The unvarnished truth is usually varnished for a good reason. In the case of my Top Ten albums of 2006, the reasons for my choices, I've concluded after some shallow introspection, were indeed spurious. In some instances, downright shameful. You've seen how thin my arguments were on albums 10 and 9. I'd be much more qualified to come up with a Top Three list. Without further handwringing, here's the AWFUL TRUTH of the other eight albums I've not yet addressed:
8. Ladyhawk's self-titled debut Ladyhawk. This is reckless: I only picked this because a) Mr. Poncho said it was cool and I like and respect Mr. Poncho, and b) I ran out of albums to fill out my list. I haven't liked most of what I've heard this year and I did like this (like!), if only because it sounded more like Neil Young & Crazy Horse than Neil Young & Crazy Horse sounded on that anti-Bush album.
The Dugout - Ladyhawk
7. Belle & Sebastian's The Life Pursuit. I actually only love about three or four songs on this album, but the ones I do love are truly smashing. I'm a sucker for this whole gay Scottish 60s R&B sound. Here's my offer to all the bands out there: if you put hand-claps on your record, I'll pretty much put you in my Top Ten, okay? Like this:
Funny Little Frog - Belle & Sebastian
6. Joanna Newsom's Ys. Remember when Ray Davies wrote "speculative" liner notes for a Kinks covers album a few years ago because he hadn't actually heard the songs yet? I HAVEN'T EVEN HEARD THIS ALBUM! I ordered it on vinyl from Drag City and they're still waiting for the factory to crank some more of them out. I've had a lot of back and forth on the email with a guy named Christopher. I put this on my list based exclusively on a really compelling description my friend Doug gave the other night while eating a hamburger.
5. Dixie Chick's Taking the Long Way. I put this on because a) I'm also from Texas and hate George Bush, and b) I had an exquisite summer revery listening to this album on headphones while riding a ferry to Nantucket last July. Even though this song has all the depth of an episode of Friends, I actually got a little verklempt listening to it:
The Long Way Around - Dixie Chicks
4. TV on the Radio's Return to Cookie Mountain. Listen up, okay? This album is annoying. Don't argue, it is. I was just afraid Kelefa Sanneh would stop respecting me if I didn't put it in my list somewhere. Also, I had an influential weed-powered listen to the opening song that made me think everybody's probably right. Yes, this stuff is advanced and futuristic and ingenius and thrilling. But sometimes it's also not very fun to literally hear.
I Was a Lover - TV on the Radio
3. M. Ward's Post-War. This is part of my legitimate Top Three list. Beauty matters and this is beautiful. Don't argue!
Poison Cup - M. Ward
2. The Decemberists' The Crane Wife. Again, Top Three. If you're constitutionally strong enough to deal with Colin Meloy's annoying voice (and, yes, it is annoying), you can't not listen to this album and realize it's a piece of genius. Fairport Convention meets Pink Floyd, but better than both because of the epic storytelling. And it sounds fan-fucking-tastic, no doubt about it. Mr. Poncho calls this "twirly moustache music," which it is (and that's pretty funny, Mr. Poncho!). But by minute 7 of the 12-minute "The Island," this thing is blowing the moustache clear off your skeptical face.
The Island - The Decemberists
1. Bob Dylan's Modern Times. I didn't want to have to do it. I didn't! Who wants to be so predictable and lame and retrograde as to choose BOB DYLAN as your No. 1 pick of the year 2006? It's like choosing the DVD reissue of "Citizen Kane" as your favorite movie of the year. But! Alas! This opening song alone is so many orders of magnitude better than anything else out there (period, full stop), there wasn't really another option. To paraphrase Laura Dern, it's "Johnny Be Good" at heart and weird on top. Listen and read these lyrics and then feel bad you didn't make this album your No. 1 pick.
Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I'll recruit my army from the orphanages
I been to St. Herman's church, said my religious vows
I've sucked the milk out of a thousand cows
I got the porkchops, she got the pie
She ain't no angel and neither am I
Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes
I'll say this, I don't give a damn about your dreams
Thunder on the Mountain - Bob Dylan