In only approximate order of favoriteness, here is my year-end wrap-up. As in previous years, a few of the entries on the following list were released earlier than 2006, but that is when I discovered them, so I'm allowing a little slack.
In 2006, I bought in the neighborhood of 180 new-ish albums (I also picked up about an equal number of rather old releases, but those don't really count for this exercise.) That's a whole lot more than last year, and the success ratio was higher. Though 2006 blew chunks by just about every other measure, it has been a very good year for new music. I actually had kind of a tough time trimming this list down to a comparable number of entries as previous years.
The Prids - "...Until The World Is Beautiful" & "Love Zero"
The Prids are, by far, my favorite band of the year. Not only do these two albums occupy slot one on this list, let's pretend they occupy the first five slots. They have a male and female singer, sometimes singing simultaneously, and awesome bass. If I didn't know better, I'd swear this was a lost Factory Records band circa 1982: they would squeeze in quite nicely between Movement-era New Order, A Certain Ratio, and maybe Durutti Column. But don't get me wrong: I'm not accusing them of being some nostalgia-pastiche band like She Wants Revenge (who are just one step up from being a cover band, really). The Prids are so much better than that kind of thing, they are just... stylistically familiar.
And they're playing at DNA Lounge in January! Be there, seriously. I've seen them live. Do not miss.
The Spores - "Imagine The Future", "Lo Batt", & "What Gives?"
These guys are hard to describe; they're a funky electronic rock band, I guess, with puppet show. Seriously, the singer sings several of the songs through hand puppets, and they usually open with a puppet dj. This works out surprisingly well. Real instruments plus heavy use of samples. They played at DNA Lounge in April, and they give good show.
The Knife "Silent Shout" & "Deep Cuts"
Another hard-to-describe band; they sound a bit like Ladytron, but are much weirder. There are both male and female vocals, but they are often processed so that they sound like an alien version of the opposite gender. They have a bunch of equally-demented music videos; my favorite is "We Share Our Mother's Health".
Luxxury - "Rock and Roll (Is Evil)"
Sleazy analog synths and nicely noisy guitar. Reminiscent of The Faint. They do an awesome cover of "I Know There's Something Going On". They played at DNA Lounge in November.
The Dresden Dolls "Yes, Virginia..."
These guys made my 2004 list as well, and their new album is also really good. I think I like the first one more, but if you liked that at all, this is well worth having. They still haven't equalled the frenetic weirdness of "Girl Anachronism" and "Coin-Operated Boy", though. Those songs are hard to top.
Pzycho Bitch - "Electrolicious"
If you've heard Pzycho Bitch or S.I.N.A. before, it's almost impossible to believe that this is the same band. This is a much poppier album, much more "electroclash" than "powernoise". I like their older, more industrial stuff a lot, but this is good too. There's a bit of a Praga Khan / Lords of Acid feel to some of it.
Veruca Salt - "IV"
They've made the list the last two years as well, so you may have figured out that I love me some Veruca Salt. This album's really good; it's not my favorite of theirs, but it definitely has its moments. There's a mix of straight-up devil-horns rocking-out as well as mellower stuff. And they briefly channel Elastica, which was a nice surprise.
Gram Rabbit - "Cultivation"
"Music to Start a Cult To" made last year's list, and while I liked that one more, this one is great too. They played at DNA Lounge in August, and you should see them live if at all possible. The singer goes through several rabbit-themed costume changes, and they occasionally had spastic go-go dancers in full-on furry-pervert bunny suits.
DJ? Acucrack - "Killing Mobius"
With their third appearance on my year-end wrap-up, you can safely assume that I believe that the Acucrack boys can do no wrong. Noisy, industrial-y instrumental drum-and-bass.
Drop Black Sky - "Ring Pass Not"
A bit like Miranda Sex Garden or This Ascension: mellow swirly gothy music. They've played at DNA Lounge a few times, most recently in April, but coming up again in January.
Monsters Are Waiting - "Fascination"
I have a hard time classifying bands that sound like this, because they're obviously of a certain type, but I don't know a name for that type. They're another rock band of the recent vintage of those heavily influenced by the early 80s, with girly vocals. I like them, the vocals especially. But, you know, with these kinds of bands "rock" is far too broad a category. Anyway. Good album. Like the theme song "Monsters" best, though the backbeaty "Christine" is also quite good.
Agent Sparks - "Red Rover"
Yeah, here we are again: an early-80s-sounding rock band with both male and female singers whom I don't really know how to describe. Why must I be so terrible at writing these reviews? This album. I liked it. This band: I saw them live and they give good show. The songs: "Polly Anne", "Make Up Friend", and "Mr. Insecurity" are great.
Metric - "Live It Out" & "Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?"
Poppy indie rock. Some fast and a little punky, some mellow. I like her voice.
Ladytron "Light & Magic", "604" & "Witching Hour"
I'm late to the party on this one: you probably already either like them or hate them. They're a synthpop band with deadpan songs about how glamorous and sad they are, without the self-conscious irony of someone like Miss Kittin. They put on a really good live show, though.
Zoë Keating - "One Cello x 16: Natoma"
Instrumental heavily-layered cello music: when she performs live (as at DNA Lounge in November!) she samples and loops herself, so she's playing against multiple copies of herself on a half minute or more of delay. It's very cool. I like this album a lot.
Psapp - "Tiger, My Friend"
Quiet, mellow electronic music with female vocals. Wind-up-music-box sounds. They remind me a little bit of Supreme Beings of Leisure, but they're not trip-hop.
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness - "Fear Is on Our Side"
Is it just me, or do these guys sound exactly like Moev? The bass playing on "According to Plan" especially reminds me so much of "Yeah Whatever".
Also, this is the best band name ever, ever.
Presets - "Beams"
A synth-heavy electro act. Much of the album is instrumental, but the tracks with vocals remind me of circa-1982 Human League or Soft Cell.
Halou - "Wholeness & Separation"
Halou are an old favorite, and this is another really good album. It's pretty mellow, and I do miss the triphop elements of their older stuff, but it's still great. They have played at DNA Lounge a whole bunch of times, most recently in November.
Cansei De Ser Sexy - "Cansei De Ser Sexy"
(Or, as they are sometimes known, "Cascading Style Sheets".) I don't even know how to describe this. Slightly funky rock with retro analog synths. Goofy. They have their upsettingly disco-ish moments, which only narrowly avoid going too far in that direction. "Alala" is my favorite track. I saw them live and they put on a hell of a show.
Naked Ape - "For the Sake of the Naked Ape"
You may remember these guys from their music video with the zombie girls in the car wash. This album has lots of vocoders. I like vocoders.
The Hells - The Hells
I confuse The Hells with The Kills. They've got kind of a hipster bluesy thing going on (though not really to the same extent), and tragically similar names. The song "He's the Devil (But I Love Him So)" is the best.
The Birthday Massacre "Violet"
Did you know there are still goth bands? I'll bet all the kids think they're nu-metal or something, but they're basically Switchblade Symphony with more guitar. It's a pretty good album. They played at DNA Lounge in March.
The Start - "Initiation" & "Death Via Satellite"
Somewhere between hard rock and pop-punk, with female vocals. She has an interesting voice. They played at DNA Lounge in March.
Shiny Toy Guns - "We Are Pilots"
First of all, the second track on the album, "Le Disko" is just genius. You may have heard it. However, it's a total bait-and-switch! Nothing else on the album sounds even remotely like that. Most of the remaining tracks have somewhat-whiny male vocals and mellower music, instead of the bass-heavy brattiness of that track. It's not a bad album, but that song sounds like it's from a completely different band (whom I like a lot more).
Cobra Killer - "76/77"
Noisy, twitchy electronic music with female vocals. Something of a first-wave-industrial feel to a lot of it.
Tegan & Sara - "So Jealous"
Kind of an accoustic poppy indie-rock thing. "Speak Slow" and "I Know I Know" are great.
Gary Numan - "Jagged"
Well, it's "Pure" part 2. Or maybe it's "Exile" part 3. I really like the stuff he's been doing lately, but there's not a whole lot of range to it. If you want more of his previous two albums, this is it.
She Wants Revenge - "She Wants Revenge"
Ok, I know I dissed these guys up in the review of The Prids, but it's a good album for what it is. Which is a band doing their absolute best to sound simultaneously like Joy Division and Bauhaus, with all the rough edges smoothed over and made slick. I don't want to like them, because their game is so transparent, but they hooked me anyway.
These are albums that, in previous years, probably would have made the list. I enjoyed them, but was somewhat ambivalent. However, this being a pretty good year for music, they didn't quite make the cut. (This means I don't have to think of something to write about them!)