December 11, 2006

Best of 2006, Part One: The Bliss-Out Records

I hate best-of lists, but dang it, I can't seem to avoid them. This year, after compiling my list, I noticed some themes developing. So this list is the first part of a five part series, covering the best of 2006. This first list is dedicated to heady, mind-bendingly beautiful music that deserves attention, and if you were to put these records on in the same disc changer, you could bliss your mind harder than you could on any drug. Enjoy!

Hammock Raising Your Voice...Trying to Stop an Echo: This record contains some of the most hauntingly beautiful instrumental music I've heard all year. It's the aural equivalent of floating in space and gliding through the galaxy to Heaven. It is seriously that beautiful. Oh, but then there are the vocals, which contain some of the most melancholy lyrics you'll hear all year, too. All in all, it's a beautiful record that will transport your mind to all sorts of places. (Darla Records)
Listen To: Various Tracks

Mercury Rev Hello, Blackbird: How the hell did this amazing record slip by unnoticed?????
An all-instrumental mind-music journey that sounds like Mercury Rev finally capitulated on its desire to make a classic Disney movie soundtrack. For a low-key release, it's probably one of their best records ever. No, seriously, it's that good, and I have to admit I'm simply going by the album stream on their website. I don't actually own this record, which may be cheating, but after listening to it and shedding a tear or two at its beauty, I realized that not listing it somewhere would be a damn crime. Music this good deserves to be released in America--but yet, music this good rarely is. Still, it's a treat worth finding. (V2 Music)
Listen To: The Entire album

Subtle The Mercury Craze: A heady hip-hop journey, but not really a hip-hop record. Subtle has made the most with its lucky break, and took the opportunities afforded them to make a record that's not only the best of their career, but the best of the careers of their individual members. Smart music for smart people; that they persevere in the face of many adversities only makes their music stronger. (Astralwerks)
Listen To: Various Tracks

Elanors Movements: On first listen, this Chicago husband and wife duo's music didn't quite resonate with me. Then, after a late night listen, not only did it make sense, I instantly fell in love. With a style that's part Jeff Buckley, Part Radiohead, and part prog-rock, all mixed together with a jazz sensibility, Movements will really make you feel...mellow. (Parasol)
Listen To: Various Tracks

Montys Loco Man Overboard: A bizarre, haunting record made by two mysterious, enigmatic Swedish women. The music ranges from occasional offbeat pop to dark, haunting dirges set to a postpunk atmosphere. In short, their music is unclassifiable pop that's well to the left of Kate Bush's middle period. Though the album is woefully short, it's still a record that will enthrall you for twenty-eight minutes. (North of No South)
Listen To: Various Tracks

Charalambides: A Vintage Burden: Fifteen years into a vast, deep career, the duo of Tom and Christina Carter decided to make their most accessible album to date. Was it an accident that the times finally caught up to them? Or is this record merely an anomaly within their massive discography? Best not to think about it, you know. Beautiful folkish sounds and gorgeous vocals and warm guitars--told you it was different, folks! (Kranky)

The Slip: Eisenhower: This 'jam band for people who hate jam bands' has been quietly making music since the 1990s, but this album, it's BIG. Its arrangements are lush and large and somewhat melancholy, and the melodies are simply heavenly. Nothing hippie about them, either. Their last release consisted of two live albums divided in different sounds, with one being a loud, primarily instrumental collection of noisy electronica sound-scapes and the other a collection of sad, acoustic low-key country/folk balladry. This should tell you a lot about them. A great discovery! (Bar/None)
Listen To: Various Tracks

MONO & World's End Girlfriend: Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain: Japan's loudest rock band meets up with an electronica composer, and they...make a classical record? Yup, that's what happened; that's what they did, and it can be best summed up in one word: "Breathtaking." Would you have known it was MONO had you not known it was MONO? Nope, probably not. And that's quite okay. (Temporary Residence, LTD)

Benoit Pioulard Precis: Okay, so he's not French and his name's really Thomas, but setting that aside, Precis is gorgeous, blissed-out pop music of the highest order. Dreamy, slightly narcotic instrumentals drift between dreamy, angelic-styled crooning. Precis is a highlight of the year, to be sure; it certainly whets the appetite for this young man's next music. It's one of the rare instances where the hype-making bloggers got it right! (Kranky)
Listen To: Various Tracks

The Album Leaf Into the Blue Again: Should have been called "Into the Heavenly mind of James Lavelle again," because this collection of songs is easily his earthiest, most mind-relaxing collection of songs to date. How does a guy make music this good, this consistently? I can't tell ya. But consistency is the man's strong point, and this is another gorgeous Album Leaf record, and though he showed more of a pop edge this time around, the music still never failed to be less than beautiful. (Sub Pop)
Listen To: "Always for You"

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