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Top 10 CDs of 2004

Renée Graham's picks

1. The Streets, “A Grand Don’t Come for Free” (Vice/Atlantic)
Mike Skinner’s concept album about the life and times of a British slacker is more involving and better plotted than many of this year’s big Hollywood releases. A masterpiece.

2. K-os, “Joyful Rebellion” (Virgin/ Astralwerks)
Intelligent hip-hop with a splash of soul, funk, and reggae from this innovative Canadian rapper gives us yet another reason to consider relocating north of the border.

3. Joss Stone, “Mind, Body, and Soul” (S-Curve)
If some dismissed her debut, “The Soul Sessions,” as a novelty — white teenage girl from England sings soul — this album proves Stone’s only gimmick is having actual talent in an industry where it isn’t always required.

4. Nas, “Street’s Disciple” (Sony/ Columbia)
As ferocious and focused as he’s been since his legendary 1994 debut, “Illmatic,’’ Nasty Nas is back. Jay-Z better be taking notes.

5. U2, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” (Interscope)
U2 should be doing little these days beyond counting its millions and waiting for that inevitable call from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So how is it the band is still producing passionate, energetic albums after more than 25 years?

6. Green Day, “American Idiot” (Reprise)
Who could have expected this ambitious, politically charged rock opera from the Bay Area goofballs whose breakthrough album was called “Dookie”?

7. Hil St. Soul, “Copasetik & Cool” (Shanachie)
This “Zambian child with a heart of gold,” as singer Hilary Mwelwa calls herself, also has a stunning voice, which serves as the centerpiece of this British soul gem.

8. Cee-Lo, “Cee-Lo Green . . . Is the Soul Machine (Arista)
Somehow this album fell between the cracks, but this funky gumbo of vintage soul and Southern hip-hop is a revelation. Isn’t the world big enough for more than one iconoclastic rap act from Atlanta?

9. Dizzee Rascal, “Boy in Da Corner” (XL/Matador)
For this young British rapper, an oftkilter (and nearly indecipherable) flow matched with jolting crash-bang-boom beats made this album a powerhouse debut.

10. Loretta Lynn, ‘‘Van Lear Rose’’ (Interscope)
The song ‘‘Women’s Prison,’’ on which Lynn awaits execution for the murder of a cheatin’ lover, is reason enough to hail the glorious return of the Queen of Country with this album produced by Jack White.

Renée Graham is a Globe staff music writer.

realaudio clips
The Streets 'A Grand Don't Comes for Free'
The Streets / "A grand don't come for free"
"Could be well in"
"It was supposed to be so easy"
"Not addicted"
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