So much music: Best of 2006, Part 1

It’s early November, which means we’re heading into the home stretch of that insane year-long project known as the Top Ten List. Actually, make that Top 50 or Top 100. I do wonder about the sanity of this endeavor, trying to listen to as many new albums every year and then picking the best ones.

There’s so much damn music, and so much of it is good (yes, a LOT of it is mediocre to dreadful, too). I wouldn’t be able to do this without keeping a database of what I’ve heard and what I need to hear. November is my month for trying to find what I’ve missed so far. One last chance to hear some albums worthy of consideration for my list.

I do get a fair amount of CDs for free from publicists and record labels, which is fantastic. But I also buy a lot. And I download many songs through emusic, which is really a bargain and highly recommended for anyone who’s serious about music. I also subscribe to Rhapsody, which lets me listen to a great deal of the ohter music out there via streaming. Also highly recommended. And I feel like I’m just beginning to tap into the ever-growing pool of mp3 files out there on the Web and songs streaming at sites like myspace.

So here’s where things stand right now on my quest for the Best of 2006: I have either actual physical copies or downloaded versions of 231 CDs that came out this year. I also compiled a list of other records I should hear (culled from Mojo, Harp and Magnet reviews, Pitchfork’s recommendations, the Metacritic list, word of mouth, and other sources), which is now up to 379. It appears that about half of those albums are available for streaming on Rhapsody; so far, I’ve listened to 35, and partially listened to 9. There’s no way I can get through all of those, but I hope to listen to at least a little bit of most of the records.

Even though I have fairly broad tastes, there are certain styles and genres that just don’t appeal that much to me. A hip-hop or heavy metal record has to be something very special to connect with my personal tastes, and mainstream pop music rarely does anything other than bore or annoy me. So, while I try to keep an open mind, there are many albums that I can listen to and decide within a minute whether it has any shot of making my top 10.

The tough part is that vast number of pretty good albums — the ones that very well might grow on me if I had the time to listen more. Unfortunately, I have to make snap judgments and decide within minutes or seconds how much potential a recording has.

At the end of the year, I hope to have discovered some music that isn’t getting the attention it deserves. I’ll be posting some of my reactions to the music I’m hearing here over the next two months.