1. Life with Tamar
Once again this year like all the others which have preceded it no sudden wealth attached itself to my existence but that's fine because the riches this fine lady endows me with on a daily basis make me realize how lucky I am. And I am very happy that we are now homeowners in a part of NYC that's not likely to become hip anytime too soon as there really isn't anyplace for the "developers" to destroy.
2. As I See Boris Artzybasheff http://www.kenspublishing.com/
A reprint of some of the most amazing, screwy illustration ever. Anthropomorphic machinery, Basil Wolverton-like bodies, and the rubber cartoon surrealism of early animation taken to an extreme combine to make your eyes pop like a Tex Avery character while your brain swears off reality for a few hours and tries to remain sober.
3. EM Records
Over the last couple of years there have been a few labels that come out of nowhere and reissue a batch of great, hard-to-find music. In 2004 it was MIO, 2005 had Ad Hoc and this year we get EM. A brief list of this year's reissues, Moolah Woe Ye Demons Possessed, Roland P. Young Isophonic Boogie Woogie, The Pyramids Birth/Speed/Merging, Jim Fasset Symphony of the Birds (not to mention the Barton Smith, David Rosenboom, musical saw records, etc.), justifies and honors their existence.
4. uské orchestra niko et la berlue (Sonig)
This is actually a 2005 release that I found out about after last year's Top 10. There is so much going on in this record that I find enjoyable that it's difficult to describe. If Ross Bagdasarian had turned on, tuned in and dropped out, and alter ego David Seville had taken his band of singing rodents to San Francisco instead of around the world, and eventually, after many misadventures that led to their break up, they decided to get together again and record but determined that they didn't want to live off their already established persona and donned tuxes, top hats and head-covering eyeball masks...no, that's not it, more like if the Teletubbies and Ya Ho Wha merged and purchased a bunch of laptops or maybe it's a giant plunderphonic mashup or maybe its a giant mess...but, it's a glorious mess that puts a smile on my face whenever I play it.
5. Carla Bozulich Evangelista (Constellation)
The sound of bubbling anger beneath a sweet voice grounded by smoke and booze sitting on a porch staring out at a yesterday that hides several shades of darkness but in the distance the first light of tomorrow peeks over the horizon. This would be a great soundtrack for a David Lynch western.
6. Alexander Tucker Furrowed Brow (ATP)
This might be my favorite record of the year but it just came out and I've only listened a couple of times. His last record, Old Fog, made my Top 10 last year and this follow up improves upon that. This is truly "psych" folk and while much of what gets written up as such is fine and enjoyable it doesn't have that strange little buzz that makes my antennae stand up and take notice.
7. Cartoon Modern Amid Amidi (Chronicle Books)
An illustrated survey of the art, artists and companies that are responsible for all those beautifully designed cartoons of the post-war era into the sixties when animation houses like UPA, animators like the Hubleys and advertising agencies took animation to its next stage. His blog site continues to post all kinds of wonderful art that didn't make it into the book and is a good place to visit once a week.
8. Eraritjaritjaka Heiner Goebbels
Didn't get out much this year for live music or performance but it would have been difficult to surpass this piece which started out slow but had a terrific twist that made me very happy. Goebbels is definitely overlooked as much of his recent work does not have an official recording because a) he uses copyrighted material (his previous piece I saw featured music from the Beach Boys) and b) it lacks meaning taken out of the context of the performance.
9. Theo Angell Dearly Beloved (Amish)
Solo record from Hall of Fame member that provided my favorite song of the year "Thread of Grace," a very melt in your mind not on my hands kind of song. The rest of the record is also worth listening to. A great church record if church were the kind of place you could enjoy the sacrament of your choice instead of the bland tasteless cardboard dipped in cheap wine that passes for a piece of God in those cold, dark places.
10. Volcano The Bear Classic Erasmus Fusion (Beta-Lactam Ring)
I've been enjoying this band's work for several years now as they constantly surprise with each record. Classic Erasmus Fusion is a 2 CD field recording of a very private ritual. Much plant matter is ingested, bodies are painted with symbols, instruments are broken out and, heads bowed, the possession begins and over 80 minutes of the other side begins to leak into your ears.
11. Shogun Kunitoki tasankokaiku (Fonal)
Another record that makes me want to visit Finland. Fun crazy synth that would make for a great Krautrock interpretive dance party at the roller rink. There are songs here that remind me of Neu, of Stereolab, of Cluster (the more pop orientation of Sowiesoso and Rastakraut Pasta), of the demented organ player in the strip club in Godard's A Woman Is A Woman.
This year saw Fantagraphics begin reprinting Popeye from the beginning in Popeye Vol. 1 in large format; continue publishing the reprints of Krazy Kat; continue and expand their Ignatz line with Kevin Huizenga's Ganges, Igort's Baobab and David B.'s Babel; Max's Bardin The Superrealist; Mome which featured David B. in two issues. Next year they're bringing out a Joost Swarte retrospective and another Jim Flora book among other things. Now, if they (or someone) would just publish Crockett Johnson's Barnaby, I'd be happy for a moment. Other comics this year: Buddha (Vertical) - Osamu Tezuka's amazing work is now available in paperback (which means I can afford it); All Star Superman (DC Comics) - Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely don't publish this on anything remotely resembling a schedule but it provides much needed eye and head candy when it does show up; Tadashi Katoh Project X Nissin Cup Noodle (Digital Manga) - manga detailing the true story of the trials of a group of men who must design the perfect cup of noodles for the Japanese public.
I read many books this year but three stand out. 1) Kelly Link Magic For Beginners - Strange stories that shatter your skull so that they can massage that big, soft walnut that it pretends to protect. "The Faery Handbag" and "Magic For Beginners" are great, but "Some Zombie Contingency Plans" gave me the creeps. 2) George Pendle Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life Of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons - The story of the beginnings of the rocket industry in the United States and the biography of one of its major players who just happened to be a follower of Aleister Crowley and hung out with L. Ron Hubbard (who stole his wife). 3) Jim Steinmeyer The Glorious Deception: The Double Life Of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer" - Book 1: magic, book 2: biography, book 3: both.
The Brothers Quay The Piano Tuner Of Earthquakes - Only a few films this year made me want to see them more than once (my personal mark of a good film) and this is the one that really did it for me. Nice sequences of the Quay's animation mixed with a story that is a mix of quirky, boring and haunting filled with possible connections which left some synapses burning slowly upon leaving the theater. Also had a nice soundtrack though not by Lech Jankowski. Other films this year: Michel Gondry The Science of Sleep - This mix of Brazil, amour fou and Art Clokey was great for one reason: it was the anti-Amelie; Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe Brothers Of The Head - Fun mockumentary based on a Brian Aldiss book about conjoined twins who become English rock stars, great soundtrack though not very playable on the radio; Richard Linklater A Scanner Darkly - Good adaptation of Philip K. Dick, still not sure why it had to be animated though; Billy Wilder A Foreign Affair - One of the nastiest and most cynical comedies I've ever seen. This is from 1948 and is about the occupation of Berlin and was considered to be in bad taste for its day. It's wonderful, just like many things from the post-war era that were considered in bad taste (EC Comics, rock & roll, etc.), and Marlene Dietrich sings a terrific song "Black Market."
15. Bardo Pond Ticket Crystals
I have an on-again, off-again interest in Bardo Pond. I love their first record and like On The Ellipse and Dilate but often find their mixes and live shows to bury their elements in a wall of sound. This is not necessarily a bad thing but when they separate the elements and those elements come to the forefront something special happens in their music and I remember moments that the mind fights against so that I can lead a normal everyday life without watching the sidewalk move away and hearing the whispering of the walls. Thanks for bringing that back every now and then.
16. Don Cherry/Jon Appleton Human Music; Harvey Matusow The War Between Fats and Thins; Quincy Jones In Cold Blood; Leo Nichols (Ennio Morricone) Navajo Joe
So number 16 is a bit indulgent but like many DJs here I collect records and am on a constant search for certain ones. That list is very malleable and can change according to whim, memory and availability of cash. This year I was able to knock off four records from that ever-changing list thanks to the good people at Water, ebay, Academy and the WFMU Record Fair, respectively. All of the above are worth your attention and purchase if you come across them. In fact, the Matusow would seem to be a perfect eclectic fit for the above mentioned EM Records to release.
17. Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza Azioni (die Schachtel)
This is a monster and I still haven't come to grips with it as there is way too much to digest. Sometimes you have to treat music like a great novel or film and come back to it every now and then to see what's there, either because you sense something (my recent interest in Godard) or someone else recommends it (a renewed interest in Penderecki and Morton Feldman). This is going to be something that I will keep checking on every once in awhile until it finally rams two fingers up my nostrils, grabs the frontal lobe and squeezes until I feel its pleasures and shout "Mommy" causing some consternation among the neighbors. The wife (see number 1) will just roll her eyes as she always does while the sheets and blocks of sound herein provide the soundtrack to said rolling.
18. Dan Nadel Art Out Of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969
Strange visions offered from comic books and strips, much of it pre-World War II. This is the kind of oddness that makes you wonder what the artist/writer was thinking and smoking. Not a big fan of all herein but any book that can give you the great design of Charles Forbell's Naughty Pete and Garrett Price's White Boy along with the true strangeness of Herbert Crowley's The Wiggle Much, George Carlson's Jingle Jangle Tales and Ogden Whitney's Herbie is worth the price of admission.
19. Too many records to list: Luciano Berio The Complete Sequenzas & Works For Solo Instruments (Mode); Geese It's All We've Got Left (Geese); Glissandro 70 Glissandro 70 (Constellation); Grizzly Bear Yellow House (Warp); Kay Hoffman Floret Silva (Robot); Khan Jamal Drumdance To The Motherland (Eremite); Greg Malcolm Hung (Celebrate Psi Phenomena); Shawn David McMillen Catfish (Tompkins Square); Mohammed 'Jimmy' Mohammed Takkabel! (Terp); The Necks Chemist (Recommended); Joanna Newsom Ys (Drag City); Evan Parker Time Lapse (Tzadik); Salah Ragab And The Cairo Jazz Band Egyptian Jazz (Art Yard); Spires That In The Sunset Rise This Is Fire (Secret Eye); Thomas Stronen Pohlitz (Rune Grammofon); Tom Ze Estudande O Pagode (Trama) - Damn there were a lot of fine records this year but I can't choose them all. The above listed could probably end up anywhere on this list depending on my mood.
Other WFMU Top Ten of 2006 Lists are here.