Looking back on 2006, I realize I bought a ton of albums that I consider "blind spots"—classic and/or essential albums that I had never "officially" sat down and listened to from beginning to end in one sitting. Sure, I've heard a ton of songs from Abbey Road and Document, thanks to mixtapes, the radio, department stores, etc., but I'd never consciously absorbed the full albums until this year. Since we're all worn out on what the best new shit is this year, I thought this might actually be a more interesting list—if nothing else, this list is a document of what actually took up most my listening hours this year.
The Beatles, Abbey Road, Let it Be , and Beatles For Sale
Big Star, Third/Sister Lovers
The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man
Leonard Cohen, Songs of Love and Hate
Antonio Carlos Joabim & Ellis Regina, Ellis and Tom
Kinks, Village Green and Something Else
REM, Document and Lifes Rich Pageant
Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis
Television, Marquee Moon
Velvet Underground, s/t (third album)
The Who, Sings My Generation
Of these, the Kinks and Big Star turned out to be less perfect than
I was expecting. I enjoy the albums but they're all flawed; the Kinks get a bit too silly at times, and Big Star often feels too addled. The Beatles & REM were great but I realized I knew
about 80-90% of those records, I just never heard them in order before. It's like I'd been admiring really beautiful puzzle pieces all my life and just figured out this year how to assemble them. They have spurred me to possess their complete back catalogs, sooner rather than later (probably about four or or five albums left to purchase for both bands). Ditto the Byrds. Mr. Tambourine Man was the third Byrds album I've acquired in the last couple years, and the most exciting thing for me is that I think their best albums are still waiting for me at the record store.
The real treasures for me were Television, Ellis & Tom, and that VU album. I'd always heard people blabbering on about VU's first album (which I own and love), and their later, more rocking stuff didn't really move me when I heard it years ago in hazy dormrooms (though I think that wouldn't hold true today). But somehow I never heard (or heard about) this one, which is mostly quiet and totally beautiful. I knew "Pale Blue Eyes" from their greatest hits, but "Jesus" was the revelation.
Meanwhile, of all these albums, I now feel most embarrassed that I never knew Marquee Moon earlier, other than a lonely download of "Guiding Light," which on its own wasn't enough to spur me to the album purchase. Thank god Tower Records is closing—if it hadn't been for their liquidation prices, who knows when I would have picked it up? If you read my post about Tower earlier this year, you might agree that it's fitting that this is how I finally discovered this album: the title track alone would have changed my life if I had heard it in high school or college.
As I was mulling over this post last night, I re-read an older post of mine when I decided to really make an effort to fill in some of these blinds spots earlier this year—inspired (but not dictated) by the book 1,001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The list of 1,001 (actually, it's curiously grown to 1,002) is up at Lists of Bests—possibly the biggest time-wasting website out there. When I first checked off the list, I'd heard consciously from beginning to end just 20%. So I revisted the list last night to see how much I could fill in. Despite checking off a bunch of new records, my stat only bumped up to a measly 21%. I'm taking a deep breath: bring it on, 2007.