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Josh Ritter's Top Musical Discoveries of 2006

Josh Ritter.
Josh Ritter.

Josh Ritter released a widely beloved album in 2006 (Animal Years), but he spent the year discovering a lot of new favorites by others. Here, in no particular order, are some of the best.

The National, Alligator

This may have come out in 2005, but we spent all of 2006 in the van listening to it. Great album, great words.

Dawn Landes, Fireproof

Dawn Landis is great: I saw her at a U.K. festival this summer, and she blew my mind. This is an album she made herself.

Guillemots, From the Cliffs

This was the soundtrack to my drive to and from my brother's wedding in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State. The melodies are almost supernatural.

The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers

I love this record because it feels so tip-of-the-tongue: It's less a finished, polished thing than the act of creation being recorded in real-time. "Blue Veins" is a classic, and "Store Bought Bones" is hilarious (at least to me).

Thomas Fraser

This guy died in 1977, but I've just discovered him. He lived in the Shetland Islands in the North Sea, 14 hours by boat north of mainland Scotland. At his home, he recorded thousands of songs on reel-to-reel tapes: cowboy songs, reels, Jimmie Rodgers songs, things generally not heard north of Northern Virginia, somehow implanted in the middle of nowhere. It's pretty riveting.

John Prine, Los Angeles, Oct. 27, 2006 (live show)

John Prine is the great Technicolor battleship of modern American rock. He's never been in or out of style; he's just floated through decades of good and bad times, writing songs with lyrics that seem to me like looking through the curve of a half-full Coke bottle. Prine gives me faith that if I do what I do and keep doing it, I can do it for as long as I want. That's hard to do!

Bob Dylan, Modern Times

Love and Theft is my favorite Dylan record ever. Modern Times follows in the same vein, but if Love and Theft was the fighting rooster, Modern Times is the old pasture stud: It exudes experience and seems content.

Hilary Hahn, Paganini and Spohr Concertos

Hilary Hahn put these two rivals on the same album -- which I don't think has ever been done -- and in the process displays both her brilliance as a violinist and her sense of humor. Hahn is way more rock than most rockers.

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