Music: Top of the Pop in '06

Think nobody writes and plays like the Fab Four anymore? Take that thought and let it be, 'cuz there's plenty of great pop here, there, and ... you know. You should know that 2006 has had more than its share of great releases.

The Rainbow Quartz label is getting exceedingly Beatlesque (and Kinky) with CDs by two Spanish bands: THE WINNERYS' Daily Urban Times and the GURUS' The Swing of Things. On the other hand, taking '60s pop and making it eccentrically modern are STARLIGHT MINTS on Drowaton (Barsuk). Catapulting it over the rock wall are THE VILLAGE GREEN on Feeling the Fall (spinART) and especially GRAHAM COXON on Love Travels at Illegal Speeds (Parlophone), the guitarist's hookiest work since his heyday with Blur.

TOMMY KEENE does exactly what it sounds like if you go Crashing the Ether (Eleven Thirty). robert pollard keeps us in Normal Happiness (Merge) with his abnormal miniatures. Put the guys together and you get the KEENE BROTHERS' tough/terse Blues and Boogie Shoes (Fading Captain).

You love that ELO? You'll die for L.E.O., whose Alpalcas Orgling (Cheap Lullaby) is Rutle-esque: The song-specific nods are ace originals, too. Played by a power-pop collective.

Then again, there's no shortage of nearly or entirely one-man-band CDs, like JIM NOIR's dreamy Tower of Love (Barsuk), JON AUER's panoramic Songs from the Year of Our Demise (Pattern 25), and BEN KWELLER's self-titled sweetness (ATO). But best of all - and for my money, the toppermost of the poppermost in '06 - is ex-Jellyfish ROGER JOSEPH MANNING, JR.'s The Land of Pure Imagination (Cordless), with one knockout melody after another. Imagination? You bet. And pure pop for Beatle people.

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