November 20, 2006

2006 Local Leaders

As the last bit of Top 40 List madness for 2006, below I present the addendum to this year's list, the Local Leaders. I asked our esteemed panel to send in their favorite local band in addition to their Top 10 list. Not everyone did, and not all of them wrote blurbs, but the ones that did are credited below. So keep an eye on these bands, they may be playing in a venue near you and you can say you liked 'em way back when.

Age Rings
While I dove into Age Rings debut disc, Look...the Dusk is Growing, just a few weeks ago, it's quickly becoming my favorite Boston-area album of the year. They're on my "must-see-live" list, and if you're reading this from New York: Pianos, Ludlow Street, NYC, Friday, December 8th. - Bradley's Almanac
[MP3] Age Rings | Dead Mans Float


Dallas, TX
St. Vincent
St. Vincent (aka Dallas native Annie Clark) is currently opening for Sufjan on his European tour. We've probably posted about her 10 times in the past year. I saw her play 4 times this year, and each performance was mesmerizing. I think people are really going to fall in love with St. Vincent when her debut LP comes out in '07. - Gorilla vs. Bear

Indianapolis, IN
Arrah & The Ferns
[MP3] Arrah & The Ferns | Skylark

Los Angeles, CA
The Mezzanine Owls
They are what would happen if the Wrens met Jesus and the Mary Chain. Extremely polished with a booming ethereal sound, the LA quartet dropped the excellent Andy Lemaster produced LP, Slingshot Echoes. - Passion of the Weiss

Minneapolis, MN

[MP3] Stnnng | Hybrid Animal

Mike Gunther & His Restless Souls
2006 saw the release of Gunther's second album of Waits-esque howling & preaching, Burn It Down For The Nails, which deserves more notice. While Gunther is still very much a regional act (and yes, he went to my high school), I could easily see him & his band of midwestern troubadours touring in support of Gogol Bordello or or Man Man or Beirut. - The Big Ticket

Elvis Perkins

Professor Murder
[MP3] Professor Murder | Champion

O'Death - Part sonic gypsy death pirates/part Americana/part Pogues...if that doesn't pique your interest just catch them live. I promise. - Earfarm

Sam Champion
I write a lot about these guys, but I really can't say enough good things about them. They play the exact kind of music that I like best. They got this Tom Petty meets Pavement thing going on, but lately seem to have embraced an almost Motown-rock vibe. They deserve to be huge and I will promote them until they become gigantic…. - PSNYC

Oakley Hall
[MP3] Oakley Hall | Lazy Susan

Providence, RI
Hailing from Providence, RI is the band The Brother Kite, a really chill shoegaze-type indie rock. Very passive, very relaxing, entirely transcendental. - I Guess I'm Floating
[MP3] The Brother Kite | Get On Me (MP3 sample)
[MP3] The Brother Kite | Waiting For The Right Time

Washington D.C.

Middle Distance Runner
The band describes their music as rock with "bwoop sounds," but the record is catchy beyond belief--with a sound that's not just tres fresh for DC, but also fluid enough to offer the listener a wonderful range of songs on one record. What's common to each effort is rooted so deeply, that you can have the jaunty fun of "Naturally" and the tilting melodrama of "Out Of Here" in one place and never feel like they aren't part of the same idea. - DCeiver

I saw them for the first time back in January, opening for two other local bands and their brand of feedback drenched folk-rock (admittedly not something I would see myself liking this much) really blew me away. They've had quite the year, touring the nation twice and opening for bands like The Decemberists, The National and Josh Ritter. I've been going to see them play local gigs about once a month and I still can't get enough. - ilb
[MP3] Nethers | Hung Herself In A Birdcage

The Hard Tomorrows

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November 16, 2006

All 128 Nominated Bands

TV On The Radio, The Hold Steady, Ratatat, White Stripes, The Racontuers, Matt & Kim, Band Of Horses, The New Year, Lil Wayne, Danielson, We Are Scientists, The Decemberists, Ghostface Killah, My Morning Jacket, Bob Dylan, Mountain Goats, Silversun Pickups, Cat Power, The Thermals, Grizzly Bear, My Chemical Romance, Joanna Newson, Wilco, Okkervil River, Sleater-Kinney, Beruit, Eric Bachmann, The National, Bishop Allen, Kanye West, The Whigs, William Elliott Whitmore, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Regina Spektor, Dresden Dolls, Stephen Malkmus, Silver Jews, Johnny Cash, The Rinse, Asobi Seksu, Long Winters, Diplo, Catfish Haven, The Wrens, Xiu Xiu, Snowden, Home, Clipse, Irving, Green Day, Will Oldham, Justin Timberlake, Built To Spill, Neko Case, Pela, Portastaic, Walkmen, Oakley Hall, Jenny Lewis, Peter & The Wolf, Lambchop, Au Revoir Simone, Iron & Wine, Errase Errata, Devotchka, Christina Aguilera, David Bazan, Blood Brothers, Beach House, Every Move A Picture, Comets On Fire, Tom Waits, Voxtrot, Sufjan Stevens, Aberdeen City, Fiery Furnaces, Ryan Adams, M. Ward, Midlake, Sonic Youth, Man Man, Lavender Diamond, Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, Yo La Tengo, Of Montreal, Annuals, Bob Pollard, DFA, Elvis Perkins, Girl Talk, LCD Soundsystem, Tapes N Tapes, Shearwater, New Radiant Storm King, Drive By Truckers, Bound Stems, Spoon, Matmos, Black Keys, Cold War Kids, Sparklehorse, Timbaland, Lucero, DangerMouse, Car Stereo (Wars), The Rapture, Ted Leo, Man Man, Oneida, The Gossip, Secret Machines, Sam Champion, Gerogie James, The Hard Tomorrows, Los Lobos, Brighhtback Morning Light, Dixie Chicks, Casey Bienel, The Psychic Ills, The Shins, Rub-n-Tug, Oxford Collapse, Nethers, Rainer Maria, Goes Cube, Stelastarr*, The Evangelicals, Gnarls Barkley,

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November 15, 2006

The Top 40 Bands in America - 2006 Edition

List makers and list haters rejoice, we're back for round four!

Mr. Pink Will Be Your DJ For The Evening

If it's mid-November, then it's time to start thinking about those year-end lists, which means it's time for the fourth annual, often imitated, never duplicated Top 40 Bands In America list. Yes, some people think of this little exercise as The Top 40 Bands In America As Voted On By A Bunch Of Effing Music Bloggers That Only Listen To Cooler Than You Guitar Based Indie Rock And Not Much Else, but that's way too long of a title and not very catchy, don't ya think? I've addressed this all before. There may not be enough hip-hop or dance music on here for your liking, but there's not much I can do about it. Most bloggers follow and write about indie rock. I've emailed dance bloggers and hip-hop guys in years past and never get a response, so I didn't even bother this year. Get over it.

In case you're not familiar with the process, each year I email a bunch of bloggers and ask them for their Top 10 artists of the year. I changed up the criteria this year and asked the participants to simply give me the 10 artists they covered the most throughout 2006. I felt that in years past, people were voting for artists they felt like they had to vote for, not the artists they wanted to vote for, so hopefully that changed this year. The entries are then scored, sorted and double-checked and viola , the list is born. Anyone making music is eligible for the list, as long as they are American. NO FOREIGN BANDS. Please read that last sentence again before you go crying that Broken Social Scene or whatever band from Montreal is hot right now isn't listed below.

Just because you're favorite band isn't listed here, don't freak out. It's likely they were nominated but didn't get enough love to make the Final 40. A total of 129 bands were nominated, so most of them didn't make the cut. I'll post the names of all the nominated bands tomorrow. I will go ahead and tell you not one fucking person voted for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and I couldn't be happier about that.

In addition to the Top 40 and the list of all 129 bands, this year I'll also have a list of local bands worth keeping an eye on, as voted on by our esteemed panel. Look for this list Friday or Monday.

The Participants:

Coolfer, Jason and Rajeev from Onelouder, Product Shop NYC, Catherine's Pita, Chromewaves, Fifty Five Hundred, Bradley's Almanac, Central Village, The Big Ticket, Earfarm, Muzzle of Bees, Gorilla vs. Bear, My Old Kentucky Blog, largehearted boy, Aquarium Drunkard, DCeiver, Seeking Irony, Catbirdseat, marathonpacks, Passion of the Weiss, I Guess I'm Floating, Soviet Panda, Yeti Don't Dance and yours truly. That's 25 ballots from 24 blogs, our biggest turnout yet. Not everyone that sent in a Top 10 list handed in the accompanying blurbs to go with their selections, which is why not everyone is represented below.


And without further ado, here is this year's list. Numbers in parenthesis indicate a band's ranking on last year's list:

1) TV On The Radio
- TVOTR are something special in the realm of indie rock soundalikes because they're constantly pushing themselves, their sound, and their audience forward towards something new. Thank goodness for them. - Earfarm
- Brooklyn's TV on the Radio continues to wow in the studio and on the road, topping themselves yet again. While the delayed US release was annoying (a reaction to the really early leak?), I dug their online promo campaign vids. - The Big Ticket
- Like nobody else, TV On The Radio find a way to tap in to that which is elemental. During a time where too much of the world feels like it's on the brink of something apocalyptic, TVOTR shows the uncanny ability to take it all in and let you feel it at full measure. Yet, at the same time, the incendiary effect of their skyrocketing gospel-soul vibrations fill the heart with such courage. These guys know how deep the abyss is, but they've found a way out. - DCeiver

2) The Hold Steady (6)
- Boys and Girls in America made me fall in love with this band, and their previous records all over again. - Muzzle of Bees
- Buzz buzz buzz...the American album of the year? Well, it does have "America" in the title. - The Big Ticket
- There's a moment at every Hold Steady show when you look around to examine the crowd. And you see nothing but euphoric smiles and blurred bodies, moving in rhythm to the pulverizing crush of guitars and keyboards and hot soft lights exploding out from the stage, where a small inconspicuous balding man named Craig Finn carries the audience through the closest thing that many of them will ever come to the feeling of pure rapture. In 2006, Craig Finn and the gang dropped their third straight masterpiece, each one every bit as good as the live set. If The Hold Steady aren't the best band in the
world, they're close. - Passion of the Weiss
- This isn't rock "for" the scene, it's rock "on" the scene. And what's great about their new record, Boys and Girls in America, is that the band has found a way to acknowledge their newly energized fanbase by giving them a song cycle that contains as many valentines as the previous one had cautionary tale. Envy everybody growing up with this band: they're going to matter for a long time to a lot of people. - DCeiver
[MP3] - Stuck Between Stations (Live on The Current)

3) The Decemberists (9)
decemberists 002 - Frankly, I wasn't expecting good things after Picaresque, and learning that they'd signed to Capitol, but The Crane Wife proved that The Decemberists are easily one of the top bands in America today. - Earfarm
- The Crane Wife may be Colin Meloy's big, bold major label debut, but it's still pure Decemberists. Tragic storytelling abounds as per usual, and Meloy delivers yet again with his uncanny knack for visual lyricism & loving delivery. - The Big Ticket
- Showcasing a more varied and mature sound, Meloy took all that Capitol Money and turned in one of the best albums of 2006. The album sounds like what would happen if after Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd, they replaced him with Herman Melville. - Passion of the Weiss
- As a queer English major, I'm pretty much required to love the Decemberists. That they're now selling out 2500-person venues is either a historical accident or a testament to how good they've become. Possibly both. - Fifty Five Hundred

4) Ghostface Killah
- In terms of prolificacy, charisma, consistency of output, and “American-ness,” there’s no current musician that comes anywhere close to rivaling Ghost. His highly personalized, idiosyncratic and nuanced lyrics on Fishscale draw drug stories with as much care and attention to detail as the one about getting spanked by his mom when he was a child. - marathonpacks
- In 2006, Ghostface finally completed his claim to the title of the Wu's greatest solo artist. Fishscale's tracks are filled with complex wordplay, vivid story-telling and lean backbreaking beats. With Rocky samples, the Wally Champ definitely does sound as hungry as he's been since Supreme Clientele. - Passion of the Weiss
- It's now officially safe to stop giving a shit about crap like hyphy. Ghostface reaches back in time to save hiphop's future from all the laffy taffy ass clowns and the five-minute fads that illuminate too many inferior MC's. Among the Wu-Tangers, 'Face was already head of the class, but Fishscale leaves him untouchable. - DCeiver

5) My Morning Jacket (12)
- Best live show I saw all year (maybe ever?) at Bonnaroo. - Central Village
- Building on the success of last year's instant classic Z, My Morning Jacket greatly expanded their fanbase at festivals across the nation, including a Coachella performance that converted any and all non-believers in the audience. With the release of this year's Okonokos, they finally delivered a definitive live statement that perfectly captured this band's brilliance. - Passion of the Weiss

6) Bob Dylan
- My favorite American-made music from this year seems to be composed either by old guys (Mr. Dylan) or dead guys (Mr. Cash). Here, the old guy, the bard of Hibbing, still keeps me thinking and listening. Modern Times was an easier music pill to swallow than Love and Theft, but it still contained some lovable bitterness and endearing side effects. Namely, obsessive repeat listenings. - Jason Onelouder
- With Modern Times, Dylan again proved that he is not only a living legend, but one of the most vital artists currently recording music. The fact that a new album from him can hold its own to his back catalog is unreal. I doubt that 98 percent of the bands on this list will be making such excellent music more than forty-years into their career. - Product Shop NYC

7) The Mountain Goats (11)
- John Darnielle crafts a sad and beautiful break-up record that those who aren't able to connect with should count themselves as lucky. - Chromewaves
- Honestly, Get Lonely didn't do too much for me, but that troika of prior discs are some of my favorite albums of the double-aughts. - Catbirdseat

8) Silversun Pickups
- Great album, unrelenting live. Loved watching their rise to relevance between CMJs. - Central Village
- The rest of you music bloggers and your darling, pointyheaded folk princes and twee-pop bullshittery bore the fucking hell out of me. So: here's a rock band, bringing actual rock. Listen to them. - DCeiver

9) The Thermals
- Hutch Harris & Kathy Foster follow the sadly lackluster Fuckin' A with the ballsy/concept-y The Body, The Blood, The Machine and earn back my respect & adoration in a big way. - The Big Ticket
- The Body, The Blood, The Machine is one of the best records of the year. They were a highlight of the CMJ Marathon. - Product Shop NYC

10) Cat Power
- The Greatest. The title says it all. - Product Shop NYC
- Even if she hadn't released an amazing album like The Greatest, her battle (and triumph) over alcohol and her personal demons would have been worth talking about. But she did and that makes her year even more remarkable. - Chromewaves
[MP3] The Greatest

11) Grizzly Bear
- As good as Yellow House is, I was only fully sold on this band when I saw them in concert. While the melodies on the record are certainly beautiful, the electronic beeps and squiggles interesting, the tone tranquilizing, it can seem ice-cold and dispassionate. Live, the sounds burst with color, the band brims with energy, each song pregnant with emotion and subtle textures often unnoticeable on the album. I haven't stopped listening to it since. - Passion of the Weiss

12) My Chemical Romance
- Biggest band in the world, etc,etc. I also actually like them. A lot. - Central Village

13) Wilco (36)
- No new recorded material, but tons of tour dates this year where they did play new material. Their new record comes out next year, get ready. - Muzzle of Bees
- No new album but constant touring kept them on the radar. The current lineup sounds better and tighter with every passing day but for pity's sake, give us a new album already. - Chromewaves

14) Joanna Newson
- There are times I can't stand Joanna Newsom, but every time I put on Ys, I am immediately drawn into her songs by her wonderful musicianship and unique voice. - Product Shop NYC

15) Sleater-Kinney (5)
Carrie Brownstein, photo by Matthew Peck
- Going out they way a great band should--Sleater-Kinney hit Washington, DC and delivered a show that rocked with primal energy--as if they were band feeling the kind of force they can wield for the first time. Their farewell pass was the only "be there or die trying" rock event of 2006 for me. - DCeiver
[MP3] - Entertain

16) Okkervil River (24)
- Yes, their only releases this year were an Australia-only EP and a 12" single, but if the lead song on both - "The President's Dead" - is any sign of where Will Sheff's mind and pen are at, then they deserve mention if only as a warning that 2007 will be the year of Okkervil. - Chromewaves
[MP3] - No Key, No Plan

17) Eric Bachmann
- Putting Crooked Fingers on the shelf and striking out under his own name, Bachmann found inspiration through minimalism and living in a van. His set at SxSW was one of the absolute highlights of the festival. - Chromewaves
- Former Archers of Loaf and current Crooked Fingers frontman goes it alone and comes up with some of the most moving material of his career. Not only that, he pulled together a touring trio that moved me even more. - Bradley's Almanac

18) Beruit
- Blending pianos, accordians, mandolins, xylophones, melodicas and haunting, spectral trumpets, Gulag Orkestrar sounds like few albums ever made in America. Appropriating the gypsy sounds of Balkan Brass bands, Zach Condon created an album that makes you feel as though you should be listening to it while sipping tea in a Sarajevo cafe, overlooking a large body of water, watching accordian notes and cigarette smoke crash through the clean air. Oh and did I forget to mention that he's 19 years old? - Passion of the Weiss

19) The National (2)
- Last year's Alligator destroyed. Can't wait to see what comes out in 2007. - Aquarium Drunkard
- Living in D.C., I didn't get to see The National tour behind Alligator until this year. They were so good, it was almost worth the wait. Almost. - information leafblower

20) Voxtrot
- In 2006 frontman Ramesh Srinastava seemed incapable of writing anything less than 3 minute shimmering pop gems. The live set still needs work but there is no denying this band's prodigious knack for melody and Srinastava's wistful poems. - Passion of the Weiss
[MP3] The Start Of Something
[MP3] Trouble

21) Bishop Allen
- Their unique EP-a-month gambit got my attention--the high-level of songwriting and graceful, simple melodies kept it. More than glib songwriters, Bishop Allen construct a world I'd love to live in--even at its most scarring. Through a year of writing and releasing music, these guys maintained such a constant and consistent level of excellence that it makes a lot of bands look like dilettantes. More to the point: it makes the way major labels farm bands for salable tracks look incredibly uninspired circa 2006. - DCeiver
[MP3] Click Click Click Click
[MP3] The Same Fire

22) Tom Waits
- Imagine Tom Waits headlining Coachella 2007. Tell me you wouldn't travel across the country to see that. - Product Shop NYC

23) Sufjan Stevens (1)
- You know a guy is prolific when, in what was supposed to be an off-year, he puts out a 21-track "extras" album and a 5-disc Christmas comp. I saw Sufjan and his Butterfly Brigade play 4 shows this year, and he was without question my "most posted about" artist. - Gorilla vs. Bear
[MP3] That Was The Worst Christmas Ever

24) Aberdeen City
Aberdeen City
- The fact that Steve Lillywhite sought them out to work with them, and not the other way around, speaks volumes. Few bands rock with such intelligence and intensity. - information leafblower
[MP3] God Is Going To Get Sick Of Me

25) Fiery Furnaces (8)
- There’s no American group with more unabashed artistic ambition. Gallowsbird’s Bark is one of the best debut records of this century, and the first five songs on EP are a stunning display of pop genre manipulation. Their live shows are divisive, but I’m on the side that wants even more manipulation. - marathonpacks
- Though their sheer volume of output is starting to get ridiculous, and though they've made missteps along the way (next time, keep Grandma out of the studio), the Fiery Furnaces remain the single most exciting, inventive, and interesting band making records today. - Catbirdseat

26) Ryan Adams (19)
- Crazy man can't stop! He kicked out jams with Willie Nelson, tours like a fiend and raps about Kevin Costner. He's the new Prince, only crazier. - Product Shop NYC

27) M. Ward
- Post-War is a record every human should have in their collection, it's that good. - Muzzle of Bees

28) Midlake
- I've posted on these guys probably 10 times, had them guest host my SIRIUS show, and I still don't feel like it's enough to articulate how much I love their new album, The Trials of Van Occupanther. Along with Joanna Newsom's Ys, my favorite release by an American artist in 2006. - Gorilla vs. Bear
- Taking all the good yet none of the bad aspects of 'easy listening', serving up smooth, seventies-era songs with style. Nostalgic, maybe, but played with a professionalism that's impossible to ignore. - Bradley's Almanac
[MP3] Roscoe

29) Sonic Youth
- Aside from NYC Ghosts and Flowers, they’ve never released a bum record, and Rather Ripped is a surprisingly calm and introspective punk-retirement home record. - marathonpacks

30) Man Man
- I've seen them so many times in the past year it's silly. A fantastic fun band gaining more fans by the minute and one of my votes for best lyrics of the year: "wanna sleep for weeks like a dog at her feet even though I know it won't work out in the long run" - Earfarm
[MP3] Van Helsing Boombox

31) Lavender Diamond
- Their first LP is due next spring and, from how the songs sound live, I suspect it'll be fantastic. I've now dragged five people to their shows and not once was a person was disappointed. Becky Stark's voice is almost enough on its own. I haven't been this excited about a new band in ages. - Rajeev Onelouder
[MP3] - You Broke My Heart

32) Timbaland
- If you can make room for Sufjan Stevens on this list, but not Timbaland, you are certifiably insane. He's been on top of his game for years, and it seems like 2006 might have been his best year yet with amazing singles from Nelly Furtado and an incredible record from Justin Timberlake. Definitely the best music coming out of the states, pop or hip-hop, is from Timbo. - Soviet Panda

33) Lucero
- Live shows so intense that you never want them to end. These boys tour and tour and continue to put out some of the most underrated records. Their latest record should be the one to make them indie-household names. - Muzzle of Bees

34) DangerMouse
- After a phenomenal 2005 producing Gorillaz & Danger Doom, he more than topped himself in 2006 with the unstoppable killing machine that is Gnarls Barkley. For crying out loud, St. Elsewhere was the pop album of the summer, with "Crazy" the most covered song in recent memory. However, what put the DJ over the top for me was hearing "Crazy" performed last month in person - by the Emerald City Band in Dallas TX. When a song hits the wedding band circuit, it's reached a whole other level. - The Big Ticket

35) Car Stereo (Wars)
- Their "Ghostface Observatory" mashup, which combines Ghostface with Ghostland Observatory, is easily the greatest mashup I've ever heard. It breathes new life into a genre that was steadily growing stale. - information leafblower
[MP3] Ghostface Observatory

36) Girl Talk
- Probably the hottest record of the year. Everyone who heard it was instantly in love and, oddly, singing along. - Central Village
- The excitement might not last beyond 2006 -- hard to say. Still, seeing Gregg Gillis play his computer made for one of my favorite nights out this year. - Fifty Five Hundred
[MP3] Hold Up
[MP3] Bounce That

37) LCD Soundsystem (4)
- 45'33: I may take up jogging just to hear this song in its intended context. But "Jams" Murphy's workout tape works just fine as a standing still piece of disco joy. Speaking of pieces, I'm contemplating cutting my favorite section of45'33, minutes 10:00 - 20:00 into a separate song just so I can enjoy Murphy's clicks and loops over and over and over. - Jason Onelouder
- My favorite band. The idea that 45'33 is just something to keep us busy while we wait for the next full-length is a bit ridiculous to think about, considering that it's better than pretty much any other band's records. - Soviet Panda
- Only LCD could make a list like this on the strength of a single song. 45'33 is just that good. - Rajeev Onelouder

38) Tapes N Tapes
- You'll get no knee-jerk backlash from me. Tapes is still as vibrant and catchy as ever and, even though The Loon came out last year, let's be honest - they're one of the big indie successes of 2006. Regardless of what your hipster advisor cool meter says, it's okay to still like Tapes 'n Tapes. I mean, come on - you used to think The Strokes were the best band in America. - Earfarm
[MP3] 50's Parking
[MP3] Insistor

39) Shearwater
- Jonathan Meiburg takes over the creative reins and shakes the "Okkervil River side-project" tag once and for all with an epic and emotional folk-rock masterpiece. - Chromewaves
[MP3] White Waves

40) Margot & the Nuclear So and So's
- I hadn't heard a note of Margot & the Nuclear So and So's until the nine members squeezed onto a small stage in front of me earlier this year, and they pulled off that special rarity: impressing me more than a headliner I was already excited to see. There's a folk element to their smartly-constructed pop songs that in theory should scare me, but they do it just right. - Bradley's Almanac
[MP3] Holy Cow (demo)
[MP3] As Tall As Cliffs (demo)
[MP3] Skeleton Key

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