I'm so used to using the royal "we" when I write for SFist that it feels really strange writing "I" - sort of like driving on the left side of the street. And my favorites of 2006 have left me feeling not quite myself either - I've never been a huge fan of electro-rock, but this year's list is drowning in it. In fact, each of these albums share one or more of the following attributes: English-as-a-second language lyrics, baroque instrumentation, dazzling fingerpicking, drug-free/music-induced highs, gentle goodness, unbridled electro-sensuality, so wrong it's right-ness. Regardless of the genre, each of these albums struck a chord in me by being provocative, emotional, ambitious or just fun. My top three local albums are at the very end, so don't stop reading!
Scanners Violence Is Golden
I'm going to quote myself here: Scanners meld the grim glamour of Interpol with the shuffle and hook of the Pretenders. Sarah Daly’s raw vocals bleed vividly over dark washes of guitar, distorted keyboard buzz, and the occasional computer blips and dramatic string swells. She sings with a fluorescent energy, conjuring PJ Harvey’s fragility and fearlessness. “Raw”, one of my favorite songs of 2006, explodes as quickly and brilliantly as a fireworks display. Also one of the best live performances I saw all year.
Chad VanGaalen Skelliconnection
The multi-talented songwriter's second album is as heartfelt and strange as his first. He does have a little of the Neil Young falsetto going on, but his songs are born from a creativity all his own. Chad VanGaalen lights up new synapses in my brain.
Mew And the Glass-Handed Kites
I've heard the complaints about Mew, that they're too prog, that singer Jonas Bjerre sounds too much like Jon Anderson from Yes. Personally, I'm a fan of changing time signatures, dramatic dynamics and singing like you mean it (and every time I enter the Townsend Street roundabout, Yes's "Roundabout" pops into my head.) Perhaps because they're Danish, their English lyrics are just off enough to ride the line between poetic and nonsensical, but who wouldn't be flattered by having someone tell them, "You're special, you're a rocket to me"?