From local shows to blockbuster albums, News Critic Jeff Miers runs down his lists of favorites from an eventful year in pop music
By JEFF MIERS
News Pop Music Critic
There is no one unified theme connecting the best of 2006 in popular music. Taken together, the music doesn’t present itself as a cogent novel – it’s more like a collection of short stories with little connecting them, aside from a certain spirit of exploration.
The usual tropes didn’t apply this year.
Popular music has long been held to be the terrain of youth, but some of this year’s strongest music was made by artists in their 50s and even 60s. Hip-hop is said to be the most radical pop music of today, but many of the strongest records released paid that form little mind, and the lion’s share of genuine hip-hop records were far from daring.
Heavy metal is sniffed at and written off as a dinosaur, but a few unabashedly metal-loving artists did some fantastic work in 2006, stuff that doesn’t sound so much dated as it does timeless and logical.
Protest music, long held to be an annoying vestige of the ’60s, made a surprising comeback, and not just among the folk who started making records way back when – the modern punk-rock crowd was sounding off on social and political issues as well.
And while digital downloading continues to be a controversial aspect of the way we gather and listen to music, its tangible effects are tough to discern. The strongest artists made albums, not singles. And while 2005 saw online purchasing of music explode, this year that blaze cooled considerably.
In all, 2006 was a very good year for pop music. Here’s the best of what went down: (I edited out the interesting, but non-Hip related portions)
The Top Downloads1) Ratdog – Live, Oct. 28, Town Ballroom, Buffalo
2) Tragically Hip – “The Lonely End of the Rink”
3) Lindsey Buckingham – “Cast Away Dreams”
4) U2 and Green Day – “The Saints Are Coming”
5) Beck – “Nausea”
The Top Arena Concert
Tie: The Tragically Hip, Artpark, June 18; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with the Allman Brothers Band, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Aug. 16
The Tragically Hip burned down the house during this fiery Artpark show, previewing a few songs from the then-unreleased “World Container” album. A great set list and a performance smacking of conviction made this one a winner.
Petty and the Allmans played like the truly seasoned pros they are. This show pulled an audience spanning several generations out to Darien Lake for the feel-good gig of the year.