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Slipped Discs (Part 4)

Artist: The Raconteurs Album: Broken Boy Soldiers Label: V2 Label: Third Man Image: US Release Date: 2006-05-16 UK Release Date: 2006-05-15

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Throwing around labels like "supergroup" will inevitably bring on some backlash and, unfortunately, even after people seemed to get over the fact that the Raconteurs isn't just a side-project for Jack White to tinker with, the band had to deal with the consequences that will always accompany the hype. Such is life. Regardless of what side of the cheering section you're on, the guys provided one of the most solid rock tracks of the year with their single "Steady As She Goes" and the lineup -- also featuring indie superheroes Brendan Benson and Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler from The Greenhornes -- ultimately represents one of the best-matched collaborations that the rock scene has received in years. The creative force of these longtime buddies bouncing their contrasting styles off each other's abundance of talent provided a much-needed breath of fresh air on the pop rock scene. Dara Kartz

Multiple songs [MySpace]

The Raconteurs - Broken Boy SoldierThe Raconteurs: Broken Boy Soldiers

Artist: The Strokes Album: First Impressions of Earth Label: RCA iTunes affiliate: Image: US Release Date: 2006-01-03 UK Release Date: 2006-01-02

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I will freely admit to the fact that for the longest time I didn't "get" the Strokes. Their first album seemed derivative and callow; their second album was tighter and less blatantly imitative than their first, but still hardly the revelation the critics had initially foretold. Their third album, however -- this is where the band finally came into their own, with a newfound muscular sound that went a long way towards refuting the incessant comparisons to Televison and the Ramones, without sacrificing the tunefulness that had also brought comparisons to the Cars. In almost every way that matters, First Impressions of Earth was a far superior album to either of its predecessors: more assured, more adventurous, more passionate. The only way it fell short was in the vital realm of buzz. By 2006, I guess, the world had finally moved past the Strokes, to judge by the album's absence not only from PopMatters' year-end list but pretty much every other comparable ranking. Quite ironic: by the time the Strokes actually got around to producing something genuinely exciting, no one was listening anymore. Tim O'Neil

Multiple songs [MySpace]

The Strokes - Razorblade [Live on La musicale (France)]The Strokes: First Impressions of Earth

Artist: Subtle Album: For Hero: For Fool Label: Astralwerks Image: US Release Date: 2006-10-03 UK Release Date: 2006-10-02

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With its latest album, Subtle almost created the best underground hip-hop record of 2006. The problem is that to label For Hero: For Fool merely hip-hop is to discount its futuristic stylistic blend. Genre-obsessed fans should file Subtle's music in the electronic space-rap-rock jazz-fusion section. Guitars, drums, synths, and strings form the sonic fabric while the songs switch between driving beats and ethereal soundscapes. Vocalist Adam "Doseone" Drucker snarls, barks, and croons his way through the album. Half of the fun for listeners is decoding the cryptically poetic lyrics, which touch on everything from social class structure to blood donation. Subtle demands patience and multiple listens, but few other artists can match the group's dizzying complexity, dazzling richness, and breathtaking originality. Neal Hayes

Subtle - The Mercury CrazeSubtle: For Hero: For Fool

Artist: Trentemøller Album: The Last Resort Label: Poker Flat Image: US Release Date: 2006/10/10 UK Release Date: 2006/10/09

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Hailed as everything from a rising star to one of the best electronic music producers in the world, Anders Trentemøller managed to even beat out expectations of perfection this year with his debut album The Last Resort. As each beat, each sound, each mood segues, Trentemøller creates a fascinating musical canvas with elements so perfectly in place that it will make your eyes shine and ears melt in disbelief. Like a mix of all that is perfect across electronic subgenres, Trentemøller pulls in the apex of Basic Channel-style brooding dubscapes, Cologne clickhouse, the depths of Detroit techno, electronica moods from lush to desolate, a driving hint of big beat and even a marvelously piercing Angelo Badalamenti-esque guitar. The Last Resort is one of the finest electronic albums ever. And if electronic music wasn't such a diverse field, with many strains and paths to excel in, this album would set the bar beyond reach. Nicolai Hartvig

Multiple songs [MySpace]

Trentemoller performing live @ P3 Guld in DenmarkTrentemøller: The Last Resort

Artist: Voice Album: Gumbo Label: Public Transit Label: Featherperm Image: US Release Date: 2006-10-31 UK Release Date: 2006-10-16

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I know it’s passé to actually have something to say. While underground rappers have long criticized mainstream hip-hop, many have done so with barely veiled sentiments of sour grapes. Voice doesn’t even make a play for the radio single, mixing spoken word and rap over seven-minute songs that flow over pillowy, head nod slices of jazz, trance and electronica. Gumbo unfolds like a foot-thick epic novel: stuffed with stories, characters drawn with an unforgiving eye, and long philosophical asides about misogyny, media ownership and rebuffing the bad come on. Normally such artistry would have the feel of homework, that you kind of think you want to like, but can’t possibly stay awake through. Ever want to know how much the person bagging your groceries hates your guts? This is Dorothy Parker cracking complicated rhyme schemes to the best of Digable Planets and it works hard effortlessly. Terry Sawyer

Multiple songs [Featherperm Records]

Voice: Gumbo

Artist: Virgil Walters Album: Solid South Label: self-released Image:

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Solid South is one of those records that nobody remembers because they never heard it to begin with. It's as indie as indie gets, hand-burned CD-Rs mailed $5 a pop by the artist himself, a high-schooler from Michigan. It's also one of the best folk albums of the year. Walters's voice is a nasally, Midwestern twang, ranging from sharp to shouted but always earnest, and his lyrics are at points hard to decipher -- "You can't wax poetic / And you can't get pathetic / About how I was diabetic / Theoretic / Aleve" -- but the songs ring true in surprisingly poetic ways as he throws himself wholly into them. Tracks like the off-kilter "Portuguese Housewives" disjoint into brilliantly frenzied breakdowns, while even straightforward ballads like "A Pair of Bonnie and Clydes" ride on absolutely sublimely soulful choruses that hit you right there where you stir. Take, for instance, "Ghetto Blastin'", recently featured on popular MP3 blog Said the Gramophone -- while guitar chords burst over skittery programmed drums, Virgil howls his proud and sighing sermon. "I'm sorry your heart doesn't clatter." It's an old soul with young spirit, it's Obtuse Weird America, and it's entirely captivating. Michael Frauenhofer

Multiple songs [MySpace]

Virgil Walters: Solid South

Artist: Amy Winehouse Album: Back To Black Label: Universal Image: US Release Date: Available as import UK Release Date: 2006-10-30

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Drenched in '60s girl-group cool, and sparkling with bad-girl attitude, the Mark Ronson produced Back to Black by London funk-soul diva Amy Winehouse was the most unexpectedly thrilling soul record of the year. Preceded by the stomping, gospel-flecked single "Rehab" with its irresistible "They tried to make me go to rehab / I said no, no, no" vocal hook, the record was a collection of 11 concise, catchy, brilliantly witty songs delivered in a timeless voice that belied Winehouse's 22 years. The title track was a swaggering, slinky tribute to Phil Spector, whilst album highlight "You Know I'm No Good" was a groovesome and seemingly guilt-free admission of infidelity (later remixed by a suitably impressed Ghostface Killah). Bold, assured and bursting with rare personality, Back to Black was unequivocally one of most memorable records of 2006. Michael Lomas

Multiple songs [MySpace]

Amy Winehouse - RehabAmy Winehouse: Back To Black

Artist: The Wreckers Album: Stand Still, Look Pretty Label: Maverick Image: US Release Date: 2006-05-23 UK Release Date: Available as import

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It's clear Michelle Branch understands there’s more to country music than just American Idol and the Tousle-Haired Interchangeables. In a marriage of apparent equals, she’s blended her pop-rock sensitivity with Jessica Harp's traditional country values to create a record of undeniable quality and irrepressible charm. "Leave the Pieces" was one of the great pop singles of 2006, and there are plenty of likewise moments on Stand Still, Look Pretty. Meanwhile songs like "Tennessee", "Rain", and the title track reveal the duo's deeper, more thoughtful side, and their version of Patty Griffin's excellent "One More Girl" thoroughly out-punches the original. The Wreckers may have owed much of their success to the rift between the Dixie Chicks and country radio, but having been handed their golden opportunity they still had to deliver the goods. And Stand Still, Look Pretty is a fine, fine record. Roger Holland

Multiple songs [MySpace]

The Wreckers - TennesseeThe Wreckers: Stand Still, Look Pretty

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