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It's that time again, folks! The following are our lists of favorite records for 2006. We know some of you will disagree, and some of you will hopefully discover new treasures you'd never heard of until now. Either way, we wish you all a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year... by the Roman calendar, that is.

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Embo Blake - music writer & part time cowpoke

Top Records of 2006
1. Luka Bloom - Innocence : Yet another amazing album full of amazing songs from the amazing voice of Luka Bloom. A bit less sleepy than his last record, lots of passionate songs, and a great recording of his classic "City Of Chicago".
2. Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova - The Swell Season
The energetic frontman of The Frames released a beautifully melancholy record accompanied by a wonderfully talented violinist. The songs range from instrumentals to dynamic near-rockers, but all have that flair that could only come from Hansard.
3. Johnny Cash - American V
This will probably be the last new recordings we ever see from Johnny. It's a great collection, and features some heart-breaking songs and some gut-wrenching performances. It is an essential piece of your collection, no matter who you are.
4. Richard Buckner - Meadow
I can't say enough about the songwriting of Richard Buckner. This new collection is a bit more sonic at times, the music strays a bit from his folkier roots… but the songs themselves remain as incredible as anything he's ever done.
5. Dale Watson - Whiskey Or God
Watson is really one of the frontrunners of the few keeping real country music alive and well. This latest CD is a collection of great songs that run the gamut from full on honky-tonk to gospel. Rumor has it he's done for a while. That's a shame, but this record will help keep the days.
6. Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives - Live At The Ryman
Marty turns in a set of blazing bluegrass tunes live from his second home. The band is kicking, there are some great guests, and the songs are really fantastically presented. Some classics and some of Marty's own… it's all good, y'all.
7. Gob Iron - Death Songs For the Living
This album is an instant classic. I don't think it's left my CD player in months… Lots of gruesome old folk songs interpreted through the visionary eyes of Farrar and Parker… the only one missing was Buckner.
8. Bill Kirchen - Hammer Of The Honky-Tonk Gods
Kirchen spits out another set of twanging perfection. The title track is perhaps his greatest song ever, especially for us Telecaster fans… You know who you are. This is great twanging, with a fantastic new set of players helping out. Instant classic!
9. Frog Holler - Haywire
One of my favorite finds from last year, Frog Holler released their first full length this year, and it fulfills the promise of their previous EP. The songs are countrified folky, bluegrassy rock with a Northeast flavor - Like Jay Farrar, only a bit less experimental.
10. Ollabelle - Riverside Battle Songs
Ollabelle has made strides into becoming an amazing band… letting loose a little of the gospel flavor of their first record and turning to more of a folky sound, this is an amazing record filled with great semi-dark songs.

Embo's Favorite Shoegaze Records 2006
It was sort of slim pickings for shoegaze this year, folks… but here's a short list of things for you to check out… in no particular order.

1. Alcian Blue - Alcian Blue : Unfortunately, this great band has now split… much to the dismay of those of us who thought they were adept at keeping the spirit of true shoegaze alive. Pick this record up. It is simply stunning.
2. The Brotherkite - Waiting For The Time to Be Right : I haven't heard this entire record as yet… but I know these guys, and they traverse the spectrum from dreamy softness to noisy Swervie hardness. And they're great live!
3. Cerulean - No Sense In Waiting : Cerulean make rock the way that I like best. Catchy hooks hidden in walls of sound that make for a perfect listening experience. Incorporating more rock elements into the music, this album shows the band leaning more towards the Catherine Wheel rather than their previous outings that were a bit more dreamy.
4. Bel Auburn - Lullabies in A & C : This band continues to improve and kick out some nice dreampop style rock. Sharp songwriting and great guitar lines keep the ear always bent.

Best Song 2006
Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - "This Is Us"
I've never listed a song of the year before, but there has rarely been a song that stuck with me for so long as this epic tune from the great Knopfler/ Harris record this year. This song has absolutely everything a man could want in his rock. Driving beat, excellent lyrics, a bit of keyboards to help carry the rhythm, excellent guitar playing, and a killer piano outro that leaves me wanting more. Check it out.

Best Reissue 2006
The Cure Reissues : all these early Cure records have been repackaged, remastered, revamped, reawakened. The collections all feature some very cool new tracks, including demos and live tracks from years ago. They make me feel young again. I love it.

Wildcard Records 2006
Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminal Starvation League - The Longest Meow : 11 songs in 11 hours with 11 players. This record is less rock, more country, but less country than I'd like than Bare's previous band, Bare Jr. It's sonic madness, brilliantly orchestrated and ably backing some great songs.
Hillstomp - The Woman That Ended The World : Hillstomp return with a more mature sound, all gritty blues stomp, but more well written songs and better production… without smoothing things out at all.
David Ford - I Sincerely Apologize For All The Trouble I've Caused : Even though this record came out in 2005… I just found out about him this year. Excellent songs… Almost makes up for no Frames record this year.

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Gareth Bowles - music writer and soul proprietor

1. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
Third album's a charm for the Brooklyn-via-Twin Cities "indie band for classic rock fans". They've beefed up the production to highlight the crunchy riffs and downplay Craig Finn's abrasive bark a little but, but his dark, bittersweet lyrics are better than ever. This could finally be their breakthrough - and if it inspires you to go back and listen to your old Thin Lizzy albums as well, so much the better.
2. The Church - Uninvited, Like the Clouds
25 years into their career without a break, The Church delivered their third amazing album in a row this year. It's a treat for old fans but also a fine intro for the unfamiliar, combining killer melodies, jangly guitars and mysterious lyrics like the 80's stuff with the fine production detail and more ambient soundscapes from their later work. Great live shows this year, too - here's to the next quarter century!
3. Killing Joke - Hosannas from the Basement of Hell
This one gets the award for heaviest, most primal and hellacious record of the year - and most likely the decade. Recorded in a basement labyrinth of wine cellars in Prague with basic equipment and minimal overdubbing - although you may find that hard to believe when your hear Geordie Walker's guitar maelstrom - Hosannas combines the stark majesty of Killing Joke's first couple of albums with a deeper, world weary grind from their twenty odd years of subsequent experience.
4. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
Five long years since the Bobster's last studio record - it's a shame he so prefers live performance, since one of the things that distinguishes this fine record is the production by the man himself. This is an album that's at once timeless and sparklingly new, mixing facets from a century of American music into a seamless, unique whole. If you think Dylan is for hippies or old people, do yourself a favor and listen.
5. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
The groovy uncles and aunts of art rock have been pretty patchy for their last few releases, but Rather Ripped blasts right back with all their strengths - sparkling pop songs glinting out of layers of oddly tuned guitars and satisfying feedback. Jump up and down with glee to the likes of "Incinerate" and "Reena", then settle back for "Turquoise Boy" and "Pink Steam" where the band gets back to the sprawling, ecstatic sound of yore.
6. Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs - Under the Covers, Vol. 1
For a while in the spring, this and the Killing Joke album were on constant rotation chez moi - I guess I've always been intrigued by polar opposites. Two of the sweetest voices and most talented songwriters in power pop take along a bunch of ace musicians (including longtime Sweet sidekicks Richard Lloyd and Ric Menck) and record 15 gems from the 60's and 70's. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face - let's hope Volume 2 won't be too long showing up.
7. Mojave 3 - Puzzles Like You
They cranked up the tempo and volume a bit on this record, but the old heart-tugging words are still there and the melodies will still make a beeline for your memory. Play this alongside a Slowdive album (of which group main singer / songwriter Neil Halstead, bassist and not-often-enough singer Rachel Goswell and drummer Ian McCutcheon are original members) and marvel at how a set of talented artists can progress their music without losing sight of what made them so good in the first place.
8. Radio Birdman - Zeno Beach
Comeback of the year - Australian proto-punk legends reunite after nearly 30 years to show the young 'uns how it's done with some blistering live shows and a record that's easily able to stand up to their legendary 70's work.
9. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
This one makes the list mostly on the great title and the amazing lead-off track "Pass the Axe, I Think I'm Goodkind", where YLT takes off into the sort of primal fuzz bass, Moe Tucker-esque drums and squalling guitar that were sorely missed on their last few releases. The rest of the album is fine, though -it certainly won't disappoint fans, and pop morsels like "Hey Mr. Tough" (where YLT invent a whole new genre, indie-Motown) will no doubt be staples of the indie-rock channels on Internet radio.
10. Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
Their last album OnOffOn was a solid comeback, but The Obliterati puts this fine band right back in the ranks of post-punk royalty. All three members contribute some of their best work yet, from Clint Conley's blistering opener "2Twice" through Roger Miller's equally pounding "1001 Pleasant Dreams" and Peter Prescott's "The Mute Speaks Out". Proof - along with many of the other selections in this list - that age is entirely unrelated to the ability to make compelling, innovative and memorable music.

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David DeVoe - music editor/ super busy dude

Some records you should maybe listen to:

1. Luka Bloom - Innocence
My favorite Irish songwriter releases an amazing record filled with wondrously candid tales and emotions. There's a reason he's such an amazing songwriter, and he's truly one of the nicest folks I've ever had the chance to speak with, as well.
2. Gomez - How We Operate
Gomez is still the greatest rock and roll band of the last two decades (sorry Oasis). This new set of songs is a slow burner, but once you get used to it, it's essential!
3. Richard Buckner - Meadow
Buckner deserves to be the most well-known songwriter since… ever. Take a listen and tell me you don't agree.
4. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris - All The Roadrunning
I didn't think I could like Emmylou any better than I already did. I was wrong. Teamed up with Knopfler she is an even more amazing musical force.
5. Gob Iron - Death Songs For The Living
Jay Farrar and Anders Parker get together and play some dark old-school folk music. It's spectacular.
6. Charlatans UK - Simpatico
What can you say about the Charlatans that hasn't already been said? This band is really the only one left from the Madchester scene of the 90's, and they continue to re-invent themselves just enough to stay fresh, while familiar.
7. Josh Ritter - The Animal Years
This kid just astounds me. From the first moment I saw him live I was hooked. His songs are lyrically fantastic and his melodies highly contagious. I can see why Glen Hansard thinks so highly of him.
8. Lloyd Cole - Antidepressant
Cole returns with another down-beat set of tunes that show why he is considered one of the world's greatest modern troubadours. Highly personal songs and great strumming make for great records.
9. Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
Snow Patrol continues to write some of the most ingenious and relevant Britpop music around.
10. Ramblin' Jack Elliott - I Stand Alone
Elliott is a legend, and while some people are just discovering his endearing qualities, those of us in the know already are very pleased by this amazing collection of songs that proves the man still has his faculties for writing and singing.

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Bill Donovan - [occasional] music writer & commentator on society's ills

While I live in Denver, I'm so far removed from The Real World that I have to go to sweater shopping at The Gap just to figure out what young people are listening to nowadays. Furthering this poverty, my television (with a combination VCR) only receives two channels so I'm forming most of my opinions about popular culture from Entertainment Tonight. It was from this gruel that I nourished myself in 2006.

1. It was enjoyable listening to The Black Keys - Magic Potion while the search for the real killer continued in Boulder. While a DNA test exonerated John Mark Karr in the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey (to the disappointment of everybody, including John Mark Karr), his stunning confession had given quick hope to everybody in the community that years of bungling by the police and prosecutor's office may have accidentally produced results. This latest episode brought anguish anew to all those whose dreams of seeing the young beauty queen in her very own Penthouse pictorial were extinguished on that cold December night so many years ago.
2. Just as quickly as Paris Hilton's album Paris and the teacup Chihuahua have faded, it's time to recognize this year's must-have accessory for the hot-list celebrity as being an impoverished child from a 3rd world hell-hole. We are the world. We are the children. However, it's important to remember that celebrities are the ones who make a brighter day so let's encourage them to start taking. Everybody wins when celebrities take the lead - Mia Farrow even found Woody Allen his child bride.
3. There isn't enough marijuana in this world to numb the passing of the Crocodile Hunter and only Steve Irwin's fellow countrymen, the young men in Wolfmother, can provide a fitting dirge. Their eponymous album satisfied the strictest criteria for a great rock band in this post-Styx era - that anybody should be able to recognize The Styx somewhere in their music. This world is going to suck for a while without Steve but thanks to Wolfmother, this flat on the circle of life will be patched.
4. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, thanks for righting the ship that is planet earth. Everybody shares this debt of gratitude as the love they exude will finally allow peace to descend on those troubled spots of the world that are most need of it, most likely Darfur. Lord knows that when the silver space ship comes in the yellow haze of the sun, Tom and Katie will be at the head of the line stepping lively to Rascal Flatts - Me and my Gang.
5. While John Mayer released Waiting for the World to Change, the world actually did just that when Rosie O'Donnell joined The View, effectively blocking it with her inability to ignore pastries. At least one egg in her ovaries has Michael Jackson's name on it.
6. Corinne Bailey Rae brought something pretty to this world. Brittney Spears ruined it when she put Corinne's record on but neglected to do the same with her panties, letting the paparazzi know that she has dispensed with letting her hair down for a more tidy solution.
7. Maybe if Mel Gibson had been up in the gym just working on his fitness instead of boozing and cruising he wouldn't have blurted out a career-ending anti-Semitic rant. Fergie's The Dutchess has the ability to take a man's mind away from the problems of this world and focuses it instead on lovely lady lumps.
8. Maybe if Michael Richards had been listening to John Legend's Once Again instead of trying to work a stand-up routine, he wouldn't have blurted out a career-ending racist tirade. Maybe he would have listened to the album and found the beauty that comes from a God-given talent, if he didn't have such an aversion to supporting negro recording artists.
9. Heather Locklear should really take heart. Ritchie Sambora is weathering like a lump of dog shit hidden beneath the last snowfall of April anyway, so she'd be better off picking up Air Raid Serenades from The Hellacopters and pulling some young stuff from that band, traveling to a 3rd world hell-hole with him, selecting the perfect neglected child, re-christening him/her with a name most people will likely confuse as being a variety of free-market coffee and starting a family.
10. The makeover embraced by Christina Aguilera on her Back to Basics album will surely serve Anna Nicole Smith suitably as she faces tragedy head-on with a strong heart and two fistfuls of pharmaceuticals. Just as Christina's new image borrows heavily from the '40's, Anna's physique belongs on the nose of a B-17 and she would be wise to face life with the same daring-do as the bombardiers of that time. Seeing as her first-born most likely died from embarrassment, she'd also be wise to give up her newborn before she kills again years from now.

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Susan Frances - music writer and keeper of secrets

Top 10 Albums of 2006

1. Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
2. Big City Rock - Big City Rock
3. The Dears - Gang Of Losers
4. Big 10-4 - Atmosphere
5. The Dear Hunter - Act 1: The Lake South, The River North
6. Monsters Are Waiting - Fascination
7. The Corrs - Home
8. Hundred Year Storm - Hello From The Children Of Planet Earth
9. Ellison - Say Goodnight Sleep Alone
10. Emm Gryner - The Summer Of High Hopes

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Rachel Fredrickson- music writer and consummate rocker

1. Tool - 10,000 days
You can't expect anything less from Tool than the best and that's what you get with this album: perfection.
2. The Classic Crime - Albatross
It has a kind of upbeat rock sound that keeps this CD eternally in my car.
3. Sugarcult - Lights Out
Quite different than Palm Trees And Power Lines or Start Static, but a step in the right direction towards a harder sound.
4. Matchbook Romance - Voices
Wasn't a fan of Stories And Alibis, however this is my absolute favorite album of '06. Great lyrics, amazing guitar and powerful drums.
5. Life Of Riley - Days Away From Life
Mellow rock at its finest. It's going to give Nickelback and Switchfoot a run for their money.
6. Rock Kills Kid - Are You Nervous?
Perhaps meant for a completely different decade, yet fits perfectly in ours.
7. Lostprophets - Liberation Transmission
Two years since last record, but worth the wait. Unfortunately seems like the radio only enjoys "Rooftops," even though the rest is just as good.
8. A Change Of Pace - Prepare The Masses
Pop-punk? Yeah; Post-Hardcore? Sure. Any way you say it, it sounds like a CD that gets you jamming and oddly enough, thinking about politics.
9. Breaking Benjamin - Phobia
Just what I expected from them, but pushed even harder and louder. For new and old fans alike.
10. Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
A completely different band than Final Straw, and the first time I heard it I thought: Goo Goo Dolls. Yet now I see the beautiful album that they were intending to make.

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JD - music writer and righter of wrongs

JD's Top Ten for 2006
Eh, 2006 was weaker than 2005. Much weaker. All of these albums belong on this list, but some might've gotten bumped in '05 and '04.

On top of the game:
1. Terrior Bute - Return to the Astro Castle
2. Partisan - The Gothic and the Gospel
In their prime:
3. Kilroy - Thai Stick Dragon
4. Various Artists - Numbers From The Beast: An All-Star Salute to Iron Maiden
5. Nashville Pussy - Get Some
Up and Coming:
6. Frantic Mantis - Data is not Information
7. The Pigs - Oink!
8. Mixel Pixel - Music For Plants

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L. Keane - music writer and art wrangler

1. Van Morrison - Pay The Devil
2. Calexico - Garden Ruin
3. Carbon Leaf - Love. Loss. Hope. Repeat.
4. Primal Scream - Riot City Blues
5. Guster - Ganging Up On The Sun
6. Enigma - A Posteriori
7. Freeheat - Back On The Water
8. Greg Graffin - Cold As The Clay
9. Peter Bradley Adams - Gather Up
10. Gothic Archies - The Tragic Treasury

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Leeny - music writer and green maker

The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
Built To Spill - You in Reverse
Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
The Long Winters - Putting the Days to Bed
Beck - The Information
Jeremy Enigk - World Waits
Head Like A Kite - Random Portraits Of The Home Movie
Pernice Brothers - Live A Little
Damien Jurado - And Now That I'm In Your Shadow

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J. Sipes - [sometimes] music writer, [always] world traveller

j. sipes' top ten for 2006 in no particular order…
1. Hank Williams III - Straight to Hell
2. Mos Def - True Magic
3. Various Artists - Adult Swim and Stones Throw presents Chrome Children
4. The Subways - Young for Eternity
5. Swollen Members - Black Magic
6. Mono - You Are There
7. Slayer - Christ Illusion
8. Woven Hand - Mosaic
9. Rise Against - The Sufferer & the Witness
10. Raised Fist - Sound of the Republic

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Dan Warren - music writer and boy genius

1. Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
Signing with Sire Records may have afforded Spektor the resources to make her most polished record, but Begin To Hope is just as charming and eccentric - and just as inspired - as her earlier albums. She is one of the true originals making music today, and this ranks with her best work.
2. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
What hasn't been said about Bob Dylan? He continues to defy odds and produce some of the best music of his career. It doesn't match Time Out Of Mind or Love & Theft, but it comes close. "Workingman's Blues #2" is an instant classic.

3. Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
Jenny Lewis took a break from Rilo Kiley, turned down the volume, and added country influences to this excellent record. It's a detour, yes, but her personality and attitude are as strong as ever. It's also more focused and consistent than a Rilo Kiley album.
4. Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam
There's no substitute for a Pearl Jam album, and the band's self-titled effort is their best since 1998's Yield. This focused, high-energy album proves the rock mainstays are as passionate about their music now as they were in 1991.
5. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
This may be the weakest of The Decemberists' four full-lengths, but it's an excellent record by almost any other standard. The best songs on The Crane Wife rank with the highlights of the band's first three albums, and even the least impressive tracks are brimming with ideas. Colin Meloy continues to dazzle as one of the all-time great lyricists.
6. Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
When one treasured songwriter takes on the music of a folk music pioneer, it's hard not to pay attention. Springsteen's spontaneous, powerful performances on The Seeger Sessions add up to one of the best albums this year, essential for Pete Seeger and Springsteen fans alike.
7. Thom Yorke - The Eraser
Radiohead fans who wondered what Thom Yorke would sound like as a solo artist got their answer with The Eraser. With the help of longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Yorke's solo release is dark, atmospheric, and truly beautiful.
8. The Winter Blanket - Golden Sun
This six-song EP is a quiet, unassuming group of songs highlighted by the stunning vocals of lead singers Stephanie Davila and Doug Miller. It's a moving piece of work, and should keep listeners satisfied until the band's next full-length album.

And, since this is my first published year-end list, I'll end with two essential albums released towards the end of 2005.

9. Pelle Carlberg - Everything. Now!
Carlberg had recorded three albums as the frontman for Edson before releasing his excellent solo debut. An beautiful, understated effort, Everything. Now! paints an uncommonly sincere portrait of a talented songwriter.
10. Jackson Browne - Solo Acoustic Vol. 1
Jackson Browne's timeless songs find new life in a live acoustic setting. Songs from Browne's more recent albums fit seamlessly with his 70's classics. Not only is this a great Jackson Browne album, it is his best release since The Pretender in 1976.

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