Top 10 2006; 4

[ed. note — lots of other cool top 10 posts at Largehearted Boy. I love seeing how my top ten compares/contrasts with everyone else’s. Neatski!]

[ed. note 2 — YANP has a radio rip of the new Arcade Fire song that premiered on the BBC. It is AWESOME, people. It gave me chills.]

Jeffrey Foucault
Ghost Repeater
Signature Sounds
Wild Waste and Welter (removed. contact me for a copy.)

Having spent six years studying contemporary American poetry, I admit a certain impatience with the deliberately obfuscating lyric. I’m not of the Ashbery school; if I have to dig through every line to make sense out of a song, (i.e., Ms. Case at #7), then it falls in my estimation. I like a certain amount of beautiful, easily interpretable symbolism in my poetry; I like a well-built, concrete image. And since I consider music to be the last bastion of accessible poetry, one of the factors I look for in a best-of-year album is … accessible poetry. That’s probably why my favorite albums are blues, alt-country, and folk/Americana. Foucault could fit each of these genres, so I guess I love this album three times as much.

“Ghost Repeater” is a Midwest elegiac; Foucault’s leitmotif is the human soul’s breakdown in the face of relentless hedonism. It’s part nostalgia, part grief, and it’s beautifully stark. Over top of the mourning guitars comes Foucault’s voice and the sparing harmony: They’re selling heart attacks on credit, and shadows on a screen / And they’ll grind your bones to dust in this American machine. ‘They’ is like the protagonists of American Gods — the faceless entities who want to acquire your humanity in exchange for currency.

The album isn’t a warning that we’re about to wreck our hearts and souls — it’s already buried us and is crying over our graves. Even the narrator isn’t exempt: in “Train To Jackson,” he says, so I set all my clothes on fire; sold my soul to any buyer / wrapped my heart in concertina wire and showed it for a song. It’s an old theme, tied up in the blues, and Foucault just does it up so beautifully that it makes you promise, just a little, that you’ll be better. That you’ll look inwards for a minute and see if there’s anything still there.

[see Best of 2006 for more]