As card-carrying music snobs, we love albums more than
singles. The wisdom goes that anyone can write a poppy, catchy three minutes of
shiny happy music, but forty-five to eighty minutes of artistic epicness?
That's like curing cancer.
But anyone with a love
of music history has worshipped at the altar of quite a few of those
"one-hit wonders": your Kingsmens, your Babe Ruths, your Romeo
Voids. And singles from established artists can anchor a record and
make a good record great, from Pet Sounds to OK Computer. Keeping
the balance of art and commerce in mind -- the eternal question in a singles
list of popularity versus innovation -- we came to a thirty-song conclusion. It's filled
with rock, pop, hip-hop and dance, including lead-off singles, remixes and
monster hits. But all it really is is our soundtrack to 2006, the songs that
got us moving in the present and excited for the future.
Tower of Love [Barsuk]
At a certain point, Jim Noir's shiny happy pop song stopped being a jingle bought by Adidas and actually became the World Cup theme song last summer. Played more times than I can remember, the music was a perfect choice for the nostalgic yet bizarrely poverty-unaware Jose+10 campaign, and it managed to never seem annoying, always retaining its innocence. There are thousands of songs about being a teenager, so it's nice, for once, to have a great song about being eight. ~Matthew Gasteier
29. "Whoo! Alright-Yeah ... Uh Huh"
Pieces of the People We Love [Universal Motown]
With the DFA gone and the snark vultures circling, there was a lot riding on the Rapture's comeback single. Bursting from speakers with tastefully twitchy guitars and reassuring cowbell, this track let doubters relax. More bright and fun than their earlier work, the boys spend two thirds of the song playfully taking the piss out of their own less-than-deep lyrics before the sublime "people don't dance no more" breakdown gets to the real point. If you're dissecting this song on a message board right now, you sure as shit ain't dancing, egghead. ~Jeff Klingman
28. "In the Morning"
So This Is Goodbye [Domino]
Although Last Exit was the more beat-dominated record, So This Is Goodbye produced Junior Boys' first legitimate ass-shaker. In slave to the rhythm were complementary synth flavors held together by an almost subliminal guitar strum, but the real gold was in the vocals. The percussive breathing was pure lust, and Jeremy Greenspan's velvet croon kept the seduction classy. Released on the same day as Timberlake's album, this was another unimpeachable argument for sexy's reemergence. ~Jeff Klingman
27. "Distant Lights"
This is not a single you listen to on the radio. This is not a single you hear in the club. This is not a single that makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. This is what the Zodiac Killer or the Unabomber would have listened to if they were on the loose in 2006. Dark, brooding and ice cold, "Distant Lights" is one of the bright spots in dubstep's early existence. ~Adrian Covert
26. "Hustlin' (Remix) Feat. Young Jeezy & Jay-Z"
Port of Miami [Def Jam]
"Hustlin'" was literally a multimillion dollar track, the shot-heard-round-the-world in a label bidding war and the single most important reason Def Jam doesn't screen Rick Ross's phone calls. But the cash-for-beat equation gets no criticism here, because it was a three-note monster, hypnotic sludge with happily apocalyptic braggadocio for days -- the kind of confident beat that makes rappers giddy to spit over. And the remix was even better. Jay-Z clearly knew he had a big old diamond of a song, spending the intro giggling right in the face of everybody else who missed out and dropping a lazy verse that let the beat speak for itself. It was ultimately Jeezy who came through and owned the place: From the sneer of his first "Snowman, bitch!" he showed he was born for that kind of happy/ominous thug beat. Try as it might, Rick Ross's terrible third verse couldn't undo that kind of perfect-storm magic. ~AJ Wolosenko
Dirty Pretty Things
Waterloo to Anywhere [Interscope]
While fellow former Libertines member Pete Doherty has focused on conspicuous drug consumption, Carl Barat decided to crank out boozy, ballsy rock with Dirty Pretty Things. One of the most succinct paeans to danceable garage-rock of the year, "Deadwood" is catchy, propulsive fun that sounds just as good in a club as in a car stereo. ~Chris Sahl
Cansei de Ser Sexy
Cansei de Ser Sexy [Sub Pop]
The drums and guitar bitch-slap you across the face for the first ten seconds, and then the synth comes by and pushes you to the ground. But then Lovefoxxx shows up and smoothes everything over. "Alala" is a consummate synth-rock dance song with its driving rhythms, catchy chorus and plenty of artificial sound. ~Adrian Covert
23. "Ay Chico (Lengua Afuera)"
El Mariel [TVT]
There is so much dumb sexist party hip-hop around, you would at least hope it would be the best dumb sexist party hip-hop it could be. Unfortunately, ninety-eight percent of the population doesn't know there's a new Pitbull album out, let alone that it's awesome. "Ay Chico" is the dance single, an on-fire mix of Latin percussion and of-the-minute hip-hop production. Every ten seconds in this damn thing something new happens, but the beat is steady and great, a perfect combination for clubs and history books alike. This should have been the biggest song of the year. ~Matthew Gasteier
22. "Waters of Nazareth"
Waters of Nazareth [Vice]
The kind of track that makes your stereo sound like it's sick, "Waters of Nazareth" is a cacophony of computer wheezing, sneezing and coughing sequenced into an electro-rock nugget. It seemed like it took Justice half the song to introduce an identifiably organic element: a ringing, over-distorted organ playing a four-chord progression with a lilting, intimate melody just within reach. But repeated listens revealed that despite its digital tough-guy facade, the track was human through and through. The computer crescendos and overall fuzz didn't really repeat, they built up and broke down unpredictably, and instead of providing distance, the lack of vocals gave the tribal-thump drums more immediacy. We really should have seen it coming. Delivering exactly where their previous remixes did, Justice managed to squeeze water from the stone of technology, and rock kids and dance kids reaped the benefits equally. ~AJ Wolosenko
21. "Bury Me A G"
The Inspiration [Def Jam]
Young Jeezy ... substantial lyrics ... what!? Jeezy may never be a lyrical great, but this effort is pretty solid, and the beat is chilling. Focused on a hypothetical scenario where Jeezy is shot in front of a club, he runs through his final thoughts before dying. (Being the baller that he is, he requests to be buried in Evisu jeans.) And if you rearrange the title's letters it spells "Bury Game." I smell some USDA Grade A beef fresh for '07, son. ~Adrian Covert
|M. Ward - Show Review (Henry Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles)||Best Songs of 2006 Picks 20 to 11|