Best music of 2006

Here are my picks for best music of the year, including samples of key tracks.

Richard AshcroftKeys to the World
The former lead singer of The Verve, Richard Ashcroft pulled from a variety of styles to make an outstanding CD. The Motown flavored “Music is Power,” the brit-pop “Break the Night with Colour” and the Paul Westerburg-like ballad “Sweet Brother Malcolm” are all excellent songs. The title track is another superb brit-pop song.

sample of Keys to the World by the Richard Ashcroft (mp3)

Neko CaseFox Confessor Brings the Flood
This was my favorite album of 2006. For a full review, see my post from April 23rd.

sample of Hold On Hold On by Neko Case (mp3)

The DecemberistsThe Crane Wife
On their followup to last year’s excellent CD, Picaresque, the Decemberists are moving away from English/Pirate/Folk rock toward a 1970’s progressive rock style (complete with a twelve-minute opus of four songs blended together). Evolution of a band can be good thing, and The Crane Wife is a fine example of that.

sample of Summersong by the Decemberists (mp3)

The Dixie ChicksTaking the Long Way
This is much more of a rock album (think of John Mellencamp’s style) than a country album. Indeed with the trouble the trio had with the the hardcore country conservatives over the past year or so, the Chicks are almost thumbing their noses at the industry with songs like “Lubbock or Leave It” or “Not Ready to Make Nice.” Their songwriting and harmonies have never been better, especially on songs like “The Long Way Around” “Easy Silence” and “Silent House.” This album contains my favorite song of the year, “Voice Inside My Head,” where the singer looks back in wonder on their decision to end a relationship years ago.

sample of Voice Inside My Head by the Dixie Chicks (mp3)

I was only a kid,
When I said goodbye to you.
Ten summers ago,
But it feels like yesterday.
Lost, scared and alone,
Nothing I could give to you.
I tried, I really did.
But I couldn’t find another way.

And I want and I need,
Somehow to believe,
In the choice I made.
Am I better off this way?

I can hear the voice inside my head,
Saying you should be with me instead.
Every time I’m feeling down, I wonder
What would it be like with you around.

Los LobosThe Town and the City
On their best album since 1992’s Kiko, Los Lobos can be subtle and restrained, as well as forceful and emotional. A musically adventurous disc from one of the best bands in the country.

sample of The City by Los Lobos (mp3)

John MayerContinuum
His most solid and consistent release yet. With this disc, you can hear his music is really starting to mature and find its own way.

sample of Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer (mp3)

Corinne Bailey RaeCorinne Bailey Rae
Laid back, easy going, neo-soul music. Corinne’s sound is kind of a cross between Macy Gray and Sade. An excellent debut album.

sample of Trouble Sleeping by Corinne Bailey Rae (mp3)

Honorable Mentions

  • Bob Dylan – Modern Times
  • Robyn Hitchcock – Olé! Tarantula
  • Tom Petty – Highway Companion