I looked at the best of 2006 album lists in the local weekly papers, and on a few blogs. I don't get it. I can't relate. I didn't hear much of anything new in 2006 that blew me away, but maybe I'm not trying hard enough. And yes, I did try listening to Joanna Newsom's much talked about Ys. The best musical thing that happened to me by far last year was the This Heat box set, Out of Cold Storage. The two pivotal albums included here are Blue and Yellow (aka This Heat) and Deceit, which were previously difficult to find and expensive. The box includes 6 CD's including Health and Efficiency, repeat, Made Available (BBC), and Live (previously unreleased). This box has been sitting next to my CD player since it arrived -- I have not bothered to put it away.
Containing elements of krautrock, prog, post-punk, and experimental tape music, the This Heat box set just completely blew the doors off anything else I heard this year. Have a look at the Pitchfork review. My favorite record shop, Aquarius Records in San Francisco, stocks the box set and has some mp3 song samples available, along with a nice review. You can also buy the box or the first album individually from the distributor, RER USA.
Fans of Can, Faust, Wire, Henry Cow, King Crimson, etc. please take note. This may be an undiscovered gem for you, too. Big thanks to Derek Monypeny, from the amazing Oakland based band Oaxacan, for turning me on to This Heat a few years ago. If you live in the Bay Area, Oaxacan channels krautrock and free improv into their own unique blend of sounds. Catch them live if you get the chance.