Musicians and weed are like peanut butter and jelly, Oreos and milk, Ben and Jerry. Like patchouli and Nag Champa, they just go together. And though we all know that some of the best records were made under the spell of Brother Herb (The Byrds' The Notorious Byrd Brothers, Neil Young's On the Beach, Black Sabbath's Master of Reality, the Melvins' Gluey Porch Treatments, and every single record the Grateful Dead ever thought about making), 2006 was a banner year for ganja-friendly tunes. From bands on the Jagjaguwar label to more of Devendra's BFFs, there were some offerings as sweet as the sticky icky itself and—like spaghetti and meatballs—probably best when experienced together.
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The Year in Music
Gold Needles in the Pop-Rock Haystack
A Year of Gluttony and Lust
Snap to It
Lullabies for the Deranged
The Year in DJ Music
It Was Free Cuz I Stole It
The "friends of Devendra" tag gets thrown around quite a bit, and considering the dude is now buddies with Beck and Lindsay Lohan, I think its validity is shot. But his and Andy Cabic's Gnomonsong label gave us one of the year's finest woodsy folk records of the last 30 years. The New England octet occupies the bucolic musical commune once trod by the Incredible String Band. The group's layered acoustic arrangements are gauzed over by hazy electric guitar atmospherics, and the vocal harmonies of Meara O'Reilly, Ruth Garbus, and Kurt Weisman flow together like a breath of air. Nature calls abound, but Feathers sing to the trees and part the clouds with the anthemic closer, "Come Around."
Disciples of California
Remember that time you pulled off Highway 1 near Half Moon Bay, Calif., smoked a fat joint, and watched the sun and ocean waltz with one another? And then you realized the sun and water were interdependent and that you were one with them, and that the universe and everything was all one? This record is like that. You dig? Glenn Donaldson and Shayde Sartin (both Jewelled Antler Collective members) have captured that sun-dazed Americana vibe that was last pursued by Buffalo Springfield, Gram Parsons, and the Byrds.
2006 was the year of the comet. It had to be because not only did Bay Area psychedelic pyros Comets on Fire release one of the finest acid-rock records of the year, but their individual members released some of the year's finest solo albums (Colossal Yes, Six Organs of Admittance). With Howlin Rain, the side project of Comets' screamer Ethan Miller, the roots of his raising are on display. In Miller's case, those roots are in Humboldt County, Calif., bastion of hippiedom, where redwoods loom and the public radio station warns crop growers of DEA helicopter sightings. "Death Prayer in Heaven's Orchard" is a blues groover, and "The Firing of the Midnight Rain" is like an Allman Brothers rough demo. But it's not all pure stoner jams. On the weed-friendly "Calling Lightning With a Scythe," Miller throws his guitar into overdrive with what is possibly one of the most skull-cracking solos of the year.
Brightblack Morning Light
Brightblack Morning Light
Their performance at Neumo's was a sleeper, for sure. But as a friend of mine noted, it would have been better had the club laid out throw pillows and magic carpets on the dance floor and placed a large hookah in the center. The Southern duo of Nabob Shineywater and Rachel "Rabob" Hughes bring new meaning to the term "laid-back." With oozy washes of guitar and the most syrupy organ drips you've ever heard, Brightblack Morning Light are like the Sunn O))) of stoner music. Slowly, patiently, they take over your entire body. First you feel your shoulders relax, then your hands and legs. Pretty soon, they've put you in a trance, and you realize life should be about more than rushing around. Because in life, there is nothing to be gained.
Conference of the Birds
Furthering the marriage of metal and marijuana they mined in their band Sleep, Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius take repetition, heavy bass, and shamanistic vocals to the next level with Om. The two-track opus is basically a variation on two riffs that never grows tiring. Opener "At Giza" is built out of subtle tension, and Cisneros' resonant, hazy vocals are like some great winged bird dipping and soaring, his words a cross between Zen poetry and Dungeons & Dragons wizardry. With lines like "Formate shrineite seize the litan rounds the unobscured code," you'll probably want a dictionary on hand.