Music

PopMatters Picks: The Best Music of 2006

Series edited and produced by Zeth Lundy, Robert Wheaton and Sarah Zupko.

PopMatters presents the best music of 2006 in a two-week series that began last week and has included the best 60 records of 2006, the best 20 reissues and numerous genre top 10s.
On tap today: the best and worst musical events of the year.

Each year around the holidays, music critics regress and become children all over again. We get colicky and overexcited, often an unbearable combination for those who choose to remain within close proximity to us. I won't make excuses for our opinionated, list-making dispositions, but I do apologize, on behalf of my canonizing brethren, for any amplified insufferableness. Please, do not forget that while it's only rock 'n' roll, we really like it -- like, really like it -- enough to dissect the ever-lovin' life out of a multitude of recent releases, place them within the appropriate historical context, and come running to you with the results.

Sure, you can argue that music is a finitely subjective pleasure, which is only partly true; there is a rhyme and reason to it all, to what makes a good record a good record, and no number of precious personal sensibilities can defy such cold logic. You can also argue that numbered lists are reductive, that they oversimplify the entire experience down to a meaningless series of sequential, Ebert-esque thumbs-ups. Let's not make this any more difficult than it already is: there is just so much to share at the end of a year, so many albums that have both infiltrated cultural radars and soared below them, that it's necessary to deliver the information in compacted form. Each of these albums mattered to at least one person, so they're all worth your investigation or at least a paragraph's worth of your time. You'll likely see a number of records that you, too, held dearly during certain weeks in the past 12 months, some that you vehemently disliked (see, there go your precious personal sensibilities again), and, with any luck, many that you have yet to discover. In the case of the latter, allow us to possibly introduce you to some of your favorite records of the year. See, it's worth having us around after all.

This week and next, PopMatters is running an extensive series of genre-specific lists penned by some of our genre experts, highlighting the best electronic music, jazz, country, indie pop, R&B, hip-hop, world music, folk, and singer-songwriter albums of the year; a new list will be published daily, so be sure to check back often.

On Monday, 18 December, we'll reveal our big official list of the best albums of the year, followed by our list of the year's best reissues on Tuesday, 19 December, and our big wrap-up of the year's best musical events on Friday, 22 December. So go on, dig in -- there's plenty of familiar and foreign experiences awaiting your discovery.

-- Zeth Lundy

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image