Sunday, February 11, 2007

Best Albums 2006 - The Year of Dance

Art by Mark Mumford, James Harris Gallery installation

Dance music was the the genre for 2006. Just look at Pound for Pound and its development over the past year. I found it difficult to find time to post about other genres, as hot tracks and remixes dropped fast and furious. From the rise of indie dance with Kitsune and Modular, the resurgence of electro with Ed Banger, album of the year shit from Hot Chip and The Knife, it was the soundtrack to 2006, no question.

The genre's dominance is most easily seen when you consider its influence over other ones, as my favorite pop and indie albums were all clearly influenced by the sounds of the club. Justin, Lily, Nelly F. all dropped wonderful albums that took cues from the best of the clubs. Most impressive, I was able to get a Top 11 list of full-length albums, not a given in a genre defined by the 12" vinyl release. The craziest part is that I'm not even mentioning my favorite stuff from the labels above and the remixers like MSTRKRFT and Switch and you know the list.

I want to thank my girl z. here also and dedicate this post to her, as she was the first reader to say nice things about our increasing focus on these sounds. She has been a great guide to all of the best shit, down with the classics and the newest white label remix. Of course, I also dedicate this post to all of the producers, labels, DJs and whoever else who take the time to make and release and get this music out to the world. One quick note on the post: the albums that don't have a track are going to have longer posts dedicated to them soon, so just hold on and you'll get a taste. I'm sure that I have missed a few obvious ones too, feel free to write in and complain about what's not here.

1) Hot Chip, The Warning - A masterpiece, it's that simple. The album of the year at Pound for Pound (tied, actually, but you'll have to wait to know with what). If you've got a problem with that, I'll give you a rap right on the Jack Johnson.

Hot Chip, "Over and Over" (YSI link)

2a) The Knife, Silent Shout - This is a sign of just how varied and amazing dance music was this past year. The Knife's latest album was a dark, haunted one, think of it as house music made by and for ghosts. Most years, this would easily have taken album of the year honors. Essential.

The Knife, "Silent Shout" (YSI link)

2b) Junior Boys, So This Is Goodbye - This one gets better with each listen. It reminds me a lot of The Knife, the same cold precision, but the Junior Boys seem to be searching for the warmth and love, as opposed to the darkness and haunting. Essential.

Junior Boys, "Equalizer" (YSI link)

4) Lindstrom, It's A Feedelity Affair - Here's a name that helped define the year, as Lindstrom's space-y take on disco blows me away with each new listen. This album is a compilation of some of his 12" releases, making this a must-buy for the non-vinyl people looking to get a good feel of what's going on.

5) Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds - Awww, you knew it had to be on here. My bol JT - who knew better than to step to Scarlett, smart move - dropped another classic. Before you start to hate and tell me how this is such a hipster choice, listen to the fucking album. Timbaland does some of his best work, "My Love" is the song that'll play at my wedding and it brought some sex and love back. Not dance music? I think that a listen to the synth stabs, skittering drums and filthy bass. Or even better, check the next club when one of the tunes drops. Or look at how the remixers are going nuts to fuck with the blueprint. Do it.

Justin Timberlake, "My Love" (YSI link) 320 for the DJs

6) Goldfrapp, Supernature - This one is so underrated, it would have fit in perfectly with my sleepers post. Unfortunately, Goldfrapp doesn't really have the audience or notoriety of the bands on that one. People are missing out, as the duo are dropping some brilliant stuff, really doing a sound that's sui generis. Imagine disco if pills were the drug of choice instead of coke - darker, woozier, paranoid. Highly recommended.

Goldfrapp, "Ooh La La" (YSI link)

7) Herbert, Scale - One of the most dependable names in the game (despite being one of the more experimental), Herbert is always going to turn up on end of the year lists. I didn't love this one as much as Pitchfork, but can't really argue with anything Jess Harvell says. I think it's more that I loved the above ones more, that's all. On this one, Herbert seems to really loosen up, as this album wouldn't have been out of place in the disco clubs of the 70s. It's warm and lush and a little cheesy; it may take a few listens to really appreciate this one, as it did for me. In fact, a few more and it might just move even higher on this list.

Herbert, "Moving Like A Train"
(YSI link)

8) Trentemoller, The Last Resort - I haven't done a good job of digging deep into the microgenres of dance music, as, to be honest, I'm just beginning to dig in. Trentemoller was a name I heard good things about and so I took a chance on it. It's a excellent album, less minimal than I expected, more cohesive than most dance LPs. I actually feel like it tends to much to be an album, as it misses a little of the club focus. More to come on this one, but it's a definite buy for anyone interested in digging deeper in the techno end of the pool.

9) Cassius, 15 Again - It seemed like everything coming out of Paris this year killed and Cassius' new album was no exception. "Toop Toop" was my song of the year, the whole album brings that post-Daft Punk sound to a little poppier, more melodic place. It doesn't quite have the consistency of the albums ahead of it on the list, but its peaks are high as they get. Do not sleep on this one, it has gotten nowhere near enough love.

Cassius, "Toop Toop" (YSI link)

10) CSS, Cansei de Ser Sexy - One of my favorite trends of the year was the way in which dance music infected other genres. In fact, this list could easily include some other favorites that will be getting shine in a few days like The Blow. It's not techno or house, but it's clearly influenced by what's going on in over there and isn't afraid to make music for people to dance to. Electro-rock I see mentioned? That's as good as anything to describe what's going on, definitely the most interesting stuff coming out of indieland. CSS are almost like dance no-wave or something, bringing energy, punk attitude and rhythm to the mix. It's a great album with a few classics, worth a chance.

CSS, "Let's Make Love and Listen To Death From Above" (YSI link)

11) Pet Shop Boys, Fundamental - Last, but not least, the legendary Pet Shop Boys dropped a new album that far exceeded my expectations. I must confess to not having heard much Pet Shop Boys before this, but that is a temporary problem after hearing this one. I came to this one late in the day, so it's hard to know where it belongs on this list.

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