The music lovers sat cross-legged in the sand

It's a weird feeling, in December 2005, to be 99% sure that you've already heard your favorite album of 2006. But as you may have noticed, I kinda have a thing for Destroyer, and Destroyer's Rubies does not disappoint. Note to bands looking to get in my good graces, you can't go wrong by importing the guitars from Crooked Rain Crooked Rain! Strong Pavement-y flavor throughout this thing, and the lyrics are increasingly turning into a Charlie Kaufmanesque funhouse of rock references ("those who love Zeppelin will soon betray Floyd / I cast off these couplets in honor of the void"), self-mythology, and meta weirdness (previous album title "Your Blues" pops up in the lyrics of at least three new tracks). Might be offputting for some, a snake eating its own tail, but for music-obsessed fellows like myself there's no better maze to get lost in. The tracks below sketch out the album's two main modes, "Rubies" the sprawling opening epic, "3000 Flowers" the catchy blast of riffage flying apart at the seams. When this comes out on Merge in February I'm buying it on every format. (Further study: For an advanced degree in Destroyer lyricology check out Toronto music critic Carl Wilson's essay at the always excellent Zoilus.)

Destroyer - "Rubies"

Destroyer - "3000 Flowers"

Now on to the best of 2004! Free the Bees came out ages ago, I just flat-out forgot to pick it up because it took so long to be released domestically in the United States (it's on Astralwerks). If you're the sort of person who scoffs about unoriginality at the drop of a hat, this probably isn't for you; it's unabashedly retro, and the influences aren't even all that hidden -- the opening of "Hourglass" sounds just like "I'm Only Sleeping." Best quickie description I can come up with is that this sounds like the music the Beta Band would make if they had never heard any post-1970 records.

A Band of Bees - "Horsemen"

A Band of Bees - "Hourglass"