Instead of a conventional list, i.e. one representing the year that has just come to a conclusion, here's a blast from the past—or at least a tiny explosion. In checking my email archives, it's the oldest one I could find. A hard drive crash destroyed all prior data, though there are a few older lists floating around on paper and in archived form (I was a member of the independent music mailing list, Chugchanga, for a decade and many of us would submit top 20s each year). At the time, I was writing about music for the All Music Guide, Amazon, and Tablet.
Top 20: 1. The Dirtbombs - Dangerous Magical Noise (In The Red) 2. The White Stripes - Elephant (V2) 3. Holly Golightly - Truly She Is No Other (Sympathy for the Record Industry) 4. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop) 5. Benjamin Biolay - Negatif (Virgin France) 6. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Pig Lib (Matador) 7. Broadcast - Ha Ha Sound (Warp) 8. Quasi - Hot Shit (Touch & Go) 9. Various Artists - City of God [original soundtrack] (Milan) 10. The Clientele - The Violet Hour (Merge)
Conclusion: my taste hasn't changed much over the years. More below.
I don't actually own the remix version, but couldn't resist!
11. Nicolai Dunger - Tranquil Isolation (Overcoat Recordings) 12. Aislers Set - How I Learned to Write Backwards (Suicide Squeeze) 13. Blacktop - I've Got a Baaad Feeling About This [reissue] (In The Red) 14. Skip Bifferty - The Story of Skip Bifferty [reissue] (Castle) 15. Broadcast - Pendulum EP (Warp) 16. Rock City - Rock City [reissue] (Lucky Seven/Rounder) 17. Swell - Whenever You're Ready (Beggar's Banquet) 18. Various Artists - The Man Without a Past [original soundtrack] (Milan) 19. Brokeback - Looks at the Bird (Thrill Jockey) 20. Various Artists - Morvern Callar [original soundtrack] (Warp)
Honorable mention: Calexico - Feast of Wire (Quarterstick/Touch & Go), Ben Charest - Belleville Rendez-vous [original soundtrack to The Triplets of Belleville] (Mute import), Loose Fur - self-titled (Thrill Jockey), Four Tet - Rounds (Domino), Al Green - I Can't Stop (Blue Note), Various Artists - Bay Area Funk (Luv 'n' Haight), Biff Bang Pow - Waterbomb [best of] (Rev-Ola), Owl & the Pussycat - self-titled (K), Various Artists - Lost in Translation [original soundtrack] (Emperor Norton), Nina Nastasia - Run to Ruin (Touch & Go), Various Artists - Kill Bill, Vol. I [original soundtrack] (A Band Apart/Maverick/WMG Soundtracks), Essex Green - The Long Goodbye (Merge), Various Artists - Pop Pop Pigalle (Pop Pop Pigalle), Visqueen - King Me (BlueDisguise), and Lushy - self-titled (Dionysus).
Maximum mixtape: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" (Hearts of Oak/Lookout), the Libertines - "Boys in the Band" (Up the Bracket/Rough Trade), Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros - "Get Down Moses" (Streetcore/Epitaph), Dandy Warhols - "We Used to Be Friends" (Welcome to the Monkey House/Capitol), Jet - "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" (Get Born/Asylum/Elektra), the Black Keys - "Hard Row" (thickfreakness/Fat Possum), Singapore Sling - "Dirty Water" (The Curse of Singapore Sling, Stinky), The Postal Service - "Such Great Heights" (Give Up/Sub Pop), Notwist - "Neon Golden" (Neon Golden/Domino), Stereolab - "Sudden Stars" (Instance O in the Universe/Elektra), Elbow - "Snooks (Progress Report)" (Cast of Thousands/V2), M. Ward - "Helicopter" (Transfiguration of Vincent/Merge), Cat Power - "Free" (You Are Free, Matador), Christina Aguilera - "Beautiful" (live on The Late Show with David Letterman), Outkast - "Hey Ya!" (Speakerboxxx/The Love Below/La Face), Lyrics Born - "Callin' Out" (Later That Day/Quannum), !!! - "Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard (A True Story)" (Touch & Go EP), The Rogers Sisters - "Zero Point" (Purely Evil/Troubleman Unlimited), and Spoon - "Tear Me Down" (Wig in a Box/Off).
Rest in peace: Joe Strummer (1952-2003) and Johnny Cash (1932-2003).