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Laurence Station's Top 10 Albums of 2006

1. Tom Waits: Orphans (Anti-)
Orphans successfully encapsulates the multi-faceted musical aspects and titanic gifts of a major (and still compellingly relevant) artist. Rather than petering out as years pile up, Waits appears to be picking up steam.
 
2. TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain (4AD /Interscope)
The seemingly incongruous elements that marred earlier efforts have been masterfully blended with Cookie Mountain, the band's breakthrough release.
3. Midlake: The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bella Union)
Arrangements as comfortable as an old sweater tied to unique and beguiling lyrics make Occupanther the most unexpectedly engaging listening treat of the year.
 
4. Alejandro Escovedo: The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch)
Alejandro lives! That's the defiant message of the cathartic, life-affirming Boxing Mirror, proof that hard luck and a lack of health benefits can't keep a true artist down.
5. Yo La Tengo: I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)
Familiar but fresh-sounding, Beat Your Ass may not be a complete knockout, but it still wins the decision thanks to a high replay value.
 
6. Ghostface Killah: Fishscale (Def Jam)
As forceful as blunt trauma, Ghostface Killah is truly not afraid to beat your ass. After a previous sub-par outing, the Wu-Tang rhyme-slinger rebounds with both barrels blazing and (mostly) hits all the right marks.
7. Joanna Newsom: Ys (Drag City)
Talk about your heavyweight production teams: Van Dyke Parks arrangements, Steve Albini vocal recordings, Tim Boyle orchestral recordings, and mixes by Jim O'Rourke. Those charmed by Newsom, solo with her harp, will have even more cause to adore the talented young performer thanks to this spectacularly detailed but intimately expressed interior world.
 
8. Cat Power: The Greatest (Matador)
Memphis soul meets Chan Marshall and the results are positively sublime.
9. Damien Jurado: And Now That I'm In Your Shadow (Secretly Canadian)
Jurado's empathy for characters with damaged lives never seems trite or half-heartedly phoned in. When it comes to second-chance flameouts, few artists can match this world-weary troubadour's gift for articulating the dark patches of the soul.
 
10. Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti-)
Inscrutable lyrics are part of the charm, but it's that voice that justifies Case's continuing appeal. Fox Confessor finds Case in complete control of her primary instrument.
 
Notable near misses:
 
Top 10 Songs of 2006
 
  1. "Wolf Like Me" TV on the Radio (Return to Cookie Mountain)
  2. "Steady, As She Goes" The Raconteurs (Broken Boy Soldiers)
  3. "Emma, Get Me a Lemon" The Walkmen (A Hundred Miles Off)
  4. "The Champ" Ghostface Killah (Fishscale)
  5. "Young Bride" Midlake (The Trials of Van Occupanther)
  6. "Not Ready to Make Nice" The Dixie Chicks (Taking the Long Way)
  7. “Black Flowers” Yo La Tengo (I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass)
  8. "Lived in Bars" Cat Power (The Greatest)
  9. "Black Swan" Thom Yorke (The Eraser)
  10. "Crazy" Gnarls Barkley (St. Elsewhere)

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