This was difficult. I’ve been keeping a running playlist of my favorite SotY (Songs of the Year, natch) and it keeps getting longer. For this list, I managed to cut it down to a mere 55 but decided to organize it by genre/style, rather than attempting to rank the Fiery Furnaces against Ghostface Killah against Mission of Burma.
For the record, my favorite song of 2006 is the shorter version of the Fiery Furnaces’ “Benton Harbor Blues.” Also for the record, this list is missing a few notables from my top 30 (Destroyer, Joanna Newsom) because in general, I have trouble picking out stand-out tracks from albums I really like as a whole. That said, there are tracks from just about everybody else.
There are some MP3s. If I haven’t posted a song you particularly want to hear, check Hype Machine.
Cat Power – “The Greatest”: mp3 (right-click)
Not the greatest year for my genre of choice. However, we did have “The Greatest” — in my opinion, the best song Chan Marshall’s ever recorded, all swaying and gorgeous.
Grizzly Bear – “On a Neck, On a Spit”: mp3 (right-click)
Was there any band more adventurous and exciting in the boring old world of acoustic guitars and harmonies than Grizzly Bear? I think not. This is their anthem.
Nina Nastasia – “Our Day Trip”: mp3
Songs with incongruities between lyrics and music are wonderful. Nina’s got quite a voice, too.
Jolie Holland – “Springtime Can Kill You”
Holland’s album of the same name has exactly one great song on it. This is the one, all pools of murky, jazzy ink and winsome, whistled beauty.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy – “Cursed Sleep”
From Will Oldham’s most well-recorded album comes his finest harmonic collaboration, a track that lives up to the sweeping potential of its name in the hands of the master of beard-folk.
Bob Dylan – “Spirit on the Water”
Dylan’s Modern Times is fantastic straight through, but this was the tune that grabbed me — its tasty guitar lick underscores his sawdust croon perfectly.
Neko Case – “Star Witness”: mp3
How many times can I mention that I like harmonies on this list? Here’s #2.
Swan Lake – “Are You Swimming in Her Pools?”
I still think Spencer Krug is remarkably hit and miss, but my God, when he hits…his lyrics here are incredible, drawing you deeper into the surreal soundscapes of Swan Lake than should be possible. When he sings “Will you be coming back here?!” it’s about as urgent as music gets.
Peter and the Wolf – “The Owl”
Simple, sad and sweet. And lo-fi!
Shelley Short – “Like Anything, It’s Small”
Short came out of nowhere and it looks like she’s kind of still camping out there, press-wise, but this song is an alt-country tootsie roll pop.
Pants Yell! – “Southend-on-Sea”: mp3
A rare acoustic track from the Asaurus Records indie-popsters, but a fine finale to a tiny twee triumph.
Beirut – “Rhineland (Heartland)”
Sure, the songs Zach Condon put on his website are the celebrated ones (and deservedly so) but nothing on that record sounded as good to me as him hypnotically chanting “Liiiiife, life is all right on the Rhiiiiine…”
Golden Smog – “Long Time Ago”
This is not a new Wilco song. It is a new Jeff Tweedy song, one about childhood and nostalgia that sounds like the soundtrack to a Wonder Years episode (except without the Joe Cocker thing).
Rocky Votolato – “White Daisy Passing”: mp3
Votolato eschews his usual whiskey-and-angst singing in favor of delicate folk harmonies.
Listing Ship – “American Song”: mp3
Another twee track — this one a classic about a boy going after to war. Kind of like the Decemberists except not goofy at all.
You’ve heard these and you can probably figure out why they’re good without me writing about them.
Justin Timberlake – “My Love”
(honorable mention: “I Think That She Knows Interlude”)
Lupe Fiasco – “Kick, Push”
T.I. – “Why You Wanna”
Ghostface Killah – “Shakey Dog”
The best narrative on Fishscale. Who needs a hook? Not Ghost.
Nelly Furtado – “Promiscuous”
Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy”
Sure, I’ve heard it 100 times, but it’s still awesome.
Mr. Lif – “Murs is My Manager”
Clipse – “Nightmares”
Picking a favorite song from Hell Hath No Fury is like picking a favorite child, but there’s something about this one — probably its amazing hook and the inexplicable lolz at the lines “Errrbody know me! …Virginia nights / selling hard white.”
Photo by David Greenwald
POP (or: Songs sung by girls)
The Fiery Furnaces – “Benton Harbor Blues (remix)”: mp3
The year’s absolute finest song — a gorgeous slice of AM pop that transcends the genre and becomes something life-affirming.
Rose Melberg – “Irene”
ROSE + PIANO + HARMONIES = HUUUUUUGS
The Pipettes – “Tell Me What You Want”
Better than “Sex.”
Camera Obscura – “Let’s Get Out of This Country”: mp3
Lily Allen – “Littlest Things”
I’ve already written about these two songs about a million times. They are catchy and full of heart and all-around amazing.
Corinne Bailey Rae – “Put Your Records On”
I’m not a black girl or a person who owns a record player, but I can get behind this. Those guitar chords are as tasty and subtle as a well-cooked swordfish.
Sondre Lerche – “(I Wanna) Call It Love”
Sufjan Stevens – “The Henney Buggy Band”: mp3 (right-click)
Avalanche is pretty bad. This song should’ve made the cut for Illinois, though.
Au Revoir Simone – “Through the Backyards”: mp3
What a cute song. Nervous and shy.
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – “New Year’s Kiss”
Final Fantasy – “This Lamb Sells Condos”
Another record I didn’t like with one killer song. A must-hear.
Math and Physics Club – “La La La Lisa”: mp3
Was any band as exuberant as M&PC this year? No.
The Flaming Lips – “Mr. Ambulance Driver”
You know, the album is admittedly pretty silly, but this is a great song. The Lips hav
e still got (most of) it.
Lullaby Baxter – “Rattled Little Clam”
Parks and Recreation – “I Tried to Date the Singer in a Band”
The second-best song this year about this subject (after “La La La Lisa”).
The Charade – “Sunny Winter Afternoon”
The horns on this Swedish gem kill.
The Magic Numbers – “Take a Chance”
That’s the anthem, get yr damn hands up.
Guillemots – “Made Up Love Song #43”: mp3
If I was only making a top 10, this song would be on it. It’s the best song Coldplay and Doves never recorded.
Mission of Burma – “2wice”: mp3 (right-click)
No other song this year has quite the fury and melody as this one. Another classic from the seminal post-punk band.
Band of Horses – “The First Song”: mp3
All the songs with electric guitars on this album are enormous, elephantine behemoths. This one treads heaviest, all reverb and cymbals and glorious desperation.
Shearwater – “Seventy-four, Seventy-five”: mp3 (right-click)
An incredibly urgent song from a historically quiet band. I’m glad they spoke up.
Evangelicals – “Hello Jenn, I’m a Mess”: mp3
Me too, guys.
Centro-matic – “Patience for the Ride”
Probably my favorite chorus of the year. Man, I love these guys.
Asobi Seksu – “Thursday”
About as pretty as shoegaze gets these days.
Phoenix – “Long Distance Call”: mp3
Oh man, another stand-out among stand-outs. This song just buzzes.
Maritime – “Twins”
I find I’m humming the songs of Paul Simon / in my cap and raincoat.
TV on the Radio – “I Was a Lover”
Aside from everything else that makes these guys great, waiting until the end of the song to drop the falsetto hook again? Brilliant. What a massive, undeniable piece of work.
The Walkmen – “Another One Goes By”
Even better than the original. I loved about half the new Walkmen album, but this track is everything their slow songs should be.
The Foundry Field Recordings – “Buried Underneath the Winter Frames”
Fmaj7 –> Cmaj7 = a chord progression that will never get old. (See also: Broken Social Scene – “Swimmers”)
Grandaddy – “Jeez Louise”
One of the most personal songs of Jason Lytle’s career, and maybe the loudest. Going out with a bang, huh guys?
Previously: The Rawking Refuses To Stop! Best of 2006: Albums