My top 6 are essentially interchangeable as far as my rankings go, but this was my best stab.
Note – The Sufjan Stevens, The New Pornographers, Aimee Mann, Spoon, David Mead, Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Adam Richman, Bloc Party, and Sundayrunners albums are all available on eMusic.
- Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine - I combine the version released on the internet and the version released officially as one giant extraordinary cd. Some of the songs are better on the leaked version (“Better Version of Me” for instance) and some are better on the official version (“Thymps” as an example). Either way this is a second straight masterwork for Fiona.
- Sleater-Kinney - The Woods - This album is the most inaccessible on my list – if you don’t like SK, then you don’t. Their harmonies are discordant; their chords are crunchy and noisy. But this album manages to do so and make songs that are catchy as all hell.
- Michael Penn - Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947 – This is one of the more layered releases for me this year. While I liked it when I first listened to it, it didn’t hold me the way his last two releases did. To say it grew on me is an understatement. As literate as any Penn release – it takes serious listening to truly hear everything that’s being said.
- Kanye West - Late Registration – The man dissed the president and then went on to sell 2 million CDs. The song that I’ll remember from 2006 and a rap album that is a complete listen.
- Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise – I was afraid of this CD when I first read reviews, but it is epic. It is not folky – but it will appeal to those there. It’s not rocking, but the production will appeal to those that like indie rock.
- The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema – From the first song this is the catchiest CD of the year. Careful – hooks all over the place.
- Doves - Some Cities – Example #1 of a band better than Coldplay (in 2005). So many great songs on this album that I shake my head when I listen to it.
- Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm – Doesn’t hit me the way Bachelor No. 2 or I’m With Stupid did, but I find myself humming songs from TFA all the time.
- Spoon - Gimme Fiction – Example #2 of a band better than Coldplay (in 2005). If this band was British I bet everyone would know their names.
- Death Cab for Cutie – Plans – Example #3 of a band better than Coldplay (in 2005). The O.C. cred scared me away. They’re more substantial than that.
- David Mead - Wherever You Are – This 5 song EP would be top 10 if it weren’t 5 songs. That said – I like this release better than Indiana.
- Elbow - Leaders of the Free World – Final example of a band better than Coldplay in 2005. I think this may rate higher as I listen to it more, but I just got it.
- Arcade Fire – Funeral – More of the 80’s redux but done with more competence than style. Ignored in the revival of the 80’s sound but to me they’ve done the best at creating their own sound as opposed to rehashing others.
- The Decemberists – Picaresque – Quirky and excellent. I heard this album in January and it has sort of faded for me – still a standout.
- Bloc Party - Silent Alarm – Another 80’s sounding band. Not the bad 80’s stuff. Good and catchy.
- Adam Richman - Patience and Science – Infectious. Maybe not the most substantial release of the year, but fun to listen to.
- Sundayrunners – Sundayrunners – No one talks about this CD at all and that makes me think they need better marketing. Call me.