The cds and artists we found deserving merit for 2006. Yes, there were tons of other discs that deserved distinction, but we had to limit ourselves to 10 and the ones that struck us most throughout 2006. Buy them all, they are all highly recommended.
1. Robin Guthrie: Continental: Famed for his work in The Cocteau Twins, Robin Guthrie has burst on the scene with an ambient masterpiece. This disc is in the league of Eno’s Music for Airports and can hold its own alongside Lull’s Continue. Embedded in this ambient disc are strong melodies and moody moments that soar and fall with ponderous movements, lithe soundscapes and glittering guitars. Each moment on this disc is perfectly crafted to entrance the listener and draw them into Guthrie’s world. This is 10 tracks of undeniable perfection that is worth ever penny one might pay to buy it. Obviously, we highly recommend this disc and it truly does deserve album of the year.
2. Hammock: Raising Your Voice, Trying to Stop an Echo: The highly anticipated full-length follow up to 2005’s Kenotic, Raising Your Voice, Trying to Stop an Echo is an imaginative and extremely well-crafted disc. Featuring track after track of pristine dream-post-rock, the disc is anchored in lingering guitar lines and the tasteful use of other instruments. With its sad lyrics and wistful melodies, Raising Your Voice, Trying to Stop an Echo captured our hearts and soothed our spirits, showing once again that Hammock is worthy of the hype surrounding their music.
3. The Brother Kite: Waiting for the Time to be Right: Sophomore efforts are usually touch and go. They can be horrible or they can show growth in the bands ability in songwriting, recording, and musicianship. Well, The Brother Kite has outdone their previous work in so many ways. This disc is full of beach boyesque vocals and shoegaze goodness. The dreamy hooks and shining walls of jingly guitars coat the incredible vocal harmonies with flare.
4. Mahogany: Connectivity!: Syncopated ditties coated in a thick dreamy shine make up this double disc of fantastical music. Featuring layered male-female vocals, whimsical arrangements and melodies, and guest appearances by Robin Guthrie and his daughter, Connectivity! delighted listeners with its catchy songs and surprising depth. Packaged with other material such as remixes and a video, Connectivity! was a music fan’s dream release.
5. A Lily: Wake:Sleep: Sometimes dreams are had when one is awake and this disc invokes those dreams. A Lily is sweetly melancholy and brilliant in all its ambient electronics. Far from electrically inhuman, this disc breathes and lives through its movements and lifts the soul with hope for the better through its musical perfection.
6. The Meeting Places: Numbered Days: Featuring shiny melodies, dissonant guitar lines, existential lyrics, and a dose of shoegaze fuzz, Numbered Days cemented The Meeting Places’ spot as one of the understated talents on the scene. Eschewing the layers of guitars that permeated their debut release for a more stream-lined approach, The Meeting Places relied on their exquisite melodies to dazzle their listeners. Numbered Days is, simply stated, a perfect example of the marriage of melody and sonics, and the result is one of the most listenable CD’s released in 2006.
7. Mono/World’s End Girlfriend: Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain: Patient, quiet, endearing… just a few words to express this masterpiece collaboration from the gods of noise and a modern classical master. The fairy tale atmosphere creates a world of layers that caress your ears and lull you into their magical grip. Piano, cello, violin, acoustic guitar, and much more grace this disc and combine to make an orchestrated wonder. Mono and WEG should collaborate again in the near future.
8. Elika: S/T: New Gaze has never been so attractive on this New York duo’s album. Evagelia and Brian craft ambient walls of sound that climb and swirl around crooning female vocals. Synths provide soundscapes and beds of thick sound for Evagelia’s angelic voice to float upon. The emotive changes and moments throughout the disc are powerful and the composition of the songs is well-crafted. The moods on the disc range from ominous to ethereal. Since all of Thisquietarmy’s discs are short runs, make sure you pick this one up soon or they will totally disappear.
9. Dual: tocsin: Coming seemingly out of nowhere (but in reality the culmination of a long career of toiling in the UK’s fertile underground music scene), tocsin brutalized listeners with its rumbling, menacing drones. Though the CD was a limited release, the quality of its music and production impressed the listeners lucky enough to own a copy. With its powerful sounds and brilliant execution, tocsin showcased an artist, in Dual, who possesses the great ability to fashion a unique and powerful musical idea and make it reality.
10. Trespassers William: Having: A slow-burning collection of gorgeous songs, knit together by pensive arrangements and the angelic vocals of Anna-Lynne Williams, Having was an early favourite of ours in 2006. With its forlorn lyrics and windswept arrangements, Having conjured up images of heartbreak and solitude, but set to an immaculate dream-folk soundtrack. One of the best-crafted CD’s all year, Having will continue to be present to the heartbreak of listeners for some time.
Artist of the Year: Robin Guthrie: Robin Guthrie is quite arguably THE major dreampop/ambient/shoegaze/swirly noise artist of all time. As the guitarist (and principal architect) of the lush Cocteau Twins, Guthrie for years amazed audiences with his brilliant playing and compositions. Though, with the Cocteau Twins defunct for roughly a decade, it seemed that Guthrie was content to let his shadow linger largely over the music world. However, in 2006, Guthrie came back with a vengeance. He blew away audiences by releasing 3 gorgeous discs (one full-length and two EP’s, not to mention one separate compilation track) of all new instrumental material. He also assisted on Mahogany’s densely beautiful Connectivity!. Guthrie rounded up the year putting the finishing touches on a long-awaited collaboration with Harold Budd. All in all, Guthrie ruled over our radios again in 2006, proving to the world his genius knows no time constraints.
Label of the Year: Darla: Little can be said except… wow. Darla released discs from Hammock, Mahogany, and Robin Guthrie in 2006. I am not sure there is anything more to say. Look at our top ten and you will see that these three artists are well represented. Darla has hit more than one homerun this year in our book and we look forward to what Darla is going to offer up in 2007.
Compilation of the Year: Never Lose that Loving Feeling Volume 2: This glorious compilation of classic shoegaze tunes revisited by current shoegaze/dreampop bands opens with the jaw-dropping, worth-the-price-of-the-cd “Black Metallic” by Catherine Wheel (reinterpreted by Hammock), an amazing song reworked by an equally amazing band. It is this combination of excellent bands covering classic songs that makes this second installment so appealing. Whether listening to Hartfield’s blistering rendition of My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon”, or Destroyalldreamer’s haunting version of Slowdive’s “Sovlaki Space Station”, the listener is treated to song after song of high quality shoegaze homage. A fun listen that delivers on its promise to never lose that feeling of shoegaze bliss.
EP of the Year (tie): Eluvium: When I live by the Garden and the Sea: Eluvium released this majestic 4 song EP of haunting instrumental blissful compositions. Relying as much on atmospheric dreampop/post rock as classical music sensibilities, Eluvium crafted a memorable and breathtaking collection of songs. When I Live By The Garden And The Sea is another graceful achievement for this rare artist.
The Daysleepers: The Soft Attack: Yes, we have a tie for ep of the year. Along with Eluvium’s ep, The Daysleepers bring current shoegaze to another level. The hooks, composition, and execution of these songs demonstrate this bands artistic brilliance and impressive sound. Their music is an example of what pure shoegaze sounds like and ought to be. Dreampop elements along with Cure style influence are infused into walls of sound.