Best Albums 2006 (1-5)

5. Beyoncé — B’Day


Her Eminence owed us this, after the hits-plus-filler expedience of Dangerously in Love (What hits, I know! But what filler, I sigh…) and a reunion that undermined Destiny’s Child’s already wobbly foundations of sisterhood. Trim and concise, especially in its non-bloated un-“Deluxe” version, B’Day (till recently, a friend thought it was pronounced “bidet”) lacks the self-abnegating geisha supplications her independent women can ill afford to mimic, as well as the ego-ballooning declarations of Beyoncedom that are more unseemly in a superstar than in an up-and-comer. And she hasn’t let a reportedly happy union hold her back from casting necessary aspersions on the ways of the opposite sex, or from allowing us to imagine that some just might apply to her lesser half.

4. Bob Dylan — Modern Times


Less funny than “Love and Theft,” therefore less definitive, but with even more theft and love than its predecessor. Drawing inspiration from Confederate poet Henry Timrod as he muses about Alicia Keys is the sort of perversity we’ve come to cherish from the old con. But as with all Dylan’s greatest albums, the lyrics are only as powerful as the music that carries them, and here his boys unfussily retool Americana like the ace working band they are. Looks like all those fanatics who awaited the next great Dylan album for decades have had their last laugh on the rest of us. Personally, I was grateful for Bob’s minor misstep with Together Through Life–a third perfect album in a row and we’d have to start revising our histories of the ’60s.

3. Sonic Youth — Rather Ripped


Jim O’Rourke is unmissed for the same reason he was barely noticed — the architectural essentials of their sound have hardly changed since they stopped mistaking noise as end rather than means in the mid-80s. Skeptics may or may need convincing by what may or may not be their finest set of songs in years but is quite certainly their songiest. Fans like me consider that sound spacious enough to allow for perpetual exploration, and consider songcraft as suitable a vehicle for such forays as any. Either way, their best since Sonic Nurse.

2. Tom Zé — Estudando O Pagode


Musically, Zé is Brazil’s answer to Monk, a traditionalist so idiosyncratic you might mistake his innovation as rebellion, his equivalent of the pianist’s precisely placed dissonant chord the zig-zag riff that darts forward, then hovers suspended momentarily like the Coyote over a canyon. But he’s also Tropicalia’s great conceptualist, and his exploration of the samba subgenre pagode doubles as a three-act operetta, tackling the relationship between the sexes with a focus on how machismo undermines male humanity. If your Portuguese is a little rusty and you’re wondering if it’s supposed to be funny, the featured instrument is a kid’s toy made of fig leaves that sounds like a kazoo.

1. Ghostface Killah — Fishscale


I dig Ghost for his dense, deft wordplay, his willingness to risk absurdity for the sake of the well-turned rhyme, as showcased to its most amazing effect on Supreme Clientele. But I love Ghost for his heart and for the immediacy of his narratives, and here, whether reminiscing over childhood whippings, teaching us more about kilos than Schoolhouse Rock had in mind, or teaming with Raekwon on “R.A.G.U.,” he’s never sounded more himself. Sure Doom can rhyme exquisite nonsense ad infinitum, sure Missy can ladle her sassy self over the hottest beats till you’re limp. But it can never be marveled over enough that the most consistent sui generis MC in the game is also its best storyteller.

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Comments

  • Chris Molanphy  On November 29, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    While I’m sure a mashup of Dylan’s worst post-millennial album and Courtney’s all-time best might make for interesting listening, I’m pretty sure the recent Zimmy album is titled Together Through LIFE not …This.

  • usefulnoise  On November 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Fixed! (Maybe I should just give you my login info.)

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