Saturday, December 30, 2006

Music of the Year! Music of the Year!

It seems my enthusiasm for new music (that is, music new to me), which had been in various stages of dormancy for most of this century, came back with a vengeance in 2006. Three big reasons:

1. Nashville. A March trip to Music City sparked an interest a genre I'd largely ignored, country. Sure, I dig Johnny Cash and that Jack White-produced Loretta Lynn album, and I dig when rock bands make country detours (the Stones, Zeppelin, X (as the Knitters), etc.). On the other hand, I never really got into my Uncle Tupelo or Flying Burrito Brothers anthologies... Still, in Nashville I bought what I figured was an appropriate souvenir: a Hank Williams CD picked up at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, which I greatly enjoyed while sightseeing in my rental car. I've since gotten into my new Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings anthologies, as well as songs skimmed from CDs by Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Gram Parsons, Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt... And because I'm pretty much sick of every other musical format on the radio, I started listening to country stations in the car. It's pretty lame, but I still get a kick from learning about a different format -- who the stars are, what songs they sing, etc. I even watched the Douchebag of the Year Country Music Association Awards show on TV... Here's me in front of Nashville's Parthenon replica, as seen in the finale of Robert Altman's Nashville:

2. Bob Dylan. I pretty much covered that already, but I've since added another 67 songs to my iPod's Dylan playlist, which now includes nine full-length albums, plus at least one track from every other official studio, live, anthology and Bootleg Series CD. Not only is the music (mostly) great, but as with the country genre above, I love exploring this vast, decades-old body of work for the first time -- picking out favorite songs and albums, piecing together the history, identifying high points and low points, etc.

3. My iPod. All this new music -- country, Dylan, and lots, lots more -- has become far more accessible (and affordable) due to my beloved new iPod (here are results from my August "Random Rules" experiment). I've ripped lotsa music from friends' and public libraries' CDs, and have bought lotsa songs from iTunes at 99 cents a pop -- unheard originals of covers that I love, unheard covers of originals that I love, samplings of newer bands that sound promising, and older favorites I haven't heard in ages. (Funny how some of those sound better than I remember -- like Bruce Springsteen in the '80s -- and how some sound much worse -- pretty much anything by Robert Plant.) Not only has my collection grown substantially in size, but also in scope -- now I have lotsa '60s French pop, New Orleans R&B, song-poems and other cool stuff that's largely new to my ears.

Anyway, here are my favorite albums of 2006...

Bob Dylan, Modern Times
Wolfmother, Wolfmother
Beck, The Information
Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones
Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers
The Strokes, First Impressions of Earth
New York Dolls, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This
Radio Birdman, Zeno Beach
Mudhoney, Under a Billion Suns

And here are favorite songs from other albums...

TV on the Radio, "Wolf Like Me"
Replacements, "Message to the Boys"
Willie Nelson, "You Don't Know Me"
Teddybears "Punkrocker"
Sonic Youth, "Incinerate"
Johnny Cash, "If You Could Read My Mind"

Now that's what I call music!
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