Exit Coldplay, enter Paris Hilton

The year 2005 was quite a good one for music. Coldplay released the lush X & Y, with biggest-band-in-the-world written all over it. Kanye West dropped Late Registration, an over-the-top, self-indulgent, yet somehow musically sophisticated record. Late Registration encapsulated the highs and lows of the savior of what I like to call “hip-pop” music. Smaller groups like Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, as well as not-so-small-anymore rockers The Killers, saw their musical careers go from café gigs to sold-out stadium concerts.

The big question still remains, though... can 2006 top 2005? We’ve already seen disappointing releases, including a weak record from The Strokes. Will the next 11 months bring redemption? We can’t be certain, but here are 10 upcoming releases that just might be your ears’ new best friends (and one that might be their worst).

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium — Due out on May 9, one of rock’s biggest bands will emerge with their follow-up to 2002’s By The Way with a double album of 25 funky tracks. With rock and roll legend Rick Rubin on production, it’s hard to see how this is going to be a bad album.

  2. The Shins, Sleeping Lessons or Wincing The Night Away — Expected sometime in May, The Shins’ new release has more of the catchy and uplifting themes that we’ve seen from them in the past. Anyone smell an encore performance at CMU Carnival?

  3. Outkast, Idlewild — It seems like it’s been forever since Outkast put out the boundary-breaking Speakerboxx/Love Below (hard to believe it’s been less than two years). Idlewild — the soundtrack to the movie of the same name — has been pushed back so many times, you’d think it was a Guns ’N Roses album. Alas, the current tentative release date is Valentine’s Day.

  4. Kanye West, Graduation — The third CD in a four-part series, Graduation is expected to drop in late 2006. With a long winter tour of college campuses (including a stop at the University of Pittsburgh) and concert halls behind him, Kanye will (hopefully) return to the studio shortly to work on his upcoming release. The sooner the better, Kanye, the sooner the better.

  5. The Fugees, yet untitled — It’s been a decade since the biggest name in hip-hop put out a record, but the time has finally come. The Fugees have been in the studio and are slated to release their newest CD later this year.

  6. Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not — You may not have heard of them yet, but you sure will on February 21 when their album drops in the U.S. Brit teen-rockers Arctic Monkeys signed with U.K. indie rock label Domino Records (home to rock giants Franz Ferdinand) last spring, and have been getting serious recognition ever since.

  7. Pearl Jam, yet untitled — After relentless touring, Seattle’s grunge-rockers will drop their first disc with J Records, and their eighth overall, in the spring.

  8. John Mayer, Continuum — Love him or hate him, John Mayer has gained recognition from the world of braless babes and legendary musicians. From gigs with jazz legend Herbie Hancock to sold-out concerts of his own, Mayer has undertaken the role of a talented blues guitar player who can appeal to the masses. Look for his new disc this spring.

  9. Tool, yet untitled — It’s been about four years since Tool re-emerged with Lateralus. Although very few details have been released about the new record, the long-awaited follow-up is supposedly due in April or May.

  10. Christian Scott, Rewind That — Nephew of legendary jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison, 22-year-old trumpet phenom Scott will release his debut CD from Concord Jazz on March 28. Although many young jazz musicians are technically proficient, few are creatively exciting. Look for Scott’s record this spring to join the likes of Robert Glasper and other young jazz musicians who are both technically and creatively inspiring.

What not to look for in 2006:

Paris Hilton, yet untitled — Teaming up with producer extraordinaire and ex-Roots keyboardist Scott Storch (who produced hits like Beyoncé’s “Naughty Girl,” 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop,” and many others), Paris Hilton is expected to release her first (and hopefully last) record in April.

Although 2006 got off to a rocky start, it’s showing a lot of promise with these and many other upcoming releases. Look for numerous edgy acts that will push the envelope of pre-existing genres, as well as more generic groups who may lack originality, but make up for it with instrumental prowess and group chemistry. It looks like 2006 might just be the year that the suffering music industry has been waiting for.