All-Time Best Band: The Shins All-Time Best Solo Artist: Norman Petty Best New Band: A Hawk and a Hacksaw
Zach Braff is a bit of a douche. (Phew, that feels better.) His cloying Garden State film set expectations so impossibly high for the poor Shins — one character in the movie says of the quartet’s “New Slang,” “You gotta hear this one song. It’ll change your life, I swear.” — that the Albuquerque-formed song craftsmen couldn’t possibly live up to them (or survive short-attention-span hipsters’ withering ennui). Truth is, though, the group are indeed a marvel, a clever indie-rock update of Simon & Garfunkel. Back off, Braff. | Norman Petty didn’t have much of a solo career, but we’re including him here anyway because of his legendary, though controversial, contributions to some of early rock’s most vital acts. It was in Petty’s Clovis-based studio that Roy Orbison recorded his very first records, and also in which (and under Petty’s production) Buddy Holly and the Crickets recorded their biggest hits. Petty was controversial in that he claimed songwriting credits for many of those hits, a fact that Holly disputed. But his much-admired production touches remain unchallenged, and he was a de facto Cricket. | One-time Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes is a peripatetic sort. After a stint as a postman in Leicester, England, he moved home to Albuquerque, where he founded the experimental Eastern European–folk outfit A Hawk and a Hacksaw, who are spiritual cousins of Gogol Bordello and other gypsy rock. Their third album was, like portions of the movie Borat, recorded in a Romanian village — only this time America doesn’t look like the butt of the joke.