Simon Rueben's Best of 2006

I have listened to more new music this year than in any other year I can think of, which is mostly due to this site. Not all of it was good, but a few gems come to mind that otherwise would have escaped my attention - making my list quite a varied selection.

So, in no particular order (other than the first choice), here are the ten albums that have meant the most to me in 2006.

Album of the Year
Delgados – The Peel Sessions
Ok, so technically it’s a re-issue, but this compilation is simply fantastic and a must for anyone remotely interested in emotive, melodic music. The Delgados are a band I actually grieve for - their songs have a knack of tugging on my heart-strings for those "there's something in my eye" moments, and I look forward to hearing Emma Pollocks’s solo album in 2007 with great anticipation. (more)

A-ha – Analogue
I know, I know, but I absolutely adore this and consider the title single to be one of the greatest pop songs of recent years. After a decade of patchy albums A-ha finally released a collection which almost equals their debut for quality, soaring melodies and certainly the finest vocals to ever come out of Norway. (more)

Mystery Jets – Making Dens
My enthusiasm for this has diminished as the year has progressed, but you cannot deny the fact that this is an interesting album, full of oddities, absurdities and a sense of drama and adventure. From the pomp and ceremony of Zoo-Time, down to the gentle melancholy of Little Bag of Hair, this is a record that is a delight to return to. (more)

Adem – Love On Other Planets
A record that has really grown on me since its release, where I gave it a reasonably underwhelming review – something I now regret. It is an inspirational piece of work, a very self contained album, almost claustrophobic at times, with a wonderful sense of time and place as it conjures up its own very unique atmosphere. (more)

Muse – Blacks Holes and Revelations
Ambitious, overblown, pompous and utterly wonderful. Richard’s review perfectly sums up my thoughts about this album. The cataclysmic closer never failing to bring gooseflesh every time I hear it, and with the stadium gigs to look forward to Muse look set to soar even higher next year.(more)

Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
The Canadian collective that came up with a wonderfully diverse album, with some great performances and some imaginative song titles (Handjobs for the Holidays anyone?) (more)

iLiKETRAiNS – Progress Reform
Songs about arctic explorers? Check. Songs about chess players? Check. What about a song about the reform of the British railway system? Got that covered as well. An album packed with enormous sounds, every song feeling duty bound to end of a marvellous wall of noise. (more)

The Divine Comedy - Victory For The Comic Muse
Criminally ignored (in fact, even I never got round to reviewing it), it has everything you'd expect from Neil Hannon - sophistication, humour, layers of instrumentation and a certain charm. The dark tale related in The Plough is a joy, as is his cover of Party Fears Two which manages to place The Associates slap bang in the middle of a German beer hall.

Stereolab – Fab Four Suture
Again, another collection rather than an actual album – the singles and b-sides here are some of the finest of their career, perfectly balanced within the two bookends of Kyberneticka Babicka. This is a gem which captures the vitality of a wonderful band. (more)

Hot Chip – The Warning
Featuring two of the best singles of the year, Over and Over and Boy From School - intelligent, soulful electronic music that never forgets to add the melody. As a band I expect them to get better and better and have high hopes for what their future brings.

Bubbling Under
Well, other music sites may consider them the work of the Devil but I still rather like the debut from The Feeling, and also rate the latest Snow Patrol release – whilst it may lack the innocence of Final Straw it packs in some excellent songs. Silver Machines also narrowly slipped out of the 10, as did the spirited solo effort from Jarvis Cocker.

Disappointments this year - I wanted to like the Keane album, I really did, but all I heard was a collection of bland, badly written songs, with painfully awful lyrics. Primal Scream seemed content to produce songs to soundtrack Football Focus rather than anything to match the excitement of Xtrmntr. Sadest demise has to be Hope of the States, whose single Blood Meridian was a tremendous return, only to see their album sink without trace and the band break up into messy pieces in the Autumn.

And as for 2007? For me, Fields are the band to watch out for. Their beautiful music, matched with production from the man who worked on Mew's latest album, promises to be something quite special.

My thanks and best wishes for the New Year go to Colin, without whom we wouldn't have this outlet, to Jon and Johnny for their guidance and support, and particularly to Rich for sending and introducing me to some fine music this year. Cheers.

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