Friday, December 22, 2006

Top 5 Albums of 2006

This is is an annual event for us where each of the band members deliver their Top 5 Favorite Albums of the Year to you, the reader.
As always, the disclaimer still stands: These are our favorite records of the year, we are not saying that they were the best. Otherwise you, the reader, would probably disagree.

So without further ado, I bring you the tunes that we rocked out to in '06.
Feel free to post your favorites in the comments.

JoAnna's Top 5 Records of 2006:

5. Saves The Day - Sound the Alarm
After I finish my daily dose of metal, I manage to put in Sound the Alarm, Saves The Day's newest release. Again, this album took some getting used to, but I began to get used to it after five or six spins. This album strayed from the path that Stay What You Are and In Reverie led, but rather went back to the styles of Through Being Cool. Sweetness.

4. Bury Your Dead - Beauty and the Breakdown
I recently started listening to these guys and I wasn't too fond of them at first. I gave the album a second chance and realized they had an awesome keyboard as well. It's like Bleeding Through meets Hatebreed. Two very good bands that should mate and have babies. Babies that rock!

3. Bleeding Through - The Truth
This album came out at the beginning of the year and honestly, I don't listen to it as much as I used to, but one look at the "most plays" list on iTunes and it's easy to see that I listened to this way more than anything else this year. Again, adrenaline pumping, fast paced... yes, I love it. Seeing them play at Hard Rock Live with Every Time I Die was the icing on the cake. After seeing the keyboardist (FEMALE!) rock on stage, I gave them extra credit, just because (What? Who's biased?).

2. Thursday - A City by the Light Divided
Okay. So everyone hates this album because of the quality of the recording. GET PAST THAT. If you can actually listen to the tracks as they were intended, you'll hear beautiful songs and gut-wrenching tracks that make me listen to it over and over. Lovesong Writer is an extremely slow song that is way out of my style, but I am entranced by it. Yes, this album was recorded "live," but it's one more step in the right direction for the band.

1. Unearth - III: In the Eyes of Fire
Oh. My. Goodness. This album kicks ass. Like, OMFGROLFAACD, aka - Oh My F**cking Goodness Rock Out Loud Amazing CD. From track one to the instrumental ending of Big Bear & the Hour of Chaos, everything blows me away. I don't care that I can't understand a word he's saying, the raw feeling of the album is nothing less than incredible. If you can make my adrenaline jump that high, you've done your job well as a metal band. Perfect 10.

Honorable Mention:
Streetlight Manifesto - Keasbey Nights, Vol. 2

Doug's Top 5 Records of 2006:

5. Good Clean Fun - Between Christian Rock and A Hardplace
This is how melodic hardcore is supposed to be. Loud, fast, catchy and funny are just a few of the words that could be used to describe this album, and all of them would fit. This is one of those bands that will forever refuse to fall in line with whatever subgenre is hip these days and will always stick to their guns. I get the impression that I will never be surprised by what I hear from a Good Clean Fun record.

4. Rocky Votolato - Makers
It had been a while since I'd heard a great "one guy and an acoustic guitar" type record. This is the next great one. This isn't Rocky's first album but it's the first one where his potential really becomes fulfilled. I'm really looking forward to seeing how he follows this one up because it's gonna be hard.

3. Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
One of the few albums I've ever heard where it's the lyrics and not so much the songs that make it great. Brand New has reinvented themselves in between every single album they've released and their albums always challenge the listener. Very few people can honestly say they enjoyed either Deja Entendu or this album on the first listen, but they become great. Keep listening if you gave up on this record you will be rewarded.

2. The Format - Dog Problems
A great example of a band evolving without forgetting why they became popular in the first place. Catchy songs. This band got more mature on this release and this sounds like the album they wished "Interventions and Lullabies" could have been if it weren't for major label interference. The title track might be the song of the year in my opinion, but we'll see I haven't made that list yet.

1. Blackpool Lights - This Town's Disaster
The Get Up Kids were great, everybody knows that, but Jim Suptic's first post-GUK project is better than all but one Get Up Kids album. This album has some of the greatest pop songs I've ever heard. Didn't leave my CD player for at least 4 months and that's good enough for number 1

Honorable Mention:
I discovered the Smoking Popes recently and I would encourage everyone to go find a copy of their 1997 album "Destination Failure". The Popes have recently reunited and I can't wait to hear what they come up with next.

Bert's Top 5 Records of 2006:

5. Saosin - Saosin
4. Billy Talent - Billy Talent II
3. Rory - We're Up to No Good, We're Up to No Good
2. Unearth - III: In The Eyes OF Fire
1. Breaking Benjamin - Phobia

Wes's Top 5 Records of 2006

I'll be completely honest. I spent most of the year listening to music from 2005. There were only a handful of records for 2006 that blew me away and commanded my attention, so I guess this would be them.

5. Taking Back Sunday - Louder Now
I had a difficult time deciding who would take the number 5 spot on my countdown. As you can see, Taking Back Sunday won out. I owe a lot to TBS. As with most people in my age group, they were one of the bands to really expose a lot of listeners to the current scene and I'm so glad they are where they are in their careers. When I first heard their debut, Tell All Your Friends, I was just beginning to write songs and by listening to that record it gave me an idea of how meaningful lyrics could still be over face-melting guitar riffs. When half the band left to form Straylight Run, I really didn't want anything to do with them anymore. The second album Where You Want to Be really kind of dragged and seemed like a band releasing their first record all over again. At one point I read an article on the band in Alternative Press and kind of gained a new found respect for them. There was an interview with Adam Lazarra and he talked about the situation of two band members leaving and how they really did throw together their second record so they wouldn't be dropped by their label. I was very hesitant to even listen to Louder Now but when they released the single "MakeDamnSure" I really felt it was a throwback to their original style and I was welcoming to the new members once I realized that their new singer/guitarist Fred was a heck of a writer. I can listen to this record start to finish without skipping a track. I've never had the pleasure of seeing these guys live, but I have seen a ton of live video on the internet and they are the rockstars for this generation. I hope they're still releasing records in ten years.
Standout tracks include: Liar (It Takes One to Know One) / Twenty Twenty Surgery / Error Operator

4. Action Action - An Army of Shapes Between Wars
I was really looking forward to this record from the second I heard the release date. Action Action is definitely one of those bands that has their own sound. There's really no one who sounds like them, regardless of what Victory Records tells you on their stickers. Sometimes their songs are catchy as hell, other times the songs are just noise, but regardless of what sound they happen to be recording, they do it well. This record was released back in January and the fact that it is still in constant rotation on my iPod speaks volumes of it's quality. I've learned a lot from their music that I would love to incorporate into our own. Plus I'm just a sucker for bands who do cool things with vintage synthesizers. Also, I read that they even built some synths and guitar pedals of their own for use on this album. That's just freakin' sweet. As with both CD's from this band, they flow very well and segue amazingly from song to song with short poppy electronic interludes. Some people don't like Mark Kluepfel's voice, but I find it very haunting which matches the music and lyrical content nicely. People who have reviewed "An Army..." had a blast giving this record a 1 Star review, but I give it a 5. For me, great records bookmark a certain time in your life and whenever you listen to that album you are transported back to exactly where you were when you first listened to it and it brings back all kinds of emotions and memories. This is one CD that will take my mind on quite a trip if I let it. Apparently I'm sentimental after all. Who knew?
Standout tracks include: A Tornado; An Owl / The Game / 120 Ways To Kill You: An Illustrated Children’s Book

3. Inkwell - These Stars Are Monsters
Inkwell rose from the ashes of My Hotel Year, one of the best local and live bands I have had the pleasure of seeing. After they went on one of those Hip in '06 "indefinite hiatus" breaks, this project popped up a few months later with their first disc "Chaos Reveals Rhyme", but "These Stars..." went above and beyond that disc in every way possible. The songs themselves go everywhere but where you expect and you can hear the passion in singer Travis Adam's voice burning in every line of every song. Seeing them live was amazing. I saw them in a tiny little venue and yet felt like I was at an arena rock show. But back to the record, it's awesome to see a band who's not trying to follow any trends, but instead blazing their own sonic path through the local scene. They were quickly picked up by local label 111 Records and soon after, hopped on tour with Mae. There's a reason that they rose to the top so quickly. Listen, and you'll see why. There are definite Death Cab for Cutie comparisons to be made, but the two brains behind Inkwell know how to craft a pop song in true indie rock fashion. You'll go start to finish, not skipping a song, and hit the Play button again once the disc has ended. Inkwell has solidified themselves as the best that Orlando currently has to offer.
Standout tracks include: Just Take the Monkey and Leave / No You Drop It / These Stars Are Monsters

2. +44 - When Your Heart Stops Beating
This dark horse was released in mid-November and solidified itself at the number two spot simply because I listened to it non-stop at work for about 2 weeks straight. Not only did it drive my co-workers crazy, but the songs embedded themselves in my brain and I think it's some of the catchiest songwriting that I heard this year. Every song on this CD with the exception of two could be hit singles. Now THAT'S how you write a record. My only complaint is that it's over too quickly. I told myself that I wouldn't count any records released in November/December in this countdown, but this one is too good not to. Mark Hoppus, you are the man, and this showed me where the real talent was within Blink-182.
As a sidenote: Sorry Mr. Delonge, your Angels & Airwaves record was painful for me to listen to and I would like a refund.
If this is only the first record for +44, then I cannot wait to hear what happens in the future.
Standout tracks include: When Your Heart Stops Beating / Little Death / Make You Smile

1. The Progress - Merit
I don't know what I can say about this band that I haven't already said 8 bazillion times. So I'll say it again. These are some of the nicest and most talented individuals that I have had the privilege of listening to, hanging out with, and sharing the stage with. I picked up this record, hit the play button, and never looked back. I wouldn't dream of skipping a single song on this release as I would only be doing myself a disservice. Once again, my only complaint here is that it's over so quickly. Some songs barely clock in at over two minutes, but they do what they do, and they do it quite well. If I had to choose a record as my "Soundtrack to 2006" then this is it.
The sound quality is impeccable, the call-and-response vocals are spot on, and I think both Mike McNelis and Evan Weiss have very original sounding voices and are easy to listen to. Another major highlight is that the theme for the record is very easily overlooked. You just expect bands nowadays to write about broken hearts and impossible love, but this record is all about friends. I'd give anything to find out the secret to their songwriting, but until I do, I'll just shut up and keep listening. They recommend you listen with headphones.
Standout tracks include: Nightlife: Tornado Alley / Paper And Ink / Merit

Honorable Mention:
My choice for honorable mention is the band Say Anything with their disc a Real Boy. Sometimes in life a record comes into your ears right when you need it most. This record taught me a lot about myself and music in general. I highly recommend giving it a listen if for some odd reason you have not, and please go see them live if you can since they definitely put on the best live show that I saw in 2006. I'd love to tell you some standout tracks from this record, but just listen start to finish and you'll hear them.

That's it for our end of the year round-up. Be sure to check out our individual MySpace pages for additional Top 5's, Top 10's, and general randomness about the year 2006 in music.

It's vacation time for us, but stay tuned as we may have interesting stories from our Holiday destinations.


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