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The Best Albums of 2006 (So Far)

While most pop culture mavens wait until the end of the year to tally their favorites, Sound Opinions is so list-crazy, that we've decided to take 2006's half-way mark as an opportunity to take stock. Here are the albums Jim and Greg are loving so far:

Jim DeRogatis:

  1. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  2. Van Hunt, On the Jungle Floor (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  3. Misson of Burma, The Obliterati (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  4. Wolfmother, Wolfmother (Interscope)
  5. The Bellrays, Have a Little Faith (Cheap Lullaby)
  6. Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Downtown) (hear Jim and Greg's interview with Art Brut)
  7. Belle and Sebastian, The Life Pursuit (Matador) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  8. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  9. Dilated Peoples, 20/20 (Capitol)
  10. Alejandro Escovedo, The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch Records) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  11. The Flaming Lips, At War with the Mystics (Warner Bros.) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  12. Grandaddy, Just Like the Fambly Cat (V2) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  13. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  14. Prince, 3121 (Universal/Motown) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  15. The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers (V2) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  16. Secret Machines, Ten Silver Drops (Reprise) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  17. The Strokes, First Impressions of Earth (RCA) (hear Greg's original review and interview with Julian Casablancas)
  18. The Subways, Young for Eternity (Sire)
  19. Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, Under the Covers Vol. 1 (Shout Factory)
  20. Neil Young, Living with War (Reprise) (hear Jim and Greg's original review)

Greg Kot (in no particular order):

  1. Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll (hear Jim and Greg's interview with Art Brut)
  2. Love is All, Nine Times That Same Song
  3. Ghostface Killah, Fishscale (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  4. Neil Young, Living With War (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  5. Dirty on Purpose, Hallelujah Sirens
  6. Parts and Labor, Stay Afraid
  7. Alejandro Escovedo, The Boxing Mirror (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  8. Mission of Burma, The Obliterati (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  9. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  10. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Furcoat (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  11. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  12. Anthony Hamilton, Ain‘t Nobody Worryin’ (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  13. Mary J. Blige, The Breakthrough (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
  14. Midlake, The Trials of Van Occupanther
  15. Van Hunt, On the Jungle Floor (hear Jim and Greg's original review)
Go to episode 31
news

Music News

Chuck D is always“fighting the power.”This time around he's taking on Universal Music in a $100 class-action lawsuit, alleging that the label has short-changed its artists and producers in licensing deals for digital downloads and ringtones. The suit says that artists are entitled to 50% of profits from digital downloads, and that currently Universal is paying out as it would for physical product, giving a lower royalty rate and deducting for physical media charges like containers and packaging. The Public Enemy front man is just one of many artists to take to the courts during this digital music revolution. Eminem recently won a landmark case against Universal, and previously Cheap Trick and the Allman brothers settled a similar suit.

Members of the hip-hop community are mourning the death of rapper Heavy D this week. He died Tuesday at age 44. Jim describes the“Overweight Lover”as larger than life in every way. He wasn't a hardcore rapper, but was full of charm and humor. He also moved over to the film and television worlds, appearing in The Cider House Rules, Tower Heist and Boston Public. To say goodbye to Heavy D, Jim and Greg play his 1991 hit "Now That We Found Love." It was written by Gamble and Huff and recorded by The O'Jays and Third World, but it's Heavy's version we'll always remember.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNWmF3SYzZI&index=1&list=RDcNWmF3SYzZI

Go to episode 311

Music News

In what is turning into a regular Sound Opinions segment:“The Recording Industry vs. The Consumer,”Jim and Greg turn this week to a news item coming out of Oregon. Earlier this year the RIAA filed a lawsuit accusing 17 unnamed suspected University of Oregon students of illegally sharing music. The suspects are identified only by an Internet address, and industry lawyers have demanded that the university identify them. Previously when the RIAA has done this, universities cooperated. But the University of Oregon's response has been quite remarkable. UO officials are refusing to identify the students without an investigation, saying that this would compromise their privacy and property rights. Oregon's Attorney General has backed the school and is accusing the RIAA of bullying. Jim and Greg speak to Tony Green, a reporter at the Oregonian, about what is fast becoming a contentious battle.

While they may not be effective, the record industry lawsuits are an attempt to maintain ground in an ever-changing landscape. The next two stories speak to this music industry flux. Universal, the top music label, has ordered its artists to take full tracks off of their MySpace pages. While MySpace was once viewed as a great promotional tool, it's now been added to the list of digital distribution enemies. Therefore, commercial successes like Colbie Caillat are having to remove content from their sites and explain the issue to hungry fans. This move might have been a response to losses Universal experienced last quarter. They're also laying off a number of top and mid-level executives, and Vivendi, the company that owns the label, has announced plans to acquire video game publisher Activision. Activision produces Guitar Hero, the game that has proven to be more successful than any music release this year.

Another area the music industry is struggling with is commercial radio. With an increasing number of alternatives to radio including internet radio and the iPod, broadcast radio listenership has been gradually diminishing over the past few years. In an effort to maintain listeners, program directors are actually choosing to play fewer songs, more times. New York Times reporter Jeff Leeds explains that commercial radio stations are oddly choosing to keep the listeners they've got, rather than get new ones. The most recent example of this strategy is the tremendous amount of airpla{artist: y given to OneRepublic's hit single "Apologize." The Timbaland} produced track recently broke the record for the most plays of a song on the nation's Top 40 stations in a single week. It was played almost 11,000 times in one single week and was heard by more than 70 million listeners.

Go to episode 106

Music News

Fans have long been wondering when the Beatles will finally come to iTunes. Well, according to Yoko Ono, not anytime soon. John Lennon's widow recently said fans shouldn‘t hold their breath, adding “There’s just an element that we're not very happy about, as people. We are holding out.” But, rest assured, that when Apple Inc. and Apple Corps. do come to an agreement, digital sales will start flying. When the Beatles released their reissues last year, they sold 2.25 million copies in the first five days of release.

Lady Gaga has a record breaking 13 nominations for MTV Video Music Awards. But, ironically, her videos will no longer be available on MTV.com. Gaga's label Universal has decided to take all its content off the music channel's website and show them instead on the label-owned Vevo. Jim and Greg think it will be interesting to see what kind of industry influence MTV can sustain without much music content on its airwaves or website.

Sometimes life does imitate art. "If I Was President" singer Wyclef Jean is, in fact, running for president. The Haitian born former Fugee announced his official candidacy for president of the devastated nation last week. While Jean faces a number of barriers on his road to the office, including controversies regarding his charities and taxes and, of course, celebrity, this got Jim and Greg thinking about some other pop politicos including Sonny Bono, who served in Congress and as the mayor of Palm Springs, Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil, who is an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian House of Representatives and is the Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts, and The Doobie Brothers' Jeff“Skunk”Baxter who now serves as a defense consultant and chairs a Congressional Advisory Board on missile defense.

Go to episode 246

Music News

Oh, how the mighty have fallen—and we're not just talking about lackluster MJ. After its two-month reign as the nation's #1 album, the Frozen soundtrack has at last been ousted from its throne… by Now That's What I Call Music! Vol. 50. What are we to make of this coup by Universal's unending compilation series? On one hand, it's proof that the Top 40 crowd is still the biggest force in purchasing music. But on the other, it's surprising that teens still want Now! to curate their playlists when it's so easy to create their own. Turn Down for What? For Idina Menzel, apparently.

Go to episode 443

Music News

After years of letting Apple rule with the iPod, Microsoft has decided to fight back and release its own mp3 player, called the“Zune.”While analysts don't predict the Zune being stiff competition just yet, Microsoft has already broken new ground in how it does business, striking a deal with another giant corporation, Universal Music. In exchange for giving Microsoft the rights to sell its music, Universal will receive a piece of Zune sales. Jim and Greg explain that this strategic move gives record companies a stake in Zune's success. But, even with the backing of labels like Universal, Zune will still have to convert devoted iPod users. And with fans ranging from The Pope to The Queen, they'll need a major ad campaign to do that.

Go to episode 51

Music News

The Payola investigation conducted by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is making some headway. Universal Music Group, the world's biggest music company, has agreed to pay $12 million to settle accusations that its executives paid radio programmers to play certain songs. This is the largest settlement of its kind. Warner Music Group and Sony BMG made similar deals last year, and Mr. Spitzer is still in the process of investigating EMI, as well as radio companies like Clear Channel and CBS Radio. And, as we heard a couple of weeks ago, the FCC is conducting a similar inquiry. As always, Sound Opinions H.Q. will keep you posted.

Another story in the news this week suggests that record company lawyers won't be taking a break any time soon. All four of the major record labels have just launched a lawsuit against XM Satellite Radio. Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI all claim that a new XM device called the "Inno" violates music copyright law by allowing people to not only listen to satellite radio, but record it. Therefore, according to the labels, XM has become a digital retailer, like iTunes, and should be required to pay similar fees. It's yet another example of the recording industry scorning new technology rather than embracing it.

Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose is also making news, though Jim and Greg are wondering why. The buzz is that his long-awaited album Chinese Democracy is forthcoming — but our hosts are skeptical. Rose has been saying that he's on the brink of finishing for years (15 to be exact), and in the process he's become one of the long-running jokes in the music industry. But fans can take solace in the fact that the singer recently performed some Chinese Democracy tracks in New York. A good sign indeed.

Go to episode 25