Well, the trees are light up, the stockings are being stuffed, Bing Crosby is melting out of the stereo, and global warming has ruined any chance of snow, so it must be Christmas time. With the holiday season upon us, the chances of this site getting updated are between “snowball in hell” and “Mr. Dogg getting a new car for Christmas” so I’m posting the year end reviews now.
Mr. Dogg’s Pick: Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
Runner Up: The Roots – Game Theory
Comments: I’ve always loved the Roots, and since moving to Philadelphia my love has swelled into near infatuation. “Game Theory” is the groups finest studio album since the titanic “Things Fall Apart” and in any other year, Black Thought’s battle ready flow matched with ?uestlove’s maturing production would be enough to grant then best Hip Hop honors. However, this year, Ghostface Killah’s “Fishscale” showed up and ruined my potential love fest. Not that I am complaining; “Fishscale” boasts some of the best production and the tightest lyrics of the year. Ghostface has always been a story teller, and on “Fishscale” he spits his street one acts with a ferocity and delicacy not seen by many rappers. Not only does he unite the entire Wu-Tang clan for a track, but he offer parents everywhere parenting advice: beat your kids and they won’t act up. Ghostface loves the kids.
Mr. Dogg’s Pick: The Lawrence Arms – Oh! Calcutta!
Runner Up: Be Your Own Pet – Be Your Own Pet
Comments: This was not a banner year for punk. Old bands like NOFX and Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin spewed mediocrity and folk. Epitaph, Victory, Drive Thru, and Fat Wreck, labels that used to poses quality bands, are now shells of their former selves, housing 3rd and 4th tier acts and uninspired lineups. The has long been in need of some new blood, and this year it came in the form of snotty teens Be Your Own Pet. The four piece, just-out-of-high-school, pop punk group put out a self titled album full of energy, nasal screams, buzzing guitar, and a youthful exuberance that hasn’t been sincere in punk for a long time. But despite their excellent début, the punk album of the year comes from soon-to-be-veteran act, The Lawrence Arms. The Larry Arms have been putting out consistently good pop punk since the late 90s, and their latest is no exception. “Oh! Calcutta!” takes the pop punk sound the band perfected on “Apathy and Exhaustion” and gives it a harder edge. The writing, which is always above average and poignant without being preachy, is in top form on this record. From “The Devil’s Taking Names” to “Are you There Margaret, It’s me God”, this record boasts the best first five tracks of the year. The Lawrence Arms continue to bear the torch of “Best Pop Punk Band” since the Alkaline Trio released “Goddamn It”.
Mr. Dogg’s Pick: Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
Runner Up: NA
Comments: Who the hell would have ever thought that Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse could collaborate to make a commercially successful record? I think the duo must have made some underhanded deal with Satan, because “St. Elsewhere” is one of the few pop records released this year that with musically impressive and widely successful while maintaining high quality music. Cee-Lo’s soulful tones matched with Danger Mouse’s keyboard funk made for perfect soundtrack to any party this year. This is what Motown would sound like if it hadn’t died in the 70s. I only hope that the two bow out gracefully without trying to re-create this album. I feel like this was a one time bolt of lighting that served to shake up the pop landscape and show people that no matter your race, creed, religion or sex, it is okay to be funky. Gnarls Barkley proved to the world that you don’t have to lower your sound to make an album for everyone.
Mr. Dogg’s Pick: The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
Runner Up: Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People say I am, That’s What I’m Not.
Comments: Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER trust UK hype about any band. If I were to believe every trumped up claim from England claiming that a band will save rock and roll, take the world by storm, or be the next Beatles, I would be so crushed by disappointment that I would never listen to music again. I would also be disappointed that the Arctic Monkeys didn’t take the US by storm the same way they did the UK. But screw all that hype; the Arctic Monkeys debut, full of youthful debauchery, alcoholism, surf guitar, driving rhythm, and snotty attitude, is as fine a record as any this year. But the real success in the rock world was the emergence of the Hold Steady. Taking their bar room stomp and Springsteen influence and merging it with harmonies and honest-to-God sincere guitar solos, “Boys and Girls in America” is the Hold Steady’s first truly accessible album. Full of wonderful writing and wonderful instrumentation, Craig Finn and Co take their throne atop the rock world. This is my second favorite album of the year.
Mr. Dogg’s Pick: Love is All – Nine Time That Same Song
Runner Up: TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain
Comments: I’ve never had credibility as a critic, but if any indie folk thought that I did, this part of the review will shatter it. TV on the Radio’s “Return to Cookie Mountain” is widely accepted in many music circles as the best independently released album of the year. It’s a very impressive album, and songs like “Wolf Like Me” and “Method” make it hard to argue, but sometimes it is more impressive than it is good, and I still prefer their first full length “Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes”. No, in my eyes, the best indie record of the year has to be from those Swedish upstarts Love Is All. I saw them open for The Go! Team, and they were absolutely awful. However, their album, full of songs about relationships and personal time management, won my heart with its pop roots and excellent horn use. Songs like “Turn the Radio Off” and “Make out, Fall out, Make Up” sound truly heartfelt, and will be sure to tug at the emotion strings. This is a new tweaking of pop, and I likes it.
MR. DOGG’S PICK OF 06
Man Man – Six Demon Bag
Comments: It kind of sounds like Tom Waits. Except that it doesn’t. If sort of reminds me of Frank Zappa. Except it isn’t. Man Man makes waltzes from purgatory, vaudeville soundtracks for the insane, carnival music for the absurd joke of life. It sounds like nothing, and it sounds like everything. But it’s so much more than a new sound. It is a heartbreakingly personal album about love, loss, and the end of second chances. It presents the idea that everyone has one true love, but that he or she may have died years ago. It claims that everything worth anything is nothing, and nothing is all we really have. Their best line: “I know that I’ll never be the man she thinks she really needs, but that don’t stop me from trying to be”. In the hands of lesser men, its nothing more than sap emo poetry. In the hands of Man, it is an aching statement of unrequited love and beautiful entrapment. “Six Demon Bag” tells the saddest story in history but in a brand new way, with brutal honesty and violent intensity. These are songs to scream at the moon. It is the most original thing I’ve heard in a long time.
FLOPS – They weren’t all gems, folks.
1) Jim Jones – We Fly High
Comments: This is the second worst song of 2006. I don’t know the name of the first, or who is brave enough to take credit for it. If not for that mystery artist, this would be the worst. Jim Jones, even with Dipset, has always been a C- rapper at best, and he is not at his best on this song. Everything in this song, from the opening notes to the “ballin!” that has all the grade schoolers going nuts, makes my head hurts. Yeesh.
2) Rhett Miller/ Old 97’s
Comments: Take one excellent best of compilation, subtract one awful solo album from the lead singer, and subtract one chili’s commercial jingle, and you’ll see how things have been for the Old 97’s this year. Here’s hoping that 07 brings better things from this country/pop act.
3) Less Than Jake – In With the out Crowd
Comments: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? HOW THE… you know what? No. I’m not doing it. I don’t have the energy or the blood pressure to even discuss this. It might be the worst album of 06. This is the "Rocky 5" of Less Than Jake albums. It never happened. DO YOU HEAR ME?! IT! NEVER! HAPPENED!