Best of 2006: Albums

2006 saw many a great album released.  Debut albums, greatest hit collections, and live concert discs deluged the listener with enough variety to satisfy even the pickiest audiophile.  Here’s a list of what Honest Tune editors, contributors, writers, and readers thought were the top 30 to grace shelves and stereos in 2006.




30. Damnwells: Air StereoThe Danwells’ Air Stereo, powered by the spot on songwriting of lead singer Alex Dezen, the hot licks of guitarist Dave Chernis, and the steady rhythm of Steven Terry and Ted Hudson, left at least one all-knowing critic wondering if this wasn’t the best out and out rock record of the year. — Chase Farmer


29. Tortoise: A Lazarus TaxonAlthough easily misinterpreted as a ‘greatest hits,’ A Lazarus Taxon is simply a gracious gesture to frustrate hyper-avid collectors.  For this, Chicago’s sonic sculptors collected alternates, outtakes, precursors, foreign bonus tracks, compilation contributions, tour-only singles, and remixes of themselves and others.  And the undeniable consistency speaks highly of them.  — DeMatt Harkins


28. Green Light: Patient Like The Moon

This instrumental trio shows chops well beyond their collective years on a delightful piece of music that is one of the most intriguing jazz-tinged releases of the new millennium.  — Fred Adams


27. The Court & Spark: Hearts

A song cycle to hold close to the breast, humming with the quiet ache of poet Wallace Stevens wrestled into musical shapes, where lingering thoughts are given verse and melody. With echoes of Wilco and British folk-rock, C & S smolder splendidly, getting us high, so very high. — Dennis Cook


26. David Gilmour: On An Island

A masterfully crafted piece of music that grows on the listener with each listen.  Featuring Floyd-esque lyrics and Gilmour’s signature Fender sound, this is a classic effort that ranks amongst the best work of his career.  Without a doubt one of those discs you’d want with you, if ever stuck On An Island of your own. — Fred Adams


25. Avett Brothers: Four Thieves Gone

In all its acoustic folk-rock/bluegrass/country/banjo-rap glory, The Avett Brothers’ Four Thieves Gone is hands down one of the most adventurous, most imaginative records of recent memory. — Chase Farmer


24. TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain

As rooted as mythology and fresh as a chrome daydream, Brooklyn’s finest have an undying newness that never diminishes with repeat spins. Their buzzing, gorgeous miasma – the resonant product of a three-way between Brian Eno, Mahalia Jackson and Carl Jung – is a kaleidoscopic pinhole into the near future. — Dennis Cook


23. Umphrey’s McGee: Safety in Numbers

The Chicago band’s densest recording reaches out to listeners in an alluring fashion.  The trademark “Believe the Lie” tops a memorable set of melodies enriched with vast chunks of rich instrumentation.  Safety in Numbers meant progressive rock connected with improvised sass to produce winning results. — Bill Whiting


22. The Slip: Eisenhower

After ten years of building their sound, The Slip came of age and created a masterpiece with Eisenhower.  A cover-to-cover modern rock marvel, the album features the best batch of songs the band has penned and stellar production by Matthew Ellard.  From the fist-pumping riffs of “Even Rats” to the heavy emotions of “Life In Disguise” Eisenhower finally represents the brilliance of The Slip on record. — Aaron Kayce


21. Todd Snider: The Devil You Know

With The Devil You Know Snider finally gets back around to his old mantra, “I always wanted to be the loudest band in the folk house.” Joining forces once again with most of the Nervous Wrecks, most notably guitar wizard Will Kimbrough, Snider shows he’s one of the country’s best songwriters…this time he just does it a little louder and clearer. — Chase Farmer


Click “Next” below for 20-11






20. Dr. John and the Lower 911: Sippiana Hericane

Dr. John takes the high road on Sippiana Hericane and begins the healing process following the devastation of Katrina, as a burning candle brightly glows in the shimmering jazz structures of one of his best projects.  Necessity breeds timeless creativity on this classic.  — Bill Whiting


19. Comets on Fire: Avatar

The Comets’ fourth album is a rough, intensely beautiful rock pearl. The SF-area quintet has the rare gift of fully accessing the pleasures of the past (Pink Floyd, Allmans, White Heaven) and using them to forge new directions. This is primordial brilliance, tough and achingly tender in equal measures. — Dennis Cook


18. Secret Machines: Ten Little Drops

The Secret Machines’ leanings are less like their native Texas and more like their adopted base of NYC.  And on Ten Silver Drops the trio that just toured in the round showcases their penchant for painting creative chord progressions and song structures as lush soundscapes while sustaining intensity at any tempo. — DeMatt Harkins


17. The Mars Volta: Amputechture

There is currently nothing like the multi-lingual, brown skinned psychedelic mind-fuck rock of The Mars Volta.  On their third full-length, Omar and Cedric (with a heavy dose of John Frusciante) incorporate lessons from De-loused and Mute as they present what may be their most accessible album to date.  — Aaron Kayce


16. Jackmormons: Into The Lovely

The Jackmormons, working with Portland musicians Jennee Connlee (The Decemberists) on keyboards and Willy Vlautin (Richmond Fontaine) on vocals look inward on Into the Lovely to move forward as a more unified, tightened band with a recording graced by gritty, top production values that haunts and refuses to let go. — Bill Whiting


15. Beck: The Information

Having reunited with the Dust Brothers for Guero, one could say Hanson is playing the home version on The Information. The spare production and seemingly in-house samples liken a basement demo. But the other side of the minimalism coin presents a tight, clean record with a focus on funky rhythms. — DeMatt Harkins


14. Michael Franti & Spearhead: Yell Fire

Find it under hip hop in your record store, but there’s lots of reggae, rock, and even some folk and pop here. All super-conscious music inspired by his travels in Iraq, Israel and Palestine. It is “political” but check your preconceptions at the door. Franti is motivated not by ideology but by love. — Timothy Lynch


13. Rose Hill Drive: Rose Hill Drive

Their Austrailian counterparts Wolfmother may have marshalled more mainstream media scrutiny, but no retro-rocking trio rocked harder in 2006 than Colorado’s Rose Hill Drive. Their self-titled debut (recorded after shelving sessions with producer Brendan O’Brien) was worth the wait, featuring head banging odes to forefathers like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and a surprisingly effective acoustic suite. — Tom Speed


12. Railroad Earth: Elko

This two disc live collection captures Railroad Earth stretching out Todd Sheaffer’s picturesque lyrics with psychedelic rock, bluegrass romps, Celtic-inspired themes and tender balladry. With its head in the clouds but its feet solidly rooted in the earth, this is a dance band that revels in dynamics as much as tension and release. It stirs the heart as well as the hips. — Timothy Lynch


11. Michael Houser: Sandbox

Following a previous post-humous release, the all instrumental Door Harp, Sandbox is a beautifully upbeat and moving release that showcases Houser’s trademark lingering lead and everyman lyrics.  Featuring previously heard “Country Sex Song” and “She Drives Me To Drink,” along with timeless new tunes such as “Nacoochee Queen” and “No Matter What,” Sandbox serves as a reminder of the man on the moon’s everyday tunes.  — Fred Adams


Click “Next” below for 10-4






10. Black Keys: Magic Potion

What was once reverent tribute continues to evolve into a signature.  By upping the Iommi quotient while maintaining Marshall County despair, The Black Keys have galvanized their sound. The psychosomatic misery of wanton withdrawals superiorly complement Auerbach and Carney’s brutally colossal runs and pregnant pauses. — DeMatt Harkins


9. Drive-By Truckers: A Blessing and A Curse

Few bands have one great songwriter; Drive-By Truckers have three. Three alpha dogs in the pack can be both a blessing and a curse, but the Truckers manage to keep egos in check and consistently deliver great rock albums year after year. — Andy Tennille


8. Band of Horses: Everything All The Time

The raged beauty, epic peaks, dreamy compositions and emotional carnage of Band of Horses fell from nowhere in 2006.  Hiding behind a wall of reverb, crashing drums and stadium size guitar hooks, reluctant bandleader Ben Bridwell rips his heart out on the band’s massive debut. — Aaron Kayce


7. Built To Spill: You In Reverse

It’s comforting to know that there are people out there like Doug Martsch.  The Idaho native takes five years off from making music with Built to Spill, raises his kids, plays a bunch of pick-up basketball, and then comes back to write some of the dirtiest guitar riffs this year. — Andy Tennille


6. Ray Lamontagne: ‘Til The Sun Turns Black

There are no five-minute guitar solos or lengthy jams on Ray Lamontagne’s ‘Til The Sun Turns Black.  What there is plenty of, however, is great songwriting and heart-wrenching vocals.  Lamontagne’s sophomore album is phenomenal, and “Three More Days” is the stand-out track, with its soulful, Stax-like vibe. — Josh Mintz


5. Eric Lindell: Change In the Weather

Who cares if Lindell’s Alligator debut was cobbled together from previous EP releases?  It still expertly harnesses all that New Orleans has to offer — soulful vocals, backbeat groove and flavors from the bayou to the beach, all ably assisted by a great group of players, some of them named Neville. — Tom Speed


4. My Morning Jacket: Okonokos

The difference between MMJ in the studio/silo and live lies in the channel of force. On record, the intensity rises from the infinite agro acoustics. On stage, their strength proves more actualized. Percussion is pulverized. And visualized flailing bolsters heretofore-frail vocals. Plus tandem Gibsons rip from the nave to the chops. — DeMatt Harkins


Click “Next” below for 3, 2, and our 2006 Album of the Year





3. Raconteurs: Broken Boy Soldiers

Jack White needs no directions to Rockstarville, so it’s kind of ironic that a happenstance visit to fellow Motor City rocker Brendan Benson’s house might have led to the best rock record the White Stripes guitarist has ever played on. Need proof? Check “Blue Veins”. — Andy Tennille

2. Bob Dylan: Modern Times

Dylan croons, rocks, and recites. He is as tender as a lover in a hospice and as viciously biting as a mobster ordering a hit, at times within the same song. He borrows so heavily from Memphis Minnie, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and even an antebellum Southern poet that he proves himself a master thief. At the same time he proves he’s still a master songwriter. — Timothy Lynch




1. Derek Trucks: Songlines

2006 was a break-out year for Derek Trucks.  He was part of a hugely successful Allman Brothers Beacon Theatre run, and he toured with Eric Clapton, where the rest of the world was introduced to his genius.  Lastly, his band cranked it out around the world, touring behind Songlines, Honest Tune’s 2006 Album of the Year.

Songlines is a mature album that covers a ton of ground, from jazz to blues, rock to world music.  While some bands may have trouble pulling off an album with tracks of such varied nature, the Derek Trucks Band succeeds, tying everything together with the growling, screeching and wailing tone of Trucks’ guitar.  From the leisurely pace of “Sailing On” to the rocking “Revolution,” Songlines never seems disjointed despite the diverging styles of nearly every track.  Some of the tracks are road-tested, like “Volunteered Slavery” and “Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni,” but there are also many new gems on the album, like “I’ll Find My Way.”

Mike Mattison’s voice proves perfect for the band, and is showcased on this disc especially on “All I Do,” where his desperate cries complement Trucks’ slide guitar perfectly.  Count M’Butu’s percussion is a welcome addition to an already rock-solid rhythm section of Yonrico Scott (drums) and Todd Smallie (bass).  Kofi Burbridge adds soulful keyboard and flute to the album, giving the band another more-than-capable soloist.  His playing tastefully colors the last track on the disc, the exquisite “This Sky.”

However, the star here is the band’s namesake, Derek Trucks.  His playing across the board is nothing short of stellar.  His solos with both slide and fingers seem to get more mind-blowing as the disc proceeds.  There’s never a wasted note; this is one of those discs that you can listen to from start to finish, the mark of a truly great album. — Josh Mintz