1. John Cale, "HoboSapiens" (Or Music). The former Velvet Undergrounder's first experiment with sample- and loop-based composition inspires his catchiest, most consistent songs in almost 30 years.
2. Richard Crandell, "Mbira Magic" (Tzadik). Using a modified version of a traditional Zimbabwean instrument, this veteran upstate New York composer plays ringing, rippling improvisations that evoke Bali, the Andes and Mozart.
The masterful Senegalese singer-composer Youssou N'Dour delivers one of the standout albums of the year.
(Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)
Michael O'Sullivan's Top 10 Exhibits (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
The Year in Music (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
Richard Harrington's Top 10 (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
Geoffrey Himes's Top 10 (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
Mike Joyce's Top 10 (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
Desson Thomson's Top 10 Films (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
. . . And the 10 Worst Films (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
The Best Bites of 2004 (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
Looking Back: Bugs, Bars, Poker and More (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
3. Delays, "Faded Seaside Glamour" (Rough Trade). Soaring falsetto dovetails with carillon guitar on this Southampton, England, quartet's debut, the year's most enchanting variation on the eight-miles-high sound.
4. The Ex, "Turn" (Touch and Go). On this double CD, the eclectic Dutch anarchist-punk quintet champions leftist politics, free jazz, Ethiopian tunes and propulsive rhythm-guitar vamps.
5. The Libertines, "The Libertines" (Rough Trade). Between stints in jail and rehab, singer-guitarist Pete Doherty reunited with his London neo-skiffle cohorts to make an album that's looser, rougher and -- how'd that happen? -- more consistent than their debut.
6. Youssou N'Dour, "Egypt" (Nonesuch). One of Africa's (and the world's) finest singers combines his native rhythms with sinuous Cairo orchestrations for an album that pays lovely (if perhaps untimely) tribute to Senegal's brand of Islam.
7. Q and Not U, "Power" (Dischord). Arguably the best of the roughly 3,000 neo-punk-funk bands currently active, this D.C. trio can lay down a scratchy groove, but its spare, dynamic arrangements also keep the music shifting and surging exhilaratingly.
8. Tinariwen, "Amassakoul" (World Village). Plugged-in Malian nomad music, with call-and-response vocals and as many as four electric guitars slip-sliding gloriously together.
9. Martina Topley-Bird, "Anything" (Palm Pictures). The soprano counterpoint to Tricky's growl on his masterly "Maxinquaye" outdoes the recent work of her mentor (who appears on one track) with these elegant juxtapositions of insinuating vocals and ominous grooves.
10. Rokia Traore, "Bowmboi" (Nonesuch). This Malian singer's third album features more up-tempo numbers than its predecessor but is most notable for its lovely ballads, which color traditional timbres with hints of European chamber music.
Concert: Morrissey at DAR Constitution Hall, Sept. 29. Touring on the strength of a solid new album that only slightly compromises his Smiths-era principles, the Manchester expatriate triumphantly fused alienation, self-deprecation and show-biz.