Tuesday, June 27, 2006

2006, A Halfway-Point Review: Looking Back

Let's not just yet get too far gone in judging the year that will be Oh-Six. However, as we reach the calendar midpoint, the Toaster would like to make sure it has its crap together and has given a fair shake to the sea of new albums released this year.

Below is the list of artists with new work this year and a short snippet judgment and a grade a la Christgau, but shorter and snippier. NOTE: Grades subject to change...you know, based on the end-of-the-year curve.

Please comment below or send an email to let us know
what we've missed.

Honor Roll:

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins: Indie starlett goes solo and gets a little countrified, drawing all-too- easy comparisons to Dusty Springfield. Enjoyed thoroughly by the Toaster, although it slightly made us just want to listen to Rilo Kiley. Yeah, the minus is for that pandering Traveling Wilburys cover. (A-) >> Highlight: "The Big Guns"

Cat Power: A great (not greatest) disc for a lazy weekend morning. Sadly, there are few other occasions we want to pop it in. (A-)

Neko Case: Not just the best show we've seen all year, but pretty close to the best album we've heard all year; it's really a grower. (A) >> Highlight: "Star Witness"

The Elected: It's good that we got two Rilo Kiley "solo" albums in one day; we may have been lost otherwise. A solid follow-up to the more-than-half-decent 2004 debut "Me First," "Sun Sun Sun" finds Blake Sennett coasting through some finely penned tunes. His ability to make it all sound natural pains us. (A)

Belle and Sebastian: Only a few semi-clunkers on the whole album, The Life Pursuit has quickly risen to the top of our albums of the year. Let's see if it can stay there. (A+)

Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs: We know they're covers, but we applaud the song selection and the well-intentioned and heavily (and beautifully) harmonized recreations. Hell, anything with "Sunday Morning" on it is a winner by us. (A-) Highlight: "Sunday Morning"

Merit Roll:

Laura Veirs: We like her, we do; we swear. We thought her live show was a tad self-indulgent and her album a tad too hard to get into. However, a few stellar tracks bring it to the fore. (B-)

The Cardigans: Yeah, there's some pretty good stuff here. And they're Swedes, yay. (Ungraded)

Calexico: The songs go a little long, but it seems solid from all angles otherwise. (B)

The Arctic Monkeys: Fun, but not a whole lot of substance. Perfect if you can't find your Franz. (B+)

The Concretes: Yay, Sweden! The Toaster digs the allusions to girl-group rock. (B+)

The Streets: Always fun, always good. There's just nothing there that resonates like half of the stuff on A Grand Don't Come for Free. (B)

The Weepies: We hate it when a few songs that we can't stop singing prompt us to by an album that underwhelms us in comparison. This is what happened with the Weepies Say I Am You. Still, those great tracks bring up the average. (B+)

Pearl Jam: As much as we wish we didn't still have a penchant for some Eddie Vedder, we do. And it would be unfair to discount them based on their un-indie or uncool-in-the-2000s status. Alas, we still would rather be listening to Vitalogy or something from a decade ago. (B)

Tilly and the Wall: God, we want to love love love this band. Still, the album doesn't stick like it should. And we just end up hitting repeat on "Sing Songs Along." (B++)

Gnarls Barkley: Yes, it's catchy. Yes, it's on the radio. Yes, we like a good portion of it. Get off our backs! (B)

Other (ahem):

The Strokes:
Unimpressed. And what's with that New Year's release date? (C+)

Sondre Lerche: The Toaster couldn't bring itself to buy this crooner stuff. The few MP3s we had, well, they were alright enough, I guess. (C)

The Flaming Lips: Unimpressed with what we've heard, except for that classic "Yeah Yeah Yeah" song. Wayne, make us love you again. Please. (Ungraded)

Bands With Albums With Great Tracks, prompting further investigation:

The Pipettes
Camera Obscura
Mojave 3
Matt Costa
be your own PET
Snow Patrol

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