Best of tracks and reels of 2006 |

Best of tracks and reels of 2006

LA Times-Washington Post News ServiceVail Daily, Vail Colorado
Special to the Daily People went crazy for Gnarls Barkley's song "Crazy" in 2006.

As the year comes to a close, it’s natural to reflect on the significant moments of the past 12 months and … ah, who are we kidding? It’s all about ranking stuff. It’s what humans do. Look on the newsstand this week and you’ll find more than a dozen “best of 2006” lists in all manner of publications. Welcome to our entry in the field.This year’s version is slightly different from past incarnations. Our music lists are broader, mirroring how people’s consumption of music has evolved. Instead of being limited to the top 10 CDs of the year, the lists are now simply “the best music,” whether that music is a 2-minute 43-second sparkler of a single on the radio; a mash-up downloaded from the Web; a hot, happening concert in a club; or, yes, a carefully produced full-length CD.And on the film side, we have all three of The Post’s movie critics contributing, with each giving their picks for the top performances of the year.We hope these opinionated highlights of 2006 make your list of the day’s best reading.MUSIC

1. Gnarls Barkley had the song of the year with “Crazy.” Between Danger Mouse’s skillful sound creation and Cee-Lo Green’s haunting vocals, no song better captured the zeitgeist or your ears than this one. And it instantly created a cottage industry of covers by such artists as Nelly Furtado and Ray LaMontagne.2. Rhymefest’s “Blue Collar.” On the most soulful rap CD in a long time, Rhymefest, who co-wrote Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks,” delivers punch lines and punch-hard put-downs with a voice that’s authentic and charismatic. Plus, you get to hear O.D.B. sing “Build Me Up, Buttercup.”3. Shelby Lynne at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., Oct. 1. In an intimate show, Lynne’s smoky voice was as mesmerizing as ever, singing songs ranging from candid vulnerability to cool control. She even hung around afterward to meet fans and was charming and amiable.4. Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” video features the legend’s voice on one of his last recorded songs as a parade of famous folks – from Chris Rock to Brian Wilson, Sheryl Crow to Patti Smith, Justin Timberlake to Iggy Pop, and many more – rolls by in moody black-and-white as both tribute to Cash and reminder to all that even they’ll be cut down.5. Timbaland. His quirky percussive touch and stuttering beats were all over the radio, usually on songs that had you turning up the volume – Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous,” Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback” and “My Love,” and Pussycat Dolls’ “Wait a Minute” being prime examples.6. Dangerous Orange, “Hurts Like Teen Spirit.” This mash-up combines Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and leavens it with a dash of Blue Oyster Cult and a pinch of New Order. What on paper seems like a train wreck is nothing short of addictive in your ear.7. Dixie Chicks. The trio had several quality moments, including its defiant “Not Ready to Make Nice” single and the intriguing “Shut Up & Sing” documentary. But best of all was the way the Dixie Chicks appeared onstage at some of their live shows to the strains of “Hail to the Chief.”

8. Lupe Fiasco’s “Food & Liquor.” If you’re the sort who still listens to De La Soul’s classic 1989 release “3 Feet High and Rising,” you’ll be listening to Lupe Fiasco’s smartly crafted rhymes 10 years from now.9. The Coup, “Pick a Bigger Weapon.” This Oakland, Calif.-based act mixes revolutionary politics, humor and sweet beats. Smart and catchy, a rare double. Plus, it has the song title of the year, “Babyletshaveababybeforebushdosomethingcrazy.”10. OK Go, “Here It Goes Again” video on YouTube. Silly but great for wasting time at the office. And the live performance on MTV’s Video Music Awards had us watching with oddly nervous concern.- Curt Fields

1. Arctic Monkeys, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.” Young frontman Alex Turner is to his generation of Brit lads what Ray Davies and Pete Townshend were to theirs in the ’60s: an exuberant, astute articulator of youthful energy and anxiety.2. Corinne Bailey Rae, “Corinne Bailey Rae.” Another bright debut, with Rae’s neo-soul ‘n’ folk vocals offering mesmerizing meditations on love’s ache and awe, with good-company echoes of Billie Holiday, Erykah Badu and Norah Jones.3. Wolfmother, “Wolfmother.” A thundering fun house retro blend of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath (with dashes of Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple). The young Australian power trio serves loud, heavy, delightfully unrepentant blues-based rock.4. Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy.” The song and the single of 2006 sounded timeless from the moment it appeared. A deep soul classic featuring Danger Mouse’s visionary production and Cee-Lo Green’s ecstatic/anguished vocals.5. AC/DC’s “Back in Black” meets Audrey Hepburn. When the fashion and style icon did her bohemian nightclub dance in Stanley Donen’s 1957 film “Funny Face,” who’d have guessed that, nearly 50 years later, it would mash up perfectly with an AC/DC song and a Gap campaign for skinny black pants for the coolest commercial on television?6. The return of T Bone Burnett, at the 9:30 club in Washington, May 30. His first concert tour in 20 years to support “The True False Identity,” his first album since 1992. Burnett’s songs were smart, political, moral, intense, challenging, uplifting and sometimes downright scary. Bonus release: “Twenty Twenty: The Essential T Bone Burnett,” a two-disc, three-decade, 40-song retrospective.7. Sorry, the autumn of WHOSE years? After a mighty good 2005, Bob Dylan continued the streak with “Modern Times,” chock-full of thoughtful, haunted, beautifully crafted roots-inspired originals and the most intriguing show on satellite radio (XM’s “Theme Time Radio Hour”).8. The greatest repository of ready-to-share, fan-based pop music history, providing often rare visual and audio witness to the wacky, the weird, the wonderful and the gloriously imperfect – as well as the thoroughly embarrassing and absurd. Get it while it lasts – the lawyers are getting ready to take the wind out of this sail.9. My Morning Jacket. The Louisville rock quintet managed a double dose of magic with “Okonokos”: It was one of the best concert recordings in years, as well as a mesmerizing concert film and DVD that confirmed MMJ as one of the great live bands working today. Ironically, the band’s late November shows at the 9:30 club in Washington had a hard time living up to the high standards of “Okonokos.”

10. Tori Amos. The quirky singer-songwriter got audio and video retrospectives from Rhino. “A Piano: The Collection,” packaged in a plastic keyboard, gathers 86 tracks on five discs, including a wealth of rarities, while “Fade to Red,” a two-disc DVD, is an almost complete collection of 19 amazing, sometimes disturbing Amos videos, with Amos proving both charming and loopy on the commentary track.- Richard HarringtonFILMS

1. The cast of “Apocalypto.” As the pre-Columbian Mayas of Mel Gibson’s Amazon-set drama, this ensemble – Mexican and Native American nonprofessionals – moves with a collective grace that would make Paul Taylor ache. Their limber movements, upright poise and the sonorous beauty of their Yucatek Maya language amount to a primitive human symphony.2. Penelope Cruz in “Volver.” So what if director Pedro Almodovar forced her to strap a prosthetic tush to her hindquarters? The real voluptuousness comes in Cruz’s performance – a tour de force of Mediterranean emotions, ranging from mascara-drippy grief to ebullient singing. She’s in wonderful Cruz control.3. Helen Mirren in “The Queen.” Cast as the emotionally frosty monarch in the Buckingham Palace imbroglio that followed Princess Diana’s death, Mirren makes a subtle symphony of small gestures. Her every movement, eye flutter and seemingly innocuous utterance is testament to the suppressed passions roiling beneath that royal veneer.4. Robert Downey Jr. in “A Scanner Darkly.” Word has it Downey can’t be nominated for an Oscar because his performance was “captured” and repurposed into digital imagery. But that’s not technology that’s making you watch him: It’s the human actor. The fact that he’s so effective in spite of being ‘tooned makes his turn even more compelling.5. Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale.” Sean Connery imbued James Bond with hairy-knuckled, Scottish-accented manliness, but the Bond players since his departure – mainly Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan – have essentially been Ken dolls at the center of cinematic set pieces. Craig, with his snub nose, deep facial lines, gym-torqued build and sensual presence, has made us sit up and pay attention, once more, to the man inside the tux. Long may he work for MI6.- Desson Thomson

1. Judi Dench in “Notes on a Scandal.” When Judi Dench, as an old pro middle school teacher in today’s London, fixes on a miscreant in “Notes on a Scandal” and blows him away with withering sarcasm and an even more withering glare, you’re seeing performance at its highest. Dench is without vanity – that’s why she makes a great M in the Bond movies – but “Notes” presents an incredible technical challenge. As the “unreliable narrator,” she must appear in one light and then slowly allow her delusions to be stripped away until her naked self is exposed.2. Gong Li in “Curse of the Golden Flower.” The great Chinese actress Gong Li returns to the care of the auteur of her greatest films in the martial arts – marital arts! – spectacular “Curse of the Golden Flower,” directed by Zhang Yimou. But the movie is really Gong’s: As Empress Phoenix, she is beautiful, suffering, plotting, maniacally in love with her sons and in hate with her husband, giving a towering star turn.3. Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Is there a more enjoyable five minutes of feature film this year than Meryl Streep’s riff on cerulean in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Streep’s turn as fashion-magazine czarina Miranda Priestly is powered not by bombast and pomposity but by the true expression of force, which is quiet. “Hmmm,” she’ll say, “I wonder why I don’t have my coffee?” and immediately the office begins to self-destruct as the minions, fearing for life and limb, try to deliver a hot cuppa joe in the next 16 seconds. Streep’s Priestly not only saves this average movie, she is the movie.4. Jack Nicholson in “The Departed.” Nicholson has never played such a lowlife thug and at the same time made you feel the fellow’s cunning and ruthlessness. As Frank Costello in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” he doesn’t play both ends against the middle, he plays all six sides of the cube against the center, and you feel him pulling strings. Yet as bad as Frank is, Nicholson makes you love the old trouper.5. Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland.” And finally, there’s Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland,” another not-great movie built around a great performance. Whitaker is Idi Amin Dada, the dictator of Uganda, who, in his rage and anger, murdered thousands while attracting the attention of the world for his outsized antics. Whitaker never makes a complete bobo out of him; his Amin is smart, knows when to charm, when to snarl. Watching him become progressively more unhinged is a great if frightening thrill.- Stephen Hunter

1. Ben Sliney in “United 93.” He didn’t just play a harried air traffic controller in “United 93,” he was that air traffic controller during the actual events of Sept. 11, 2001. The gray-haired, compactly built Sliney delivered the most indelible, wrenching turn in this year’s most powerful ensemble performance.2. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin in “A Prairie Home Companion.” No, we’re not cheating. Streep and Tomlin deserve to be mentioned for a shared performance in Robert Altman’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” in which these two veteran actresses play singing sisters. Whether they’re harmonizing on a hymn or talking over each other in Altmanesque patois, they’re always in tune.3. Ryan Gosling in “Half Nelson.” Gosling’s portrayal of a drug-addicted schoolteacher in “Half Nelson” may be the year’s most scandalously overlooked. Though most fans know this gifted young actor as the heartthrob in “The Notebook,” here he proves his mettle by imbuing his complex character with equal parts idealism, self-pity, intelligence and vulnerability.4. Shareeka Epps in “Half Nelson.” See Ryan Gosling’s entry regarding “Half Nelson” being scandalously overlooked; Epps, who made her feature debut as a student of Gosling’s character, is yet another reason to put the movie on your Netflix queue. Epps more than holds her own with Gosling, providing watchful, quietly self-aware ballast as his character flames out.5. Ted Haggard in “Jesus Camp.” In this documentary, the evangelical preacher leers at a camera operator and says, “I know what you did last night.” Well, it turned out what he had done last night was score some crystal meth and get together with a male prostitute. Meanwhile, this prevaricator and moral hypocrite had thousands of followers convinced he was a straight and sober man of God. Well played, sir!- Ann Hornaday

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