Critic's faves: Music 

What CL's music scribes loved in "04

Ciara -- Goodies (LaFace)

There is no denying that this D.I.T. (diva in training) is the surprise Atlanta artist of the year. Her sound, dubbed "Crunk&B," is most evident on her debut single, "Goodies," which marries a responsible message (keeping her goodies in the jar) with an infectious beat, courtesy of Lil Jon. She also sidestepped the sophomore jinx with the follow-up jam "1, 2 Step."

-- Ronda Penrice

Anthony David -- 3 Chords and the Truth (Brash)

This soul vocalist first gained attention by penning songs for India.Arie, but in 2004 he took the spotlight with a debut album filled with bluesy, guitar-driven tales of love, lust and social ills. It put David on the fast track to becoming Atlanta's next breakout neo-soul superstar.

-- Carlton Hargro

David Thomas and Two Pale Boys -- 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man's Chest (Smog Veil)

Former Pere Ubu and Rocket from the Crypt frontman David Thomas has slowly cultivated a demented Southern death dirge that spans three decades of grimy mental affliction. 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man's Chest oozes with damaged and disjointed swamp melodies that quiver to life with convulsive clusters of muck and miasma. Two Pale Boys' slow-boiling guitar and horn rhythms and bubbling bits of electronic textures congeal in a humid and ghoulish landscape where Thomas' spectral presence comes into full bloom.

-- Chad Radford

Dungen -- Ta Det Lugnt (Subliminal Sounds)

It's psychedelic music in a winding '70s style that also draws on the late '60s British Invasion. Imagine an abstract, alien and amazingly convoluted sound that brings to mind paisley and bell-bottoms on a blacklight poster.

-- Tony Ware

The Go! Team -- Thunder, Lighting, Strike (Memphis Industries)

Imagine a Linus-led Peanuts gang teamed up with a Sergio Mendes-conducted marching band. The collective then gets together with the sampledelic Avalanches to make the soundtrack to a PBS documentary on the five-boroughs double-dutch competitions of the '70s. Running through the paces in a cyclorama, the funky ensemble's bristly breakbeat soul swoons in yearning arcs basked in opalescent string-swept euphoria. Now buy Thunder, Lighting, Strike because Brighton's six-man Go! Team are those joyous, chanting imagineers.

-- Tony Ware

Hot Young Priest -- Burning Hot and Free (Independent)

The divine five-song EP is a snapshot of a band that only hints at the raw power of its live shows. The high Priest presides over a heavenly Mass of stark, thrifty, sultry, white-hot rock -- without any sacrifice of quality.

-- Lee Valentine Smith

Hot Snakes -- Audit in Progress (Swami Records)

Grinding to a point with a reflexive, less-is-more approach to agro-indie rock, Hot Snakes serve up a searing and gritty rock mantra on their third offering, Audit in Progress. Featuring members of Drive Like Jehu and Rocket from the Crypt, along with former pro-skater Mario Rubalcaba, Hot Snakes, on paper, abide by the standards of boring old punk and garage rock. But in action, vocalist Rick Froberg's frazzled yelps squelch out over a white-hot grid of guitars and percussion, bringing a much needed blast of irreverence to rock at a time when the genre has never needed it more.

-- Chad Radford

Van Hunt -- Van Hunt (Capitol)

On this album of introspective R&B, local singer/songwriter Van Hunt offers up warm, insinuating grooves and poignant, candidly twisted lyrics ("What would I do if we were perfect/Where would I go for disappointment?").

-- Craig Seymour

Jacki-O -- Poe Little Rich Girl (TVT)

A refreshing voice in the limited world of female hip-hop, this Miami raptress is more than sass and sex. On "Ghetto World" and "Sleeping with the Enemy," she shows that street life is hard on women, too.

-- Ronda Penrice
Simon Joyner -- Lost with the Lights On (Jagjaguwar)

Omaha folk fixture Joyner is a sullen diamond buried under an avalanche of wide-eyed wailers. Lost with the Lights On is a dreamy affair bound by comfortably off-key crooning drifting over a twinkling swirl of acoustic splendor and an elusive echo dripping off of every note with world-weary reflection. The song is the bottom line, and Lost finds Joyner churning out solid and soiled storytelling with cool composure.

-- Chad Radford

Kevn Kinney -- Kevn Kinney's Sun Tangled Angel Revival (Compadre Records)

The new band project from Athens-based Kinney, the singer/songwriter/guitarist of Drivin' n' Cryin' for the past two decades, radiates with the jangling shimmer and psychedelic/country/gospel twang of Dylan's mid-'70s Rolling Thunder Revue. A cool, mini-record collection on one disc.

-- Lee Valentine Smith

Loretta Lynn -- Van Lear Rose (Interscope)

Lynn -- at the age of 69, 40 years into her career -- redefined herself from a coal miner's daughter to a hoop-skirted Neko Case. With the help of Jack White's dirty Detroit production, the prolific legend gave her country yarns a 21st-century feel that would be as relevant to those who grew up with her as to those who are still growing up.

-- Nikhil Swaminathan

Tift Merritt -- Tambourine (Lost Highway)

Not quite the return of Maria McKee (who guests on background vocals) or the follow-up to Dusty in Memphis, Merritt's sophomore release shimmered with bluesy country soul and, like much of the best music, slipped between the genre cracks. In other words, commercial radio pretty much ignored it. The disc still squeaked its way into a Grammy nomination for Best Country Album, even though its connection to pure country is as tenuous as Norah Jones' link to jazz. But Merritt's hefty yet vulnerable voice and strummy, hooky songs deserve to be heard by the masses.

-- Hal Horowitz

Raphael Saadiq -- Raphael Saadiq as Ray Ray (Pookie)

This modern-day funk suite can bear repeated listening and has the versatility to bump in your living room for Saturday clean up and rock your trunk for Friday nights on the town with your peeps.

-- Edward M. Garnes Jr.

Jill Scott -- Jill Scott, Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds, Vol. 2 (Hidden Beach)

With sassy attitude and spunky intelligence, Scott's second studio effort continues to explore the question posed by her 2000 debut, Who Is Jill Scott? Best tracks include the positive-but-not-preachy "I Keep/Still Here," boppy dancefloor favorite "Golden," and the wittily insightful "Family Reunion."

-- Bill Addison

Usher -- Confessions (Arista)

An unmatched collection of poppy R&B with a dash of crunk (on the Lil Jon-produced mega-smash "Yeah!") and heavy doses of real-life melodrama (the title track slow jam about his romantic bust-up with TLC's Chilli).

-- Ronda Penrice

Raves '04

Torchy Taboo: The Human Heatwave, local burlesque queen

"My personal favorite cultural event was the Dong Squad Burlesque Show at the Star Bar. Not only was it entertaining, but it also broadened the burlesque/performance art 'scene' here and it shows that the guys are finally starting to get the joke!"

Van Hunt, budding soul superstar who critics sometimes call "The Artist Known as the New Prince"

"I think the movie Ray was a general improvement in taste. It brought deserved attention to a musical pioneer who I absolutely have to listen to."

Jason Isbell, guitarist, Drive-By Truckers

"My favorite thing was those frilly skirts on the right people; my least favorite thing was those frilly skirts on the wrong people."


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