Treble’s Best Songs Ever of 2006

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“Did I Step on Your Trumpet”
by Danielson
from Ships

Delightfully weird and mindfully quirky, “Did I Step on Your Trumpet” is a toe-tapping explanation of the all-encompassing apology. Using the story of a childhood accusation of crushing a classmate’s trumpet bell as a guide, the song’s title is now apparently how Daniel Smith makes his amends. It’s an upbeat and infectious number with a childlike quality that brings the listener to the core of what makes Ships such a wonderful album. Daniel Smith’s vocals tread lightly along with that vivacious bassline, and the echoing chorus represents the very essence of the musical collective of Christian folksters they call Danielson. – Anna Gazdowicz
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“Within You”
by Ray LaMontagne
from Till the Sun Turns Black

Sometimes artists save the best until last, as is the case with Ray LaMontagne’s “Within You.” This Beatlesque tune reminiscent of “Hey Jude,” “The Long and Winding Road” and “Let it Be” is a musical stunner. The lyrics are simple enough, echoing the John Lennon `less is more’ ethos, with LaMontagne singing that `war is not the answer, the answer is within you’ before repeating the long whispery and beautifully sung word, `love.’ But the music simply flows right through you with its elegant strings and soft horns. LaMontagne surprised everyone with this delicate follow-up to his more Gomez-y first album, Trouble, and “Within You” was the icing on the proverbial cake. For singer / songwriters, it doesn’t get too much better than this track, proving yet another cliché, that good things come to those who wait. – Terrance Terich

“Made Up Love Song #43”
by The Guillemots
from Through the Windowpane

Doubt and fear are my weaknesses. And upon listening to “Made Up Love Song #43,” I found the song of the year to encapsulate my own foibles. Aren’t we all looking for that song to find us? To fill that void that we cannot quite express yet in our heads? In the first few seconds of this song’s intro, there is a mysterious drum noise. I cannot figure out if it was intentional or mistake, but I love trying to figure it out. There is a symphony that starts out only to be scratched out, and an organ rhythm playing all before singer Fyfe Dangerfield (real last name: Hutchins) even opens his mouth. And like many of my favorites, this song has a resolution. It’s as if I’ve gone with this band through a journey, and I’m lucky enough to have learned their lessons with them. This song poses a dilemma, and then there is that answer at the end. Even better, in this case, the answer is a happy, joyful one. In my mind, the singer finds out within our own inadequacies, there still can be that someone who loves, and cares for our sorry sod self. Even if we may continually doubt. – Ayn Averett

“Conventional Wisdom”
by Built to Spill
from You in Reverse

If Treble had an award for best and biggest riff of 2006, there is not doubt Doug and Ben would share the honors hand in neck. Over driven and sublime, the choral hook of “Conventional Wisdom” explodes through the sub woofers and instructs its fans to wail on air as best they can. Uplifting in musical approach, lyrically the track tackles notions concerning the uselessness of prediction and formula stating simply that certainties lie in the uncertain and comfort can be found in knowing nothing can be known. Just as the listener settles in for what presents itself as a generic 3 minute rocker, the anything but generic maestro Martsch flips the script and reveals layers of carnival guitar work that extends the track past the six minute mark with waves of pulsating crescendos and whirlwind white heat eventually being relieved by the ultimate rock n roll teaser, a fade out. As always with Built to Spill, conventions need not apply. – Kevin Falahee

“Black Swan”
by Thom Yorke
from The Eraser

Thom Yorke blindsided everyone with this `surprise’ solo album, announced mere weeks before its actual release. As such, there wasn’t really any significant time to build any kind of expectation. The ironic thing is that it didn’t really matter. Great material doesn’t need any kind of obfuscation. The Eraser isn’t like a terrible Hollywood film that avoids bad review by merely not giving critics an advanced viewing. No, Yorke has always been talented, releasing quality music and changing it up creatively ever since 1993’s Pablo Honey. Despite many thoughts to the contrary, it was never a `one song’ album. There’s plenty of unmined underrated songs to discover including “Stop Whispering” and “Thinking About You.” And although Yorke followed the rock and roll cliché of releasing a frontman solo record, he defies nearly every cliché in the book. There were no `special guest stars,’ cover songs or radio-friendly hits. Yorke has never really followed a `traditional’ path and the album’s first single was certainly proof of that.

“Black Swan” was not only the first single, but is easily one of the best, not only on the album, but also of Yorke’s entire career. Made entirely on computer, as is the rest of the album, the song is founded on hip-hop beats with slight bass and guitar lines for flavor. The composition apparently, at no surprise to any Radiohead fan, originated during the Kid A sessions, but was never used. Any chance of worldwide radio airplay was immediately thwarted by Yorke’s liberal use of the f-bomb throughout the song, proving that financial gain, breakout fame and a solo career outside of his beloved band was never the goal. Yorke’s favorite themes have also not disappeared, including paranoia, politics, fear and world destruction. There is such a thing as a Black Swan and it appears in Australia, but most artists use it to describe something both unexpected and of great consequence, the most recent being 9/11. In the song, Yorke uses the symbol as an indictment on American foreign policy, hinting that it shouldn’t have been `unexpected,’ and was indeed an event that was brought on by those self-same policies. And yes, Thom, this is `fucked up,’ but it’s a hell of a funky song, hypnotizing its listeners into head nodding along. – Terrance Terich

“Girl in the War”
by Josh Ritter
from The Animal Years

Josh Ritter’s The Animal Years was my pick for the best album of the year. Unfortunately, and much to the shame of the rest of the Treble staff, it didn’t end up making our final cut for our albums feature. Thankfully, the stellar opening track from the album, “Girl in the War,” did end up getting noticed. It’s been rumored that Ritter became a musician thanks to hearing Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash duet on “Girl of the North Country.” Ritter’s style lies in that angelic space between those two legends, as deft as Dylan and as crafty as Cash, a voice as singular as both. “Girl in the War” opens up Ritter’s fourth album, and acts, as a reflection on the futility of not only war, but also of prayer. The narrator begs St.’s Peter and Paul to help his girl, stuck, obviously, in the war. He tells them that if they can’t help him they can `go to hell,’ a particularly funny / ironic statement that reminds me of my college Milton professor. In studying Milton’s seminal work, Paradise Lost, my professor pointed out the ridiculousness of the passage describing the war in heaven between the angels. The seraphim are indestructible, thus making any kind of warfare seem aimless. Ritter, the son of neurosurgeons, seemingly understands Milton’s sharp wit while also employing Neil Young’s gift of folk storytelling, Michael Penn’s pop sensibilities and TV on the Radio’s harmonic vocals. There are other fantastic gems of songs on The Animal Years, but Ritter hooks us in with its brightest standout. – Terrance Terich

“We All Lose One Another”
by Jason Collett
from Idols of Exile

This song is just under a year old, but it may as well be 30. Sort of a contemporary “Wild Horses,” Jason Collett’s breathtaking, twangy ballad puts genuine country sadness into a Day of the Dead celebration, observing the tactile details, such as “flower petals on the altar” and “silver coins for ghosts to gamble with.” It’s not a eulogy so much as a detached and distant observation, and yet it’s so painfully beautiful, it makes the tears that much harder to choke back. It could take a while before we look back at this song and recognize it as a classic in the same sense that the Stones, Dylan or Neil Young might be, but it sure as hell is that good. – Jeff Terich

by Tapes `n’ Tapes
from The Loon

Without the Internet kindled blog hype surrounding T ‘n T this year it’s hard to imagine we would ever see a band so content to wear the indie influence on collective thrift store sleeves shooting dice on the inside of Rolling Stone magazine. Then again, without the aforementioned computer crutches another Minneapolis band falls through the cracks only to be found years after their departure. Glad to see we all got it right this time. “Insistor” with it’s quick, thoroughbred tempo and western, jangled guitar strums spins a tale of beauty and the bastard with the narrator longing for salvation in the form of forbidden embrace and the mechanical promises that neither lover can keep. An ousted outlaw holding tight to the lies of infidelity smiles, “Insistor” proves itself a tale for the campfire as well as college radio. – Kevin Falahee
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“Hold On, Hold On”
by Neko Case
from Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Any man whose been jackpotted with the good fortune of Neko Case having applied her mouth anywhere on his body must’ve been stung by a bee from the hive in her larynx, because this chanteuse’s voices drizzles like pure honey. With “Hold On, Hold On” Case gets a little help from her fellow Canucks in the Sadies to implement a dark, twangy tale straight out of a David Lynch film set in America’s Heartland. With subject matter as vivid as lonesome red headed cuties, 3am parties, an in between girl, and valium, what’s not to love? – Chris Pacifico

“The Perfect Crime #2”
by The Decemberists
from The Crane Wife

Earlier this year, an episode of CSI featured part of The Decemberists’ epic “The Island” as incidental music. And while that funky prog intro certainly grooves, it would have been far more appropriate, if perhaps a little obvious, to use “The Perfect Crime #2.” One of a few stylistic diversions for the band on The Crane Wife, “Crime” brought a much welcome funk aspect to the band’s oeuvre. As Colin Meloy incants “sing muse of the passion of the pistol,” whilst mentioning “a well dressed man in the crosshairs” and unleashes the climactic, echoing “a shot rings out from somewhere,” no specific crime is explicitly stated, but Meloy & Co. create the perfect noir atmosphere nonetheless. And it’s one of the few Decemberists songs to which you can really shake your ass. Some have accused the band of sounding like Steely Dan here, but I don’t remember Donald Fagen and Walter Becker grooving this hard. – Jeff Terich

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