Jimmy Draper's top 10
1. Britney Spears, 'Toxic' (Jive) Nearly a year after first seeing Britney fabulously writhe around in a flesh-colored, Bedazzled bodysuit for the video, 2004's greatest hit is still in my head, spinning round and round.
2. Ice-T in Law and Order: SVU reruns (USA Network) Hour for hour, I probably spent more Q.T. with Ice-T this year than with any CD.
3. Reputation, To Force a Fate (Lookout!) Once again, Elizabeth Elmore brilliantly rewrites The Rules for those who've endured their fair share of dalliances with less-than-impressive men. She's not reading my diary; she's writing it for me.
4. Popjustice.com Champion and compulsive chronicler of such Europop pleasures as Girls Aloud (!), Annie (!!), and Alcazar (!!!), this highly entertaining Web site is a lifeline for import-obsessed Americans.
5. Gwen Stefani, Love, Angel, Music, Baby (Interscope) My girl Gwen's "What You Waiting For?" is but one of the many reasons this ridiculously danceable CD reenergized my step-aerobics routine.
6. Franz Ferdinand, 'Michael' (Domino) If there were hotter, hornier lyrics in 2004 than "Michael, you're the boy with all the leather hips / Sticky hair, sticky hips, stubble on my sticky lips," someone please clue me in ASAP.
7. Cowboyz 'n' Poodles Full of smart, take-no-shit posts like "Eff U Calvin Broadus," this blog (urbanhonking.com/cowboyz) proves Julianne Shepherd is one of today's few music writers worthy of cyberspace real estate. Others: Jessica Hopper and Bay Guardian contributors Jeff Chang and Oliver Wang.
8. Tegan and Sara, So Jealous (Vapor/Sanctuary) I get so jealous too, but my freak-outs aren't nearly as endearing as those of the Quin twins.
9. Preteen girl mimicking Kelis, Mean Girls If you replace "Milkshake" with "Cold Hearted," then this hilarious Sparkle Motion wannabe might as well have been me at that age.
10. Blanche, If We Can't Trust the Doctors ... (V2/Cass) It's hard not to adore a campy, gothic-country group named after a Golden Girl, much less one that counts lyrics like "I will fuck you until you die / Bury you in kisses" as romance.
Lee Hildebrand's top 10
In alphabetical order
• Baby Jaymes, Ghetto Retro (Ghetto Retro)
• Blind Boys of Alabama, I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord (EMI/The Right Stuff)
• Federation, The Album (Montbello/Virgin)
• Craig Horton, Touch of the Bluesman (Bad Daddy)
• Jing Chi, 3D (Tone Center)
• Doug MacLeod, "Dubb" (Black and Tan)
• Wynton Marsalis, Unforgivable Blackness (Blue Note)
• Duke Robillard, Blue Mood The Songs of T-Bone Walker (Stony Plain)
• Mavis Staples, Have a Little Faith (Alligator)
• Dr. Michael White, Dancing in the Sky (Basin Street)
Kurt Wolf's top 10
1. N. Lannon, Chemical Friends (Badman Recording) Pleasant all the way, with just enough dirty, double-vision undercurrents to keep your eyes from shutting entirely.
2. Elope, The No Name Record (Gravitation) Mashing together such titanic influences as Neil Young, Badfinger, and (gulp) the Beatles is hardly novel, even from a Swedish stoner rock band. Still, I keep dialing up this mellow, mesmerizing album on the iPod and digging it hard every single time.
3. Morrissey, You Are the Quarry (Attack/Sanctuary) At first I chuckle at his tirades against American arrogance ("You know where you can shove your hamburger"). Then I absorb his pain ("How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?") before smirking at the absurdity ("The First of the Gang to Die"). And then I play it again.
4. Sun Kil Moon, Ghosts of the Great Highway (Jetset) The songs are so simple, so catchy, and so powerful that you just want to cry.
5. Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose (Interscope) She hasn't sounded this good, or taken so many chances with her music, in decades.
6. Johnny Cash, My Mother's Hymn Book (Lost Highway) That Cash was closing in on death while recording them only makes titles like "When the Role Is Called up Yonder" all the more moving.
7. Johnny Paycheck, The Little Darlin' Sound of Johnny Paycheck: The Beginning (Koch) These are dead-on, stone-cold honky-tonkers able to stand up straight and strong on their own.
8. Dave Alvin, Ashgrove (YepRoc) Blues and country influences vie for attention, with the painful "The Man in the Bed" (about his dying father) standing among his most powerful compositions.
9. Climax Golden Twins, Highly Bred and Sweetly Tempered (North East Indie) Piano, gently strummed guitar, and eerie electronics combine with strange, home-recorded voices and found sounds for a spooky yet mesmerizing concoction.
10. The Dead Texan, The Dead Texan (Kranky) Quiet and moody, the debut solo album from Stars of the Lid's Adam Wiltzie is ominous and darkly tinged so as to keep things interesting.
Vivian Host's bright spots of 2004
1. Superpitcher, 'Baby's on Fire' (Low Spirit) Take a hefty serving of Brian Eno and dose it with insistent bass and Superpitcher's sexy slurring. More Kompakt label-related madness, designed to make you fall in love with techno all over again.
2. Sonic Youth, live at the Fillmore, July 17 I was so scared of this one, but Thurston, Kim, and crew our national treasures proved they're still more enthralling live than 90 percent of bands half their age.
3. Various artists, Get Physical Compilation, Vol. 2 (Get Physical) German house label Get Physical wears its '80s influences proudly on its sleeve, from Chicago house to acid to Italo-disco.
4. Knifehandchop, How I Left You (Tigerbeat 6) Wherein an ex-Toronto candy raver (who still wears fuzzy bear hats and UFO pants) makes an emotive, addictive album that bobs and weaves through drum 'n' bass, gabber, and happy hardcore. Rave to the grave.
5. Nina Sky, 'Move Ya Body' (Universal) The Coolie Dance rhythm, two teenage girls from New York, and some commands from MC Jabba, and you've got a record even my mom fell in love with.
6. Interpol This time the hype actually is worth it.
7. Gringo Grinder, Breakfast Included (Oni-Tor) German producer Gringo (also known as Pan/Tone and Sidney Sheldon LeRock) turns out a lovely album of minimal techno funk. I like it even more because it's breakfast-themed, and it has a song called "Be My Bacon."
8. Mu, 'Paris Hilton' (Output) A last-minute contender. Bleepy bass lines and insane lyrics about sex tapes from an angry, pint-size Japanese punk house powerhouse. Look out for the album in February.
9. Rinse FM A few times this year, I've had the opportunity to see DJs from London pirate station Rinse FM live. It's the only way to experience grimy U.K. garage, with its mile-a-minute MC chat and 19-year-old DJs hungry for underground fame. Check it online at www.rinsefm.com.
10. Listening to music in my car I sold my car, and now I have to get a rental every once in a while just to remember how good it feels to blast down highways high on everything from Andre Nickatina to Casino vs. Japan.
Jennifer Maerz's top 10
In no particular order, 10 (plus two more I cheat) items that topped my 2004
• Sub Pop reunites with its dark side Resulting adopted charges: Comets on Fire and Wolf Eyes, two bleeding ulcers on punk's bloated underbelly.
• The 10th-anniversary issue of Vice Smugly fucking with the conceits of mainstream music mags. It had to be done.
• Dynamic duos: Death from Above 1979 and Dead Combo DFA '79: one drummer, one bassist, two Canadians commandeering a 747-size punk-metal thrust in 4/4 time. Dead Combo: sleazy, scuzzy, fry-the-fuckers-in-hot-oil sizzling electro-punk.
• Dig! Overdramatic band tantrums are brilliant, even when the result gives Courtney Taylor face time.
• The Blood Brothers commit Crimes (V2) Reanimating the hardcore bag of bones with new blood, feral screams, and an intensity otherwise only felt in panic attacks.
• The Liars, live Critics couldn't handle the white noise those who could were bathed in a trance of seizure-spawning strobe lights and mesmerizing electronic chaos.
• A Frames, the Diapers, the Intelligence Three spores of Seattle's best art punk with incestuous membership influenced by the Country Teasers, Australian X, and the Fall.
• Guided by Voices bid farewell Robert Pollard karate kicks into the sunset.
• Menacing menagerie: the Icarus Line's Penance Soirée (V2) versus Aqui's The First Trip Out (Ace Fu) Spacemen 3 strung out on the Stooges and practicing back-alley abortions, versus art metal through Glass Candy's shattered spectrum.
• The Gris Gris A Nuggets spell of woodsy garage dementia.
• The Fall, The Real New Fall LP (Formerly 'Country on the Click') (Narnack) Mark E. Smith: still belligerent.
• The Hunches Greasier than hobo hair, barbaric garage rock that battle-rams the flimsy structures the genre barely Band-Aids into place.
Leah Freeman's top 10
10. Now It's Overhead, Fall Back Open (Saddle Creek) It's been a year of relatively weak releases from ordinarily stellar Saddle Creek bands, but this lush, dizzy pop group never falter.
9. Sharp Ease, Rickshaw Stop, Nov. 11 Paloma Parfrey announced, "This is my playtime," before blindfolding herself and crawling through the audience on all fours to snatch at ankles.
8. Weezer, Video Capture Device: Treasures from the Vault 1991-2202 DVD (Universal Music) Admit it. You still love them.
7. Blonde Redhead, Bimbo's 365 Club, March 23 Always elegant and artful. The aural equivalent of a good ballet.
6. Mountain Goats, We Shall All Be Healed (4AD) John Darnielle has held a special place in my heart ever since that magical night at Cafe du Nord when he jumped off the stage and heckled himself from the back of his own crowd. God damn, the pirate's life for me.
5. Dresden Dolls, Cafe du Nord, Aug. 20 Weimar cabaret flair and striped stockings. Sally Bowles would call it divine decadence, mein Herr.
4. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic) Dedicated fans complain about M.M.'s sudden popularity, but Brock and the boys are still as demented as ever, so who cares if the mall crowd treats them like a one-hit wonder for the time being?
3. M. Ward, Swedish American Hall, July 9 An expert songwriter, this impish guitar impresario leads the new folk revival with a purr and a smile.
2. Two Gallants, The Throes (Alive) The disco revival led me to stock up on old masters like Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson all year instead of buying new releases. Two Gallants offer a much-welcome dose of glorious anachronism to those of us who like to party like it's 1929.
1. Pixies, Greek Theater, Sept. 26 Frank Black Francis, you complete me.
Stephanie Laemoa's top 10
In alphabetical order
1. Arcade Fire, Funeral (Merge)
2. Clinic, Winchester Cathedral (Domino)
3. Devendra Banhart, Nino Rojo (Young God)
4. Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, Oh, My Girl (Barsuk)
5. Joanna Newsom, The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City)
6. Kings of Convenience, Riot on an Empty Street (Astralwerks)
7. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic)
8. Mystic Chords of Memory, Mystic Chords of Memory (Rough Trade)
9. Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous (Brute)
10. Sufjan Stevens, Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre)