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    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    Midterms: The seven best albums of 2006 so far

    7) Passover by The Black Angels
    Yes, Austin's Black Angels may sound derivative at times, but when that sound is a passionate hybrid of Velvet Underground, Joy Division and Spaceman 3, it hardly seems like a negative. Their twin obsessions of the '60s and war also make this debut well worth obsessing over.

    6) We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions by Bruce Springsteen
    What could've turned out like a homework assignment is more like a Fourth of July barbecue, not to mention Springsteen's most rousing moment in ages. Whether he's singing about destroyed homes or lost wages, wounded soldiers or ex-cons, Bruce puts the soul in Seeger and heart in the heartland.

    5) Moo, You Bloody Choir by Augie March
    With experimentation and weirdness dominating the indie scene, Augie March's straightforwardness sounds almost subversive. But it's their dedication to songcraft and the gorgeous melodies it produces time after time that really sets them apart from the crowd.

    4) Fox Confessor Brings The Flood by Neko Case
    My friend Scott once told Neko after a concert, "You do country the way it's meant to be done." If by that he meant having an exquisite voice, writing enchantingly cryptic lyrics and delivering your best and most tightly crafted album to date, then I concur with Scott.

    3) The Life Pursuit by Belle and Sebastian

    Pop is the new Trojan Horse. As long as you get people dancing, they can easily miss all the complex ideas about religion, outcasts, depression and redemption you're sneaking through the gates. Sing enough about sunshine and they might not even notice that you're storming in with your smartest work since If You're Feeling Sinister.

    2) 'Sno Angel Like You
    by Howe Gelb
    I've never
    been a fan of stores segregating music by genre, and apparently Giant Sand frontman Howe Gelb has my back on the issue. His new album is such an effortless union of country, folk, rock and gospel (supplied by lively Canadian choir Voices of Praise) that the only label it rightly fits into is "classic."

    1) Shut Up I Am Dreaming by Sunset Rubdown

    I know it's too early and unconstitutional because he's Canadian, but I'm saying it anyway: Spencer Krug for President. Here is a man who can find the time to be in Frog Eyes, Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake. Here is a man who crumples hearts with every swipe of the pen and every inscrutable note, whose couplet "And if I fall into the drink/I will say your name before I sink" wouldn't vacate my brain for weeks. If Spencer keeps this incredible winning streak going, Kim Jong-Il won't stand a chance.


    * Largehearted Boy's Halftime Report
    * Chromewaves's Mid-term Report
    * From Blown Speakers' The Year In Music...So Far
    * Good Hodgkins' Seven essential albums from the first half of 2006
    * Obscure Sound's The (Halfway Point) Top Ten Albums of 2006

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