By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Sure, Steve Vai or Esteban could probably do the same with fewer effect pedals. The difference between those relics and the new religion is that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner never sounds like he's trying to go biblical. His guitar work is just a layer of a greater, wonderful, stimulating piece of art, as opposed to a splatter-shot of sonic ejaculation. Worship him. He's like Odin. With spiky hair. And two eyes. And no muscles.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
I haven't resold my copy of Jay-Z's Kingdom Come for the same reason one of my best friends keeps buying Douglas Coupland novelsthere's something so perversely spectacular about monuments to mass-market mediocrity that they demand retention.
Those old bands, the ones you loved your whole life, the ones that broke your heart, they still have it in them to really kill you. The Who? Not a great record, more like a belated Townshend solo album with Daltrey singinga couple of good songs, but not enough to carry the weight of their legacy. Rod Stewart finds some songs he should have sung when he was pretending to be George Gershwin's boot boy, and that doesn't suck. George Martin presses "shuffle" and the Beatles have a hit. Bob Dylan keeps on keeping on, chucking 'em out and having a laugh. Even Soul Asylum, a band I loved, hated, and then felt sorry for, pulled an album out of their asses that is so strong, so smart, and so heartfelt that it's like none of the bad shit ever happened. (Goodbye, Karl.) Even Cheap Trick made a pretty good record this year. Sometimes being an old guy has its rewards.
Brooklyn, New York
Given all [my] negativity, my list might seem odd. But all this negativity is precisely why the Rapture is there: They made the most optimistic album of 2006, sometimes arguably to the music's detriment, and I admire that level of dedication. They weren't floating the usual "everything will be all right" bullshit balloon; instead, they went with the much more difficult "everything is already all right," eschewing the former's quasi-Christian "there will be peace in the next life" excuse-mongering for an exhortation to live in the moment. It's a sentiment that shouldn't have been hard to find in pop music, but in 2006 it sure was.
Brooklyn, New York
The Streets, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living: Like many precocious once-youngsters, Mike Skinner is a victim of his own success: His early, failed attempts at achieving a sound were so much more interesting than his current realization of it. That's in no way unusualdo you listen to your late-'80s Ramones records? What impresses, though, is his running commentary on this facton the minutiae of his life, in fact. Each Streets album is like time-lapse photography on the rotting fox of fame and fortune. I can't wait until the deathbed recordbedpans may never be described so jauntily.