"I'll sit right down on your face/And take a shit!" My girl Natalie Portman rocked 2006's best lyric back in March on "No More Questions," her sick-hilarious Saturday Night Live digital short. And that was in a year when the show's shorts ("Lazy Sundy," "Dick in a Box") helped continue the migration of the musical conversation from radio, print and trad promotion to the user-generated shoutfest of the online space. There was Gnarls Barkley and "Crazy" too, a song that began on the Web before finding a home in all our hearts; there was also 'caine-hop (Clipse, Fishscale, Jeezy, etc.), and rock 'n' roll still fighting the good fight at the rear. A lot of source material was spread even thinner in 2006; by 2007, we might be forced to make lists of our top ten ringtones, instead of real albums. And locally there were farewells (Dilla, Proof), shtick on fumes (Kid Rock), rock triumphs (the Fags, Hard Lessons) and promise on the lunatic fringe (Odd Clouds, Wolf Eyes). But for now we have the top tens (and tins) of 2006 from Metro Times' music writers and contributors, and there are plenty of gems, trends and good memories in the bunch. Add these lists to the pile on your table.
Oh, and a word of advice for 2007: Portman'll kill your dog for fun, so don't push her. —Johnny Loftus
1. Justin Timberlake
Most entertaining fucker of the year
The hip-hype axis was debated more than ever in 2006 — usually to the disservice or utter obfuscation of actual music or talent. But Timberlake wooed the populist masses and the faceless applicators of "cool" with effortless panache. Oh, and he made a great record too.
2. The Fags
Light 'Em Up — Idol
Rock 'n' roll borne of pain, pleasure and a pure pop jones.
3. Ghostface Killah
Fishscale — Def Jam
"I'm James Bond in the Octagon with two razors."
Two/Three — Ghostly International
Emcees from the D and elsewhere were the perfect connecting rods for Dabrye's fiber optic wire to a weird hip-hop future.
5. The Hold Steady
Boys and Girls in America — Vagrant
The sound of a new men's movement. Our traditional set of flaws, set to epic rock. We don't want to hug our inner child; we want to embrace our inner Craig Finn.
Pink — Southern Lord
Genre-less, crazed. A patch cord plugged into the face of a young Ted Nugent.
7. Isobel Campbell
Milk White Sheets — V2
Killing us softly in 2006. First Campbell slayed with that Mark Lanegan collabo; then she returned with this set of fragile and shadowy English and Scottish traditionals.
All This Time — Fat Possum
The Black Keys
Magic Potion — Nonesuch
Props to Ohio. The Bastards' second record was the sleeper fave of the year, while the Keys made high art out of stripped blues.
Hell Hath No Fury — Re-Up Gang/Zomba
Wide-format hip hop in 2006 was clogged with sound-alikes and gimmicks. Clipse trucked with neither.
10. The Drones
Gala Mill — ATP Recordings
Al Swearengen's face, murder ballads twisted like a Gun Club shiv, lost in the desert with one bullet in the chamber. And you know who that's for.
Top Tin Tie:
Fergie and Hinder
The stupidity hinge that dumbed down America. Common denominator? Lowest.
1. Lloyd Cole
Antidepressant — One Little Indian
A literate, poppy saunter through suburban tragedies, barstool dreams and NYC afternoons that simultaneously takes the piss out of hipster clichés and yuppie trappings. Best line: "I said, 'I'm tryin' to write my novel'/She said, 'Neither am I.'" Pure late-night chicken skin, baby.
2. Richard Butler
Richard Butler — Koch
A beautiful hum of smoky sadness, free of associated crooner pretensions — one Bowie wishes he was ever capable of making.
3. Bob Dylan
Modern Times — Columbia
Great Dylan, as every hack journo on earth will tell you, but best highlighted by his on-target press comment that said modern records sound horrible.
Broken Boy Soldiers — V2
Light 'Em Up — Idol
Proved Dylan wrong.
5. Nelly Furtado
Loose — Geffen
Every goddamned contemporary pop cliché either created or copped, then ProTooled within an inch of its life. And? What a persuasive hard drive of hipsway action this is, brimming with curves and unbridled sexual tension worthy of a trollop-riddled Burning Angel DVD! "Maneater"? Oh, Peaches, c'mon, c'mon. "Promiscuous"? Fuck, yeah.
6. New York Dolls
One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This — Roadrunner
It's the Dolls minus Thunders, Killer and Nolan. So, then, it's basically a great David Johansen solo album with Sylvain guesting along with some cool Keef power-shags. We'll take it!
7. Todd Snider
The Devil You Know — New Door
Is he drunk or workin' the program? Who cares as long as the cast of fucked-up characters with bad complexions who populate his songs continue to smoke, drink and hunt for a little truth.
8. Grand Mal
Love is the Best Con in Town — New York Night Train
Chimes and tinkles like charm bracelets on wrists of teen girls just discovering Marc Bolan and Ian Hunter. Though basically a Bill Whitten piano-driven solo album, Grand Mal might be the best rock 'n' roll band you've never heard of.
9. Harry Nilsson
Son of Schmillson — Sony/Legacy reissue
Songs of Nilsson's cherry-eyed cynicism and cockeyed wit on a slow downshift. It's the sound of man coming unglued and it's oddly beautiful. The line "You're breaking my heart/You're tearing it apart/So fuck you" works as a pretty swell overall metaphor.
10. Little Richard
Here's Little Richard/Little Richard — Mobile Fidelity reissue
SACD/CD hybrid reissue of Richard's first two albums, warts and all. Fuckin' A. We forget how it's all been done, and better, before.
The Greatest — Matador
If there's a hook here, Captain, it's located too deep for our sonar to locate.
W. KIM HERON
1. Ornette Coleman
Sound Grammar — Sound Grammar
The saxophonist who freed jazz most of all freed his own melodies to soar as they surely do on this live date with two basses and drums.
2. Ran Blake
All That Is Tied — Tompkins Square
Gothic meets gospel, and the momentum of swing is stilled, leaving an overarching tension around each pause.
3. Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis, Roscoe Mitchell
Streaming — Pi
Without a safety net? These veterans of the Chicago avant-garde are up in the air without a wire either.
4. Sonny Rollins
Sonny, Please — Doxy
With his own DIY label, we can hope that we won't have to wait five years for the next studio release.
5. Trio Beyond
Saudades — ECM
Don't remember Tony Williams' first Lifetime band of the '60s? Jack DeJohnette, Larry Goldings and John Scofield remind you.
6. Andrew Hill
Time Lines — Blue Note
Factor in the bounty of reissues and older material coming out, and hail the pianist as jazz artist of the year.
7. Billy Hart
Quartet — High Note
Word is the three young cats — Ethan Iverson, Ben Street and Mark Turner — insisted that Hart take the helm. Great idea.
8. Nels Cline
New Monastery: A View into the Music of Andrew Hill — Cryptogramophone
Count the electric guitarist's homage to Hill as a supporting document for the proposition in Record 6.
9. Rudresh Mahanthapppa
Codebook — Pi
Along with pianist Vijay Iyer (also on this disc), the saxophonist is pioneering a dense, tense, wound-up style of uneasy listening that's absolutely riveting.
10. Ron Miles
Stone/Blossom — Sterling Circle
Trumpeter Miles pays homage to an imagined era of psychedelic folk-jazz fusion on one disc, then looks over his modernist shoulder at the classic Blue Note era on the other.
Always There — Soulful Sounds
Not a bad album of smooth jazz, but a disappointment given the promo material touting her dad, the late Mal Waldron. His sense of drama, for one thing, is sorely missing.
Future Crayon — Warp Records
Transcendental musical femininity: It castrates knuckleheads, pop music fans and fad followers.
2. Bobby Bare Jr.
The Longest Meow — Bloodshot
Country music through free association and a Dadaist lens? Yes, please.
3. Juana Molina
Son — Domino
Sounds like cumin tastes.
4. Thao Nguyen- "Feet Asleep"
The Sound the Hare Heard — Kill Rock Stars
The San Francisco folk music scene’s deadly hot shot came in the form of a Virginia gal named Thao.
5. Jolie Holland
Springtime Can Kill You — Anti-
Holland's aching vocals are as hollow and resonant as her banjo and soul.
6. Willie Nelson
The Complete Atlantic Sessions — Atlantic
Because nobody gave a shit about Willie until the 1970s.
7. Talking Heads
Fear of Music (reissue) — Rhino
The band’s second coupling with Eno. Nothin’ like it before or since.
8. Rambling Jack Elliot
I Stand Alone — Anti-
Perhaps the only Caucasian to truly influence the sound of rock ’n’ roll.
9. Burnt Sugar
More Than Posthuman-Rise of the Mojosexual Cotillion —
A race-less, genre-confused polyphonic spree. Coolness be damned.
10. Vijay Iyer
Raw Materials — Savoy Jazz
Never heard of this guy until recently, but by record’s end, it was obvious that this fellow is my generation’s answer to Ornette Coleman. Music? Noise? No matter; I just need to hear more.
Pervasive pedestrianism - Actually, I owe you a thank you: You’re making the pursuit -- not the receipt -- of great music interesting again.
KHARY KIMANI TURNER
For the first time ever, my favorite albums were either very creative (if it was a hip-hop record) or very hopeful. How fitting in a year that was so tough socially and politically.
1. Israel & New Breed
Alive in South Africa — Integrity
No album made me feel as good as this one. On all fronts, it boasts powerful musicianship, vocals, an incredible live audience and a hopeful message.
2. Buju Banton
Too Bad — Gargamel Music, Inc.
Buju's return to the dancehall is his most consistent effort since his 1992 debut, Mr. Mention, and also gives a nod to classic Jamaican riddims.
3. Monica Blaire
Portraits of Me — Silent Riot
Blaire's debut has the attitude of a sophomore album. It's the best R&B hybrid out of Detroit this year.
4. Corinne Bailey Rae
Corinne Bailey Rae — Capitol
The UK export tugs heartstrings from beginning to end. A soft soprano and an acoustically driven production; somewhere, Sarah McLachlan is smiling.
Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationships — Motown
Arie gave soul music just the shot of maturity it needed. She borders on the mundane at times, but the timing of this release couldn't have been better.
6. Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley
Welcome to Jamrock — UMVD
Damian has a finger on the pulse of his own roots and culture, and made reggae lovers respect him as more than a Marley freeloader.
7. Gnarls Barkley
St. Elsewhere — Downtown
Cee-Lo Greene and DJ Danger Mouse did for hip hop what India.Arie did for soul music. They molded it to their personality, and hardly ended up rapping at all.
8. Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor — Def Jam/1st & 15th
Revenge of the nerds. If this is what hip hop sounds like when you swap guns for games and ass for anime, count me in!
Hi Teknology, Vol. 2: The Chip — Babygrande
Hi-Tek is one of the few producers who can get artists to bend to his style without taking them out of their comfort zones. This one sails seamlessly from hardcore to blues.
Donuts — Stones Throw
The only producer who could make entire hip-hop instrumental albums shine conceptually leaves us with a gem.
On the Jungle Floor — Capitol
This was some shullbit, and a fall from grace that pisses me off. How do you drop a debut that becomes my favorite soul record for two straight years, then follow it up with this total lack of focus? After several spins, the verdict was unchanged. This was not good.
1. The Everyothers
Pink Sticky Lies — Kill Rock Stars
The greatest white rock 'n' roll band in the world.
A Swig From The Acid Bottle — Anaphora
The greatest black rock 'n' roll band in the world.
3. Oliver Future
Bear Chronicles V.2 — self-released
The greatest unsigned rock 'n' roll band in the world.
4. Lauren K. Newman
Postulate 1 — Greyday
The greatest female rock 'n' roll multi-instrumentalist in the world.
5. Cavalier King
The Sun Revolutions — Rubric
The greatest male rock 'n' roll multi-instrumentalist in the world.
6. Dave Rave
Anthology — Bullseye
The greatest Canadian rock 'n' roller in the world.
7. Jimmy Cavallo
You Better Believe It! — Blue Wave
The greatest living septuagenarian father of rock 'n' roll in the world.
8. Crime In Choir
Trumpery Metier — Gold Standard Laboratories
The greatest synthesizer art-rock band in the world.
9. The Wailin' Jennys
Firecracker — Jericho Beach Music
The greatest female Celtic country pop band in the world.
10. The Who
Endless Wire — Universal Republic
The greatest Gordon Lightfoot tribute band in the world.
1. Gnarls Barkley
St. Elsewhere — Downtown/Atlantic
"Crazy" is the standout. We know this. But the rest of the album — irresistibly fun and catchy yet dark and foreboding — lives up to the hype.
2. Murder by Death
In Bocca al Lupo — Tent Show
Loosely based on Dante's Divine Comedy, MBD tell tales of sin, betrayal and redemption, and imagine the landscapes of Ennio Morricone covered with Johnny Cash's vocals.
3. J Dilla
Donuts — Stones Throw
Recorded on his hospital bed, shortly before his death. It's Dilla's swan song, 31 subtly gorgeous tracks that highlight his genius and creativity.
4. The Roots
Game Theory — Def Jam
Ambitious and melodious, this reaffirms the Roots as a respected force in hip hop. They'll always have something important to say.
5. Ghostface Killah
Fishscale — Def Jam
Full of soul-based, cocaine-driven beats and his usual impressive storytelling. Ghost weaves detailed, intricate lines of street and family life with remarkable acumen.
The Day I Turned to Glass — Quannum
Vintage keys and an MPC make up two-thirds of this Bay Area trio, grooving under the singer's smooth falsetto. It's retro, it's modern, and it's totally cool.
7. My Chemical Romance
The Black Parade — Reprise
Epic, cinematic and ambitious concept album; its ornate individual tracks are as fun and appealing as its overall cancer-patient theme is sinister and depressing.
Hell Hath No Fury — Re-Up/Jive
Brothers Pusha T and Malice spit smart, ominous lines about dealing coke over the Neptunes' clipped, pulsating beats. Entrancing and terrifyingly real.
9. Jedi Mind Tricks
Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell — Babygrande
Emcee Vinnie Paz has never sounded so angry as he raps about social and political injustice. But his rhymes have never been more impressive either.
10. The Format
Dog Problems — Nettwerk
Instrumentally layered enough to be interesting, but poppy and down-to-earth enough to avoid pretension. Dog is the best summer/breakup album of 2007.
The Dutchess — A&M
It wasn't enough for Fergie to help transform the previously moderately talented Black Eyed Peas into a bunch of corny faux-rap pop stars. In 2006 she also had to release a solo album. She certainly tries hard on The Dutchess, "rapping" and singing her way through an array of reasonably enjoyable beats. But the whole thing is so flat, overdone, and ridiculous that it leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth, dreaming of a world before "My Humps."
This was the year dubstep broke. Maybe. Thundering CDs by London's Burial and Kode9 & the Spaceape forged poetry, politics and grimy beats into music that glints with apocalyptic and celestial majesty.
Two/Three — Ghostly International
Under his experimental hip-hop guise, Ann Arbor's Tadd Mullinix released two stellar versions, one with guest emcees and another all instrumentals.
3. The Knife
Silent Shout — Mute
Were the Swedish siblings overhyped? Sure. Did they deliver on their darkwave promise? You bet.
The Last Resort — Poker Flat
A floppy-haired kid from Denmark ruled dancefloors and MP3 players alike by combining shoe-gaze with dubby techno.
5. Minus rising
The Min2Max 2006 comp and Troy Pierce's "25 Bitches" club smash kept the Windsor label rolling at a high pitch all year.
6. Paxahau emerging
The Ferndale-based promotions crew became more connected to the world dance party than ever and is preparing to run its second Detroit Electronic Music Festival in May.
Children of Love — Get Physical
Nomadic Philadelphian-Berliner Jay Haze's group channeled Detroit funk and Chicago House to wondrously strange effect.
8. Hungry youth
Breakout years for young dance libertines Ryan Crosson, Lee Curtis and Seth Troxler stirred Detroit neo-ravers with hot new tracks on the international minimal tip.
9. Wolf Eyes
Human Animal — Sub Pop
A lineup change (Mike Connelly in, Aaron Dilloway out) could not temper the beautiful noise from this Michigan trio.
10. Scott Walker
The Drift — 4AD
Reclusive genius with a voice like a sonic boom delivered a punishing existential critique of the modern world. The message? Game over.
The continued timid response of U.S. musical artists to American imperial aggression in the Middle East. Motherfuckers, the time to savage your government with sound is long overdue.
STACEY K. ANDERSON
1. The Thermals
The Body the Blood the Machine — Sub Pop
Two scoops of derisive Christian allusions in every bowl! From the day this hit, I've worshipped no other idols. And live, they're the end of days.
Drum's Not Dead – Mute
Wall-of-sound tribal instrumentation, eerie art-creep vocals, and a cohesiveness that astounds. Even includes some mooing about the perils of creativity, and still manages to be staggering.
3. The Mountain Goats
Get Lonely — 4AD
Once again, John Darnielle brandishes killer lyrical sincerity and possessed acoustics. Your English teacher has competition.
4. Kind of Like Spitting
LEARN: The Songs of Phil Ochs — Hush
KOLS offers a reedy, occasionally atonal take on Ochs' topical work, and inflates it for modern times.
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Show Your Bones — Interscope
Proof that delayed gratification equals maturity. It's easy to dislike the dogged midtempo and moody restraint. But then it's suddenly spectacular.
6. Cat Power
The Greatest — Matador
Chan Marshall's happy now, apparently. But it must be Dorian Gray-style trickery, 'cause I can't stop weeping over "Where Is My Love?"
The Information — Interscope
Beck adds some Sea Change poignancy to his usual spazzy dancing. If I only owned a couch, I'd jump on it.
8. Neko Case
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood — Mint
A country legend in the wrong generation. Who knows what she's saying? The woman has a siren's voice, and that's enough.
The Looks — Last Gang
Swallow your electroclash grudge and do the "it" dance of 2007 — flailing arms, strained H&M legging squats, fierce scowls.
10. Joanna Newsom
Ys — Drag City
Should come with warning — do not ingest while full of anxiety. But when you're jonesing for dewdrops, unicorns and school buses that fly, this beautifully unstable folk record is a ticket higher.
The very existence of Us Weekly and TMZ.com. But if you live in Los Angeles, they're great resources to discover you're actually fat, ugly, slutty and a white supremacist.
1. J Dilla
The Shining — BBE
Pharoahe Monche crooned, Common and D'Angelo sexed it up alongside Guilty Simpson and Madlib dropping heavy, and the whole record shined like the history of hip hop from Motown to MPC samples our kids'll still be trying to figure out 20 years from now.
2. Johnny Cash
American Recordings V: A Hundred Highways — American
Johnny was dying and you can hear it in the eerie poignance of "Free From the Chain Gang Now" and a sweetly literal reading of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind."
Christ Illusion — Warner Bros.
In a year of compromise, yeah-buts and trying to talk yourself into why stuff mattered, Slayer made the most uncompromising album of its career. Illusion was about living in the middle of the shit, whether we really wanted to hear it or not.
4. Ray LaMontagne
Till The Sun Turns Black — RCA
Covered Gnarls, sounded like Gomez unplugging the Beatles, and still had the balls to think he's a new Dylan. (Or at least Josh Rouse.)
5. Gnarls Barkley
St. Elsewhere — Downtown
We're getting somewhere when a member of Outkast's extended family and a knob-twiddler best known for getting Jay-Z to rap over the Beatles make the best pop album of the year.
6. Various Artists
Exit Music For Radioheads — BBE
This moody set of soul-style versions of Radiohead jams reminded us that Thom Yorke and his mates write some pretty damn good songs when they're not making mediocre albums trying to convince us otherwise.
Hell Hath No Fury — Arista
How come when Detroit crack dealers make rap albums, all we get is five bad MCs over wannabe bounce beats, but when Clipse does it we get genius that makes you shit — not from the baby laxative, but because it's so good.
8. Cold War Kids
Up in Rags EP — Downtown
Like the Strokes in slow-motion with a better singer, this Jonathon Fireater-loving Orange County band could sound like DMX with Jack White one song, and Yorke and Waits the next.
9. Justin Timberlake
FutureSex/LoveSounds — Jive/Zomba
It wasn't as bad as Eminem rapping for make-out-hop hack Akon. And Timbaland got to show what kind of pop-chops he was capable of.
10. TV On The Radio
Return to Cookie Mountain — Touch and Go/Quarterstick
Sound like Peter Gabriel and Alice Coltrane; got booked on Letterman. Keep on rockin' in the freak world.
Badly Drawn Boy
Born in the U.K. — XL
Damon Gough started out as England's Beck but now he wants to be its Springsteen. Let's just say Robyn Hitchcock and Richard Thompson have nothing to fear. Hell, the dancer guy who used to be in Happy Mondays has nothing to fear.
1. Brightblack Morning Light
Brightblack Morning Light — Matador
The analgesic to keep you (relatively) sane in a hellish year.
2. Gregg Kowalsky
Through the Cardial Window — Kranky
Everyone can benefit from drone's healing capabilities, and Gregg Kowalsky proves to be a superb tone doctor on Window.
3. Thomas Strønen
Pohlitz — Rune Grammofon
Strønen constructs richly detailed, melodically and texturally beguiling quasi-gamelan miniatures. He's like a Scandinavian Harry Partch.
4. Various Artists
Superlongevity 4 — Perlon
Perlon's annual comps are where experimental tech-house's avant-garde giggles and shimmies in unusual ways.
5. Jan Jelinek
Tierbeobachtungen — Scape
A spellbinding refinement of the drone poems on Kosmischer Pitch. Jelinek carries the legacy of German kosmische musik to a sublime peak.
Burial — Hyperdub
The first dubstep full-length to exist outside the genre's blogosphere echo chamber. Evokes profound poignancy through organ-liquefying bass pressure, ghostly melodic wisps and riveting dub feng shui.
7. Hu Vibrational
Universal Mother — Soul Jazz
Adam Rudolph, Hamid Drake and Carlos Niño's exotic, percussion-centric astral jazz aligns chakras and induces blissful trance states. Crucial listening.
Telescope Mind — Smalltown Supersound
This Bay Area ensemble traffics in propulsive, dubby krautfunk via ESGisms.
9. Kode9 & the Spaceape
Memories of the Future — Hyperdub
Spaceape intones marrow-chilling, dystopian poetry in the deepest deadpan ever over Kode9's supple, elegiac dubstep maneuvers.
10. My My
Songs for the Gentle — Playhouse
If labelmate Isolée's We Are Monster was 2005's consensus micro-house album for adventurous clubbers and discerning homebodies, it's My My's debut LP in 2006.
Retail music's continued skid. The May closing of Neptune Records especially hurt, as that Royal Oak bastion of sonic eccentricity had served its discerning niche with incomparable skill for nine years. (Full disclosure: My brother Michael worked there.) Sadly, metro Detroit's faltering economy, rampant free downloading and the rise of digital retail outlets conspired to shutter Neptune. Depressing, but Brett Marion's store will go down as one of America's greatest record emporia.
1. Arctic Monkeys
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not — Domino
England looked like shit until I heard this.
2. The Walkmen
A Hundred Miles Off — Record Collection
Bassist and organist switch instruments; album still destroys.
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Show Your Bones — Interscope
Here's my humerus, my tibia, my cochlea and my heart.
The Information — Interscope
"Cellphone's Dead" makes me dance the robot. Must be seen to be believed.
5. Sonic Youth
Rather Ripped — Geffen
Jim O'Rourke's exit is the best thing to happen to Sonic Youth since their guitars were stolen.
6. Whirlwind Heat
Types of Wood — Brille
Less spazzy, more jazzy. The boys have become men.
7. Be Your Own Pet
Be Your Own Pet — UMVD
Vinyl version is a seven-disc 7-inch box set. Genius.
8. Arctic Monkeys
Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? — Domino UK
The band so nice they make the list twice.
Under a Billion Suns — Sub Pop
Remember grunge? Neither does Mudhoney.
10. Odd Clouds
The Cavernous End —Ypsilanti
Perfect, essential, impeccable. Totally out of print.
The Greatest — Matador
Genre slumming doesn't suit you, Chan. Stick to weepy indie rock.
1. White Whale
WWI — Merge
By far Merge Records' smartest signing in years. White Whale's debut should have been bigger than the Arcade Fire.
2. The Twilight Singers
Powder Burns — One Little Indian
Getting sober did nothing to smooth Greg Dulli's rough edges. He remains rock's coolest motherfucker.
3. Joanna Newsom
Ys — Drag City
Newsom dismisses quirky cuteness in favor of ambition. And yes, Ys is every bit the masterpiece everyone says it is.
And the Glass Handed Kites — Sony
Shoegazers, unite. A hypnotic pop menagerie with prog influences and guest J Mascis in tow.
5. Tap Tap
Lanzafame — Stolen
Thomas Sanders' magical mystery puts Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to shame.
Ringleader of the Tormentors — Sanctuary
Far more daring and dramatic than his 2004 comeback. "Life Is a Pigsty" says it all
7. Band of Horses
Everything All the Time — Sub Pop
Ex-Carissa's Wierd members switch up slo-fi bitter ironies for a wistful indie rock collection of pristine folkie melodies.
8. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's
The Dust of Retreat — Artemis
Richard Edwards writes songs like a young Bob Dylan, but doesn't seem to care how good he really is. That's genius.
9. Christina Aguilera
Back to Basics — RCA
Crazy, sexy, cool on every level. Ms. Aguilera outdoes her peers every time.
10. I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
Fear Is on Our Side — Secretly Canadian
New wave revivalists finally have a leader in I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness. Hot, hot shit.
Britney Spears. Predictable? Yes, and the panty-dropping ho once again reminded us that money can't buy class.
1. Grizzly Bear
Yellow House — Warp
GB's second album transforms them from marginally interesting also-rans lost in a forest of wolf and bear bands to peerless orchestral pop wunderkinds.
2. Tim Hecker
Harmony in Ultraviolet — Kranky
A feast of beautiful noise and broken drone immune to partitioning.
3. Hold Steady
Boys and Girls in America — Vagrant
Good tunes about bad times and compelling stories about the troubles of articulation, all tied together by a bow of gnarly riffs.
4. TV on the Radio
Return to Cookie Mountain — Interscope
Perhaps 2006's most forward-thinking rock album, showing how a music showing its age may yet greet the future with dignity.
5. Yo La Tengo
I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass — Matador
A great band that helped define indie rock gets comfortable and puts on a welcome exhibition of Yo La Tengo-ness.
6. Keith Fullerton Whitman
Lisbon — Kranky
One of the most imaginative electronic artists going holds an audience spellbound for 40 minutes with just a computer and ideas.
The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast — Matador
San Francisco masters of sampling and re-contextualization offer deeply observant and surprisingly accessible portraits of people rendered in sound.
Scale — !K7
The angry leftist politics are still there, but this lush and varied pop album is the British house producer's musical triumph.
9. Ekkehard Ehlers
A Life Without Fear — Staubgold
A sadly overlooked riff on the deepest shade of American blues, as only a bookish and theory-obsessed German could render it.
10. Ellen Allien & Apparat
Orchestra of Bubbles — Bpitch
Technically club music meant to be stretched by DJs; actually a warm, shimmering pop record full of delicate melodies and endless beats.
"A Man in a Purple Dress" — UMVD
Roger Daltrey sounds awkward and tired, singing words like he has no idea what they mean. But since Pete Townshend's lyrics were inspired by Mel Gibson's The Passion, Daltrey's marble-mouthed delivery is the best thing about the song.
CHARLES L. LATIMER
1. Jesse Palter
Beginning to See the Light — Self-released
I listened to this jazz album more than any other this year. What a wonderful jazz vocalist, with a voice that's as delicate as a bee making love to a flower.
2. Branford Marsalis
Braggtown — Marsalis Music
Perhaps the most exciting saxophonist of his generation in a mind-blowing session. This is how jazz sounds when there are no boundaries.
3. The Odean Pope Saxophone Choir
Locked & Loaded:Live at the Blue Note — Halfnote
It's self-explanatory, with James Carter, Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano on the very same album.
4. Urban Transport
Urban Transport Live — Self-released
A live date by my favorite local jazz band. They destroy, then build it back up again.
5. Sean Jones
Roots — Mack Avenue
After listening to the blazing riffing on the title cut, I really didn't need to listen to the rest of the album. But I did, and there's not a bad track in sight.
6. Jason Moran
Artist in Residence — Blue Note
There's no sound too unusual for Jason Moran to improvise on.
7. Diana Krall
From This Moment On — Verve
A voice so cozy and inviting, I want to curl up in her lap.
8. Delfeayo Marsalis
Minions Dominion — Troubadour Jazz
The trombonist made the kind of jazz album that a purist could listen to daily, no matter his mood.
9. Roy Hargrove
Nothing Serious — Verve
Modern-day hard-bop with a trumpeter incapable of making a bad album.
10. Al McKenzie
A Reason to Be — AMAC
Can smooth jazz be hip? With McKenzie's sweet, smooth touch on the keys, yes.
It's About Time — Self-released
I've admired McKinney's propulsive style of drumming since first seeing her with Straight Ahead. However, It's About Time disappoints because her power and flexibility are noticeably absent. Worst of all, there isn't even one memorable McKinney solo. What's that about?Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org