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The Best Albums of 2006

An Interesting Year

2006 has proved another venerable year in music. For every Paris Hilton, there was a Joanna Newsom. There were some established rockers returning after hiatuses -- Cat Power and The Red Hot Chili Peppers -- and some emerging bands making good - Grizzly Bear, The Knife. Whatever the case, it was interesting. And, after all, isn't that music is really about? Here are our critics' picks on the best and, most interesting, in music from 2006.

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Chris Ellis

1. The Knife – Silent Shout
A convincing portrayal of an obscure LP from the mid-80s that never was; it’s hard to believe this jewel was first released in 2006. Easily blowing away the others on this list -- Silent Shout is a twisted ingenious mix of electric handclaps, psych-trance harmonics and vocals that will vibrate your spine.

2. Thom Yorke – The Eraser
Yorke’s solo effort lands second on my small list of favorites. His intellectual ennui is transferred digitally -- the lyrical brilliance of ”The Clock” and “Atoms For Peace” alone made this album an essential disc for '06 and beyond.

3. Brightblack Morning Light - Brightblack Morning Light
The wide, barren landscapes of our memory is condensed and lightheartedly reinterpreted here. Admittedly, the album cannot be played on continuous loop without falling asleep but what top five lists from years past haven’t included a few personal, if not fleeting, favorites?

4. Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I Am Dreaming
So this Freakish Rock phenom is just a passing fad? I think not. Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug created Rub as a side project, and there is something about this disc that recalls the best of Jamie Stewart’s vicious kindness with Animal Collective’s disjunctive harmony and, of course, not quite Wolf Parade but the best piece of it.

5. Liars – Drums Not Dead
Too many bands come out with concept albums and art albums and funky whathaveyous but in Liars case, Drums is truly something to admire. It's one thing to make bad music for art's sake but to actually succeed at making drone interesting and palatable for the masses -- what more could you possibly ask for?

And in no particular order, the runner-ups:

Flaming Lips – At War with the Mystics

Baby Dayliner – Critics Pass Away

Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped

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Matt Crawford

1. E-40 - My Ghetto Report Card
This is undeniably one of the most important Bay Area albums to come out this year. Teaming up with Lil’ Jon was the best move E-40 could have made to catapult his music and the Yay Area’s urban music scene back into the national spotlight (it’s not that much different than crunk, anyway) and the results were hipper than a hippopotamus.

2. Cat Power - The Greatest
Chan Marshall returned with a beautiful album, created with the help of a handful of old-school Southern musicians, including Al Green guitarist Teenie Hodges. It makes me want to cry every time I listen to it, and that means something, right?

3. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
The most relevant Wu-Tang Clan member of the year, Ghostface can’t be stopped. His lyrics know no boundaries. Every time I listen to it something new pops out.

4. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
I won’t lie, I’m mostly basing this choice off of the strength of “Crazy” (remember “Hey Ya” a few years back?), and I wouldn’t be sad if I never heard the song again, but you have to give it up to Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse. These two cats have been doing their thing for years with not much more than a blip on most peoples’ radar screens. They finally cast their line into uncharted territory and the world bit the hook.

5. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
No bullshit, just good solid rock ’n’ roll, and I like it.

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VinCi Chan

1. Playing With Fire - Kevin Federline
The lyrics shine with the brilliance of a village idiot. It was banned in China and a good thing since we do not want the rest of the world to imitate music like this. There’s a war going on and it’s called censorship and, in this case, it is undeniably a good thing.

2. Undiscovered - Brooke Hogan
Something slapped me upside the head and it tasted cheap and mediocre. With all the distractions from being Hulk Hogan’s daughter and having a body like that, along with a face that’s not too bad to look at, who's really paying attention to the music?

3. Paris - Paris Hilton
Looking like a Neiman Marcus mannequin, she sings with such breathiness in each song -- thereby conveying a sort of sexiness, or just compensating for lack of talent. Make no mistake, her depth equals that found in disposable plastic.

4. What’s Left Of Me - Nick Lachey
This guy was left hung to dry. There must be something this guy can work with unlike his ex-wife who can get by with her chest of junk and bright smile. I’d be asking the same thing if I were him.

5. Come Get It: The Very Best of Aaron Carter - Aaron Carter
Enough said.

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Jenny Miyasaki

1. The Knife - Silent Shout
Prior to releasing Silent Shout earlier this year, the Swedish brother/sister duo of the Knife had already begun establishing itself as an increasingly innovative techno/electronic music act with their self-titled release (2001), as well as the phenomenal follow-up, Deep Cuts (2003). After captivating the world with the first single off of Deep Cuts, "Heartbeats" (fellow Swede, Jose Gonzalez, helped by covering the tune, which was featured in a Sony commercial), the Knife led their fans to a markedly darker, colder, and more haunted terrain with Silent Shout --a stunningly original and ghostly contender for best album of the year.

2. Asobi Seksu – Citrus
The latest release from Brooklyn-based dreampop rockers Asobi Seksu is a tribute to the hope and romanticism of an era long gone but not forgotten. Taking atmospheric cues from noisy shoe-gazers My Bloody Valentine, Asobi Seksu infuses its guitar-laden rock with the naive earnestness of early 1960s girl-group pop, with Yuki Chikudate's enchanting vocals sweetly and seamlessly weaving between English and Japanese. Though Asobi Seksu doesn't necessarily reinvent the wheel with Citrus, the band does revive the way pop music used to be made -- that is, meticulously -- with equal parts honesty, charm, and talent.

3. Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
After the Junior Boys quietly stuttered and bleeped their way into our hearts with their decidedly "lo-fi" electronic debut album, Last Exit (2004), Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus raised the stakes with this year's phenomenal follow-up, So This Is Goodbye. Junior Boys down-tempo groove beats are embolden by Greenspan's breathy, soulful vocals that are just emo enough to make the album the perfect soundtrack for both lovemaking and heartbreaking. Hot stuff.

4. Beach House - s/t
A phonograph. A photograph. The breeze that blew through the sun-yellowed curtains of your childhood home. Listening to Beach House's anachronistic debut is a haunting experience that is at once chilling and inviting -- like our most intense memories often are. Reminiscent of Quix*O*Tic, White Magic, Kate Bush, and even Nico and Dusty Springfield, Victoria Legrand's vocals and the rough, stripped down instrumentation of Alex Scally are evocative lullabies that carry you to places you buried long ago.

5. Tussle - Telescope Mind
The best way to describe local shake-ass dance rockers Tussle is to simply set their name to music and move your body to the beat: Tussle is a hustle, a shuffle, a shake. Lots of drums, lots of bass, lots of cymbals, and best of all, a TON of fun. Unlike most dance/electronic music that's out there these days, Tussle actually puts on a fantastic live show and they play the Bay Area fairly often. Buy Telescope Mind to tide you over until you can dance your ass off at their show!

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Lynne Angel

1. Joanna Newsom – Ys
An obvious yet unavoidable pick. Ys is a true feat of musical bravery, showcasing considerable talent all around.

2. Pit Er Pat – Pyramids
These three musicians are somehow able to approach this record from completely different angles only to create something almost entirely fluid and concise. It's at once jazz and folk, psych and experimental trance; a nicely flowing album.

3. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House
See these guys live. Their attention to sonic detail is unreal. Stacking vocals like legos and with drums so thick with delay and reverb they seem to float out and punch you in the neck; their style is simply lovely.

4. Cat Power - The Greatest
Perhaps not THE greatest, but it is certainly well composed and beautifully written.

5. Comets On Fire – Avatar
A perfect mixture between too much and so much. Loud and over-bearing, incandescent and soulful.

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Matt Forsman

1. Wolfmother - Wolfmother
The self-titled debut album from this band from down under hit the airwaves and catalyzed a near frenzy over these straight up retro-rockers. Wolfmother’s sound has been compared to Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and just about every other hard rocking band from the 70s. For fans of this sound, there simply is no substitute for Wolfmother.

2. Flaming Lips - At War with the Mystics

3. Yeah, Yeah - Yeahs-Show Your Bones

4. The Killers - Sam’s Town

5. DJ Shadow - The Outsider

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Rossiter Drake

1. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
Jack White’s tortured wail and thunderous riffs have rarely sounded as robust as they do on Broken Boy Soldiers, an inspired collaboration between the White Stripes frontman, power-pop prodigy Brendan Benson, and Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence of the Greenhornes.

2. Peeping Tom - Peeping Tom

3. Wolfmother - Wolfmother

4. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere

5. The Beatles - Love

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Adam Pollock

1. The New York Dolls - One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This

2. The Death of Jason Brody - The Death of Jason Brody

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium

4. Placebo - Meds

5. None.