2006 Timmys

For 2006, I decide to mix things up. In coming up with the honorable mentions this year, I noticed that I had more than a handful in the running. With several minutes of deliberation, I was able to put these in order and came up with a Top 50 as a result.

Long Blondes 50. The Long Blondes - Someone To Drive You Home - Husky female vocals propel this Patti Smith- meets-Blondie U.K. combo on their debut.
Amy Winehouse 49. Amy Winehouse - Back To Black - U.K. jazz singer mixes Billie Holiday and Lauren Hill in a street-smart blend than resists getting too smooth or loungey.
K-OS 48. K-OS - Atlantis: Hymns For Disco - Canadian "rapper" goes far beyond hip-hop on his third release, mixing in soul, funk, rock and more.
Chris Thile 47. Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground - Nickel Creek's mandolin player's latest solo effort, this album includes bluegrass takes on The White Stripes, The Strokes and Jimmie Rodgers.
Peeping Tom

46. Peeping Tom - Peeping Tom - Former Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton leads a crew of underground rappers and rockers on a dark roller coaster ride of an album.


45. Absentee - Schmotime - Deep male vocals front smug but clever alternative pop.

Jaguar Skills

44. Jaguar Skills - 1979-2006: A Hip Hop Odyssey - A Timmys first, an album length internet only mix- 800 hip-hop songs in 48 minutes. A greatest hits of rap thrown in a blender. (Download) (Tracklisting)

The Magic Numbers

43. The Magic Numbers - Those The Brokes - More sunny west coast inspired boy/girl harmonies from this pair of brothers and sisters.

Forward, Russia! 42. ¡Forward, Russia! - Give Me A Wall - Punky and funky debut from this Leeds quartet.

41. Rhymefest - Blue Collar - Rap for the working class from a Chicago raised friend of Kanye. Includes a duet with the late ODB on the "Build Me Up, Buttercup" pseudo-cover, "Build Me Up."

The Roots

40. The Roots - Game Theory - Philadelphia rappers are now elder statesmen of their genre, and the quality level remains high.



39. Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies - Vancouver singer/songwriter merges Dylan, Robyn Hitchcock and some mighty obtuse lyrics.


Lily Allen

38. Lily Allen- Alright, Still - Smart and sassy reggae-tinged pop from the U.K.


Ed Harcourt

37. Ed Harcourt - The Beautiful Lie - One of two U.K. singer/songwriters that always gets on the Timmys somehow.


Badly Drawn Boy 36. Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K. - and this would be the other U.K. singer/songwriter...
Soul Position

35. Soul Position - Things Go Better With RJ And Al - DJ RJD2 and rapper Blueprint collaborate as Soul Position, with results that are both Old School and new.

Bypsy Beats and Balkan Bangers

34. Various Artists - Gypsy Beats And Balkan Bangers - Various artists compilation of crazy balkan brass bands and gypsy punk rock, with the most famous group here being Gogol Bordello.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

33. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones - Second album expands on the YYY's sounds without compromising their integrity.


Drive-By Truckers

32. Drive By Truckers - A Blessing And A Curse - Southern-fried alternative country rock, with a dash of The Replacements.


Richard Thompson

31. Richard Thompson - 1,000 Years of Popular Music - At the millennium, Thompson was asked by Playboy for his favorite songs of the last 1000 years. Even though he was certain they meant 100 years, he compiled a list from the past 1,000. Playboy never responded- Thompson recorded the songs on his list.

The Pipettes

30. The Pipettes - We Are The Pipettes - Phil Spector's girl groups meet Bananarama in a disc that is polka-dot centric and fun.


Harry Smith Revisited

29. Various Artists - The Harry Smith Project: Anthology Of American Folk Music Revisited - An all star cast (Nick Cave, Beck, Elvis Costello) make their way through Smith's well-known compilation of American folk songs.


Tom Waits

28. Tom Waits - Orphans: Bawlers, Brawlers & Bastards - Three CDs of Tom Waits odds and ends- more bracingly original than most proper albums released this year.



27. Wolfmother - Wolfmother - Duuuude! Fantasy/Sci-Fi inspired metal with Sabbath riffs and unicorn references.


Terri Walker 26. Terri Walker - I Am - U.K. soul sister returns with her third album, a smooth but not schmaltzy mix of contemporary soul, less commercial than her U.S. peers.

And now, the Timmys as you are used to seeing them- my favorite 25 albums released in 2006.

Howlin' Rain 25. Howlin Rain - Howlin Rain - A side project of Ethan Miller of the similarly loud and acid rock influenced Comets On Fire, Howlin Rain mixes psychedelic rock with southern, west coast and country influences and comes up with a melodic mess, covered with squealing guitar feedback in all the right places. With a voice somewhere between the Dead's Bob Weir and Captain Beefheart's tortured blues wail, this music gets freaky, a little twangy but always hangs on to the melody, even if it's beneath a wall of feedback.
Thom Yorke 24. Thom Yorke- The Eraser - I was ready for disappointment with this one- how many times has a singer from a great band gone out on his own and embarrassed himself? Well, no examples pop into my head, but breaking away from the alternative monolith that Radiohead has become is quite a challenge. Thom Yorke doesn't seem like the sort to be hampered by expectations, and this mostly subdued, mostly electronic album shows much of the uniqueness of Radiohead but with a slightly altered palette of sounds. Synths and electronic percussion rule the disc and match the songs well. Should Radiohead implode someday, Thom could certainly make it on his own. A dark album that sets a mood rather than bringing you down.
The Futureheads 23. The Futureheads - News & Tributes - Ah, the difficult second album, the downfall of many a band. The Futureheads' debut mixed barbershop-esque harmonies and early XTC quirkiness, a nice mix but one that may wear thin if repeated. On News & Tributes, they don't stray to far from the formula of the first album, but they go far enough away to keep things interesting. "Skip To The End" could have been a pop crossover the way Modest Mouse's "Float On" was a few years ago, but it just wasn't in the stars. Here's hoping they can keep this balance of alternative and mainstream sounds going into their third album and beyond.
Peope Under The Stairs 22. People Under The Stairs - Stepfather - L.A. underground hip-hop duo People Under Stairs released three albums in four years around the turn of the century and return four years later with their fourth album, Stepfather. A mix of the modern rap underground and late-80's De La Soul/A Tribe Called Quest sounds, this album takes some inventive samples and above average rhyming styles and works well from start to finish. The highlight for me is "Eat Street", with it's Old School rhythms and lyrics which serve as a fast food tour of Southern California. Every time I hear it, I want to go to L.A. and try 'em all. And any song that samples both The Fat Boys and the movie Caddyshack just has to be cool...
Boris 21. Boris- Pink - Japanese Noise/Metal/Experimental trio Boris has been around for twelve(!) years, but this is the first I've heard of them. I saw a lot of good reviews, but noise and I have a love/hate relationship. I love my feedback and rough edges, but if there's no melody, I'm out of there faster than you can say Boredoms. Imagine my surprise when the opening track, Parting, was a seven minute slow tempo song that found middle ground between Sigur Ros and early Soundgarden. After it takes you into the stratosphere, the next song brings you back to earth with a hybrid of Black Sabbath and Black Flag. More of the same follows- it's not quite mid-seventies metal, nor is it hardcore. Metal for the adventurous, hard of hearing, or both.
Jens Lekman 20. Jens Lekman- Oh Your So Silent Jens - Another new discovery for me in 2006, and about as far away from Boris as you can get. This album is a collection of singles and EPs from 2003 and 2004, but it came out in 2006, so here it is in the Timmys. Clever lyrics, an innocent voice and samples put Jens in the same company as Beck in his quieter moments, The Magnetic Fields, and possibly even later Jonathan Richman. Decidedly lo-fi, Jens gets quiet and melancholy without getting schmaltzy, which is quite a skill. Not an album to listen to when you're in a hurry- better for cloudy, unseasonably cool fall and spring weekend afternoons when you have nowhere to go.
Girl Talk 19. Girl Talk - Night Ripper - I've been the fan of the mash-up for a few years now- see the 2 Many DJs at number 3 in the Timmy Awards for 2002. For the uninitiated, a mash-up is when you take the lyrics of one song and mix them with the music of another song. Pittsburgh's Girl Talk (Greg Gillis to his mother) takes mash-ups to a new level- check out the list of songs used in each track here. It's pretty amazing how it can all work together in a new way. In 2002 when reviewing the 2 Many DJs mash-up album I said, "Not the future of music maybe, but a very interesting development, and a lot of fun to listen to." I'll stand by that today, with Girl Talk as Exhibit A.
Arctic Monkeys 18. The Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not - The British music press gets wound up about the Next Big Thing so often, it's easy to ignore their proclamations of the next great new band. The buzz surrounding the Arctic Monkeys' debut was deafening, but for a change, much of it was justified. While not entirely original, the Monkeys combined the familiar recent influences- Clash, Jam, Smiths- with some sharp lyrics to produce a very British, very solid album. Where they will be two years from now is anyone's guess- they already replaced their bassist- but this is a decent album.
Kelley Stoltz 17. Kelley Stoltz- Below The Branches - A singer/songwriter who prefers a homespun feel over Pro Tools wizardry and high-tech frills. Piano and acoustic guitar rule the day here and Stoltz proves himself to be a solid pop songwriter. Some tracks sound like lost Brian Wilson demos, especially when Stoltz reaches for the high notes.
Head Automatica 16. Head Automatica- Popaganda - I was in my teens during the 80's, so it should come as no surprise that bands that hearken back to those days often find a soft spot in the Timmys. Many bands have taken the "cool" influences to heart- The Clash, Joy Division, XTC, etc.- and have fully incorporated those bands into their sounds. Head Automatica finds a different influence- early Joe Jackson. Popaganda is filled with the punky pop that made Jackson a new wave mainstay before striking gold with the sophisticated, jazzy Night and Day. Power pop in general is a reference, brimming over with punky energy, and vocalist Daryl Palumbo has got his Joe Jackson imitation down pat, even to similar phrasing. If I was in college now, this would easily be in my top ten. Full of youthful exuberance, Head Automatica's revival of the recent past is a breath of fresh air.
Love Is All 15. Love Is All - Nine Times The Same Song - Lots of good music coming out of Sweden these days, and you can add Love Is All to that growing list. The new wave sound is in full effect here, with urgent female vocals, stabs of saxophone and an artsy, punky sensibility throughout. Again, not the most original thing in town, perhaps, butLove Is All finds a sound that hasn't been brought back ad nauseam - female vocal led Art Punk re: X-Ray Spex- and puts it to work for them. Love Is All do get a little pretty from time to time and sound a lot like their country mates The Concretes- which isn't bad either.
Los Lobos 14. Los Lobos - The Town And The City - Los Lobos were formed 34 years ago and have been making albums that have been heard outside of East L. A. for the last 24. The band has grown significantly over the years, broadening their musical style but always remaining true to their Mexican roots. This album switches smoothly from fast and slow tunes and the playing and songwriting is solid throughout. At times, they even show a bit of Tom Waits' eccentricity, and it suits them well. Pure, roots-influenced rock music will always have a place in the ears of the public as long as bands like Los Lobos continue to embrace its general structure while blending in new elements, ethnic or otherwise.
The Raconteurs 13. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers - The immediacy and catchiness of The Raconteurs' debut single "Steady As She Goes", released a while before the album, made it clear that this wasn't just a summer vacation project by the White Stripes' leader. Over the rest of the album, White and fellow songwriter/vocalist Brendan Benson weave in countless classic rock references into an album that's both fresh and familiar at the same time. Allegedly both The White Stripes and The Raconteurs will continue to exist and make albums, which is darn good news.
Comets On Fire 12. Comets On Fire - Avatar - So, 2006 was the year Acid Rock came back? Did People magazine run a cover on it? Well, maybe not, but the freak folk underground has developed a noisy stepbrother, led by Comets On Fire, whose leader found himself at 25 on the Timmys this year with his other band, Howlin Rain. Now I don't take drugs and I bathe regularly, yet I still find much to enjoy in these psychedelic freak outs. I always return to melody and songs as the key ingredient to a successful album, and they're both present here in abundance- even if sometimes they're hidden beneath layers of wailing guitars. Not as immediate as other albums on this list, but there's much to enjoy beneath the hippie exterior here.
TV On The Radio 12. TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain - "Wolf Like Me" kicks off this album with a message- the last album was not a fluke, TV On The Radio can rock and is a force to be reckoned with. Both edgy and accessible at the same time, about a dozen musical styles are apparent here, often within the same song. Plus, would David Bowie claim to be a fan AND show up on backing vocals (on Province) if these guys were no good? Will they ever sell a million records? Signs point to No. Will they be around for more interesting, relevant albums? It is decidedly so. (Note to self: always keep the Magic 8-Ball nearby when doing album reviews.
Graham Coxon 10. Graham Coxon- Love Travels At Illegal Speeds - The former Blur guitarist hasn't made much of a splash compared to Blur singer Damon Albarn's solo work, but that hasn't kept him from finding his own niche. This album refines what was started on his earlier releases- a nice, upbeat punky pop album that recalls The Buzzcocks more than once or twice, and has pop hooks everywhere. Blur still makes good albums, Damon has great solo projects and Graham is comfortable at being Graham, which means as listeners, we all win.
Jenny Lewis

9. Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins- Rabbit Fur Coat - I fell obliged to refer to the vocals on this record as purty...Jenny L. sings like a Dixie angel, as do the Watson Twins. Watson, the front woman for indie popsters Rilo Kiley, makes an album that's country to it's core, but not in a slick, Rascal Flatts/Carrie Underwood/someone get me a bucket I'm gonna be sick sort of way. The twang is here, the production is clear, but the music, vocals and lyrics give the record a depth that Nashville rarely achieves. These songs have a quiet honesty to them, and it's in no part that Lewis has the right voice to make her lyrics work. At moments, this reminds me of Elvis Costello's King Of America- offbeat-country that's true to the classic sound of the genre but doesn't fit in with its contemporaries. Bonus feature- a fun remake of "Handle with Care" which strips down the Traveling Willburys' original and reminds us what fun twangy guitars can be if used correctly.


Regina Spektor 8. Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope - Ms. Spektor came into the (relative) limelight a few years ago when she released her debut right as her friends/fellow New Yorkers The Strokes had their moment in the sun. I heard part of a song and wrote her off, only to hear her again this year, a few albums down the road. Maybe I need to go back to the old stuff, because this is a darn good album. Vocally, Spektor shows hints of both Tori Amos and Bjork, but with a throaty softness that could either charm or annoy depending on your perspective. Being born in Moscow and not coming to the U.S. until she was nine also gives an other-worldly quality to some of her pronunciations. Her classical piano training brings Amos to mind as well, but there's a lightness here that Tori lacks- one song mentions Guns and Roses' November Rain in the chorus and Summer in the City reveals that "summer in the city means cleavage". A very poppy record that stays just to the left of the mainstream.
James Hunter 7. James Hunter - People Gonna Talk - In 2006, Taylor Hicks brought his "Soul Patrol" onto TV, which brought attention to a great genre often clouded by too slick production and a tendency to over sing and over play. So while Hicks used a Sam Cooke song to get through his audition, James Hunter was tucked away in England where he has been channeling Cooke's voice for several years. This album was recorded in the same studio as The White Stripes' Elephant, and the band played live in the studio, the way they used to. The sound is a pure throwback to the early sixties, from the lightly rock steady/ska title track through multiple twists on early sixties soul and R & B. A Ray Charles influence comes into play as well, and Hunter manages to make you forget he's English, white and recording these tunes in the day of the iPod. This is the sound of the real "Soul Patrol", but Hunter doesn't need to shout it every twenty seconds- his music does that just fine on its own.
Elvis C / Allen T 6. Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint - The River In Reverse - As many of you may already know, I've been a big Elvis Costello fan for years- it is not by mere coincidence that he and my son share the same first name (Costello was born Declan MacManus). Over recent years, however, Elvis' recorded output has been solid but not remarkable. When I Was Cruel was excellent- some of his detours down other stylistic paths have been less noteworthy. I've also been a fan of the far lesser-known singer/songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint, one of the leading lights of the New Orleans R & B scene of the late 50s/early 60s. So this pairing seemed like a match made in heaven for me, and it didn't disappoint. They sing a fair amount about post-Katrina New Orleans, but it's the New Orleans sound throughout that makes the loudest statement. A fine addition to the great careers of both men.
The Holloways 5. The Holloways - So This Is Great Britain? - Another day, another new British band. They do tend to sound alike after a while, so what sets The Holloways apart from all the others? Well, they have a bit of ska running through their sound- it's actually even more calypso than ska. It really lightens the mood and gives them a uniqueness. And there's the overall carefree attitude- they may be in it for a buck (I mean pound) as much as the next band, but it doesn't come across. They sound like a bunch of guys playing music because it's fun (and if it helps them meet girls, all the better). A fun, punky, poppy record.
Micah P. Hinson 4. Micah P. Hinson- Micah P. Hinson And The Opera Circuit - In the British music magazine Mojo, their roundup of alternative country, bluegrass and roots-centric music falls under the header Americana. It's a label that fits this album well. Hinson's voice croaks when pushed and generally seems older and softer than it should be for someone still in his twenties. The music- guitars, strings, horns, harmonica- weaves in and out, keeping the proceedings mostly country or folksy but finding room for dixieland and the classic American ballad. Hinson was born in Tennessee, moved to Texas and battled drug addiction and spent time in jail. This album contains all of that drama and world weariness, but presents it in a way a Southern Gothic novel would- "don't feel sorry for me, that's just how life is, don't worry about me." A thoughtful, mostly quiet album with a great deal of depth.
Willie Nelson 3. Willie Nelson - Songbird - Willie Nelson in the Timmys? And at #3? You betcha. Ryan Adams took a break from releasing 3 or more albums a year to produce ol' Willie, giving him the Rick Rubin treatment. While Willie didn't need the career resuscitation that most of Rubin's clients do, Adams and his band did give Willie a swift kick to his posterior. What results is a rock solid mix of alternative country, traditional country, rock and blues. This is honest, American music that puts Willie's voice and the songs to the front and finds the right atmosphere- a hammond organ, a slide guitar, a harmonica- for the background. The choice of covers is excellent, from Leonard Cohen to Fleetwood Mac to the Grateful Dead to a chilling take on Amazing Grace. An outstanding record- I hope these two work together again and I hope Adams picks some other folks to produce.
Sloan 2. Sloan - Never Hear The End Of It - With more hooks than a meat locker, Sloan's brand of power pop has them on the radio in their Canada, but not here in the states. Which is a shame, as these songs would sound great with the windows rolled down on a sunny afternoon. Starting with The Beatles, Sloan takes decades of classic rock and guitar pop and distills them into small, irresistible songs. When I say small, I'm not kidding, either- there's 30 tracks on this single disc. This album is like the Top 30 Singles Chart in some parallel universe, unfortunately very far away from Earth.
The Hold Steady 1. The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls In America - From Brooklyn but with roots in Minneapolis, The Hold Steady exited 2006 making late night talk show appearances and as the indie rock darlings du jour- and with excellent reason. Their third full length album refined their early Spring steen meets The Replacements/Husker Du sound, and Craig Finn's vocals, while still an acquired taste, found their comfort zone easier than on earlier releases. With classic rock rooted alternative sounds clipping along in the background, Finn's tales of drug abuse and young adults finding their way and often missing the mark have never been better. The title of this record comes from a Jack Kerouac line- like Kerouac, The Hold Steady paint a picture of American subculture that the average joe doesn't get to see, and Finn's characters struggle to find meaning in drug-induced comas, striking it big at the track and hanging out at the park. A real solid rock record with a lot of lyrical depth.


Note: I've used the images of album covers on this site so that if anyone reads this and is inspired to buy these albums, they know what they look like. Anyone from these record labels who would like me to add copyright information or remove any of these images, let me know. Thanks.

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