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Top 10 CDs of 2004

Christopher Muther's picks

1. Scissor Sisters, ‘‘Scissor Sisters’’ (Universal)
Everything a good pop record should be: fizzy melodies, clever lyrics, and songs that possess an ability to burrow deep into the brain of the listener and live there for days. ‘‘Take Your Mama Out’’ is the best song Elton John never recorded in 1978, and the band’s disco reimagining of ‘‘Comfortably Numb’’ is nothing short of genius.

2. Keren Ann, ‘‘Not Going Anywhere’’ (Blue Note)
A fragile collection of exquisite French pop that channels both Francoise Hardy and Astrud Gilberto.

3. Mellow, ‘‘Perfect Colors’’ (Atmospheriques, import)
Air, ‘‘Talkie Walkie’’ (Astralwerks)
Both French electronic bands turn their attention to psychedelic pop with different but satisfying results. Mellow creates a dreamy, ’60s-inspired landscape, while Air’s disc is a chilly, baroque masterpiece.

4. Keane, ‘‘Hopes and Fears’’ (Interscope)
An album chockablock with fantastic, fist-pumping, anthemic rock, with nary a guitar in sight. Impassioned, overwrought stadium singing never had it so good.

5. The Hidden Cameras, ‘‘Mississauga Goddam’’ (Sanctuary)
It’s easy to get lost in the lush layers of their orchestral pop. Horns bleat away in arrangements that circle a neighborhood not far from where Belle and Sebastian reside. But for all the loveliness, the lyrics reveal that the Cameras spend most of their time in the dimly lit confessional booth at the Church of the Poison Mind.

6. The Go! Team, ‘‘Thunder, Lightning, Strike’’ (Memphis Industries)
A dizzying cut-and-paste project of ’60s soul, hip-hop samples, and woozy Bollywood strings, lovingly pieced together by a six-piece British collective that coats the whole shebang with a hyperactive punk layer of neon frosting.

7. Saint Etienne, ‘‘Travel Edition’’ (Sub Pop),
‘‘Saint Etienne Presents Songs for Mario’s Cafe’’ (Sanctuary),
‘‘The Trip Created by Saint Etienne’’ (Family Recordings)
Technically, the lovely, ’60s-inspired Britpop trio didn’t release any new material this year, but the band did open up its incredible record collection with ‘‘The Trip’’ and ‘‘Mario’s Cafe,’’ a pair of compilations featuring artists who have influenced the band’s breezy style. Saint Etienne also offered a reminder of its importance with ‘‘Travel Edition,’’ a should-have-been greatest hits collection.

8. Federico Aubele, ‘‘Gran Hotel Buenos Aires’’ (ESL)
An ideal soundtrack for sipping gin and tonics in a Latin American hotel lobby, Aubele’s gentle, atmospheric electronics also work well in living rooms.

9. Har Mar Superstar, ‘‘The Handler’’ (Record Collection)
The most important R&B record out of the Twin Cities this year wasn’t created at Paisley Park Studios. In a honeyed, soulful voice, Har Mar Superstar rivals Stevie Wonder at his funkiest and picks up where Prince left off in the naughty department.

10. Beta Band, ‘‘Heroes to Zeros’’ (Astralwerks)
The group’s final album finds the Scottish quartet experimenting with free-form song structures that sound like a space-age version of the Association with a better drummer. Beautiful and melancholy.



Christopher Muther is a Globe staff writer and frequent music contributor.

realaudio clips
Scissor Sisters 'Sissor Sistors'
Scissor Sisters / "Scissor Sisters"
"Comfortably numb"
"Laura"
"Take your mama"
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