John Greak Pooplist 06


Once again I have waited until the last minute (actually, I have 240 minutes to go ’til the clock strikes midnight) to gather my thoughts and music purchases for the past year, spread them out in front of me, and try to figure out which are worthy for mention in the preeminent “best of” publication of the year. I spent the better part of 2006 ignoring popular music, hence my list will seem somewhat limited when compared to the expansive sonic options touted by our fellow taste makers. I’m finding as I get older, the emotional link to new musical discoveries will never be as visceral and satisfying as the pre-existing connection to the music I devoured between the ages of 16 and 25. Yes, I really dig the new Robert Pollard solo album, but I’ll always be in love with Guided By Voices. And nothing is going to change that. Anyway, I hope someone out there enjoys the following musings. And Tom, I failed to find a way to include the Alkaline Trio in my top ten since they did not release an album during the past calendar year, and for that I am very sorry.

20. Insert your own choice here. I totally take your word for it and interactive lists are fun!

19. Peter Gammons – “Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old’ Legendary sportswriter makes good Newman/Zevon inspired rock with the help of Bill Janovitz, Juliana Hatfield, Kay Hanley, and 1/3 of the 2005 Boston Red Sox. I bought it on a lark and it totally does not suck.

18. Nicolai Dunger – “Here’s My Song” With help from the dudes from Mercury Rev, Dunger delivers another atmospheric pop record that again manages to fly in under the radar. “My Time Is Now” is one of my favorite songs of the year.

17. Don Caballero – “World Class Listening Problem” I was totally stoked for a new record from Don Cab and it delivered on most fronts. Not quite as inspired as earlier works (or maybe my tolerance for math rock has waned a bit over the past decade), I still found myself turning it up loud on those clear summer days.

16. Paul Westerberg – “Open Season” Soundtrack Writing the music for an animated block buster was the last thing I thought dear old Paul would do, but he managed to do it with some gusto and got through it with his reputation intact. The slick production blows and parts of the album seems forced, to say the least, but it’s still better than 80% of the singer/songwriter garbage clogging the air waves at WDST and WKZE.

15. Some Girls – “Crushing Love” If the Alkaline Trio can’t make the list, Juliana Hatfield can. She, along with Freda Love and Heidi Gluck, just gets better with age. For all the female song writers that are passed off as “good” (did anyone listen to the last Lucinda Williams album??), it amazes me that Some Girls are relegated to obscurity as no woman writes a guitar hook quite like the fair Juliana. Marry me?

14. The Mountain Goats – “Get Lonely” I never gave John Darnielle & Co. much of a fair shake, which is a shame as I dig this record a lot. I find it soothing and accessible yet somewhat depressing, the kind of record I always wanted Will Oldham to put out but never has, at least in my humble opinion.

13. Golden Smog – “Another Fine Day” I’m sorry, but whenever you put Gary Louris, Dan Murphy, Jeff Tweedy, Marc Perlman, and co. in a studio, good things are going to happen. And “Another Fine Day” is good things. From the opening notes of the first track to Tweedy’s Davies-esque vocals on their cover of The Kinks “Strangers”, the album rocks. What can i say, I am a sucker for all things mid-western.

12. The Twilight Singers – “Powder Burns” The grower for 2006. I bought it, shelved it, and then re-evaluated a couple of months back. Now I like it. Maybe I will re-evaluate it again in 6 months, but I’m writing this now so boo hoo if my opinions change. Greg Dulli is still the best rock singer of the past 20 years.

11. The Lemonheads – Self Titled Evan Dando returns, backed by 1/2 of the Descendents, and various guests from his past musical life. Listen, one of the songs is called “Poughkeepsie”, so that right there gets them in the top 10. Oh, that and the fact that half the album is as infectious as the bird flu, although a pandemic of Lemonhead-mania would be far less deadly and a whole lot more fun.

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10. Aimee Mann – “One More Drifter In The Snow”
Holiday albums shouldn’t qualify, I suppose, but I needed a good x-mas record this year and this is exactly what Santa ordered. Aimee can show up singing these tunes at my house any time of the year. What ever happened to Christmas, indeed.

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9. Yo La Tengo – “I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Kick Your Ass”
A record that sucks you in, grabs you, and does not let go. Just when i think it is all over for these guys, I am again pleasantly surprised to find out that there are still plenty of great songs like “Sometimes I Don’t Get You” left to envelop my soul. And, obviously, this is the album title of the year.

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8. Gob Iron – “Death Songs For The Living”
Jay Farrar and Varnaline’s Anders Parker collaborated on this collection of folk standards, and at first listen I was fairly underwhelmed. But seriously, the more I listened the more I loved it. Part Fahey, part Louvin, part Guthrie, it’s all beautiful and heart wrenching. You could swear each song was their own, which shouldn’t be too surprising as they each have such a distinct voice. I like.

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7. Robert Pollard – “Normal Happiness”
Didn’t I already mention how much I liked this? GBV may be dead, but the 2 minute guitar rock pop song will continue to thrive as long as Pollard lives. 16 songs and not a bad one among them. Not bad, not bad at all.

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6. Sonic Youth – “Rather Ripped”
Much like Yo La Tengo, I often write SY off as not possibly being able to keep me interested this far into their career, but the pale skinny bald guy is proven wrong yet again. Their best album in ages (I haven’t really loved the last few, to be honest) as they return to walking the fine line between anthemic rock and aural soundscapes that defined them all those years ago when they may have been the greatest rock band on the planet. “Pink Steam” is the cats pajamas.

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5. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs – “Under The Covers Vol. 1”
15 covers of 60’s favorites from Hoffs and Sweet, and all are as sweet (pun intended?) as you can imagine. Obviously, the tracks from the likes of Love and Neil Young lack the gravity of the originals, but the spirit is there and the record is just fun. This one spent about 3 months in serious car rotation after it came out, so it wasn’t a stretch to say you saw me pull up in town and I was blasting “Monday, Monday”.

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4. Built To Spill – “You In Reverse”
This is the Pacific Northwest prime evil. It’s been like forever since the last BTS album, so I was pleasantly surprised that the layoff didn’t dull the sound of one of the great guitar rock bands of the past 25 years. The second I heard the opening drum beat of “Goin’ Against Your Mind”, i was sold. Maybe I should have just wrote “awesome” and left it at that.

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3. Grant Lee Phillips – “Nineteeneighties”
Again, this is where these lists get tricky: is this one of the “best” albums of 2006? I don’t know, maybe not. Is it one of my favorite? Most definitely. From the Hawaiian flavored version of “Wave Of Mutilation” to the longing guitar of “Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me”, Philips reworks 11 of his – and my – favorite 80’s new wave/college rock tracks with so much care and personal touch that there isn’t much not to love. Interpreting the past is an important part of laying the groundwork for the future, so albums like this will always find a spot in my heart and in my head.

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2. Neko Case – “Fox Confessor Brings The Flood”
I am no longer worthy of describing the albums released by Ms. Case. I would fumble around with words like mesmerized, haunting, and beautiful and end up embarrassing myself more so than I usually do. Just a great record, moody and lush and dark – wait, is this embarrassing myself? It’s good, end of story.

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1. Rainer Maria – “Catastrophe Keeps Us Together”
A lightning bolt from the heyday of “emo” struck me squarely in the brain earlier this year when I picked up this record. Rainer Maria were one of the bands that I loved in the late 90’s and the early part of this decade: hyper-literate, mid western twenty somethings singing about love, loss, heartbreak, and the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets when he was assassinated. Maybe this was a last ditched effort for commercial success or maybe they became privy to some form of artistic clarity – who knows? All I know is that contained within were 9 songs with insightful lyrics featuring a certain punch and sense of melody than they could never previously muster. Of course there’s a 10 minute experimental piece and a cover of Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine”, but this is essentially an intelligent, straight up college rock record yearning for someone to take notice.

Cool Shows

Gorilla Biscuits – The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ
Soul Asylum – Revolution Hall in Troy, NY
Flaming Lips/Sonic Youth – NY State Fair in Syracuse

Cool Reissues/Archive Releases

Wire – “Live At the Roxy 1977/Live At CBGB’s 1978”
PJ Harvey – “The Peel Sessions”
Merle Haggard – “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive/Branded Man”
Merle Haggard – “Strangers/Swinging Doors And The Bottle Let Me Down”
The Fix – “At The Speed Of Twisted Thought”
Ray Barretto – “Acid”
APB – “Something To Believe In”
Judee Sill – “Abracadabra: The Asylum Years”
Dumptruck – “Haul Of Fame”

Cool Movies

We Jam Econo
The Science Of Sleep
Thank You For Smoking
The Departed
Casino Royale


Byron Preston, my Aunt Jo, habeas corpus

be well

John Greak