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Ray Troll's Top 5 CDs of 2006
By Ray Troll



January 06, 2007
Saturday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska - Well I gotta say it truly is getting tougher and tougher to put together a list of complete CDs in this age of downloading and file swapping. I bought fewer CDs this year overall so this list is not comprehensive in the least. It's merely a reflection of the music I enjoyed and spent the most time with.

jpg Ray Troll

Ray Troll - Alaskan Artist
Photograph by Chip Porter (web site)
Photo Courtesy Ray Troll

1. The Decemberists: The Crane Wife

There's been much discussion in the press about this Portland band moving to a major record label and whether or not it would affect their sound and indie credibility. That's all a non-issue for me. It's the music that matters, eh? The album holds together as a suite of songs, three of which are about a marriage between a man and a bird. Ah, you ve got to love the quirk. Yankee Bayonet is written around a dialogue between a dead civil war soldier and his sweetheart ( a duet with guest artist Laura Veirs ). The funky alliteration and clever wordplay throughout is a load o' fun. A few of the songs are over the top tragic tales with a tongue firmly in cheek tone about them ("O Valencia!" features a vengeful and murderous brother in law). But lest you think it s all fun and games it gets dark and ominous with tunes like When the War Came . Don't just download this one folks. Get the CD with all the cool art and spend some time with the lyrics.

2. Lenine

I was blown away by a song called "Hoje Eu Quero Sair So" ( I Want To Go Out Alone Tonight) on David Byrne's Belize Tropical 2 collection of Brazilian pop music way back in 1999. It was a standout cut with real presence to it performed by a musician and producer named Lenine from Recife along the northern coast of Brazil. Many years later this CD marks his U.S. debut drawing from several of his earlier CDs. It's all in Portuguese folks, so sit back and groove to the smooth sounds and wild mix of Brazilian rock, pop, and electronica. The rhythmic soundscape is deep and soulful.

3. Lindsey Buckingham: Under the Skin

This is the first solo album from Lindsey in over a decade and the 58-year-old sub-geezer's still got it in him. Frenetic guitar riffs are layered throughout this meditative and sonically rich album. There isn't quite the mega-hit in this batch of new material, unlike the days when Lindsey effortlessly penned many a blockbuster for Fleetwood Mac, but it's a beautiful collection of melodies nonetheless. Maybe the lack of a "hit" is a good thing because these tunes aren't trivial fluff. He's also tossed in a couple of fine covers: the Stones' "I Am Waiting" and Donovan's "To Try for the Sun". Lindsey's an underappreciated visionary dreamer - a topic he takes on in the very first cut of the CD, "Not Too Late". This CD is a guilty pleasure for we aging boomers.

4. Regina Spektor: Begin To Hope

Born in Russia, raised in Brooklyn, trained as a classical pianist, Regina has been making waves in music circles for years, but only now has come to my attention here in the hinterlands of Alaska. She's all over the board experimentally, spinning freely between jazz tinged hummable pop songs like "Fidelity" to devastating emotional broadsides like "Samson", a tune that reminds me of Joni Mitchell's masterpiece of confessional piano balladry "The Last Time I Saw Richard". "Samson" uses a mélange of lyrical metaphors from the bible to wonderbread:

Samson went back to bed, Not much hair left on his head
He ate a slice of wonder bread and went right back to bed
And history books forgot about us and the bible didn t mention us

5. Bert Jansch: The Black Swan

Way back in the Pleistocene of rock'n roll in the late 60's there was a Neo-medieval-tinged folk rock movement that thrived in jolly old England with bands like Fairport Convention and Pentangle. Bert Jansch was a Scottish guitarist and songwriter for the latter and after laying low for the last decade or so he s released a beautiful collection of songs. He's reworked a couple of the classic Pentangle tunes with help from some of the younger folkies ( Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart) along with great batch of newer songs.


Detroyer: Destroyer's Rubies

My daughter Corinna just turned me on to this and it's great. Definitely growing on me.

Prince : 3121

The purple one is back with a vengeance with some of his best work. Love is one damn fine dance song.

Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Beautiful new tunes by the golden voiced Northwesterner. She s the new Patsy Cline.

Leonard Cohen : I m Your Man Soundtrack

Another tribute to the Keats of the song world. The Wainwright family steals the show... but check out a guy named Antony's killer version of "If It Be Your Will". It'll stop you in your tracks. The concert's also available on DVD.

Not actually from 2006 but I discovered them this year and enjoyed the hell out of em:

The Hidden Cameras: Mississagua Goddam

This Toronto band describes their sound as "gay folk church music". One reviewer compared them to the Magnetic Fields after an all night bender and I think that fits. I loved this CD's catchy tunes.

Jim White: No Such Place

Southern style avant-garde music that ll get under your skin. Jim White s a true master storyteller that creates soundscape based songs that will transport you.

My 16-year-old son Patrick's list:

1. Phoenix - It's Never Been Like that
*key track - Napoleon Says*

2. Hush Sound - Like Vines
*key track - Where we went wrong*

3. M. Ward - Post War
*key track - Eyes on the prize*

4. Early November - The Mother
*key track - Hair*

5. Cold War Kids - Robbers & Cowards
*key track - Saint John*

6. ...And you will know us by the trail of dead - so divided
*key track - Stand In Silence*

My Top 5 from 2005

1. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
2. Iron and Wine: Woman King
3. Matisyahu: Live at Stubb's
4. Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs
5. My Morning Jacket: Z
6. laura Veirs: Year of Meteors
7. Gorillaz: Demon days
8. Amadou and Mariam

My Top 5 2004

1. Iron and Wine / Our Endless Numbered Days
2. Broken Social Scene / You Forgot It In People
3. Haley Bonar / The Size of Planets
4. West Indian Girl
5. Drive By Truckers / The Dirty South



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