In our last edition of MEB Ranks (for this year, chill), we take a look at our top choices for the absolute year that was 2006. The year was pounded by not only an economic boom (stock market speak), but also a thunderstorm of album, upon album – one after another it seemed. The sheer magnitude of stellar releases still astounds me – and the rest of our staff. Seriously, believe it.
Jarrod Church’s #1 Album – Decemberunderground by AFI
There aren’t many summers I can remember where I only played one album on repeat. Literally, the CD never left my car player for three straight months. What’s more impressive is that even after hearing the constant noise (which played in my dreams, I swear) for such a long period of time, it never got old. Still, to this day, I can listen to it in its entirety and not feel an ounce of regret that it was over-played (which, it was). To be a truly great album, the collection of songs must be able to address this issue – being over-played, and never releasing its grasp from you. While there may be times where tracks will be skipped over, the record in itself will always be at the top of my collection. And although countless other outstanding records were released that year, this one still presents itself in bold – the others? Maybe italicized?
Jacob Testa’s #1 Album – 37 Everywhere by Punchline
A short time after this album was released, Punchline opened for the first concert I personally paid to go to. The band wasn’t on the bill, but their performance made me immediately purchase this album, and I don’t think any other concert purchase has ever had as much of an impact on me as these eleven songs did. As time goes on, these tracks gain new meaning, while still maintaining the same connection to the past. It grows, in a way a lot of pop-punk simply doesn’t. There are only a few records that top this one for me, and I could give you a number of more reasons why (I’d have made some sort of “37” pun there, but that would be selling this record short). The lyricism is poignant and eloquent, the musicianship on point. The guest vocals from Anthony Raneri in “Flashlight” and the line “Ain’t nobody gonna bring me down, ’cause my boy John Beatz got my back” in “They Are Strong Hands,” alongside the obvious title reference and dedication to the deceased drummer give this album close ties to Bayside, a band that would later become a personal favorite, and it’s exactly those sorts of things that make this album such a powerful piece of work. As a pretty big fan of pop-punk, I’d have to say this is one of the best albums the genre’s ever seen. Oh, and like the liner notes say: “The number 37 is everywhere. It is in your daily routine and it will surprise you. Look for it and it will look for you.”
Johnny Frazier’s #1 Album – Food & Liquor by Lupe Fiasco
I’d almost stopped listening to hip-hop at this point, given the painful trends that promoted a staggering level of sameness in the genre. You know times were tough when T.I.‘s King was the best album around. Then a friend of mine showed me “Daydreaming” and I immediately fell in love. Tracks like “Kick, Push” took me away to a time to when things were not only simpler but the genre was much more enjoyable. Then I listened to it as a whole, and was floored that it had such a brilliant message to it. It’s still rare that hip-hop albums seem like coherent albums with a message and a vibe. I still listen to songs like “Kick, Push Pt. 2” just to hear the lyrical skill that Lupe has. While he may be a bit too preachy for my liking nowadays, this will forever be one of my favorite albums of any genre.
Jack Suitor’s #1 Album – The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me by Brand New
What is perhaps most impressive about Brand New’s magnificent The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me is that it easily topped their previous classic, Deja Entendu. While Deja certainly showed they were capable of bigger and better things than just the simple pop-punk of their debut, Brand New completely embraced their more mature side in 2006 and ended up creating an extremely enthralling and dark record. Whether it was the quiet beauty of “Jesus Christ,” the explosive catharsis in “Sowing Season (Yeah)” and “Luca,” or the depressed passion of “Limousine” and “Degausser,” every song was superb. Also, because every single moment on the entire album shared the common ground of intense anguish, each track fit in well together and gave the overall experience a very natural and comfortable ebb and flow. Ultimately, there is no single element that makes it stand out as an all-time classic, but the combination of cohesion, talent, and passion makes The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me a record that, after six years, I still want to come back to again and again.
Eric Schulz’s #1 Album – Brother, Sister by mewithoutYou
Brother, Sister is a truly inspiring record. You don’t have to be Christian or somehow otherwise involved in religion to get fully enchanted from the poetry of Aaron Weiss – his metaphoric stories and highly expressive one-liners will find a way in your head, stay there, and turn back and forth until they just make sense for you, regardless of your religious thinking. And while the lyrics are delivered in the most heartfelt and passionate singsong you‘ll ever hear, the amalgamation of post-hardcore dissonance, stripped down acoustic stroking and textured soundscapes underneath eventually rounds out this record as the emotional gripping and musically unique experience that it is.
Tim Dodderidge’s #1 Album – Comatose by Skillet
Skillet was a band that revolutionized my musical taste. They headlined the first concert I ever went to. They were the first “heavy” band I ever listened to. Aside from Switchfoot, the Tennessee natives truly got me into music. The band’s big breakthrough, Comatose, is an album that I still hold as one of the greatest musical compositions I’ve ever heard. The meshing of strings and guitar jabs create a melodramatic, nearly overappealing dynamic in “Rebirthing” and “Comatose,” where the deeply-driven voice of John Cooper takes command of the music. “The Last Night” sees John trade verses with his wife, guitarist Korey, while “Whispers In the Dark” finds the band trekking into murky grounds sensationalized by synths and alt-metal guitar riffs. While the instrumentation is as tight as ever, the lyrics always seem to get me. Hopeful and intense, nostalgic and spiritual, Comatose’s songwriting should be held in the highest regards possible. While I’ve mostly expanded from Christian rock to other genres, Skillet’s Comatose remains at my roots and will always be one of my favorite records of all-time.
Nick Niedzielski’s #1 Album – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not by Arctic Monkeys
With the release of their debut, Arctic Monkeys became one of the most hyped up and talked about bands of the year, for good reason. This album doesn’t really sound like anything else released around then. It’s reminiscent of what bands like Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes were doing, but still has a completely unique sound. Singles “I Bet You Look Good On the Dance Floor” and “When The Sun Goes Down” have a biting dance-punk feel, while tracks like “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secure” and “A Certain Romance” are grooving indie rock numbers. The entire album is incredibly catchy and there are hooks galore, but it still has a grimy, garage rock sheen to it. While Arctic Monkeys have adjusted their sound for subsequent releases, Whatever People Say I Am… remains a classic album, dripping with youthful exuberance.
Jason Gardner’s #1 Album – The Always Open Mouth by Fear Before The March Of Flames
Before they dropped a few words from their name, Fear Before was on the cusp of something truly unique in the realm of post-hardcore. Dropping a hefty amount of the Botch-ism in Art Damage, the Colorado-based outfit honed in on their songwriting and heaped in a ton of their seemingly out-of-nowhere electronic influences. What results is their strongest work of their career – a record that challenges conventions of their own music and their peers as well. In a time when breakdowns were running rampant, Fear Before proved that you could destroy your own rules without alienating your sound at the same time.
Landon Defever’s #1 Album– Futuresex/Lovesounds by Justin Timberlake
Oh, Justin Timberlake, I had you wrong all along, didn’t I? It’s hard to think that there was a version of JT before he grew into everybody’s favorite leading man, SNL host and all-around man candy, but indeed, there was. After N*Sync disbanded in 2002, Timberlake came out with a solo career that exploded with hits like “Cry Me A River” and “Rock Your Body.” Though the star was in hot water from a Super Bowl nip-slip scandal and beef with Ashton Kutcher, there was still one thing that kept me from liking the artist: his ego. However, after Timberlake released his Timbaland-produced follow-up Futuresex/Lovesounds, that all soon melted away. The star suddenly became vulnerable and all-around much more likable. Not to mention, the music spoke for itself. “Sexyback,” “Lovestoned” and “Damn Girl” are dancefloor-ready detonations that, to this date, will assuredly start any party. From there on out, Timberlake shook any preconceived notions that he was just an arrogant pretty-boy and became something much greater – a full-blown pop sensation.
Corey Hoffmeyer’s #1 Album – Still Searching by Senses Fail
Senses Fail has never really made an album that has disappointed me, but Still Searching is their masterpiece. Dealing with subjects like losing one’s faith (“The Rapture”), death (“The Priest And The Matador”), and – of course – love lost (“Every Day Is A Struggle” is perhaps one of the strongest break-up songs in the band’s repertoire), Still Searching contains a little something for every Senses Fail fan. The album’s repeat value is extremely high even six years after its release; Still Searching is still one of the best and most groundbreaking albums of Senses Fail’s ten-year career.