Belated - Jason's 2006 Favorites

Before I get to my list, I have some questions and comments about list methodology. If you don't care, please skip the next three paragraphs.

I've been struggling with putting a list together for 2006 because I really don't know how to choose them. Do I base my choices purely on how much I played a certain album? Or is there some other standard, such as gut instinct, to go by? The reason I ask is I'm really having trouble distinguishing a ranking order out of 10,20, even 50 possible candidates. I blame my confusion on iTunes's Play Count tracking feature.

If I go by the purely empirical play count data, as provided by iTunes, my favorite record is obvious. I listened to Bob Dylan's Modern Times more than any other. In numerical terms, I gave Modern Times nearly 40 complete spins. Conveniently, this record also happens to be my favorite from the year. But from there, ranking based on listen counts breaks down. I listened to the Flaming Lips' At War with The Mystics nearly 10 times through (more than some choices in the following list) and it's nowhere near my top 50 or 100. I suppose it took that many plays to figure out I didn't like it very much. My second most played song was "Dog" by El Perro Del Mar, but I wouldn't rank the full album in the same spot (it's at number 13 actually).

Another good example is LCD Soundsystem's "45:33". I've only played it four times all the way through according to iTunes yet I rank it in my top 10. Obviously the track's epic length dampened the number of complete plays, yet I probably listened to portions of it nearly 10-15 times. However in this case, one listen would have sealed "45:33" a place in the upper echelons. It's that great of an experience.

So the following list, while ordered, is rather arbitrary. It's a combination of what I played most, what I liked but should have played more and instinct. Truth is I'm still working my way through a large stack of 2006 releases, so this list may change sometime later in the year 2007.

OK, that's the ramble. Now here's the list, with an odd comment here and there for the top 10:

1. Bob Dylan - Modern Times

Perhaps I am predestined to give any new Dylan record a significant chunk of listening time, but Modern Times earned this spot on its merit. On the surface, this record is far less ambitious than Love & Theft or Time Out of Mind. It may lack in challenge, but it abounds in wit, wisdom and pathos.

2. Junior Boys - So This is Goodbye

The second Junior Boys album finds the band basking in some figurative warm sunshine. It might be better meds, or perhaps a streamlined lineup (original member Johnny Dark left before So This is Goodbye, leaving a core of Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus) that explains the mood lift from 2004's Last Exit. The stuttering rhythms that distinguished the debut are simplified here, but thankfully the JBs attention to melody and mood has not been sacrificed. They have not lost their darker edges. There's still enough melancholic synth soul to for those seeking a soundtrack for late night introspection.

3. Trentemøller - The Last Resort

On The Last Resort, Trentemøller has crafted a collection of densely ornate tracks, layered wall-to-wall with a veritable shag carpet of rich sounds. For me it's an often stunning collection of emotive techno. But fans of less-is-more minimalism, you may want to look elsewhere.

4. Johnny Cash - American V: A Hundred Highways

5. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale

6. Max Richter - Songs From Before

The perfect counterbalance to the bombastic stylings of Trentemøller, Max Richter's engrossing Songs From Before bewitches through simple, emotional passages of strings and piano, weighted from below by ghostly layers of street hassle. Haruki Murakami fans will especially enjoy the readings of his prose by Robert Wyatt during the brief interludes.

7. LCD Soundsystem - "45:33"

As mentioned above, I've sampled portions of James Murphy's Nike workout track many more times than the measly two plays iTunes credits me with. I may be obsessed with play counts, but so far I've avoided forwarding to the last ":33" just to get a credit. No cheating allowed. I also have yet to put "45:33" to the workout challenge. If jogging along to it in my imagination is allowed, let me just say this is best damn workout tape ever. I expect to see a lithe Murphy in March at the Bowery Ballroom!

8. Rub `n' Tug - Better With A Spoonful of Leather

9. Ellen Allien & Apparat - Orchestra of Bubbles

10. Hot Chip - The Warning

The Next 10:

Helios - Eingya

The Knife - Silent Shout

El Perro Del Mar - S/T

Various Artists - Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus 1965 - 75

Rickard Javerling - Two Times Five Lullaby

Skatebard - Midnight Magic

Genevieve Pasquier - Soap Bubble Factory

Keef Baker - Pure Language

I'm From Barcelona - Let Me Introduce My Friends

Booka Shade - Movements