In light of this, here are the Freedom Camp Awards for First and Second Best musical acts of 2006, the artists who I felt showed the greatest artistry and showmanship (not to mention commercial savvy -- nothing wrong with that), and to whose music I simply couldn't stop listening:
When that notoriously fickle bitch Elton John is fawning over you, you know you got it goin' on. What we hear on this their sophomore venture is a stretching out, a building upon, which is in itself laudable. Where Hot Fuss was almost exclusively super-confident, bittersweet love songs, Sam's Town showcases a broader range of themes. This isn't always a good thing: the lyrics to "Uncle Jonny," for one thing, veer uncomfortably into early 10,000 Maniacs territory ("When everybody else refrained/My uncle Jonny did cocaine" -- yeah, okay, whatever Brandon.)
Nevertheless, nevertheless. The product as a whole is as polished and perfect in its Vegas theatricality as their debut release, but here there is more nuance, more uncertainty, underlain with a greater wisdom -- just a touch more grit, which was all they needed. The Killers' Sam's Town bears multiple listens quite well, is as close to pop perfection as you can get, and as far as I am concerned is the second best album of 2006. Highlights include the singles "When You Were Young" and "Bones," as well as "For Reasons Unknown" and "This River Is Wild."
The following act is dirtier, grittier, and artier, yet in its own way just as melodic and catchy. Frontwoman Karen O exudes the NYC vibe from her pores; she is the bizarrely stylish Factory girl to Brandon Flowers's stagey lounge lizard. She works well within her limited range, and indeed, in the upper register of the notes she achieves at the end of certain phrases, one can discern the faintest echo of the gilded brass tones of Judy Garland, as pure and warm as soundstage snow. And Nick Zinner's guitar work is otherworldly -- he may be a self-avowed "little vampire," but here he only gives, and quite generously.
And as the Killers seem to be inching towards experimentation with slightly more tense and more elaborate arrangements, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs underwent a sort of devolution; they did not rise from below, or move laterally, but fell from the sky with a new set of songs as poppy and driving as lullabies -- a maneuver first hinted at in last year's single, "Maps."
No album I've heard this year is so chock-full of radio-friendly, possible top-40 singles (eat it, the Strokes.) Every song is a winner. There isn't a false or faltering moment on the whole record. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Show Your Bones is the best rock album of 2006.
(Honorable mention goes to -- please don't hurt me -- Gwen Stefani's oddly hilarious new cash-grabby, single-cum-LAMB commercial, "Wind It Up." It's disjointed, undanceable, and utterly brilliant -- so awful it's great -- as much Philip Glass as it is Timbaland. Give the girl her propers.)
Some of you may be wondering why I'm only updating about three days a week; it's because my computer at home is brizzoke and I can only access the Superinfohighwayinterwebs from work (shhh!) And of course, I'm very poor. Donations for a new computer welcome: This is what I've got my eye on; I've put it on my wish list:
Anyone want to help?