Monday, February 26, 2007

Hospital Vespers

I’ve been writing about a band called The Weakerthans for Paste Magazine. If you don’t know them, you should check them out. They play loud rock ‘n roll, and they have a lead singer/songwriter who sneers like a punk but who has the heart of a romantic poet. His name is John K. Samson, and I love his songs.

I used to play one of his songs, called “Hospital Vespers,” around the time when my brother-in-law was dying of cancer. Samson’s songs used to be filled with F Bombs, little verbal tantrums that got old pretty quickly. Then, impossibly, he became a great songwriter, and he started writing poetry. But he’s still tossing F bombs, even if he doesn’t use the precise words. “Hospital Vespers” is an upraised middle finger to death, and the impersonal way people die in our culture, and it’s one of the most humane, compassionate songs I’ve ever heard. I thought about it when I thought about my brother-in-law. Now I think about it because I’ve just written about the band, and because several friends are currently going through the same thoughts and emotions I went through a few years ago. I hate death, so I pray for healing, and I believe that God can and does still work in those ways. But if He doesn’t, then I pray for humanity, for decency, for something like a death that respects and honors the individual.

In any event, “Hospital Vespers” goes like this:

Doctors played your dosage like a card trick.
Scrabbled down the hallways yelling Yahtzee.
I brought books on Hopper, and the Arctic,
something called "The Politics Of Lonely,"
a toothbrush and a quick-pick with the plus.
You tried not to roll your sunken eyes and said
"Hey can you help me, I can't reach it."
Pointed at the camera in the ceiling.
I climbed up, blocked it so they couldn't see.
Turned to find you out of bed, and kneeling.
Before the nurses came, took you away,
I stood there on a chair and watched you pray.

What can be said in these times? “Words, words, words,” Hamlet said. They’re all I have, and they don’t help. But if I could, my friends, I would stand on a chair and block the camera. It’s the least I can do.

Friday, February 23, 2007

You Don't Say?

I've received a lot of spammed comments lately, so I thought I had turned on a setting that would allow me to view comments and approve/disapprove them before they were posted on my blog. Instead, flexing my technological savvy, I managed to turn off comments altogether.

Sorry about that. So now I'm really, really lonely, feeling insecure, wondering if the reason why I haven't received any comments is because a) no one could post comments, or b) no one reads my blog. This is how pathetic I've become. You, and only you, can make my day. Probably my weekend. It's a dull life, I tell you.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Surviving Boot Camp

The saga continues.

For those of you following along at home, the backstory goes something like this:

December 5th, 2006 – The Whitman family, weary and sick at heart over the 127 viruses that infect their now defunct Windows-based Dell computer, decide to strike out on a brave new adventure and buy an Apple iMac. Those 50+ Windows-based video games won’t go to waste because the new iMacs have Intel-based processors, allowing the intrepid user to run both Apple OS X and Windows XP, which we already have on the Dell.

Week of December 6 – 12 – Plug ‘n play turns into a week of software installation hell, highlighted by the vagaries of an application called Senuti, which allows one to take one’s music on the iPod and transfer it to iTunes. The music industry doesn’t like this because it’s only supposed to work the other direction, but when one loses iTunes, and the 7,312 songs thereon, on one’s old Dell computer, one works with third-party apps so that one doesn’t have to re-import 750 albums onto Itunes. It’s not easy, but eventually Senuti works as advertised. The jury is still out on whether this process would have been quicker than actually re-importing the 750 albums.

Weeks of semi-befuddlement follow. Where is the Ctrl key? And why doesn’t it work like it should? Where’s the little x in the upper right hand corner that exits programs? Where is Windows Explorer? How do I create a new directory? Why is it that when I exit a program that it still appears to be running? But eventually we settle into a state of near Mac love. And the 24” display really is nice.

Early February 2007 – Numerous answers to inquiries confirm that I want to use Boot Camp, not Parallels, to run my Windows applications on the iMac. I print out the Boot Camp instruction manual, and discover that I need Windows XP Service Pack 2 to make this work. I search for a good deal on Windows XP, and fine a nice, new copy on eBay for about half the price of what it costs on, Best Buy, etc. I pull the trigger and order my copy of Windows XP through eBay. It arrives a few days later, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service. Total price: $94.13

Cut to Saturday, February 17th, 2007:

8:00 a.m. – I begin the Boot Camp installation process, trusty Boot Camp manual in hand. I make sure I have all the latest OS X updates and firmware. I burn a copy of all OS X drivers to a new disc, as instructed. I take off the shrink wrap from the very official-looking copy of Windows XP, and insert the disc when prompted to so. Various files are copied. It’s slow, but it looks like it’s going well.

8:45 a.m. – I am prompted to enter my 25-digit alphanumeric product code for Windows XP. I check the back of the CD envelope. I check the back of the manual. I frantically skim through every page of the manual. There is an intriguing note on the back of the Windows XP manual: “Your computer manufacturer has affixed the 25-digit product code to the back of your computer. Please refer to this sticker when prompted to enter the product code during the Windows XP installation process.”

8:46 a.m. – I am greeted by a wave of nausea, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I realize that I have just bought, and tried to install, a pirated version of Windows XP from eBay. I can’t bypass the product code screen. I can’t exit out of the Windows XP Install screens. I try rebooting the machine. Nope. Won’t let me. I physically unplug the iMac and plug it in again. It magically arrives back at the Product Code screen in the Windows XP install process. This is Not Good.

9:00 a.m. – I head out to Best Buy in a driving snowstorm. I purchase a legitimate copy of Windows XP Service Pack 2, making sure that the product code is clearly visible. I head back home. Total price: $213.48

10:00 a.m. – That ominous “Enter your 25-digit alphanumeric product code” screen still stares me in the face. I eject the pirated Windows XP disc, insert the newly purchased legitimate disc from Best Buy, and type in the 25-digit alphanumeric product code that appears on the back of the packaging. No dice. Product code not recognized.

10:15 a.m. – Phone call to Microsoft technical support. I explain the situation. Apple iMac. Trying to install Windows XP so I can run Boot Camp. Terminally hosed. Microsoft doesn’t support Boot Camp. Call Apple technical support.

10:40 a.m. – Phone call to Apple technical support. I explain the situation. Sounds like a Windows XP issue to them. Besides, Apple doesn’t support Boot Camp. You’re on your own, bud. At about this point, the phrase “booting the machine” has begun to take on a whole new meaning.

11:45. a.m. – Back out again into the snowstorm, this time heading for MicroCenter. The 2-month-old iMac is nicely packaged in its original box. I tote the iMac into the store, fill out the necessary forms, and drop it off at the service desk. Assuming they can figure out how to get out of the Windows XP Install screens, they’ll probably need to re-image the machine, restoring it to its “like new” state, where I’ll then get to relive the joys of Senuti. Total cost for diagnostic evaluation: $64.52

Total time invested in Boot Camp: About 6 hours.
Total cost: $372.13, and still counting
Cost of frustration, aggravation, and inability to get writing done at home: Priceless

Lessons learned:

1) If the price on eBay looks too good to be true, it probably is.
2) When feeling the hankering to play games, buy an X-Box.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Indie Roundup

Panda Bear – Person Pitch

My insightful but historically challenged friend Jeremy tells me that Person Pitch sounds like The Beach Boys on LSD, which is an accurate enough assessment on one hand, but which ignores the fact that Brian Wilson spent years playing in the sandbox for a reason.

Mr. Bear (real name Noah Lennox) is a member of acid-folk experimentalists The Animal Collective (naturally), and his second solo album is far removed from both his band’s catalogue and his lovely but downbeat solo debut Young Prayer. Here Lennox drags the Beach Boys chorales kicking and screaming through an acid house/early Pink Floyd blender. The resulting mashup of new millennium beats and sixties flower power is sometimes too schizophrenic for its own good. But when it works, as it does on the spectacular 13-minute aural collage “Bros,” it reminds me of Wilson’s magnificent pastiche Smile. Lennox piles multi-tracked harmonies atop clattering drums, fuzzed out bass, spooky sound effects, and enough backward-masked tape loops to warrant full demonic condemnation from the conservative evangelists of America. The rest of you will probably find it delightfully, lysergically lovely.

Frog Eyes – Tears of the Valedictorian

You should care about Victoria B.C.’s Frog Eyes for one reason: the utterly strange songs and weirdly compelling vocals of Carey Mercer. Mercer’s ocular cohorts whip up a sonic wall of skittering electric guitars, circus calliope, and pounding piano. The music is bracing enough; rock ‘n roll as refracted in the Tom Waits funhouse mirror. But it’s Mercer and his paranoid proclamations, delivered in a declamatory, querulous yelp, that really command the attention. There’s a bit of David Bowie there, a bit of Bowie acolyte and Destroyer/New Pornographer Dan Bejar, and more than a touch of madness:

Reform your countryside! Reform your shafted side!
Konstantine: you are the beggar of the blasted blue light
Oh (rich) Richie’s in the back
He ain’t going to like it when you go
And Howard sells the power to the power-hungry proles,
Incriminating photo shoots that show you wanting gold

There’s probably medication for this sort of thing, but it’s oddly convincing just the same. Even more strangely impressive is the nine-minute “Bushels,” which finds Mercer careening off into one of the more damaged falsettos you’ll ever hear, chanting “The wheat’s got to last/London, you’re cold, but the wheat’s got to last.” Easy there, dude. I suspect the wheat will hold out, but damn if it isn’t alarming to consider the possibility that it won’t.

The Narrator – All That to the Wall

There’ll be a new Modest Mouse album any day, but for those of you who can’t wait, there’s the second album from Chicago trio The Narrator. Lead singer/songwriter Sam Axelrod clearly shares the Portland band’s penchant for angular guitar rock and quavering vocals. “Son of the Son of the Kiss of Death,” “SurfJew,” and “Breaking the Turtle” are superb tracks. The only real misstep here is “All the Tired Horses,” a lousy cover of a lousy Bob Dylan song from an album (Self Portrait) that is usually ignored for a reason. Everything else really is good news for people who love Isaac Brock.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Day/Valentine

It's a snow day! Actually, it's more like a blizzard day. We have about a foot of new snow, the wind is howling, and the wind chill factor is below zero. Whee. But it's all good, because I don't have to drive in it, and I don't have to go to work. These days occur in the adult world about once every five years or so in Columbus, Ohio, and I'm taking full advantage of it. I feel like I'm 12 years old again. Anybody want to build a snow fort?

Today is Valentine's Day. Rachel (who is off from school; one in a continuing succession of snow days) and I trudged through the frozen tundra, managed to start the car, and slid our way to Flowerama. I figured that if any store in central Ohio was open today, it would be Flowerama. And I was right. Flowerama is the greatest store in the world. Other than the cool name, they also have many beautiful and cool flowers, most of them conveniently bunched in packages of 12, ready for display in the home. This is a good thing.

Kate did not have a snow day. This is because people still get sick, even when there is a blizzard outside. So she will get home later tonight, and be greeted by, I hope, a cheery display of a dozen long-stemmed red roses. And I will ask her to be my Valentine. There's no telling what may happen after that. And it will be okay whatever happens, because I'm married to my best friend, and the kindest, wisest, most beautiful woman in the world. Yes, I really do think that.

Monday, February 12, 2007

PLUG for Paste

For the second year in a row, Paste Magazine has won the PLUG Independent Music Award for Magazine of the Year, beating out the likes of Arthur, Decibel, Filter, Harp, Magnet, Mojo, The Fader, Under the Radar, Vice, Wired, and XLR8R. The awards were announced Saturday night in NYC. You can read the results right here.

It's a nice honor, and I congratulate my buddies Josh, Jason, Reid, Tim, Steve et. al. Way to go, Pasties.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Favorite Music Books -- Biography and Criticism

Teddy requested a list of favorite music biographies or books of music criticism. Here are mine:

Last Train to Memphis/Careless Love -- Peter Guralnick's 2-volume biography of Elvis Presley. Even if you're not much of an Elvis fan, this is the way biographies ought to be written.

Psychotic Reactions and Carburator Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'N'Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'N'Roll -- Lester Bangs -- Even when I don't agree with him, which is about half the time, Lester Bangs is a great writer. The title gets it right. His album reviews were works of literary genius -- funny, irreverent, and wildly creative.

England's Dreaming -- Jon Savage -- A great biography of the life and times of The Sex Pistols.

The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love, and Faith of an American Legend -- Steve Turner -- The best of several Cash biographies I own.

Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis -- J.K. Chambers -- Exactly what it claims to be, and a very well written, thorough biography.

Chronicles -- Bob Dylan -- Really, you've got to read it if you haven't done so. It's not enough that the guy is the world's greatest songwriter. He's also a great prose writer. It's not fair.

Body Piercing Saved My Life -- Andrew Beaujon -- The best and most objective look at the insular, often bizarre world of "Christian" music.

The Penguin Guide to Jazz -- Various authors -- It's encyclopedic, and at times feels like you're reading an encylopedia, but where else are you going to find 10,000+ reviews of jazz albums in one place?

No One Here Gets Out Alive -- Danny Sugerman -- The juicy, salacious end of the rock 'n roll book spectrum. I don't even like Jim Morrison or The Doors, but I like this tell-all bio.

Dylan's Vision of Sin -- Christopher Ricks -- Ricks, I suspect, is utterly psychotic. He spends close to 500 pages scrutinizing Bob Dylan's lyrics in minute detail, looking specifically for references to sin and redemption. Oddly enough, in spite of the academic trappings, many of these analyses border on freewheeling stream-of-consciousness, and are tenuous at best, and quite bizarre. That's why they're entertaining.

Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta -- Robert Palmer -- The best single-volume history of the blues I've found.

The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1,001 Greatest Singles Ever Made -- Dave Marsh -- As if the idea of ranking 1,001 rock 'n roll singles wasn't strange enough, Dave Marsh will actually explain why single #994 is slightly better than single #998. He's my kind of guy, and this is easily the eighth best music book I've ever read.

Stranded: Rock 'n Roll for a Desert Island -- Greil Marcus -- It's the old musical parlor game. If you were stranded on a desert island, what one rock 'n roll album would you want to take with you? Greil Marcus asked twenty well-known rock critics that question, and each wrote a passionate essay about his or her choice. Dave Marsh once famously wrote, "Rock 'n roll saved my life." Reading these essays, you'll begin to understand why it's not such an outlandish claim.

I could keep going, but I'll stop for now.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lucinda Williams -- West

Let me get this out of the way at the start: in spite of what’s coming, I like Lucinda Williams. I love her music, which I’ve followed avidly since her late ‘70s blues albums on Smithsonian Folkways. I’ve seen her in concert several times. I don’t know her personally, but I wish her well. But she’s still made a near-stinker of a new album. I wish it wasn’t so.

West, due out February 13th, is the latest in a series of gradually declining releases since 1998’s masterpiece Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. That album, redolent with sweat and dirt, love and lust, captured a sense of place as well as any album ever made, as Lucinda explored the American Deep South with idiosyncratic, finely detailed geographical and personal reflections. Essence and World Without Tears, the albums that followed, were solid efforts, but failed to recapture the magic entirely. With West, the decline is far more precipitous.

To be sure, West has its high points, most of them grouped near the middle of the album. “Fancy Funeral” is a starkly moving ballad, Lucinda mournfully recalling her recently departed mother, poking at the hole in the soul that seems incapable of being filled, her always-fragile voice cracking and breaking in ways that will melt your heart. “Everything Has Changed” is a lovely and bittersweet acknowledgement of emotional hollowness, while “Rescue” is a harrowing 3:00 a.m. confession of existential loneliness. Of the few uptempo tracks, “Unsuffer Me” is a searing slow-burn blues, and “Come On” a righteously pissed off howler and indignant middle finger to a former lover. These songs finally move the album beyond its prevalent downbeat dirge and into full-blown Neil Young/Crazy Horse territory, and they can hold up with the best Lucinda has ever written.

But there are problems. Sweet Jesus, are there problems. Williams has never been known for her hook-laden melodies, but the somnambulant opener “Are You Alright?” takes mind-numbingly repetitious to a whole new level, while the second track “Mama Sweet” fixates on the two words in the title and repeats them like a mantra. It’s not so much “hypnotic” as “nap inducing.” If you’re still awake ten minutes in, you’ll discover a pretty good album. Unfortunately the trend continues late as well, with the ill-advised nine-minute talking blues “Wrap My Head Around That” followed by the laconic “Words,” which actually contains some pretty good ones. Sadly, they are masked by a tune so quiescent and monotonous that you may not be able to remain conscious to hear them. It makes me realize how indebted Lucinda was on her earlier albums to departed guitarist/producer Gurf Morlix, who injected both energy and supremely melodic, chiming guitar runs. The fact is that on at least half these tracks Lucinda commits the unpardonable musical sin: she’s deadly boring.

More disturbingly, “America’s best songwriter” (according to Time Magazine) seems remarkably unfocused and lazy. “Are You Alright?,” that snoozer of a leadoff track, offers such lobotomized sub-Hallmark Card sentiments as “Are you sleepin’ through the night?/Do you have someone to hold you tight?” before the title phrase echoes, ad nauseam, through an extended coda. It’s a stultifyingly dull and cliché-ridden five minutes, all the more shocking because Lucinda is capable of genuinely great writing.

Lucinda Williams has too strong a track record to give up on her entirely, or to think that she might not be considerably better next time out. So I’ll be listening for her next move. But with West, America’s best songwriter has gone south, and this time she’s nowhere close to the geographic or emotional epicenter that gives her best work such deep weight and resonance.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Fountains of Wayne, Joe Craven, Milton and the Devils Party, Jon Rauhouse

Some new or about-to-be-released music that I’ve enjoyed of late …

Fountains of Wayne – Traffic and Weather

Fountains of Wayne frontmen Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood will remind you of the two smirking wiseacres who always sat in the back of the class during your high school years. They’re hip and they know it, they’re cynical, and they’re too clever for their own good. They rhyme “diner” and “Carl Reiner,” “law degree” and “Schenectedy,” “routine” and “Lichtenstein.” They find the ridiculous and surreal in every current cultural fad, and they pepper their lyrics with topical references that will be out of date by the time their next album is released.

That’s okay. These smartasses also happen to write the best hooks extant in rock music, and their delicious power pop is guaranteed to make old farts like me jump on the couch and play air guitar. The fourteen songs here borrow shamelessly from every great band from The Beatles to Weezer, and if they don’t really do anything here that they haven’t done on their previous three albums, songs like “Someone to Love” and “New Routine” certainly reinforce the notion that that there is, and always will be, an exalted place in the rock ‘n roll canon for three-minute songs with clever lyrics and singalong choruses. Best of all is “Fire in the Canyon,” where the smirk is replaced, finally, by some honest, melancholic soul-searching, sweetened by spot-on Simon and Garfunkel harmonies.

Joe Craven – Django Latino

Originally released in 2004 to overwhelming indifference, Joe Craven’s Django Latino is being re-released on Compass Records. Don’t miss it this time; it’s a great album. Craven, a longtime musician in David Grisman’s Dawg Music ensemble, is a one-man band who plays mandolin, mandola, cavaquiño, violin, ukulele and a full range of percussion instruments, including cookie tins and martini shakers. Here he multi-tracks himself to play nearly every part on these wondrous songs associated with gypsy guitarist extraordinaire Django Reinhardt and violin maestro Stephan Grappelli of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. These songs, originally recorded between the 1930s and 1950s, are among the most beloved of the jazz canon. Here Craven adds his own unique spin by adding elements of cumbia, meringue, samba, and tango. Not a jazz or world music fan? Okay, then consider this: Joe Craven’s playing will make your jaw drop in wonder and amazement. He’s a dazzling soloist, his virtuosity matched by his ability to swing. Django Latino is both a fine tribute and a stunning reinvention.

Milton and the Devils Party – How Wicked We’ve Become

In case you were wondering, that’s “Milton” as in “John,” not as in “Berle.” There’s little to laugh at on How Wicked We’ve Become, but enough heartfelt angst and literary allusions to keep even the most introspective, morose English major happy. Or at least as happy as introspective, morose English majors ever get. Petrarch, Shakespeare, and Norman Mailer all make cameo appearances, as does sadsack Morrissey from the introspective, morose musical world.

It’s enough to make you think that these songs were written by an English professor. And then you find out that they were. But if Daniel Robinson doesn’t do much to disguise his day gig, he also does just fine as a part-time rock star, turning out tuneful, spiky guitar pop that is reminiscent of Marshall Crenshaw, The Police, and early Elvis Costello. There are deep undercurrents of longing and yearning in the lyrics, cleverly disguised by the bright, uptempo music. The themes are universally relevant, although it’s probably not a bad idea to keep a thesaurus near your iPod just in case. But if you can handle “The palliative promise of eternal life/Has turned into a stultifying curse” as a jangly guitar anthem, then you’ll thoroughly enjoy this little genre exercise in pop existentialism, and probably score better on your SATs as a result.

Jon Rauhouse – Jon Rauhouse’s Steel Guitar Heart Attack

Those of you who associate the pedal steel guitar solely with cry-in-yer-beer country weepers are in for either an unpleasant shock or a delightful surprise. Jon Rauhouse plays pedal steel guitar the way John Zorn plays the saxophone. That is, he thoroughly messes with your head as he takes you on a schizophrenic musical journey. On … Heart Attack Rauhouse covers western swing, Hawaiian music, Big Band standards, ‘60s easy listening schlock, Bing Crosby crooners, the TV themes to Mannix and the Andy Griffith Show, and gunfighter ballads. Along the way, he’s helped out by members of Calexico, Giant Sand, The Mekons, Kelly Hogan, and the incomparable Neko Case, who lends her pipes to the old Sinatra chestnut “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon).” Best of all is Rauhouse’s take on Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” where the pedal steel does a Broadway turn. It’s great, uncompromising, wildly eclectic music.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Cross-Over Matching

I am taking a training course today on communication. I, as an upwardly-mobile corporate American, aspire to the best in non-verbal communication. So I am particularly interested in a technique, first revealed to me today, called "Cross-Over Matching." Here's what cross-over matching entails:

"This is matching the other person's behavior with a corresponding, but different, movement. If a person is blinking rapidly, you may cross-over match by discreetly tapping your finger at the same rate as they are blinking. You could also pace the rhythm of someone's speech with slight nods of your head, or with your breathing."

Wow. This communication business is much harder than I thought, and requires more rhythm than I suspect I have. I don't know because I haven't tried it out yet, but I suspect I'm going to be so busy counting in my head and working out polyrhythmic counterpoint and such that I'm going to have no idea what anyone is saying. Any of you veteran cross-over matchers have any words of wisdom for me?

And can I just say that I love corporate America.

Best Music of 2006

The top 5 reasons to obsess over "Best of" Lists:

1. They contribute to the illusion that messy life can be quantified.
2. Art as science. You can't beat it.
3. Admit it. We all want to be #1. Or at least Top 10.
4. They give us something to grouse about. In fact, I'm considering moving this reason into the Top 3. What do you think?
5. They keep our counting skills finely honed.

So here's the list of the Top 100 albums of 2006 from Paste Magazine:

Best-of lists are notoriously problematic. Despite their flirtation with math/science in the form of numerical rankings, there is a vague arbitrariness pervading even the most meticulously constructed example. The difference between spot #47 and #93 might as well hinge on how seamlessly an editor's fast food breakfast is digesting that particular morning. Still, we make our lists, if only to have an excuse to let our minds wander back over the year and remember which pieces of art caused us to forget the world, or simply appreciate the complexity of it.
Sometimes, after walking into the Paste office's music library and seeing the mailbins piled four-high and spilling over because the vast rows of shelves have filled up yet again (weren't they just cleared off?), I wonder if the world really needs any new music. Maybe every artist should just take a few years off so we can all get caught up on our listening. But then I look over this list and find myself amazed at how many great records have come out in just one year's time. Because it's true: You can never have too much of a good thing. And let's be honest. Some records are gooder than others.

-Jason Killingsworth


1. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
2. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
3. Joanna Newsom - Ys
4. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
5. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
6. Cat Power – The Greatest
7. Midlake - Trials of Van Occupanther
8. Gomez - How We Operate
9. M Ward – Post War
10. The Long Winters - Putting the Days to Bed
11. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
12. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
13. Josh Ritter - The Animal Years
14. Beck - The Information
15. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
16. Pete Yorn - Nightcrawler
17. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
18. Califone - Roots & Crowns
19. Joseph Arthur - Nuclear Daydream
20. Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
21. Paul Simon - Surpise
22. Mastodon - Blood Mountain
23. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - The Letting Go
24. Mates of State - Bring it Back
25. Luke Doucet - Broken and Other Rogue States
26. Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of This Country
27. Hem - Funnel Cloud
28. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
29. Jackie Greene - American Myth
30. Van Hunt - On The Jungle Floor
31. My Brightest Diamond - Bring Me The Workhorse
32. Kate York - Sadlylove
33. Man Man - Six Demon Bag
34. Johnny Cash - American V
35. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
36. Damien Dempsey - Shots
37. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris - All the Roadrunning
38. Roman Candle - The Wee Hours Review
39. Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies
40. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
41. Corinne Bailey Rae - Corinne Bailey Rae
42. Nellie McKay – Pretty Little Head
43. The Thermals - The Body, the Blood, the Machine
44. Liars - Drums Not Dead
45. Willie Nelson - Songbird
46. The Roots – Game Theory
47. Manchester Orchestra - I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child
48. Built To Spill - You In Reverse
49. Phoenix – It’s Never Been Like That
50. Jeremy Enigk - World Waits
51. Damien Jurado - Now That I'm In Your Shadow
52. Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers
53. Pernice Brothers - Live a Little
54. Calexico - Garden Ruin
55. The Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
56. Benevento Russo Duo - Play Pause Stop
57. Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra - Boulevard de l'Independence
58. Junior Boys - So This is Goodbye
59. Ratatat - Classics
60. Josh Rouse - Subtítulo
61. Jim Noir – Tower of Love
62. Guillemots - Through the Broken Window
63. Hot Chip – The Warning
64. Nicolai Dunger - Here's My Song
65. Belle and Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
66. Muse - Black Holes and Revelations
67. Bill Mallonee – Permafrost
68. Archie Bronson Outfit - Derdang Derdang
69. Danielson – Ships
70. Tobias Froberg – Somewhere in the City
71. KT Tunstall - Eye to the Telescope
72. My Morning Jacket - Okonokos
73. Ray Lamontagne - Till The Sun Turns Black
74. Thom Yorke – The Eraser
75. John Mayer - Continuum
76. Swan Lake - Beast Moans
77. Brazilian Girls - Talk To La Bomb
78. Peter and the Wolf - Lightness
79. Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
80. Ben Kweller - Ben Kweller
81. T.I. - King
82. Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet
83. Loose Fur - Born Again in the USA
84. Todd Snider - The Devil You Know
85. Starlight Mints - Drowaton
86. Los Lobos - The Town and the City
87. Brightblack Morning Light - Brightblack Morning Light
88. James Hunter - People Gonna Talk
89. Band of Horses - Everything All The Time
90. The Flaming Lips - At War With the Mystics
91. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds
92. Girl Talk - Night Ripper
93. Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming
94. Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
95. The Mountain Goats – Get Lonely
96. Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
97. Figurines - Skeleton
98. Viva Voce - Get Yr Blood Sucked Out
99. The Dears - Gang of Losers
100. The Old Ceremony - Our One Mistake

And here's a fun one: the Blogger Best Of list. Someone with way too much time on his/her hands trolled the web, looking for all the "Best Music of 2006" lists on individual blogs, then came up with a composite rating. And here it is:

1 - TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain
2 - Decemberists, Crane Wife
3 - Joanna Newsom, Ys
4 - Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America
5 - Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
6 - Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit
7 - Band of Horses, Everything All the Time
8 - Thom Yorke, The Eraser
9 - Destroyer, Destroyer’s Rubies
10 - Cat Power, The Greatest (*)
11 - Knife, Silent Shout
12 - Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not (*)
13 - Hot Chip, The Warning
14 - Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat
15 - Beirut, Gulag Orkestar
16 - M. Ward, Post-War
17 - Bob Dylan, Modern Times
18 - Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones
19 - Midlake, Trials of Van Occupanther
20 - Sunset Rubdown, Shut Up I am Dreaming
21 - Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
22 - Camera Obscura, Let’s Get Out of This Country
23 - Ghostface Killah, Fishscale
24 - Grizzly Bear, Yellow House
25 - Muse, Black Holes and Revelations
26 - Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope
27 - Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers
28 - Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury
29 - Islands, Return to the Sea
30 - Lily Allen, Alright, Still
30 - Thermals, The Body, The Blood, The Machine
32 - Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
33 - Junior Boys, So This is Goodbye
34 - Girl Talk, Night Ripper
34 - Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/Lovesounds
36 - Peter Bjorn and John, Writer's Block
37 - Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped
38 - Final Fantasy, He Poos Clouds
39 - Josh Ritter, The Animal Years
40 - Silversun Pickups, Carnavas
41 - Beck, The Information
42 - Built to Spill, You in Reverse
43 - Roots, Game Theory
44 - Liars, Drum's Not Dead
44 - Tapes ‘n Tapes, The Loon (*)
46 - Phoenix, It’s Never Been Like That
47 - Flaming Lips, At War with the Mystics
48 - Asobi Seksu, Citrus
49 - Califone, Roots and Crowns
50 - Mogwai, Mr. Beast/Zidane (**)
51 - Cold War Kids, Robbers & Cowards
52 - Killers, Sam's Town
53 - My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade
54 - Mastodon, Blood Mountain
54 - Pipettes, We are the Pipettes
56 - Strokes, First Impressions of Earth
57 - Mates of State, Bring it Back
58 - Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor
59 - Mew, And the Glass Handed Kites
59 - Rapture, Pieces of the People We Love
61 - Guillemots, Through the Windowpane
62 - Wolfmother, s/t
63 - Pearl Jam, s/t
64 - Man Man, Six Demon Bag
65 - Bonnie "Prince" Billy, The Letting Go
66 - Snow Patrol, Eyes Open
67 - Scott Walker, The Drift
68 - Love is All, Nine Times That Same Song
69 - Danielson, Ships
70 - Blow, Paper Television
71 - Kooks, Inside In/Inside Out
72 - Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, The Dust of Retreat
73 - Format, Dog Problems
74 - Shearwater, Palo Santo
75 - Damien Rice, 9
76 - Mountain Goats, Get Lonely
77 - Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome
78 - Beatles, Love
78 - Black Keys, Magic Potion
80 - Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas/Isobel Campbell, Milk White Sheets (**)
82 - Cansei de Ser Sexy, s/t
82 - Tom Waits, Orphans
84 - My Brightest Diamond, Bring Me the Workhorse
84 - Ratatat, Classics
84 - Scritti Politti, White Bread Black Beer
87 - Sparklehorse, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
88 - Johnny Cash, American V: A Hundred Highways
89 - Scissor Sisters, Ta-Dah
90 - Sufjan Stevens, The Avalanche
91 - Jarvis Cocker, Jarvis
92 - J Dilla, Donuts
93 - Annuals, Be He Me
94 - John Mayer, Continuum
95 - Calexico, Garden Ruin
96 - Keane, Under the Iron Sea
97 - Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, Knives Don't Have Your Back
97 - Juana Molina, Son
99 - I'm From Barcelona, Let Me Introduce My Friends
100 - Ben Kweller, s/t