KEXP’s Year in Review: Quilty 3000, Much Better Than A Lump of Coal

Sufjan Stevens, photo courtesy of madelien

As 2006 comes to a close, I just realized that when January rolls around I will be celebrating 14 years of Saturday afternoons on KEXP and also celebrating hitting that milestone of 40. KEXP has taken me from my mid-twenties – my first show was the day before my 26th birthday, all the way through my thirties (Troy, being 30 really doesn’t suck THAT much), and now into the next decade. I can’t believe it’s already that time of the year to put together another top ten list — 2006 has zipped by in record speed (and I don’t mean 33RPM). My Top Ten for 2006 is a mixed bag:

The DecemberistsThe Crane Wife (Capitol)
Sufjan StevensThe Avalanche (Asthmatic Kitty)
The Transmissionary SixRadar (Roslyn): Infrared (MP3)
Bryan HarveyRemember Me Well 1956-2006 (Plan 9 Music)
Mojave 3Puzzles Like You (4AD)
Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3…tick…tick…tick (Down There / Red Eye)
Alejandro EscovedoThe Boxing Mirror (Back Porch)
Deadstring BrothersStarving Winter Report (Bloodshot)
TarkioOmnibus (Kill Rock Stars)
MidlakeThe Trails of Van Occupanther (Bella Union)

Sufjan Steven’s The Avalanche features outtakes from the Illinois album, which topped my list for 2005. As a native Illinoisan I really enjoyed hearing Mr. Steven’s sing about Pittsfield and my hometown of Springfield. Portland’s Decemberists are now on a major label but that hasn’t changed their sound. The Crane Wife only gets better with repeated plays. Also making my list is Colin Meloy’s early band, Tarkio. Omnibus (Tristan and Iseult MP3) is a two CD release featuring recordings from 1996 to 1999 when Colin was majoring in English at the University of Montana in Missoula. With a stripped down alt-country feel, you can definitely hear the genesis of The Decemberist’s sound. One of the best in-studios I saw this year was Steve Wynn, that man can play guitar. His latest release, …tick…tick…tick (Freak Star MP3) is reminiscent of the guitar drenched sound of The Dream Syndicate. Midlake makes new music that sounds old, but not dated, think Fleetwood Mac meets Radiohead. They are one of those bands that when I would play a track on my show the phone would light up.

As the days count down and times runs out for grabbing gifts, here are a couple of suggestions for the music geek in your life:

XTC Action figures! Yes, you read that right, XTC has commissioned a set of collector figures in a very limited edition of 200 sets. The metal figures are made by Irregular Miniatures, a company specializing in tin solider figures.

Series No. 1 features Andy, Colin, Barry and Terry circa 1978 White Music. Imagine XTC faces the great armies of the ages. Who will prevail — soldiers and weapons or XTC and their instruments?

If you have a Neutral Milk Hotel fan on your list you are in luck. While Jeff Mangum hasn’t been recording lately, he has completed a limited series of weird collage Fender acoustic guitars. Truly a one-of-a-kind piece of playable art.

And finally, Joseph Arthur has released a limited edition book of original art titled “We Almost Made It” which also includes a CD of instrumental compositions. The book is limited to 5,000 copies.

I hope that you have a good holiday season and wonderful New Year. Here’s to 2007 and the music that it holds!

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