The best of 2006 in music

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February 2, 2007

10:16 PM

One reviewer gives us his list of the top ten albums you must hear from 2006 — a year of comebacks, maturity and breakthroughs

p. 10. “Karmacode,” Lacuna Coil
Lacuna Coil’s brand of loud rock music coupled with ethereal female vocals has drawn some unfortunate comparisons to its contemporary, Evanescence. However, where Evanescence creates accessible pop-metal for a mass audience, Lacuna Coil goes straight for the jugular. Anyone who has heard the eastern-influenced single “Our Truth” can testify that vocalist Cristina Scabbia makes Amy Lee sound downright sheepish.

p. 9. “A City by the Light Divided,” Thursday
This album that almost never was finds the emo-core group Thursday continuing the musical progression from their last album, “War All the Time.” While not a drastically different album, it improves on the existing foundation. An album that practically seethes with emotion, “A City by the Light Divided” represents the best of Thursday’s catalogue and stands as a solid release from an increasingly diluted genre.
p. 8. “Modern Times,” Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is aging gracefully. Few artists have had the same impact as Dylan, and hardly anyone can lay claim to such a vast catalogue. Accordingly, with each new release comes the pressure to live up to his legend. “Modern Times” isn’t quite “Highway 61 Revisited” for the new generation, but it is an incredible album from a music legend and well worth checking out.

p. 7. “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me,” Brand New
Brand New proves that the third time’s the charm with this latest effort. After the band’s first effort — the witty, but ultimately cardboard “Your Favorite Weapon” — it was assumed that it would go the way of other cookie-cutter emo-pop outfits, but the band returned with a surprisingly strong, matured sophomore album. Continuing the growth started on that second album, “Deja Entendu,” Brand New’s latest shows a band to be reckoned with. Better than either of their earlier efforts, this alt-rock tour-de-force is not to be missed.

p. 6. “Donuts,” J Dilla
Of all the albums on this list, this one is probably the most emotionally charged of the lot. Released a few days before producer J Dilla passed away, this album is a collection of beats put together while fighting a losing battle with Lupus. Arguably one of the best collections of instrumentals to date, this work represents the apex of an underground legend’s skill and devotion to his chosen art form. If anything from 2006 will be regarded as a classic record a decade from now, this is it.

p. 5. “Pearl Jam,” Pearl Jam
After slipping from its perch, Pearl Jam returns to form with this self-titled release. Besides being an excellent comeback record that captures listeners through to the sweeping conclusion, this disc also marks a rarity in the modern rock scene: a straightforward rock album. A breath of fresh air in a genre filled with gimmicks and hybrid styles, the band proves that it can still do it better than almost any other out there.

p. 4. “Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing,” Keith Urban
While other artists are branching out and expanding their musical palette, Keith Urban has consistently stayed true to the course. Though detractors could argue that this comes from a lack of innovation, Urban has, instead, taken a particular sound and steadily perfected it over time. His newest album marks the latest installment in this refining process and proves to be his strongest to date.

p. 3. “10,000 Days,” Tool
If Tool’s excellent track record doesn’t recommend this album, nothing said here will convince anyone. Taking listeners on an eleven-track aural journey, Tool consistently turns out brilliant, nuanced records and “10,000 Days” falls right in line. Continuing the band’s progression from “Lateralus,” Maynard Keenan and company create an inspired piece of art that spans the musical gamut from the muscular “Vicarious” to the epic “Wings for Marie/10,000 Days.” Plus — just take a look at the packaging.

p. 2. “Continuum,” John Mayer
John Mayer shuts up critics across the country with his latest studio offering. On “Heavier Things,” it was clear Mayer was taking his music somewhere new, but hardly anyone could have predicted his sound would evolve so rapidly. Simply put, this album is nearly flawless and, along with the excellent live album “Try!,” establishes Mayer as this generation’s Clapton. (Yes — I did just say that.)

p. 1. “Game Theory,” The Roots
And now, the number one album on this list comes from hip-hop veteran The Roots. In a genre where this week’s hit is found in next week’s bargain bin, this type of staying power is nothing short of miraculous. In the band’s darkest and most political offering to date, The Roots proves, without a doubt, that it isn’t going anywhere. A sonic companion piece to 2002’s “Phrenology,” this album further exhibits the technical and creative skills of band leader ?uestlove and emcee Black Thought. With a poignant nine-minute tribute to departed producer J Dilla closing the disc, “Game Theory” stands as the high point of 2006.

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