We promised you our picks and after much deliberation, unhealthy we settled on 34 38 37 (yes, prescription totally random number) records that — whether you love ’em or hate ’em — made an impact on us this year. In my opinion all of them are worthy of a listen and all have hijacked my headphones for extended amount of time. Compare and contrast to other “Best Of” lists and please be sure to leave your comments. Like every year, I definitely missed some and forgot others. But I’m pretty happy with these picks and I hope you agree.

All records are listed in alphabetical order:

BAND OF HORSES
Everything All the Time
(Sub Pop)

This list would have been incomplete without the mention of at least a single Sub Pop band. The label — with other excellent releases from CSS, The Thermals and Oxford Collapse — had an outstanding year, but Band of Horses were the first of the lot to really make an impression. They are as near-perfect as imperfect indie rock can get.

BIBIO
Hand Cranked
(Mush)

Guitarist Stephen Wilkinson releases his second LP for Mush and again, it goes cruelly unnoticed. While his guitar-based audio collages at first appear simple, the complexities in both sound and technique become apparent as the album progresses. Like his compatriots Boards of Canada, the music is pastoral and psychedelic, but relies on aged tape-loops and scratchy anachronisms to make it truly ethereal.

BOOKA SHADE
Movements
(Get Physical)

Never fails to get the party started. Never. And this record, the best yet from the Get Physical crew is a big statement on the state of dance music in 2006 and hopefully beyond. With clean production and building cresendos, the German duo have crafted a record equal parts house and techno and in the process may have just invented a genre.

BORIS
Pink
(Southern Lord)

Nobody does noise like the Japanese. Admittedly a niche thing, bands like Acid Mother’s Temple and Ghost do take some time to get into (if ever) but Boris, the Japanese metal trio, use noise in a much more accessible way. Pink is testament to this and the finest, loudest record of 2006 in our humble, ocassionally metal-listening opinion.

THE CHANGES
Today is Tonight
(Drama Club)

It’s no secret that SK are big fans of The Changes but it’s not without reason. While other pubs are lauding the predictable, we are convinced that few indie releases this year rival Today is Tonight. Something needs to be said of this record’s cross-generational appeal, something that few, if any records accomplished in 2006. Brilliant and memorable.

CLARK
Body Riddle
(Warp)

A few years have passed since Chris Clark’s last release but it seems he’s back — now recording as Clark — and more determined than ever to separate himself from his Warp brethren. Body Riddle is a document of uncomprimising creativity and technical acuity. It just sounds amazing. Often overshadowed by his labelmates, this is Clark’s coming out party.

CLIPSE
Hell Hath No Fury
(Jive)

Was this not one of the best hip-hop years in recent memory? Seriously, Aloe Blacc, Rhymefest, Ghostface, Lupe, Nas, and of course this gutter gem from Clipse. Sounds like Pharel’s beats took a page from the UK grime handbook and this record, from start to finish, is as hard as they come. Tight beats, tighter rhymes. And as dark as the stories they tell.

COUGAR
Law
(Layered Music)

So many instrumental records end up filling up ipod play lists but very rarely end up on “best of” lists at year’s end. Understandably, it takes more than pretty music and competent playing to make instrumental music transcendant. Law, one of the most promising debuts of ’06, proves that there are no rules when it comes to good tunes. Just the tunes themselves.

DIRTY ON PURPOSE
Hallelujah Sirens
(North Street)

Brooklyn’s best indie band right now in our humble opinion. Dirty on Purpose bring us back to the days when irony wasn’t a requirement of indie rock. Instead, they focus on doing all the little things right and in the process have accounted for some of this year’s most instantly seductive pop songs.

FIVE DEEZ
Kommunicator
(Rapster)

Fat Jon, Pase Rock and company meld ambient techno, hip-house and underground hip-hop without importing the more dubious elements of each. What results is easily the most creative hip-hop record of the year. It may not be obvious now, but people will be referencing Kommunicator twenty years for now as a record way ahead of its time.

FOUR TET
DJ Kicks
(!K7)

Most year-end lists avoid compilations, yet because Kieren Hebden really rose to the occasion for his DJ Kicks debut, we’re gonna buck that trend. His live sets can be sort of a snooze but here, he successfully shows off his eclectic tastes with smart mixes and a really varied track selection. Probably the only mix in ’06 with Akufen, Group Home, Animal Collective and Curtis Mayfield. And it works!

GHOSTFACE KILLAH
Fishscale
(Def Jam)

As I get older, so do the MCs that I grew up with and few air their dirty laundry with as much style and wisdom than Ghostface. The Wu-tang Clan is like a hydra: Think you can cut them all down but one always strikes back. This time it’s Ghostface, who has consistently been one of the finer members of the great 8. Like Built 4 Cuban Linx and Liquid Swords, this is a Wu-Classic.

TIM HECKER
Harmony in Ultraviolet
(Kranky)

Records are often significant not only for what they sound like, but for how they make everything else sound around you. It’s the mark of great ambient music; that it’s still in your head long after the stop button has been pressed. This is easily Hecker’s most accomplished record, oceanic and swirling, and as much MBV as Tangerine Dream.

HERBERT
Scale
(!K7)

I’ll admit that sometimes I find Matthew Herbert to be a tad discomforting in that he seemingly favors process over product. But for Scale he has produced his best work since Bodily Functions proving that thematically-derived music can still make you want to shake your ass. Form and function at it’s musical best.

I LOVE YOU BUT I’VE CHOSEN DARKNESS
Fear Is On Our Side
(Secretly Canadian)

Okay. Upside-down cross in a heart. Produced by Paul Barker of Ministry fame (yes, that Ministry). Compared often to Joy Division. With all that seemingly working for (or against them depending on your new wave/goth threshold) the former members of Paul Newman and Windsor for the Derby still delivered an amazing listen in 2006. And “The Owl” is the years best video.

J DILLA
Donuts
(Stones Throw)

Hip-hop had a good year in 2006, with a thunderous finish at year’s end but nothing was more significant than the passing of one of the all-time greats, producer Jay Dee. His contributions to both mainstream and underground hip-hop cannot go unnoticed now, nor will they fade with posterity. His is a legacy that is timeless. Just like the beats he so calculatingly crafted.

JUSTICE
Waters of Nazareth
(Vice)

Dirty, loud, overdriven, and nearly impossible not to feel, France’s Justice are the true definition of Nu-Metal. Seriously. Fresh new music does it’s job when it makes you feel old and this record humbles me in that it could only be the product of a 2006 consciousness where we all listen to everything. No limits. No rules. No doubt. The Ed Bangers had a HUGE 2006.

THE KNIFE
Silent Shout
(iTunes)

Great records pull you out of your comfort zone. With so much hype around them, brother/sister duo The Knife made all non-believers at least a little but curious. After finally acquiescing, it was difficult to deny they had uncovered something special on Silent Shout. Given the dark moods and overall eerieness of the record, it’s amazing how strangely optimistic you feel at its end.

KUDU
Death of the Party
(Nublu)

I recently heard the YYY’s “Phenomena” on a best songs of 2006 radio show and my lady commented how “Kudu-ish” it was. She was dead on. While Karen O gets the press, Kudu’s Sylvia Gordon is the one deserving of best pipes in NYC. Death of the Party represents what genuine NYC dance punk can be. And their tireless touring and live show cements their place on this list.

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
45:33
(iTunes)

The Nike/iTunes teaming had people screaming “sell-out” before they heard even a single note of James Murphy’s disco/electro opus. Since I haven’t tested it out yet while running, I can’t comment on the effectiveness there, but I can tell you that only a supreme talent can write over 45 minutes of engaging music that leaves you wanting even more when it’s through.

LILY ALLEN
Alright, Still
(Parlophone/EMI)

Like The Streets before her, Lily Allen shows that with a little innovation and whole lot of attitude, pop music can be more than just the predictable mainstream fluff it has embarassingly become. There’s not a single person I know that can deny “Smile” or “LDN,” just two examples of Miss Allen’s beguiling charm. I hope she sticks around for a while.

LINDSTROM
It’s a Feedelity Affair
(Feedelity/Smalltown Supersound)

Technically a compilation of some older recordings, it still represents one of the year’s most sturdy dance records. His sound, a mix of disco, ambient and breakbeat really ushered in a higher profile for the moody dancefloor instrumentals some call “space disco.” Admittedly a silly moniker, it doesn’t make these tracks any less awesome.

LOOSE FUR
Born Again in the USA
(Drag City)

Power trio Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche and Jim O’Rourke return with another Loose Fur record, this time, perhaps a little less “loose” than their self-titled debut. Fantastic song writing, stellar musicianship, and the kind of anthemic American jams that unfortunately inspire less competent imitators. Is that Jerry Garcia on “The Ruling Class?”

LUPE FIASCO
Food & Liquor
(1st & 15th/Atlantic)

This was one of the few records living up to its herculean expectations. A lot was expected from this Kanye acolyte and what he showed us was a mix of wordplay braggadacio and production opulence. This is a HUGE record and I can’t help but enjoy it with the caveat that the expectations for his next record will be even larger. Another example of hip-hop’ big ’06.

MASTODON
Blood Mountain
(Reprise)

This is what metal is supposed to be right? Brutal and technical. Inspiring and a bit threatening. Dark fantasy lyricism. Few thought the Atlanta quartet would be able to deliver following Leviathan, but in a storm of near-jazz riffage and simply mindblowing drumming, Mastodon was able to scale the heights and get to the peak with Blood Mountain.

MATMOS
The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast
(Matador)

More grad-school ingenuity in the guise of experimental electronic music from Matmos. Like Matthew Herbert, Matmos’ themes can sometimes overpower the success of the music they produce, but here, as they did with A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure, Drew Daniel and MC Schmidt push their programming virtuosity to an even more breathtaking degree.

BARBARA MORGENSTERN
The Grass Is Always Greener
(Monika)

People may argue that Ellen Alien is the first lady of German electronic music. Perhaps Magda. But I’m casting my vote for Barbara Morgenstern. Her gentle, fluttering digital pop is tremendously listenable, her vocals affable and overall she crafts supremely optimistic music. Her best effort yet and a great compliment to last year’s Tesri with To Rococo Rot’s Ronald Lippock.

MSTRKRFT
Looks
(Last Gang)

Jesse Keeler from DFA 1979 fools American kids with a very French-sounding dance record with a definite dance punk bent. More like an Ed Bangers release than anything else, Looks is overstuffed with simply massive cuts like “Work on You” and “Easy Love.” The vocoder and programming owe to Daft Punk and the Chemical Bros. but who cares? Let’s dance.

NAS
Hip-Hop Is Dead
(Def Jam)

Nas has always been a bit of a hip-hop fortune teller, but I think this premonition is one that may be disproved by the strong ’06 crop of records, especially his own. My all-time favorite MC, Nas returns with venomous bombast but also a suprising melancholy about the game’s changing state of affairs and his personal disconnect from the streets that raised him.

OUTPUTMESSAGE
Nebulae
(Melodic)

Bernard Farley makes the kind of soft, ambient breakbeat that just doesn’t seem to happen as much as it should. Perhaps it’s the difficult balancing act of layering atmospherics with beats that move songs forward but don’t overpower them. Like Boards of Canada remixing house or techno, Outputmessage uses math to solve an otherwise harrowing equation.

RATATAT
Classics
(XL)

Misplaced somewhere in the annals of rock music history, is a sacred list outlining the elements of greatness. One of them has to be establishing a unique sound. Sure, it’s way to early to crown Ratatat the next great band but anyone who has heard them knows that within a cluttered musical landscape, their blend of power guitars and programming is one-of-a-kind.

RELAY
Still Point of Turning
(Bubblecore)

I just love this record. Not only does it remind me of so many bands I loved in college, but it reminds me how simplicity and drive can translate from musician to listener. Like Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr., Relay use noise not to obfuscate their message but to scream it out loud and clear. Long live guitar rock.

SONIC YOUTH
Rather Ripped
(Geffen)

I liked Sonic Nurse and Murray Street but with that was SY with Jim O’Rourke. They were an amazing band but perhaps a different one and now that they have scaled back to the original quartet, there seems to be a return to ease and simplicity. Again, Steve Shelley’s drumming and the interplay of Moore and Renaldo are the high points. But Kim Gordon’s “Reena” and “Jams Run Free” are definite highlights.

SQUAREPUSHER
Hello Everything
(Warp)

Tom Jenkison has firmly established himself in the pantheon of 21st century electronic artists with a handful of classic records. But this is easily his most personal and certainly most listenable since Hard Daddy Normal. Moments of undeniable beauty side-by-side with the rapid-fire breaks you’ve come to know and love.

TOOL
10,000 Days
(Volcano)

Some of my friends have given me shit for the past 13 years because I consistently site Tool as one of my favorite bands. They’ve practically invented dark, underground metal, but those of us who don’t wear trenchcoats and Doc Martens are forced to hide in shame when a new record drops. Well, fuck that, Tool rules. And so does this record.

CHRISTOPHER WILLITS
Surf Boundaries
(Ghostly)

Sublety is one of the most difficult conveyances in music. On Surf Boundaries, experimental guitarist Christopher Willits melds electronics, vocals and guitars with swirling understatement. It’s beautiful and moving, like lone rays of sunlight breaking through clouds, and not too heady to scare away the more casual listener.

YPPAH
You Are Beautiful At All Times
(Ninja Tune)

The idea of mixing My Bloody Valentine guitars and Cold Cut’s creative leftfield breaks may not seem a reality, but Joe Corrales bravely went where most fear to tread. And not only made it work, but established himself as the new kid on the block. It’s a strong debut and may get lost because the release date was moved a few times. Again, one of the great debuts of 2006.