1. Patti Smith,
A consummate covers artist from the beginning, Patti Smith emotionally and musically reexamines classic songs by fellow electric poets — including Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?" George Harrison's "Within You Without You" and Kurt Cobain's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" — with sublime, inspirational results.
2. The Len Price 3,
Rentacrowd (Wicked Cool)
The second album by this British trio — none of the guys are named Len or Price — packs the hooks, twang and pow of Kink Kontroversy and The Who Sings My Generation into a volley of quick, fast and mod -- as in truly modern — bullets. The title song is especially sweet, raging revenge against U.K. hype-of-the-month bands who have the looks and hair — just like the LP3 — but none of the power-chord and incandescent-chorus goods you get here.
3. Wooden Shjips,
Wooden Shjips (Holy Mountain)
The debut album by the best new psychedelic band in America — it's from San Francisco, of course — combines and updates the transportive force of the Velvet Underground's no-blues drone, Can's unrelenting pulse and the holy garage-rock fire of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators into a compact, wrapped-in- reverb trip of vintage transcendence and forward thrust.
Aman Iman (Water Is Life) (World Village)
This is an album of true rebel songs by the Rolling Stones of the Sahara desert, an extraordinary band of Tuareg tribesmen from northern Mali whose nomad stories and spidery, electric riffing are plugged into the blues' original crossroads.
5. Kaiser Chiefs,
Yours Truly, Angry Mob (Universal Motown)
Their 2005 debut, Employment, had one killer song, "I Predict a Riot," and big potential. This overlooked follow-up was the riot: street-fighting British pop with smart, sardonic writing and chorales — like the title chant in "Ruby" and the punch line in "I Can Do It Without You" ("But it wouldn't be any good") — that hammer you into singing along.