Eric O's absurdly-specific end-of-year music wrapup!

The Nully Awards

Eric O’s absurdly-specific end-of-year music wrapup!

The Best:

Best Album By A Band With Cartoon Mascots:
Evil Nine: You Can be Special Too
Barely edging out the new Gorillaz album, Evil Nine gives us a debut on Adam Freeland’s Marine Parade label that is a surprisingly engaging fusion of nu-skool breaks, hiphop, and even a little britpop. Their angry-little cartoon caricatures just sweeten the deal.

Best Album That You Could’ve Had It So Much Better Than:
Franz Ferdinand: You Could’ve Had It So Much Better
Their first album was one that, for me, just sort of faded into the background of pop music. “Take Me Out” was one of those omnipresent, catchy, yet in the long run annoying, tracks that never did much for me. Their new album, though, displays more songwriting skill, less reliance on the “beat-you-with-the-hook” method, and some surprisingly clever lyricism. I’m impressed.

Best Album that Destroys Everything It Touches
Ladytron: The Witching Hour
I liked “604”, although I found a lot of the tracks to be either filler or ripoffs of Kraftwerk. I loathed “Light and Magic”, finding it pretentious, boring and badly produced. Then I heard the leadoff single from “Witching Hour” – “Destroy Everything You Touch”, and I was hooked. They take a step away from the icy bleeps, take a step closer to the microphones, and actually kind of rock out. Well, as much as a cutsey electroband can. “International Dateline” and “White Light Generator” are also standout tracks.

Album most likely to, you know, “get” what I’m trying to say, man.
Royksopp: The Understanding
While it lacks the vocal presence of Erland Oye, or the monsterous, angular hooks of “Eple” and “Poor Leno”, the new Royksopp doesn’t lack in catchiness. It is a more straightforward, less experimental album than “Melody A.M.”, but it retains some of that austere, scandinavian sound, but punches it up with some decent dance tracks, funky beats, and mellow vocals. And the last minute or so of “Circuit Breaker” is just awesome.

Best Album by a Persian Swede Who Collects Hats
Arash: Arash
It’s Desi, it’s R&B, it’s bollywood, it’s in Farsi, it’s really catchy. I was worried at first, as the singles “Boro Boro” and “Tike Tike Kardi” seem almost identical – same bouncy bassline, same kind of chorus, same bhangra rhythms…but it’s really just an aberration. This is not to say there’s not a large amount of overall goofiness to the album – boy is there, especially with a track like “Arash”, which as far as I can tell, is a tribute to the artist BY the artist.

Best Indie-Roc Album
Bloc Party: Silent Alarm
“Like Eating Glass” just kicks ass.

Best Low-key Album by a Band I’ve Played a Show With
Bloodwire: Transformation
I was originally going to use this category for Hungry Lucy’s pretty-awesomeness “To Kill a King”, but “Transformation” is so mellow it makes “To Kill A King” seem a gabber album by comparison.

Best EP Involving Hair removal
Sex Genius: The Sex Genius EP
“It’s Very Smooth (I Shaved My Chest)” is the most brilliantly warped bit of music I’ve come across in a while.

Best Lebanese Hip-Hop Album
Clotaire K: Lebanese
Usually, a lot of genre-crossover albums tend to be pretty weak and corny. Or worse, new-agey. Clotaire K is not. This is good hiphop, it’s good middle-eastern stuff, it’s got Natacha Atlas on a track…it’s pretty awesome.

Best Album They’ve Made Since The Early 1990’s
Depeche Mode: Playing the Angel
Ahhhhhhhh. I’d been worried about the seemingly unrecoverable downward slide the Basildon boys had been making. Ultra had some decent tracks, Exciter had a few too…but each album seemed a bit less ambitious and a bit more like the guys were not aging well. PtA comes back in full form. It’s not quite up to the lofty standards of “Violator” but it does feature a lot more punch, a lot more hooks, better melodies, and better lyrics than their last few outings. About friggin time.

Best Album By A Grad Student in Lingustics
Stromkern:Light It Up
Now, the people on the left, let me hear you say that this is a really kickass album and you’re going to buy it. Now the people on the right, there’s no time to waste, gunna start it off now and order from Amazon, bring it on now. Now the people in the front, let me see those hands up, stand up and ask for Ned to not take another 4 goddamn years to make an album.

Best Local Rock Album That I Wish Was Mixed a Little Better
German Art Students: Name Droppers
It’s catchy post-punk, jangly guitars, clever and funny lyrics – “Dick Clark (hated our demo tape)” is an instant classic – it’s just a shame that on most of the album the vocals get completely buried and the mix is muddy.

Best Local Punk(ish) Album That I Engineered, Featuring a Member of My Band
The Stint: The Stint
An ambitious project, to put together a band, write songs, record an album and play a show in the span of a month, and I’m proud of those kids for pulling it off. Messrs Clark and Budziszewski wrote some damn catchy tunes, their show was fun, and I can say with a little self-serivtude that I did a pretty kick-ass job recording, mixing and mastering their entire EP in under 24 hours.

Best EP I Released This Year
Null Device: The London EP
C’mon, it’s free, you know you want it.

Best Album That Misleads You By Thinking There Might Be Some Hot Action Involved
The New Pornographers: Twin Cinema
There is neither film nor pronography involved…although Neko Case is pretty hot. Just good solid tunes.

Best Album That Despite What The Synthpop Kids Say Isn’t a Rock Album
Iris: Wrath
There was a lot of hullabaloo and hoohah over the fact that Iris uses a guitar on their album, and for a lot of the synthpop kids this was a total turnoff, because now Iris is making a “rock” album. Well, it’s their loss because this is a fucking good album. The sound design is awesome, the melodies get stuck in your brain for weeks, the vocals are spot-on, and the guitar fits perfectly into the songs. Seriously excellent stuff.

Best Album That I’m Currently Obsessed With
Imogen Heap: Speak For Yourself
While it may be a bit overpolished in a few spots, and occasionally teeters dangerously close to the Tori Amos Really Deep Lyrics Precipice, it never really loses its way. Every song is well-written, even the goofy pop songs have a little bit of a dark side to them, the electronics are supremely well-done, and the vocals are great.

Best Album I was Obsessed With Earlier This Year
Iio: Poetica
Everybody heard the hell out of “Rapture” from 2001 to this year, because it was on every Ministry of Sound compilation ever. Their full-length is really good. A few missteps – the drum programming sometimes seems a little hackneyed and the autotuner can be a little jarring – but overall it’s nice to hear some electronica with a vocalist who is neither a floaty angelic chick or a house/soul diva.

Best Live Album/DVD By A Trailblazing German Electronic Band
Kraftwerk: Minimum-Maximum
Dude. DUDE. It’s Krafterk. KRAFT. WERK. And the DVD rules!

Best Album By A Band That’s Slept On My Couch
Back And To The Left: Obsolete
Catchy, well-programmed, danceable, yet not mired in a lot of the cliches that plague teh futarpop. And they have good taste in brisket.

Best Album They’ve Made Since the Late 80’s
New Order: Waiting For The siren’s Call
To be fair, neither Republic nor Get Ready were bad, but it just seemed they’d lost a lot of the spark that made an album like Technique so damn good. A lot of
that seems to be back now. Still no Technique, and the guys are starting to show their age a bit, but WFTSC is loaded with catchy melodies, jangly guitars, and Peter Hook’s unmistakeable bass. They’ve gone back to basics, and it makes me happy.

Best Album By A Bunch of Persians Living in LA
You’d think that persian music, electronica, and lyrics taken from sufi and urdu poets would spell “new-age conceptual disaster”, but luckily veteran producer Carmen Rizzo is involved and subsequently the album never fully devolves into overt spooky-floatiness. It’s not an uptempo album by any means, but it hangs on to a steady pulse for that head-nodding effect.

Best Gothsicles Album
The Dark Clan:Vampires Dance!

Best of the Fabric CDs released this year
FabricLive 19: Freestylers
Some excellent funky breaks. The track by the breakfastaz is worth the price of the comp.

The Not Best:

Most Overhyped New-Wave Revival Album that Nonetheless Had a Few Good Tracks
The Bravery: The Bravery
“An Honest Mistake” and “Unconditional” were really standout tracks. Some of the best of this year’s new-wave warmed-over revival, in fact. The rest of the album was either just sort of “eh” or in fact sort of confusing. “Public Service Announcement” is marred by some of the most embarassing lyrics in a while, and an awful lot of wind noise in the microphone (seriously, guys, a pop filter is like $8…). It’s not a bad album by any means, but it coulda been so much better.

Worst of the Fabric CDs released this year
FabricLive 24: Diplo
While it did have “Windowlicker” on it, it’s mostly bad mashups and old 80’s electro-rap. It’s also oddly lo-fi.

The “Well, there’s $15 and an hour of my life I’ll never get back” award.
Even more disappointing to me than White Town’s “Women in Technology.” “Golden” was led-off with the strong single “Apart”, featuring robert-smith-esque vocals, monster drumming, catchy guitar riffs, and bleepy synths. The rest of the album, unfortunately, is watered down sub-erasure candy synthpop, still delivered with the Robert-Smith-ish vocals, which goes from interesting to irritating extrememly quickly on that backdrop. Ugh. Bad bad bad.

A Decent But Ultimately Disappointing Album By A Guy With An Inexplicable Crazy-Guy Beard
Conjure One: Extraordinary Ways
Not bad, but not as good as the first album. It veers awfully close to adult soft-rock in spots, and Rhys should 1) shave and 2) reconsider doing his own vocals.

Hot Cover, Disappointing CD
DJ Rap: Bulletproof
Charissa is smokin on the album cover, all matrix-y and form-fitting leather. But the album itself is almost a compilation of other artists, and her own compositions tend to go on about a minute too long. She was able to do on her debut what few had – fuse a pop song structure with drum-n-bass. This album is all drum-n-bass and while it’s not bad drum-n-bass, it’s not nearly as interesting as I’d hoped.

There it is. Happy 2006.

(X-posted to teh el-jay)