Kyle Leafblower has his annual compendium of the top 40 bands in America posted at his site this morning.
If you have no idea what bands I'm nattering on about half the time, this list... is a decent start, I guess. There's plenty of room for questions, as with anything.
Be sure to check out the past year's lists, by the way. Fun reading, if nothing else.
If you want to go exploring, the most essential (and, happily, accessible) bands on there, in my opinion, follow below (in the order in which they appeared on the list, but not in terms of my own personal preference). Many of the rest will be forgotten, shortly, victims of the constant hype machine. Blogs are the new NME, you know.
These are the bands/artists worth your time and money, who'll be on the same list(s) next year, and the year after that.
The Hold Steady
The Mountain Goats
My Morning Jacket (not the American Radiohead, like Rolling Stone recently proclaimed-- just reallyreally good)
We Are Scientists
Explosions in the Sky