Rune Grammofon 50th ReleaseEvery year, in the back of my head, in a place that really doesn’t matter to anyone other than myself and possibly a couple of my more seriously hardcore music friends, I pick out my favorite record labels each year. I comprise this list in a rather rough way, based on how many releases I enjoy by that label out of their total slate for the year, the packaging on those releases, and if the label has been putting out interesting stuff on a consistent basis (this last qualifier makes it hard for a new label to shoot to the top of said list during their first or even second year).

Having said all of the above, I’m going to have to pick out Rune Grammofon as my favorite label of 2006. While none of their releases knocked me for a loop as much as some of their past efforts, I enjoyed every single thing that they put out this year (okay, maybe not so much the Moha!), and most of their releases were simply outstanding. Supersilent’s 7 is worth watching at least once simply to see the mindblowing senergy of great live, improvisational musicians, the re-issue of the self-titled album from Phonophani is killer, Come Up For Air by The White Birch will be among my favorites for the year, and both Humcrush (Hornswoggle) and Susanna and The Magic Orchestra (Melody Mountain) put out excellent second albums. Throw in continued great packaging design from Kim Hiorthoy and the result is an adventurous label putting out some of the more exciting music being released over the course of the past couple years (Deathprod still has sections of just about every single gloomy day all carved out to himself).

In a close second place this year is long-time favorite Kranky Records, who not only largely moved to a different packaging look, but had one of their strongest batch of releases in several years. The latest Charalambides (A Vintage Burden) is a stunner, the debut from Benoit Pioulard (Precis) is outstanding, and Keith Fullerton Whitman released some of his best work (in my opinion) on the Lisbon EP. Oh, and in case that wasn’t enough, the label continued their track record of mind-melting ambient releases with great stuff from Chihei Hatakeyama (Minima Moralia) and Tim Hecker (Harmony In Ultraviolet). Hopefully they’ll just keep on kicking my butt in 2007…

Lastly, I figure I should mention Type Records. They’re still kinda the new kids on the block, but they’ve been coming on strong the past two years with some excellent releases and a constant great look with their packaging (and their website). As a smaller label, it seems like they’re doing just about everything right and have some nice little branches that extend out from their regular release schedule (from the excellent downloadable podcasts to the limited 7″ releases). They’re definitely someone to keep an eye on.