Posted by: Dave on December 22, 2006 at 7:01 am

EvensGetEvens There was no runaway album of the year in 2006. There wasn’t even an indisputable classic, of which there have been several this decade in my opinion (At the Drive-In Relationship of Command, Dead Prez Let’s Get Free, Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP, Sleater-Kinney One Beat, Bright Eyes Lifted…, AFI Sing the Sorrow, The New Pornographers Electric Version, Kanye West The College Dropout, Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand, Stephen Malkmus Face The Truth and Bright Eyes I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning). 2006 did give us four A grade albums, though, and the rest of the top 20 are all solid A-minuses with extremely little separating one from the next.

Looking at the list below, it’s notable that very few of these fine albums got any spins on mainstream, terrestrial radio (including most of the major label releases). But the era of Clear Channel radio consolidation/butchering may be coming to a close. The mighty juggernaut that dramatically narrowed radio playlists and took away tastemaking duties from local programmers and DJs has been bought out. In the wake of Clear Channel’s recent downfall, I have to wonder if mainstream radio will become localized once again. If so, there may be a renewed hope for mainstream music.

Even if the top-selling releases do become higher quality products in the future, it’s always best to keep an ear to the underground and under-recognized. Just below the radar is where you’ll find most of my picks for the 20 most complete, ambitious and well-executed albums of 2006 (followed by 20 honorable mentions). As usual, I focused mainly on rock, hip hop, metal, pop, electronica, r&b, and alternative country:

1. The Evens Get Evens (Dischord)
2. The Coup Pick A Bigger Weapon (Anti-/Epitaph)
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs Show Your Bones (Interscope)
4. Clipse Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up Gang/Star Trak/Zomba)
5. TV on the Radio Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope)
6. Blood Meridian Kick Up the Dust (V2)
7. The Hold Steady Boys and Girls In America (Vagrant)
8. The Decemberists The Crane Wife (Capitol)
9. Matisyahu Youth (Epic/JDub)
10. Roisin Murphy Ruby Blue (Echo)
11. Cursive Happy Hollow (Saddle Creek)
12. Neko Case Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti-)
13. Regina Spektor Begin to Hope (Sire)
14. Elbow Leaders of the Free World (V2)
15. Man Man Six Demon Bag (Ace Fu)
16. Honeycut The Day I Turned to Glass (Quannum)
17. The Rapture Pieces of the People We Love (Universal Motown)
18. Favourite Sons Down Beside Your Beauty (Vice)
19. Hot Chip The Warning (DFA/Astralwerks)
20. Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (Domino)

Honorable Mentions

21. Cold War Kids Robbers & Cowards (Downtown)
22. Hard-Fi Stars of CCTV (Necessary/Atlantic)
23. Rise Against The Sufferer & The Witness (Geffen)
24. AFI Decemberunderground (Interscope)
25. Belle and Sebastian The Life Pursuit (Matador)
26. Ghostface Killah Fishscale (Def Jam)
27. Benjy Ferree Leaving the Nest (Domino)
28. Lupe Fiasco Food & Liquor (Atlantic)
29. Alice Smith For Lovers, Dreamers and Me (BBE)
30. The Streets The Hardest Way To Make an Easy Living (Vice/Atlantic)
31. Black Ice The Death of Willie Lynch (Koch)
32. Nellie McKay Pretty Little Head (Hungry Mouse)
33. Lady Sovereign Public Warning (Def Jam)
34. Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders (Thrive)
35. The Essex Green Cannibal Sea (Merge)
36. The Roots Game Theory (Def Jam)
37. Slayer Christ Illusion (American/Warner Brothers)
38. Now It’s Overhead Dark Light Daybreak (Saddle Creek)
39. Keane Under the Iron Sea (Interscope)
40. Wolfmother Wolfmother (Interscope)

9 Responses to “Top 20 Albums of 2006 (Plus 20 More)”

  1. Chris Osborne Says:

    No Iron Maiden? Did you hear that album? It’s at least better than the crap Keane puts out, and Wolfmother isn’t nearly as good as MTV and the radio wants you to think.

  2. Dave Says:

    The new Maiden was classic Maiden, no doubt. Good nostalgia for sure, but they’ve done that album and those songs before.

    Of course, Wolfmother is pure nostalgia, too…but it’s got lots of hits. Hard to resist.

    And Keane, I’ve got to give ’em credit for rockin’ much harder than their wussy debut.

  3. Ben Says:

    No, not very accurate, I would say. This is much closer to the truth:

    The real story is what a down year for hip hop this has been. From 2000-2005, hip hop was the most dominate and critically successfull form each year — maybe the best run for any pop music really ever. (And your album list above is overlooking classic 00 hip hop records like Blueprint, Supreme Clientele, Miss-E….So Addictive, Mississippi The Album….and, hell, I’ve got Thug Matrimony on now and it’s better than the new Clipse).

    I don’t follow it close enough to say why, but the results just weren’t there. Good thing Scandinavian pop music is out of control.

  4. Ben Says:

    I can believe that I forgot Trick’s “Children’s Song” is the greatest thing ever. “Trick love the kids.” If it was socially acceptable, I’d have that hanging on the wall in my office.

  5. Dave Says:

    2006 was definitely a down year for hip hop. Only two hip hop albums made my Top 20.

    No doubt Jay-Z’s Blueprint is great…his best. It was my #3 of 2001:

    It’s an A-grade album, just not quite an A+.

    Missy was #16 that year.

    And Ghostface was #16 in 2000:

    All classic hip hop albums, A-grade albums…but not A-pluses.

  6. M.G.Reid Says:

    Thanks for recognizing Roisin Murphy. A BRILLIANT record. It was actually my #1 of the year… but for 2005, which is when it came out.

    And.. within your TOP 40, you actually have 6 of my TOP 10. Not bad. But unfortunately, you – and many others – overlooked the BEST two records of the year:


    But Not a bad list. Thanks.

  7. Dave Says:


    Roisin Murphy’s Ruby Blue is excellent. I’m glad we both agree on that. It did come out in the UK in 2005, but didn’t get a US release until March 2006. In order to keep some parameters on the enormous world of music, I limit my lists to U.S. release dates. Either way, Roisin was criminally overlooked by most.

    I did miss Eleventh Dream Day entirely. I’ll have to look into that.

    As for Gomez, man did I want to like How We Operate. In Our Gun was my #4 album of 2002:

    And I like several songs on their other albums, but I just couldn’t get into How We Operate, as much as I tried. What did you like about it?

    And which of my Top 40 made your Top 10?

  8. New Music Nation » Blog Archive » Hot Chip Made in the Dark (Astralwerks) Says:

    […] Sound: A mix of bubbly, retro synth pop; chaotically rhythmic electro rock and pensive, stripped-down ballads. There are more guitar riffs and mellow, piano-driven moments on here than on previous Hot Chip albums. Regardless of the genre or tempo, Alexis Taylor delivers the vocals in a delicate croon, often with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Heavy Rotation tracks: “Shake A Fist”; “Ready for the Floor”; “Bendable Posable”; “Wrestlers” Medium Rotation tracks: “Out at the Pictures”; “Hold On”; “One Pure Thought” Recommended: Made in the Dark is much more eclectic than their breakout album The Warning (my #19 Album of 2006). And at times, it can feel disjointed. But much more often than not, they continue to impress with their ability to spin experimental sounds and rhythms into catchy, memorable and fun melodies. Grade: A- (Top 20 Albums of 2008 Candidate) […]

  9. Re-Up Gang Clipse Presents Re-Up Gang (Koch) « Says:

    […] Note: Re-Up Gang is Virginia Beach MCs Pusha T and Malice (aka Clipse – the duo responsible for my #4 Album of 2006) plus Philly MCs Ab-Liva and Sandman. The foursome is responsible for the highly regarded mixtape series We Got It 4 Cheap, and this is their first official release. It includes nine new songs and three previously unreleased remixes of tracks from We Got It 4 Cheap vol. 3. […]

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