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Top 10 CDs of 2004

James Reed's picks

1. Francoise Hardy, “Tant de belles choses” (Virgin)
Several sublime albums flooded the French-import section this year, but none was as evocative and ethereal as Hardy’s latest, which achieves a zen-like beauty through warm, ambient arrangements and her easy vocals. After more than three decades, Hardy remains France’s coolest export.

2. The Go Find, “Miami” (Morr)
The debut from Dieter Sermeus, the Belgian behind the knobs for this one-man band, made sure no one missed electro-acoustic dance tunes reminiscent of the Postal Service. Bright guitar lines layered over big, synthetic backbeats equaled a winning combination.

3. Juana Molina, “Tres Cosas” (Domino)
Argentina’s enchantress of folky electronica was more accessible on her sophomore album, but still avantgarde enough to snare an opening stint on David Byrne’s tour this year. Molina has fast become a favorite among artsy types who like their music distorted and yet melodic.

4. J.U.F., “Gogol Bordello vs. Tamir Muskat” (Stinky)
As if Gogol Bordello’s self-described “gypsy-disco-punk for the after party” weren’t weird enough, frontman Eugene Hütz’s side project, J.U.F. (“Jewish-Ukrainishe Freundschaft”), melded progressive discotheque with a programmed Balkan beat.

5. Loretta Lynn, “Van Lear Rose” (Interscope)
Lynn’s new best friend and producer Jack White reminded us why we loved this country icon in the first place: for her revelatory songwriting and spare, unvarnished vocals. The album could rock out, but when ’Retta sang “I’m gonna grab her by her phony ponytail,” you knew it was still classic country.

6. Lesbians on Ecstasy, self-titled (Alien8)
Finally, a Canadian band of leather-clad women who reinterpret classics by lesbian artists such as k.d. lang and Melissa Etheridge. Except these tricked-out renditions — with cranked guitars, shrill synthesizers, and electroclash slink — were meant for the dance floor.

7. René Lacaille, “Mapou” (Riverboat)
Be it with accordion, congas, guitar, flute, or tenor sax, Lacaille’s homage to the Creole roots of his native La Réunion (an island in the Indian Ocean) was a round-trip ticket to a remote culture.

8. Electrelane, “The Power Out” (Too Pure)
A top contender for 2004’s most underrated rock album, “The Power Out” found the British vixens of Electrelane channeling everyone from Sonic Youth to Nico for their mix of brawny rock for brainy fans.

9. Lhasa, “The Living Road” (Nettwerk)
Lhasa de Sela more than surmounted high expectations for her sophomore album, after her gorgeous “La Llorona” transfixed fans worldwide in 1998; she became the ultimate global chanteuse with organic songs blanketed in her smoky vocals and sung in Spanish, French, and English.

10. Camera Obscura, “Underachievers Please Try Harder” (Merge)
The Scottish band gives indie-pop aficionados a touchstone chock-full of dreamy melodies and twee harmonies worthy of Motown, the Brill Building, and, of course, Belle & Sebastian. Consider it music for the faint of heart.

James Reed is an editor for the Globe’s Calendar section and a frequent contributor on rock and international music.

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Francoise Hardy 'Tant de Belles Choses'
Francoise Hardy / "Tant de belles choses"
"Grand hotel"
Jardinier benevole
Soir de gala
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