• Manic Street Preachers, 'Send Away the Tigers' (Red Ink)

    Treated like deities in the U.K. but ignored Stateside (guitarist Richey Edwards' tragic disappearance before a 1995 U.S. tour was a devastating setback), Manic Street Preachers have spent a career combining meaty protest rants and slick stadium hooks. Send Away the Tigers emphasizes the latter, with audacious, rosy-cheeked paeans to tomorrow ("Indian Summer," "Rendition"); even the love song that references Lee Harvey Oswald ("I'm Just a Patsy") sounds hopeful. And for the record, their cover of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" totally schools Green Day's. Now Hear This: Manic Street Preachers - "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough" DOWNLOAD MP3 Now Watch This: Manic Street Preachers - "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough" QUICKTIME | WINDOWS MEDIA BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Foo Fighters, 'Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace' (Roswell/RCA)

    Part of Nirvana's greatness stemmed from their volatility. The exact opposite can be said of Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters. Since their 1995 debut, Grohl has been a model of steady efficiency, and Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace is another quality entry in a fantastically average career. Two-thirds of these tracks sound a lot like songs Grohl has done before: "The Pretenders" is "Stacked Actors," even down to the lyrics decrying phonies; and if you've heard "My Hero," you've got a good idea what "Statues" sounds like. But Grohl sometimes experiments, and the handful of songs that deviate from the wallop'n'wail template keep the record afloat.

  • Queens of the Stone Age, 'Era Vulgaris' (Interscope)

    Era Vulgaris represents Queens of the Stone Age's most hallucinatory album since 2000's Rated R. And no narcotic assistance is required, since it legitimately recreates what music sounds like when you're high: The drums are distant and scratchy, the vocals are simultaneously sweet and dangerous, and every guitar riff sounds like "Sweet Home Alabama." Which is to say thatit sounds awesome. Finally cutting back on the number of friends doing guest spots (only Julian Casablancas and QOTSA regular Mark Lanegan make cameos), Era Vulgaris is the first Queens album that places a significant focus on Homme's lyrics, which are equal parts stoned philosophy and backhanded bon mots -- he's a meathead, sure, but he's got a little Dorothy Parker in him.

  • Megadeth, 'United Abominations' (Roadrunner)

    Megadeth have never adapted their razor-edged shredding to straight-up arena rock as well as Metallica, and even their most ferocious '80s efforts felt a little unresolved. The band has always had a general political awareness, but United Abominations is Dave Mustaine's serious stab at protest rock, and the results are similarly mixed. Bad pun aside, the title track is a delightfully jagged slice of aggro, while "Gears of War" has a hint of anthemic melodicism. Still, too many of these overly blustery blasts sound like entrance themes for professional wrestlers. Megadeth - "Washington Is Next" WINDOWS MEDIA BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Twisted Black, 'Street Fame' (TVT)

    Twisted Black might be the most legit coke rapper ever -- he was recently convicted in federal court of conspiracy to distribute crack. But he's not just a rap sheet; he's also a storyteller whose lyrics recall Proust's madeleines (a piece of jewelry, the sound of a drug dealer's shoes when he runs from the cops) as much as Biggie's hustler tales. Street Fame is flush with tracks like "Coldest Summer Ever," a breathless account of two dealers named Heavy and Pretty Boy trying to outscam one another. These epic narratives are filled with such chilling specificity that it's a miracle Black survived to spin them. Now Hear This: Twisted Black - "Throw It Up" DOWNLOAD MP3 >> Listen to Twisted Black on Napster BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Second Coming: Bloc Party

    What follows is an unabridged version of the Bloc Party interview that appears in our February issue. You'd think Kele Okereke would be worried. His band, Bloc Party, are about to drop their much-anticipated second album, and they recently had to pull out of a potentially rewarding support slot on the Panic! At the Disco tour. Music bloggers obsessed over the Essex, England-based band's 2005 debut album, Silent Alarm, which ended up on many critics' year-end lists, and Okereke knows expectations are huge. But he and his bandmates -- guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist Gordon Moakes, and drummer Matt Tong -- also realize that for many bands the lightning of hype rarely strikes twice. "We know we're not going to be the cool new blog thing this time around," Okereke says.

  • The Best Of...

    A confession: I don't particularly enjoy the year-end list season, where every publication, TV station, podcast, and blog submits their best- and worst-ofs for the year that was. I find it sort of arbitrary and not particularly useful -- after all, the only way to decide if anything will be long-lasting is to look at it a few years down the line. I think it would be wise for everybody to work on a five or six year delay. Wouldn't it be amazing to take a look back and see how right or wrong Spin was in 2000? I'm glad you think so, because that's exactly what we're doing. I'll post my top records of the year next week, but this week, I give you the Spin Top 10 from 2000. Let's see if we had any foresight, or if we were just distracted by millennium fever. 10. Le Tigre, Le Tigre: A not-exactly watershed debut from a band whose importance probably hasn't been determined yet.

  • Niobe, 'White Hats' (Tomlab)

    When you rip White Hats to your iTunes, the genre comes up as "electronica," but that's reductionist. While the fourth album of this German singer (who guested on Mouse on Mars' last album) does depend on various slabs of digital sound, it runs the gamut from trip-hop (the spooky "Give All to Love") to peppy disco ("Up Hill and Down Dale") to Beth Orton-esque dance folk ("Surround Your Hover"). Niobe's chameleonic vocals aren't terribly unique, but they suit these nuanced tracks just fine. Now Hear This: Niobe - "Give All to Love" DOWNLOAD MP3 >> Listen to Niobe on Napster BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Ron Artest, 'My World' (Tru Warier/Lightyear)

    Rugged NBA star Artest was raised in Queensbridge, the same New York housing project that produced Nas and Mobb Deep, so perhaps he feels it's his birthright to MC. Sadly, his beats come straight from the Fisher-Price My First Rap Album Playset, with generic New York hardcore ("Nasty North"), by-the-numbers crunk ("Working the Pole"), and so on. But surprisingly, Artest has a smooth, competent flow and doesn't embarrass himself lyrically. As it turns out, his rap game is a lot like his hoop game -- not flashy, but fundamentally sound. Now Hear This: Ron Artest - "Fever" DOWNLOAD MP3 >> Listen to Ron Artest on Napster BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Definitely Not Bulls on Parade

    Thanksgiving brought me home to Connecticut, where I attended a football game, pitting the University of Connecticut against the University of Cincinnati. The Huskies lost by a field goal in the closing seconds of the game in a heartbreaker, a loss I pin entirely on UConn's terrible kicker, who shanked an extra point that probably was the difference in the game. But my complaints about the game have more to do with the half time show. The UConn marching band provided entertainment, and I was doing what I always do whenever a marching band is playing: I did my best to pretend I was some place where a marching band wasn't playing. I consider marching bands to be only about as entertaining as women's basketball or movies with hobbits in them, which is to say not at all.

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