Well, I guess the best place to start is posting my 2006 end of the year list. Be warned, it's pretty much a novella.
Best Releases of 2006:
1. Brand New – The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me
They made us wait three long years for this one. I was afraid the wait wouldn’t be worth it. But then the day came and I put the CD into my stereo and remembered that this is Brand Fucking New. Of course it was worth it. The first chorus of “Sowing Season” hit me square in the chest and I never quite recovered. It’s their darkest and most visceral album, yet it is intricate and layered. I think they are finally showing us what they really sound like. Brand Fucking New indeed.
Standout Tracks: Millstone, Jesus Christ, You Won’t Know
2. Moneen – The Red Tree
This album blows my mind every time I listen to it. Kenny Bridges has an awesome voice and the best stage presence I’ve ever seen. His lyrics are thoughtful, and the guitar work is ridiculous. It’s the kind of album you can listen to no matter what mood you’re in.
Standout Tracks: The Day No One Needed To Know, If Tragedy’s Appealing Then Disaster’s An Addiction, The Frightening Reality Of The Fact That We Will All Have To Grow Up And Settle Down One Day
3. Muse – Black Holes And Revelations
I heard everyone raving about this release, and then we listened to it one day at the 9:30 Club when we were putting address stickers on the new volumes. Each song drew me in a little more, until I was completely engulfed in the universe that Muse creates within each of their songs. Best if listened to while lying on your back staring up at the sky or driving alone at night.
Standout Tracks: Supermassive Black Hole, Map Of The Problematique, Invincible
4. Rise Against – The Sufferer And The Witness
This CD is, simply put, a powerhouse. Sonically and lyrically it’s almost identical to Siren Song Of The Counter Culture, but it’s a lot tighter. Everything feels a little more like it was done on purpose. I love to see a band using their visibility to try and make the world a better place. I hope a lot more people got exposed to Rise Against and are considering what they have to say.
Standout Tracks: Injection, Prayer Of The Refugee, Roadside
5. Gym Class Heroes – As Cruel As School Children
This album kind of knocked me off my feet. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting: The Papercut Chronicles was a slow, depressing CD, and this one is fast and upbeat. Both CDs are amazing, but with As Cruel As School Children, Gym Class Heroes have stretched their boundaries, tried new things, gotten more tongue-in-cheek (or finger-in-nose on Travis’ part) and managed to keep their style intact to make one of the catchiest albums of the year. Plus, the guest vocals by Patrick Stump and William Beckett are priceless.
Standout Tracks: The Queen & I, Clothes Off!, Biters Block
6. The Matches – Decomposer
This album is such a huge leap up from E. Von Dahl Killed The Locals. Shawn Harris has found a distinct voice, and an increased use of electronics has distanced The Matches from the rest of the pop-punk pack. It’s catchy, unique, and passionate. They are clearly coming into their own, and this album is proof.
Standout Tracks: Little Maggots, Papercut Skin, Sunburn Vs. The Rhinovirus
7. The Format – Dog Problems
This CD is just beautiful. The lyrics are clever and intelligent, and the instrumentation complements the vocals wonderfully. It’s catchy without being bubblegummy, and relaxing with being sleep-inducing.
Standout Tracks: The Compromise, Oceans, Time Bomb
8. John Mayer – Continuum
I think this is probably Mayer’s best work to date. His always introspective lyrics seem even more personal, if that’s possible for him. I love that his songs are delicate and powerful at the same time. There’s just something about them that is so easy to connect to. I like that he hasn’t really changed his sound much, yet none of it feels repetitive.
Standout Tracks: The Heart Of Life, Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, Dreaming With A Broken Heart
9. As Tall As Lions – As Tall As Lions
Another CD I picked up rather late. Each song is delicately crafted and full of details just waiting to be discovered. I really enjoy CDs that just seem to meander the way this one does. I’m still trying to soak it all in; I wish I had figured out the genius of this album earlier.
Standout Tracks: Stab City, Love Love Love (Love Love), Ghosts Of York
10. My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade
I totally expected to hate this album. From discussion of classic rock influences to rumors of a Liza Minnelli guest appearance, it seemed like this concept album would be the death of My Chem. However, not only did MCR expand their horizons, but they managed to keep their signature sound at the same time. They manage to sound like Pink Floyd, The White Stripes, The Rasmus, and more, all while sounding distinctly like themselves. This album is much more cohesive than their previous releases, and it is definitely more mature.
Standout Tracks: How I Disappear, The Sharpest Lives, Mama
Honorable Mentions of 2006:
1. The Hush Sound – Like Vines
They took the unique sound they had and they totally ran with it. I don’t know any other band that sounds like these guys. They can flip between the bounciness of Bob’s vocals to the haunting calm of Greta’s, and it all flows perfectly. I wish they would use Bob and Greta together on songs more often.
Standout Tracks: Wine Red, A Dark Congregation, Magnolia
2. All Time Low – Put Up Or Shut Up EP
Hell if they don’t know how to write a catchy hook. Can’t wait to see a new full length from these guys.
Standout Tracks: Coffeeshop Soundtrack, Break Out! Break Out!, Lullabies
3. The Dresden Dolls – Yes, Virginia
The more I see this duo, the more I fall in love with them. Amanda Palmer has a beautiful voice, and can be hilarious or serious whenever she chooses. The only drawback is that a lot of the songs are very similarly structured.
Standout Tracks: Backstabber, Dirty Business, Delilah
4. Dave Melillo – Talk Is Cheap EP
I only put this under Honorable Mention because it’s such a short EP. However, from the first time I heard Dave, I completely fell in love with his voice. His lyrics are occasionally a bit rough, but you have to remember he’s only 17. And for a 17 year old, he’s amazingly talented. It’s some of the prettiest and most fun acoustic pop I’ve heard in a long time.
Standout Tracks: Sam’s Song, Vatican Roulette, Knights Of The Island Counter
5. Underoath – Define The Great Line
I guess I was expecting them to stick more to what they did on They’re Only Chasing Safety. It’s difficult for me to get into hardcore, and this was a little more than I could handle. I like that they sort of combined old and new Underoath, and Spencer Chamberlain showed some amazing vocal range. Basically, I can appreciate that it’s an awesome hard record, but I can’t listen to more than a couple songs at a time before getting worn out.
Standout Tracks: Writing On The Walls, A Moment Suspended In Time, Moving For The Sake Of Motion
6. Hit The Lights – This Is A Stickup…Don’t Make It A Murder
First of all, don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy this CD. If you’re looking for straight-up pop-punk fun, this is the band to turn to. However, the songs tend to run together after awhile for me.
Standout Tracks: Three Oh Nine, The Call Out (You Are The Dishes), Speakers Blown
7. Saves The Day – Sound The Alarm
I love Saves The Day a hell of a lot. This is a very solid album. However, it just isn’t hooking me in the way their older albums did. Maybe I’m just in a different stage of life or something. I like this CD, but I just feel like it’s missing something that I can’t put my finger on.
Standout Tracks: The End, Say You’ll Never Leave, Eulogy
8. This Providence – This Providence
Clearly a ripoff of Gatsbys American Dream. The first half of the album is amazing, but the second half, while still good, is not quite as awesome. A decent CD though.
Standout Tracks: Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, My Beautiful Rescue, Card House Dreamer
9. This Day And Age – The Bell And The Hammer
The Amandas were continually hyping this band, but I could never really get into Always Leave The Ground. I liked “Slideshow,” but that was about it. However, with this new album, TDAA drastically changed their sound from regular pop-rock to sweeping atmospherics. The only downside for me is that the tracks start to run together after awhile. Too bad they’re broken up now.
Standout Tracks: Always Straight Ahead, Eustace, More Of A Climb Less Of A Walk
10. Gatsbys American Dream - Gatsbys American Dream
It's not quite as good as Volcano was, but it's still an impressive album. No one's been able to copy GAD yet (This Providence gave it a shot and didn't quite make it). They're definitely a breath of fresh air in this scene.
Standout Tracks: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Margaritas And Cock, Station 5: The Pearl
Biggest Disappointments of 2006:
1. AFI – Decemberunderground
I had really high hopes for this album, since I adored Sing The Sorrow. I heard “Miss Murder” and “Prelude 12/21” before the release, and was even more stoked. But the rest of the record was just plain boring. Boring in a way AFI has never been: mainstream. I’m not trying to knock bands that want to go mainstream, but if it’s going to water down your music this badly, please don’t do it!
2. Cute Is What We Aim For – The Same Old Blood Rush With A New Touch
So I really loved CIWWAF’s demos. Like, really loved them. There was so much potential there. And then on the CD, everything got way overproduced, and they tried too hard to be clever with lyrics and have plays on words that didn’t end up working. It all sounded so forced.
3. Taking Back Sunday – Louder Now
Admittedly, I’m not the biggest TBS fan. Lazzara’s lyrics have always seemed cliché, and I don’t like his voice too much either. But even on Where You Want To Be I ended up liking about half the songs. Yes, there are a few songs I really enjoy on Louder Now. Those would be the singles. And that’s about it. Everything else sounds repetitive and it’s all been done to death. Sorry guys.
4. Hellogoodbye – Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!
Again, I loved their EP. It was just straight up fun, and everyone needs more of that in their lives. However, they tried to force the fun into Z!A!V!D!, and you just can’t do that. Also, a lot of the songs were slower, and HGB just isn’t very good at that.
5. Angels And Airwaves – We Don’t Need To Whisper
With all the hype surrounding this album, I was at least expecting something halfway decent. While I think it was a valiant effort, Tom Delonge fell way short of what he was intending. The songs sound so alike, and his voice is entirely too nasal to listen to for an hour straight.
6. Plain White T’s – Every Second Counts
The T’s are known for their power pop, and that’s exactly what they delivered on this album. And I mean exactly. They might as well just have reissued All That We Needed. Not that I don’t LOVE that album, but I wanted something, you know, new.
7. Saosin – Saosin
Obviously, there was a huge amount of anticipation for this CD, since their EP was so good. However, with Anthony Green's departure, Saosin turned into something boring and predictable.
8. +44 – When Your Heart Stops Beating
Again, being a band with ex-Blink-182 members caused much buildup to this album. While they keep telling us not to categorize it as “Blink with synthesizers,” that’s pretty much what it is, only it’s a lot less fun than Blink ever was.
9. Copeland – Eat, Sleep, Repeat
I was really looking forward to this album, because I love the airiness of Copeland’s songs and the intelligence of Aaron Marsh’s lyrics. Unfortunately, I’m just having a hard time getting into it.
10. Cobra Starship – While The City Sleeps, We Rule The Streets
Well, I’m not sure “biggest disappointment” is the right term to use, since I wasn’t exactly expecting this to be a groundbreaking album. I was hoping for a little more creativity within the songs though. Bring back Midtown.
Most Anticipated Releases of 2007:
1. Relient K – Five Score And Seven Years Ago
If you know me at all, you know that Relient K was my first musical love, and that they’re pretty much my favorite band ever. With every album, they show incredible progression, and I can’t wait to see their first album recorded with the new lineup. Besides, an 11-minute epic track? I’m stoked.
2. Fall Out Boy – Infinity On High
I’m not ashamed of the fact that I still love Fall Out Boy a lot. But when they said that the new album was heavily influenced by R&B…man, they weren’t kidding, were they? Patrick’s voice has never sounded better, and they’ve got hooks like crazy. I am really curious to see how this new material will shape up.
3. The Receiving End Of Sirens – The Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi
Between The Heart And The Synapse honestly has some of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and just thinking about new TREOS material makes me happy. The couple of new songs I’ve heard live sound awesome: from what I can tell they’ve retained their signature sound while still moving forward.
4. Wilco – TBA
So basically, Wilco is one of my favorite bands. I really respect them and love the music they make. So, new Wilco will make me a very happy girl. I wonder if the new material will be as heavily noise-oriented as A Ghost Is Born, or if they’ll swing back towards the folky stuff.
5. The Academy Is… - Santi
Almost Here is definitely one of my favorite albums of all time. Every song on that album means something to me, and I can’t wait to hear more. They’ve got some of the best pop-rock around. We’ll see if losing Tom Conrad will affect anything, and whether they’ll be able to broaden the scope of their lyrical subjects.
6. The Spill Canvas – TBA
One Fell Swoop is pretty much one of the most important albums in my life. I can only hope future material will be the same.
7. Anberlin – Cities
Anberlin hasn’t changed their sound much over their career, and I don’t think I want them to. I think their lyrics are smart and their music is powerful. I hope they can top Never Take Friendship Personal.
8. Cartel – TBA
Chroma is one of my favorite CDs from last year. These guys write some of the best and catchiest pop-rock I’ve ever heard. I hope they raise the bar again.
9. Panic! At The Disco – TBA
Where the hell are they going to go from here? That’s all I have to say.
10. Lovedrug - Everything Starts Where It Ends
Pretend You're Alive is probably one of my favorite CDs. I think Lovedrug have a really unique sound going for them, and the new songs that have been put online are stepping that up a notch. This album is sure to be great.
Advance Notice for 2007:
1. My Favorite Highway
I know I never shut up about this band. But it’s only because they’re that good. Nothing in the world makes me smile as much as this band. They’ve begun their takeover, and next year everyone will know their name.
2. Pictures In Pieces
Another band I don’t shut up about. That’s because their songs are catchy and intense, just like their live show (trust me, I’ve seen them even more times than MFH. Whoa, I know). They’ve been recording their new songs, and I promise you’re going to love these boys just as much as I do.
These guys write truly sweet and beautiful songs. They’ve finally recorded some things for real, and I hope Eyeball Records can make the rest of the world fall in love with them too.
4. Time Tells All
TTA is a pop-punk band from the Reston area. I first heard them at a teeny tiny show, and they played their hearts out regardless of the fact that there were ten people watching and half of them were too drunk to realize what was happening. Their live act was just so energetic that it blew me away. I bet they’ll be getting some good local buzz soon, especially since their new songs totally outdo their old stuff.
5. The Friday Night Boys
FNB is the pop side project of Andrew Goldstein from Bet On Black and Aberdien. A lot of people say it sounds too much like Hellogoodbye, but the vocals and production are better than that!
6. Courage Call
So maybe I’m just a sucker for piano rock. Courage Call are from Ashburn, VA, but are currently located in California. These guys are so young, yet they are incredibly talented. Fans of Something Corporate, Waking Ashland, and My Favorite Highway should take note.
7. Minutes Too Far
These sweet little dudes sound like a cross between Fall Out Boy and Blink-182. One more band for pop-punk junkies to adore.
8. The Morning Light
Two ex-Transition members making music that is possibly better than Transition, which is nearly impossible to do.
9. Jefferson Third
Nice guys, amazing energy, great punky songs. Love them to death and you will too.
It's like, they were just okay for the longest time, and then all of a sudden started writing killer screamo songs. The kids are gonna love them.
Also note: there was a lot of music released this year that I simply haven't gotten around to hearing yet. So if you feel that I have any glaring omissions, please give me your recs!