Again, in alphabetical order:
Current 93, Black Ships Ate The Sky (2006)
David Tibet has recorded two undisputed masterpieces — at least in my opinion, Dogs Blood Rising and All the Pretty Little Horses, though Thunder Perfect Mind and Sleep Has His House are close — and this is his third. Representing, perhaps, the feverish, apocalyptic culmination of over 25 years of death-haunted meditations, Current 93 — here augmented by an all-star cast — weaves a stunning album, what Tibet calls “a Hallucinatory Patripassianist Dream.” (Okay, the fact that my name is listed as one of the album’s “subscribers” on the last page of the booklet is cool too.)
Dengue Fever, Escape from Dragon House (2005)
I’ve written about the coolest band in America many times on my blog, so this should be no surprise. Working off the same template that made their debut album one of my favorites of 2002 — covers of Cambodian rock tracks — Dengue Fever’s second album makes a huge leap to original songs, albeit throwing in psychedelia, spy-movie chase scenes, surf guitar, and Cambodian lyrics into the mix. But you folks really have to catch them live.
Easy Star All-Stars, Radiodread (2006)
In which they follow up their song-by-song reggae cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon with an equally impressive reggae version of Radiohead’s OK Computer. It’s nowhere near as immediate as the former — basically because Radiohead just isn’t Pink Floyd — but both Thom Yorke fans and reggae fans should enjoy this in equal measure. The highlight: an impossibly happy version of “Let Down,” sung by Toots & The Maytals.)
Linus’ Blanket, Labor in Vain (2005)
Delicate Korean twee pop, sounding much like a Siesta Records release from the late ’90s but without the archness. Fifteen-minute EPs should be as perfect as this.
Mclusky, Mcluskyism (2006)
There’s a ragged, furious, nasty joy to this compilation by the recently-disbanded (alas) Welsh band Mclusky, appealing to that ragged, furious, nasty part of you that would sing along to refrains like “Our old singer is a sex criminal.” (Hunt down the three-disc set, as it comes with rarities and live versions, including some of the most withering put-downs of a heckler in the audience — “You tape Sex and the City, you fuck?” — I’ve heard on record.)
Spangle call Lilli line, or (2003)
It’s not easy to describe this album: delicate vocals, guitar filigree, electronic crackle, the virtue of repetition and stretched-out instrumentals. Just gorgeous.
Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006)
Springsteen hardly does studio recordings of songs he didn’t write — maybe a cover like “Deportee” on a couple of tribute albums here and there, “Jersey Girl” from the live box set, so that doesn’t even count — so this new album was either going to be extra-special or evidence of a creative drought. Thankfully, it’s the former; it’s the most exuberantly angry and joyful music I’ve heard all year. Music to want the wide American earth by.
Up dharma Down, Fragmented (2006)
What I wrote earlier, on my favorite album of 2006, hands down:
It’s only April, and I think I already have one of my favorite albums of the year. Up dharma Down’s Fragmented is an urban soul chronicle from the streets of Manila, both tense and laid back, full of nervous energy one moment and suffused with post-club comedown the next.
I still remember the first time I saw the video for the fantastic first single, “Maybe.” I was idly flipping channels one December night in Los Banos last year when the video came on, and I was transfixed by its evocation of claustrophobia, as the camera followed a near-hysterical woman pacing inside a hotel room, then down a narrow stairwell, tear-smeared mascara on her face.
But it was, of course, the music which kept me glued to the TV: an insistent, propulsive reverbed guitar riff; a skittering, distorted “Amen” break; a bass line turned up way high in the mix; and that voice which stretched “Maybe” into 27 different syllables. (I had to grab paper and pen to scribble down the name of the band; alas, their album wasn’t coming out until a few months later, as the kind women at Odyssey and Tower Records had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.)
The rest of the album doesn’t quite approach the succinct drama of “Maybe,” but it’s quite strong nevertheless, and I suspect more songs will float their way to the top as the year proceeds… I can’t wait to see them live.
Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass (2006)
Scattered, undisciplined, almost self-indulgent, uncontained, all over the place: my second-favorite band ever (after the Beatles) returns to the heights of I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. And it has the best album title too.
Plus some more YouTube fun:
– Dengue Fever, “Sni Bong”
– Easy Star All-Stars, “Let Down”
– Mclusky, “She Will Only Bring You Happiness” (though I rather like the Flash animation for “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” more)
– Spangle call Lilli line, “nano”
– Bruce Springsteen, “John Henry”
– Up dharma Down, “Maybe”
– Yo La Tengo, “Mr. Tough” (Live)