Monday, December 11, 2006

Top 50 Albums Of 2006 (45-41)

45. Annuals - Be He Me (Ace Fu)

Anyone who claims that youth is wasted on the young clearly knows nothing of the work of Annuals mainman, Adam Baker. Annuals' debut, Be He Me is so full of vitality and bounce (I'm making it sound like a dog raised on Pedigree Chum, aren't I?) that it practically bursts from the speakers and jumps up and down in front of you, pulling childish faces and tickling you. If that sounds like it would annoy the hell out of you, you would be foolish to not give it a chance.

Mining the same seam of order-in-chaos as Broken Social Scene, Annuals take a haphazard approach to song construction that whilst not always successful, when it hits, it hits big. Take the hubristic grandiloquence of opening track, 'Brother' for instance. Announcing its arrival with plaintive acoustic guitar and cricket chirps, it bursts into life at the 1:50 mark with a cacophony of martial drums, spiralling violin, fuzzed-out guitar and Baker's manic, shouted vocals. There's much fun to be had in the queasy tropicalia of 'Carry Around' and the bongo-laden, campfire dance of 'The Bull And The Goat' too. The feeling is that Annuals will make better albums in the future, but as a formative calling card, Be He Me stands tall in its pomp and largesse.

Annuals - The Bull And The Goat (mp3)

44. Trentemoller - The Last Resort (Poker Flat)

The Last Resort wasn't exactly the album that Trentemoller's followers had been hoping for, but in the rush to proclaim what it isn't (an album of floor-fillers), many people lost sight of what it is; a slightly flawed, but frequently impressive mood-piece. In eschewing crowd-pleasing hookiness for atmosphere and texture, Anders Trentemoller showed that he is equally adept at making music for the home as he is at making club tunes.

What we ended up with then was a post-rock inflected, future comedown classic, with the likes of the filmic, Mogwai-meets-Boards Of Canada expanses of 'Take Me Into Your Skin' and the snaking, jazzy pulse of 'Into The Trees (Serenetti Part Three)' aiming to soothe, rather than move. There's a bonus disc of Trentemoller's revered Poker Flat singles to act as a counterpoint to the main album's introspection, but while they're great when taken as one-shot blasts of body music, the first disc is best served as an ear-thrilling, sumptuous whole.

Trentemoller - Into The Trees (Serenetti Part Three)

43. Subtle - For Hero:For Fool (Lex)

What should be Subtle's breakthrough album, For Hero: For Fool may be a little too weird for the mainstream, but there's no doubting that this is possibly the most immediate, poppy record to come out of the hip-hop underground in years. Too audaciously direct to be the sole preserve of Vans-sporting backpackers, it marries OutKast-like colour to an elliptical epic poem lyric structure to bridge the gap between radio-rap and indie-hop.

Subtle fuse elements of rock, funk, dance and hip-hop and race through all of them in breakneck fashion, while Doseone and his cohorts bend their tongues around his dazzling wordplay with the grace and flair of Olympic gymnasts. The narrative never gets in the way of listening pleasure, in fact once you buy into the story of fictional upcoming rapper, Hour Hero Yes and get your ears around Doseone's tongue-twisting delivery, the tale further enhances the satisfaction you get from delving into this magnificent album. It's just a shame that it looks set never to break out of the indie ghetto.

Subtle - Return Of The Vein (mp3)

42. Planningtorock - Have It All (Chicks On Speed)

Planningtorock is one woman, Janine Rostron, who moved from Bolton to Berlin a few years back and found that Germany was a much more fertile breeding ground for art than Lancashire. While it kind of irks me somewhat to hear someone extol the virtues of getting the hell out of Northern England, the music contained within Have It All is most definitely the product of the German cultural capital and it's hard to imagine this album being created in the shadow of the Reebok stadium.

Rostron's theatrics revel in sounding nothing like anything else around, but avoid coming across as insecure by the personality she injects into each song. The pervy lurch of 'I Wanna Bite Ya is, at turns, creepy and alluring, while the confident stomp of 'Bolton Wanderer' sees Rostron coming on as half-Lydia Lunch and half-Sally Bowles. It's a strange, but electrifying record that puts Planningtorock in a field of her own. Long may she follow the road less travelled.

Planningtorock - Local Foreigner (mp3)

41. Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That (Source)

It's Never Been Like That saw Phoenix welding the soft-rock touches of their two previous albums to steely, muscular garage rock, which saw some complain that it lacked the subtlety they'd displayed thus far, choosing instead to mimic the sloppiness and shaggy nature of The Strokes or Kings Of Leon. It's a testament to Phoenix' ability then that this proves to be their most downright satisfying and enjoyable release to date.

The 70s FM pop flourishes are still present and correct, like in the breezy 'Consolation Prizes' or the bright chug of 'Rally', but the new, no-frills rock approach render the likes of The Feeling irrelevant in their sheer effervescence. 'Long Distance Call' is the album's real pearler, a devil-may-care hit of pure sunshine that, in these cynical times, is more life-affirming , if only for its lack of pretention, than pretty much anything else released this year. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face, It's Never Been Like That is both heroically unfashionable and ineffably chic.

Phoenix - Rally (mp3)


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