Top 5 Albums of 2006–Rose Schapiro

By Rose Dichter Schapiro

Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Neko Case sings the songs of a sky before the thunderstorm, a building loveliness hammered out by a strong voice. The tracks are all short and without choruses, but not without structure. Case hits the specter of longing and magic straight on, and the characters, all present for such a short time, jump out of the music with astonishing clarity. The record is calm, but with an iron desperation brought on by Case’s well written lyrics and the tense, dense orchestration.

Beirut: Gulag Orkestar

Though we may be sick of one-man projects with ridiculous names, Beirut has an irresistible velvet beauty. This album is a caravan through romanticized lands, accompanied by a swaying, waltzing accordion, but in drifting it communicates a landscape and soundscape of unreachable beauty. This record has been praised by fans of Neutral Milk Hotel, and it’s easy to see why—the music isn’t too slick, but it’s a perfect combination of delicacy, strength and oddness.

The Blow: Paper Television

Khaela Maricich and Jona Bechtolt of YACHT make this album a catchy yet cynical look at relationships and individuality. The Blow is good at making songs poppy and accessible enough to fit in on mainstream radio, but with enough harshness and weirdness to keep them far away from it. At times Maricich’s voice is sweet like that of a girl-group leader, but at other times it swells and falls with biting, slick-tongued spoken word. The Blow focuses on human complexity, and just like the strange interactions of the everyday that we find ourselves returning to again and again, they are interesting and spare enough to keep us hooked.

Camera Obscura: Let’s Get Out of This Country

Glaswegian twee pop outfit Camera Obscura fleshed out its distinctive, haunting sound on this charming record. The title track is a particularly well-written pop ode to escapism, with an intensely catchy guitar hook and a soaring string section. Tracyanne Campbell certainly wrote a beautiful break-up album, and her sincere but sinewy voice carries the album from new heights of freedom to the illogical depths of sadness and back again with a charming agility.

CSS: Cansei de Ser Sexy

“Cansei de Ser Sexy” is roughly translated from Portuguese as “Tired of Being Sexy.” Though an interesting sentiment, this weariness is not at all communicated in this Brazilian band’s debut record. Slightly witty electro-rock songs like “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above” and “Meeting Paris Hilton” make this a fun and hilarious album for driving, dancing, or just about anything. CSS shouts odes to alcohol and random hook-ups while wearing leopard-print leggings and Mariah Carey T-shirts. The songs are tightly composed and truly danceable anthems to youth and the poor but bold choices that accompany it.