Best of 2006

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3. Jan. 2007, 1:28

There's no denying that this has been an italo disco year. I discovered the Cybernetic Broadcasting System (CBS) and its annual Top 100 at the tail end of 2005 as it was broadcasted, and it triggered a period of italo and general 80s rediscovery that has lasted pretty much all year. So therefore, an unproportionally large portion of the Top 50 below is CBS- and italo-related.

I'd like to apologise in advance for my inability to express the genius of the music, I find it incredibly hard to come up with language that describes the feeling you get when listening to a tune, but I still felt comments are needed because lists without commentary are dead dull to read.

Also, I should point out that the list below contains my favourites out of the music I discovered in 2006 rather than music that was released in 2006.

I made a tag radio station with all streamable entries from the top 50. Listen here.

The top 50 songs I listened to in 2006

1. Stop
It was really difficult to order the tracks in the top 10 but Stop has been at the top of my Overall Tracks chart with quite some margin for a while now and I'm still not sick of it. That alone should be enough reason to give it the top spot in this chart. It doesn't have any of the big hooks that a lot of italo has, it just shuffles along nicely, builds through some incredible rolling pianos before it erupts into a heavenly chorus of supreme unintelligibility!

2. Hold Me So Tight
This has a superbly effortless timelessness about it. Stunning chord changes that are up there with Being Boring and a heart-wrenching melody on top. So classy and suave, it's a shame it should be packaged in the cheesy tongue-in-cheek 80s way it is as it might put some people off. This music deserves to be packaged the same stylish way as a Saint Etienne or Pet Shop Boys album.

3. I Know
Very much in the same vein as the above and just fantastic. As far as I'm concerned, Johan Agebjörn is a major songwriter, I heard nothing this accomplished all year. I still get goosebumps when the pads come in along with the vocals at 0:18 and the whole thing just takes off. Sublime.

4. Come On Closer
Another quite un-italo italo track from its 1983 heyday. That intro never fails to put a smile on my face and it just gets better and better. So incredibly uplifting with great little synth runs throughout and an incredible vocal courtesy of Mr Douglas Roop (whoever that is).

5. When I Let You Down
I can see why this grabbed the top spot of the 2005 CBS Top 100. So unashamedly happy and up, up, up, up! Lots of surprising elements that work really well together, even the weird South Park-style voices in the chorus. Both this and Pineapples feel like such utter classics it's amazing they're not more well-known.

6. Believe in Yourself (Special Remix)
Yes, more CBS. It really was an italo year. Absolute killer groove with lots of clever use of delay in this one. When it all kicks in at 1:10 it's rocking incredibly hard (to paraphrase I-F). But that's not all, it evolves into a great song complete with an improvised waily vocally bit. Brilliant synths too.

7. Time to Let Go
The B side to I'll Be By Your Side remains one of my favourites. So incredibly bittersweet and with amazing key changes and synth cascades. Reminds me slightly of Fade to Grey, it captures some of that same melancholy feel of late night rain-swept streets.

8. Life with You
Really primitive but utterly beautiful track from... guess what... early 80s Italy. The drum machine sounds like it's going to break down any second and the string section veers in and out of tune but this only adds to the strange beauty of this track.

9. Dead Eyes Opened
I don't know what it is about this track that makes me play it over and over. A simple twinkling synth line looping over some upbeat drums and a spoken vocal about a murder is all there is to it. But sometimes that's all it takes.

10. The Captain
Haunting and otherworldly and probably the most different track out of all the entries in this list. Each section of this is brilliant, from the eerie synths in the intro to the ominous bass to the manic vocals. I love it when the new "Jaws" bassline comes in at 5:21 and you just wish that it would carry on for another 5 minutes. I wasn't overly keen on the new Knife album at first but it grew on me and this track in particular is a standout.

11. Dancing Therapy
I firmly believe that there is no depression in the world that playing Come On Closer followed by When I Let You Down followed by this cannot cure. So wonderfully naive and still so spot on!

12. Bowser
This is actually Automatic Lover in drum and bass clothing but so totally reworked that it pretty much becomes a new tune. And I even think it beats the original. A combination of melancholic chords and vocals and fearsome beats and bass, something of a recurring theme for a lot of music I like it seems. So powerful it's crazy. Shit artist name though.

13. Lost My Way
Somewhere in the hinterland between techno and trance, this just rolls and rolls and rolls. No breakdowns or chord progressions, just a superb production which builds forever onwards and holds you in its spell for the duration.

14. Satisfaction
Low-slung, sleazy, jacking, delicious slice of The Hague retroness that I just can't get enough of. Love the voices!

15. Dream World
A track I had since last year but didn't discover until later. Quite fast and stomping but offset by a completely angelic vocoder & pads sequence. This is what space age pop should sound like. The chord change at 3:01 is particularly sweet.

16. Church Music
Freescha make gorgeous pastoral electronica in the footsteps of Boards of Canada and this is one of their sweetest tracks. If only they played this in church I would go a lot more often.

17. Victory Horn
Ali Renault has got a lot in common with Mr. Pauli and the rest of the Dutch 80s revivalists but is apparently from London. This track has it all, low-slung bass, proper drum machines and a vocoder that shoots on sight.

18. In the Morning (Raw Mix)
I lost interest in house a long time ago, but always make an effort to check out new Kerri Chandler tracks. There is something timeless about his best productions, he doesn't seem to care one bit about current trends, instead he just gets on with making house the way it used to sound. And this is a perfect example. Everything sits just right in the mix; the taut beats, the deep sub bass, the flourishes of synth and piano create a deep house groove that's restrained but still dripping with emotion. I guess a lot of people would be put off by the sleazy spoken male vocal here (I was too at first) but next to Monique Bingham's angelic voice it works really well. This is what house should be like, not some minimal bollocks made by people with asymmetric haircuts.

19. Pellefant
Just a deep techy house groove with some vocal samples, but what a devastating groove it is!

20. Shadow World (Original Mix)
Tracks like this are the reason I still keep an eye on the trance scene. Bombastic, euphoric and maximalist in every way, tearing synths firing off left right and centre with some amazing harmonies to guide them. Reach for the lasers!

21. An English '93
The flipside of Dancing Therapy, this is restrained and melancholic, with a simple but beautiful melody line over some treated guitar chords.

22. I'll Be By Your Side
This is where it all started. Still an incredible pop song, but the reason it's only at place 22 is that it didn't stand repeated listening the way some of the other Sally Shapiro tracks did.

23. Totalitär
This Swedish EBM band base their entire sound on That Total Age but with surprisingly enjoyable results. The title track in particular is an intoxicating mixture of aggression and harmony.

24. Slave of Rome
Slam jack slam jack slam jack slam jack, motherfucker! Legowelt under one of his many aliases delivers a groove so mean, filthy, unrelenting and jacking it's got to be heard to be believed. Love it!

25. Speaking of Reasonable
Gentle Touch are a bit like a poor man's The Radio Dept (they couldn't afford any guitars) with their lo-fi sound, but with more pronounced 80s influences. But after a few listens, their self-titled EP is a lot more appealing than the latest Radio Dept album. This track is my favourite with its reverb-drenched drums, New Order synths and melancholic vocals.

26. Hell Hath No Fury
Is drum & bass really allowed to be this catchy? A glorious piano arrangement over strings and beats makes this utterly musical slice of d&b a real treat.

27. Airships
After discovering Empires last year, I moved onto Futureperfect this year and I dare say it's even better. Airships is a real power ballad of sorts, even though I'm sure VNV wouldn't call it by that name. Superb vocal performance as well for someone who really doesn't have much of a singing voice. It's so well crafted, it's a sublime moment when it finally goes 4/4 at 5:38.

28. Valentine
Another killer track from Ali Renault, very much in the same vein as Victory Horn, and when listening to it now I'm starting to wonder whether it shouldn't be higher up in the chart, it's doing what it sets out to do so utterly well. Slightly skewed, heavily 80s-influenced with a galloping bass line and a super vocoder. The stripped down part starting at 2:07 is brilliant.

29. Alive
Discovered this through Carl Craig's Fabric 25 mix CD and it's a corker of a tech house track unlike anything produced today. It starts off using similar stabs and chords to the classic Positive Education and you think that's all there is to it, but then at 3:00, it changes gear and erupts into one of the most gorgeous melodies this side of Inspiration.

30. Magic Dance
Magic indeed. Echoey, minor key chords over a smooth italo beat with a plucked guitar in the background. This could be the backdrop to some 80s TV series, I imagine a bar scene with a girl just dumped by her lover, drowning her sorrows in expensive cocktails. Could have done without the vocals but even with them it's a beautiful little tune. It even made it into the CBS Top 100 2006! I'd like to think that was due to my voting for it.

31. Special
First (and only?) indie tune in this rundown. But it does have keyboards. I remember hearing Mew a while back and not being too impressed but after getting this gorgeous track recommended to me I realised that they were actually really quite good! The appeal here is all about the melody and the vocals.

32. '88 (All in All) (feat. Joris Voorn)
I was pleasantly surprised to see Technasia return with a new album this year that stuck to their guns of melodic Detroit-inspired techno. This is my personal favourite off it, an atmospheric electro number in collaboration with Joris Voorn featuring ethereal vocals and great cascady synths.

33. Serenity (feat. Jan Vayne)
From his 2004 album Shivers, this is pseudo-classical and slightly pretentious but I can't help but love the minor chord progressions and sad melodies here. It's this sort of stuff that makes me want to investigate more classical music but I never seem to be able to find the good stuff.

34. Tumidanda
Great, over-the-top italo from 1984 produced by Fockewulf 190. Even though I've now got slightly tired of this (not to mention Gitano which I absolutely loved for a while but can't listen to anymore because it didn't survive repeated listening), its greatness can't be denied. It also features those inexplicable sped up South Park voices in the chorus.

35. Beloved
Almost on the wrong side of schmaltz, but a beautiful track nevertheless. Starts off like a ballad, but builds into a real stomper thanks to big arpeggiated synth lines and reverbed kick drums. And the chorus is so goddam singalong-friendly! They should have this in the next Singstar. :)

36. Cybernetic love (Vocal mix)
Unusually cool for an italo track. Great pads and a killer vocoder.

37. The Prime Time Of Your Life (Para One Remix)
Never really got into Daft Punk's last album but this remix rocks like there's no tomorrow. I don't know much about Para One except that he's French and probably very trendy but none of that matters when you get to the 2-minute mark of this stuttery marvel and it all takes off. He loops up the main vocal sample into a 3 over 2 pattern that just lifts this track straight up into the stratosphere.

38. So This Is Goodbye
It took me a good few listens before I started to appreciate Junior Boys' second album, but once I did, I couldn't stop listening to it. It's so understated that it's difficult to point out individual elements and to wax lyrical about it, but there is just something about these songs that makes you want to listen to them again and again.

39. Lo Mas
A good year for Mr. Pauli. Total dominance of the CBS Top 100 and two tracks in my end-of-year chart! This is a more synthpop-tinged track but with rocking electro drums and synths. Not a million miles away from DMX Krew when he's at his best.

40. Queen Of The Night (Rom Bansisco Mix)
Surprisingly enough, this excellent remix is the work of Le Sport, a band I normally can't stand, but here they get everything right. It starts off almost Ural 13 Diktators-ish with stompy fast kick drums and stiff octave bass before it takes off into early 90s piano house territory. Unexpected and fun little gem to jump around your living room to.

41. Plastic Doll
More great italo with a massive synth riff and oh-so-80s lyrics about a model who never smiles. You've gotta love it.

42. Overkill
I've had this now since January and wasn't sure whether it would still qualify for the top 50 but it just rocks too much to be overlooked. A similar track to Lo Mas, it's like an undiscovered electro classic from 1984.

43. Change Channel
Stoppy-starty-catchy and just contagiously poptastically wonderful. Their album didn't do much of an impression on me but this track is a gem.

44. Rydeen
No-one could get away with these kind of melodies today, but the fact that these guys did and managed to pass themselves off as avant garde in the process is just brilliant! And boy, do they look cool in the video.

45. No One On Earth
I played this a lot in my headphones during my walk to work on cold January mornings and it still sounds great now. Without the 135 BPM kick drum and the trancey synths, this would probably be played on VH1, but I still think it's a beautiful song.

46. Polaris
Aah, space disco! So naive, so good! No-one could get away with these melodies regardless of the era, that's how cheesy they are. But so catchy that you just can't get enough of them. You can't argue with the vocoder though.

47. Magic Silence (Intro)
Trance in the good old pseudo-classical tradition with long passages of piano and strings and not much in the way of beats at all. But the arrangement and chord sequence here is spine-tingling.

48. Randez-Vous
Another CBS 2005 favourite that just about made it. An atmospheric, melancholic and inevitably 80s-influenced little house ditty from a Polish producer that bears repeated listens.

49. Take My Hand
Who would have thought Dido would have a track among my top 50 of the year! I certainly didn't. I had never given her the time of day and I particularly hated that thing she did that Eminem based a track on. But then I heard this. And I had to change my mind. Because this is an excellent song and an excellent performance. An impeccably arranged house-tinged pop song with amazing strings and a swooning melody. Who would have thought?

50. Voices from The Inside
There is something totally unique about M.I.K.E.'s way with chords and harmonies. He has a way of making the chords strive towards some unknown and continuously moving goal. If that makes any sense. I don't have the terminology to describe exactly what he's doing but the effect is one of constantly evolving chord progressions that never fully come to an end and sort of twist and bend into some really gorgeous shapes without ever fully resolving which I like a lot. This track is an excellent example of that.

Other brilliant discoveries that didn't quite make it but still deserve an honorary mention (in no particular order)

Fight for love
Every Sunday
America
Can't Punish Me
Odessa Theme
Technopolis
D-Funked
Kick
Epicentre
Funky Is On
Hymne
Snabeln
Queen Of Discoteque
Sail (Original Mix)
The Zookeeper's Boy
Ghost Town (Ghost Version)
Distant Planet
Genesis
Run Away
I Want (Remix)
Hills of Honolulu
Vapour Trail
The Night
First Last for Everything (club version)
Ikeya-Seki
Whales Wave Goodbye
Ghetto Blues
Memories
Sounds Of Solar Oscillations
Glowing In The Dark
I Won't Let You Down
Remember the Future
Kindred
Restless
Turn Out The Lights and Outro
Hypnotic Tango
Empty State (feat. Mic Burns)
Shivers
Anxious Boy
For Always In My Heart
Gitano
Livin' Up
Confusion Track 4
Tarzan Loves The Summer Nights
Don't Leave Me Now
Changes
Man Made Man
Carry Me (Airbase Vocal Mix)
The return of the Cyber People
Eyes of glass
Do Not Break
enjaw j
Fernweh
Life Cycles (feat. Fei Wang)
Blooms & Blossoms
Tänk Om
Let My Shoes Lead Me Forward (The Knife Remix)
No Reason to Cry
The Equalizer
I Feel Space
Boogie Tonight
Sunrise at Palamos (original mix)
Crash the Cat
Secret Universe
Shoot Me
Niagara Flow
Stars
The Tide
Little
Heat You Up
Bounce
Fuji (The Peace Within)
Genie
Neverland
Clear Day
I Like Your Style
Information First
Glasögonorm

Kommentare

  • n8kowald

    I was wondering why you were playing all these great songs back to back when i checked your page earlier today and know i know, you were compiling your best of 2006! Great list and excellent descriptions of each track. So many amazing italo disco songs in there. Here is a list of my fav bits of your descriptions: [quote]because lists without commentary are dead dull to read[/quote] [quote]So unashamedly happy and up, up, up, up![/quote] [quote]South Park-style voices (all references)[/quote] [quote]I love it when the new Jaws bassline comes in at 5:21[/quote] [quote]Stoppy-starty-catchy and just contagiously poptastically wonderful[/quote] [quote]No-one could get away with these kind of melodies today, but the fact that these guys did and managed to pass themselves off as avant garde in the process is just brilliant! And boy, do they look cool in the video.[/quote] [quote]Aah, space disco! So naive, so good![/quote] [b][color=#ffffff]And lastly my fav description of no.11[/color][/b] [quote]I firmly believe that there is no depression in the world that playing Come On Closer followed by When I Let You Down followed by this cannot cure. So wonderfully naive and still so spot on![/quote] Sad to see that Anneclaire - I Want (Remix), Big Ben Tribe – Tarzan Loves The Summer Nights and Zoot Woman – Information First didn't make the cut, glad they got a mention tho.

    3. Jan. 2007, 10:29
  • n8kowald

    There is text before your last quote which says, And lastly my fav description of all...... under no.11 but I accidentally choose the hexidecimal value for white instead of black when creating so it looks invisible.

    3. Jan. 2007, 10:34
  • sharevari

    Haha, thanks for the review of the reviews! :)

    3. Jan. 2007, 11:13
  • citrusmantis

    That Pineapples song is one of the most unabashedly joyous tracks i've heard in a long time. Thanks for the great read. Must get my hands on the Sally Shapiro album!

    4. Jan. 2007, 13:31
  • lady_Amelia

    Brilliant list I must say. I'll have to check out a few of the tracks. Good to see some VNV in there though;) A very good read! I've been looking forward to it. Btw, you did a great job explaining the music ;)

    5. Jan. 2007, 13:33
  • mxcl

    Crikey. I just could never be bothered to do this. But I can be bothered to listen to them :) Now to figure out how to queue them all.

    6. Jan. 2007, 11:07
  • sharevari

    Well, I'm a music geek and I love charts. What can I say? :) Easiest way to listen would be to just click the tag radio link.

    6. Jan. 2007, 11:28
  • klaashermans

    Nice list. And thanks for the radio, it works swell. A few songs I'll have to check out. [quote]Almost on the wrong side of schmaltz[/quote] Is the a good side in schmaltz? I had the dubious pleasure of trying it a few days back, and it did taste healthy, although this stuff is probably worst than smoking.

    6. Jan. 2007, 21:39
  • sharevari

    Haha, you really confused me there for a while with your comment about schmaltz. I had no idea that it was a type of food but Wikipedia put me straight! The only meaning of schmaltz I have ever come across is the following: [quote]In English it is a slang term. The word entered current parlance after Queen Victoria chastised her son Albert, reminding him that previously everything was Love and Schmaltz, a reference to Albert and Alix's maidservant, whose last name was Schmaltz, as she was of German extraction within the conventions of British Monarch's descendant of the House of Hanover having a retinue equally composed of German and British subjects. From this phrase of the Queen's , sentimentality came to be labeled as Schmaltz, the name being taken out of context. Thereafter the word has been used to describe anything that is excessively sentimental, particularly film, theater, poetry or music.[/quote]

    6. Jan. 2007, 22:25
  • klaashermans

    In South Germany people are willing to put it on bread and eat it, and they don't mind to use pork fat either. It's scary. With every bite you feel the hearth attack closing in on you.

    7. Jan. 2007, 13:24
  • arjesh

    I am surprised that Restless didn't make it into the Top 50, only to the honorable mentions! Most (36 out of 50) of the tracks in the Top 50 are familiar to me. Out of the unfamiliar ones, I am totally curious aboout the III.Skilz/Bowser track - a d-n-b version of an italo track. I must check this one out. My favorites out of your Top 50 in no particular order are: The Knife/The Captain, Severed Heads/Dead Eyes Opened and MIKE/Lost My Way; the last two I only know because of you. This was also the year of the CBS for me. Can't wait to download the CBS 2006, which sadly for me is a bit easier said than done - dl. speeds tend to be slow around here. Then we need to do our Top 10s of the Top 100.

    8. Jan. 2007, 5:40
  • sharevari

    Well, the Mount Sims track was also one that didn't stand up to repeated listening that well for me. I loved it at first but it faded away pretty quickly alas. Yep, Bowser is of an unusual breed. And jolly good it is too!

    8. Jan. 2007, 22:41
  • AdriaNnLA

    You might already know that Sally Shapiro has been pitchforked today?

    10. Jan. 2007, 5:40
  • sharevari

    Yep, but I hadn't read it yet, thanks! That is one pretentious review by the way. ;)

    10. Jan. 2007, 11:10
  • barbadoforte

    Both Pineapples and I.M.S. songs are my favorite tracks of 2006. So sad to know that you're tired of Tumidanda...

    18. Jan. 2007, 0:27
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