Best of the Year, Part 2

Two more critics chime in with their 2006 favorites

Because you can never read too many lists of albums that music critics love, as promised, here's Part 2 of the Weekly scribes' favorites from 2006.

Curtis McCrary

(In some kind of half-assed order)

As everyone was saying in 2006, 11 is the new 10. So in keeping with that memorable phrase (that I completely made up!) here are 11 great records from the past year.

Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds (Jive)

Timberlake's second solo outing (with an indispensable contribution from gifted beatmaker Timbaland) is the antithesis of the sophomore slump--instead of a stumble, we get a glide. Or a moonwalk, as the case may be, as JT's assumption of Michael Jackson's "King of Pop" mantle is now all but cemented.

Eric Bachmann, To the Races (Saddle Creek)

The Crooked Fingers frontman stripped down to nothing but his acoustic on this collection of moody ballads, recorded in 2005 while Bachmann was living out of a van (not sure if it was down by the river). To the Races captures loneliness and alienation in a way not heard since Beck's One Foot in the Grave or, shit, maybe even Nebraska.

Tapes 'n Tapes, The Loon (XL)

Tapes 'n Tapes were 2006's Internet hype band, but had a lot of steak to back up the sizzle--The Loon is sharp and catchy, and very rewarding of multiple listens.

The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant)

Rock is not dead, and Boys and Girls in America proves it. Fans of Springsteen have no excuse not to love this record.

Ali Farka Toure, Savane (Nonesuch)

Released in July after Toure's death from bone cancer in March, Savane is a testament to the human spirit in the face of mortality and sheds new light on the connections between American blues artists and the African traditions from which Savane's gritty, raw electrified blues arises.

Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino)

Bratty, exuberant and smartly written, the Arctic Monkeys' debut was the best thing from across the pond this year.

Spank Rock, YoYoYoYoYo (Big Dada)

If anyone's wondering why Q-Tip can't write a song anymore, it's because Spank Rock stole his mojo. Laid-back rhyming over brutal, almost caustic beats means that you can skate or strip to YoYoYoYoYo, your choice.

Silversun Pickups, Carnavas (Dangerbird)

This underrated Southern California band has been nibbling about the periphery of alt-rock relevance for a few years now, and in a just world, Carnavas would vault them to Smashing Pumpkins status. (Carnavas is somewhat reminiscent of Siamese Dream, but without a bald loser for a singer.)

Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (Downtown)

Although there are about three songs on St. Elsewhere that I seem to always skip ("The Boogie Monster" annoys the shit out of me), it makes my Top 10 on the strength of "Crazy" alone, which was easily the best song of the year.

Josh Rouse, Subtitulo (Nettwerk)

Rouse's seventh album finds him in the comfort zone of the seasoned singer-songwriter--nothing terribly ambitious, but solid, well-crafted songs from a veteran.

Espers, II (Drag City)

Just when so-called "freak folk" becomes annoying almost to the point of criminality, along comes a record that redeems all the hirsute anti-fashion-victim-ness of it all. II is haunting and ethereal in the most totally non-Enya way possible. Druids would have dug this record.

Stephen Seigel

(in alphabetical order)

Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino)

For once, the hyperbolic British press got it right. Alex Turner is an underage pub crawler who is able to document the experience in Technicolor detail, and doesn't sound forced when he sings the word "fookin'." Add funky basslines, guitars that can stab and chime in equal measure, and the occasional old-school, sing-along punk chant, and, well, what more could you want?

Band of Horses, Everything All the Time (Sub Pop)

This is the only album on this list that I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard it. And I remember thinking at the time: This is an instant classic. It came out in March, and I haven't wavered in my conviction. Just plain gorgeous.

Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (ANTI-)

The perfective Case took four years to follow up her last studio album, and once you hear Fox Confessor, you realize why. Her songwriting, which is far less traditional here than previously, though never alienatingly so, has finally caught up with her natural gift as one of the best singers on the planet.

Bob Dylan, Modern Times (Columbia/Sony)

What seemed a tad slight on first listen--and which I later came to recognize as tasteful understatement--has become one of the most comfortable listens of my year. Completely riveting, though I have a difficult time explaining why (I'm not a big fan of barroom blues, after all), beyond the fact that it's yet another fabulous new Dylan album.

Lupe Fiasco, Food and Liquor (Atlantic/Wea)

I heard this one late in the year, and it's been in constant rotation ever since. Like most modern rap albums, it's far from flawless, but it's my favorite hip-hop album of the year, a debut almost as auspicious as The College Dropout, minus the ego issues.

Islands, Return to the Sea (Equator)

Former Unicorns collaborate with fellow members of the new Montreal (not-so) underground and split the difference between the idiosyncratic pop tendencies of their old band and the grandeur of their Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade peers. A lush pop experiment that incorporates everything from Caribbean rhythms to hip-hop, chamber aspirations to psychedelia, with complex but pure melodies throughout.

The Long Winters, Putting the Days to Bed (Barsuk)

Though it's not as good as 2003's When I Pretend to Fall, this is another excellent volume of deceptively jaunty indie-pop songs with emotionally devastating returns. The fact that John Roderick and company don't sell at least as many records as the inferior Death Cab for Cutie is a crime.

Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City)

I'd rather kick a homeless dude in the nuts than attend a renaissance faire, but this harp and strings affair sounds unlike anything I've ever heard. I'll still be trying to dissect it well into 2007.

TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope)

Virtually unclassifiable, the Brooklyn band's second album is a dazzling amalgam of dense sonic weirdness, inventive vocals that aren't afraid to invoke the Beach Boys one minute and disorient you the next, thought-provoking lyrics (the album's first lines are "I was a lover / before this war"), and a heart of pure righteous soul.

Tom Waits, Orphans (ANTI-)

By this point you're either a fan of Waits, or you're not. If you fall into the former camp you'll be astounded by this, three CDs loaded with exceptional art from a true American master.

Near Misses: Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere; The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America; Mission of Burma, The Obliterati; Danielson, Ships; The Starlight Mints, Drowaton.