Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: Top Albums

Thanks to the miracle that is the internet (and free streaming services) this past year has given me the opportunity to listen to almost as many albums as I did when I was a sub-music director at a college radio station. In spite of the access there were only a few albums that I found myself drawn to time and time again.

1. Pet Shop Boys Fundamental

Returning to the principals of the duo's "imperial period" of the late 80's with producer Trevor Horn Fundamental managed to be my favorite and most listened to album of the year despite it's flaws brought on by the Boys own attempt to create a cohesive album. If they had included the Richard X produced "Fugitive" (on the bonus disc), "The Resurectionist" and "Bright Young Things" (b-sides) we would have a classic PSB disc. Sill it's hard to complain about an album that has "Minimal", "I Made My Excuses And Left" and the chill inducing "Integral".

2. Goldfrapp Supernature

Love is a difficult thing when you're treated badly and my relationship with this album is a complicated one. The music is brilliant as the duo complete their electropop makeover in a style that is unparalleled but the endless lingering in limbo for the belated US release took it's toll and I didn't find myself giving it the attention it deserved. Still tracks like "Ride A White Horse", "Satin Chic" and "Let It Take You" changed me as they left an imprint on my soul and for that I will always be grateful.

3. Tiga Sexor

Arriving at least three years too late for a proper electroclash cash out Tiga's debut album left many puzzled on first few listens. Still I've found myself going back to the album over and over again on my mp3 player as I slowly but surely have found new tracks to obsess over and pick apart. This must be why six of the tracks have outside lives as singles even when he didn't just take the easy way out by compiling his one-off single releases as an album. It doesn't matter if Tiga is taking on Public Enemy on "Pleasure From The Bass", deconstructing NIN on "Down In It" or himself on "Type Of Guy" (which references almost every single song he had recorded before the album) there is plenty of good listening here.

4. Ferry Corsten L.E.F.

Trance star Ferry Corsten proves again that he has more interests than the melodic trance he built his name with as he storms the sub-genres that fall under the electronica umbrella with an unusually strong sense of song craft. The album's profile has been hampered by dodgy single selections like "Junk", which is his 2002 hit "Punk" with a rap over it, but the album has very few missteps and is so strong that Howard Jones sounds good and relevant on his guest track (note: I hate Howard Jones). Corsten calls his music loud, electro and ferocious but "L.E.F.", "Down On Love" and "Into The Dark" explore more complex and ambiguous territory (actually "L.E.F" must be played very loud, is extremely electro and is utterly ferocious but you get my point).

5. Junkie XL Today

The most common complaint about Tom "Junkie XL" Holkenborg is that he simply copies the style of others and he overcomes that here exploring a rock-ish style of trance that he has been developing as a remixer over the past few years on an album that also delivers strong straightforward vocal songs. Fortunately it's much better than it should be and far more complex than I can properly describe as the album conjures atmospheric post-punk like The Cure but in a more electronic way. "Today", "Youthful" and "Yesterdays" are as good as it gets from rock-friendly electronica.

There are other albums that could be contenders which haven't connected with me completely yet. Junior Boys So This Is Goodbye is a truly solid album and Hot Chip's The Warning has many fantastic tracks but I rarely find myself listening to them like I do with the albums that made the cut.

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