Duff’s Favorite Albums 2006

Favorite Album of 2005 that I Didn’t Get Until 2006
Flipsyde “We the People” Why I wasted six months before buying this album I’ll never know. The exact type of rapping/ singing blend I tend to like (think Chronic Future). Sassy and smart and stylistically diverse. Love it.
Favorite Songs: “US History” (great fucking song, dudes) “Trumpets” “Flipsyde”
Favorite Albums of 2006
1. Gnarls Barkley “St. Elsewhere” Band of the year, album of the year, and song of the year. These guys blew everyone else away. Not only are they great musicians, but they are all about having FUN with it: unrelentingly HAPPY and never shy about showing it.
Favorite Songs: “Crazy” Of course!! It was THE song of 2006! “Smiley Faces” “Just a Thought”
2. Gomez “How We Operate” If I had bought this on LP, I would have worn out the grooves. Didn’t know them before this album. Love the contrast between the vocals tempo and the harmonies/background. Love the melodies.
Favorite Songs: “All Too Much” “How We Operate” “Hamoa Beach” “See the World” “Cry on Demand”
3. Golden Smog “Another Fine Day” This was a constant listen all summer long. Much more straight “rock” than most of the stuff I listened to this year.
Favorite Songs: “Long Time Ago” “Cure for This” “Strangers”
4. Hilltop Hoods “The Hard Road” Australian rap; probably my favorite purchase from the trip. No noticeable hos or bitches or guns or what you might expect if you listen to much American rap. Using the genre to different effect. Politically aware. Literate (Oscar Wilde shoutout, anyone?). Great beats. Unusual backdrops.
Favorite Songs: “Recapturing the Vibe” “The Hard Road” “Conversation from a Speakeasy” “Breathe”
5. Rosanne Cash “Black Cadillac” Dedicated to her mom, dad and stepmom, all dead in the past few years. Spent so much time listening to Johnny Cash in the past few years, I couldn’t NOT check this out. So glad I did. Beautiful and elegiac. Bought early in the year, but never set aside.
Favorite Songs: “I Was Watching You” “God Is in the Roses” “The World Unseen” “Like Fugitives”
6. Band of Horses “Everything All the Time” Recommended to me by Paul in our ongoing exchanges before they really broke out. These guys just don’t sound quite like anyone else. “The Funeral” is certainly one of the best songs of the year, although I find I generally listen to this as a whole album, only rarely breaking it down. Plaintive yet soaring melodies.
Favorite Songs: “The Funeral” “The Great Salt Lake” ‘I Go in the Barn Because I Like the” “Monsters”
7. My Chemical Romance “The Black Parade” The most recent purchase on this list. This album is a crazy combination of mindboggling array of influences…Yet unlike other derivative bands, to my ears they have a very distinctive sound of their own that stands out above all that.
Favorite Songs: Wow, hard to pick out individual tracks here, I almost always listen to this as a full album… maybe “Mama” or “Cancer”. Or ALL OF THEM!! 🙂
8. The Long Winters “Putting the Days to Bed” Didn’t love their previous release, wasn’t even going to buy this, but it turned out to be one of the albums I listened to the most! Melodius and musically diverse. Totally singalongable. Literate. Intellectually pleasing.
Favorite Songs: “Fire Island, AK” “Teaspoon” “Honest” (perhaps the best ‘advice’ song ever) “Clouds”
9. Cat Power “The Greatest” Lush and stately. Has a very dignified, old school, jazz standard feel to it. One of those rare albums that is just SO RIGHT ON that you can barely catch your breath while you’re listening to it.
Favorite Songs: “Willie” “Where Is My Love”
10. Bishop Allen “June” You could argue that I listened to Bishop Allen more (and more consistently throughout the year) than any other band this year, since they put out an EP EVERY MONTH. Poppy, goofy and fun. Definitely quirky; definitely talented.
Favorite Songs: “The Same Fire” “Number 39”
Runners Up
Weepies “Say I Am You”. — “The World Spins Madly On” is one of the best songs of the year. Love it. Also like Deb Talan’s solo stuff, but not quite as much.
Joseph Arthur “Nuclear Daydream” — Beautiful. Heartbreaking.
Scissor Sisters “Ta Dah” — Just as danceable as their first.
Damien Rice “9” — More of the same from “O”. But he does it so well.
Beck “The Information” — Definitely the funnest thing I saw live this year. Can’t listen without thinking about the puppets!
Imelda De La Cruz “Noise Noise Noise” — She’s a friend of a friend. This is the best album you’re not listening to (or haven’t heard about)! Maybe you should go buy it! Ran into her in Whole Foods the other night with aforementioned friend. Could not stop myself from blurting out “I LOVE YOUR ALBUM”. As a (former) proud New Yorker, this is something I would NEVER do to someone famous. But I figured she’s low key enough still (at this point) that I could embarrass myself.
The Audreys “Between Last Night and Us” — Alt country from Australia.
She Will Have Her Way — An entire album of Crowded House covers!! What’s better than that. Fave: Renee Geyer’s version of “Into Temptation”.
Snow Patrol “Eyes Open” — Anthems you can’t get out of your head.
Keane “Under the Iron Sea” — Pretty. — Very pretty.
Raconteurs “Broken Boy Soldiers” — Can Jack White make a bad album? Loving Brendan Benson more here than on his solo stuff.
The Fray “How to Save a Life” — Sometimes cheesy radio ballads really ARE good songs.
Favorite Songs from 2006 (or mostly?) NOT on Any of the Above-Mentioned Albums
“Jenny Don’t Be Hasty” Paolo Nuttini
Sassy.
“You” Switchfoot
Sad. Melancholy. As you might expect. Me being me. And all.
“Reason to Mourn” Ben Harper
Almost makes me cry. Every time.
“Multiply” Jamie Lidell
Overall he’s not my usual type. But this is a crowdpleaser.
“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” sung by Terrence Howard in the movie
You would not believe the grin I get on my face when I’m listening to this. As well as “Whoop That Trick”. Loved the movie, love the songs.
“Halo” Bethany Joy Lenz
Sung as Haley James on that horror show “One Tree Hill”. The best thing that’s ever come out of that show is this song.
“Weight of the World” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
This is more than I wanted, take me out of the dark… Time will change, still the world remains the same
“Bad Day” Daniel Powter
Overplayed. Because it was good!
“Faith” Shawn Mullens
Haven’t listened to him in years. When he’s on, he’s on.
“Emily Kane” Art Brut
We all wish there was a song like this out there about us, don’t we.
“Skeleton Key” Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos
Love lovelovelove LOVE this song. Thank you, Silvia!
“Fidelity” Regina Spektor
Irresistible.
“We All Lose One Another” Jason Collett
Go ahead. TRY not to sing along to the chorus.
“Listen” and “Letter to the World” Dead Heart Bloom
Listen as I write you a song… Here’s my goodbye to the world
“Since I Left You” The Avalanches
Another Australia purchase. Rest of the album is too electronica pour moi. But this song is great.
“Fancy Lover” The Whitlams
New stuff from Australians I learned about previously from a Brit (Hi Michele!)
“Tant Pis Pour Toi” Nous Non Plus
En francais! Bien sur!
“Boston”, “Stars and Boulevards” and “Coffee and Cigarettes” Augustana
My cousin would call this “WB music” [i.e. Dawson’s Creek, Everwood, etc.]. Yup. And I still like it.
“Hoquiam” and “Denton, TX” Damien Jurado
Set the player on repeat, you’ll want to listen to these again.
“You’re the Kind of Trouble (I Could Get Into)” Solomon Burke
Soul singer goes country, complete with sassy country lyrics!
“Happiness” Grant Lee Buffalo
More of my usual melancholy, despite its title.
“Home” Barenaked Ladies
Stuck in the middle of the road, for better or worse we compromise
“Unspoken Love” The Electric Farm
You can fight it. But what’s the use.
New (to me) Artists (that I liked) This Year
Strays Don’t Sleep — I try not to pay tooooo close attention to the lyrics, as some are a little, shall we say, Republican sounding. But I saw these guys open for Josh Rouse and they have a cool sound. Two vocalists, interesting voices/contrasts.
Ben Kweller — Ben Kweller is toooo much fun. Has a real Peter Frampton ’70s look to him although he’s all of…what? 17? He was one of my favorite Lollapalooza discoveries. Very catchy songs.
Memphis — Part of the whole Broken Social Scene / Stars / Metric / Emily Haines crowd. Soft and pleasing. Thoughtful. And perhaps less melancholy than is my norm in this type of sound.
Submarines — Recommended by Sunday Undies Jen. Have seen them described as a “happy” boy/girl Stars-like band. A real “relationship” album. Haven’t listened enough for them to make the top 10/runners up. But like what I hear.
Covers I Loved This Year
Gnarls Barkley covering the Violent Femmes’ “Gone Daddy Gone.”
James Blunt covers of Crowded House’s “Fall At Your Feet” and the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?
The Magic Numbers singing Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and The Smiths “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out.”
Joseph Arthur also singing “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out.”
Boy Least Likely To rocking out to George Michael’s “Faith. Saw this in concert!
Matt the Electrician‘s version of Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.” Heard live!
Multiple covers of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” by The Raconteurs (awesome, live!), Kanye West (OK, live at lolla), Nelly Furtado (slow but cool) and Ray LaMontagne (OK). As discussed, THE song of 2006!
Ben Folds singing Dr. Dre’s(? Snoop’s?) “Bitches Ain’t Shit.” There are a lot of great covers by Ben Folds out there.
Joshua Radin covering Yaz’s “Only You.” Man, I love this song. Still.
Albums I liked…And Then Got Over
Sometimes seeing someone live changes how you feel about them, for better or, as in these cases, for worse.
Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins “Rabbit Fur Coat” — This is a pretty rockin’, albeit very short, album. Then I saw her in concert. And she was all bible-banging / gospel-y / standing-on-the banks-of-the-Jordan prayin’ and I don’t think I listened to it a single time after that. Ah well. Not everyone needs to be experienced live. I’m sure I’ll still check out her next efforts.
KT Tunstall “Eye to the Telescope” — I liked this album a lot when it came out. I still think “Suddenly I See” is a great song. But in concert she was really…awkward? And at some point I lost interest; the album just dropped off my radar the rest of the year.
Corinne Bailey Rae (self-titled) — It’s amazing to see that huge voice coming out of a stick-thin body. But the songs are too much the same to keep me interested. Same tempo, same sounds. Throughout.

Duff Says “READ!!” And, sometimes, watch a movie too.

Always Recommending Almost Anything By

  • Phillip Roth
  • Pat Barker
  • David Lodge
  • Haven Kimmel
  • Jonathan Coe
  • A.L. Kennedy
  • Graham Swift
  • Penelope Fitzgerald
  • Marilynne Robinson
  • Elizabeth A. Lynn

Moving into Greatness
  • David Mitchell, particularly “Black Swan Green”
  • Michael Cunningham, particularly “The Hours” and “Specimen Days”

Fun and Foibles in Academia
  • Michael Malone “Foolscap”
  • Richard Russo “Straight Man”
  • Michael Chabon “Wonder Boys”
  • Michael Frayne “Headlong” (not exactly academia, but feels like it)
  • David Lodge (pretty much all his books)
  • William Boyd (the novels are not IN academia but his characters could easily go there)

Good Things Come in Pairs
  • Ann Patchett “Bel Canto” and Niall Williams “As It Is in Heaven”
  • Nick Hornby “High Fidelity” and Tom Perrotta “The Wishbones”
  • Joan Didion “The Year of Magical Thinking” and Philip Roth “Everyman”

Favored Among Others
  • “King Hereafter” Dorothy Dunnett
  • “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” Michael Chabon
  • “In This House of Brede” Rumer Godden
  • “Lonesome Dove” Larry McMurtry (and the three that go with it)
  • “The Shellseekers” Rosamunde Pilcher
  • “The History of Love” Nicole Krauss
  • “Gone to Soldiers” Marge Piercy
  • “Birdsong” Sebastian Faulks
  • “The Lords of Discipline” by Pat Conroy (get over the fact that he wrote Prince of Tides and read this anyway)

My Top 7 Books on March 5, 1997
  • “Kim” Rudyard Kipling
  • “Possession” A.S. Byatt
  • “The Engima of Arrival” V.S. Naipaul
  • “As I Lay Dying” Faulkner
  • “The Baron in the Trees” Italo Calvino
  • “Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha” by Roddy Doyle
  • “Speak, Memory” Nabokov

Academically Dense
  • A.S. Byatt
  • Anne Carson
  • Jasper Fforde, the Tuesday Next series (you can read these and just MISS most of the literary references, and they’re still fun, but you can tell when stuff is flying over your head…)

Serious Sci Fi
  • Neal Stephenson “Cryptonomicon” is a great, great book.
  • Maureen McHugh “Mothers and Other Monsters”
  • Mary Doria Russell “The Sparrow” and “Children of God”

Time Travel
  • Audrey Niffenegger “The Time Traveler’s Wife”
  • Diana Gabaldon the Outlander series (I really love the first three, after that it falls off a bit)
  • Connie Willis “Doomsday Book” and “To Say Nothing of the Dog”

Read This Book AND See This Movie
  • Michael Ondaatje “The English Patient”
  • Milan Kundera “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”
  • Nick Hornby “About a Boy”
  • Mark Bowden “Black Hawk Down”
  • Read Stuart O’Nan “Wish You Were Here” and watch “A Walk on the Moon”
  • Read Philip Caputo “Acts of Faith” and watch “The Constant Gardener”

Read This Book BUT do NOT See This Movie
  • Michael Connelley “Blood Work”
  • Cathleen Schine “The Love Letter”
  • Nick Hornby “High Fidelity”

Looks Like Chick Lit But Isn’t (It’s Better!!)
  • Darcy Cosper “Wedding Season”
  • Rebecca Wells “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and “Little Altars Everywhere”
  • Elisabeth Robinson “The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters”

Yes and No
  • Ian McEwan. YES: “Atonement” NO: “Saturday”
  • Zadie Smith. YES: “White Teeth” and “The Autograph Man” NO: “On Beauty”
  • Nick Hornby. YES: “High Fidelity” and “About a Boy” NO: “How to Be Good” and “A Long Way Down”
  • Alice Hoffman. YES: “Here on Earth” NO: “Turtle Magic”
  • Michael Connelly. YES: “Bloodwork” “The Poet” and the first five or six in the Harry Bosch series. NO: Everything written since then.
  • Dennis Lehane. YES: The (4 or 5?) Kenzie/Gennaro books. NO: The stand-alones.

One-Offs
  • Patrick Susskind “Perfume”
  • Martyn Bedford “The Houdini Girl”

Small-Town Blues
  • Haven Kimmel “A Girl Named Zippy”
  • Nicole Lea Helget “The Summer of Ordinary Ways”

Take Me to Another Place
  • Hilary Lifton & Kate Montgomery “Dear Exile”
  • anything by Bill Holm, but particularly “Coming Home Crazy”
  • anything by Sara Wheeler, particularly her Antarctica books
  • Anthony Bourdain “A Cook’s Tour”
  • Bill Bryson
  • Jenny Diski
  • Jeannette Wells “The Glass House”
  • Deborah Copaken Kogan “Shutterbabe”
  • Alexandra Fuller “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight”
  • Bruce Chatwin
  • Bruce Feiler

GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2005

My Top 5 books of 2005 were (in this order):

  • Paradise, by A.L. Kennedy
  • History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
  • Mothers & Other Monsters, by Maureen McHugh
  • Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Closed Circle, by Jonathan Coe

Yes, to those of you who saw that list before, I switched the order a little.
Runners Up were:
  • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell (does what Ghostwritten tried to do, but so much better)
  • An Unfinished Season, by Ward Just
  • Specimen Days, by Michael Cunningham (can he write a bad book? Seriously?)
  • Old School, by Tobias Wolff

My favorite new discovery in 2005 was: A.L. Kennedy. Everything I read by her took my breath away. And there’s still a couple books waiting in the wings. Can’t wait!
Those were my top five, but I read sooooo many good books this year.
I read good OLD books:
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak
  • The Way by Swann’s, by Marcel Proust

I read a truly shocking (for me) amount of non-fiction:
  • Sixpence House, by Paul Collins
  • A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel
  • The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
  • The Lives of the Muses, by Francine Prose
  • Wine & War, the French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure, by Don & Petie Kladstrup
  • Foreign Babes in Beijing, by Rachel DeWoskin
  • Travels with a Tangerine, by Tim MacKintosh-Smith
  • Why Are We at War?, by Norman Mailer
  • Silent Bob Speaks, the Collected Writings of Kevin Smith
  • The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty, by K.C. Cole
  • In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson

I read historical fiction that only added more things to my ‘must’ lists:
  • Author, Author, by David Lodge (must go back and read some Henry James. Haven’t read any since undergrad!!)
  • Neighboring Lives, by Thomas Disch and Charles Naylor (need to read some pre-Raphaelites again. And look at their paintings. It’s been ages…)

Duff’s Favorite Albums 2005

Well, here, finally, are my “Listenin’ Favorites”. If you’ve been reading me all year, then I don’t think you’re going to find any surprises here. As I’m writing it out, I think “yeah yeah, who DOESN’T know how I felt about this one?” but perhaps you will enjoy it anyway! (And if not – keep it to yourself, y’hear!)
And if you can’t figure it out in context, some of my favorites were released in 2005, and some may have been released a different year, but turned out to be something I listened to in 2005…
Favorite Albums of the Year
Lou Barlow “Emoh” – I’ve been a Lou Barlow fan since the first time I heard “Together or Alone” (Sebadoh)…but I never expected THIS. Emoh was by far my favorite album of 2005. I got it in April and listened to it over, and over, and over again. Hey – I’m STILL listening to it! Amazing lyrics, simple yet unforgettable melodies, a mix of happy/sad, slow/fast. Honestly – what more could a girl want? Now you have to wonder: Why haven’t I checked out Dinosaur Jr.? There must be something wrong with me. Favorite songs “If I Could”: “But I know my lack of grace continues to turn you off, and this could be my fate here: never to be touched…”; “Mary”: Immaculate conception, yeah, right! Crazy Mary, good that you lied!…”; and “Puzzle”: I think you’re funny and you love my smell… That inbetween my shadow and your light, I did lose you…”
Athlete “Tourist” and “Vehicles & Animals” – Both these albums are great, and it was impossible for me to choose between them. I got the first one from my No. 1 UK music source Michelle (You rock, Lady!), and bought the second on iTunes a few days later when I wondered how I had lived without this band in my life. (I am sooo not dramatic!)
Death Cab for Cutie “Plans” – In the past, I was only “vaguely” a Death Cab fan. Sure, I knew Seth Cohen loved them, and I knew a few select songs, but nothing had grabbed me to the “listen to this over and over” point. Nothing, until Plans, that is. Holy crap. Some albums are great even if they don’t work “as an album” because they have 5 or 6 great songs; this album is great AS an album. “Marching Bands” may be the best “first song”/CD opener of the year, and the lyrics to “Someday You Will Be Loved” and “I Will Follow You into the Dark” both literally take my breath away.
James Blunt “Back to Bedlam” – Every year, there’s a melancholy boy in my life. One year it was Damien Rice. One year it was David Gray. Sometimes it’s Ryan Adams. This year it was James Blunt. (Thanks again to Michelle. Can I ever repay you?) A couple of the songs have gotten so much radio/TV play that one might begin to get sick of them (“one” very much NOT being me). But listen to them on their own merits, not on the “how sickeningly popular are they” scale, and I think you will see their merit. My favorite, if you’re wondering (come on, now, people, give me some love) is “Wise Men”: Look who’s alone now, it’s not me, it’s not me… Gotta ask yourself the question ‘Where are you now?’…; with “Tears and Rain” a close second.
Great Lake Swimmers “Great Lake Swimmers” and “Bodies & Minds” – Ah, another “twofer.” So thinking of melancholy music that I can’t get out of my head leads me right to Great Lake Swimmers, crazy Canadians who I have now TWICE MISSED at Schuba’s. (Where in the fuck are my priorities, I ask myself.) Once, I didn’t buy tickets because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get there due to work schedule that day. And once I had tickets but was leaving for NY at 6 a.m. the next day, didn’t get home until 10 minutes before the concert, and still had to pack. IDIOT. This is slow, melancholy, thickly layered music… Think Low. Or cast your mind back, back in the day to “Automatic for the People”. Very orchestral feeling. Dense sonic clouds. Lovely, lovely, lovely music. Sad, perhaps. A little lonely. Unforgettable.
Sufjan Stevens “Come On Feel the Illinoise” – Sufjan Steven is crazy. Item No. 1: He’s doing a 50-state album arc. He’s two albums in. You may ask yourself some logic questions, such as: “If he is x years old now, then what age will he be when he finishes?” Item No. 2: He (and the band) do cheerleading chants between songs. Item No. 3: Hello, there is a song about Jacksonville (my birthplace, dudes) on this album. And a song about Mary Todd. And a song about Casimir Pulaski day (Go polacks everywhere! I’m a polack, so I can say that, right?) He is crazy, but he is sooo good. Despite the obvious many moments of humor on this album, it is really lovely and lyrical, and sweet. Very very sweet. AND – if that’s not enough – his was the BEST concert I went to this year. It was like getting a big shot of HAPPY right in the ass. Walking home in a smiley glow…
Carla Bruni “Quelqu-un M’a Dit” – Maybe if I wasn’t in my you-would-laugh-to-know-based-on-my-abilities semester of studying French, this wouldn’t have made the list – I can’t be sure. She’s got a soft, husky voice; as if someone was whispering soft French secrets in your ear… There’s a “you say tomAHto, I say tomAYto” offering (Le toi du moi), there are slow ballads, there are upbeat “jazzy standards”… It’s quite nice. And even if you knew no French at all, you might enjoy the overall sonic experience.
Uh oh…only one spot left…
This is a tough one…but I’m gonna go with…A THREE-WAY TIE! Ringside; Youth Group “Skeleton Jar”; and The Magic Numbers. I started listening to Youth Group around the same time as Death Cab “Plans”, and in some ways it’s always sort of a “companion album” to it in my mind. A couple weeks after I got this album, they had a cover of “Forever Young” on the OC and it’s quite nice, I recommend it as well. Ringside’s amazing “Strangerman” was (also! Surprise surprise!) on an episode of the OC (and I also really love “Miss You”). Ringside and Youth Group both fall more on the “rock” side of the equation – say, with Athlete. They’re not as quirky as Sufjan or Death Cab, not as melancholy as James Blunt or Great Lake Swimmers; in fact, sometimes they are even reminiscent of 80s rock bands. Shocker! The Magic Numbers, on the other hand, is a much “pop”pier band/album… Beatles/Oasis/Mamas and the Papas/Beach Boys-esque. I listen to this all the time.
Phew.
Runners Up
I really loved these albums, too, so technically I probably should have just gone for 15 instead of 10…but then I would have had to settle on one more…and no, I could not solve the problem the easy way and commit to a list of “14” favorite albums. That’s crazy!
Hold Steady “Separation Sunday” – A far more than “satisfactory” sophomore album. Every bit as crazy, ranting, and awesome as their first effort. And they are AWESOME in concert. Totally nuts.
Mike Doughty “Haughty Melodic” – Wow, I spent a LOT of time listening to Mike Doughty this year. I saw him…in…April? Eh – spring sometime. I’m going to see him again this March. He’s really a great musician. And so much more alone than Soul Coughing really ever came to. (And he did an encore of “The Gambler.” Hilarious cover encores are one of my favorite things. [Like the time FigDish did “Big Balls” with the bunny on stage, ‘member that, Nanders?])
Fall Out Boy “From Under the Cork Tree” – I’m not happy if I don’t have a little PUNK ASS-KICKIN’ in my life and these boys fit the bill quite nicely. AND they’re from Chicago. AND 12-teen, living at the ‘rents, yet ROCKING OUT. Awesome.
Franz Ferdinand “You Could Have It So Much Better” – The only reason this one didn’t make the favorites list was I got it in October and I just didn’t listen to it enough before year-end. I’ve probably listened to it more in January than in Oct-Dec combined. I think it’s a great sophomore effort. There are a couple songs I can’t get out of my head. Maybe that’ll make it one of my favorites in 2006!
Close…but No Cigar
Kanye West “Late Registration” – Liked it. But just didn’t listen to it THAT much. Not as much as his first album. I do, however, really like a lot of the singles..
Twin Atlas, of which I listened to a bunch of different albums – I’ve become a big fan of this band this year. But couldn’t really pin it down to a particular album. Or even two.
Favorite Singles
You may notice a trend here… A melancholy trend… A) Do you not know me at all? (And if not, why are you reading this?) And B) 2005 = not one of my favorite years, yo. Better luck next time.
“Hide and Seek” Imogen Heap – if you don’t have this yet, what the fuck is wrong with you. Best song of 2005. Hauntingly beautiful.
“No Illusions” 78 SaabI’m under no illusions now, how can I see when I am blind to all the same old faults now? You sure do make it kind of tough – [but] you’re not going to make me change my ways, I’ve come too far for that now…
“You Are My Joy” Reindeer Section – Don’t have anyone to say this to. But love it just the same. It makes me dream about who that could be.
“Salvation” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Insistent. Heart…pounding. Demanding. Thundering, softly.
“Wandering” Ben Folds – Why didn’t I listen to Ben Folds before 2005? Got his new album, then got some old stuff too. And all this wandering…got you nothing…
“Circles” Bob Mould – New Bob Mould. And it’s damn good.
“On Your Porch” The Format – Be careful with this one: brings tears to my eyes EVERY TIME.
“Exodus Damage” John VandersliceSo now we’re talking about this, I’m starting to lose my confidence, and no one ever says a word about so much that happens in the world…
“Something in You” the Orange Peels – Oh! Here’s a happy one! Goofy happy shiny people!
“I Burn Today” Frank Black – Over and over and over.
“Into the Fire” Thirteen SensesCome on, come on, put your hands into the fire…
“Faded Beauty Queens” The Thrills – Love all their songs. But listened to this one the most.
“Scar” Missy Higgins – Painful. But good.
“Someday” Flipsyde – So fun. How fun? They’re-using-it-in-Olympics-commercials fun.
“Heartbeat” Jose Gonzalez – Love this song. But the rest of the album? Eh.
“A Day” Inara George – same issue here. Like the song – Eh the album.
Favorite Covers
“The Gambler” Mike Doughty
“Wildwood Flower” Reese Witherspoon
“It Ain’t Me Babe” Reese & Joaquin
“True Love Will Find You in the End” Beck
Most Beatlesque (And that’s the way I like it)
The Bees “Free the Bees”
The 88 “Kind of Light”
The Magic Numbers
Franz Ferdinand (ESPECIALLY “Eleanor Put Your Boots On”)
Sounds of the ’70s
Josh Rouse “Nashville”
Kings of Convenience “Riot on an Empty Street”
Music to Cheerlead To
So occasionally I listen to happy music. Sue me.
The Go! Team “Thunder, Lightning, Streak
Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah! “
Still Getting to Know You
Antony & the Johnson’s “I Am a Bird Now” (and his name really is ANT-ony)
Definitely Disappointed
David Poe “Blood is Red”
Jason Mraz “Mr. A-Z”
Black Mountain
Tried…But Couldn’t Commit
Luke Temple “Hold a Match for a Gasoline World”
Thomas Dybdahl “That Great October Sound” – he was hyped to me as Damien Rice/Ray Lamontagne/etc. I’ve never felt “it” with him.
Do NOT Understand the Hype
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead “Worlds Apart”
My Morning Jacket “Z”
Trying to Fool Myself
I was pretty sure these “weren’t for me” when I bought them…but for some unknown reason I felt the $10 need to give them a chance… In the end, however, they are not for me.
Leela James “A Change is Gonna Come” – Fluff, you might like this. Very “Ring my Bell.”
Masha Qrella “unsolved remained” – too “electronica.

Duff’s Favorite Albums 2004

Favorite Albums of the Year
1. Green Day “American Idiot” Genius. Listen to it over and over again. Making a REAL protest. Standing up for what you believe. Telling it like it is. Punk rock adults.
2. Damien Rice “B-Sides” Well, if an EP is all we can get, it’ll have to do. Beautiful. Understated. Trembling.
3. DJ DangerMouse “The Grey Album” Genius. Better than either of the albums it pulls together. (Yes, I love the Beatles. But that’s not my favorite of theirs.)
4. Garden State Soundtrack Great music from a great movie. Lots of fun.
5. The Shins “Chutes Too Narrow” Listened to this nonstop for about two months. Saw them in concert. Bunch of goofballs. This album is just plain fun.
6. The Killers “Hot Fuss” Rock’n’roll. Can’t get these songs out of my head.
7. Scissor Sisters (self-titled) Disco lives again. Self aware, unafraid, putting it all out there.
8. The Hold Steady “Almost Killed Me” Thanks to Cari for clueing me in to this band. You’ll see them listed in Rolling Stone as one of the best bands you didn’t know about this year.
9. Ray Lamontagne “Trouble” In the Damien Rice mode. But has his own things to say. Heart-wrenching. Calm, yet not quiet.
10. And tied for the final spot are: Eminem “Encore” and U2 “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Sure, Encore is shockingly juvenile in some spots, and Atomic Bomb is all rock-anthem love songs. So what? What’s your point? Did you make a better album than these? Yeah, I didn’t think so!
Favorite Singles
“Winter” Joshua Radin Ouch.
“Wash Away” Joe Purdy Ah, the ocean.
“Love Like That” Stew Lie on the couch and tell me you love me. Seriously, is that too much to ask?
“Worn Me Down” Rachael Yamagata Can she really be as worn down as I am?
“Just Lose It” Eminem Fuck W and everything he stands for.
“Mosh” Eminem Who else can rap like this?
“Empty Apartment” Yellowcard Acoustic version is quite nice.
“Broken” Seether, featuring Amy Lee When is Evanescence going to make a real new album? Guess this’ll have to last me till then. (No, “live” does not count.)
Runners Up
Snow Patrol “Final Straw” “Run” is a great, great, great fucking song.
Jet “Get Born” Pure rock’n’roll.
Arcade Fire “Funeral” Along the lines of “The Hold Steady.” Still getting to know this one.
Metric “Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?” About as “electronic” as I get. Check it out.
The Finn Brothers “Everyone Is Here” Their best effort in years, including Neil’s solo stuff. Makes me miss Crowded House all over again.
Listened to Lots
Chronic Future “Lines in My Face” Rap-rock combo. Surprising.
Franz Ferdinand (self-titled) Dance, dance, dance.
Guilty Pleasures
John Mellencamp “Words & Music: Greatest Hits” What can I say? It’s an all-night sing-along.
Eminem “Encore” I can’t help it. I just can’t.
Don’t Really Understand the Hype
Modest Mouse “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” Got this album. Saw them live. Eh. They’re OK.
Iron & Wine “Our Endless Numbered Days” Surprised I don’t like this more. But it just doesn’t grab me.
Interpol “Antics” Better than their first. But I STILL spend more time thinking about who they sound LIKE when I listen to them than I do actually listening to them.
Wilco “A Ghost Is Born” I actually didn’t buy this album. I’ve never understood the Wilco hype. I always think I should be listening to them. But I never can.
Loretta Lynn “Van Lear Rose” Jack White’s weird. There are some neat things here, but never enough to keep me focused on it.

GirlReaction Reads: Best of 2004

Best Novel read in 2004: The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth.
Runners-Up: The Houdini Girl, by Martyn Bedford and The Great Fire, by Shirley Hazzard.
Favorite New Discoveries: Jonathan Coe (“The Rotters Club” and “The Winshaw Legacy”), William Boyd (“Any Human Heart”, “The New Confessions” and “Stars and Bars”), Alison McGhee (“Rainlight” and “Shadow Baby”) and Haven Kimmel (“Something Rising (Light and Swift)” and “The Solace of Leaving Early”).

Duff’s Favorite Albums 2003

Oddly, at least to me, I really didn’t write that much about what I was listening to in 2003. Since I seem to sometimes spend entire weeks obsessing over new CDs, rearranging playlists in iTunes, and listening to certain songs over and over, I don’t know why I didn’t have more to say about it. Although when it comes to books, I definitely refer to my list as “Best” of the year, here I have to call these instead “Favorites” as I am much narrower in my listening than in my reading, and certainly not as up to date in this category either.
My Six Favorite Albums of 2003
Ryan Adams “Love Is Hell, Part 1”, “Rock ‘N Roll” and “Love Is Hell, Part 2”
When isn’t Ryan Adams one of my highlights for the year? (Although I will admit, the time I saw him live probably doesn’t make my Top 10 concert list, but at home on the stereo, he blows me away.) The boy came out with three albums: a 8-song EP, where I have to point out that 8 songs is a full album for some losers!!; the album his label was happier with; and a 7-song EP. Wow. It’s annoying to me that the label will make any money off the EPs since they rejected them as the official album and sent Adams back to the drawing board which is when Rock ‘N Roll came into being. “I See Monsters” (I play it over and over) and “English Girls Approximately” are my favorite songs off Part 2, and the “Wonderwall” cover on Part 1 is beautiful. I did enjoy Rock ‘N Roll as well, so I’m glad he put it out anyway. It’s a fun, guitar-playin’ drums-crashin’ rock record. But nothing on that album really drags me into it the way the EPs do.
Damien Rice “O”
Is there anyone left on earth who doesn’t already know how much I love this album? I’ve sent it to at least five people; I’ve quoted it on two web sites; I’ve emailed lyrics ’round the world… I don’t know what else I can do to convince you!! This won the 2003 Mercury Prize, if you need a recommendation other than mine. I just think the entire album is achingly beautiful; I listen to it over and over and over again. And thank God I’m not in the middle of a break-up or it’d probably be making me cry every time, and there’d come a day I wouldn’t be able to listen anymore for all the pain it was dredging back up. “Cannonball” has leaped into my all-time favorite songs list, amazing lyrics.
Jason Mraz “Waiting for My Rocket to Come” and “Live at Java Joe’s”
You’ve heard “The Remedy” or “Curbside Prophet” on the radio. Put this album on, and it’s virtually unstoppable, your finger will hit the ‘repeat’ key without you even noticing it! A little jazz, a little blues, a twang here and there, great guitar work, sassy lyrics, a boy and his band havin’ a good old time. Who could resist? I just start grinning whenever I’m listening to this. What’s up with M-R-A-Z? I saw him live in December and although he only had a six-song set, he was the highlight of the show pour moi. As I’ve seen others do in concert less successfully (C. Crows for one), he played new arrangements on almost all the songs; the boy has creativity just bursting out doesn’t he.
Albums I Like No Matter What Anyone Else Thinks
Evanescence “Fallen” For some reason, admitting to loving this album makes me feel like a teenage girl being found out by her folks. I know it’s “nu-metal”. I know the majority of their fans are at least, what, fifteen, if not twenty, years younger than me. I am so not into the black nail polish, goth image. But I can listen to this entire album without fast forwarding once. That’s not all that common.
Madonna “American Life” She’s not for everyone. That’s fine. But this album is better than anyone wants to give it credit for. I knew there’d be some backlash after all the critical acclaim of her last two releases, but I think she hurt herself most by yanking the awesome original video where she throws a grenade at Bush, but as his administration has done all along this past year he manages to turn it to his own sneaky advantage. “Intervention” and “Nothing Fails” both really grab me. A lot of the album sounds like a love letter to Guy Ritchie. Can you blame her?
Liz Phair “Liz Phair” She wrote a pop song. She wanted to be on the radio more. What? Are you kidding? The nerve!!! Yeah, I think the primary criticisms of this album (she sold out, she’s an Avril/Britney wanna-be, etc., etc.) are stupid bullshit and I could care less. I like the single, I LOVE “Why Can’t I” and I think all in all it’s a good album, certainly as good as some of her previous ones. On the other hand, she did annoy me at the Barenakeds/Jason Mraz concert I went to where she was supposed to be the middle headliner, but showed up with laryngitis. Why come, sing one unhearable song, and make us waste 1/2 hour of them setting up your set, when they could have just been setting up for BNL? Just cancel if you can’t sing, don’t show up and be the one boring downpoint of the entire evening. That aside, was it worth it to her to have a huge portion of her fan base turn on her new radio-friendly self? This album is worth listening to whether they like it or not!
Honorable Mentions
Laurel Canyon Soundtrack Great movie. Great tunes. Particularly the two sung by lead actor Alessandro Nivola. Somebody give him my phone number, please.
Flaming Lips (any album) I just got introduced to this group. Some songs, I think “is that Cat Stevens?”; others “Am I listening to CSNY?” Very melodic and fun. And very different than the punk-ass sound I was expecting due to their name!
Freaky Friday soundtrack An album of great covers: “What a Wonderful World” (Joey Ramone), “…Baby One More Time” (Bowling for Soup, this is sooo much better than the original!) “Happy Together” (Simple Plan), “What I Like About You” (Lilix). As a karaoke-loving fool, how could I not be down with this?
Lyrics Running Through My Head Tonight
Josh Rouse “Sunshine”: Come on lady, take this bum and make him right… Come on lady, give this bum a sense of pride…
Pete Yorn “Crystal Village”: Take my hand, come with me, into this crystal scenery, the way in to [???] the ticket. You will never have the time, I would love to change your mind, you were there and it was good in the beginning…
Pancho’s Lament “Promise Me This”: Lord, I’m tryin’, tryin’ to let you in… I’m learning how to begin again…
David Gray “Easy Way to Cry”: Faith, gone from your eyes, each word that flies, taking you further away, then come that day, there ain’t no easy way to cry…
Hopefully this year I’ll find the time to say more about what I’m listening to. Then again, maybe I’ll just be too busy listenin’!

Duff’s Favorite Albums 2002

Duff’s Top 5 Albums of 2002
The Rising, Bruce Springsteen. Hands down, best album of the year and the first-ever Springsteen purchase in the Duff music library. This is one man’s rockin’, personal redemption, I will go on, answer to September 11, although only some of the songs are overt responses to those events. The lyrics on this album are beautiful, quietly powerful; I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of listening to it. And the upbeat songs just fill up the room. One of the few solidly rock albums this year that didn’t give off an “already been done” feeling. Fave songs: “Let’s Be Friends (Skin to Skin)” and “My City of Ruins.”
The Eminem Show, Eminem. My boy Marshall Mathers. OK, the caveat here is that I do not actually just put the CD on and walk away. I do not listen to any of the “skits” between songs (there are five) and I do not listen to song no. 9 (“Drips” with Obie Trice) – it’s completely nasty. Yes, I know, to think there is a song worse than any of the others on here…but there is – take my word for it. So those items deleted, and this album kicks ass. “A tisk-it a task-it, I’ll go tit for tat with anybody who’s talking this shit that shit…” Hello, a rapper who incorporates nursery rhymes. He gets better with every album, more sassy, more irreverent, more in your face. Love it. He is to the new Millennium what Madonna was to the ’80s. Pushing boundaries, pissing people off, and doing it with flare and pizzazz. You go, boy. And now that he’s starting to show off his tender side (listen to “Hailie’s Song”), there’s no telling what he can do. My friend Marcus’ comment was ” he cleans up his act a little more and he’s the next Will Smith!” “Will Smith don’t gotta cuss in his raps to sell records, well I do, so fuck him and fuck you too…” Fave songs: “My Dad’s Gone Crazy” and “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.”
Come Away with Me, Norah Jones. This album was probably the biggest surprise of the year commercially, and five Grammy nominations just shot her up to No. 1. Go see this girl live. The songs sound just as good as on the album, but she’s got a lot more twang to her than Blue Note recorded here. (We had front row seats at Town Hall, a tiny little intimate auditorium; her voice just filled up the room.) She’s the next Sarah McLachlan/Beth Orton without all the synthesizers and production. Fave song: “Seven Years.”
No More Drama, Mary J. Blige. Another first-by-artist-in-Duff-collection. Don’t know what made me pick this one up. But I listened to almost nothing else in July. Until I saw her in concert and she was all about drama. Mid-concert 15 minute monologue on sexual abuse among families. All true, I’m sure, but way to bring the concert mood down. It was very odd. Apparently followed by a similar melt-down at the Apollo a few weeks later. Mary, put it in the songs! Or see a shrink! That said, there are five to six songs on this album I’m still not done listening to, and in the new one-single-makes-an-album world, that’s saying something. Fave songs: “Rainy Dayz” with hottie Ja Rule and “Flying Away.”
**Reissue** Let It Bleed, Rolling Stones. Hey, if they had re-released a bunch of Beatles’ albums this year, you can bet some of those would have been on the list too! Hello, every song on the album could have been a single, although only two or three are still on the Stones’ concert play list (they’ve got a mighty lot to choose from, don’t they). This makes all those modern-day wanna-be rock stars look like chumps in comparison! Fave Song: “You Got the Silver.”
Albums Noticeably Not on My List
The Strokes, the Hives, the Vines. I bought The Strokes’ album purely on hype. Played it once. “Huh?” Put it aside. Discussed it with my friend Dan, found ourselves in agreement that it sucked. Forgot all about it. Fast forward six months or so. Reading end of year lists. It’s all over the place. Huh? Give it another listen. No thanks. Have no desire whatsoever to even try the other two beyond what’s been on the radio.
Albums that Almost Made My List
The White Stripes, White Blood Cells. The only so-called garage rock out there that’s living up to the hype. And the only one that doesn’t totally scream “80s!” and “College!” while you’re listening to it… Two people, one guitar, one drum set = a surprising amount of noise. Noise you want to hear more of. “Who do you think you’re messin’ with, girl? What do you think you’re tryin’ to do?” This really belongs up “top” but that would make it a “top six” list and that’s retarded.
Ryan Adams, Demolition. Well, doesn’t every Ryan Adams album almost make my list? This one didn’t because it wasn’t really an album, as much as a bunch of singles that belong on other albums all just thrown in here. The gems get hidden between the so-sos, and taken overall it’s not that enthralling of a listen.
Badly Drawn Boy, Have You Fed the Fish? and the About a Boy soundtrack. I think this guy’s amazing. I loved both the albums he put out this year. But I haven’t listened to them quite as much as anything that made the top five.
Elvis Costello, When I Was Cruel. This is a great album, and he was totally rockin’ out in concert. Broke a guitar string one song in! But I really haven’t listened to it that much as I didn’t even get it until after going to see him. I kind of missed its window.
Beck, Sea Change. I like the thick, orchestralness of this album. Reminds me of David Gray’s White Ladder or REM Automatic for the People. That said, it gets a little drone-y, and the melancholy of it can really drag you down. Not in a willing-to-be-dragged-down mood these days (my one New Year’s resolution = “To be in a good mood.” It’s working out well so far except for last Friday when return of illness really kicked me in the butt).
Honorable Mentions from the Ladies
Sheryl Crow, Come on, Come on. I didn’t buy this album until many months after its release, on Nan’s recommendation. It surprised me, I never find myself fast forwarding when it comes up on the iPod, and it’s a much better album than it’s been given credit for. On the other hand, none of the songs really jump out on an individual basis.
Pink, Missundaztood. If they play “Just like a Pill” on the radio one more time, I might scream, but this is actually a decent album. I play “Lonely Girl” over and over at the gym, and even “18 Wheeler” has some moments. I’ll be interested to hear her next release, I think she’s getting stronger as she goes.
Dixie Chicks, Home. This is a solid third album, but I think they screwed themselves by doing a cover of “Landslide.” It just blows away everything else on the album and, frankly, makes me feel like throwing on some Stevie Nicks instead!