January 11, 2007

The Very Best Music of 2006: 6&7

#6: Eels with Strings - Live at Town Hall
After last years ‘Blinking Lights’ release, I have been a devoted Eels fan. I have purchased other releases and have been thoroughly impressed with each one in a different way. ‘Live at Town Hall’ is a perfect collection of Mark Oliver Everett’s (aka “E”) tunes preformed live with a number of instruments (singing saw, suitcase, bucket) and also including a string quartet. E’s husky voice is even more charming live than on his studio albums, and the addition of strings make his emotional music that much more emotional. E has been known to change the style of his songs drastically live. While some years he has done complete electronic revisions of his songs, last years “With Strings” tour really captured a more personal side of E. This is truly a touching journey as E does his story telling in such an more intimate way than his studio albums are able to display, not to say his studio albums aren’t personal already. Listening to this cd makes it even easier to fall in love with the Eels’ lovely music. Live at Town Hall is a collection of songs mostly from his latest release but he also incorporates some of his older ones too. With 22 tracks on the album, you won’t feel like you’ve wasted your money when you buy it. And though most of the songs stay at a relatively slower pace, you won’t mind when you hear E’s words. Stand out tracks include “Bus Stop Boxer”, “Girl From the North Country”, “If You See Natalie”, and the most intimate of all “Things the Grandchildren Should Know”. Any Eels fan will love this concert. If you do get this album and fall in love with it, you can feel even closer to the action with the Live DVD that has a few more songs from the show on it as well. In short, the Eels are one hell of a band, but I never thought their music would be this amazing live.

#7 Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
It happens all the time in the music world. Overnight success stories aren’t rare. They come and go on a regular basis. What is rare are the odds of the overnight success story actually staying on the scene long enough to make a lasting impression rather than turning into a VH1 special in 5 years. As far as the soulful and funky Gnarls Barkley is concerned, I don’t think we have anything to worry about. We can anticipate more great things to come from this alter-ego duo. One minute you had no idea who they were. Your friend tells you about this bad ass band and you hope you can remember their name long enough to look them up later. The next minute you can’t walk into a gas station without hearing ‘Crazy’ as someone’s ringer (except me, I got ‘Just a Thought’). ‘Crazy’ became everyone’s favorite song before we had a chance to not like it. It swept the nation by storm just as the album did. St. Elsewhere is easily the “believe-the-hype” album of the year. Nearly every song on it is worth listening to again and again. I never cared for Cee-Lo Green’s solo albums. People would recommend them, and I would buy them, and inevitably end up selling them back for next to nothing. However, I think the rest of the nation would agree with me when I say that Gnarls Barkley has been one of the best debut stories of the year. One R&B artist and one magnificent DJ (Danger Mouse) combined their creative minds for a finished product worthy of much praise. St. Elsewhere’s combination of intellect and clutter has put this album amongst the top 10 albums of this year.

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