Ben Davis' Top 10 Albums of 2006

Various Artists

Well, here we are, at the end of another year, the rise of the MOR Bluntinis continues unabated, while the NME continue to make up cobblers names for bands that sound vaguely similar (Look out for the New Skiffle Revolution at some point next year) Indeed, this could just as easily have been written twelve months ago.

That said, 2006 has been a particularly stellar year for music, oh sorry, did I say music? I meant bitching. Kasabian have bitched about Razorlight, who’ve bitched about the Kooks, who’ve bitched about Kasabian, who’ve bitched about the Arctic Monkeys, who’ve said something unintelligible and put their hoods up. But don’t worry, you’ll find none of them here. That’s right; your eyes are not deceiving you, it’s a top ten albums list without Arctic Monkeys, deal with it.

While Kasabian and co have proven adept at bitching this year, none of them have quite matched up to the incisive, caustic put-downs dispensed by the Dorothy-Parker-in-Reebok’s author of the number 10 album of 2006.

10. Lily Allen

Alright Still

Famous for her foul-tempered blogs she may be, but Lily Allen has given pop a refreshing kick in the arse in 2006 with her quintessentially British songs. Put aside the horrific rhyming of “Tesco” and “al-fresco”, and you’ll find a pristine collection of songs that are as consistently witty as they are catchy.

There have been a few critics who’ve allowed the fact that she’s Keith Allen’s daughter and therefore doesn’t really have the working-class credentials of Mike Skinner or Dizzee Rascal, to mar their enjoyment of the songs, which, the be quite frank is missing the point. The songs speak for themselves, so there.

HIGHLIGHT: Smile

9. The Young Knives

Voices of Animals and Men

Ah well, while we’re on the subject of quintessential Britishness we might as well move onto number nine, by The Young Knives. This record is a cut above the droves of XTC influenced bands because it is infused with both wry humour and raw passion. The line “you were screaming at your mum and I was punching your dad” from She’s Attracted To, particularly is delivered with a blood-vessel busting intensity, which almost makes you forget the silliness of the lyric. There are plenty more gems here, and much more variety than you might expect.

HIGHLIGHT: Here Comes the Rumour Mill

8. Liam Frost and the Slowdown Family

Show Me How the Spectres Dance

Britain’s answer to Bright Eyes? Maybe. One of the most exciting new singer-songwriters around? Definitely. Show Me How the Spectres Dance is a deftly brilliant collection of folk-rock songs that will undoubtedly attain more popularity and acclaim in the future. He already has a massive following in Manchester and there’s no reason why Mr Frost and his “family” can’t become huge everywhere else if this record is anything to go by. Oh wait, there is, the public are stupid.

HIGHLIGHT: The Mourners of St Pauls

7. Plan B

Who Needs Actions When You Got Words

Plan B has crafted an amazing album that manages to sound furious from start to finish. Taking on subjects like drug addiction, murder, underage sex and religious fanaticism, he is lyrically light years ahead of most of his peers; his songs forming the perfect antidote to the virulent class hatred spewed by the tabloids every single day.

Mixing hip-hop with acoustic guitar textures, Mr “B” is one of the most unique artists to have emerged this year, and can disarm you with an incisive slice of humour mixed in with the vitriol, the Ned Flanders reference being particularly amusing.

HIGHLIGHT: Charmaine

6. Sparklehorse

Dreamt For Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain

Rarely has an album born out of such despair sounded so beautiful. Veering from skeletal rockers to whispered ballads, Dreamt For Light Years… is a musical feast from an artist who is a grizzled veteran compared to our previous entrants. Mark Linkous has battled his demons, and this record is a wonderful scar-bearing document of triumph, rather than a bitter account of defeat. Grand.

HIGHLIGHT: Mountains

5. Guillemots

Through the Windowpane

It may not be apparent that this is a great record on first listen; in fact, it might seem a little underwhelming. But there will be a point, I guarantee you, where Fyfe Dangerfield’s skewed, romantic outlook burrows beneath your skin, like a bouncy, Brummie parasite, and refuses to budge.

Guitars played with drills, bizarre pseudonyms and whizzy psychedelia are all par for the course on this truly unique album.

HIGHLIGHT: Sao Paulo

4. Joan As Police Woman

Real Life

Classy, resonant and distinctive. Three words that go some way to describing this album. Not, very and good. Three words that go some way to describing X Factor winner Leona. Guess which one will sell more? You guessed correctly. Lousy humans.

HIGHLIGHT: Real Life

3. Thom Yorke

The Eraser

Despite this album coming from a man with not one, but two superfluous letters in his name, Thom Yorke has crafted the most stripped down record of his career. With Radiohead, his twitchy melancholia is wrapped in swathes of guitar and electronic beeps, but this album shows that Yorke can carve out a Bjork-esque niche as a solo artist; if he chooses to do so… which, speaking as a devout worshipper at the church of Radiohead, I hope he doesn’t, and keeps this kind of thing as a side project. Nervous? Me? Nah.

HIGHLIGHT: Cymbal Rush

2.Akala

It’s Not a Rumour

A hip-hop album of this quality nowadays is rare. Dealing with the issues US rappers used to deal with before a milieu of money and bitch toting chancers took control, It’s Not a Rumour is a truly electrifying record. Akala is part of an exciting new UK grime scene that is lyrically, and now in production, putting most US hip-hop to shame.

Many of the tracks on the album are shot through with heavy metal guitar, mirroring the righteous anger of the MC, resulting in a huge sounding record that serves as a refreshing blast between the ears.

I know this is a recurring theme here, but why the hell does the friggin’ Game and A-chuffin’-kon get round-the-clock, relentless, excruciating, kill-me-now airplay, while a gifted rapper with a real social conscience lingers in the lower reaches of the charts? Grrr.

HIGHLIGHT: Shakespeare

1. Fionn Regan

The End of History

Well, by now I’m pretty cheesed off about many things; the radio, rubbish rappers, James Blunt of course, and, actually, people in general. (Merry Christmas!) But, here I have the antidote. The End of History is a magnificent example of pure, simple songwriting. It is perfect late night listening, each track perfectly executed folk-noir, many relying solely on an acoustic guitar and Regan’s chilling vocals. Yes, it’s been done before, but Regan’s take on it is tremendous and deserves to be heard on a wider scale. Breathtaking stuff.

HIGHLIGHT: Snowy Atlas Mountains

Well, thanks for reading chaps. It’s been a pleasure, and may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and good luck for 2007. If you would care to contest this list or you disagree with it entirely, please address your complaints to, someonewhogivesamonkeys@cackmail.com, or alternatively, do your own list. It’ll probably take you as long to write it as it took you to read this.

Compiled by Ben Davis


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