Music is a tough business these days, what with online downloading eating away at record sales. But this hasn’t discouraged musicians from jumping into the fray. Each new day, it seems, brings a new CD from some new (or otherwise little-known) act. Give the credit (or the blame) to affordable recording technology and the power of the Internet to build awareness for bands. It’s just a whole lot easier to make albums now. And with the deluge of new releases, it’s a whole lot easier to miss out on CDs that deserved to be heard. I surely missed my share, but here are 20 CDs from 2006 that deserved far more attention--and sales--than they received.
The WhigsGive 'Em All A Big Fat Lip(ATO Records)
With ace songs like the terse rocker “Technology,” the sassy “Can’t Hear You Coming” and the slow-burning, psychedelic-tinged “Half The World Away,” this accomplished debut effort has the musical swagger to match the CD title.
Radio BirdmanZeno Beach(Yep Roc Records)
Radio Birdman could be called the Australian version of the New York Dolls--a revered band that broke up nearly 30 years ago, but has returned with a CD in Zeno Beach whose tuneful garage-ish rock lives up to the band’s legend.
Bottle RocketsZoysia(Yep Roc Records)
These St. Louis area roots rockers have been through major personnel changes, but Zoysia is the band's strongest record since 1997’s stellar 24 Hours A Day.
The DearsGang Of Losers(Arts & Crafts Records)
The truly rich vocal melody makes a big comeback on Gang Of Losers, where the soaring vocal melodies of Murray Lightburn highlight a song cycle that ranges from brisk rock to grand pop.
Cold War KidsRobbers & Cowards(Downtown Records)
It’s not every day there’s reason to call a band with a clunky sound inventive and fresh. But the compliments apply to Robbers & Cowards, whose angular guitars anchored by chunky rhythms make Cold War Kids a distinctive new force on the modern rock scene.
The BellraysHave A Little Faith(Cheap Lullaby Records)
This slamming set of funked up rock is fueled by hot playing and the fiery vocals of Lisa Kekaula. It’s the CD Lenny Kravitz wishes he could make.
Ghostface KillahFishscale(Def Jam Records)
As a member of Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah is certainly well known in rap circles. But Fishscale, with its combination of gritty beats and melodic backdrops, deserved much more love than it got.
The DramsJubilee Dive(New West Records)
Featuring three-fourths of the defunct roots rock band Slobberbone (including frontman Brent Best), The Drams outdo that former band with this poppy yet gritty CD.
The WalkmenA Hundred Miles Off(Record Collection Records)
Influences such as Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground are apparent, but this shambling yet charming CD stands out with strong songs and a sound that’s distinctive.
The Hold SteadyBoys And Girls in America(Vagrant Records)
With Craig Finn’s rough and ready vocals complementing some ragged guitar glory, The Hold Steady boast an appealing garage-ish sound.
Head Automatica, Popoganda (Warner Bros. Records); Dirty Pretty Things, Waterloo To Anywhere (Interscope/Vertigo Records); The Hush Sound, Like Vines (DecayDance/Fueled By Ramen Records); The Subways, Young For Eternity (Sire/Reprise Records); Nine Black Alps, Everything Is (Interscope Records); The Grates, Gravity Won’t Get You High (Cherrytree/Interscope Records); Sierra Swan, Ladyland (Interscope Records); Allison Moorer, Getting Somewhere (Sugar Hill Records); Band Of Horses, Band Of Horses (Sub Pop Records); Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love Records)