Picks 20 to 11




    20. Band of Horses

    Everything All the Time

    Sub Pop (March 21)

    Sometimes it’s too easy. Throw together the sounds of great current indie bands. Craft ten killer tracks, three of which use the same arpeggio trick to lure in listeners. Sequence them the way students are taught to craft successful stories way back in middle school. So by the time Ben Bridwell reaches full-throttle throatiness on "Monsters," which resolves into the beautiful d�nouement "St. Augustine," Band of Horses has created one of the most thoughtfully laid out albums since OK Computer. ~John Zeiss

    "The Great Salt Lake"



    19. Justin Timberlake


    Jive (September 12)

    Sure people can remember where they were when they first heard "SexyBack" and/or "My Love," but anyone who still needed proof in 2006 that Justin Timberlake could deliver giant pop singles was guilty of nothing short of disregarding the truth. If it was anything at all, then, FutureSex/LoveSounds was the of-the-moment document that showcased JT’s stamina, evidence that he was capable of defining exactly what a great pop record sounded like at a time when it was unclear if the genre could even support the format. Co-conspirators Timberlake and Timbaland made like the Boy Wonder and Batman on a bender, messed up on influences and revving up their respective talents and toys in harmony, yoking together bleeding vocals and live-sounding drums to create a rough-edged, consistently over-ambitious record of glitz-pop. This was the year JT got remixed by the DFA, but it was also the year he was able to turn his mix of talent and charming faults into charismatic, cover-to-cover listening. ~A.J. Wolosenko

    "My Love" featuring T.I.:


    18. Vakill

    Worst Fears Confirmed

    Molemen (January 31)

    If Dabrye’s Two/Three is the logical evolution of hip-hop production, Worst Fears Confirmed is the logical evolution of the emcee. Nearly every single line Chicago resident Vakill spits is packed with multiple metaphors and truths that don’t glorify or apologize. This is a poet riffing on life, recounting stories, challenging your morals, and attacking his foes. Fearless and brilliant, Vakill has produced a classic hip-hop record. ~Mike Krolak

    "Acts of Vengeance"



    17. Basement Jaxx

    Crazy Itch Radio

    XL (September 12)

    Probably the greatest advancement in 2006 was the dance community’s embrace of its disco heritage. Either ignored or confined to the underground, disco’s long arms had infiltrated all areas of the genre, but with records like Crazy Itch Radio, artists really started to begin openly displaying their disco roots. Tracks like the deep soul "On the Train" and "Take Me Back to Your House" (albeit with banjo in tow) used the early to mid-’70s template to great effect. Coupled with some brilliant smooth tracks like "Smoke Bubbles" and "Lights Go Down," that made Crazy Itch Radio another classic edition to the Basement Jaxx catalog. It’s a collection that is starting to look like no other in dance history. ~Matthew Gasteier

    "On the Train"



    16. Man Man

    Six Demon Bag

    Ace Fu (February 21)

    On the surface, Six
    Demon Bag
    seems to be a chaotic mess of an album; pirate sea chanteys meet
    three-ring circus. Make no mistake though, Honus Honus and his rag-tag group of
    misfits known exactly what they�re doing. For all its ramshackle theatrics, Man
    Man makes undeniably catchy pop songs for those willing to keep an open mind.
    Those put off by the band�s idiosyncrasies are only hurting themselves by missing
    out on one of the most exciting young acts going today. ~Justin Sheppard


    "Black Mission Goggles"



    15. Ghostface


    Def Jam (March 28)

    It’s damn shame this album didn’t get more shine. His best effort since 2000’s Supreme Clientele, Ghost reached out to the underground circuit for beats and further worked toward becoming full-blown soul singer. He’s had trouble finding steady support, but Ghostface already has another Def Jam album slated to drop in December and a collaboration with MF Doom slated for next year. Toney for mayor. Highlights include "The Champ," "Whip You With a Strap" and "Shakey Dog." ~Rafael Martinez

    "Whip You With a Strap"



    14. Destroyer

    Destroyer’s Rubies

    Merge (February 21)

    For years, people have gotten lost trying to find their way through Dan Bejar’s subterfuge. With each new release, many brave souls enter Bejar’s winding labyrinths of inside references and veiled confessions, trying to reach the other side with something tangible in hand. Maybe someday someone will succeed. While Bejar’s dizzying way with words is hardly a revelation, what stood out to many about Destroyer’s Rubies were the strides in his sound. What was once a means to an end now had merit in its own right, making this Bejar’s most well-rounded release to date. ~Justin Sheppard

    "European Oils"



    13. Nas

    Hip-Hop Is Dead
    Def Jam
    (December 19)
    Hip Hop Is Dead doesn’t believe in its title so much as it
    demands a response. Constantly trying to reconcile all sides of his persona, Nas
    has become as fascinating – and provocative – an icon as he is a lyricist. In his role as the former, he sometimes comes
    off as ignorant or contradictory (though it’s unclear how much of that is real
    and how much is planned). But it’s his role as the latter where he shines, and Hip
    Hop is Dead may be his best lyrical display since Illmatic: check out the third
    verse of "Money Over Bullshit" or the vivid first verse on "Hold
    Down the Block." There’s nothing like an argument that disproves its own
    thesis. ~Matthew Gasteier

    "Hip-Hop Is Dead"

    12. Islands
    Return to the Sea
    Equator (April 4)
    Everyone reacts differently to a break-up. Some
    people get a drastic new ‘do. Others crawl into bed with a package of Oreos and
    disappear for months. The demise of the Unicorns prompted Nick Diamonds and
    J’aime Tambeur to form their own band, resulting in Islands and this debut
    album, one of the finest pieces of indie-prog yet in the burgeoning genre. From
    the pop confection of "Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby" to the
    sprawling, nine-and-a-half minute opening "Swans (Life After Death),�
    Islands float above a dazzling array of sounds and styles, all confidently
    arranged in an enthrallingly cohesive package. ~Chris Sahl

    "Rough Gem"



    11. Cat Power

    The Greatest

    Matador (January 24)

    It takes a cupful of craziness to name your album The Greatest, and it takes chops to deliver on the promise of that name so that the album doesn’t end up a winking joke. Chan Marshall came through with the most mature, well-rounded album of her oft-erratic career. The Greatest makes great use of the legendary Memphis session men it was recorded with. When Marshall sings in her low, sultry voice about living in bars, you’re right there with her, drenched in smoky Southern atmosphere. ~John Zeiss

    "The Greatest"




    Best of 2006  (Picks 50 to 41) / (Picks 40 to 31) / (Picks 30 to 21) / (Picks 10 to 1)


    Staff Picks Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5.
    Check out Prefix’s Best of 2005, 2004 and 2003.