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Our critic's picks for 2004's must-play sides

Tim Davis' 20 Favorite Releases of the Year (In no particular order):

1. Modest Mouse -- Good News For People Who Love Bad News

2. Pavement -- Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: L.A.'s Desert Origins

3. Sondre Lerche -- Two Way Monologue

4. Nick Cave -- Abattoir Blues/ The Lyre of Orpheus

5. PJ Harvey -- Uh Huh Her

6. Wilco -- A Ghost Is Born

7. Brian Wilson -- SMiLE

8. Kanye West -- The College Dropout

9. The Arcade Fire -- Funeral

10. Bjork -- Medulla

11. Morrissey -- You Are The Quarry

12. The Streets -- A Grand Don't Come For Free

13. Leonard Cohen -- Dear Heather

14. Blonde Redhead -- Misery Is a Butterfly

15. William Lazarus -- Like Trees We Grow Up To Be Satellites

16. Rob Sonic -- Telicatessen

17. Death From Above 1979 -- You're a Woman, I'm a Machine

18. Interpol -- Antics

19. Mission of Burma -- OnOffOn

20. (tie) Loretta Lynn -- Van Lear Rose / William Basinski -- The Disintegration Loops

Notes: Modest Mouse probably deserves #1 on my list, if you're going for sheer spins. However, this list -- like all "best of" lists -- is completely subjective, dependent as it is on the circumstances circling in one's particular life at a given time. Mike Skinner of the Streets unbelievably topped Original Pirate Material with one of the best concept albums ever recorded. Interpol looks to be around for a long time to come, their livers considering. Kanye West has united the hip-hop world (making one of the very best rap releases of the new century probably has a bit to do with that). Welcome Back Morrissey, Leonard Cohen, and Mission of Burma. Bjork's Medulla: best musical instrument-deficient album ever? The Arcade Fire: we don't need no water, just extra quarters.

Samir Shukla's 2004 favorites (In alphabetical order):

Albert Ayler -- Holy Ghost

Bjork -- Medulla

Caetano Veloso -- A Foreign Sound

Anja Lechner and Vassilis Tsabropoulos -- Chants, Hymns and Dances

Choying Drolma and Steve Tibbetts -- Selwa

Comets on Fire -- Blue Cathedral

Elevator Action -- It's Just Addiction

Gipsy Kings -- Roots

Keb' Mo -- Keep it Simple

Loretta Lynn -- Van Lear Rose

Mastodon -- Leviathan

Morrissey -- You Are the Quarry

Nick Cave -- Abattoir Blues/ The Lyre of Orpheus

Ozomatli -- Street Signs

R.E.M. -- Around The Sun

Ray Charles -- Genius Loves Company

Sonic Youth -- Sonic Nurse

The Crystal Method -- Legions of Boom

Wilco -- A Ghost is Born

John Schacht's Top 20:

1. Arcade Fire -- Funeral A massive, sprawling, epic debut from this Canadian quintet, equal parts Neutral Milk Hotel and early Roxy Music and refreshingly unique.

2. Elliot Smith -- From a Basement on the Hill A bittersweet swan song from the troubled but brilliant songwriter, a Beatles-like pop masterpiece.

3. The Sadies -- Favorite Colours The Good brothers finally harness all that promise and their disparate styles -- surf, garage, country, psychedelia -- into a masterful whole.

4. Wilco -- A Ghost Is Born Jeff Tweedy's crew goes organic while paying tribute to newer influences (krautrock, Tortoise) in the gorgeous follow-up to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

5. Viva Voce -- The Heat Can Melt Your Brain Psychedelic lounge rock from this Portland, OR, husband and wife team -- think early Floyd mixed with the Shins and some Cowboy Junkies.

6. Shannon Wright -- Over the Sun Brutal yet beautiful angular set of songs from former Crowdsell frontwoman; her best solo work to date.

7. Chicago Underground Trio -- Slon Trumpeter Rob Mazurek and company may be the best jazz ensemble many jazz fans have never heard.

8. Tom Waits -- Real Gone Returning to the noir-roots of Mule Variations, these swamp blues fit the hoarse-whisperer like a bourbon-soaked glove.

9. n.Lannon -- Chemical Friends The best bedroom recording in a year chockfull of great ones; the Film School member and electronica wizard combines the two flawlessly.

10. Pinback -- Summer in Abbadon Super catchy, somewhat math-y dark pop from San Diego duo.

11. Thalia Zedek -- Trust Not Those In Whom Without a Touch of Madness The ex-Come front woman returns with another superb set; imagine the Dirty Three with one of rock's most emotive female voices out front.

12. Califone -- The Heron King Essentially just an extended EP to tour behind, this tasty eight-song set again captures the Chicago band's timeless sound, a harmonious mix of familiar roots and experimental dissonance.

13. Will Johnson -- Vultures Await Next to Elliot's Smith's entry, the most haunting record of the year from Centro-Matic's prolific frontman.

14. oRSo -- My Dreams Are Back and They Are Better Than Ever Acoustic chamber pop in the truest sense of the term, with strings, banjo and sax highlighting this acoustic set from ex-Rex member Phil Spirito.

15. Don Byron -- Ivey-Divey A finger-poppin' mix of post-bop and funk from the clarinet master.

16. Lambchop -- Aw C'mon/No, You C'mon In essence a double album of sprawling, Lambchoppian dimensions, Kurt Wagner sings about Steve McQueen, Bic lighters and the dark spaces between lovers.

17. Richard Buckner -- Dents & Shells Another beautifully crafted ode to melancholia, and the full-band sound suits him well after the sparse Impasse.

18. Modest Mouse -- Good News for People Who Love Bad News A shinier, poppier entry from Isaac Brock, but don't let the knee-jerk naysayers turn you off -- still a strong record.

19. Menomena -- I Am the Fun Blame Monster A wild ride through familiar indie territory, but done with an abundance of panache and zeal.

20. Giant Sand -- Is All Over the Map Howe Gelb's best and most accessible since Chore of Enchantment.

As a special bonus, CL contacted some local musicians for their favorites. Here are a few of their responses:

Houston Brother Justin Faircloth's Mostly-2004 Top 10:

Elliot Smith -- From a Basement on a Hill

Bjork -- Medulla

Jill Scott -- Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2

Pavement -- Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: L.A.'s Desert Origins

Sea and Cake -- One Bedroom

Clem Snide -- Moment In The Sun

Outkast -- Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below

Blonde Redhead -- Misery Is a Butterfly

The Magnetic Fields -- i

The Shins -- Chutes Too Narrow

Calabi Yau's Top Ten albums of 2004:

Aleuchatistas -- On the Culture Industry

Blonde Redhead -- Misery is a Butterfly

Bobby Conn -- The Homeland

Deerhoof -- Milkman

Hot Snakes -- Audit in Progress

Liars -- They Were Wrong, So We Drowned

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds -- The Lyre of Orpheus/Abattoir Blues

Oneida -- Secret Wars

Sightings -- Arrived in Gold

Wrangler Brutes -- Zulu

Jay Fernandez, Semi-Pro:

Eagles of Death Metal -- Peace, Love, and Death Metal

Clutch -- Blast Tyrant

P.J. Harvey -- Uh Huh Her

Fantmas -- Delirium Cordia

Kid 606 -- Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You

Mark Lanegan -- Bubblegum

Loretta Lynn -- Van Lear Rose

The Hives -- Tyrannosaurus Hives

Devo -- Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (New to me this year)

Queens of the Stone Age -- Stone Age Complications

Mark Lynch (David Childers and the Modern Don Juans, Lou Ford):

Brian Wilson -- SMiLE (FiNALLY!)

Faces -- Five Guys Walk Into Bar...

The Streets -- A Grand Don't Come for Free

Tom Waits -- Real Gone

Modest Mouse -- Good News for People Who Love Bad News

Loretta Lynn -- Van Lear Rose

The Gourds -- Blood of The Ram

Legendary Shack*Shakers -- Believe

Elliot Smith -- From a Basement on the Hill

David Childers & The Modern Don Juans -- Room 23

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