Hear + now Downloads of 2005


Thank you Jackie!

2005 became download culture's year zero, as MP3 blogs sprung up quicker than an Internet virus, and iTunes forced your local record store to shut its doors. It's not too late to jump on board -- here are the tracks that deserve to be on everyone's portable player.

The Killers -- Mr. Brightside
The other three guys in the band put their shoulders behind Brandon Flowers' theatrics (what have Robert Smith & Michael Stipe wrought?), and gave his paranoid wailings a mounting beat that was impossible to resist.

Amerie -- 1 Thing
Hear the drummer get wicked. Amerie coos and simmers in all the right places, but this club-banger's secret weapon was an astonishing percussion break concocted by producer Rich Harrison.

Madonna -- Hung Up
Most of the heavy lifting was done by that ABBA sample, but Madge's return was an undeniably catchy piece of telephone pop. This year's guiltiest pleasure.

The Strokes -- Juicebox
The band most likely to return with a single that negated the notion of "comeback" -- all Peter Gunn bass throb and guitars set to explode into a metal frenzy. 2006 could well be theirs.

Missy Elliott -- Lose Control
Missy dove back into the record bins, and pulled out Kraftwerk's "Home Computer." Leave it to she and her cohorts Ciara and Fatman Scoop to put plenty of old school oomph into the digital landscape.

The White Stripes -- My Doorbell
Jack White went all Robert Plant on Get Behind Me Satan's swaggering highlight -- and there wasn't a gee-tar to be heard anywhere.

R. Kelly -- Trapped in the Closet
Like the Harry Potter series, you couldn't wait for the next installment. Playing all the characters himself in an endless musical soap opera, the man who put the R. in R & B also wrote the last word in infidelity noir.

Rihanna -- Pon de Replay
Jay-Z's latest protégée is a sexy teen from Barbados. Thumping in all right the places, "Replay" ruled the summer -- and seems destined to become a block party staple.

Stars -- Ageless Beauty
Graying pop fans summoned up the name of alt.rock queens like Belly, Lush and Throwing Muses, but this propulsive post-shoegazing ditty marked the Montreal band as ones to watch.

Faith Evans -- Mesmerized
Rootsy albums by Faith, Leela James and Jaguar Wright's made it a very good year for the rare groove set. Evans' bite of George Benson's "Footin' It" is no doubt No. 1 in a very funky alternate universe.

Queens of the Stone Age -- In My Head
Working outside of any movement, the Queens are America's most underrated rock band. This charging riff-fest finds boss Josh Homme try to shake a lover's memory while guitars pound like a bad migraine.

Kanye West -- Crack Music
If you agreed with Kanye's infamous George Bush quote, you're probably down with this ominous manifesto - it equates African Americans' lack of career options with sidewalk hustling and Billboard chart-topping. One of the year's most eloquent screeds.

Pussycat Dolls -- Don't Cha
Guest Busta Rhymes says he makes the ladies sizzle "like a summertime cook-out." But this L.A. burlesque troupe looked pretty good by themselves. Over a steamy groove they issued a powerful query to unsatisfied men everywhere: "Don't cha wish yrrr girlfriend was hot like me?"

Ol' Dirty Bastard -- Don't Go Breaking My Heart
Big Baby Jesus' last stand was inspired lunacy -- a cover of the old Elton John/Kiki Dee duet with Macy Gray. Of course, this being ODB, most of what he actually says was unprintable on a family web site.

Natasha Bedingfield -- These Words (I Love You, I Love You)
The British singer's guileless vocals and synth blasts made this a classic piece of naïve pop in the mold of "Walking on Sunshine." Put your cynicism aside and let it land a smile on your face.

nt50 Ce -- Just a Little Bit
Mr. One Track Mind reduces sex and seduction into a "fold flap A into slot B" kinda lyric at the start of the track; it kinda sounds like he's reading from a how-to manual. But he does throw in some saucy inflections. The ersatz Middle Eastern lick that drives the dirty talk makes a sleek backdrop for unbuttoning pants, pulling down undies, and having a taste of whatever he finds...just a little bit.

Devendra Banhart -- I Feel Just Like a Child
The mysterious California songwriter got in touch with his inner boogaloo, putting on a sexy leer and making like an easy rider on this infectious rave-up from his Cripple Crow album.

Foo Fighters -- DOA
It may or may not be a tribute to the venerable Vancouver punk band, but with all the guitars blazing and a larynx-shredding vocal, Dave Grohl's command of pop-rock was undeniable.

Kelly Clarkson -- "Since You've Been Gone (Jason Nevins remix)"
One of the year's biggest radio hit got a face lift with a thumpadelic remix that made it sound like U2, Kylie Minogue and Avril Lavigne partying at the same club. Hey, isn't that Cher over there? Thought she retired...

Arctic Monkeys -- I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor
MySpace shot this rock band straight to No. 1 in the U.K. Too thuggish to be the next Franz Ferdinand, their earthy appreciation of the sweaty nightclub rituals thwarted every hipster who got too close.

The Go! Team -- Huddle Formation
The latest U.K. buzz band sound like they're driving a concrete mixer through their record collections, and this cut from their Thunder, Lightning, Strike debut is as thrilling as a cut bungee chord.

Annie -- Chewing Gum
The Norwegian club kid makes dance pop that's smarter than it needs to be. Her arch put-down of a dumb boyfriend came with a bubbly "Genius of Love" groove that was anything but disposable.

M.I.A. -- Bucky Done Gun
Hollaback, girl! The Sri Lankan-by-way-of-London art school ragamuffin made internet waves courtesy of some bizarre marching band fanfares and a dead-on tech assault.

Akon -- Lonely
The Atlanta warbler took a page from Kanye's book, messing with a Bobby Vinton sample to power a lilting lullaby the Fugees would have been proud of.

Rilo Kiley -- Portions for Foxes
"And the talkin' leads to touchin'/ and the touchin' leads to sex ..." Power pop never sounded so good, thanks to Jenny Lewis' vulnerable vocals and guitars that seemed to explode from the headphones.

Gwen Stefani -- Hollaback Girl
We've saw kids jumping rope to it, couples making out to it, and dudes running red lights to it. Who'd have thought that listening to Gwen spell b-a-n-a-n-a-s over trombone synths and Queen shout-outs would generate the chant of the year?