Despite pressure from watchdog groups, Pretty Fakes is not and will never be a signatory to the Year-End List Anti-Proliferation Treaty. Why? Because sometimes you need content, dammit, and a year-end list is the only way to get it.
Although I’m a true believer in the album format and scoff at notions that the debut of the portable MP3 player heralds the demise of the Age of the Album, I’m going to forego the traditional year-end album list (since I usually write up the albums I love when they come out anyway) in favor of a list focused on the individual songs with which I was obsessed, for varying amounts of time and with varying degrees of fervor, in 2006. Although a lot of these are songs that actually debuted in 2006, a few are older nuggets that I only recently discovered. Will I rank them? Yes. Will I use a lot of tortured hipster-rock-critic metaphors to describe them? Yes. Am I doing that ironically or sincerely? Who can really tell any more?
Some of the links below lead to label and artist pages where you can download MP3s and listen to sound clips. Some do not.
14. “Talk to Me Devil, Again,” Magnolia Electric Company (Fading Trails). I’ll say it: Fading Trails is a big disappointment. I’m fine with Jason Molina’s Neil Young fixation, but I don’t know why it has to extend to Neil’s diamonds-in-the-rough album creation policy, tossing a few brilliant songs on the platter along with a bunch of forgettable ones. That said, “Talk to Me Devil, Again,” is three-and-a-half minutes of pure, uncut Molina moon-dark greatness. Also by far the best song this year to use the word “rhododendron.”
13. “The Story of Yo La Tengo,” Yo La Tengo (I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass). On that subject: I know we’re supposed to hail this year’s new YLT album as a triumphant return to form, and I was all set to do so, except… it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to get an album full of stylistic switchbacks and cross-cuts, but the whole thing feels a little cold, doesn’t it? Admittedly, by making genius routine, the band has put themselves in something of an impossible situation. I would be tempted to chalk my dissatisfaction with this album up to my own petulant desire to hear Yo La Tengo for the first time again if it weren’t for tracks like this one, the album closer, which captures all the weird, noisy, haunting heart-sleeve magic of the best of the band’s back catalog while still managing to sound new.
More YLT on PF:
“Finyl Vinyl Days”
12. “Parking Lot Blues,” Saturday Looks Good to Me (Sound on Sound). This song contains 100% of your recommended daily allowance of summer and good times.
10. “Glenn Tipton,” Sun Kill Moon (Ghosts of the Great Highway).
Dear Okkervil River:
This is probably what you wanted “Westfall” to sound like. It doesn’t.
Unnecessarily snarkily yours,
PF (with thanks to Darren who gave me a copy forever ago).
9. “A Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” Cliff Gober (Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal). This is one of my favorite songs, period, and this funk interpretation is sort of a revelation, and not the kind where you have to eat a scroll and it turns sour in your stomach.
8. “Gone,” Kanye West (Late Orchestration live album). Is it still okay to like Kanye West? I can’t keep up. I happened across this track on Fluxblog (where I think you can still get it). It is a delight.
7. “Olivia,” Short Punks in Love (self-titled EP). You know how at the end of the Kree-Skrull War, Rick Jones, his latent mental powers pushed to the max by the Kree Supreme Intelligence, suddenly generates a whole phalanx of obscure and forgotten Golden Age heroes? OK, well, replace “Rick Jones” with “Brian Cremins” and “obscure and forgotten Golden Age heroes” with “alternate-universe quantum-ghost versions of songs by Springsteen, Westerberg, and Elvis Costello,” and that’s what the self-titled Short Punks in Love EP is like. “Olivia” is a highlight.
6. “I Was a Stranger,” Smog (Red Apple Falls). Is it possible to be pathologically laconic? Bill Callahan says yes, and he’s made a career out of it. Here’s a song that captures the moment when everyone in town discovers that the sweet-eyed, withdrawn new arrival in town isn’t stammering because he’s shy but because he’s trying to talk over the voices in his head. Anyone in earshot who doesn’t run for the hills when he asks “Why do you women in this town / let me look at you so bold…” probably deserves what’s coming to them.
5. “You Can Make Him Like You,” The Hold Steady (Boys and Girls in America). Great kiss-off anthem, or the greatest kiss-off anthem? Jarred loose from the rich fictional background that lends weight and resonance to so many of the songs on past HS albums, the tunes on Boys and Girls sometimes feel a little exposed, a little under-written. Not this one, though, which spits its venom with a marksman’s precision.
4. “Yr Mangled Heart,” The Gossip (Standing in the Way of Control). I feel like a latecomer poseur in my Gossip fandom: that is, I think I’m supposed to be ambivalent about the dancier, borderline-disco beats on the new album whilst pining wistfully for the minimalism and giddy semi-competence of their early recordings. But this song will not be denied. It actually makes me want to dance, and I generally don’t dance. Except occasionally in front of my students when they won’t talk, because watching me dance is much worse than advancing an interpretation of “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” This has been your insight into my pedagogical practices for the day.
3. “If You See the Light,” The Mountain Goats (Get Lonely). If, like me, you live in the Deep South, you’ve probably experienced the same difficulty I have in fully committing emotionally to Get Lonely, no matter how much you love it intellectually. I mean, it was 80 degrees in late November—not the best setting for an album that sounds best amidst the sounds of drifting leaves and the resolute scraping of windshield wipers. Even the band threw almost the whole album out the window during their recent show here in Baton Rouge. Maybe that’s why I’ve gravitated towards one of the few uptempo songs on GL. It’s saying something when the cheerfulest song on the album is about a sad monster hiding, one assumes ineffectively, under a table, taking yoga breaths to calm himself whilst awaiting the inevitable riot of torch and farm-implement wielding villagers.
More Mountain Goats on PF:
Halloween at the Spanish Moon
Gorjus on The Sunset Tree
Review of Get Lonely
My Top 10 Mountain Goats songs
Gorjus’ poster for the 2005 Jackson show
And, though you’re sick of seeing it, “Darnielle on the Edge of Town.”
2. “European Oils,” Destroyer (Destroyer’s Rubies). I’ve waxed rhapsodic about this album already, and this song is the ultimate expression of its back-alley sleaze-glam glory. If you play a recording of a French-language cast performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” backwards and at half-speed, it would sound something like this.
1. “John Saw That Number,” Neko Case (Fox Confessor Brings the Flood). If anyone who has heard this song tells you that it’s not their favorite song of the year, these people are lying and you shouldn’t be friends with them because they’re going to hell when they die and you don’t want to be sad about your friends burning in hell.
And hey look, Sally’s feeling musical today too!