Various, Islands, The Long Blondes, iForward Russia!, Gnarls Barkley - GIITTV best Of 2006:The Writer's picks.

GodisintheTV 03/01/2007

Yes, it's that time of year again, where the Writer's of GIITTV zine, serve up their best single and album lists, for 2006. You may notice that this is quite an exhaustive, impressive, and musically varied list, which is mainly because GIITTV zine(unlike some other publications)is free from the editorial bias, which encourages its writers to offer their personal, passionate perspective upon 2006 as a year in music.

Bill Cummings' Albums of 2006.

1. Guillemots- Through The Window Pane

Overblown, pretentious, and overwrought in parts it may be, but I can't think of an album I enjoyed more this year. From the elegance of opener Little Bear, and the raft of other heart rendering ballads, to the wonder of the standout singles (Made Up Love Song, We're here, and Trains to Brazil) for me Guillemots were the most expressive, creative new UK band of the year. Fusing clever "world" arrangements with joyous melodies, and quirky vocals, they were this year's Flaming Lips.

2. The Decemberists- The Crane Wife

A prime example of The Decemberists moving on but retaining what was good about the group in the first place, the Decemberists' major label debut was a step forward musically. From the funky riffing of Perfect Crime, the down-tuned folky beauty of Skankill Butchers, and the almost Belle and Sebastian-esque Americana of O Valencia nestled between the Crane Wife pieces, it was yet more glorious story-telling literate history folk from one of the most interesting bands around at present.

3. The Long Blondes - Someone To Drive You Home

Ok so it wasn't as varied as it could have been, but this was one of the most important indie records of the last few years, stepping beyond the clichéd machoism, the Long Blondes produce irresistibly tuneful new wave/post punk (Giddy Stratospheres, Once and Never Again, Separated by Motorways). Crucially Kate's tales of kitchen sink drama (A Weekend Without Makeup), heartbreak (Heaven Help the New Girl) and 50s movie stars (Lust in the Movies) set The Long Blondes a literate edge when compared to their peers and proved once and for all that they were more comparable to Elastica, Pulp and The Smiths than The Pippettes.

4. Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit

The great thing about Belle and Sebastian is their ability to keep evolving, and on the latest long player The Life Pursuit it was no different. This isn't their best album ever, but it's a master class in song writing, taking its cues from the Bryds, the Beach Boys and even easy listening of the 1970s they imbued their new gleaming Americana, with the heart of the Scottish indie boy poet. See Funny Little Frog and Dressed up in you for evidence of its quality.

5. Luxembourg - Front

This was Luxembourg's “His N Hers”, the culmination of at least five years hard work, this was the gleaming, sheened testament to their "pop noir". Massive buffed up old favourites: Housewives, Kids, Mishandled, Making Progress, mingled with melancholic newer works (Single, Relief) that exhibited an ambition unmatched by their "indie" peers. Some may bemoan the fact that there was no Close Cropped, and long for their earlier demo sound, but this was Luxembourg fronting up, and moving on, and it was a joy to listen to.

6. iLIKETRAiNs- Progress reform

Making a late bid for my album of the year list were these slow core lads from Leeds, who create wonderfully desolate, widescreen post rock, that's three parts Mogwai, one part Oceansize, eerie vocals that pitched a tent somewhere between Nick Cave and Ian Curtis. With songs about chess players (A Rookhouse for Bobby) and doomed Antarctic explorers (Terra Nova), iLiKETRAiNS were one of the most interesting new acts of the year, and with their debut proper due for 2007, the future is train like.

7. Thom Yorke- The Eraser.

Shorn of his pals from Radiohead, Thom Yorke burrowed deep into his psyche and pulled up this frighteningly good album. Electronica is often accused of being too mechanical to convey real emotional brevity, but Yorke's take was anything but cold. Taking the experimental KID A template, his solo work might have lacked the metallic, rhythmic grunt of the 'head, but the songs grew on each listen, becoming testaments to his talent as a musician and songwriter: the standouts (Harrowdown Hill, The Clock and Analysed) married his haunted, anguished vocals to his intelligent use of soundscapes.

8. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager

Some people still seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that Sam Duckworth AKA GCWCF is a sanitised “Emo” troubadour made for the Radio 2 market. I think that's over simplifying his songwriting talent; occasionally his voice may have a naive rasp, and his songs the eyes of a teenager, but for me his work was refreshing alternative, in these years of mainly MOR songsmiths. Mixing the highly personal thoughts on his home town and the political world, he creates a folk-tronic bricolage: tying the modernity of beats and samples with a good old fashioned acoustic guitar, and passionate vocal, plus his best songs (Call me Ishmael, War of the Worlds etc) show a spark of melodic promise that should see him moving on from here and into increasingly interesting areas. Along with Sam, Patrick Wolf, and Jeremy Warmsley, increasingly there was an antidote to the James Blunts of this world, and not before time.

10. Morrissey - Ringleader of the Tormentors

Ok on repeated listens, it wasn't quite the second coming of Moz that …Quarry was but it was still impressive slab of song writing. The accomplished musical backdrops were supplied in part by messrs Marricone and Visconti. At the core of ROTT was Morrissey's strong autobiographical voice, still couched in confusion and human inadequacy, but now there was a bolder, braver streak at its heart.: Morrissey threw around illusions to his sexuality above surf guitars ("You have killed me") talked of his “explosive” love in Rome, above elegant guitar notes (“Dear God, Please Help me”) and generally wallowed like only king of the misery guts can ("Life is a Pigsty").

Mentions for efforts from Nebraska, Tapes N Tapes, and The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club.

Bill Cummings' Top Singles of 2006.

1. Guillemots- Made up Love Song#43

Some saw this as a cheesy ode to love, but it's actually about seeing the beauty of love in the everyday ("The best things come from nowhere/I love you I don't think you care"), it was the most played single of my year. A gorgeous opening piano line, Fyfe's absolutely wondrous vocals soars upwards into a shooting bristling falsetto, above joyful jazzy instrumentation, before collapsing into a self-affirming refrain, over and over to fade out ("Yes I believe"). Someone once said its those unheard gaps between the music and the vocals that makes brilliant music what it is, well this is pure magic, and its great pop song.

2. Peter, John and Bjorn- Young Folks

Who'd have thought that this unassuming Swedish three piece could produce one of the records of the year? But they did. Far from being tired retro this was classic 60-esque song writing, imbued with a joyful love of melody, given timeless life by the echoey call- return vocals of Peter and Victoria Bergsman (The Concretes)…and who can forget those whistling solos that had everyone pursing their lips and blowing in clubs across the land.

3. Jarvis- Cunts Are still running the World

If I found Jarvis' solo come back album a little underwhelming then this gem more than made up for it. Originally released as a download on his myspace page, it's tucked away as a hidden track at the end of his full record. A building, biting anthem that kicks against the class system ("the cream cannot help but always rise to the top/but I say shit floats"), reminding us that cunts like Bush and Blair are still running things. It's all delivered with Jarvis' customary withering air of northern irony and wit: by God it was good to have him back.

4. Sigur Ros- Hopipola

Gaining wider acclaim through the use of a remixed version of the track on David Attenbourgh's "Blue Planet” programme, the original single version of Hopipola was released this year, and it lost none of its glorious beauty, a memorable yet gentle piano line, building and building rhythms, subtle yet complex arrangements, and a chorus of angelic vocals that ache and soar. A roller coaster of a song that gets my heart beating, and my skin bristling even on the 200th spin!

5. CSS- Lets make love and death from above

Taking the '70s New York disco vibe and kicking it into life with a smart air of punk-funk creativity: a twinkling beat, seductive addictive Brazilian female tones, squelches, and curious bleeps all came out of the CSS box of magic tricks, thus LMLADFA was the indie dance hit of the year.

6. The Gossip- Standing in the Way of control.

At the forefront of an army of female fronted groups that kicked down doors this year, in powerful Southern US singer Beth Ditto (a “big boned” lesbian with a fierce feminist attitude), The Gossip had a genuine star. This was a bluesy blast from left field, a propulsive rhythm is backed by a dirty funky guitar line, above which Beth Ditto showed her massive set of, er, “pipes”. Standing In the Way of Control was a bastardisation of gospel and soul: bluesy rock with a whole lotta punk rock balls; and gave a perfect example of why there won't be many men standing in Beth's way.

7. The Young Knives- She's Attracted to

The witty, human, Charity shop chic of Oxford's Young Knives stood out a mile amongst the mediocrity of the indie hordes. This was a snappy Grange Hill Soundtrack being given a taut boxing lesion by Wire: this arty blast took in a tale of a fight between our hero and his girlfriends parents, which delivered one of the best lyrics to bellow at the top of your lungs all year "YOU WERE SCREAMING AT YOUR MUM AND I WAS PUNCHING YOUR DAD!!"

8. Luxembourg - We Only Stayed Together For the Kids.

Dashing, weaving and sliding towards the kitchen were Luxembourg for a spot of the "domestic" with Kids they delivered yet another superlative kitchen sink anthem: a relationship on the rocks is breathed into life by glistening fairground rhythms, and a gloriously ironic vocal from David Lux ("It's been years since I have seen you without clothes"). Criminally ignored in some quarters but here at GIITTV we saw it as further proof of the brilliance of the lads from the Lux. Now we await their next move.

9. iLIKETRAiNs- Terra Nova

These Leeds boys had a good year, and Terra Nova was my favourite from their impressively uncompromising Progress Reform mini album. The first track and best on their debut LP, twanging motifs open up the giant atmospheric landscape, Oceansize shards of guitar that rain down, a trudging rhythm beating its way into the souls of weary doomed Antarctic explorers, its weary baritone vocal rumbles above their heads, before wave after wave of jagged peaks of distortion fight for breath, as icy fog sweeps across landscapes, valleys freeze, and still the lonely travellers march onto their demise. Stunning.

10. Thom Yorke- Harrowdown Hill

Thom Yorke's solo project was more about experimentation than accessibility, it was more Kid A than The Bends, for me this was the choice cut from his Eraser album. A doom-ridden ode about the untimely death of David Kelly driven to it by the powers that be, backing clicks and beats propel the whole thing to the bottom of the water, haunting vocal plumbs the dark depths and still come up for air, while the whole thing sends a shiver up the listener's spine.

Honourable mentions to The Indelicates- We Hate the Kids a pointed attack upon the folly of generations fooled by pop music over and over again. And Gnarls Barkley- Crazy undoubtedly the pop hit of the year, fusing soul/hip hop, and RnB, they created an unstoppable melody that dominated the charts, and most people's heads throughout the summer of 2006.

Mike Mantin's Albums of 2006.

1. Islands - Return To The Sea

Nobody expected beloved lo-fi indie-pop trio The Unicorns to evolve so gracefully. Islands, comprised of two ex-Unicorns and an ever-changing line-up of musicians (including a couple of Arcade Fire cameos), Islands eschewed that band's Casio charm in favour of a giant musical love-in: there's elements of rap and calypso here, all tied together with some timeless indie-pop songs. This isn't just Album of the Year, it's every Album of the Year of the past decade merged into one.

2. TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain

This is a truly awesome album, outstanding from the first drum beat of opener 'I Was A Lover'. Soulful harmonies (including, on one track, David Bowie) are buried underneath soundscapes of huge guitars and fuzzy electronics. The songwriting getting better too, 'Return To Cookie Mountain' is a deserved staple of Best of 2006 lists.

3. Liars - Drum's Not Dead

'Drum's Not Dead' made it clear that with each new Liars album comes a dramatic metamorphosis. Liars have evolved from members of the NYC dance-punk scene that brought us The Rapture to a truly unique-sounding band (via borderline-unlistenable witchcraft obsessives). They here trade witches for strange central characters Drum and Mt. Heart Attack, and white noise for an unsettling and difficult but ultimately rewarding sound completely their own.

4. Jeremy Warmsley - The Art Of Fiction

In a rather empty year for new singer-songwriters, Jeremy Warmsley's debut album was a true standout. It's a record of two halves, with Warmsley even suggesting an intermission in-between: the first is a collection of unforgettable pop songs, the second an electronica-influenced set, stretching far beyond the standard Dylan 'n' Drake influences. And, as he adds impressive-sounding new songs to his live set, this is certainly not the last we will hear of him.

5. Hot Chip - The Warning

Runaway winners of 'surprise of 2006', nobody expected such a full, accomplished album from a previously goofy, lo-fi electro group. Ignore the silly 'new-rave' label tacked onto it, 'The Warning''s sound is completely its own. Pounding electro beats mix seamlessly with deeper introspection, making for an album both danceable and rewarding. Pretty much everything improved: Alexis Taylor's high vocals, the standard of songwriting and, of course, the excellent beats all contributed to this fully deserved success story.

6. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife

When the Decemberists released their first album for a major label, no one was shouting "sellout!", only "bravo!". Everything to love about their early albums was here - the jangly tunes, the dorkish charm - only more confident and even grander. At the beginning and end were two uplifting, 12-minute epics, bringing back the classic storytelling of their EP 'The Tain'. They just keep delivering.

7. Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time

Matt Brooke and Ben Bridwell, both formerly of Seattle heroes Carissa's Weird, became Band Of Horses, delivering an inspired debut. Guitars twanged, riffed and duelled, adding a classic Americana tinge to the indie-rock songwriting. Plus Bridwell clearly went to the same school of epic bellowing as Wayne Coyne and Jim James of My Morning Jacket.

8. The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely

The production may have been stepped up compared to the days of clapped-out boomboxes, but John Darnielle's ability to write heartbreaking songs has by no means been glossed over. 'Get Lonely' is perhaps Darnielle's saddest album to date, his incomparable lyrical flair here describing lonely days in and the consequences of a failed relationship. 'Emo' remains an overused buzz word, this is the real deal.

9. Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies

Part-time New Pornographer Dan Bejar returned with what will surely be remembered as his magnum opus. 'Destroyer's Rubies' is lyrically superb, his songs deploying dozens of people, places and references that have their own wiki attempting to connect them all. And if you give up attempting to decode it, the catchy tunes and excellent musicianship make it a glorious listen on its own.

10. My Latest Novel - Wolves

A delicate, spine-tingling debut, 'Wolves' marked My Latest Novel as a cut above their twee, gentle indie peers. Full of storytelling, strings and Scottish accents, it's quiet and dreamy but always commands attention. On gorgeous singles 'Sister Sneaker Sister Soul' and 'The Hope Edition', their formula proved unbeatable.

Mike Mantin's Singles of 2006

1. The Shins - Phantom Limb

The Shins don't make their full, triumphant return until January, when new album 'Wincing The Night Away' finally gets released, but they're just in time to top my list with an incredible comeback single. Uplifting, catchy and addictive, with James Mercer's vocals sounding especially sweet, this is damn good proof that 2007 will be all theirs.

2. Guillemots - Made-Up Lovesong #43

Delivering a rather patchy album, Guillemots instead focused all their energy and effort into this truly glorious single. Plus, in that opening line, they put in a contender for lyric of the year: the sweet reassurance that "I love you through sparks and shining dragons, I do".

3. Jeremy Warmsley - I Promise

The warmest, most memorable song on an album full of gems. We find Jeremy Warmsley at his most hopelessly romantic, his cry of "you are the dream I forgot to have" beaten only by Fyfe of the Guillemots (see above). Plus it has the best pronunciation of the word 'belly' ever.

4. Broken Social Scene - Fire Eye'd Boy

The last single from the Album of 2005, this was probably the closest thing it had to a pop song. Loud and danceable, even if the beat's buried under layers and layers of guitar, it brought with it a surprisingly amusing video and a stunning performance on David Letterman, both easily found with a bit of YouTubing.

5. Liars - The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack

It's a testament to Liars' diversity and unpredictability that they can surprise people by delivering a three-minute pop song. Completely different from the difficult, strange sounds of their album 'Drum's Not Dead', the single version of its final track is delicate and sweet, a welcome change for a band who started their previous album with cries of "Blood! Blood! Blood!"

6. The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy!

Fiddly solos, "woah-ho"s and honky-tonk piano very often ends in derivative disaster but, in the hands of "America's best bar band", it sounds great. Helped by some superior lyric writing, 'Chips Ahoy!''s three (of course) minutes of rawk made it a classic single.

7. Islands - Rough Gem

The only single from Album of the Year 'Return To The Sea', this goes at least some way to encapsulating Islands' brilliance, full of playful keyboards and bouncy basslines, with the lyrics turning their attention to the diamond trade.

8. Forward, Russia! - Twelve

19 songs and counting (are they still doing that?), number twelve is still the finest, desperately throwing shouts and frantic guitar-fiddling at the listener and ending just as you've begun to comprehend it all. The perfect length, it's the most repeat-able song of the year.

9. Love Is All - Busy Doing Nothing

Sweden's been producing a lot of quiet shoegazing and gentle indie-pop recently - see Peter Bjorn And John and The Radio Dept for this year's examples - but Love Is All were quite different. This standout single was all aggressive female vocals and piercing blasts of saxophone. Highly addictive.

10. Two Gallants - Steady Rollin'

A tale set to classic Americana, with cues clearly taken from label boss Conor Oberst. This is duo Two Gallants at their slightly terrifying finest, also a highlight of their live set (though it was quite disturbing hearing the crowd cheer during the immortal lines "I shot my wife today/Dumped her body in the Frisco bay").

Tim Miller's Albums of the year 2006.

1. iForward, Russia! - Give Me a Wall

The at times visceral assault on the senses that is iForward, Russia!'s debut isn't what sets it apart. It's the way it mixes said battering with catchy riffs and melodic vocals, without pinning down their secret formula: unforgiving in its sense of roaring passion and frenzied musicianship, yet cutting some slack with its memorable choruses and guitar lines. Simply, iF,R! threw the gauntlet down to every band in indie this year, and showed exactly how to make a debut album in music today.

2. The Long Blondes - Someone to Drive You Home

iForward, Russia! were, in fact, oh so nearly pipped at the post by Sheffield 5-piece The Long Blondes when their debut was released in November. The trouble was, for Kate Jackson and her troupe, everyone who'd been excitedly monitoring the Blondes' progress over the last 18 months or so knew exactly how good it could be - and it was. A near-perfect blend of kitchen-sink dramas, sung in Jackson's velvet tongue, backed by hook-tastic guitars and pompous stomping beats, the only thing to hold back The Long Blondes this year was that by the time they finally came to unleashing their brilliance on the world, everyone was already clued up.

3. Spinto Band - Nice and Nicely Done

Happily, this gem of an album has remained relatively untarnished by the mainstream press since its release in May. Ten songs of absolute bottled twee pop, its variety of backdrops - mandolins, guitars, kazoos, and organs feature in songs veering between summery Beach Boys-esque romps and up-tempo kaleidisco*- is its strength. Never a dull moment, refreshing and delightfully soul-cleansing, the Spinto Band made an album this year as pure and pleasing as a blackbird singing in a clear blue sky on a cold November day.
*I had to bold that term as I just made it up and it is rather clever.

4. Muse - Black Holes & Revelations

It took them four albums, criminally, but this year Muse finally became the band that everyone really was talking about. Papers and magazines screamed manically about how amazing Muse were live - something I'd been casually opining long before I saw them take 'playing live' to a new level at Earls Court in 2005 - and their album deservedly hit number one. Interestingly, it took comparisons to Prince, a Keane-like single and their most space-age brand of rock yet to do it, but no matter. Black Holes & Revelations finally brought on a revelation to the wider music world: what a brilliant, brilliant band Muse truly are.

5. The Mars Volta - Amputechture

The Mars Volta contain ex-members of At The Drive-In. They are, however, no longer that band. Those hoping that The Mars Volta would stop evolving after 2005's Frances The Mute and head back towards those Relationship In Command days were severely disappointed in 2006: Amputechture presented the most challenging Volta album yet. Two songs are barely more than illogical hazes, while three songs pass the 11 minute mark. One of them though, Meccaamputechture, represents exactly why TMV are so much better than their former ATD-I selves: breezing through that time with swirling guitar solos and an epic soaring chorus, finished by what can be loosely seen as a 4-minute coda. Omar's unique guitar style, suspended between melody and random picking, reaches new heights on this LP, while saxophone, bongo and bass solos augment what is already a canvas of outrageous songwriting. Not an easy listen, by all means, but with this band, a little patience goes a long, long way.

6. Guillemots - Through the Windowpane

The fourth of seven debut albums to make it into this list, the Guillemots showed exactly what realms of possibility are still available in modern music with just three things: a heart of gold; a childlike imaginative streak and access to a range of instruments. Through The Windowpane was, accurately, a portal into the soul of Fyfe Dangerfield and his band of merry men and women; gorgeous layers of strings smooched around twinkling piano, sporadic appearances of guitars and drums, pots and pans and pipes and many, many voices; most successfully on the simply joyous South American flavoured tracks 'Trains to Brazil' and 'Sao Paulo'.

7. The Young Knives - Voices of Animals and Men

Not since Muse in the late '90s have three young men so startlingly broken into the big time with their debut LP, armed, in the main, with a standard guitar, bass and drum set up (sidestepping Scot-pomp rockers The Fratellis, whose novelty soon wears thin). The Young Knives stark contrast of intertwining bass lines and guitar riffs, underneath witty and bitter lyrics treading the line between ferocious ('Here Comes the Rumour Mill', 'She's Attracted to') to pleasantly harmonic ('Another Hollow Line', 'The Decision') showed that put in the right hands, a simple set up can yet yield surprising and delightful results.

8. The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club - Self-Titled

Another three piece, another similar set up. This time, VEGC bring added quirkiness, through striking vocals and peculiar lyrics throughout their debut LP and dissonant yet catchy guitar lines, often jumping sporadically in and out of accepted melodic patterns. The standout track 'Ban The Gin' (a good idea perhaps) shows why this debut (another!) sits safely inside the top 10, as it deservedly raised the band's profile above the dangers of being just another in a long line of 'darlings of the underground'.

9. The Divine Comedy - Victory for the Comic Muse

Neil Hannon, a.k.a the creative force behind The Divine Comedy, continues to astound with his boundless ability to turn out albums (this is number 9) that effortlessly combine orchestral arrangements with stunning pop sensibilities, most prolifically on undiscovered single of the year 'To Die A Virgin'. From the breathtakingly beautiful 'Lady of A Certain Age' to the charming 'Mother Dear' and haunting 'Snowball in Negative', Hannon refuses to do anything but delight time and time again.

10. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever….

Just about everything has been written about this debut album. It broke sales records, won numerous awards, yielded four hit singles, transcended the Berlin Wall between underground and mainstream, heralded in a new era of music online, and brought comparisons to The Beatles. When you do that, at 20, with your debut album, sometimes its best to leave the facts speak for themselves.

Honourable mentions to:
The Kooks: every student in England must own this album: the young person's soundtrack to the year.
Keane: gone are the hopes of their debut, Keane's world is far darker now and musically, that's great news.
TV on the Radio: Had it not been for Massive Attack's 'Collected', this might have been the soul record of the year.
Larrikin Love: the only post-Libertines band to do the tag any justice, and they come out of it with a smashing debut full of raucous promise.

Tim Miller's Singles of 2006

1. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy

When writing a hit single, people should know exactly what the song is as soon as it begins. And the genius duo behind Gnarls Barkley certainly got that right when they put four thumping, bass-amplified thuds at the beginning of this track. From then on, it's a masterstroke of songwriting: soulful vocals, a stomping funky beat, subtle 'oohs', hypnotic synth strings, and a wailing singalong chorus. That it was number one for several weeks AND tore up dance floors across the nation all year round was the least testament to the brilliance of this song, hands down, for this reviewer, the single of the year.

2. Long Blondes - Once, and Never Again

The bouncy, chirpy intro to this single, symbolising so well what succulent treats await the listener on the Long Blondes' album, belies the quiet desperation arising in Kate Jackson's vocals, pleading to her reckless girl friend for a chance to 'show her the ropes'. At once insanely catchy, a rollicking three minutes of hand-clapping, hip-shaking indie, the sit-up-and-listen 'Once, and Never Again' was this year's Time For Heroes, Helicopter, or even (quiet now), This Charming Man.

3. Nelly Furtado - Man Eater

Who'd have thought that the smouldering woman in tight jeans appearing from nowhere suddenly on music television would be the same Nelly 'I'm like a bird' Furtado who once innocently reproached 'I'll only fly away'; newly born as promiscuous man-eater? Not many people, that's for sure, but she's flown back as the hottest solo female artist in music, and 'Man Eater' was the start of it all in 2006. A scorching hot, grinding groove, with dirty, sultry vocals (plus video and outfit to match), Furtado struck gold with 'Man Eater' as one of her three super huge hits this year.

4. Amy Winehouse - Rehab

Another solo female artist with another comeback story, Amy Winehouse returned in 2006 to banish dark stories of relationship, drug and/or drink problems, with the glorious single 'Rehab'. With her caramel rich vocals gushing across a Phil Spector-esque backdrop of brass and choral voices, this single put Winehouse back on the map and created a spectacular storm of interest in her sparkling new LP 'Back To Black'.

5. Guillemots - Trains To Brazil

For the gloriously, unashamedly, feel good single of the year, there can be no other choice than the sumptuous arrangement that is 'Trains to Brazil'. Cheerful, bouncy piano, a wonderfully up-and-down vocal melody, whose anti-war lyrics are belted out by passion personified; Fyfe Dangerfield. A cacophonous wall of noise builds as the song grows into a truly unstoppable force, and only those 'who mourn their lives from one day to the next' could fail to be moved by the joyous uproar of Guillemots.

6. The Raconteurs - Steady As She goes

Jack White off to mix it with someone other than his sister didn't raise many eyebrows; clearly his musical talent extends far beyond the confines of the time signatures of Meg's, ah, unique style. But far less people were expecting the deluge of hook-laden rock'n'roll that The Raconteurs dished out in ladle-loads this year, most excitingly on 'Steady As She Goes'. Borrowing an intro from Joe Jackson's 'Is she really going out with him?' (go and see what I mean), the staccato guitars switching into all-out thrashing in the chorus augmented one of the most memorable vocal melodies of the year. There's no harm in going back to the basics if you do it this well.

7. Snow Patrol (ft. Martha Wainwright) - Set the Fire to the Third Bar

Simply put, I don't rate Snow Patrol; they're not inventive, fresh sounding, and they don't make exciting music. However, when you do quiet and dull like this single, aided no end by Martha Wainwright, it can melt hearts. Its simple and fragile back drop to heart-rending vocals come together perfectly to cause a stirring in even the most cynical of souls, and the chorus harmonies are some of the most desperately melancholic you'll hear.

8. Razorlight - America

Despite a lukewarm reception to their second album (critics seeing the light, if you ask me), the jangling, echoing guitar intro to 'America' never failed to make people put aside their differences, put arms around shoulders, raise lighters and sing as one: “Oh-oh-oh, OH! There's panic in America”. It's been three and a half years since the Iraq war began, and people are still banging on about it in their songs, but at least this single, the tender side to Razorlight's usually brash sounds, brought about the writing off of third world debt. Oh no, it didn't.

9. Lily Allen - Smile

A pop princess who went from 'in the making' to 'made it' in just a few months, Lily Allen's debut album has been one of biggest sellers of the year. With slices of reggae-tinged pop such as the vengeful single 'Smile', Lily Allen dominated the charts and the magazines with her bubblegum looks and biting outspokenness. Her mix of pretty dresses and scruffy trainers sums her up: underneath the coquettish charm there's real intelligence and wit, not least in her lyrics. After such a great 2006, there's certainly no stopping a smile breaking across Lily Allen's face.

10. Corinne Bailey Rae - Girl Put Your Records On

It was very hard to choose a final single for this list. I've tended to stay away from the underground choices, as “single” implies a successful release as well as being a good song. Corinne Bailey Rae's debut single announced her from nowhere to the world, a stunning young lady with a stunning voice. A laid back, sunny, summery tune, uplifting yet relaxing, 'Girl Put Your Records On', with its lazy days video, was the perfect beginning to the hottest summer on record. Oh, for those days again…

Emily Tarantella's albums of 2006.

This was a year for the ladies. Which is frankly, a sad thing to say. A year when roughly half the albums are female-driven is considered a benchmark, when in reality it should be completely expected. But nevertheless, this year's crop of albums, girl-power or not, were diverse, exciting, and promising.

1. Long Blondes - Someone to Drive You Home

Honestly, what more could you ask? The sheer retro-chic of the Blondes' look was just the icing on the cake. The rich, moist filling was the biting lyrics, angular riffs, and fantastic production. Delicious. In an age of trashy Hollywood starlets busy reducing “post-feminist” to “promiscuous,” it took icon-in-the-making Kate Jackson to bring the allure of Pulp and Scott Walker to the female persuasion.

2. The Gossip - Standing in the Way of Control

Pure, ferocious power. Lead singer Beth Ditto brings the perspective of overweight, Southern, lesbian rocker to a world dominated by skinny boys in drainpipes. Ditto can take odes to empowerment like the title track and make them world-conquering anthems, applicable to everyone with a heart and a sense of rhythm. It's just a matter of time before the Gossip become the heroes they were meant to be.

3. Dirty Pretty Things - Waterloo to Anywhere

If there was one album no one expected to get lost in the shuffle, it was this outing from Mr. Carl Barat. But most critics' lists have neglected this album, and it's mind-blowing. Brilliantly punky, but with the same nostalgia for the lost days of Albion that his partner professed, Waterloo to Anywhere was an album you could believe in, and never miss a beat.

4. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block

Tragically overlooked, and more than just the album that produced “Young Folks”. Peter Bjorn and John took Jens Lekman-esque pop and made it fun again, with droll lyrics and unmistakeable flair.

5. The Fratellis - Costello Music

And the boys in drainpipes strike back, with further proof that nothing can be more fun than a good, giddy rocking. The title made us think of the original Napoleon Dynamite himself, but the comparison just shows what made the Fratellis so damn good. Elvis Costello embraced all sorts of music with varying success, but the Fratellis do Libs-inspired rock, and they do it fantastically.

6. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife

Only these Portland poets could take a concept album about a man and his slightly-creepy love for a crane and make it consistently engaging. The Decemberists are no longer mere devotees of Neutral Milk Hotel, but rather pioneers taking on the mantle of “band to save your life.”

7. Howling Bells - Howling Bells

Another overlooked gem, this debut from Howling Bells was yet another soulful, female powerhouse. A perfect blend of grit and poise, this was a great album that you could feel in your bones. Next year might not be theirs, but they deserve it more than anyone out there.

8. The Killers - Sam's Town

So there's no guyliner and there's a few big moustaches. And while this album may have aped the man called Bruuuuuuuuce rather than the man called Moz, the gritty sagas were still the same: they took place in the desert rather than the discotheque. While some critics were dismissive, it's impossible to deny that this was a strong, catchy album full of infectious tunes. Remember, people, change is good.

9. Lily Allen - Alright, Still

God bless pop music. Was there any other star today with more humor, style, and flair as Lily Allen? She could easily have been a novelty act, but an album full of fantastic, catchy songs elevated her to pop princess.

10. Irving -Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers

No, you probably haven't heard of it. Except for perhaps a handful of commercials. Well, that's a shame, because this glitzy pop gem had everything. Killers synths? Smiths indie? Pure, unadulterated rock? Damn straight. This is rock with no respect for what's in, what's cool, or what the young folks like. Which is why it's so consistently engaging. So pick it up, because the boys could use a buck.

Emily Tarantella's Singles of 2006. (In no particular order):

“Bones” - the Killers. A pick-up line for all those Goth girls you had crushes on in high school.
“You Have Killed Me” - Morrissey. Making it even harder to kill your idols. Thanks, Mozza.
“Smile” - Lily Allen. Pure pope perfection, just like Miss Allen herself.
“That Time” - Regina Spektor. As brutal as her classic “Your Honor,” with a better riff.
“When the Sun Goes Down” -Arctic Monkeys. Moving rock excellence that will outlast Alex Turner's inevitable drunken decay.
“SOS” -Rihanna. Go on, and pretend you didn't love this R&B gem.
“Gold Lion” - Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Bizarre, dirty, and plain old nasty. And good.
“Paul Cries” - Think About Life. Tragically overlooked but a fuzzy slice of pure beauty.
“The Greatest” - Cat Power. Hear that? That's the sound of your heart breaking.
“Raoul” - The Automatic. Sure, “Monster” got more buzz but this was classic dance-fodder, even if it took this Yank some research to get the reference.