I think I am tiring of this theme, so I can’t imagine how worn out with it my limited reading audience might be. 2006 – well, I didn’t move. This is news because for the first four years that I lived in Chicago, I moved an average of once a year – which was great for keeping my possessions under control. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and a nomadic city-dweller gathers less stuff. Well, mostly. The movers would always groan when they saw all the boxes of books, but I think of that as an occupational hazard and a predisposition of character. It’s been nearly six years now since I moved into my current place and there’s been an accumulation of barnacles, you might say. There is no room for Harry Potter in the closet under my stairs, but I do worry that all the random things I’ve chucked in there might have formed some kind of slightly sinister alliance and begun to multiply. Fortunately it’s the farthest from my bedroom so I can sleep in blissful ignorance of their plots.
And, while I began this intro as a ramble, thinking once more over the heavy-rotation albums of this year, I think baggage wasn’t at all the wrong track. I went to France in the summer, a wide-ranging though quick-moving loop hither and yon across country. Delightful country. And on a metaphorical level, for a generally happy, optimistic person, I’ve sure done more than my fair share of feeling sorry for myself disguised as ‘feeling deeply’ or whatever – I think that tendency sneaks out in the music for this year. I spent a lot of my late 20s and early 30s trying out the ideas I had about what I needed to make me happy, and then bashing my way out of the resultant thickets. After all, you can get a kind of rush from contemplating why you didn’t get what you wanted, and it’s so much easier sometimes in that you can displace the responsibility onto someone else, rather than just accepting it, laughing it off and making the most of what you find at hand. I can’t recall where I first heard this expressed, but yesterday and tomorrow are equally shut to us – when we spend our thought on anything but the present moment, we lose the small power we have to do anything at all.
So, the music.
Keane – Under the Iron Sea
I believe I was predisposed to like this album because of its cover. There, I’ve admitted it. With the benefit of hindsight and time to consider, I can now say with some certainty that this is the one album of their three that I like best. The first one, yes, some good things there; the third, frankly, I hated. I’ve heard lots of criticisms levied, most of which I think fair, but … dang, I still love “Atlantic.” Slightly miserable, slightly weenie-ass-bombastic, definitely taking oneself too seriously music. You can howl it in the car when you’re alone. Or so I hear. It’s a good album for romantic disappointment that still has tracks suitable for listening at the gym; I believe I have the sufficient credentials to say that with some authority.
Imogen Heap – Speak for Yourself
Having loved her from her Frou Frou days, this album exploded into my spring 2006. I first heard “Hide and Seek” in the car on the way back from my grandmother’s funeral – my sister had just bought the album. The layers! The harmonies! The lyrics. If you don’t have this, do yourself a favor and give it a listen.
Seu Jorge – The Life Aquatic
David Bowie + Portuguese + summertime + the implied hint of Wes Anderson quirkiness (as if the first two factors didn’t imply such). That’s all.
Aqualung – Strange & Beautiful
OK, full disclosure, I sometimes find this to be a bit too (dare I say) whiny for me now. But I still love the title track, even though I admit it’s creepy to tell someone that you are going to trap them in thrall. But as sung, it sounds so … anyway. More piano. More tinged with misery. More (mostly) unrequited love. Akin, in my mind, to some Fiona Apple in her melancholy state – as opposed to her angry version. Not for the gym.
Damien Rice – 0
In another case of being largely oblivious to someone that I later realized nearly everyone else had heard of, I was flipping through channels one night and caught Damien Rice on Austin City Limits, singing The Blower’s Daughter. And lo, my melodramatic, romantic-tragic, Irish-loving heart knew its kind. If bittersweet were always this beautiful, why be happy.
Thom Yorke – The Eraser
Another fantastic, fantastic example of cover art by the by. I’d bought this album upon its release but hadn’t quite gotten into it yet, and then I went to see The Prestige in the fall – Analyse plays (quite anachronistically) over the ending credits. I went straight home and loaded up the album. The patterns he creates, and his voice … is it wrong to call the combination beautifully post-apocalyptic?