Terribly Happy Best of '06 CD: No, for reals this time

Hello, happy people.

You don't have to tell me how ridiculous this has gotten. It's April and I'm still trying to get this "Best of 2006" going. We have a whole quarter of a 2007 already to choose music from! Why dwell on the past?

Well, for one thing, this CD is done and for another, it's the last one I'm doing. If there's a Terribly Happy music compilation for 2007 it'll be distributed online somehow either via an iTunes playlist or some other clever method that you can buy on the cheap and burn yourself. Most of you have Internet and CD burners. You don't need my crude CD labels and we don't need to bother the U.S. Postal Service with all this.

But enough about that. This year's is this year's and I want to share it with you.

The CDs 2004 and 2005 were a mix of songs from albums I bought that were released in those years. This year there are some songs included that I found as singles and didn't necessarily purchase the whole CD. Call it the iTunes effect or the effect of listening to a lot of Sirius radio and finding new music that way. I bought a lot of CDs, but I downloaded even more music (yes, through legal channels) and sampled lots of free MP3s and compilations.

Here's some artists that didn't make the list even though I bought a CD, downloaded a song, or planned to include them at one time or another: Paulina Rubio, The Raconteurs, Dixie Chicks, Tool, Gomez, The Decemberists, Justin Timberlake, The Flaming Lips, Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins, Regina Spektor, Peter Bjorn and John, Kelly. There are probably more, but I don't want to spend from now till May trying to remember the rest.

Here's the options for donation to get a copy of the CD:

1. Paypal -- you Paypal me $1 to cover the CD and first-class shipping. Stamp prices have gone up (again!), but I'm leaving it $1. Click below to do so:


2. SASE -- mail me a stamped envelope, I'll hit you back with the CD. E-mail me and I'll send you my mail address.

3. E-mail me the address, screw the $1 -- if you don't use paypal or your life is too crazy to do the SASE thing (believe me, I can relate), just send me your address and I'll mail you a CD anyway. I'm in this for a few bills for you. We're doing this on the honor system, but don't feel bad if you just want a CD and don't want to deal with payment. You can hit me back with a nice note later if you enjoy the CD, or better yet, go buy some of the CDs by these fine artists or download some (hopefully DRM-free) music on your online service of choice.

So that's it. Here's a track-by-track rundown.

1. The Henney Buggy Band -- Sufjan Stevens
Album: The Avalanche
Sample lyric: Oh life, with your colorful surprises Eleanor, how you put one on disguises

I've written about our experiences "At the SurfJam" before, but seeing him in concert remains one of the musical highlights of '06 for me. The concert was mesmerizing, coming as it did when I was still completely enthralled with Illinois. It was just good timing and I feel lucky I was there in the midst of all the Austin City Limits weekend craziness. This song isn't even from Illinois, which I found too late, but from the follow-up, The Avalanche, which is basically leftovers and alternate takes from the previous album. How is it that these leftover crumbs are so much better than most artists' main courses? I love that this song starts the album and I love that Sufjan is a crazy, weird, prolific mofo whom you just want to hug and ruffle his hair and buy a Coke. Cheer up, Li'l Sufjan! Things will get better! You've got musical chops!
Also good: "The Avalanche," "The Mistress Witch From McClure (Or The Mind That Knows Itself)."

2. Arctic Monkeys -- When the Sun Goes Down
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Sample lyric: And I've seen him with girls of the night / And he told Roxanne to put on her red light. They're all infected but he'll be alright / Cause he's a scumbag, don't you know

I know these guys are probably cheeky young assholes, but their album, which sold a crazy number of copies in the U.K. after being a hit online, is good. Really good. Like listen to at the gym to get pumped up good. They were dicks on SNL and by most accounts they stunk up the joint at last year's South by Southwest, but they also put out a really good album and they're, what, 14? They already have a follow-up coming out that sounds every bit as tight and smart. They're the kids that you hear in the middle of the night vandalizing your neighbor's house. You come out and yell, "Hey, what do you think you're doing?" and they're like, "Hey, fuck you, old man, go back to bed" and you completely lose it and yell back, "I will fucking CALL THE COPS if you don't get out of here, you little shits!" And they laugh and go, "Whatever, dude" and amble off while you think, "Old man? I'm 31!" and as they wander out to their shitty car and drive off, for a brief moment you wish to God you were that age and going with them to commit acts of random no-goodness. Oh, also, this song is fantastic.
Also good: "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor," "A Certain Romance."

3. Lily Allen -- Cheryl Tweedy
Smile (single)
Sample lyric: I wish my life was a little less seedy, Why am I always so greedy? Wish I looked just like Cheryl Tweedy, I know I never will, I know I never will.

I love Lily Allen and I don't care if everyone knows it. Even if the whole tough, sassy, brassy Brit-a-brat thing is a huge act, it's a good act, one that I can get behind in a way that includes 99-cent online purchases. She's got a good voice, a great taste in musical samples, a great songwriting hand and a look that screams, "I'm pretty, but not in a way that makes you think you can't get me" that in its way is even more unattainable than Cheryl Tweedy looks. Which brings us to this song, which isn't even on the fantastic Alright, Still album (which, by the way, took months and months to get to us after it was released and popularized in the U.K.). This is a damn b-side off a single, y'all! And it's this good. Can you imagine what the actual album is like? You should just buy it! It's like $7.99 everywhere. She was on SNL and at South by Southwest. This particular song is supposed to be cheeky, so don't take a word of it seriously, but damn if it's still not a great song that just happens to take a cheap shot at a British C-list celebrity we Yanks have never even heard of. You know what that kind of ocean-crossing pettiness is? It's tasty.
Also good: "LDN," "Everything's Just Wonderful."

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- Cheated Hearts
Show Your Bones
Sample lyric: Well, sometimes I think that I'm bigger than the sound

Some people think the Yeah Yeah Yeah's second album doesn't live up to the promise of their (louder, blastier) first one, Fever to Tell. There may be some truth to that, but it's like the truth of what drinking does to your liver. It doesn't mean you should avoid drinking entirely. There are some very, very good songs on Bones and some that even surpass the first album entirely, lapping it on the track. This is one of them. Maybe it's not as beautiful as "Maps," but there's a lot more going on here and it just blasts off and doesn't burn off on re-entry.
Also good: "Gold Lion," "Dudley."

5. What Made Milwaukee Famous -- Idecide
Trying to Never Catch Up
Sample lyric: They'll take what they need / then give you back some / just enough to get by / Enough sting to be stung / enough poison to choke / enough rope to be hung!

These guys played on Almost Late Show as the first musical guest. I hadn't heard their stuff, but I'd heard of them as had Mical's girlfriend, so we were just excited to have a real band in the house. They played and completely won me over. And they were super-nice guys, too. Then they did Austin City Limits as well as the festival, I bought their album, which I quite liked and were frequently played on Sirius for a little while. This from a band that I've heard serious music people say is just no good. No good? Then why do I like this song so much? And why do I really like their album (most of which sounds nothing like this, but it still pretty fantastic). Maybe these serious music dudes need to clean their ears out or stop trying to get Amy Winehouse's attention for a little while.
Also good: "Almost Always Never," "Sweet Lady."

6. Thom Yorke -- Black Swan
The Eraser
Sample lyric: People get crushed like biscuit crumbs / And laid down in the bed you made. You have tried your best to please everyone, But it just isn't happening. No, it just isn't happening. And it's fucked up, fucked up.

I like to think that Thom Yorke gets a little tired of all the expectations put on the Radiohead albums and that he just wanted to put out good music without having everyone be all, "Yes, but what's this new Radiohead album about? Where are you guys, musically?" So he buries his head in a studio and grabs a bunch of leftover Radiohead drum tracks and bobs his tiny head all over the place and sings some cool lyrics he just wrote as he went and boom. Good, solid album of Yorkeness. Of course, then the album drops and everyone wants to know if this is his anti-Bush album or how it fits into the Radiohead ouvre and Thom's like, "I... I just made some music, y'all. Please enjoy. I'm going for a pint." Except he wouldn't say, "Y'all." Not every song on Eraser is as accessible as this one, but the whole affair still makes you want to put Thom in your pocket and stroke his back like a tiny white bunny. He would hate that shit.
Also good: "Harrowdown Hill," "And it Rained All Night."

7. System of a Down -- Hypnotize
A double! Hypnotize/Mesmerize.
Sample lyric: Mezmerize the simple minded / Propaganda leaves us blinded.

When you start your bombastic song with the lyrics, "Why don't you ask the kids at Tiananmen Square?" you are either being very bold or very stupid. With System of a Down, it's always hard to tell which. But that lyric announces, "Listen up, fuckers. We are about to say some Important Shit. You best listen up because we are making A Statement." It's pretentious as all get out, but then the song rocks the cows right down to their udders and you just stand there going, "What was that!? I though this was supposed to suck!" You could say the same thing about "B.Y.O.B.," the song I almost used in this slot. That song so straddles the line between horrible and brilliant that I took it out simply because I thought your ears would bleed. I'm being honest. But if you're curious, "B.Y.O.B." is worth a download and contains one of the most hilarious awful moments in rock history (right in between the screaming and the melodic chorus). I'm not even going to get into their time signature changes or about whether this has to do with Iraq because... let's just rock out, OK?
Also good: "B.Y.O.B." (see above), "Spiders."

8. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! -- Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!.
Sample lyric: There is danger in the night / There are things we can't control but / Will we give ourselves a fright / When we become less than human?

Apart from the learning curve of making people drop the "And" that should go between "Hands" and "Say," these guys have done pretty well for themselves. I missed them at SXSW last year, but I grooved to their first album for most of the rest of '06 and then liked what I heard of the new album, Some Loud Thunder. They're a bit of Talking Heads, a bit of... I don't know what else, but David Byrne is definitely in that DNA. This song is another Iraq-commenting song, but it's also got that incredibly catchy bass line. Listen to it five times and then try not to make your brain pine for listen #6.
Also good: "Heavy Metal," "Over And Over Again (Lost & Found)."

9. The Shins -- Phantom Limb
Wincing the Night Away.
Sample lyric: So we just skirt the hallway signs, A phantom and a fly, Follow the lines and wonder why / There's no connection.

The Shins don't need my help selling this song. It's a damn near perfect beast, a pop confection made for radio. You've probably already heard it.
Also good: "Girl Sailor," "Turn On Me."

10. Of Montreal -- Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games
The Sunlandic Twins.
Sample lyric: Let's pretend we don't exist / Let's pretend we're in Antartica / Let's have bizarre celebrations

Another band that has gone ahead and released a whole other album since I first heard this. Of Montreal is as weird as they sound, but sweet to the ears. They go down like honey. And yes, this song got transmogrified into an Outback Steakhouse commercial. Is it because the song is meaty? Let's not get into all that. The video for this, by the way, is very cute.
Also good: "Everyday Feels Like Sunday," "Forecast Fascist Future."

11. Islands -- Swans (Life After Death)
Return to the Sea.
Sample lyric: I woke up thirsty the day I died / And the tide was swirling / My mouth is so dry / And all I see is sea / Two shining seas

This was originally a Unicorns song and if you've followed the last two CDs, you know that my bro and I love Unicorns and subsequently the band formed out of their ashes, Islands. The two Islands tracks I put on last year's CD didn't even make it onto their debut album and really didn't sound like what Return to the Sea would be. For one thing, those songs rocked and the album is more melodic and weird. But not bad at all. And when we saw them live on May 1 at Emo's (not knowing their drummer would leave the group soon after), they busted out the violins and horns and assorted tricks and treats (plus rappers). It was like they were trying to out-nerd the finale of Revenge of the Nerds. Dude hung from the ceiling. It was a crazy night of music. You know you are dealing with crazy risk-takers when they open their album with a 9 1/2-minute epic. This is that epic.
Also good: "Rough Gem," "Where There's a Will There's a Whalebone" (crazy song with rap break!).

12. Brazilian Girls -- Jique
Talk to La Bomb.
Sample lyric: T'es comme un parasite (And lots of other stuff I don't understand.)

I don't listen to Brazilian Girls a lot, but this song for some reason just grabbed me by my nethers and held on all year. Not sure why. It's jagged.
Also good: "Last Call," "Pussy" (from their last album).

13. Gnarls Barkley -- Just a Thought
St. Elsewhere.
Sample lyric: And I've tried / Everything but suicide / but it's crossed my mind

There's no way any of us could have seen it coming. That Cee-Lo + DJ Danger Mouse would equal a crazy hit summer song and a really strong album plus trunkloads of crazy costumes. Danger Mouse was on last year's CD in two different places and then year before that as himself. Just watch this guy is all I'm saying. The drum track on this song is, as the teens used to say, absolutely fucking SICK.
Also good: "Transformer," "The Last Time."

14. Los Amigos Invisibles -- Ganas
Super Pop Venezuela.
Sample lyric: Why don't you tell me?

We basically bought one-day passes to Austin City Limits fest JUST to see these guys. They're incredible live and the opportunities to see them are too seldom. The new album is covers of 80s pop songs, but nobody seems to mind. They sound brilliant live and these guys are one big party when they're on stage.
Also good: "Dun Dun," "Media Luna."

15. Sufjan Stevens -- Sister Winter
Peace! Songs for Christmas, Vol. 5.
Sample lyric: With my friends I have so / Much pleasure to embrace / But my heart is / Returned to sister winter

Yes, another SurfJam song. You have to reward the guy for putting out six albums' worth of material this year. There was The Avalanche, then a stunning five-album Christmas compilation that wasn't as overwhelming as it sounds. (Some of the albums only have five or six songs.) The Christmas thing had a mix of original and traditional songs and played pretty much non-stop in our house in December, most notably when we were putting up our first tree. He did this song at the concert I saw. How cool is this for a Christmas song? Sufjan is touched by some higher power and I'm loath to examine it too much lest it go away. Still, that guy sure does seem obsessed with kissing people's body parts, huh?
Also good: "Jupiter Winter," "Get Behind Me, Santa!" (How cute is that?!)

16. Arcade Fire -- Intervention
Neon Bible.
Sample lyric: Been workin' for the church while your life falls apart / Been singin' "Hallelujah" with the fear in your heart / Every spark of friendship and love / Will die without a home

This one's cheating a bit because the album came out March '07, but the track was accidentally leaked on iTunes late last year, so screw it. It's in. Neon Bible is every bit the album I'd hoped after the genius of Funeral. And this was a crazy choice as the first single, but it's crazy-powerful. It's Arcade Fire saying, "If you don't like this, you should probably get off the train now because this is where we're headed." That organ is huge. The lyrics are over-the-top and melodramatic and too on the nose. But it works. God, does it work. I can't wait to see them live again. I'll have to settle for that great SNL appearance in the meantime. (No longer on the YouTubes, unfortunately.)
Also good: The whole album, but check out "Antichrist Television Blues" and "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations."

Bonus track:

17. Al Green -- I Wanna Hold Your Hand
Anthology, disc 1.
Sample lyric: (Assorted grunts) I wanna hold your hand, baby / got ta got ta hold your hand.

This was on an Al Green box set somebody lent me years ago and that I've had a CD-R of tracks from it bouncing around my CD collection for years. I think you'll agree it is the bomb.
Also good: It's Al Green. What of his isn't good?

That's it, folks. Thanks for making it happen again this year. Hope you enjoy.



Hey, look at this! Stuff to buy! Haaawwwt-Damn!

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