Rock Out, Baby!

2006 Year-End Music Wrap-Up

4. The Pipettes: If it weren't for the occasionally randy lyrical matter, you'd swear the Pipettes' debut album, We Are the Pipettes, was written 40 years ago. Sounding (and looking) like a Phil Spector wet dream, the three birds who front this polka-dotted pop group do their damnedest to make London swing again. Backed by a band of dudes (known as the Cassettes), the Pipettes aren't post anything, just pure retro... and a nice break from the norm. You'll find no synthesizers here, just loads of strings, horns, and beats bigger than that hairdo Spector sported at his murder trial.

5. The Rifles: For all the bands that want to relive 1984, the Rifles are right there with 'em — though they're just as interested in 1964. And on their debut album, No Love Lost, they occasionally have it both ways. While the band's contemporary indie-pop influences weigh the heaviest, songs like "Robin Hood" sound like a Merseybeat band after spending a year in modern-day England — upbeat, tightly wound pop played with uncanny neatness. Still, it's songs like "Local Boy" — which falls somewhere between the Cure and the Newtown Neurotics — that populate most of the album and make the Rifles worth seeking out.

6. Little Man Tate: Not to be confused with the long-haired Californian solo act of the same name (or the 1991 Jodie Foster flick, for that matter), Sheffield's Little Man Tate knows where the party is. And, according to the anthemic, Blur-like "House Party at Boothy's," it's one that's likely to catch on. This is one band that's heavy on the pop but, thankfully, equally full of smart (and occasionally smart-ass) lyrics. And there to deliver the verbal goods is Jon Windle, whose swaggering, cocksure style makes him equal parts rock singer, crooner, and acutely observant storyteller. Oh, wait — there's the smart-ass part too, best exemplified by the self-explanatory "Man I Hate Your Band" — a song Windle probably prefers to do without an audience sing-along.

7. The View: This group from Dundee, Scotland, gained a pretty important fan early on, when Babyshambles' Pete Doherty caught a live View performance in early 2006. Of course, it was both a blessing and a curse; drummer Steve Morrison was involved in one of Doherty's many arrests — but only after Doherty got 'em the industry hookup, handing the View's demo to an A&R guy from Rough Trade. And it's a good thing too: The View is one of the few bands here that don't always have to prefix punk with post, as evidenced in "Posh Boys," a short, fast blast of minimal, two-chord fury. But it's still catchy as hell.

8. The Subways: Though not as overlooked as most on this list, the Subways are still likely to get a "who are they?" from the average Yank — and that just ain't right. This past summer's U.S. tour with Taking Back Sunday, Angels and Airwaves, and Head Automatica bolstered the Subways' transatlantic popularity. But more important, it was good for their American audience, who got to hear something different from the usual alt-rock crap it's used to. And given the Subways' blend of jagged Brit pop and thick-riffed Detroit rock, they're the right Anglos for the job.

9. Buzzcocks: Sure, they've gotten plenty of credit for pioneering the first wave of Brit punk, and we've been reading about it for the past 30 years. But that's ancient history. The thing is, the Buzzcocks from 2006 didn't need to remind you of the Buzzcocks from 1976. They've been too busy doing new stuff to get fat on their laurels. Not only did Manchester's finest release Flat-Pack Philosophy this year (their fifth studio album since reuniting and eighth overall) but their decision to join the Warped Tour proved they can still keep up with the kids — and show 'em what real pop-punk is.

10. Paul Weller: Any Brit rock band worth a shit today will cite Weller and his long-defunct band, the Jam, as an influence. Those who don't are either lying or just not worth listening to, period. And in 2006, Weller's importance to British music was codified at the Brit Awards, where he received the Outstanding Contribution to Music award (or what we in the States call a Lifetime Achievement Award). Still, America has yet to pay any real attention to the man known as the "Modfather." Maybe that'll change next January when Weller performs a three-night, career-spanning concert in New York City. Either way, it's bound to be outstanding. Jason Budjinski

Blast Beats, Dark Harmonies, and Monstrous Melodies

The top-ten heavy-metal albums of 2006

The criterion for this list was simple: Only the hardest, heaviest metal albums were considered. Bands who play a hybrid style of metal that is not thrash, speed, death, black metal, hardcore, grindcore, or some amalgamation thereof were not included. What follows is pure f'n metal. Bang your head off.

1. Lamb of God,Sacrament (Epic): Sacrament — which surprised a lot of people by debuting at number eight on the Billboard charts this year — is Lamb of God's most technical album to date, favoring atmosphere over aggression. The band still slays us with thundering thrash and death metal, but except for a few tracks — most notably "Foot to the Throat" and "Beating on Death's Door," which assail the listener with LoG's usual jackhammer-to-the-head vibe — Sacramentis a sonic step forward for the band, employing more guitar solos, more demonic vocal dubs, and more furious fills that show off skin hitter Chris Adler's dexterous drumming. Producer Machine (Clutch, King Crimson) helped clean up the band's usually raw sound, simultaneously capturing the group's mind-blowing musical prowess in layers of dark harmonies and monstrous melodies.

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