A Little Faster This Time

"I'm Never Wrong" vs. "This Is What I'm Good At"

KANDIA CRAZY HORSE
Manhattan

The secret's in the stories, lord knows. And as anyone in the South will tell you, the stories don't have to be great as long as you tell 'em real good.

GINA VIVINETTO
St. Petersburg, Florida

I think "screwed music" could be the new Black Sabbath and dub and blues and lots of other things, unless it isn't. I think it's intriguing that so many of the best metal albums this year had no metal on them, by which I mean no guitars. I hope somebody starts screwing and chopping stoner- metal records soon.

CHUCK EDDY
Brooklyn, New York

Hey, can I stop writing about "emo" and just call it "music by bands who aren't winking at you"? Because at this point, the alleged subgenre is producing the only new "rock" worth notice.

WILL HERMES
Saugerties, New York

I'm tired of whiny boy bands bitching about being slapped with the emo tag. They should be grateful somebody is willing to rake them together into one, big sappy pile. At least someone has found the time to attach a name to their pathology.

CARYN GANZ
Manhattan

Emo is like indie rock with better production values and more hair products. Defining moment: the Dashboard Confessional video where Chris Carrabba's perfectly coiffed skinny girlfriend (or the Suicide Girl hired to play her) walks out the door and he just sits there playing with his model train. I mean, everyone's supposed to feel sorry for these guys, but everyone knows that they treat girls worse than Mötley Crüe ever did, in more boring and passive-aggressive ways.

SARA SHERR
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Emo is just another forum where women are locked in a stasis of outside observation. We span from coquettish to damned and back again. We leave bruises on boy-hearts, but make no other mark.

JESSICA HOPPER
Chicago, Illinois

Given the long rock-porn connection, where's the epidemic of band names taken off spam e-mail—the Penis Patch, Size Matters, Wife's First Black Cock?

DAN EPSTEIN
Los Angeles, California

Andre 3000, with his I-do-not-want-what-I-think-I-might-got, Mango-on-SNL steez, made one of the most emo records of the year. The Love Below and Cursive's The Ugly Organ are essentially about the same topic—men grappling with their ability to love, kicking it ice cold.

JULIANNE SHEPHERD
Portland, Oregon

Yes, one can overrate the "thoughtful power-pop" of Ted Leo and the New Pornographers' Carl Newman, and yes, it's white, white, white, but there's a story here: indie vets with dues paid up and then some making their most inviting music ever, moving units trivial to the culture but not to their labels, and essaying some good-hearted political content, all while retaining their self-respect via the complexity that's why they love the game. Better their persistence and "Look, this is what I'm good at" pragmatism than the neocon subtext behind Jack White's analog fetish.

FRANKLIN BRUNO
Los Angeles, California

Right now, on a practical level, guitar bands are smart to settle for small-time audiences of passionate consumers rather than big-time audiences of dispassionate fans. I really wish it weren't this way, but then I wish a lot of things, and with Colin Powell's son at the FCC fighting to keep the channels clear, it is this way.

ROB SHEFFIELD
Brooklyn, New York

I tried to reckon with the mainstream insofar as it is supposed to appeal to me. I tried the Wilco (a year late), I tried the Strokes, I tried the White Stripes. They were all something between fine and OK, I guess. But none of them moved me like Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You." None of them had a beat in the same universe with "Like I Love You" or "In Da Club." And doesn't anybody write BASS LINES anymore?

TIM MIDGETT
Chicago, Illinois

The video for "The Laws Have Changed" featured a man torturing himself in the desert being convinced by a woman to dance, and yes, indie kids, that's a pointed message.

MICHAEL BARTHEL
Brooklyn, New York

No matter what skeptics say about the Strokes/Stripes revolution of the past three years, the new rockers have at least brought swagger back to a music scene split between gruff, passionless balladeers and well-meaning amateur miniaturists. Indie-rockers have been the curators of abandoned pop sounds, and have pulled some strikingly personal music out of the charming, meager models they've made of the past they'd most like to relive. But it all seems increasingly insubstantial in the face of a hardening geopolitical situation, and a set of new rock acts tough enough for the times. Pet sounds suddenly don't satisfy.

NOEL MURRAY
Conway, Arkansas

Reissue of the Year: Let It Be . . . Naked by the Replacements. Peter Jesperson's production always was a little bombastic, and what a delight to finally hear these songs the way they were meant to be heard: "Answering Machine" without the operator message, "Androgynous" minus those extravagant finger snaps. Plus we don't have to listen to that egomaniac Tommy Stinson harping on about how Jesperson totally "ruined the essence of" his bass part in "Gary's Got a Boner."

SCOTT WOODS
Toronto, Ontario

A hip, with-it, 22-year-old girl is not supposed to like the same music as her mother. But there I was, standing in the nosebleed section of Shea Stadium in my Kill Rock Stars T-shirt, screaming my lungs out to "Dancing in the Dark" along with thousands of white, middle-aged middle managers, thinking "Every rock musician alive should just give up right now because they will never, ever be Bruce Springsteen."

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