In 2006, the pop singles market continued to dominate, in no small part because the pick-to-click-driven mentality of online music stores and ringtone sites gave consumers unparalleled freedom to Choose Their Own Musical Adventure. What suffered in the meantime, though, was the quality of pop/rock albums. These platters frequently spawned great singles — Justin Timberlake, KT Tunstall, the Rapture, Pearl Jam, My Chemical Romance, etc. — but didn't hold together as cohesive statements. Still, a few artists managed to churn out catchy and innovative long-players that held up over repeated listens. In alphabetical order:
Unlike many of their dark-punk peers, AFI managed to slick up their sound without losing their batcave-and-fishnets cachet onDecemberunderground
. Chalk this up to undeniable pop sensibilities and the band's knack for hooks — whether they're crafting screamo speedballs("Kill Caustic"),
space-age synthpop("The Missing Frame")
or tundra-chilled gothic landscapes indebted to theCure
Blood Brothers, Young Machetes (V2): The Blood Brothers' slobbering, shrill, twin-vocal assault and nuclear-bomb riffs frequently feel plucked out of a Stephen King horror movie. But on Machetes, the Seattle band's Dali-esque abstract imagery and unhinged mania coalesce into shockingly linear pop songs. "Linear pop" is a relative term, though, as their post-punk/no-wave/hardcore hysteria remains very much intact: "We Ride Skeletal Lightning" lurches like a zombie jonesing for brains, while "Spit Shine Your Black Clouds" is a danceable conclusion to PiL's shuddering death-disco.
(Island): Critically maligned arena-rockers Def Leppard sure sound like they have something to prove on their fantastic covers record, Yeah! And who can blame them? They've always drawn inspiration from seminal
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and metal bands, but can't seem to escape being seen as poof-rock hacks. Which is too bad, since their faithful (but not derivative) renditions of classic cuts fromBowie, T. Rex, Roxy Music, Sweet, ELO
and even theKinks
— in the form of a gorgeous, copper-burnished"Waterloo Sunset"
— more than cement their musical talent.
Furtado, who's notorious for being a hit-or-miss performer live, is perhaps the year's biggest example of howstudio gloss
and theright production team
can revive (and reinvent) an artist's career — and createTop 40 gold
in the process.Loose
is the most consistent and innovative pop-diva disc of the year, from theLatin-flair of "No Hay Igual
,"digi-funk bodyrocker "Maneater,"
and of course, the playful
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all over the Timbaland-featuring synth-swerve, "Promiscuous." -ANNIE ZALESKI
Look for Part II of this article in tomorrow's blog!