This could be one of the best years that the music world has seen in a long time. After a less than average 2005 (you know not much is going on when both Kanye West and Mariah Carey are dubbed by many to be “genius”) there are already enough promising albums on the horizon to fill up a top 10 list. Here’s a preview of the records that everyone will still be talking about when 2007 rolls around.
Rivaling Wilco for mystery in regards to ‘what direction will they go in this time?’ it’s all a mystery when it comes to your favorite Oxford pals. Radiohead has been tinkering away off and on for months now. Thom’s been blogging updates. Will the guitars be back? Will it be more like Kid A? Or will it be like The Bends meets Amnesiac on a street corner and then is blindsided by OK Computer? No one, besides the band and engineer Nigel Goodrich, really has any idea. What is known: it will be interesting.
Following up on the heels of the just out Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, Wilco will release the one that everybody’s been waiting around for since Nels Cline joined the band. What to expect: who knows? Their recent live shows have been a blissful blend of chaos and beauty, as the band has continued to stretch both the limits of rock and melody. Jeff Tweedy may debut a couple of new ones at his upcoming solo performance at the Crystal Ballroom, as the band reportedly already recorded an album’s worth of material in the studio this winter.
Brace yourself now, because the hype surrounding Cat Power’s forthcoming album The Greatest may lead to nausea come its Jan. 24 release date. But you’re just gonna have to deal, because it’s gonna be worth it. Promise. Chan went all Dylan-like on this one, immersing herself in a Nashville studio with the best musicians in the land and the early results are a triumph. Her deep husky vocals are set on top of piano, reverbed-out rhythm guitar, pedal steel, soaring strings, light drumming and doo-wop backing vocals. Matador put out a 99-cent 45 rpm single in December to promote it, and both songs make you want to fall into a swoon and never recover.
Those “in the know” are nodding in approval. Those who think this band stopped making music in 1994 may be asking “what the fuck?” Yes, they’re still around. And while every other band in the world was following every new, quick-to-fade trend, Pearl Jam has continued to follow the path that Neil Young first blazed. Hear me now: if this album is as good as it should be, Pearl Jam may become what U2 was to critics all throughout 2005-invincible. They’ve been in the studio off and on for over a year, and the one new song that they’ve played live, “Crapshoot Rapture,” is a genre-busting three minutes of fury, provocation and intelligence.
Everyone’s favorite musical recluse, Mark Linkous, has been chipping away at this one for over two years now. And since everything that Sparklehorse has ever released thus far has become a “critical fave,” expect the same. Linkous blends the urban with the rural into a sound that is consistently eerie and beautiful, and the new one should rock a little harder than the band’s previous release, It’s A Wonderful Life.
Will 2006 be the year? We’ll just have to wait. It’s been four long ones since Dylan released Love and Theft (highly underrated and better than the Grammy-winning Time Out of Mind) and he’s done just about everything that a musician in his sixties can do during that time. Dylan traversed the States and the seas five times over, opened up his archives like never before and wrote an amazing, best-selling memoir. Rumors are that he has enough material for a new release and he doesn’t have any live shows planned at the moment (a feat in itself). A new song, “Tell Ol’ Bill,” surfaced on the soundtrack to “North Country,” and it’s the best thing that Dylan’s done since, well, his last one.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Tortoise
It’s like it’s 1997 and you’re having the best dream you’ve ever had, but this time, it comes true. Coming out on Jan. 24, The Brave and the Bold pairs up two icons in the independent rock scene as they tackle covers both obscure and surreal. Ever wondered what it would sound like if Will Oldham sang “Daniel” by Elton John and Tortoise was his backing band? Now you’ll find out.
Yo La Tengo
Coming off yet another Hanukkah-high, the best songwriting band in the world should deliver a new one this year around the same time that the leaves are beginning to turn. They’ve been quiet for too long and their last album, Summer Sun, felt like a let down. Here’s hoping that Hoboken’s best gives us another masterpiece like Electr-o-pura or I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One or Painful or – you get the picture.