Review Summary: Much like 2005, only one record in 2006 made me fall in love with the band that made it. This is it - my album of the year.
I don't know why it is, but for some reason, I can't bring myself to write about my own personal album of the year without being ludicrously drunk. I'm slightly ashamed to admit this, but last year, I wrote a review of The Magic Numbers
while I could barely even see the keyboard in front of me. That review will never see the light of day, but it was simultaneously the most ludicrous and the most genuine thing I've ever written. I was ridiculed, repateadly, for loving an album so mainstream and so obvious, but love it I did, and for whatever reason, being under the influence allowed me to state my true feelings for that particular album.
Right now, it is nearly 5AM where I live. I have been out drinking since roughly 11 PM. I'm beginning to sober up, but needless to say, I've already had to correct my own spelling about 2 dozen times typing just these two paragraphs. I'm drunk, plain and simple. There are those that say alcohol opens the mind to personal truths, and with that in mind, I present you with this statement - Through The Windowpane
is 2006's best album.
This is a mild statement when considered against what I want to say. I want to tell you that this is the only album released in 2006 that genuinely deserves to be labelled 'magical'. I want to tell you that this album is home to 2 of the top 3 songs released in the 21st century. But this is opinion. Here, meanwhile, is a fact - tonight, I went to a nightclub, and upon hearing "Trains To Brazil", I was moved to tears. And at this point, I wasn't even drunk. To be perfectly honest, it's not the first time this song has made me cry.
Let's cast aside the rest of this album for a moment. "Trains To Brazil", dare I say, is the finest musical achievement of the 21st century. I'm well aware that I made a similar claim about "Crazy", but I hadn't heard "Trains To Brazil" when Gnarls Barkley invaded my life and moved me to review St. Elsewhere
. This has usurped it. This song runs such a gamut of emotions - from despair ('The prophets and their bombs have had another success/I wonder why we bother at all'), to denial ('But that won't get me down/I'm just thankful to be facing the day'), to wistful nostalgia ('I still think of you on a cold winter's morning/Oh, they remind me of when we were at school'), and it reaches a conclusion so succint and touching...
"And to those of you who live your lives
From one day to the next
Well let them take you next!
Can't you live and be thankful you're here?
See it could be you, tomorrow or next year..."
...that it makes you wonder why all songs aren't like this. "Trains To Brazil", in case you didn't know, is a song about the Brazilian who was gunned down and killed by the Metropolitan police after being (wrongly) accussed of being a major player in the 7/7 bombings. It boasts a melody that manages to be as refreshing on the 25th listen as the first, a theremin that brings to light the contrast between the distant and the homely at the heart of the song, a saxophone-led brass break, and a bouncy musical outlook that somehow makes the lyric all the more poignant. I'm well aware that nobody on this forum likes this song as much as me. But *** it. I'm drunk and I'm in love. Is that so wrong?
This isn't a one-song album. Make no mistake about it. And that alone, in all honesty, is nearly enough to justify a 4.5 rating. In fact, "Made-up Lovesong #43" is nearly as good. I'll let you in on a secret - this song changed my life. Here's why - as soon as I heard it, I swore to myself that, at some point, I'd find a girl that made feel the way this song did; a relationship that this song described. I won't go into the exact reasons why, but I will say I can't name another song that has had that effect on me.
Now, when I first heard this album, I had it down as a 4/5 album, a good record dominated by 2 sublime songs. Don't be fooled like I was. The rest of the album is, at worst, damn good, and at best, capable of heights other 2006 debutants can only dream of. The orchestral "Little Bear" is enthralling, lush, and engrossing. "Redwings" is gorgeous. "Blue Would Still Be Blue" is somehow a good song despite containing only one idea. "Annie, Let's Not Wait" is a wonderful song, clearly displaying single potential, not least because it has a chorus that refuses to leave the listener's head one heard. "Sao Paolo", meanwhile, is an absolute gem, arguably the most immediately impressive thing on offer - a 12-minute epic that barely seems to last 5, brimming as it does with invention, ideas, and sheer songwriting talent. The whole album showcases a band that, like The Arcade Fire, is unfraid to introduce unusual instruments and influences, yet more than capable of stopping that ambition get in the way of a set of stunning songs. And yes, like Funeral
, this feels both like a record that is almost without precedent, and the start of a wonderful career.
Through The Windowpane
isn't perfect. It's a record that leaves gaps, and shows clear room for improvement from the band that made it. But nobody made a better record this year, and those flaws, while apparent, are hard to touch upon and quantify. But why care that this isn't a 5-star record? This album is haunting, harrowing, fun, upbeat, and touching in equal measures. If they improve on this with the follow-up, well....
A drunk, emotional, slightly ashamed Iai signing off. Happy new year, Sputnik.