Posted by: Dave on January 20, 2007 at 10:10 am

The highest ranking rock-ish songs on my list this year are from an all-female, historically country group (Dixie Chicks) and a Hasidic reggae artist (Matisyahu). If you would have told me this would be the case at the beginning of the year, I would have been pretty skeptical.

Some thoughts on my Top 5:

5. Dixie Chicks “Not Ready To Make Nice” – An intense song that deals with the career-altering fallout from frontwoman Natalie Maines minor, anti-Bush comment. The excellent documentary, Shut Up & Sing, follows the incident and its aftermath. Seeing it will likely add to your appreciation of the song and their most recent album, Taking the Long Way.

4. Matisyahu “Youth” – Yes, he’s a Hasidic reggae artist. Sounds gimmicky, but he’s got the chops and the passion to make it work. I don’t listen to much reggae, but his rock crossover elements and Americanized diction speak to me…loudly. He’s the only artist with two songs in my Top 10 this year.

3. Ghostface Killah featuring Raekwon “Kilo” – One of the catchiest and most educational drug-dealing, rap anthems of all time.

2. Black Ice “The Ugly Show” – The Def Poetry Jam veteran released his first hip hop album this year. Naturally, he’s more articulate than most rappers in the game. This post-Katrina reaction song is stunning and chilling.

GnarlsBarkleyCrazy1. Gnarls Barkley “Crazy” – The vintage soulful flavor, modern flourishes, memorable melody and thought-provoking lyrics made this ubiquitous one a popular pick for song of the year. What’s most fascinating to me is that “Crazy” is so good that it tricked people into thinking St. Elsewhere is a great album. Yes, it has a couple other highlights like “Just A Thought” and “Boogie Monster,” and it’s all interesting and ambitious. But if it weren’t for “Crazy,” St. Elsewhere would have remained way under the radar and off most people’s Best-of lists.

Enjoy the rest of my Top 20. These are the best songs from albums released between December 1, 2005 and November 30, 2006 in the United States. As I do every year, I factored in the following criteria when ranking the top songs: originality, composition/arrangement/production, lyrics, catchiness/memorability, energy, emotion.

If you plan to buy any of these songs on iTunes based on my recommendation, please use the link below:

Click here to hear or buy the iTunes iMix for my Top 20 Songs of 2006

1. Gnarls Barkley “Crazy” St. Elsewhere (Downtown)

2. Black Ice “The Ugly Show” The Death of Willie Lynch (Koch)

3. Ghostface Killah featuring Raekwon “Kilo” Fishscale (Def Jam)

4. Matisyahu “Youth” Youth (Epic/JDub)

5. Dixie Chicks “Not Ready To Make Nice” Taking the Long Way (Open Wide/Columbia)

6. Outkast “Mighty ‘O’” Idlewild (La Face)

7. Matisyahu “Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth” Youth (Epic/JDub)

8. The Evens “Cut From the Cloth” Get Evens (Dischord)

9. The Decemberists “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)” The Crane Wife (Capitol)

10. Christina Aguilera “Ain’t No Other Man” Back to Basics (RCA)

11. Clipse “Dirty Money” Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up Gang/Star Trak/Zomba)

12. The Rapture “Get Myself Into It” Pieces of the People We Love (Universal Motown)

13. Blood Brothers “Laser Life” Young Machetes (V2)

14. TV On the Radio “Wolf Like Me” Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope)

15. Cold War Kids “We Used to Vacation” Robbers & Cowards (Downtown)

16. Driveblind “I Know You” Driveblind (Geffen)

17. Belle and Sebastian “The Blues Are Still Blue” The Life Pursuit (Matador)

18. The Roots “Here I Come” Game Theory (Def Jam)

19. TV On the Radio “Hours” Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope)

20. Lupe Fiasco “Kick, Push” Food & Liquor (Atlantic)

7 Responses to “Top 20 Songs of 2006”

  1. Peter Ten Eyck Says:

    Two glaring omissions: 1. You Only Live Once; and 2. Razorblade from the Strokes’ First Impressions of Earth…

  2. Dave Says:

    Certainly two of the better songs on an a relatively disappointing Strokes album, along with “Juicebox” and “Heart In A Cage.” But it’s not their best stuff, and it’s not Top 20 material for my money.

    “New York City Cops” from their first album, that was the jam. My #4 song of 2001:

  3. Ben Says:

    Congratulations, you’re the one person on Earth who likes that garbage Outkast track. Biggest falloff in years.

    What do you think about Andre3k dropping verses again on that Walk It Out remix and the dopey Spandau Ballet cutup with Nas? Desperately seeking to pull back in the fanbase?

    Are you serious about that Matisyahu and Dixie Chicks stuff? I thought you were a hip-hop fan, yo. Can you seriously overlook “What You Know?” It’s so massive it demands attention. I can only think you’re out to insult it.

    Here’s a much better list…complete with YouTube links and such

  4. Dave Says:

    Definitely serious about the Dixie Chicks and Matisyahu. Landmark stuff.

    Hmmm? “What You Know.” Definitely T.I.’s most confusingly overrated hit of all time. On “King” alone there are much better tracks like “Front Back” and “Why You Wanna?” And going backwards songs like “Be Easy,” “Rubberband Man,” “What They Do” strike me as far superior.

    As for your Singles list, it’s shocking to see Basement Jaxx and Goldfrapp so high when they had such lackluster years. But it’s good too see you didn’t jump on The Killers backlash. “When You Were Young” is solid.

    And on your albums list, we actually agree that Neko Case, Hot Chip and The Hold Steady are Top 20. But Drive-By Truckers (love ’em lots) did release their weakest of the decade…as much as I want to love it, it’s a little boring. If you’re not familiar already, you must get to know “Decoration Day,” my #8 album of 2003:

  5. Ben Says:

    The Dixie Chicks and Matisyahu are landmark in what sense? Like a VH1 HEY REMEMBER GEORGE W. BUSH sort of sense? Sure. But definitely not in a PALEWIRE.COM HEY REMEMBER ALL THAT GOOD MUSIC sort of way. No. Not so much.

    What could possibly be confusing about “What You Know?” Have you heard that thing on some serious audio equipment? It’s _grand_, sonic testosterone. It turns out you are out to insult it. And even Goldfrapp/Gregory too. That hurts. “Ride a White Horse” is the most pitch perfect song title for the T-Rex meets electro they’ve been perfecting the past couple years. That alone deserves mention. Great video too.

    Actually, “When You Were Young” does suck. That band deserves all hate, and I was way out ahead of the backlash, thank you very much. (see:

    It’s the Jacques Lu Cont remix that saves the day. Heroic stuff, and almost as good as his take on “Mr. Brightside.” That guy, as I’ve posted before, is easily the most successful electronic pop producer of the past two years. And even after he takes Madonna back to the top, he still can’t get any respect or regularly reviewed by American critics. It’s a crime.

    He’s put out 10 top drawer tracks in the past few years and mastered the art of the eight-minute raging tension/release model. (See: his Thin White Duke remixes of “What You Waiting For” and “Bleed From Within.”)

    And if you want to talk about critical backlash, one of 2006’s best example is without a doubt The Drive-By Truckers. All they did was turn out a tight album with six or eight well-polished rock tunes and everybody’s upset. I don’t get where all the hate comes from. That album is just as good as any of their previous stuff, I’d rank “Gravity’s Gone” and a couple others as among their best tracks. Sure, they’ve spread out the songwriting duties a little, but I don’t see the band suffering from having three good songwriters instead of two.

  6. Ben Says:

    Also: here’s every reason ever to hate American music critics. Really, it sums up the entire decade of pop criticism.

  7. Dave Says:

    Actually the Drive-By Truckers are at their best when they spread the songwriting duties amongst the three of them. My only complaint is that Jason Ingwell should write more. But when you see them live having three singer/songwriter/guitarists splitting up the duties is VERY impressive.

    “Gravity’s Gone” is pretty good. As are “Little Bonnie” and “Easy On Yourself.”

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