After another 365-day cycle of hope and hype, of fulfilled promises and glaring failures, I was interested to find out which artist would stand out above the rest for my fellow bloggers. Suffice it to say that the responses I got were full of unexpected picks, and in more than one instance, they sent me back to my music collection for a little reassessment. A big thanks to the participants—Calum, Frank, Matt and Danielle—for the thoughtful choices they offered up. And here's to another 365 days that produces music this varied and memorable...
Calum from Mocking Music writes:
My Dad Vs Yours Justin Timberlake forced indie kids to embrace their radios. Scott Walker came out of what seemed like outer space to deliver his best album in decades. And Prince proved, much to the surprise of I think just about everyone, that he could still write a relevant pop song. But the band that had the biggest impact on me personally this year isn't a band that made many waves on a large scale—that band is Ottawa's premiere post-rock quartet, My Dad Vs Yours.
I simply cannot say enough about My Dad Vs Yours. This is a band that is obsessed with challenging what it means to be a contemporary instrumental rock band making music in 2006, but it's also a band interested in making beautiful music. It's thought nearly impossible to artistically push the envelope and make commercially accessible music—but here comes My Dad Vs Yours, interested in both and getting along just fine. Impressed? You should be.
My Dad Vs Yours are an incredibly important band because they realize and deal with one very important fact: post-rock is dead. Or, perhaps more accurately, post-rock should be dead. The entire genre, though it was created such a short time ago, already seems so stale and uninteresting—yet new quadrillion-piece post-rock outfits keep popping up all over the map, hoping their intensity and musical prowess will compensate for their lack of originality or interesting ideas (and, of course, that just won't cut it). And that's where My Dad Vs Yours come in: they're taking the next logical step. Call it "post-post-rock."
The band takes the most important element of the dead genre—the ease with which rock instruments, unaccompanied by vocals, can genuinely express emotion—and combines with tight pop sensibilities. That might sound vague, but clarity comes quickly when you actually sit down and hear After Winter Must Come Spring: this is a gorgeous, downright ethereal album, a delightful little treat that doesn't get bogged down by the pretension of your typical post-rock. My Dad Vs Yours have somehow managed to fuse the most interesting qualities of pop music with the most interesting qualities of tired "post-rock," and in the process they've created one of the best albums of 2006. I have highest hopes for 2007.
* MP3: "Habla Paisano" - My Dad Vs Yours from After Winter Must Come Spring [Buy it] Frank from Chromewaves writes:
Cat Power If I were to pick an artist of the year—which apparently I'm doing—I'd have to give a nod to Ms Charlyn "Chan" Marshall, or Cat Power. She'd merit consideration for the title based solely on her releasing one of the finest albums of the year, her Southern-soul-steeped The Greatest. But her 2006 was far more dramatic and eventful than that.
There were rumours aplenty when she abruptly canceled her tour to support the record in the early part of the year but it wasn't till the interviews began appearing in The New York Times, Spin and Magnet that the full breadth of her psychological breakdown was revealed. And yet despite having very nearly hit rock-bottom, she managed to not only survive but come back even stronger, vibrant and more confident than anyone could have imagined.
Even her live shows, which had been legendarily scattershot, reached new heights. Although still hit-or-miss, the hits were far more frequent and were even knocked out of the park on occasion—at least the two I saw. So congratulations to Cat Power on a helluva 2006 and a fervent wish that she never has another one like it again.
* MP3: "The Greatest" - Cat Power from The Greatest [Buy it]
Matt from Ear Farm writes:
Man Man Islands Who is my artist of the year for 2006? Such a simple question seemingly deserves an outright simple answer. Like this: The Decemberists. Right? They made what I deemed to be my top album of 2006 so there's no good reason to not pick them. Well, except for the fact that I didn't pay attention to anything they were doing/ wasn't thinking about The Decemberists at all until early October when The Crane Wife was released... I didn't even see them live this year. No no, it can't be them.
Okay, more honestly... Thinking about which musicians stole my interest for the majority of 2006, I'm left with two obvious choices. Not one but two (I'm going to bend the rules a bit here so buckle up). Both were bands that I saw live for the first time at the end of 2005 and both released albums early enough in 2006 for me to have spent the better part of the year listening to them. Oh, and both bands wear all white when they perform. Don't think that doesn't have a lot to do with it.
You know which bands I'm talking by now, right? One is Graceland-informed, post-Unicorns indie-pop and the other more of a Captain-Beefheart-pirate-ship-party-music kind of thing. One is a collection of extra talented musicians from Canada and the other a band of war-paint-wearing guys from Philadelphia. I didn't even know that I wanted to hear music that sounded like either of these bands but once I did finally hear them they were all I really wanted. Did I forget to say which bands I speak of? Sorry. Obviously I'm talking about Islands and Man Man. I can't say enough about how much I loved both of them in 2006 and I consider myself lucky for having been able to see each of them more than three times this past year. Tell you what—these bands are waaaaay better than the bands that everyone else selected here... unless they also picked Islands and Man Man. If that's the case, I'd like to change my answer to Goes Cube and Mancino. They're likely to be two of my tops of '07 so why not? I don't want to have the same answer as everyone else. Do I? Crap, I hope not.Okay, no, I'll stick with what I said first. Not The Decemberists bit but the other part. Where I dodged the question by picking not one but two. Yes, I'm right—Islands and Man Man in 2006. Deal with it.
* MP3: "Van Helsing Boombox" - Man Man from Six Demon Bag [Buy it]
* MP3: "Humans" - Islands from Return To The Sea [Buy it]
My Brightest Diamond Behind the project My Brightest Diamond, Shara Worden has collaborated with the likes of Antony, Rufus Wainwright and Sufjan Stevens. An intelligent graduate of North Texas University with a BA in vocal performance, for the last seven years, she has been a prominent vocal teacher in New York City.
On the 2006 debut, Bring Me The Workhorse, her violent vocal operatics surrounded different levels of beautiful elements, fusing rock and jazz full-force unexpectedly, mixing within feelings of longing, lust and loss. One of those albums that defined moments of driving and getting lost to nowhere for hours just because everything sounded so good.
Shara is a true artist that makes you completely understand why you even enjoy music in the first place... Her forthcoming release, A Thousand Shark's Teeth, is sure to bring all the success that's truly deserved.
* MP3: "Dragonfly" - My Brightest Diamond from Bring Me The Workhorse [Buy it]
And finally here is my pick:
Spencer KrugIt's no coincidence that Isaac Brock produced Wolf Parade's Apologies To The Queen Mary. If anything, it was a torch-passing ceremony, because Spencer Krug is nothing if not the heir to Brock's oversized crown. Consider the mutually quivering vocals, the love of side projects, the tendency to rewrite the common in especially off-kilter ways. Just as Brock taps into the marrow of his dreams ("Sunspots in the House of the Late Scapegoat," "3 Inch Horses, Two Faced Monsters") so Krug steps up, matching image for affected image ("I'm Sorry I Sang on Your Hands That Have Been in the Grave," "Winged/Wicked Things").But it's too simplistic to just equate the two despite their common ground. Krug, for one, seems even more committed to telegraphing the surreal, the circuitous, the hallucinogenic. He's also more willing to swim in streams of consciousness and sink under the weight of his own remorse. With the dual victories of Shut Up I Am Dreaming and Beast Moans, he's established himself as a songwriter of magnitude and wild-eyed vision. Penning some of the grandest, most complex elegies out there and singing like something's just snapped inside, he's invented whole new ways to mourn. It's hard to imagine how he could surpass this standout year he's had, but with Wolf Parade returning in '07, we can always dream. * MP3: "All Fires" - Swan Lake from Beast Moans [Buy it]