Finishing up this year’s business. The five songs that when I think of 2006, I will think of most. Happy New Year to all.

5 – “Unemployable” – Pearl Jam. Yeah, I’m a fan. Sue me. A damn fine song regardless. Pearl Jam’s greatest hook ever? It might well be. This song summed up what most of their self-titled album was all about: getting to the point without any embellishment. Almost no guitar solo, quick, nearly non-existent choruses. A perfect little power pop gem with a conscious.

4 – “Crazy” – Gnarls Barkley. When your song is almost immediately covered by dozens of other artists, you know you’ve written something special.

3 – “The Crane Wife 3” – The Decembrists. Heartbreaking Japanese folktale put to music in a very Decembrist manner. That rolling bassline perfectly balances the somber mandolin/guitar lead.

2 – “Invitation” – The High Violets. 2006 was the year I discovered nu-gaze, the revival of the 1990s shoe-gaze sound. The High Violets are one of the better practitioners of the updated sound, and while this song gets away from pure nu-gaze a bit, it is the track that stuck out the most for me this year. Heavenly, ethereal, stunning, and magnificent, recalling the best work of Lush and the Cocteau Twins.

1 – “Star Witness” – Neko Case. Sometimes the first time you hear a song you know you’ll never be the same. This song didn’t change my life, but I knew, way back in March, that it would be tough to top this for the year’s best track. It stood the test of time and all comers. Each time I hear it, I think it should be used in some crime/noir film. A scene shot in a smoky, dark club. A hushed conversation at a corner table. In the background, a singer. The conversation comes to a pause, the music fades up, and then you hear that voice. The camera turns to Neko on stage, singing her heart out, and the scene is complete.