Many of these come from my twenty favorite albums of the year (to be published in the next few weeks), so I'll just comment on the top ten.

1. THE DELAYS Nearer Than Heaven (from Faded Seaside Glamour)

I first heard this on WERS one morning. Instead of hitting the snooze button on my clock radio, I sat still, enraptured, pulled into this song's mesmeric uplift. I couldn't wait to hear what woman that voice belonged to. It turns out the singer's name is Greg Gilbert. His higher register resembles Liz Fraser (of the Cocteau Twins). His lower register comes eerily close to Stevie Nicks.

2. A.C. NEWMAN On The Table (The Slow Wonder)

This New Pornographers leader seems to always have one brilliant, unshakable gem in him for each album. I'll be stunned if he ever puts out a more perfect one than this. Although it wasn't a crossover hit as I had speculated/dreamed, it did make an episode of The O.C.

3. THE FUTUREHEADS Hounds of Love (The Futureheads)

Betcha never thought Kate had much in common with XTC or The Jam, huh? This punked-up cover of one of her most exuberant hits works because it's faithful in tone, spirit, and vocalese, not to mention a lot of fun.

4. TAMAS WELLS Even In The Crowds (A Mark On The Pane)

Seems plucked from an alternate universe where Harry Nilsson and Nick Drake were as influential as Jimi Hendrix. This ode to not letting yourself get bogged down over a failed relationship is ineffably sweet, sad and gentle, like a lullaby without any schmaltz.

5. SUFJAN STEVENS To Be Alone With You (Seven Swans)

Hushed acoustic love song with simple, effective chord changes. Regarding the lyrics, is this an ode to a woman, a parent, another man, or a higher power? Stevens chooses his words so carefully and with such subtle shifts in meaning that they could apply to all of the above. This also made The O.C., whose producers probably didn't read nearly so much into it.

6. SAM PHILLIPS Reflecting Light (A Boot and A Shoe)

This one begins "Now that I've worn out / I've worn out the world", but she sounds, um, reflective more than she does wary. A tender, gorgeous waltz with a lovely string solo and the absolute antithesis of a Diane Warren power ballad.

7. BJORK Triumph of a Heart (Medulla)

Listen to this on headphones or a Sense-Surround stereo system. Hear all the delicately arranged voices rush by you as if they were in 3-D. Fall in love with the melody, possibly her most immediate since "Big Time Sensuality".

8. NELLIE McKAY Clonie (Get Away From Me)

A transcendent little throwaway less than two minutes long, with lots o' great lines about being the most "lovable thing since fucking Eminem" and being more benign than "old Phil Spector". She's so convincing, you're left questioning whether her apparent mental instability is much of an act.

9. THE MAGNETIC FIELDS I Thought You Were My Boyfriend ( i)

Succinctly sums up the love life of the gay everyman circa 2004, with Stephin Merritt's distinct blend of wit and longing, all dolled up in an irresistible New Order/Depeche Mode rip.

10. SCISSOR SISTERS Take Your Mama (Scissor Sisters)

Yes, sounds exactly like early Elton John, but the world's been ready for a song about coming out to your mother and going clubbing with her for at least a decade, and unlike most club music, it rocks.


11. FRANZ FERDINAND Take Me Out (Franz Ferdinand)
12. LORETTA LYNN Little Red Shoes (Van Lear Rose)
13. KINGS OF CONVENIENCE I'd Rather Dance With You (Riot on an Empty Street)
14. THE COCKER SPANIELS The Only Black Guy At the Indie Rock Show (Withstand the Whatnot)
15. NELLIE McKAY Ding Dong (Get Away From Me)
16. HELLO GOODBYE Pussycat (Heart Attack)
17. MORRISSEY First of the Gang To Die (You Are The Quarry)
18. THE MAGNETIC FIELDS I Don't Believe You (i)
19. RUFUS WAINWRIGHT The One You Love (Want Two)
20. BJORK Who Is It (Medulla)
21. TED LEO AND THE PHARMACISTS The Angel's Share (Shake The Sheets)
22. TV ON THE RADIO Dreams (Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes)
23. JILL SOBULE I Saw A Cop (Underdog Victorious)
24. KINGS OF CONVENIENCE Homesick (Riot on an Empty Street)
25. BEBEL GILBERTO Simplesmente (Bebel Gilberto)
26. CALEXICO Alone Again Or (Convict Pool)
27. SAM PHILLIPS All Night (A Boot and A Shoe)
28. VELVET CRUSH The Connection (Stereo Blues)
29. TEGAN AND SARA Walking With a Ghost (So Jealous)
30. PJ HARVEY The Letter (Uh Huh Her)
31. IQU Dirty Boy (Sun Q)
32. RON SEXSMITH From Now On (Retriever)
33. NEKO CASE If You Knew (The Tigers Have Spoken)
34. THE M's There Is Work (The M's)
35. THE SUNSHINE FIX Statues and Glue (Green Imagination)
36. CALIFONE Cluck Old Hen (Shanti Project Collection, Volume 3)
37. FEY RAY I've Been Fighting My Own War (I Wanna Be New and Perfect)
38. SPRITES Maybe We Should Move To Canada (Bionic Hands)
39. S PRCSS Look: Explosion! New Spring (Taste Like Daughter)
40. MARY LOU LORD Cold Kilburn Rain (Baby Blue)