a noise-making flower, and an extra CD’s worth of noise/music online. What more could you want?

3. Sufjan Stevens, “Avalanche” – Doesn’t matter if it’s leftovers from “Illinois.” His leftovers beat everyone else’s main courses. Some might say that three versions of “Chicago” are overkill, but not to these ears.

4. Diane Cluck, “Monarcana” – While all her CDs are a mix of rough cuts and fully-realized songs, this one is the strangest combination of all. Yet it’s still Diane, offering observations that come from oblique and unexpected directions.

5. Constantines/The Unintended – “Constantines Play Neil Young/Unintended Play Gordon Lightfoot” – An interesting cover album that has become one of the hardest gems to find in the vinyl world. Some hits, some misses, but some valiant tries all around.

6. Yellow Swans, “Live During War Crimes 2”

7. Yellow Swans and Moth Drakula

8. Yellow Swans and The Cherry Point

9. Yellow Swans and Birchville Cat Motel

10. Yellow Swans, “Global Clone” – The latest installments in the Pete and Gabe show, getting more complex and collaborative all the time.

11. Yellow Swans, Tom Carter, et al – “Mudsuckers” – A different beast than the rest of YS material, almost sounds like Delta blues filtered through Beefheart.

12. My Morning Jacket, “Okonokos” – This has all the brilliance and limitations of an intelligent southern band trying to emulate a 1970s double-length live album. Jim James writes great material and it’s not just a “Play Free Bird” extravaganza, but when the band stretches out on “Off the Record,” there are definitely elements of excess.

13. Starving Weirdos, “Eastern Light”

14. Starving Weirdos, “Self-Hypnosis”

15. Starving Weirdos, “Séance at Lufenhulz”

16. Starving Weirdos, s/t (U-Sound 30)

17. Starving Weirdos and Inca Ore/Lemon Bear – What a pleasure that the odd experimentalists from Eureka, who have been putting out tiny cassettes and CDRs for years, have hit the big time. For professional material, check out “Father Guru” in the studio sessions. For more Weirdos, here are five slices of greatness.

18. Pelt, “Heraldic Beasts” – Ed Hardy at Eclipse compiled many limited-release Pelt cuts in an elaborate double-LP. Even if the Pelt fanatic owns much of the material herein, the medieval packaging is worth the price of the album.

19. Pere Ubu, “Why I Remix Women” – Any time Ubu is involved, remixes must be fun. This is no exception.

20. Jackie-O Motherfucker, “Candyland” – Another of the mysterious gray-packaged LPs from the same folks who gave you Sun City Girls in Montreal.

21. Bruce Springsteen, “We Shall Overcome” – In theory, a tribute to Pete Seeger is a great idea, and Bruce’s down-home band is the ideal vehicle. But the selections are too heavily traditionalist and not enough “deep Seeger,” in the sense of examining Weavers/Seeger political material. Too bad, this album could have been a whole lot better.

22. Christina Carter and Gown, “We’ve”

23. Gown (s/t)

24. Christina Carter, “Lace Heart”

25. Christina Carter, “I Am All the Same Voice” – Christina is moving in two directions at once – toward more traditionalism with her ex, Tom, in Charalambides, and toward more vocal experimentation with current boyfriend Andy of Gown, and in her own solo material. The studio release “Electrice” got her the widest exposure in 2006, but “We’ve” and “I Am All…” are actually far more interesting.

26. Bright Eyes, “Motion Sickness” (live)

27. Bright Eyes, “Noise Floor” – Two ways to collect Conor Oberst loose ends in 2006. The live album consists of “Wide Awake” songs, along with interesting covers, while “Noise Floor” pulls together various early Conor material and B-side material. The latter project sounds like it might be too adolescent and whiney, but it’s actually better than you might imagine. Hold out for the vinyl, it has extra songs from the CD.

28. Inca Ore and Tom Carter, “Rainbow Trout” – None of the verbal chanting Inca is famous for, but lots of soundscape work, and a true joy to see these two working together.

29. Swearing at Motorists, “Exile on Gipstrasse” – Hints dropped by Dave Doughman suggest SaM may be history soon, so we’ll have to tide over with this brief live set from Germany.

30. Robert Pollard, “Moon” – A nice live selection from the 2006 solo tour, including a wide slice of Pollard work and a few GbV songs thrown in for good measure.

31. Sonic Youth, “The Destroyed Room” – Interesting, but not that surprising, to see that the B-sides collection is more diverse and fascinating than SY’s studio release this year.

32. Hototogisu, “Chimeradammerung”

33. Hototogisu, “Sculpture Built Upon Graves

34. Hototogisu and Prurient, “Snail on a Razor”

35. GHQ, “Heavy Elements” – Yet more Marcia Bassett/Double Leopards side projects. Even when the Leopards are silent for a year, the Hototogisu/GHQ experiments just keep bubbling.

36. Bardo Pond, “Live 4/3/06”

37. Bardo Pond, “VI”

38. Bardo Pond and friends, “Sublimation” – Three excellent live and demo sets to augment the fine studio releases from the Pennsylvania psych collective. A vintage year for BP.

39. Belle & Sebastian, “Live at 9:30, NPR”

40. Neko Case, “Live at 9:30, NPR”

41. Mogwai, “Live at 9:30, NPR”

42. Jenny Lewis, “Live at 9:30, NPR”

43. Cat Power, “Live at 9:30, NPR” – While NPR’s All Songs Considered had several highlighted concerts in 2006, only those that were downloadable and not copy-protected made the list. Yeah, Decemberists and Regina Spektor, I’m lookin’ at you! And the others, you know who you are! But NPR needs to be credited with the best live series since King Biscuit Flower Hour.

44. Built to Spill, “Boise Cover Band” – Non-essential and silly, to be sure, but it’s nice to see Doug Martsch has a sense of humor.

45. Ashtray Navigations, “Who’s Been Rocking My Dream Boat?”

46. Ashtray Navigations, “Dirt Mummies”

47. Ashtray Navigations, “Dame Whiskey”

48. Ashtray Navigations, “Live at Sound and Fury”

49. Ashtray Navigations, “Monument to British Rock”

50. Ashtray Navigations, “Dreamed and Drank” – Phil Todd’s incredibly prolific output could get tiresome if the band was not constantly changing with the addition of Melanie Delaney et al. If you’re not on the Ashtray bandwagon, you’ve probably got 50 or 60 releases to catch up on….

51. Sir Richard Bishop, “Latitudes” – Richard’s more elaborate solo albums are beginning to outrank Sun City Girls as a band, though only slightly.

52. Tom Carter, “Sun Swallower”

53. Tom Carter, “Bridge Music”

54. Tom Carter and Robert Horton, “Steeljaguar for Rocket” – Tom Carter’s collaborative work has taken a back seat to his solo stuff of late, but these three 2006 releases show that the Charalambides founder is really stretching his boundaries.

55. Bettie Serveert, “Bare Stripped Naked” – This is not a true acoustic interpretation album, but it’s a collection of Bettie songs played with the electronics turned down a notch. The DVD is more interesting than the audio CD, but the versions of “Hell=Other People” and “Brain-Tag” certainly are worth it.

56. Sunburned Hand of the Man, “Splintering”

57. Sunburned Hand of the Man, “Blues for Game 2”

58. Sunburned Hand of the Man, “Mylar Tantrum” – If Sunburned kept repeating the same spazz hippie bad-acid jam with every album, they’d get boring fast, but all of their dozens of releases sound different, and this year’s crop is definitely more melodic than most.

59. Axolotl/Skaters – These split albums of strange artists are becoming as interesting as the main releases of the bands involved. Just ask Comets on Fire and Burning Star Core.

60. Charalambides, “Dead/Live”

61. Charalambides, “Strangle the Wretched Heavens”

62. Charalambides, “Emerald Message” – The only reason these limited editions from the vaults are ranked a little low is due to the sheer volume of Charalambides material hitting the streets, but when you’re experts at improv, all material becomes essential material.

63. Idea Fire Company, “Live in Europe” – This is just Scott and Karla with one of their German buddies, not the full Anti-Naturals band. Skates by with plenty of drone, but a fun album.

64. Sun City Girls, “Djinn Funnel”

65. Sun City Girls, “Piano Bar”

66. Sun City Girls, “Static from the Outside Set”

67. Sun City Girls, “Live Room” – Not to harp on the folks who did the elaborate “Piano Bar” LP, as the art goodies were beautiful, but it’s interesting to note that the Egyptian/Algerian release “Djinn,” and the latest in the Carnival Folklore series, are more remarkable in their own way than the overpriced “Piano Bar.”

68. Vibracathedral Orchestra, “VCO @ ATP” – Not as essential as the slew of releases over the last two years, but this may be all the VCO we’ll be getting for a while, which would be a damned shame.

69. Taurpis Tula, “Live with Spykes”

70. Taurpis Tula, “Jailhouse Rock”

71. Taurpis Tula, “Steel Rods Bruise Butterflies”

72. Heather Leigh, “Pot Baby” – Hey, let’s not forget the occasional third member of Charalambides, more famous now for her Glasgow music store, Volcanic Tongue, but still a powerful player in experimental music, both solo as Heather and in the Taurpis Tula duo.

73. Bridget Hayden and Melanie Delaney, “Ground Zero Cerebration” – The women behind VCO and Ashtray Navigations give us their first collaborative effort.

74. Pavement, “Wowie Zowie (deluxe)” – Sure, it’s worth getting the full package with the extra 7” record and all, but with the re-release of each successive Pavement album, the necessity of an expanded two-disc version becomes harder to grasp.

Singles and EPs – (And I said 2005 was slow – is the single and EP format dying, except as a digital file?)

1. The Dead C, “Relax Fallujah, Hell Has Come” – Look closely, and you’ll notice these tracks are really from the 1990s. Shows the number of light years Dead C was operating ahead of the world.

2. Bardo Pond and Buck Paco, “Bog” – Cool slices of screeching vinyl.

3. Noggin (s/t) – Many people had wondered what had happened to the odd violin duo out of the Northwest. Collective JYRK found them again, and gave us a three-inch CD of new material.

4. Animal Collective, “Grass” – A nice collection of music and video to tide us over until the next AC full length.

5. Tom Carter, “Phantom Lung” – Just possibly more incredible than any of his full-length releases this year.

6. Sunburned Hand of the Man, “Knife Life” – Actually released as one of their limited CDR’s, but much cooler to see and hear as a double 7” record.

7. Jack Rose, “Untitled” – More traditionalist/experimental guitar work from the granddaddy of Pelt.

8. Psycho and the Birds, “Check Your Zoo” – Robert Pollard’s one essential single release of the year.

9. Sigur Ros, “Saglieur” – Like Animal Collective, an interesting EP because of the video included.

10. Black Heart Procession, “The Mark” – A nice augmentation to the “The Spell” full-length

11. Believers, “Lost Tracks” – One of those odd bands spinning out of Scott Foust’s collective. Jessi Swenson makes this band worth seeking out.

12. Be Your Own Pet, “Extra Extra”

13. Be Your Own Pet, “Electric Shake”

14. Be Your Own Pet, “Summer Sensation”

15. Be Your Own Pet, “Damn Damn Leash” – Ya gotta love these Nashville teenagers for their prolific punk-rock fervor, just like you loved White Stripes’ endless series of 7-inchers in the early days. Hey, at least SOMEBODY’S doing it!

16. Robert Pollard, “Love is Stronger Than Witchcraft” – A nice, but not essential, addendum to the Compound Eye LP.


John G said...

You forgot that Wilco live thing.

Loring said...

"Kicking Television"? That was 2005 - or was there another bootleg?

John G said...

Oops, 2005.