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Kingblind.com Top 20 Albums of 2006 (#15 thru #11)

Well folks here it is… Our top 20 albums of 2006. From 43 writers in 10 countries we have tallied all the votes, crunched the numbers and POW… this is it… broken down into 4 groups (20 to 16. – 15 to 11 -10 to 6 then 5 to 1.) Every day we will show you another 5.. Enjoy

#11 The Hold Steady- Boy and Girls in America
Like many of America’s smartest rock bands — from Fountains of Wayne to the Drive-By Truckers — this Minneapolis-to-Brooklyn quintet are an anomaly. With their third album they’ve moved to youth-culture central at Vagrant and earned high praise from the hipster judges at Pitchfork. Yet as frontman Craig Finn tries singing instead of just reciting and the band hang tighter around their major-chord riffs, the music sounds older than ever, recalling beautiful-loser ’70s rock like Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland.” And Franz Nicolay at times tinkles the ivories with such abandon, he could be the E Street Band’s Roy Bittan tripping on mushrooms. Which he might well be except that, like Springsteen’s E Street, the Hold Steady are empathetic spokespeople for fucked-up youth, not fucked-up youth themselves, and their boss is like the Boss — a reprobate Catholic obsessed with redemption. Finn’s American boys and girls make pipes from Pringles cans, are great kissers but lousy lovers, yearn for “guys with the hot soft eyes,” and flip through radio stations as if they were searching for salvation. If they stumbled across the Hold Steady, they — unlike Bruce’s boys and girls — might even smirk and move on. But that’s one more reason a smart agnostic like you shouldn’t.
Chips Ahoy- Music Video
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#12 Yeah Yeah Yeah’s- 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.
Cheated Heart Music video
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#13 Arctic Monkeys – “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”
On the face of it, Arctic Monkeys do their best to put you off. They have a dismal name and even worse artwork. They look boring and make boring videos. In interviews, they play at being macho, professionally northern anti-intellectuals. So far, so Oasis.

But unlike Noel Gallagher, Alex Turner refuses to hide his intelligence when he writes his songs. Consequently, this debut album, aside from its childishly contrary title, is very much a continuation of The Libertines’ work, with Turner bringing a dagger-like intellect to bear on his everyday routines: pulling girls in nightclubs, getting in scrapes, seething at the sleazy scumbags soliciting on the street outside. It’s easy to draw a line to The Libertines’ “Up the Bracket” album, with its hyper-eloquent tales of buying drugs, taking drugs and getting chased down the street by drug-dealers. While dreaming of Albion and Arcadia, obviously.

Reluctant as we are to harp on about them, The Libertines are central to an understanding of how the Monkeys got so big so quickly. When The Libertines dissolved at their peak, there was a ready-made, internet-connected fanbase left crying out for similarly sharp, funny, accessible band – but with a more practical bent. The Monkeys’ MP3s popped up at exactly the right time, and with Doherty lurching from one crisis to the next, The Libertines’ online army picked a new favourite band.

This debut album rewards their decision. Such is the depth and quality of Turner’s songwriting, it plays like a best of, blasting away any skepticism with an early one-two of “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Fake Tales Of San Francisco”, before striking more contemplative notes with “Riot Van” (which dissects binge-drunk Britain) and “Mardy Bum” (a forensic exploration of relationship dynamics).

The Monkeys then tease out the white-funk thread running through their hot-wired indie-punk with “Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…”, before the album accelerates into the devastating closing trio of “When The Sun Goes Down”, “From The Ritz To The Rubble” (in which a row with a bouncer inspires Turner’s best song) and the climactic “A Certain Romance”.

Having cast an eye over a world of Classic Reeboks and tracksuits tucked in socks, “A Certain Romance” then delivers a killer line: “All of that’s what the point is not / The point is that there’s no romance around here.” While “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” may be short of old-fashioned romance, there’s an abundance of real magic at work on this record. Like a good Oasis, the Arctic Monkeys are here to finish the job The Libertines abandoned. Hang out the bunting.
4 Videos from The Arctic Monkeys
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#14 Sufjan Stevens – “The Avalanche”
This isn’t a new geographic-themed CD from indie heartthrob Sufjan Stevens, but a set of outtakes and extras from his 2005 boho Americana masterpiece, Illinois. Though the cover says The Avalanche is ”shamelessly compiled,” Stevens has nothing to be ashamed of: These wistful folk-pop leftovers are better than most acts’ A game. Tunes about Prairie State notables Adlai Stevenson and Saul Bellow are charming character sketches, while the baroque arrangements suggest Stevens could have a second career as a baton-wielding composer.
(Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois Video)
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#15 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 on a track like “Pompeii,” and precariously balancing out on the astral plane on “Wizard Turns On.” And while you might be tempted to believe that this band is just about their cartoonish space bubbles on pink rabbits, it is at your own peril. At War With the Mystics is an intelligent and searing indictment of George W. Bush, his administration, suicide bombers, superficiality and undeserved stardom–branding them all sinners of similar stripe. A
song like “Sound of Failure/It’s Dark…Is it Always This Dark?” boldly calls out pop culture princesses Gwen Stefani and Britney Spears, but not without first giving them a wet kiss goodnight. “Free Radicals” is a precious soul romp that sounds like Prince in his prime, but instead was oddly inspired by a dream about Devendra Banhart, and is an sharp arrow aimed straight at the heart of would-be terrorists. Major domo and head Lip Wayne Coyne is a shrewd observer of human nature, and an even shrewder songwriter and this album stands as his greatest and most varied work yet.
(The Yeah Yeah Song Live Video)
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