2006: That's Better!

by Jeff Clutterbuck

Has it been a year already? Indeed it has, and 2006 definitely was a step up from a so-so 2005. From revitalized classic rock artists to newfound respect for current performers, this year was a bit more like it.

 


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Comeback Album Of The Year
Elton John -- The Captain and the Kid

This was one of the hardest categories for me to decide on. There were three extremely worthy artists: Meat Loaf, Elton John and Cat Stevens as a late bloomer. In the end, though, Elton takes this category simply because this is his best in 30 years. While all three albums are good, Elton's autobiographical look is not only a worthwhile follow-up to Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, it's a return to the strengths that made him a superstar.

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Indie Album Of The Year
David Mead -- Tangerine

David Mead's disc was so gloriously weird that it distinguished itself from every other indie album I listened to this year.


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Biggest Disappointment Of The Year
Scissor Sisters -- Ta-Dah

This one really hurt. I loved the Scissor Sisters’ debut album; it made my “Best of” list in 2004. Somewhere along the way I forgot about the sophomore slump. Half of this album is brilliant, just as good as anything off the debut -- in fact, some of the songs might make an appearance in a later category. The second half just is so underwhelming that it ruins the entire first half. Taken together, it's the biggest disappointment of the year, with Paul Simon's Surprise a close second.

Runner Up: Paul Simon -- Surprise

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Worst Album Of The Year
Evanescence --
 Open Door

Man this one really did suck. I liked Evanescence three years ago, but that was then and this is now. This follow-up to the platinum best-seller Origin is completely devoid of intensity and feeling, settling on trying to create a creepy atmosphere and hoping Amy Lee can overcome the material than focusing on solid songwriting.

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Most Fun Album Of The Year
Tenacious D -- 
The Pick of Destiny

This is partially to satisfy Tenacious D fans who probably did not appreciate my review of this disc, simply because I did not declare it the greatest rock album since Tenacious D. It deserves a B and no better. However, the best songs here are just so damn hilarious and rocking that it’s impossible not to get caught up in the spirit.

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Best Pre-2006 Discovery Of The Year
Yonder String Mountain Band -- Town By Town

This one literally came out of the blue. Yonder String Mountain Band takes bluegrass and makes it accessible and vital. Normally, I’d mock anyone who listens to bluegrass as being a redneck, but after playing this album over and over and over again, I can definitely see where the appeal lies. This almost overtook Tenacious D for most fun album.

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Most Heartfelt Album Of The Year
Johnny Cash -- American V: A Hundred Highways

Who else but Johnny Cash? This year Cash quickly become one of my favorite artists, and this posthumous record shows why. Unfortunately, instead of capping of his career, there are apparently plans for an American VI. Rick Rubin, I beg you, let this be the last musical statement of the Man in Black. It fits.

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Best Female Vocals Of The Year
Linda Ronstadt/Christina Aguilera

It’s fitting these two tied in this category. Old school versus new school, but both are extraordinarily talented. For the first time, I didn’t feel ashamed in liking Aguilera songs; she destroys the other pop divas of this age (Britney who?). And, of course, Ronstadt's voice has remained solid and her disc this year just proved this.

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The “Whoa, Where Did This Come From?” Album Of The Year
John Mayer -- Continuum

John Mayer was the guy who dressed up as a bear before his concerts and was really funny on Chappelle’s Show, but his music was for 12-year-old girls. At least that’s what I thought until this summer. With Try! and Continuum, Mayer has demonstrated that he is indeed a skilled, mature musician with an appreciation for the blues and true emotion, not just puppy love. His cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold As Love” is the encapsulation of this new direction; this is not your sisters’ John Mayer, and the music world is the better for it.

Runner up: Guster -- Ganging Up On The Sun

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“Old School” Album Of The Year
Bruce Springsteen -- We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions

Springsteen took one of the biggest risks of his career with the release of We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Yet it paid off in spades, since this is one of his best since Nebraska. These songs are performed with gusto and vigor and help this one inch close to Album of the Year; it's that good.

Runner up: Jerry Lee Lewis -- Last Man Standing

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Best Songs of the Year:

Meat Loaf & Marion Raven: “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”
Red Hot Chili Peppers: “Wet Sand”
Scissors Sisters: “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing”/”She’s My Man”
Cat Stevens: “Midday (Avoid City After Dark)”
John Mayer: “Waiting On The World To Change”
Guster: “One Man Wrecking Machine”
Tom Petty: “Saving Grace”

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Best Album Of The Year: Stadium Arcadium

When the dust settled, I realized that for pure enjoyment and musical quality the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Stadium Arcadium had to be the choice. It stands up there as one of the best double albums of all time; it’s just as good as The White Album. There is some filler, as with any double outing, but the best songs here more than make up for the deficiencies. Stadium Arcadium played on my iPod for months; it was the soundtrack to many summers and will continue to be. There was no other album like it in 2006.




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