1. James Emery, Transformations (Between The Lines) -- Cinematically tinged, orchestrations amid piercing jazz grooves.
2. Curlew, Mercury (Cuneiform Records) -- Wily, jazz-rock movements spiced up with memorable hooks and torrid soloing escapades.
3. Dave Holland, Extended Play (ECM Records) -- One of the finest bands on the globe. Period!
4. Joe Henry, Tiny Voices (Anti) -- Henry's metaphorical lyricism is spiced up with interweaving jazz charts and booming rock beats. A masterpiece.
5. Neal Morse, Testimony (Metal Blade) -- A gloriously visualized progressive-rock affair!
6. Tim Berne's Science Friction, The Sublime And (Thirsty Ear) -- Intensely performed, electro-acoustic, jazz-initiated shock therapy.
7. FAB, Transforming the Space (CIMP) -- Joe Fonda (bass), Barry Altschul (drums) and Billy Bang (violinist) embark upon a soaring, improvisational bash.
8. Gebhard Ullmann, Conference Call: Final Answer (Soul Note) -- Ullmann (reeds) and associates mingle fiery exchanges with tuneful themes.
9. King Crimson, The Power to Believe (Sanctuary) -- Prog-rockers' latest studio effort packs the knockout blow!
10. Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Year of the Snake (Innova) -- New Orleans' brass-band stylizations with upbeat funk and jazz centric underpinnings.
1. OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (Arista) -- The word on love, pimpin' and church, through the eyes of the Dirty South's most fearless visionaries.
2. Mars Volta, De-loused in the Comatorium (Universal) -- Afroed former members of At the Drive-In take daring listeners on a wild ride.
3. Radiohead, Hail to the Thief (Capitol) -- Straddling the ironies of Western culture, Radiohead makes a comeback from Kid A's alienation.
4. New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars, Borvis (Stretchy) -- From sprightly celebration to wayward weariness, this now-veteran band serves a microcosmic slice of colorful klezmer life, complete with tensions and triumphs.
5. World Leader Pretend, Fit for Faded (Renaissance) -- A glittering piece of post-rock promise by forward-thinking locals.
6. My Morning Jacket, It Still Moves (ATO) -- This mellow Kentucky band's latest album features glorious vocals by Jim James, the second coming of Neil Young.
7. Galactic, Ruckus (Sanctuary) -- With clever songwriting and innovative production, local retro-fusionists master the studio and transcend the funk.
8. The Iguanas, Plastic Silver 9-Volt Heart (Yep Roc) -- Local R&B roots and Latin flair melt into a summery album perfect for porch dancing.
9. 50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Tryin' (Interscope) -- Hit after hit, believe the hype.
10. Damien Rice, O (Vector) -- Irish singer-songwriter delivers a rash of stunning songs augmented by string sections and Gregorian chants.
1. Tin Men, Super Great Music for Modern Lovers -- You can dance, drink, cook and think to these songs.
2. Deacon John, Deacon John's Jump Blues (Vetter Communications) -- Superb record from the New Orleans canon that comes close to the originals in energy and soul.
3. Ryan Adams, Rock and Roll (Lost Highway) -- A cranked-up rush that only the best rock 'n' roll can deliver.
4. Dave Douglas, Freak In (Bluebird) -- Never-ending exotic jazz groove with trumpet, tablas, loops, and a dense thicket of instruments.
5. Drive By Truckers, Decoration Day (New World) -- Boogie-stomp Southern music with a lot of heart.
6. Otis Taylor, Truth Is Not Fiction (Telarc) -- Intense blues with a title that says it all in these made-up times.
7. Either/Orchestra, Afro-Cubism (Accurate) -- Complex big band disc that shines with rhythm.
8. Johnny Sketch and The Dirty Notes, Bandicoot (Full Frontal) -- Funny horn-driven local rock, ya heard me?
9. Led Zeppelin, How the West Was Won (Atlantic) -- Killer mid-70s performances before they entered the land of no brown M&Ms.
10. Chris Whitley, Hotel Vast Horizon (Messenger) -- Understated, blues-influenced grounded rock 'n' roll.
1. Tin Men, Super Great Music for Modern Lovers (Independent) -- Rubboard/percussion wizard Chaz and sousaphonist Matt Perrine make one of the coolest rhythm sections around; props also to singer/songwriter/guitarist Alex McMurray for his best batch of original songs yet.
2. David Egan, Twenty Years of Trouble (Louisiana Red Hot) -- A truckload of blue-eyed soul, boogie-woogie and roadhouse piano, and great original songs.
3. Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Bon Reve (Rounder) -- Accordionist Riley and company dig back into the genre's roots for this inspired set.
4. Nicholas Payton, Sonic Trance (Warner Bros.) -- Bitches Brew for 2003 from New Orleans' most innovative trumpeter.
5. Tim Laughlin, The Isle of Orleans (Independent) -- Original trad-jazz compositions from the pen and clarinet of always-engaging Laughlin.
6. Josephine Mills, This Is Love (Orleans Records) -- Sexy, occasionally breathless contemporary R&B bedroom vocals with a sweeping range, and support from a crack band make this the surprise disc of the year.
7. Improvisational Arts Council, Gardens (Independent) -- Bandleader and guitarist Mark Fowler tends this thematic song cycle of ambitious, one-take, improvised modern jazz.
8. The Iguanas, Plastic Silver 9-Volt Heart (Yep Roc) -- A return to form and some wicked curveballs from the New Orleans' Tex-Mex, R&B, and rock 'n' roll stalwarts.
9. Deacon John, Deacon John's Jump Blues (Vetter Communications) -- John seizes his moment in the sun with impassioned versions of R&B classics complemented by a bevy of special guests.
10. Earl King -- Street Parade (Fuel 2000) This reissue of Earl King backed by the Meters was 30 years overdue.