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Top 10 CDs of 2004

Ty Burr's picks

1. Tom Waits, "Real Gone" (Anti)
A staggering song-suite fashioned from blood and baling wire and sung in the voices of the dispossessed: mercenaries, the ghosts of slaves, young soldiers with nothing behind their eyes. Not exactly easy listening music, it’s heartbreakingly beautiful, nevertheless — a soundtrack for America during this Era of Invasion.

2. Scissor Sisters, "Scissor Sisters" (Universal)
How the New York band channeled early Elton John, glam rock, vocoders, and disco, and made it sound addictively brand new is a mystery and a miracle. Bonus points for the Roxy Music-inspired album art and for turning Pink Floyd’s "Comfortably Numb" into a dance tune.

3. Loretta Lynn, "Van Lear Rose" (Interscope)
The coal miner’s daughter took the Johnny Cash approach – hook up with a new kid (the White Stripes’ Jack White), crank the guitars, and dig up the roots – and damned if it didn’t work again. The best country record of the year, and maybe the only genuine one.

4. Various Artists, "Wicker Park Soundtrack Album" (Lakeshore)
The Josh Hartnett movie was a dog, but the soundtrack is an effervescent collection of alterna-strum pop from acts like Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins, the Postal Service, and Snow Patrol. Wait – maybe the movie was an ad for the CD.

5. Zero 7, "When It Falls" (Elektra)
One of a handful of sophomore CDs this year that neatly sidestepped the second-album curse, "Falls" is neo-lounge chill that’s almost shockingly pretty. Vocalists Mozez, Sia Furler, and Sophie Barker provide the human ear candy; brainiac producers Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns deliver the sonic bliss.

6. Interpol, "Antics" (Matador)
Sophomore-jinx sidestep, part II. The follow-up to the New York rock quartet’s much-heralded 2002 debut, "Turn on the Bright Lights," is impossibly tuneful, with debts owed to ‘80s post-punkers like the Psychedelic Furs and Joy Division but with a kick all its own.

7. Stereolab, "Margerine Eclipse" (Elektra)
The pioneering 1990s indie-ambient-electronica band came out of a long fallow period with a luscious and warm mid-January surprise. Vocalist Laetitia Sadler still sounds like an intoxicated French ye-ye singer after too many Godard films. That’s a compliment.

8. Talking Heads, "The Name of This Band is Talking Heads" (Rhino)
Unfairly lost in the shadows of "Stop Making Sense," the Heads’ head-spinning 1982 double album – compiling live cuts from 1977 through 1981 – was one of those vinyl fossils fans never thought would come to CD. It did and it’s better, with twice as many songs as the original. Thank you, Rhino.

9. The Blue Nile, "High" (Epstein/Sanctuary)
The mysterious pop trio from Glasgow reappeared, dropped its fourth album in 20 years, then disappeared into the ether again. It’s as midnight-gorgeous as the other three. See you in 2010, fellas.

10. Luna, "Rendezvous" (Jetset)
A farewell gift from Dean Wareham, Luna’s last album before breaking up is, perversely, one of its best, with gently propulsive guitar craft to match the band’s mid-’90s peak.

Ty Burr is a Globe staff movie critic and occasional music contributor.

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Tom Waits 'Real Gone'
Tom Waits / "Real Gone"
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