Tim Avery’s Top Albums of 2006
1. Plans – Death Cab For Cutie.
Granted, this album propelled the Seattle-based quartet onto every Clear Channel station from New York to San Francisco and drilled the nail into their “underground artist” coffin, but nothing I’ve heard this year comes close to it. In terms of production, lyrical ingenuity, thematic growth and depth, unimaginable catchiness and sheer indie-pop talent, Plans tops everything I’ve heard this year, bar-none!
2. The Redder, The Better, 5-Song E.P. – Polar Bear Club.
Post-hardcore and pop-punk fused by frontman Jimmy Statt’s alternation between punchy and powerful vocals. I have to admit, what set this short disc above so many others for me was the live performances these guys put on. At a show in the hallowed 99 Custer (a Buffalo, N.Y. basement venue and community house frequented by the national collective of D.I.Y. bands) this past October I finally caught up with this raucous, devoted, and driven group. Their 30 minutes transformed a chill, leaky basement in a burn-out industrial town into a veritable fever of emotion. Since then, I’ve seen them two more times; each show building my respect for this hard-working, self-motivated, D.I.Y.-principled band. If you have a few bucks, go to www.myspace.com/polarbearclub and pick this one up. You will NOT be sorry.
3. M(us)ic, Full-Length Album by Damiera (small-run release in 2006… full-run this year)
This Buffalo-based quartet is indie-rock looking back at the 70’s progressive vein, infused with more melodic rhythm-guitar than one could imagine. They released a small-run (1000, is what I’ve heard) of this album before signing with Equal Vision Records, so the E.V. version of M(us)ic isn’t officially “out” yet, but those fortunate enough to have attended a show at last year’s winter tour caught a true gem of a disc. These guys are the hardest-practicing bunch of musicians I’ve run into thus far, and they take the crafting of the band seriously. Before M(us)ic was recorded, they were looking for an additional member. One of my good friends was thinking about trying out until he found out about their buy-in. Yeah… these guys are serious; any applicants had to front money for the band. This is the kind of dedication and risk that opened Equal Vision’s checkbooks and uncapped their signing pens—along with Damiera’s incredible, surpassing ability and hit-you-in-the-face live performances, to be sure. And I cannot even begin to describe M(us)ic… suffice to say it floors me with every listen.
4. The Nights I Can’t Remember I Can’t Forget, E.P. by The Knockdown.
I have to toss this in the mix. It’s probably not going to stack up to many bands out there as far as sound-quality goes, but these guys simply rock. They are pop-sensibilities meeting basement-punk with the fuel of a front-man who knows crowd-interaction like the back of his Telecaster. I’ve known Vic Alvarez since high-school, and his continual push to create meaningful, catchy songs imbued with his soul and society-searching ideas never ceases to impress me. Although you may not have heard of The Knockdown, you ought to look them up, book them for a show, or just sit down and talk with each of them. Their sincerity and passion will make you believe again in the efficacy of music to effect change in the real world. Their music brings people together in a way few bands can, and the songs on The Nights… are a prelude of greater things to come. Look out for The Knockdown!
5. We Are Still Alive, Full-Length Album by Latterman.
If Huntington Station, New York, isn’t heaven for D.I.Y. punk, then I’m Bill Clinton. Honestly, more independent, semi-independent, and D.I.Y. bands with more to offer in terms of music have rarely been found in one town. Slingshot Dakota, Fellow Project, Nakatomi Plaza, Bridge and Tunnel… the list goes on. But their leading representative—at least in terms of energy and passion—has got to be Latterman. The sound quality and some of the vocals are a bit off at times, there are points where the playing is sloppy, and the overall feel of this album may leave a critical listener wondering where Latterman had this album produced, but none of these detract from the overall thrust of We Are Still Alive. I find the album a powerful response to the critique that punk rock is dead. These guys live out the ethics of a positive, community-oriented punk-rock-inspired life, and their music is an offshoot of who they are and how they live. With this in mind, the disc is worth purchasing, if only as a reminder of what can be done with a little faith in something most people have deemed as dead. Listen and believe again!