I did it. Dancing in spiked heels at a Christmas party, I turned OutKast's "Hey Ya" into my own personal holiday anthem, playing the song so many times the cops threatened to take away the stereo. I also fractured my foot like an idiot that night, ending up on crutches--but that's apparently secondary to the Christmas visions that swirl when I'm commanded to "shake it like a Polaroid picture." I suppose I could blame Popular Shapes in part for that connection--they released an excellent record this year, Bikini Style, and their silly, short December run of covering "Hey Ya" breathed new life into an already instant dance party ingredient. But there is more to the holidays than the marriage of Popular Shapes and Andre 3000.

The other soundtrack to sleigh bells in my house came from Petty Booka, whose Christmas Everywhere melts seasonal chills away with tropical escapes to fantasy islands. The Japanese duo (Petty and Booka) came to the Sunset last week decked in tinsel, with flowers in their hair and ukuleles in their hands, and charmed the pants off a packed house. Backed by lap steel and acoustic guitars and a standup bass, the two women sang so sweetly it was like no other cover band I've heard before. They transformed songs by Patsy Cline (the always beautiful "I Fall to Pieces") and the Ramones ("I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend [sic]"), but my favorites that night had a holiday flavor: "My Two Front Teeth," "Christmas Island," and "Mele Kalikimaka."

Given how Northwest music took off in 2003, it's definitely fitting that New Year's Eve is packed with shows by local bands. My favorite releases of the year include new records from the Lights, the Intelligence, A Frames, Popular Shapes, the Spits, the Abodox, the Blood Brothers, Cobra High, Death Cab for Cutie, the Ruby Doe, the Long Winters, the Fitness, the Girls, Harkonen, Akimbo, and Lifesavas, along with Dirtnap Across the Northwest and recordings from numerous other bands I'm sure I'm going to kick myself for forgetting as soon as this column goes to print. I'm already kicking myself for not mentioning Radio Nationals more often; they have a great, just-antiqued-enough college rock sound that reminds me of Buffalo Tom.

The New Year brings a lot of changes for local venues, and I'm interested in seeing how the new club Uncle Neumo's does in the very capable booking hands of Graceland's Jason Lajuenesse (see page 29). There are changes going down at Graceland as well--new booking assistant Melissa Quayle has been hired to fill Franki Chan's old job, and the club will be remodeled during the first two weeks of January. A dual-purpose party (for Lajuenesse's departure and Graceland's reopening) is scheduled for January 17, and on January 26 the club is resurrecting its Monday Funday lounge shows with the Popular Shapes.

Infinity Broadcasting's alterna-station K-Rock has planted itself on Seattle's radio dial at 96.5 FM--which, rumor has it, is why 107.7 The End recently announced so many changes to its format. Both companies are now muscling for the "classic alternative" tag, blending old-school stuff like Depeche Mode, the Cure, and R.E.M. in with the newer acts. It'll be worth watching to see how both stations jockey for the alterna-listeners in Seattle. (I just hope The End keeps John Richards' Sunday-night local show--a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale, cookie-cutter format).

There were also a lot of losses in 2003, from the spaces/nights that closed (Fallout Records, Pho Bang, Double Trouble) to the much sadder passing of so many talented people. There were too many deaths in the music community, including Whip drummer Scotty Jernigan and the members of the Exploding Hearts. From my vantage point at this paper, I've never seen so many well-loved people my age end up in such terrible accidents. I don't really know how to write about it without worrying that it's coming out all wrong (which is why I saved this for the end), but it definitely got to me, even when I didn't know the bands personally. I'm not going to end on a down note (and I'm definitely not one to talk, hobbling my way into 2004); I hope this New Year brings a more painless balance of the good kind of crazy times and reasonable amounts of responsibility.