Straight-up pop didn't fare much better. Sophomore efforts from Gwen and Timberlake lacked the charm and sass of their debuts, while Jay-Z-the-CEO and Def Jam tried hard to make a household name out of that little rappin' Brit by the name of Lady Sovereign. The verdict's still out on that one, but don't hold your breath.
On the other hand, fallout from the Dixie Chicks fiasco has revitalized Music City U.S.A. Not only did the Chicks release a stunner, but Alan Jackson ditched formula, hooking up with bluegrass queen Alison Krauss.
Still, we're knee-deep in the computer age, meaning winter has come for the long-player/record-album format. Nothing can stop this: not the Dixie Chicks, not Jay-Z, and sure as hell not the Hold Steady, which dropped a bona fide rock and roll classic in Boys and Girls in America.
So enjoy reading about the best albums of 2006, 'cause there's not too many more of these left.