Best Albums of the Year, 2006 Part II
Few modern emo/punk/whateverwhippersnappers
capture the essence of the decade when keyboards ruled the world -- largely because their view of the1980s
comes secondhand viaVH1
or retro-radio hours. However, an exception to this rule can be made for the youngCali quartet Hellogoodbye,
who display serious synth-smarts (and a mean Vocoder!) on Zombies!, an exuberant collection of punk-pop that nods toNew Order
and �80s Top 40 radio hits
The absent-minded professor ofNuggets-style psychedelic garage rock
continues his creative resurgence withTarantula
album of melodic gems drenched in harmony and surrealistic imagery. Recorded in conjunction with theVenus 3
— a.k.a. Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin ofR.E.M./
The Minus 5 — and featuring a track co-written byXTC majordomo Andy Partridge
("�Cause It's Love [Saint Parallelogram]"), the album trades in fizzy fuzz-jangle that more often than not belies lyrical melancholy."N.Y. Doll"
is a somber remembrance of the late New York Dolls bassistArthur Kane
, while Hitchcock wrote the effervescent pop burst"Underground Sun"
for a late friend.
Muse traded inpretentious prog bombast
long before it became trendy on their first three albums — and creates the Platonic ideal of the form onRevelations
with "Knights of Cydonia,"
a galloping, apocalyptic single gnarled with doom-metal riffs and robots-in-space vocals. But thesupercharged UK trio
wisely expands their worldview to include sci-fi funk,stompy goth
and evenRufus Wainwright-
esque balladry onRevelations
, their poppiest and most emotionally affecting outing yet. Justtry to avoid shedding a tear
during the longing"Starlight,"
where a glassy piano intertwines with diffracted synths and vocalistMatt Bellamy
croons"I just wanted to hold you in my arms"
like an anguished astronaut about to be lost forever in space.
Physical copies of the Shins' third album aren't in stores until2007
, although its presence on any number of file-sharing services means that, more or less,it may as well have already been released
.More sedate and less accessible
than the band's first two discs,Wincing
is an album for those outgrowing twentysomething-borne uncertainty and settling into careers, relationships and(gasp!)
maturity. Nevertheless, theFlaming Lips-esque
displays sonic adventurousness, and the wistful relationship-analysis"Turn on Me"
has ahollow nostalgia
reminiscent of R.E.M.'s early mysticism.
Save for the yodel-tastic "Wind It Up"
-featuring game of "disco-Tetris"
vocalist wisely chooses to focus onsongcraft instead of flamboyance
onher second solo effort
. This makes herstaunch girl power
all the moreeffective
, whether she's channelingMadonna'sLike a Prayer-
era balladry ("Early Winter"), embracing her inner goth ("Wonderful Life") or doing her bestSheena Easton
impression (the sunshine-soul title track featuring Akon).
has always revolved around mystery — so it's no surprise thatThe Eraser
, his solo debut, also exploresmisty vistas
. Although built on a foundation ofrepetition
and detailed sonic atmosphere (fragmented electronica loops
, stuttering beat-blips and skeletal piano),Eraser
derives its power fromYorke's feathery falsetto
. He croons half-formed phrases andwhispered slogans
like anotherwordly siren
, creating an eerily romanticsong-cycle
full of enigmas that stir theheart and brain
. -ANNIE ZALESKI
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