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Best Albums of 2006

Cute Is What We Aim For, The Same Old Blood Rush With A New Touch

Compiled by Jack Foley

THE time has come for the annual round-up of the year’s best albums – but while there are plenty of obvious choices (such as the Arctic Monkeys’ debut) for top long-players of 2005, we’ve decided to bring you some of the hidden gems that you may have missed out on buying.

Hence, while the likes of The Kooks and Snow Patrol undoubtedly get a mention, what of lesser known gems such as Cute Is What We Aim For, Yppah, Bonobo, +44 and Simple Kid?

+44

+44 – When Your Heart Stops Beating

What we said: When Your Heart Stops Beating may lack the towering production values and skyscraping riffs of Angels & Airwaves’ debut album, but it’s a more unapologetically staight forward offering that embraces its past, while building for the future. So while Blink 182 may long since be departed, thanks to +44 their legacy remains intact.
Best tracks: Baby Come On, No, It Isn’t, Make You Smile, When Your Heart Stops Beating

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Akala, It's Not A Rumour

Akala – It’s Not A Rumour
What we said: Akala, aka Kingslee Daley, 22, is very much a man on a mission. It’s Not A Rumour attacks a lazy, retrograde rap scene from all sides, while bringing it forward and crossing genres. It deliberately crystallises everything that’s gone before it and smashes through current rap conventions. In so doing, it draws on everything from balladry and soul to trance, punk and rock, containing echoes of Jay-Z, Curtis Mayfield, Sil Austin, Naughty By Nature and cult NY folk band, The Honey Brothers.
Best tracks: Shakespeare, Carried Away, Roll Wid Us, Cold, Hold Your Head Up, Why Do.

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ALO, Fly Between Walls

ALO – Fly Between Walls
What we said: ALO (or Animal Liberation Orchestra) is another extremely laidback mood-lifting act that’s been signed to Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label. They’re instrumentally more layered than Jack Johnson’s acoustic guitar sound and a little more funkier than label-mate Matt Costa but their vibe is such that Fly Between Walls is just as capable of banishing the blues away from any rainy day.
Best tracks: Shakespeare, Carried Away, Roll Wid Us, Cold, Hold Your Head Up, Why Do.

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Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
What we said: The spirit of Motown drifts blissfully throughout the second album from Amy Winehouse, Back To Black, which revels in old school values. Having become bored by the complicated chord structures and jazzy sounds of debut album Frank, Winehouse sought to shake things up a bit and has come back with an absolute barnstormer – one that fans are sure to be impressed with even if it’s not the same sound they were expecting.
Best tracks: Rehab, Just Friends, You Know I’m No Good, Love Is A Losing Game, Mr & Mrs Jones.

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Angels and Airwaves

Angels & Airwaves – We Don’t Need To Whisper
What we said: Debut album We Don’t Need To Whisper is all about the big songs, taking its cue from the stadium-filler sound of bands like U2 and artists like Peter Gabriel by mixing chiming guitar riffs with electronic flourishes on an epic scale. As such, it’s a gutsy listen – musically ambitious and powerfully delivered. It heralds an exciting new era for DeLonge and new collaborators, David Kennedy (ex-Box Car Racer guitarist), Ryan Sinn (former Distillers bassist) and Atom Willard (drum god of both Rocket From The Crypt and The Offspring).
Best tracks: Valkyrie Missile, It Hurts, Good Day, The Machine, Gift.

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Bat For Lashes, Fur & Gold

Bat For Lashes – Fur & Gold
What we said: Inspired by tales of Joan of Arc and a particularly vivid dream, Natasha Kahn set about crafting an album of exquisite beauty – one that haunts and captivates in equal measure… Fur & Gold is nothing short of a stunning debut – an album as unique in style as it is breathtakingly brilliant. You can’t fail to be captivated by its charms.
Best tracks: Trophy, Sad Eyes, Prescilla, Bat’s Mouth.

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Beck, The Information

Beck – The Information
What we said: Beck continues to provide proof of his limitless artistic genius with the release of The Information, another breathtaking listen. The album marks a return to the out and out funky hip-hop style of Odelay and is positively brimming with invention.
Best tracks: Think I’m In Love, Strange Apparition, Soldier Jane, No Complaints, The Information.

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Bell X1, Flock

Bell X1 – Flock
What we said: Flock is a very diverse album, kicking off with the out-and-out rock of Reacharound, with its driving guitars, and finishing off with the aching Lamposts, a brilliant conclusion that carries a strong emotional punch. In between are nine tracks of genuine worth -some outstanding, others merely impressive. It’s testament to the band’s growth that they now sound more comfortable with their sound and instrumentally much tighter.
Best tracks: Lamposts, Bad Skin Day, Rocky Took A Lover, Natalie, Just Like Mr Benn.

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Ben Harper, Both Sides Of The Gun

Ben Harper – Both Sides Of The Gun
What we said: Ben Harper describes his new double album Both Sides of the Gun as his most accomplished, exciting work to date. Never one to traditionally favour the double album approach, he felt compelled to divide it into “hard” and “soft” sections because of the clear divide that existed between the songs. Hence, the Foo Fighters approach works really well, providing fans with a veritable feast from the artist – a scintillating and thought-provoking blend of rock, soul and folk music.
Best tracks: Black Rain, Better Way, Sweet Nothing Serenade, Morning Yearning, Waiting For You, Please Don’t Talk About Murder While I’m Eating, Engraved Invitation.

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Bombay Dub Orchestra

Bombay Dub Orchestra
What we said: UK-based duo Garry Hughes and Andrew T Mackay are the brains behind Bombay Dub Orchestra, a new act specialising in a unique crossover of orchestral arrangements, lush modern beats, synthesizers and a heavy slant on the music of India. The result is an utterly intoxicating self-titled album that delivers one of the chillout surprises of the year. Think the mellowness of Zero 7 and Air coupled with the epic sound of a 28-piece Indian string section as a backdrop.
Best tracks: To The Shore, Feel, Dust, Unexpected Rain, Beauty & The East.

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Bonobo, Days To Come

Bonobo – Days To Come
What we said: Days To Come is an effortlessly classy album that revels in its sense of adventure. Joining Simon Green – aka Bonono – on this atmospheric musical odyssey is husky-throated singer Bajka (pronounced “Biker”), whose sultry tones provide the perfect backdrop to Bonobo’s deft blend of beats, samples and instrumentation. To put things simply, Bonobo has created another breathtaking tour-de-force that’s destined to become a chillout classic.
Best tracks: Nightlite, If You Stayed Over, Recurring, Ketto, Between The Lines.

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Brakes

Brakes – The Beatific Visions
What we said: The Beatific Visions is indie supergroup Brakes’ follow-up to Give Blood and comprises 11 tracks of sometimes dizzying intensity, rattled out in a spritely 28 minutes. Rather like Give Blood, it’s a bold, sometimes brilliant and occasionally ramshackle experience that mostly impresses. But the best thing that can be said about it is that you’ll be desperate to hear it all over again almost as soon as it’s finished. It’s a blast that demands repeated listens, especially in light of his trim running time.
Best tracks: Hold Me In The River, If I Should Die Tonight, Mobile Communication, Spring Chicken, Isabel, No Return.

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Breed 77

Breed 77 – In My Blood
What we said: Breed 77’s latest album, In My Blood, is a prime example of how they mix up their sound to create something that retains an element of freshness. By drawing on Latin influences, they cannot be easily pigeon-holed as the latest Pearl Jam or Metallica wanabes. Tracks to look out for, therefore, include the brooding slow-burner, Empty Words, which unfolds on an epic scale to rival the intensity of Pearl Jam or Audioslave, or the Latino-tinged Viento De Levante, which kicks off with some really great rolling guitar licks and a sweaty intensity that’s rooted in South American culture.
Best tracks: Viento De Levante, Empty Words, Remember That Day, Tears, Look At Me Now.

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Charlotte Gainsbourg, 5:55

Charlotte Gainsbourg – 5:55
What we said: Charlotte Gainsbourg may best be known as an actress, following roles in 21 Grams, Mercie La Vie and the upcoming Science of Sleep. But she’s also an accomplished singer who has been performing since the age of 13. Her latest album, 5:55 has been put together with the likes of Air, Jarvis Cocker and The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon. The result is utterly enchanting – quintessentially French in places but chic in the same way that much of Air’s work is.
Best tracks: 5:55, The Operation, The Songs We Sing, Little Monsters.

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Cute Is What We Aim For

Cute Is What We Aim For – The Same Old Brush With A New Colour
What we said: To tar Cute Is What We Aim For with the same brush as their label-mates Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boy, or even Blink-182-style bands, would be putting you close to what to expect. But their songwriting is a little grittier and tackles themes of teen angst and growing pains with a little more bite than normal. Tracks like The Fourth Drink Instinct tackle under-age sex and one night stand’s, while Finger Twist & Split is all about beauty obsession. Yet the melodies are fun, infectious and most of the tracks have that same sort of bouncing around the room quality as a lot of American bands – although don’t let that put you off.
Best tracks: The Fourth Drink Instinct, There’s A Class For This, Risque, Lyrical Lies, The Curse Of The Curves.

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Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly

Get Cape. Where Cape. Fly – The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager
What we said: It’s hard to believe, in fact, that Sam Duckworth put such an accomplished album together without the lucrative benefits of a studio behind him – but this only makes the result more impressive. To refer back to his artist’s name – having got his cape and worn it with pride throughout the country, Sam Duckworth’s debut album doesn’t just fly, it soars.
Best tracks: I Spy, Call Me Ishmael, The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager (Part One), Whitewash Is Brainwash.

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Giant Drag, Hearts & Unicorns

Giant Drag – Hearts & Unicorns
What we said: Los Angeles combo Giant Drag have drawn favourable comparisons with everyone from My Bloody Valentine and The Pixies to PJ Harvey and Nirvana. Listening to their debut album, Hearts & Unicorns it’s easy to see why. Guitarist/singer Annie Hardy and drummer Micah Calabrese have delivered a lively, raw and completely infectious long-player that builds on the success of their limited 7” Kevin Is Gay last October (which sold out).
Best tracks: Kevin Is Gay, Wicked Game, This Isn’t It, Pretty Little NeighborDick Sux.

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Gomez, How We Operate

Gomez – How We Operate
What we said: Gomez appear to be celebrating their tenth anniversary in style. With so many tracks to recommend, it seems Gomez have constructed another classic record. How We Operate is a towering achievement – great fun, ever-evolving and an absolute must for fans and non-converts alike. You won’t be disappointed.
Best tracks: Heartshapedlovedrug, See The World, Charley Patton Songs, Hamoa Beach, Tear Your Love Apart.

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Guillemots, Through The Window Pane

Guillemots – Through The Window Pane
What we said: Fans of epic, ambitious songwriting may wish to flock to the stunning new album from Guillemots, Through The Window Pane which emerges off the back of singles such as Made Up Love Song #43 as one of the most beautiful and romantic records of the year. Predominantly written by lead singer, Fyfe Dangerfield, but featuring three songs written collectively by the band as a whole, the album offers just under an hour of musical gems that just keep getting better the more you hear them.
Best tracks: Made Up Love Song #43, Little Bear, If The World Ends, We’re Here, Annie, Let’s Not Wait.

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Gwen Stefani, The Sweet Escape

Gwen Stefani – The Sweet Escape
What we said: Sophomore album The Sweet Escape maintains those high standards and proves that her debut was no fluke. It’s a fantastic listen, capable of widespread crossover appeal and almost certain to fall prey to flattering imitations. Wind It Up, in particular, is a highlight that’s sure to become a signature tune for the artist. With its cheeky Sound Of Music sample wrapped around a more distinct tub-thumping beat (think Hollaback Girl), it’s an absolute riot of energy that appeals to the childlike dancer in every one of us.
Best tracks: Wind It Up, Early Winter, Sweet Escape, 4 In The Morning, Flourescent, Yummy, Wonderful Life.

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Gym Class Heroes

Gym Class Heroes – As Cruel As Schoolchildren
What we said: As Cruel As Schoolchildren is an epic hip-hop album – fresh, exciting, innovative and above all fun. It’s cuts are sharp, funny and genuinely feel-good, while its interludes include some rhythmic flow that’s great without being offensive, self-obsessed or arrogant. Says frontman Travis McCoy: “It’s just a complete full-on summertime album. The whole fun element of hip-hop has disappeared. Everybody takes themselves so seriously, it’s become a fashion show more or less. We wanted the vibe to be as fun as possible.” In the case of this album, it’s mission accomplished.
Best tracks: On My Own Time (Write On!), Clothes Off!, Queen And I, Biters Block, Scandalous Scholastics.

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Head Kandy, Last To Leave

Hard Kandy – Last To Leave
What we said: A soothing mix of Zero 7 style mellowness and Nightmares on Wax dreaminess, Hard Kandy’s album Hard To Leave is, like its title suggests, hard to put down once you’ve picked it up. Kicking off with the serenely beautiful Dizzy Dumb, the album then proceeds to deliver a quietly captivating set of 10 tracks that are of a consistently high quality.
Best tracks: Dizzy Dum, Advice, Brown Eyed Girl, Loose Ends, Three Days.

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Imogen Heap, Speak For Yourself

Imogen Heap – Speak For Yourself
What we said: Speak Four Yourself is a mesmerising album, combining a number of styles that are designed to bring out the very best in those delicious vocals. Every note was written, recorded and produced by Imogen herself using Pro-Tools, some geeky toys and a room full of instruments ranging from a cello to carpet tubes.
Best tracks: Hide & Seek, Goodnight & Go, Loose Ends, Headlock, I Am In Love With You.

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Jet, Shine On

Jet – Shine On
What we said: Shine On is a deeply impressive sophomore effort that marks a major step forward for them. If Get Born was a fast and furious guilty pleasure made for playing loud (with the odd majestic moment such as Look What You’ve Done), then Shine On is an all-encompassing beast. It’s Jet’ (What’s The Story) Morning Glory – and there are times when it feels like the best record the Gallagher brothers never wrote.
Best tracks: Come On, Come On, King’s Horses, Bring It On Back, Skin & Bones, Shiny Magazines, Shine On.

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Joan As Police Woman, Real Life

Joan As Police Woman – Real Life
What we said: The breathtaking vocals of Joan Wasser take listeners on a magical journey on Real Life, the dreamy debut album from Joan As Police Woman. Wasser is already well-known and respected for her live and recorded work with artists such as Antony & The Johnsons, Nick Cave, Scissor Sisters and Rufus Wainwright (to name but a few), but now steps out into the spotlight to provide a delicious platform for her immense talents.
Best tracks: The Ride, We Don’t Own It, I Defy, Christobel.

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Juanes, Mi Sangre

Juanes – Mi Sangre
What we said: Steeped in South American passion and delivered with equal amounts gusto and sensitivity, Mi Sangre is a tour-de-force that really ought not to be missed by anyone who likes to keep their eye on something different. Believe the hype surrounding this singer. Juanes is turning heads wherever he travels and can count Paul McCartney and Quincy Jones as huge fans. You just might be too once you’ve heard this excellent album.
Best tracks: La Camisa Negra, No Siento Penas, Tu Guardian, Fotografi­a, A Dios Le Pido, La Paga.

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Jurassic 5 - Feedback

Jurassic 5 – Feedback
What we said: Feedback is a fantastic hip-hop record – one that revels in traditional values that place the music above all things. Hence, there’s funky samples, diverse collaborations, some superb rhyming and an overall vibe that’s definitely geared towards the feel-good. Across a mighty 16 tracks, the album never skips a beat, easing from one prospective anthem to the next with effortless aplomb and sweeping the genuine hip-hop connoisseur along on a glorious musical journey.
Best tracks: Brown Girl, Work It Out, Canto De Ossanha, Get It Together, End Up Like This.

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Kasabian, Empire

Kasabian – Empire
What we said: Feedback is a fantastic hip-hop record – one that revels in traditional values that place the music above all things. Hence, there’s funky samples, diverse collaborations, some superb rhyming and an overall vibe that’s definitely geared towards the feel-good. Across a mighty 16 tracks, the album never skips a beat, easing from one prospective anthem to the next with effortless aplomb and sweeping the genuine hip-hop connoisseur along on a glorious musical journey.
Best tracks: Shoot The Runner, Doberman, British Legion, Me Plus One, Sun/Rise/Light/Flies.

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Keane, Under The Iron Sea

Keane – Under The Iron Sea
What we said: The only downside about Under The Iron Sea is that it has to end – for this wonderfully dark and ambitious journey is an absolute privilege to be part of. It finds light from dark places, offers hope from despair while remaining angry enough to ask questions. As such, it provides compelling proof that Keane are very much a band with a very bright future ahead of them. Don’t miss out on taking this journey.
Best tracks: Is It Any Wonder?, Hamburg Song, Crystal Ball, Nothing In My Way, Leaving So Soon?.

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Kid Koala, My Mum's Favourite DJ

Kid Koala – Your Mum’s Favourite DJ
What we said: Kid Koala’s third album is a slick collection of romance, silent movie comedy and swing that your mother may well raise a smile at, woven together with classic hip-hop beats, breaks and general swathes of heavy guitars. Occasionally, it contains a classic Motown feel, while at other times there’s nods to Northern Soul; ’70s rock grooves trade places with cinematic interludes, while the various samples and cartoon flourishes merely add a unique glow that ensures the LP shines just as brightly as Kid Koala’s previous efforts.
Best tracks: The whole darn mix!

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The Kooks

The Kooks – Inside In/Inside Out
What we said: Brighton four-piece The Kooks have delivered a genuinely catchy debut album with Inside In/Inside Out, a short and snappy collection of warm melodies and infectious hooks. Having burst onto the scene last year with their single, Eddie’s Gun (which was hailed by the NME as “deeply impressive”), The Kooks have continued to grow in stature with follow-ups, Sofa Song and You Don’t Love Me. Inside In/Inside Out is therefore an excellent debut effort that walks a satisfying line between heartbreak and lust, happiness and melancholy that suggests The Kooks are very much here to stay!
Best tracks: She Moves In Her Own Way, Naive, Eddie’s Gun, Ooh-La, Seaside, Got No Love.

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Lazy B, Lazy B TV

Lazy B – Lazy B TV
What we said: The term genius is occasionally thrown around a little too easily – but Lazy-B comes pretty close to fitting that description. A self-consciously mysterious creative visionary from another country (America), Lazy-B is a unique project that adopts Mylo-style dance inventions and places them beneath Michael Moore-style narrative that contains powerful, whimsical and often fun socio-political observations and messages.
Best tracks: Underwear Goes Inside The Pants, Facts of Life, This Is The Truth, Man Woman, It’s All About Love.

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Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor

Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor
What we said: Lupe Fiacso’s debut album, Food & Liquor is a gloriously eclectic ride that refuses to conform to mainstream hip-hop practices. The themes may be similar and born from Lupe’s background as a Muslim and the streets but there’s a smooth flow to the music, the rhymes and the melodies that harks back to more traditional hip-hop ethics, rather than the bling-obsessed contemporary scene.
Best tracks: Daydreamin’, American Terrorist, Just Might Be OK, Sunshine, The Instrumental, I Gotcha, Pressure.

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M Craft, Silver & Fire

M. Craft – Silver & Fire
What we said: M. Craft writes, sings, produces, mixes and plays the instruments in his recordings, apart from the drums which are well-delivered by long-time collaborator, Paul Cook. The female voices are provided by Tree Carr, Sarah Cartwright and Maya Lubinsky and they float in and out with all the soothing capabilities of a cool breeze on a warm summer’s day. If this review hasn’t already convinced you that Silver & Fire deserves a place in your record collection, then I’m not sure what will. It looks destined to become one of the year’s most rewarding listens.
Best tracks: Emily Snow, Lucille (Where Did The Love Go), Love Knows How To Fight, Snowbird.

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Matt Costa, Songs We Sing

Matt Costa – Songs We Sing
What we said: Songs We Sing is therefore an extremely engaging piece of work that works on the same sort of formula for success as Johnson’s In Between Dreams. The acoustic guitar is to the fore, although some of the melodies are less acoustic and owe more to the fuller sunshine sound of bands like Fountains of Wayne. It ambitiously draws on elements of ragtime, folk, psychedelia, country and classical music, yet consistently delivers the goods.
Best tracks: Cold December, Sunshine, Astair, Yellow Taxi, Oh Dear, Behind The Moon.

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Mogwai, Mr Beast

Mogwai – Mr Beast
What we said: The epic sound of Mogwai is given another stirring workout on Mr Beast, the fifth studio album from the Glasgow-based outfit. Having adopted a softer sound and more varied instrumentation on albums like Rock Action, Mr Beast finds them returning to more expansive rock, providing some gutsy moments to offset the inevitable calm. See also the Miami Vice soundtrack
Best tracks: Auto Rock, Acid Food, Friend Of The Night, I Chose Horses, We’re No Here.

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Muse, Black Holes & Revelations

Muse – Black Holes & Revelations
What we said: Muse don’t do things by half measures. Their music almost always contains an epic, operatic quality that plays out on the grandest scale. Latest album, Black Holes & Revelations is a classic case in point – a towering achievement that aims high and excels in just about everything it does. If you thought 2003’s Absolution was great, wait ‘til you get a load of this!
Best tracks: Auto Rock, Acid Food, Friend Of The Night, I Chose Horses, We’re No Here.

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Nelly Furtado, Loose

Nelly Furtado – Loose
What we said: Loose, the third album from Nelly Furtado, is principally a beat driven collection, most capably described by the singer herself as “punk hop”. It features contributions from Timbaland, Missy Elliott and Attitude that occasionally serve to provide it with a harder edge. As a successor to the excellent Folklore it shows that Furtado is an artist – like Madonna – who seeks to continually evolve.
Best tracks: Afraid, Promiscuous, All Good Things (Come To An End), Wait For You, Te Busque.

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P Diddy, Press Play

P Diddy – Press Play
What we said: Whether charting old-skool hip hop territory, soul, pop, Motown-era funk or R’n‘B, Press Play always remains careful not to become rooted in one particular sound for too long. It’s lively and adventurous enough to rise above some of its lazier tendencies and capable of reaching beyond any genre boundaries to have an almost universal appeal. Hence, casting some of my earlier reservations aside, this comes as a highly recommended hip-hop release that confirms Diddy’s position as a major player once again.
Best tracks: Tell Me, Come To Me, Wanna Move, Testimonial, P Diddy Rock.

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Placebo, Meds

Placebo – Meds
What we said: Placebo’s fifth studio album, Meds offers more compelling reasons why the band continues to generate such widespread acclaim and an ever-increasing following. It’s a rip-roaring effort packed with cracking moments, yet also their most human collection of work to date. The dark themes remain, coupled with the melancholy guitar riffs that made them so addictive. Yet there are also moments of beauty that demonstrate a confident band that is continually striving to evolve.
Best tracks: Meds, Broken Promises, Follow The Cops Back Home, Post Blue,Pierrot The Clown, Infra-Red.

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Plan B

Plan B – Who Needs Actions When You Got Words?
What we said: Somewhat incredibly, Plan B’s incendiary debut album works as a mightily impressive tour-de-force that sets Plan B apart from the likes of The Streets by mixing up the sounds, dropping in samples and seldom shying away from the harsh realities that have come to influence him. The lyrics are almost always X-rated – witness “like a necromaniac raping a corpse, up the anal passage while contracting genital warts” on second track, Sick 2 Def – but if you can tolerate the expletives and the pessimistic reality, there’s plenty to admire.
Best tracks: Charmaine, No Good (Start The Dance), Mama Loves A Crackhead, I Don’t Hate You, Who Needs Actions.

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PSAPP, The Only Thing I Ever Wanted

PSAPP – The Only Thing I Ever Wanted
What we said: Anyone taken in by the enchanting theme tune to US TV hit Grey’s Anatomy might want to rush out and buy the new album from Psapp, the talented duo behind that record. Psapp are Galia Durant and Carim Clasmann and their music is inspired by “anything that’s silly and uses stupid noises”. Hence, many of the tracks are constructed around some truly idiosyncratic sounds which give it a dream-like, occasionally ethereal edge that’s more about fun than pretension.
Best tracks: Tricycle, Eating Spiders, Hi, King Of You.

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Razorlight LP

Razorlight – Razorlight
What we said: It has to be said that Razorlight, for the most part, marks a glorious triumph over adversity that maybe, just maybe, justifies some of the arrogance surrounding the band’s lead singer. Some critics have even hailed it as the best guitar album since Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, while comparisons with that masterpiece have been rife. It’s probably not quite in that category (particularly as that was debut LP) but Razorlight is certainly a striking piece of work that contains some classic anthems.
Best tracks: America, Fall To Pieces, Who Needs Love?, Los Angeles Waltz, Can’t Stop This Feeling I’ve Got.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium
What we said: Stadium Arcadium offers nothing groundbreaking or innovative in terms of the Peppers sound – but it’s just a really good listen. Evidence of a band that’ very much at the peak of their form and clearly loving what they do. Anthony Kiedis’ trademark slacker rap is revisited on several occasions here, as is his ability to deliver a smooth, catchy chorus, but it’s the guitar work of John Frusciante that really gets the biggest workout here – shifting through just about every gear imaginable, from mellow soft-rock to crunching rock.
Best tracks: Hard To Concentrate, Tell Me Baby, Hump de Bump, Snow (Hey Oh), Stadium Arcadium, Storm In A Teacup, Readymade.

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Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope
What we said: Though predominantly piano-based (having been a product of the NY cafe scene), the tracks on her latest album, Begin To Hope flirt with comparisons to everyone from Norah Jones and Katie Melua to Jem and Bjork. It’s an extremely engaging listen that wraps Spektor’s supremely enchanting vocals around some warm, lush melodies that truly delight. What’s more, it delivers a set of songs that are both quirkily worded and refreshingly honest in their depiction of life..
Best tracks: On The Radio, Better, Samson, Fidelity.

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Rhythms Del Mondo Cuba

Rhythms Del Mondo Cuba
What we said: The album is in aid of Artists Project Earth (APE), a charity that lends support for natural disaster relief and climate change awareness. A minimum of £2 will be donated from the sale of each record – so the advice is don’t be shy in digging deep! The result offers more surprises than you might have expected, especially since very few would have been able to predict that the sound of the Arctic Monkeys would be able to provide such a seamless mix with the sound of Cuba.
Best tracks: Dancing Shoes, Clocks, Don’t Know Why, As Time Goes By.

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Rocco DeLuca

Rocco DeLuca – I Trust You To Kill Me
What we said: Rocco DeLuca lives and breathes rock ‘n’ roll given that he was born the son of Bo Diddley’s touring guitarist and spent his youth on the road. His music aspires to the classic songwriting structure of rock ‘n’ roll stalwarts such as Jeff Buckley, Led Zeppelin and Pearl Jam. Yet it is also distinctive for being built around the beautiful Dobro steel guitar which serves to give his songs a grittier and more notable edge.
Best tracks: Dope, Colourful, Swing Low, Speak To Me, Mystified.

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Scott Matthews

Scott Matthews – Passing Stranger
What we said: In what has proved a busy year for the singer-songwriter, he has also supported Foo Fighters in their pre-Hyde Park warm-up shows and put the finishing touches to his debut album. The result offers an impressive mix of blues and folk that’s both rousing and tender in equal measure; one that highlights Matthews as both a vocally commanding artist in his own right and a strong musician. It’s destined to become one of the year’s most significant breakthrough albums – so don’t expect Scott Matthews to be a stranger for that much longer..
Best tracks: Dream Song, Passing Stranger, Eyes Wider Than Before, Earth To Calm, Sweet Scented Figure.

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Simple Kid, SK2

Simple Kid – SK2
What we said: SK2 marks a confident progression from Simple Kid’s similarly gutsy debut and is notable for its DIY approach and quirky sense of individuality. The inspirations may be obvious but the songs contain their own unique charm – and for that we can be grateful, for this is an album that delights in so many ways.
Best tracks: Serotonin, Oh Heart, Don’t Be Bitter, Self-Help Book, Lil King Kong, The Twentysomething.

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Skye

Skye – Mind How You Go
What we said: It’s been a while in coming but former Morcheeba singer Skye now releases her debut solo album and it’s been worth the wait! Mind How You Go is a beautiful album that marks a welcome return for Skye’s silky smooth vocals, while also showcasing a different side to the artist as well. Having been a key part of the Morcheeba line-up, Skye’s breathtaking vocals provided a perfect accompaniment to their blend of trip-hop and chillout.
Best tracks: Jamaica Days, Say Amen, Love Show, Powerful, Stop Complaining, What’s Wrong With Me.

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Snow Patrol, Eyes Open

Snow Patrol – Eyes Open
What we said: Eyes Open is an epic album of powerful anthems – some full-bodied rock tracks, others more tender in outlook – that demonstrate Gary Lightbody’s undeniable talent for songwriting. Kicking off with the relentlessly upbeat current single, You’re All I Have, the album then proceeds to deliver 14 tracks of mercurial brilliance that deliver a masterclass in emotion. If Final Straw awoke the world to Snow Patrol, then Eyes Open ensures that the focus stays on them. It’s an excellent offering that should only help Snow Patrol go from strength to strength.
Best tracks: Open Your Eyes, Chasing Cars, You Could Be Happy, Set Fire To The Third Bar, Warmer Climate.

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South

South – Adventures In The Underground Journey To The Stars
What we said: South continue to be one of the most frustrating best kept secrets in the industry. More deliberately upbeat than some of their previous work and obviously taking a leaf out of the new trend for overlong album names (!), South have really gone for it this time and it would be a crime if the album got overlooked. South may not be a name that’s on everyone’s lips at the moment but for anyone who has followed their career thus far, this third album is another essential step in their rich musical odyssey. Newcomers, meanwhile, are in for a real treat – it’s another album highlight of the year.
Best tracks: Shallow, Habit Of A Lifetime, You Are The One, A Place In Displacement, Up Close and Personal.

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The Flaming Lips, At War With The Mystics

The Flaming Lips – At War With The Mystics
What we said: Don’t let the chirpy “yeah, yeah, yeahs” and breezy acoustic guitar licks that open At War With The Mystics fool you – the 11th album from The Flaming Lips is as dark and intelligent as any of their previous work. The opening line on the Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power) is – “if you could blow up the world with a flick of a switch, would you do it?”
Best tracks: Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power), The Sound of Failure, Free Radicals, It Overtakes Me.

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Freelance Hellraiser

The Freelance Hellraiser – Waiting For Clearance
What we said: The arrival of The Freelance Hellraiser’s debut album, Waiting For Clearance, is far from the mashup collection that fans may have been anticipating. Rather, it’s a coming together of all of his past experiences to create a coherent whole – a collection of original songs that draw from the worlds of dance, rock, indie pop and soul to offer one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.
Best tracks: I Want You To Know, You Can Cry All You Want, Waiting For Clearance, Can’t Hide, The Sweetest Noise.

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The Futureheads

The Futureheads – News & Tributes
What we said: News and Tributes does deliver the odd average moment – when the boys seem to be just indulging themselves and letting loose – but for the most part this is an excellent follow-up that continues to justify the hype surrounding The Futureheads. It is well worthy of anyone’s attention.
Best tracks: Worry About It Later, News And Tributes, Thursday, Face, Burnt.

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The Long Blondes

The Long Blondes – Someone To Drive You Home
What we said: Guitars fizz, disco beats provide an infectious groove and Kate Jackson’s vocals flit from soft sensuality to menace in a way not heard since Toni Halliday’s work with Curve. If slightly arty (almost edgy) verses punctuated with infectious choruses are your thing then this album will not disappoint. Almost every song on the record could be a single and there’s barely a weak moment among the 12 tracks offered up here.
Best tracks: Giddy Stratospheres, Once And Never Again, Weekend Without Makeup, Lust In The Movies.

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The Perishers

The Perishers – Let There Be Morning
What we said: Fronted by vocalist/guitarist Ola Klaft, the band specialise in crisp songs that are constructed around tumbling pianos, emotive lyrics and a heartfelt passion that is both heart-warming and heartbreaking both at the same time. Recent single, Trouble Sleeping was a classic case in point – a wonderfully infectious offering that boasts a really striking central guitar riff and an easygoing indie-pop style.
Best tracks: Trouble Sleeping, Nothing Like You And I, Still Here, Weekends.

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The Pipettes, We Are The Pipettes

The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes
What we said: Musically, The Pipettes reference past classics such as The Shangri-La’s, The Crystals and The Shirelles, evoking images of Grease-era boys and girls bopping along to effortlessly upbeat, sing-along melodies. Some of the guitar licks come right out of the 60s era, while the clap-happy beats are made for dancing along to with the utmost enthusiasm. But lyrically, the girls are very contemporary, tackling everything from teen idenity to girl power, love and failed relationships.
Best tracks: Dirty Mind, Judy, Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me, Because It’s Not Love (But It’s Still A Feeling), Sex, One Night Stand.

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The Strokes

The Strokes – First Impressions of Earth
What we said: The third album from hip New York art-rockers, The Strokes, is an absolute humdinger and one that shows them developing their sound in ever more progressive and interesting ways. From the breezy opening moments of You Only Live Twice to the final salvo that is Red Light, the album is brimming with confidence, diversity and quality. Most notably, it features a more fuller sound, clocking in at 60 minutes, which is almost twice the length of their previous efforts so far.
Best tracks: You Only Live Twice, Killing Lies, Juicebox, Ask Me Anything.

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The Trip 2

The Trip 2 – Tom Middleton
What we said: The Trip 2, like several of its better predecessor, works as both a glorious nostalgia trip through some classic cuts of the past and an eye-opening insight into some of the lesser known artists that have inspired Middleton and co. What makes this album so special, however, is just how many of the tracks surprise for all the right reasons. Many mix CDs contains moments, or songs, that have you reaching for the skip button or scratching your head in bewilderment. This one will have you wanting to check out most – if not all – of the artists featured for yourselves, confident in the notion that you have just stumbled onto someone worthwhile and new.
Best tracks: The complete experience.

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We Are Scientists, Crap Attack

We Are Scientists – Crap Attack
What we said: It’s a ballsy album in more ways than one but not least because it throws in a few choice cover versions that really surprise and inspire, while serving to confirm their status as one of the most exciting punk rock acts to emerge from the Big Apple in recent years. Indeed, there are times when Crap Attack actually surpasses the accomplishments of their hit-and-miss debut album With Love & Squalor, while providing mouthwatering proof of a band that’s not afraid to mix it up, expand their sound and keep things playful and enjoyable.
Best tracks: Bang Bang Rock & Roll, Be My Baby, Hoppipolla, Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt.

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William Orbit, Hello Waveforms

William Orbit – Hello Waveforms
What we said: If you haven’t guessed already, we’re pretty big fans of Hello Waveforms and would recommend it without a moment’s hesitation. If you’ve been a fan of Orbit’s previous work or his collaborations with All Saints, Madonna or Blur, then this strong return to form offers one of the year’s most delightfully chilled out experiences.
Best tracks: Sea Green, Humming Chorus, Surfin’, Who Owns The Octopus?, Spiral, They Live In The Sky.

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Yppah

Yppah – You Are Beautiful At All Times
What we said: Born Joe Corrales, Yppah spent his early teen years playing guitar and bass in rock bands, before becoming a scratch DJ who mixed hip hop and house in club sets, produced weird mash-ups (such as OutKast versus Ted Nugent) and eventually settled as a turntablist with The Truth. His aim with debut solo album You Are Beautiful At All Times is to combine all these influences and experiences into a collective whole. And he has done so with considerable aplomb.
Best tracks: What’s The Matter?, We Aim, In Two, The Weakly, Almost In That Category.

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Zero 7, The Garden

Zero 7 – The Garden
What we said: The blissful tones of Zero 7 return for the third time with The Garden, an upbeat slice of chillout that’s as beautifully crafted as ever. Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns seem to have gone for a breezier outlook this time around, playing down the soul in favour of a sunnier feel as born out by several of the acoustic guitar riffs and the presence of a certain Jose Gonzales. Zero 7 have delivered a shimmering piece of musical excellence that’s effortlessly capable of bringing a chilled out sunshine vibe into the darkest day. It’s an extremely welcome return for them.
Best tracks: Futures, Pageant Of The Bizarre, Crosses, Today, This Fine Social Scene.

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  1. Um, think you missed Gnarls Barkeley!!!!

    Jake    Dec 21    #
  2. How come you mention Arctic Monkeys in your intro and then omit them from your lengthy list. There are some good choices but shouldn’t Sheffield’s finest be in there somewhere?

    Sarah-Jane    Dec 21    #
  3. Meds

    Malinea    Dec 22    #
  4. Meds
    It's the best!

    Márcia    Dec 23    #
  5. Placebo – Meds

    sen    Dec 23    #
  6. Meds, indeed!

    ll    Dec 25    #
  7. Meds is the best album!!!

    chouchoune    Dec 26    #
  8. Placebo “Meds” !!!!!

    Melija    Dec 26    #
  9. Or Imago by Butterfly Effect

    sam    Dec 27    #
  10. Meds is definitely the best record here, I agree. You missed 10,000 Days by Tool though. Meds all the way though

    Brian    Dec 28    #
  11. I join the queue.

    BBB    Dec 28    #
  12. Meds is an amazing album – you missed out Song To Say Goodbye on the best tracks, however.

    simone    Dec 28    #
  13. Melancholic sound of it, the songwriting is just incredible!
    Meds is just a Masterpiece!

    Well I agree they missed the Arctic Monkeys! :(

    Nicole    Dec 29    #
  14. Definitely Meds!!
    ::::::::::::
    The best of the year…
    ::::::::::::
    Great desicion guys !!

    bgo    Dec 31    #
  15. Meds rocks

    james    Dec 31    #
  16. Meds by Placebo is my favourite album. It has been the soundtrack of my life during this year.
    Thanks to Placebo!!

    Mexican Ashtray Girl    Jan 1    #
  17. Meds totally doesn't deserve to be top 50, neither do the Brakes and other records up there. The Blow, Decemberists, etc are also conspicuously missing.

    luque    Jan 1    #
  18. Nice list. Good to see obvious choices like Arctic Monkeys and Gnarls Barkley missing. It’s the sort of list that opens your eyes to other possibilities. I checked out Yppah and he really is one of the finds of last year. Way to go, guys. Happy listening in 2007

    James    Jan 1    #
  19. Meds fo sure… it's best by far. Placebo rock!

    Joel    Jan 2    #
  20. Of course Meds. It's the best of the best just cause it's simply wonderful

    adrina    Jan 5    #
  21. No doubt, Meds

    Dina    Jan 16    #
  22. I agree that Placebo's Meds was one of the best but Snow Patrol's Eyes Open really blew me away and also Perishers is very good

    six    Jan 16    #
  23. Meds is spectacular

    kane    Jan 16    #
  24. Enough already about Meds. Snow Patrol’s Eyes Open is the best, and the number of people who continue to buy it speaks volumes for its continued reach. It’s an epic.

    Adrienne    Jan 16    #
  25. Too right, Snow Patrol win by miles. But The Kooks were also the breakthrough act of the year. And it’s good to see that Gomez haven’t been left out. They’ve had an awesome year.

    James    Jan 16    #
  26. Meds is simply the best – Placebo are unique

    alina    Jan 24    #
  27. Good to see the great Bombay Dub Orchestra in the best of 2006. Good list!

    Dave Singh    Jan 31    #