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coverpic flag Mare Smythii - Full Moon 126 - 01/03/07

Tim's Top Ten Best of 2006
Crème brûlée's of 006

1. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House (Warp)
Wow. Wow. In a year spent impatiently waiting for new albums from two of my favourite bands, Circulatory System and Animal Collective, along comes Grizzly Bear, embodying all the things I love about CS and AC, yet mustering their own kind of ethereal, rustic magic. You can live inside Yellow House, and I've spent countless car rides and headphone sessions exploring its resonant, haunting spaces. Easily the most beautifully recorded album of the year, it's thankfully blessed with achingly moving songs too. "Central and Remote" and "Colorado" are two of the most sublime pieces of music I've heard all year. Utterly enchanting.

2. Mahogany - Connectivity (Darla)
Andrew Prinz and co. keep the stunning production values and layered arrangements of their previous dreampop efforts, but stir in the kind of fist-in-the-air, have-a-group-hug songs that will have you grinning from ear to ear. The first half emulates the buzz of walking around a city on a sunny day, people streaming along the pavements in all their colourful imperfection; the second half is more like the introspective train ride home, headphones on, remembering how much you used to love The Cure...

3. Mastodon - Blood Mountain (Reprise)
First my obsession with the excellent Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster, then came Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, an entertaining and insightful overview of the genre. I've never really explored metal, so when I became excited about the prospect of buying some albums, I did some research and decided that Mastodon would be my way in. Blood Mountain embodies everything that is great about metal, and has some genuinely thrilling moments, especially for someone approaching this music for the first time. The musicianship is stunning, and the more I listen, the more absorbed I become by the concept, a journey involving a crystal skull, a colony of birchmen, and a sleeping giant...

4. Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bella Union)
The first half of this album is just gorgeous, but The Trials of Van Occupanther is a frustratingly uneven record, with too many of those kooky Bamnan and Slivercork keyboard sounds in the second half. However, when you've got two of the finest songs of the year in "Roscoe" and "Head Home", you can't help but love Midlake and their meticulously trimmed beards.

5. The Necks - Chemist (Fish of Milk)
Until Chemist, the idea of The Necks appealed to me more than actually listening to the albums. Their repetitive and gradually transforming music is intriguing in principle, and witnessing the trio perform live is something I can recommend to anyone, but the hour-long pieces found on disc have never really set my world alight. With Chemist there are instead three 20-minute pieces - and guitars! The awesome "Abilerra" is worth the price of admission alone.

6. Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon (XL)
Like the bastard offspring of Pavement, The Pixies and The Strokes, Tapes 'n Tapes unleashed a cracking debut in The Loon, 40 minutes of concise, catchy guitar pop with sharp edges and oodles of hooks. A great record to blast in the car.

7. Comets on Fire - Avatar (Sub Pop)
Bluesy, boozy, and woozy, Avatar is a blistering collection of fuzzy rock songs slathered with guitar solos, and less of the freaky echoplex that made Blue Cathedral such a headfuck. Basically, it rocks.

8. Band of Horses - Everything All The Time (Sub Pop)
Much like Arcade Fire's Funeral, Band of Horses' Everything All The Time is great, but nowhere near as good as it appears on the first few listens. Thanfully there are enough wonderfully anthemic songs - particularly "First Song" and "Funeral" - to make the album worth playing repeatedly.

9. My Majestic Star - Ideas Are The Answer (Hidden Shoal Recordings)
In a year that's been woefully bereft of decent instrumental guitar music, including the disappointing Mr Beast, it's Western Australia's Chris Mason who shines the brightest, with a collection of beautifully melodic and lovingly constructed pieces that reward repeat listens.

10. Dilatazione - Too Emotional For Maths (Hidden Shoal Recordings)
And then, also on the brilliant Hidden Shoal label, is Dilatazione, an Italian quartet who weave the kind of crisp, propulsive math-rock that seems to have gone out of fashion, but has rarely been done this well.

Copyright © 2007 Tim Clarke e-mail address

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