Decibel really looked like it fit what I want in a music player, but I hit a fairly major problem -- it won't play mp3's. I have a feeling it's just something not right with my system since I have a new install, so maybe I'm missing something. However, other music players play mp3s with no problem. Google didn't show anyone else having any problems, but I don't really feel like trouble shooting this issue when my googling turned up a new candidate -- Minirok.
Minirok is supposedly a smaller version of Amarok, but I really don't see any similarity other than the name. I didn't think it was possible, but Minirok is even more minimal than Decibel.
"Minirok is a small music player written in Python using Qt/KDE and GStreamer. The main interface is a tree view of the filesystem, with a playlist that can only be populated via drag and drop. There is no collection built from tags, so it’s targeted at people whose music collection is structured in a tree already at the filesystem level."
There is no album cover display, no way to save playlists, no volume control. It just lets you pick music from a folder and play it. That's all. Perfect! Well, at least so far.
Here's a summary of the search to date:
Amarok: used it for years, then someone got stupid and made an abomination of the user interface. Way more features that I'd ever use.
Exaile: Nice player, not a lot of features, under active development. There are memory and CPU problems that need to be taken care of before Exaile can be considered a serious contender.
Decibel: A minimal music player, has a few extra features like album cover art display and automatic IM status update. It wouldn't play mp3's for me. I suppose that's not a huge issue since I don't have a lot of mp3's, but still.
Minirok: The most minimal player I've found so far, and so far, so good.
Songbird: Still evaluating. It's a different sort of music player. It is not a minimal player at all, but seems to be perhaps the most well crafted of the mondo, full-featured players.
Not even considered:
Noatun: requires KDE.
Rhythmbox: requires Gnome and a bunch of dependencies, overkill.
Banshee: like Rhythmbox, requires Gnome and a list of dependencies a mile long, overkill.