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Kingblind’s Top 10 albums of 2006 (SO FAR)

It’s time for our annual mid year list of best records of 2006. Of course the final year end list ALWAYS changes and has plenty of new additions but until then.. This is the top shelf stuff.

Elf Power: Back to the web
On April 24th, Elf Power returned with their Rykodisc debut, Back to the Web, a haunting, twisting journey weaving its way through heavy psychedelic haze, to soulful, melodic folk, to stomping T Rex-styled rock. Back to the Web is full of the band’s signature, lovely pop melodies, but a distinct progression is evident in the songwriting and the lush, full production. The folkier tunes are laced with strings and the heavier ones scream psychedelia; influences of Bob Dylan and Wall-era Pink Floyd can be detected. Singer/songwriter Andrew Rieger comments, “I was listening to a lot of middle eastern folk and gypsy music when I started writing these songs and I tried to emulate some of those sounds by combining 12 string acoustic guitar with violin and accordion. Our last album was more of a straight ahead rock record, so in reaction this one came out as more of a dark, orchestrated folk rock album.” Formed in Athens, GA in 1994, Elf Power was spawned from the legendary Elephant 6 collective that also produced Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal and Apples In Stereo. The band has spent the past twelve years making albums and touring the globe, sharing bills with the likes of R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr., Wilco and Guided By Voices.

Band of Horses:: Everything all the time
Guitarist/vocalist Ben Bridwell and bassist Mat Brooke formed Band Of Horses in 2004 after the dissolution of their nearly ten-year run in northwest melancholic darlings Carissa’s Wierd. Carissa’s Wierd trafficked in sadly beautiful orchestral pop, whose songs told unflinching stories of heartbreak and loss, leavened with defeatist humor. Band Of Horses rises from those ashes. Buoyed by Bridwell’s warm, reverb-heavy vocals (which channel a strange brew of Wayne Coyne, Neil Young, and Doug Martsch), the group’s woodsy, dreamy songs ooze with amorphous tension, longing, and hope. Both raggedly epic and delicately pensive, this is an album painted gorgeously in fragile highs and lows.

Tapes N’ Tapes:; The Loon
You will not be able to tear yourself away from this album. This is no daringly outrageous, Kid A-esque “progressive” music that nobody really enjoys listening to. This is rock ‘n roll.

Mastodon:: Blood Mountain
Listen kids… All of you.. You aren’t even ready for this.. August is coming and when it does Mastodon is going to show you the most heavy, complex and beautiful record that you have ever heard. Tool wishes they could right this stuff. Think King Crimson meets Slayer.. Crazy stuff.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Show Your Bones’
With Show Your Bones, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs follow up to the heralded Fever to Tell Karen O economizes on the screaming that so marked the trio’s debut EP. And oh how she exceeds her oft-noted influences (PJ Harvey and Chrissie Hynde, for two): Whether she’s hanging back with a staggered beat on “Phenomena,” or riding on the kick-drum-pounded opening to “Honeybear,” she’s always ready to disappear in a burst of Nick Zinner’s guitars and Brian Chase’s drums. The YYYs thrill precisely because of their keen mix, Karen O spiking the upper ranges (dig the caterwaul in “Mysteries”) with a sharply cut vocal line or a simple, full-bodied singsong delivery while the guitars spin thick storms of sound before retreating to atmospherics (try the transition from the quick throttle of “Cheated Hearts” into the Cure-ish “Dudley,” for one example). And marvel at how well radio would be served by blasting the acoustic, pleading vibe of “Warrior.” Fabulous.

Jenny Lewis:: Rabbit Fur Coat
Known and loved by many as the enchanting front-woman for LA’s Rilo Kiley, Jenny’s vocal and songwriting gifts have continued to blossom at a rapid rate since that band’s first album in 2000. Jenny’s hauntingly soulful voice, sometimes bursting with buoyant spirit and at other times plaintive and world wearied, is deep, sensual and beguiling. Intricate storytelling and evocative lyrics infuse these songs with a captivating vibrancy but may be knocked sideways by the musical alchemy at play as a result of folk, country, and Southern gospel influences.

The Futureheads:: News & Tributes
Best known for a spastic, heavily accented post-punk cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” that went Top 10 in the UK, this British quartet attempts to kick away from its ’80s-inspired comrades–such as Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Chiefs–on their second album. Not that there’s any shortage of spiky riffs, jerky rhythms, and off-kilter harmonies on News and Tributes.

The Flaming Lips:: At war with the Mystics
After two expansive yet winsome epic albums like The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots that dealt with the inevitability of death in the face of life, the Oklahoma City art provocateurs have abandoned the concept album approach and done an about face. They’ve returned to their earlier canon, channeling their messy psychedelica through a 70s funk scrim, and yet again figured out a way to elevate the ordinary to the sublime–even out-weirding Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd

The Raconteurs:: Broken Boy Soldiers
Smothered by the indulgence of his rock star ranking, Jack White steps into the eccentricities of the supergroup, and at first glance, this seems to be a band where White’s imposing presence could overshadow the rest. Not the case with these Raconteurs. Teaming with fellow Detroit songwriter Brendan Benson and Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, the rhythm section from Cincinnati band the Greenhornes, White exhales a bit, deferring enough to his mates to make Broken Boy Soldiers play like a team effort. Following the Benson blueprint, “Steady as She Goes,” which opens as a slice of 1960’s radio pop, the record steers away from pigeonholing the rest of the way.

Gnarls Barkley:: St. Elsewhere
In 2006, Danger Mouse is King Midas of the music world. He has an uncanny knack for creating jagged, dense, frenzied beats and odd, eerie, vivid soundscapes that never compromise the music’s natural flow. Meanwhile, rapper and singer Cee-Lo, a veteran of Atlanta’s Dirty South scene, has never been one to be constrained by hip-hop conventions, and is a willing partner in adventure. The result is an intrepid psychedelic blend of pop, hip-hop, soul, and rock that consistently challenges and delights. It’s no wonder that “Crazy,” with its modest riff, irresistible hook, and disarming opening line (“I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind”) became a worldwide Internet sensation a full six months before the official release of St. Elsewhere.