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The Best in Pop Music 2005
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin

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From its debut Hearts and Unicorns, Giant Drag's track 'Smashing' stands as the year's best song. Micah Calarese lays the ground stones on 'Smashing' with his guitar licks, loosely inspired by Crazytown's massive 2001 hit 'Butterfly' as singer Annie Hardy coos nonsensically yet perfectly to the rhythms. Sounding more mature here than elsewhere on the album, the California duo has been garnering rave reviews and comparisons to alternative greats like Nirvana and the Breeders.

Even though the Gorillaz earned five Grammy nominations, the band's song 'Dare' should have received a nod as the best collaboration of the year, not 'Feel Good, Inc.' Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays lends his voice to the animated rock outfit's 'Dare.' Ready with beats, this cut could easily be mistaken for one of Kelis's pairings with Timo Maas. The video is a delight, combining animation with live action, having Ryder act as an oversized head that only sings during a drunken dream sequence that would never find its way on Dallas.

However, 2005's best video belongs to Morningwood's 'Nth Degree' clip. The formula for an exponentially camp video requires wigs, different outfits, and even roller skates, which matches perfectly with the catchy song 'Nth Degree.' With a name like Morningwood, it's clear the band is in on the joke.

Stone Hits: The Very Best of Angie Stone may seem too early in her career to be released, but it's right on time to be the best hits collection of the year. With soulful gems like 'Brotha,' 'Bottles and Cans' and 'I Wasn't Kidding,' listening to Stone Hits brings '70s soul back, but it can be a task not to think that every song is written about Angie's ex D'Angelo.

Blondie takes on the Doors during 'Rapture Riders' for the best mash-up of the year. Interchanging Jim Morrison's poetic singing from 'Riders on the Storm' with Deborah Harry's rap over the music from Blondie's No. 1 hit 'Rapture,' no rhythm is spared. Debbie and the gang made this bootleg legitimate with a seal of approval by including 'Rapture Riders' as a bonus track on Blondie's Best of

Sight & Sound double-disc set.

In between stage dives and body surfing, Veruca Salt's recent tour snags the year's best show. Sure they sing 'Don't Make Me Prove It,' but by hammering out grunge girl band classics like 'Seether' and 'Straight,' Louise Post proves to be a 'born entertainer,' carrying the Veruca Salt torch on her own. Having Juliette and the Licks open does not hurt either, especially since actress-turned-rocker Juliette Lewis is 'speaking our language' with a stage presence comparable to Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The Natural Born Killers actress is as untamed on stage as she is on celluloid, somersaulting into the crowd and body surfing, only to fend off security for one more stage dive.

Being acclaimed by critics, Tara Angell's Come Down is this year's best debut album. The young New York singer-songwriter teams with producer Joseph Arthur for a collection that lands on both feet somewhere between the coffeehouse and the bar with the best live shows. Vulnerable with exposed emotion, yet strong through lyrics, Tara sings of challenges and strained relationships throughout her debut bow. Angell shines best as she 'comes down' on the slower tracks 'Untrue,' 'Three Times' and 'The Big One.'

This year's best soundtrack is from the film Mysterious Skin. The haunting score is a product of composer Harold Buss and guitarist Robin Guthrie from the Cocteau Twins. The subtle stroking of the guitar fits the movie's themes, making the listener believe in the possibility of aliens and the teen angst of being trapped in a small Midwestern town on this worthy find.

The best cover of the year is Conjure One's remake of 'I Believe' originally by the Buzzcocks. Taken from the sophomore album Extraordinary Ways, Rhys Fulber handles the vocal duties on his own here, instead of letting one of the female chanteuses step to the microphone. Rhys manages to morph this credence into a praise of technology. Considering the horrific headlines of late, Rhys's electronicized voice works overtime on the chant 'there is no love in this world anymore.'

Chaotic trumps all as the worst music-related reality show on television. Following Jessica Simpson's footsteps, Britney Spears repeats Jessica's error by allowing camera crews and her husband to chase her around during the mess known as Chaotic. Remember, there is an old adage, 'better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.'

Since we're already discussing her, Jessica Simpson claims a victory over DJ Sammy and DHT for having the worst cover of the year with her rendition of 'These Boots Are Made for Walkin'' from the Dukes of Hazzard soundtrack. If hearing the song was not torture enough, the video is Simpson's failed attempt to keep up with rival tabloid queen Paris Hilton's Carl's Jr. hamburger commercial. In the meantime, we're cueing up Boy George's punk-pop take on 'Boots,' which was a b-side to his ballad 'Il Adore' in 1995.

— additional reporting by Tony Peregrin

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