So, as a victim of the Napster age of music… I’m buying less albums. Not drastically less, but now I don’t have to waste my time on filler with iTunes and other methods… So here are the albums I not only bought, but enjoyed from the beginning to the end. And my take on the musical missteps of the year.

Tori Amos: A Piano
Who knew Tori had a 5-disc boxed set up her sleeve. While glancing over some tracks, and not including every b-side (some rarer then others) I can forgive her some omissions, for such a massive under-taking and a job well-done. Instead of just letting some moron at the record company sift through it all after her death, she found all the remaining masters, and went on to give us re-mastered tracks, over 10 never before heard of, and included some demos (which she never does). New (to us) tracks like ‘Not David Bowie’ and the remix of ‘Cruel’ prove you can’t keep a good bitch down, and the accompanying book following her process and reasons for including some songs verses others made for a great read.

Nelly Furtado: Loose
A lot of pissy-ass fans have been belly-aching over Nelly selling out. Shut up! She has been tinkering with hip-hop since her debut, and though her sophomore album went the singer/songerwriter path, this album took an about face and went to the clubs. ‘Promiscuous’ ‘Maneater’ and ‘No Hay Igual’ were sure-fire clubbangers from the get go, while ‘Say It Right’ and ‘Afraid’ merged the hip-hop sound with her song stylings of the first 2 albums. And ‘Do It’ is the best 80s song written since 1990.

Under The Influence of Giants/Men Women & Children/Rapture:Pieces of the People We Love
3 great dance rock albums. I can’t pick a favorite out of them, but they each have their ups and downs and deserve more attention. Standout tracks for UTIOG (more 80s/Synth): Mama’s Room & Heaven Is Full; MW&C (more 80s/Funk): Dance in My Blood, Celebracion!, & Sell Your Money; and Rapture(electro/rock): Get Myself Into It, The Sound, & Whoo!Alright…Yeah Uh Huh.

I made fun of this album upon it’s release, because being named after a toilet device that cleans out your cho-cha, makes it an easy target. And then some people told me it sucked, and like a follower, I believed them. Then I picked it up. ‘Deja Vu’ was a HOT record, but I thought it was just a fluke. Little did I know that ‘Get Me Bodied’, ‘Ring The Alarm’, & ‘Upgrade U’ were just dying to get on my iPod. And instead of filling the rest of the album with half-assed ballads, she filled it with a bunch of clubbangers, and only made us sit through 2 slow songs, one of which, ‘Irreplaceable’ is a classic. Sorry I doubted you Beyonce.

Dixie Chicks: Taking The Long Way Around
Fuck country radio! That’s what the chicks decided, and I’m glad they did. Instead of trying to work there sound into what would get them airplay, they worked with Rick Rubin to get their sound into what would showcase their talents. And they’ve finally taken a whole album under their belt and wrote every song. Girl Power! Highlights include the title song, ‘Not Ready To Make Nice’ & ‘Lubbock or Leave It’. Country radio might be giving them the cold shoulder, but the Grammy people sure aren’t!

Pink: I’m Not Dead
I think Clear Channel is punishing her for breaking out of the Britney/Xtina mold, to do her own thing, by not giving her any airplay. ‘Stupid Girls’ while sort of a novelty song, is also a biting commentary on our culture of body and celebrity obsession. She even found the time to channel her inner Dixie Chick and bash the prez on the beautiful ‘Dear Mr. President’. And then still delivered fun songs like ‘U + Ur Hand’ and ‘Cuz I Can’.

Justin Timberlake: FutureSex/LoveSounds
I was really starting to worry that maybe JT just didn’t have another album in him. A long wait and lots of rumours swirling about going rock, and producers galore didn’t help. Luckily, he let Timbaland tell him what to do, and it turned out great. I’ll say this though, the collabo with Three 6 Mafia ‘Chop Me Up’ is a total waste of time and space. Other than that, if his debut was an homage to Michael Jackson, his follow-up is an even better homage to Prince.

The Fray: How To Save A Life
America has a glut of boring over-done rockers. Nickelback are leading the charge. And then you have John Mayer and his kid brothers Jason Mraz & Howie Day, who are not bad, if a little over-done on radio. The Fray land somehwhere in the middle with an undeniable Coldplay influence. Normally the rock albums bore me a little (I hate to say that Mr. Mayer’s has been a little dull on my first few listens), but this album is an enjoyable full CD listen. Even if the radio is doing them to death.

Goldfrapp:Supernature/We Are Glitter
Technically Supernature was released last year, but didn’t find it’s way to US shores until this year. And then they treated us to one of the better remix albums I’ve heard. If Kylie needed a break to fight cancer, Goldfrapp did a great job of tiding me over until she’s back on top!

Lupe Fiasco: Food & Liquor
He’s not trying to sound just like Kanye West, even though they’re buddies. He’s also not trying to sound like every hip-hop artist in Jermaine Dupri’s stable. Lupe is exploring new territory in rap, building off of Kanye’s dabbling with orchestrations, and making a rap album all his own. Also check out the incredible collabo with Jill Scott on ‘Daydreamin’. Ms. Scott kills it!

So those were the albums that made it generally unscathed onto my iPod this year… but, here’s a look at evidence that music is dying a slow painful death.

*Janet Jackson*: 20 Y.O.
Where before I’ve said that Madonna can still put out an album that still has a few great tracks, this album showed me that Janet doesn’t have that touch anymore. I even enjoyed a bit of the reviled ‘Damita Jo’, however for an album that is supposed to celebrate ‘Control’ (a classic), it fell way short it. Janet struggled to stay relevant on a pitiful duet with Nelly (not Furtado), failed to bust a move with Khia (the My Neck My Back one hit wonder) on ‘So Excited’, and generally worshipped whatever lies JD is telling on the rest of the album, where she came off like a poor man’s Ciara or Cassie – girls who owe their careers to Janet.

*Shakira* & Wyclef- Hips Don’t Lie
Her album was failing, so she sold out, and did what the record company wanted, rented a rapper. I guess they were late on their rent, because all Wyclef did was recycle his contribution to the ‘Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights’ soundtrack. Shame on you both!

Hinder – Lips of an Angel/Rihanna – Unfaithful
I don’t like songs that glorify cheating. Not something I wanna sing along to. Especially when they sound like a Nickelback knock-off or a silly R&B ballad.

*Gwen Stefani* – Wind It Up
I’ll dance to it. But I’m not amused, it’s a silly ass song, but unlike ‘Fergalicious’ it got real old real quick. Gwen, you’re a visionary, do something new instead of regurgitating ‘Hollaback Girl’!!

Paris Hilton/Kevin Federline
This is truly a sign of the apocalypse. If ever two people were the definition of no-talent, it’s this pair. And in out culture of celebrity worship, record companies allowed both idiots to record and release albums. K-Sped, stay in the trailer park, and Paris, Pro-Tools is the only way you can carry a tune!

The stars (*…*) around some names denote the fact that I’m ashamed to have them in the same actegory as Paris & K-Fed… but I know they can do better… they just didn’t!!

And on a last Music note for 2006. How the fuck did Taylor Hicks win American Idol?