Friday, December 29, 2006

Zero-Six Refix

(Paul St. Hilaire sang mystically)

Top 10 Albums 2006

Owusu & Hannibal–Living With…(Ubiquity) This Danish duo combine farflung influences (‘70s radio pop, modern R&B, nujazz) with innovative production and arrangements, to say nothing of their buttery vocals and peculiar lyrical content. Echoes of Prince, Brian Wilson and Marvin Gaye are all heard in this special brew. Living… is the year’s best repeated headphone listening.

Barbara Morgenstern–Grass Is Always Greener (Monika)
This Berlin-based German singer and electronic producer toured the world in 04-05 and recorded an album based on her impressions of cities including Tokyo and San Francisco. Sound bland? Its not. This is resplendent, energized indie-pop songcraft at its best. Morgenstern sounds wonderful singing in German or English, and incorporates compressed electronic production and prominent acoustic piano in her dreamy pop.

Jimpster–Amour (Freerange)

Jamie Odell of The Bays and Freerange Recordings co-founder released yet another comprehensive album adding to his solid, decade-plus career. He makes dance music listenable, and electronic songwriting danceable. The album coasts through house, soulful downtempo and nujazz avenues like a Lexus on rain-cleansed London streets.

Paul St. Hilaire–A Devine State of Mind (False Tuned)
St. Hilaire (formerly Tikiman) is a Guyanese singer/producer living in Berlin who originally worked alongside Basic Channel/Rhythm & Sound’s Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald. Now he makes solo reggae records that blend dubby downtempo (think Stereo Deluxe label or Nightmares on Wax) with traditional roots arrangements and his soft, introspective vocals. This album is just killer.

Ensemble–Ensemble (Fat Cat)
Bring on the laptops and strings! Bring on the boy/girl harmonies and swirling pop production. Bring on Ensemble, with IDM, indie, folk and art influences for a lush album that sparkles and surges in all the right places.

Helios–Eingya (Type)
A gorgeous, delicate mix of plucked acoustic guitars, wispy pads, and opiate tones that would certainly fall comfortably into your dreammpop or folktronic shopping cart. Instrumental and soothing throughout while steering away from Windham Hill territory… it’s music for rainy train trips to the Northwest, not for sipping Zin in the hot tub.

(Owusu & Hannibal made future soul sound retro-fantastic)

Kid Kameleon Dubstep Mix for XLR8R Incite Podcast (download)
The Kid covers all angles of the emerging dubstep sound, from experimental purveyors such as Timeblind and Blackdown, to dubby MySpace finds like Germany’s Wadadda or West Virginia’s fantastic Revoldub, to UK stalwarts like Benga, Pinch, Loefah and Digital Mystikz—this is the dance mix of the year, of any format or genre, bar none.

Monty Alexander–Concrete Jungle: the Music of Bob Marley (Telarc)
It sounds like a cheesy concept: jazz quartet covers of Bob Marley. But Jamaican pianist Monty Ellis nails it like only a native with his exception 40-year pedigree could. And the song selection is amazing: “War,” “Crazy Baldheads,” “Forever Loving Jah,” and “Concrete Jungle” are just a few that get the cool, post-Bop treatment. Expect amazing piano, trombone

Strange Fruit Project–The Healing (Om Hip-Hop)
Bite your tongues New York and LA dwellers, the best hip-hop group of 2006 hailed from Waco, Texas. The SFP trio has everything Tribe or De La had on their first albums, including the confidence and concepts. Erykah saw fit to guest and Thesis great on “Special.” These cats are the real deal.

Natural Black–Far from Reality (Greensleeves)
Jamaican singjay Natural Black can sing alternately silky gentle, or dutty rough, occasionally within the same verse, which makes him versatile like Sizzla or Jah Cure. There were many other key albums by the new crop of roots singers (see below) but Black’s had the best combination of melodic Rasta odes and lovers business.

Honorable Mentions: Skream–Skream (Tempa), Owen–At Home With Owen (Polyvinyl), Max Richter–Songs From Before (Fat Cat), Sumo–The Danceband (Heya), Greensleeves’s roots releases (Sizzla, Jah Mason, Norrisman, Lutan Fyah).

Best reissue: Yabba You–Deliver Me From My Enemies (Blood & Fire)

Hot For 07: Chezidek