Okay*, "Give Up." Not enough of you bought Okay's High Roadand Low Road last year, and this needs to change, especially since bandleader Marty Anderson plans to release something like three more full-lengths in 2006. You've got catching up to do! (A recent conversation with Anderson revealed that he's got "about 150 songs" lying around unreleased.)

Jose Gonzalez, "Heartbeats." An acoustic guitar and one guy's voice. How is it that this simple combination is so eye-gougingly annoying 99 percent of the time, and then some new guy tries it and for whatever weird and magical reason you feel like you're 7 again and hearing John Denver for the first time?

Wolf Parade, "I'll Believe in Anything." It bodes well that Wolf Parade at the Independent was the first show I saw this year. This band is remarkably talented at embedding hooks into its mangy, scraggly songs. You listen to its debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, a few times, and at first it seems like the music isn't sinking in, but then a few hours later you're talking to your girlfriend and it just comes out: "Give me your eyes/ I need sunshine!"

Birdmonster*, "All the Holes in the Walls." Birdmonster pulling a Noah's Ark back in December at a flooded Café Du Nord to deliver a scathing set was one of my favorite moments from 2005, and indicative of just how determined this band is. Well, its songs are no less steely-eyed. This one jumps from a hangdog lament to an overdriven charge that would make Frank Black proud. It is nothing to fuck with.

(* denotes local artist)

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