So, about six weeks late and about £3.5m over budget, at last I am able to reveal the top 10 albums of 2006, as voted for by me the public. I don't expect you to agree, I don't even expect you to like it. Just sit politely and try not to pout.
It's been -- as you can tell -- a bigger job than perhaps I anticipated to lodge remarks here about the 50 new records I liked most in the year. Partly because my finger-mouth always runs away with me: but also because there's a pleasant but stretching challenge in writing about music. The unstoppable tendency seems always to be to write about music either in terms of other music that it's quite like, or to compare it to work in other artforms. Neither of these is an entirely satisfactory way of describing the work concerned, but nor (at least in this cursory format) is trying to use more academic or analytical language. Whoever said writing about music was like dancing about architecture was wrong. Most dance is dance about architecture. -- Though I suppose that's only as true as the notion that most writing is writing about music. Which in those terms is a nice, oddly reassuring, idea, though even ten seconds of scrutiny start to show up the faults in it. So I'll shut up about it.
At any rate, I'm glad I've done this, not just for the bountiful altruism I know y'all associate with me, but also because it's made me sit down and really listen to a lot of music that otherwise just comes flooding in and doesn't always have the opportunity to get beyond a first impression. Since I finally gave in and started loving the download (though strictly at 192kbps or better), the rate of acquisition (a baldly horrible but apt word) has multiplied probably five-fold compared with the ten or twelve CDs I used to buy each month: but the amount of listening I do is probably unchanged. The obvious symptom is putting on oldies -- I've had occasion to reach for Pearl Jam this week, Nik Kershaw, PJ Harvey, early Mouse on Mars -- and knowing and understanding them in a kind of high-resolution that escapes me now even in respect of the contemporary albums that I really like. They have such specific associations for me, particular apartments or cities or seasons or lovers... And perhaps, for the first time in a while, these 50 records will in the future contain something of 2006 that persists. (Though the seasons have been pretty blurry this year. To say nothing of the lovers.)
Perhaps next Christmas we'll just do Secret Santa and leave it at that.