In 2006, we found some artists producing sounds we'd never heard before (Lily Allen), some showing whole new sides of themselves (Bruce Springsteen), and some just doing that particular thing they do to perfection (The Decemberists). Thus, my list:
1. Lily Allen – Alright, Still
2. The Long Winters – Putting the Days to Bed
3. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
4. LazyTown [TV series soundtrack] (Yes, I am serious.)
5. Gnarls Barkely – St. Elsewhere
6. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
7. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
8. Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
9. The Submarines – Declare a New State
10. Tilly and the Wall – Bottoms of Barrels
And coming in at #11...
Best Album Unfairly Knocked Off the Above List by a Children's TV Show from Iceland:
Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris – All the Roadrunning
I'll have some more Honorable Mentions and other albums I want to give a nod to later in the week. Cheers!