December 31, 2010

This ain't no Friday night disco: Albums 2010

photo by Bashed

A brilliant year for me and my lover, pop music. End of.
I should note that many of these reviews were first published in 2010 in the American (print) magazine Instinct.

Album Of The Year

Goldfrapp Head First
Clever album this one. Head First works as an instantaneous pop FIX. Especially the core tracks (Rocket, Alive Again and I Wanna Life) that mine 80's pop/rock and even Billy Joel. But Goldfrapp always has a bit of subterfuge going on. In this case almost every track has an emotional hook - some line that really elevates it to something higher and deeper - the hook "my whole world in light" for instance on the title. Brief, beautiful and underrated.

Standout tracks: All were great, but I'll choose Dreaming as my favorite, followed by Alive Again, Rocket, Hunt, I Wanna Life and Head First.

...and more fantastic albums, in no order:

[ed note: forgot Scissor Sisters! Will add it soon!]

Kylie Minogue Aphrodite
The one where Kylie gives her fans everything they've wanted since Fever. A perfect collection of summer dance songs that mainline happiness right into your main vein, whichever one that might in any hot minute. For a brief time this summer, Aphrodite usurped Goldfrapp from my Album of the Year spot. Thunderous.

Standout tracks: The whole thing. Not one bad song.

Sade Soldier Of Love
In the ten years since the Sade released their last album, the world sort of fell apart. That Soldier of Love is, to some degree, “more of the same” is welcome when Sade’s music has spoken so intimately to fans for 25 years. The title track is thrillingly militant, while In Another Time and Morning Bird offer measures of comfort and melancholy. A soundtrack for nighttime, solitude and, of course, the bedroom.

Standout tracks: Soldier Of Love, In Another Time, Morning Bord, Babyfather

Cee Lo Green The Lady Killer
Fuck You may be the most memorable track, but this record is nearly flawless from start to finish. I love that Cee Lo bucks the r'n'b producer trend and collaborates with pop artists like Fraser T Smith and indie groups like Band Of Horses. All of that makes for a truly euphoric album with a wicked sense of humor.

Standout tracks: Fuck You, Wildflower, Cry Baby, I Want You

Robyn Body Talk
The only thing that keeps Body Talk from being Album Of The Year is my sense that it works best as it was released in a series of EPs. The final record, at 15 songs, is fantastic, if a bit relentless in its tempo. I've said it a billion times: Robyn is the master a the sad disco and Body Talk has that in spades, but it also boasts (literally) a hilarious duet with Snoop Doggy Dog and the sweetest ditch-your-old-lady track ever, Call Your Girlfriend. I hope Robyn continues to release music this way in 2011.

Standout Tracks: Dancing On My Own (my top song of '10), Hang With Me, Indestructible (I prefer the acoustic sting version), In My Eyes, Stars 4ever, Call Your Girlfriend, etc etc.

Bim Scatterheart
A late summer surprise, Scatterheart is London duo Bim’s debut album. Their elegant pop will appeal to fans of Frou Frou and Saint Etienne: it’s cinematic, emotional and - in a year of ballad-less albums - pushes beneath the surface. Debut single “Head Over Heels” is not a Go-Go's cover; it’s a lush up-tempo in which the duo trade off vocals as the layered, blippy track swirls to a climax. Dysfunctional relationships never sounded so beautiful. On album closer, The Magic Of Us, the group wanders into a Merchant Ivory soundtrack to gorgeous effect.

Standout tracks: Head Over Heels, The Magic Of Us, Raindrops

Hurts Happiness
I love that Hurts is a throwback to an earlier era in pop where men displayed a fuller range of moods/emotions than, you know, "Meet me in da club, poonani." Theo Hutchcraft's voice is at the heart of what makes Hurts unique. Although the album is overly grandiose at times, it really is about songs. Proper songs. Happiness is evidence of how much care went into this project. Their forebears, Pet Shop Boys, had a mantra, "Make it special," and Hurts follows that.

Standout tracks: Unspoken, The Water, Wonderful Life, Sunday, Better Than Love

Jónsi Go
Euphoric is not a word one would use to describe gangly Jónsi Birgisson’s enigmatic group, Sigur Rós. The gay, Icelandic singer made his name warbling their beautiful, nonsensical sounds. His first solo album is an entirely different beast, taking on pop song structures with a palpable sense of majesty. Composer Nico Muhly arranged triumphant strings for Go, notably on Tornado, a standout that sets Jónsi ‘s softer vocals on the verses against a sweeping, tearjerker chorus. Wow.

Standout tracks: Go, Tornado, Boy Lillikoi, Grow Till Tall

Kelis Fleshtone
In 1979, Diana Ross released her finest album, diana. The worthy follow-up to that comes 30 years later with cleverly titled Fleshtone. I really thought Kelis's career was toast before 2010 and then, this concise album of brilliance. Conceptual in the sense that it's a declaration of where she is now after a period of unhappiness and bad choices, I admire how Fleshtone straddles strength and softness. "It was a circumstance I got the power from / I was so fucked up, but now I'm super strong." Brave, yes.

Standout tracks: Brave, Home, Acapella, Song For The Baby

Delays Star Tiger Star Ariel
First, this is the best album title for 2010. More importantly, it is Delays finest album, which is no mean feat ten years into a career.

Standout tracks: Moment Gone, Unsung, Lakes Can Be Lethal, Hold Fire, Rhapsody

Gypsy & The Cat Gilgamesh
Though they are Australian and live in London, the sound is pure California, in the most chilled sense. Fleetwood Mac weighs heavily as an influence. A lush, laid back album that might be hard to get ahold of until it is release in the UK in 2011.

Standout tracks: Jona Vark, Sight Of A Tear, Gilgamesh

Ellie Goulding Bright Lights
Drew Barrymore looks and electro-pop yodeling should not obscure the dark threads in Ellie Goulding’s crisp debut single, Under The Sheets. There’s blood on the floors and this chanting chorus: “We’re under the sheets and you’re killing me.” She ain’t Taylor Swift, mmm'kay? Rechristened in November as Bright Lights (with 6 added tracks), this is a sublime first album, though it remains unreleased in America. The ethereal ballad This Love (Will Be Your Downfall) is alone worth the pennies to ship this disc across the pond.

Standout tracks: This Love (Will Be Your Downfall), Under The Sheets, Human, Animal, Wish I Stayed, Everytime You Go.

Take That: Progress
Progress was a shock. An album inspired from start to finish by the decision to bring back Robbie Williams and shake up the TT status quo (MOR) via a new sound created with producer Stuart Price. New energy and dance-ability. Tour will be massive.

Standout tracks: Kidz, Eight Little Letters, Flowerbed, Wait

Laura Marling I Speak Because I Can
How can a twenty year write an album this wise? I'm at a loss for how to describe this music. It's folk based, but more sophisticated than that implies. The melodies are strong enough to be pop, but it's not really pop. My window into this album was Goodbye England, for obvious reasons, but the album is solid from start to finish. Laura Marling is here to stay.

Standout tracks: Goodbye England, Devil's Spoke, Rambling Man

Tracey Thorn Love And Its Opposite
Tracey Thorn is one cool woman. On Twitter, that’s manifested as a spiky sense of wit. On her second solo LP, it’s in the economy of her lyrics and instrumentation: nothing overdone. Though her usual dancefloor stonkers are not here, Love is not really a folk album. Swimming is lush pop and Why Does The Wind? has a pleasing urgency. Hormones, about a mother and her tween daughter, is Thorn at her lyrical high point, dispensing equal doses of pragmatism and affection.

Standout tracks: Swimming, Why Does The Wind, Kentish Town, Hormones, Oh, The Divorces!

Other great 2010 albums:

The Hundred In The Hands' eponymous debut album
Marina & The Diamonds' debut Family Jewels
Duran Duran's online only All You Need Is Now
Fyfe Dangerfield Fly Yellow Moon
Gypsy And The Cat's mellow cool debut, Gilgamesh

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December 28, 2010

Songs 2010: The one where I become a
moon-eyed teenager.

photo by Spuz

My favorite songs of 2010. As I've said before, each year I become convinced that the perfect songs have all been written, that perfect melodies are no longer infinite. But then they arrive at random moments, on a Sunday morning or a Thursday evening. You don't know when to expect them, which makes their discovery even more thrilling.

Thanks to everyone who read my blog this year; I learned about many of these songs from you.
I told myself this post would be short, but you can see what happened...

1 Robyn Dancing On My Own SWE SONG OF THE YEAR
Robyn excels at hairs-on-end emotionalism. At her best, she delivers something deeper than what the current pop charts allow. This was yet another year of minimal contemplation or darkness in pop music. The "echelon" was aglow with glitter sticks and boom boom and, well, that's it. Dancing On My Own took you deep into a mood; this is music for those of us who appreciate rain and clouds. video

2. Katy Perry Teenage Dream USA
If anyone had told me that Katy Fucking Perry would jostle with pixie Robyn for my favorite song of 2010, I'd have told them to fuck off. And yet here we are. I had lunch a few weeks back with a charmer who is 40 and we were talking about being lovestruck. She said, "It's like that Katy Perry song come to life." Which is what makes Teenage Dream so brilliant - it accesses emotions that, as adults, we say we've outgrown. And then we find ourselves smitten with the Magical Feelings Of Love... "You and I will be young forever." Thank you, Katy, just this once. lyric video

3 Kylie Minogue Get Outta My Way UK
I spent much of the summer smirk-singing to myself, "You're all so boring and I don't recognize the zombies you've turned into." The most instantaneous, joyous track on Aphrodite, it's born into the Top 10 Kylie songs. And the lyrics inspire me to snarl at poor tourists on DC streets: "Get outta my way, way outta my way." They also work for the Ass Game (thanks Rod Dale!) "Get outta my ass, way outta my ass." video

4. Ellie Goulding This Love (Will Be Your Downfall) UK
My most played song of the year and the great Lost Single of 2010. Lyrically wise, melodically perfect, and produced (by Starsmith) on a fucking angel's wing. What really breaks me down though, in the end, IS the end. The final 30 seconds, during which the song flutters back down to Earth, is one of the most somber, pretty pieces of pop music of 2010. youtube

5. Bim Head Over Heels UK
A lush mid-tempo in which the pretty boy/girl UK indie duo trade off vocals as layered, blippy electronics bring the song to a swirling climax. Dysfunctional relationships never sounded so beautiful. video

Laura Marling Rambling Man UK This heavy song contains the most wrenching lyric of the year: "It's hard to accept yourself as someone... you don't desire / As someone you don't want to be." That those lines were written by a 20-year-old is astonishing. This is a wise woman, Laura Marling. She will have a long, long career. video

7. Tracey Thorn Hormones UK
Tracey Thorn has almost 30 years of brilliant songs behind her, but I have never heard her create a song THIS lyrically perfect. I admire the careful measures of love, concern and pride apparent in these words: "You worry 'bout growing up, I worry 'bout letting go / 'Cause I know what's coming up / Don't let me be the last one to know... And I have to own up: that dress looks better on you now / Only half grown up, you should really twirl, take a bow." youtube

8. Plan B Love Goes Down UK
Love Goes Down reminds me of the music I heard on AM radio when I was very little, riding in the backseat of a white Cutlass Supreme - we called it the Milk Bottle - in Kansas City, Missouri. Plan B released a rap album prior to this. Who knew then he would make us cry with his melted caramel voice? video

9. Sade Soldier Of Love UK
From the opening line ("Is that a man?" we asked) to the martial beat, it was clear that the most dignified pop star of the past 25 years was bringing an unexpected edge to her first music in ten years. I was just thrilled that I could run around dramatically wailing, "I'm at the borderline of my faith / I'm at the hinterland of my devotion," because, as one would guess, I leave my ex lovers in heaps on the battlefield. video

10. Judie Tzuke If (When You Go) UK
The ballad of the year. Judie's voice, always beautiful, now has a subtle throatiness that gives the lyric a wisdom younger singers could not carry off. The lyric is just sheer enough to be whatever you want it to be. For me, it's a song about death, but it could easily be about a departing lover or friend or child. "I've been trying to find the way to say / How I miss you when you leave / Cause I need to get it clear: / I'll be okay, I just won't breathe." The literally ethereal middle eight - "I'm in the walls and shadows..." - sung by her daughters, gives me chills almost every time I hear it. It's a rare song that rises to the level of touchstone. youtube

11. Hurts The Water UK
Carried by Theo Hutchcraft's delicate vocal, The Water is Hurts' most subtle moment. The versus remind me so much of Scottish group The Blue Nile, which is about as great a compliment as one can pay. The arrangement, too, should be highlighted, especially in the final minute, when the strings wash up and recede like waves on a night beach. youtube

12. Delays Moment Gone UK
The best song on Delay's best album begins with a ghost. Listen on headphones and you'll hear a faint premonition of the chorus ahead. What I appreciate about this band is their willingness to go to the hush - there is no self-consciousness about creating something literally gossamer: "We'll hunt the moon forever, we'll slay it together / And we'll lay this season down." not online :(

13. Cee Lo Green Wildflower USA
When I first heard Wildflower, I thought it was about raising children. "To pull her out from the ground..." Cee Lo sings, "Oh my, how she's grown." Then he holds her "with both my hands, put her right on the table when I get her home." Hmmm. Wait. Is that the baby carrier on the table? There's an "open the flower" metaphor too. Hmmm. OMG. That is not about a baby in a diaper. This is a song about fucking on the dining room table! A pretty fuck song, though, where you "don't apologize" for who you are... "you only have to be beautiful in the beholder's eyes." A technicolor romance of a fuck song. Amazing. Uplifting. youtube

14 Kelis Brave USA
Like all of Flesh Tone, Brave is a manifesto. Making mistakes, making corrections. It has the most empowering chorus of the year, which I shall type out so you can LIVE IT:
"I was super cool, but now I'm super strong / I had nothing to loose, but I was super wrong / It was the circumstance I got the power from / I was super tough, but now I'm super strong." video

15 Scissor Sisters Invisible Light USA
A greased handjob in a dark backroom. A ride on the ferry to the Statue Of Liberty. Lauren Hutton in a DVF wrap dress, rubbing against a man in a subway car at midnight. Times Square and The Gaiety, circa 1982. Diana Ross and Michael Jackson dancing in the World Trade Center version of Oz. Rod Serling's Night Gallery. Sian Phillips, fierce in I Claudius. A worn ragged Great Gatsby t-shirt. Dancing so hard you'll either finally perish... or simply orgasm. video

16. Penguin Prison Golden Train (Royal Palms Mix) USA
Up front: The first official single from Chris Glover's debut album (out in early spring 2011) is made even better by London duo Royal Palms rejig. The extended instrumental in the final third (at 3:20), where a violin duets with a guitar is genius. Kudos to Mr. Penguin for a pop lyric with such beautiful imagery... "Just like a star that can’t be seen from your city at night." video

17. Robyn Hang With Me SWE
This seemed so perfect as a ballad on Body Talk Part I. I thought, "I am going to just memorize these words and recite them to potential mates. " Right? And then Hang With Me morphed into another tears-on-the-dancefloor classic. The first time I heard the album mix in all its glory, the hair on my neck stood up. How does Robyn do this? Does she encode the notes with some sort of emotion enhancers? video

18. Goldfrapp Dreaming UK
The most sophisticated song on the best album of 2010 is laden with nonsensical imagery about "Portal 17," whatever that is, and other vague places, sometimes slurred so you can't. quite. make. out. what Alison is singing. But then, clear as a bell, is the song's core desire: "I want to know you mean to stay." And then zippery synths carry out the last 90 seconds in one of Goldfrapp's most extraordinary moments. youtube

19 Jonsi Tornado UK
The kind of music Bjork no longer makes now that she lives in Brooklyn and eats artisanal cheeses. Thank you, Jonsi, for recognizing the lack of grand emotional moments in pop. The section at 3:05 where the horns stab and the male choral vocal cascades downward... it obliterates me every time. Tornado is a firework that has exploded and trails slowly back down to Earth. youtube

Favorite Unreleased Song: Ed Drewett's Keep Me In Mind

Favorite song not released this year: Melody Gardot's breathtaking and romantic Our Love Is Easy

Some songs that made it to this list and were cut and added and cut at various times: Hoosiers' Who Said Anything About Falling In Love, Hole's Nobody's Daughter, Hurts Wonderful Life (which was on last year's list, but got officially released in 2010), Goldfrapp's Rocket and Alive Again, Kelly Rowland's Commander and Adele's late December single, Rolling In The Deep.

Click here to see more of my favorite songs from the first three quarters of the year.

December 26, 2010

Best of 2010: The Opinionated Blogger Awards

Me at "The Last Record Store" - HMV on Oxford Street, LDN

Artist of the Year: Really, who else but Robyn? Her experiment worked. I wish more artists would release music slowly over the span of a year: it keeps the excitement and energy alive. The music itself was close to flawless and her live performances were goosebump-inducing. As for her "fame"? I enjoy that she has not yet been consumed by the masses.

Singing Voice(s) Of The Year
Laura Marling, Jonsi and Cee Lo Green.

Best Indie Artist: Easy! Penguin Prison. Several perfect singles, a zillion great remixes, good live show and a superb album coming in 2011. Also: Bright Light Bright Light for his brilliant song, Cry At Films.

Producer Of The Year: Stuart Price, for getting his mojo back and helping three artists get theirs back: Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite, Take That's Progress and Scissor Sisters' Night Work.

Most Improved Artist: Ellie Goulding always had the music, but her performance style was decidedly not-ready-for the-bigtime as the year began. She looked terrified on Jools Holland last year, but 2010 ended with a triumphant pop star moment on Top Of The Pops.

Ridiculous 2010 Trend:
Tacky use of Fuck in song titles. It was fine - and relevant - to Cee Lo's Fuck You, middling with Pink's Fuckin' Perfect and cynical shite with the now-dire Enrique Iglesias's single, Tonight I'm Fucking You.

She Who Deserves More Respect Than She Received: Allison Goldfrapp for following the amazing, emotional Seventh Tree with the equally exhilarating Head First. This duo makes it all seems so effortless.

Lyrics of the Year: TIE! Chill-inducing lyrics in completely different moods...

Laura Marling, for the middle eight in Rambling Man:
It's funny that the first chords that you come to,
Are the minor notes that come to serenade you.
And it's hard to accept yourself as someone... you don't desire,
As someone you don't want to be.
And a much lighter, joyous moment in Cee Lo's I Want You, the love song of the year:
God is good. He took His time when he designed you baby.
That’s why I want you...
Oh, I'll even quit my job. Lovin' you, I'll make it my job!
Thank you Lord, thank you lord!
This is it, my God!
Live Show Of The Year: Without hesitation, Florence And The Machine's show at DC's 9:30 Club was one of the best shows I've seen in my life. Utterly BEYOND. Also coming close was Robyn's performance on the All Hearts Tour. She's like a pixie James Brown.

Album Cover Of The Year:
2010 was a shit year for album art. No budgets and a label desire to design everything for a smartphone. The winners: Goldfrapp's Head First, which looks even better in 12" form, and Scissor Sister's Mapplethorp'd Night Work.

Best Single Art That Should Have Been Album Art: Hurt's
glorious Wonderful Life.

Fab Divas I Whorishly Managed to Get To Tweet Me in 2010: Nancy Sinatra, Jackie Collins, Sandra Bernhard, Kylie Minogue.

Fave Musical Women of Tweet: Tracey Thorn, Judie Tzuke,
and Helen Terry.

Top Remixes Of The Year: Mix Of 2010 --> Penguin Prison Golden Train (Royal Palms Mix) <-- Mix Of 2010, Kelis and Benny Benassi Spaceship (Alex Guadino and Jason Rooney Mix),Ellie Goulding Starry Eyed (Russ Chimes Mix), Ellie Goulding Under The Sheets (Bright Light Bright Light Mix), Marina And The Diamonds I Am Not A Robot (Clock Opera Mix), Kelis Acapella (Raw Man Remix), Kelis 4th Of July (Richard X Mix), Robyn Dancing On My Own (Michael Woods remix), Medina You and I (Deadmau5 Mix), Kylie Minogue Get Outta My Way (7th Heaven Mix), Ellie Goulding Starry Eyed (Monsieur Adi Mix), Katy Perry Teenage Dream (Brian Cua Mix), Hurts Wonderful Life (Freemasons Mix), Roisin Murphy Momma's Place (Microfilm Mix), Penguin Prison The Worse It Gets (Starsmith Remix), Ellie Goulding Guns And Horses (Tonka Mix), Robyn Hang With Me (Starsmith Remix).

Most Popular Blog Post (On This Here Blog): Ass: A Game You Can Play

Ballad Of 2010: Judie Tzuke's moving If (When You Go). I got all heavy about this song back in the summer, because it's one of the few truly emotional songs of 2010. We live in an age where nobody wants to dig deep and this one does.

[this is a place-holder where I would have a comment about Sophie Ellis Bextor, had her label released the album she started promoting a year ago.]

Most Welcome Return To Music: Sade, who nailed it on a perfectly subtle album, Soldier Of Love. The title-track, however, took a big chance and gave us an edgier Sade, who remains not only one of the most beautiful women on earth, but the most dignified pop star I can imagine.

Biggest Surprise Great Albums: Duran Duran's superb All You Need Is Now (out in expanded form in February) and Kelis, who I truly believed was a relic of the 00's. No more.

Christmas Song Ranking, 2010: Tracey Thorn > David McAlmont > Coldplay > Hurts > Saint Etienne > The Feeling > Pet Shop Boys > The Killers

Best Unreleased Music: Bang Bang Club's lovely ballad Under The Influence, Ed Drewett's perfect album sampler, Penguin Prison's Princely forthcoming single Multi-Millionaire, and Alex Gardner's beautiful studio version of There Goes My Heart.

Most Wasted Moment:
Kelly Rowland not seizing on the international success of the blazing Commander. One assumes there were too many cooks in the kitchen trying to suppress Kelly's potential dominance as the new Donna Summer ("but, but.. Kelly's URBAN!"). Had she pushed it hard like Kelis, the year would have ended with her on top.

Photo Of The Year,
aka The What Is Happening There? Award: Courtney Love in melted-face freak mode in March. Later, she redeemed herself. While we're on Court, her album was a mixed bag, but the title track, Nobody's Daughter, is Love at her most self-aware. One lyric stuck with me all year: "Don't tell me I have lost when clearly I've won."

Artist Most In Need Of A Vacay:
Lady Gaga
wins again this year, for obvious reasons. Enough with the crazy costumes, unrehearsed tours and endless references to her little monsters. Just give this woman a long vacation so she can come back strong.

Stylish Sexpots Of 2010: Last year it was Rihanna and Martina from Dragonette,
and that's still the case now. Best couple? Theo Hurts and Marina Diamandis, of course.

Flop Of The Year: The biggest was Xtina Aguilera, who seemed to abandon her album before it even came out. What makes Cristina's case worse is that Bionic contained glimmers of exactly what she should have done across the whole album, but crass commercialism won out. I also think, post-Gaga, the platinum blond thing needs to go.

Disappointing Albums: Crowded House,
Kate Nash, Andy Bell, Hole, Amy MacDonald, Massive Attack, Seal, Sia (sorry! frown!), Rumer, The Script, Sarah McLachlan, and the career-ending Sugababes album - yes, that was this year! Three albums I never loved much that everyone else did: Mark Ronson, Sara Barielles and Brandon Flowers.

Most Disappointing Single: Frankmusik's
return to pop with The Fear Inside. Love him, but this song is weak.

How Did We Ever Like You? Award: Duffy
[shivers] She also gets Worst Single for the screeching, bobby-socksed horror that is Well Well Well

Great Minds Think Alike Award: I don't know anyone who did not say of Duran Duran's All You Need Is Now single, "Awesome chorus, shit verses."

Guilty Pleasure
: This is so dire. I am such a bottom feeder. I kind of admit to liking Ke$ha's Cannibal. Especially the part where she says, "Now that I'm famous, you're up my anus." The auto-tuned yodeling is a nice touch too.

Best Cover Song: Hurts doing Kylie's Confide On Me on The Sun's Biz Session. [ed note: The Sun version is superior to the actual live version they used as a Stay b-side]

Marina vs Ellie Goulding Battle: I made up this category because I am a bit of a douche. Here's the result: The better album was Ellie Goulding's, especially in its final form as Bright Lights. However, Marina is the real star here. As I said above, had this been 1987, she would be on every teen girl's wall. This woman has the X factor in spades, is equal measures cute and exotic and, while her album did not reflect her full potential, has major musical cajones. So, it's a draw.

Jump The Shark Moment: Madonna's manager Guy Oseary trolling on twitter for ideas of where the waning pop star should open over-priced gyms named after her worst album. Dire.

Moment That Made Up For The Above Jump The Shark Moment: Madonna's photo shoot with Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine. Everything about it said to younger, needier popstrels, "Okay, kittens... FOLLOW THIS."

Best "Model Record" in Years: Karen Elson, for her gorgeous single,The Ghost Who Walks. The full album was not as good, but an admirable effort nonetheless.

The PR Award: Really? You Expect Me To Fall For This? Natalia Kills. Maybe there are surprises yet to be revealed, but I'm not expecting it.

The We've Boxed Ourselves In Award: To Hurts. Yes, Hurts is a very good pop band. No doubt. But their debut album was over the top on grandeur and passion with virtually nothing uptempo to storm the charts. The best uptempo, title song Happiness, was actually a bonus track not included on the CD. Likewise their performance style is, as one Popjustice Forum kid said, "monochrome." Theo's persona leaves little room for spontaneity.

Best Unnoticed Bonus Track: Robbie Williams' Long Walk Home, buried on his superb Hits collection. Download this song - it's a cover, but it's excellent.

Shockingly Shit Music That Seems To Be Taking Off: Jessie J's debut single Do it Like A Dude. Everybody loves this song and what I hear is a clusterfuck of everything I hate about popular music in 2010.

Worst Trend: The over-reliance in pop music of Dr Luke and auto-tune, which is basically the same thing. He did some brilliant songs, no doubt, but this sound is already dated. Don't think I am right? Remember Timbaland?

Good Riddance Award: The loathsome Sky Ferreira. Though I did like her UK single, One, she came across as a Fast-Track-Lohan(or lost Olsen sister?) with a rich sense of entitlement. And her Obsession video? Creepy.

RIP to the lovely and poptastic Mini Viva. This was the most senseless failure (charts, not quality) in pop music this year. These girls are far superior to most of the BBC's sound of 2011. We shall bask in the glow of Tokyo, I Wish and One Touch. Do not be fooled by pretenders to the throne... Mini Viva and Girls Aloud did it best.

Last thing. This year was one of the best of my life, most notably because of my trip to London in March. It was made extraordinary by the beautiful people we met along the way. They know who they are. To them: I thank you so much and send you all my love -and MP3s! - for 2011. Vinny, my Americano pop mogul/monthly pop summit mate, that includes you too (as opposed to, err, U2).


Coming Next: Top Songs, Top Albums and a mammoth list of almost every song I loved in 2010. Follow me on twitter in 2011 and I'll bug you some more...

December 21, 2010

All You Need Is Now is Now OUT!

Love that beard, Simon.

Simply put, Duran Duran are not 80’s relics. All You Need Is Now is a lush return to form for a still-relevant pop group. Must-haves: Girl Panic!, Being Followed (for Simons's lalalala ending alone), Runway Runaway (the poppiest of the bunch), Leave A Light On, and the silvery The Man Who Stole A Leopard. All You Need Is Now is out today on iTunes worldwide!

...and what is Handsome John describing here?

December 20, 2010

December 19, 2010

Top Ten Musical Moments of 2010:
My Whole World In Light

Top Ten (Plus One) Musical Moments of The Year:

10 The sublime lyrical hook on the chorus of Goldfrapp's Head First: "My whole world in light." I fear this song passed by most people, but it's a piece of euphoric beauty that needs to be revisited. Do it!
Hear it now.

9 The beautiful vocal by Theo Hutchcraft on Hurt's album closer, The Water. The album's quietest moment, The Water's verses remind me a lot of The Blue Nile. Interestingly, the boys produced this song themselves with no outside help. Hear it now.

The glitter cannon moment at 3:10 in Kylie Minogue's Can't Beat The Feeling when Stuart Price and Kylie send the track into the stratosphere. A rolling synth line comes in to lay chills all over me. Hear it now. Second fave Aphrodite moment: the middle eight of Too Much (2:00) - "Can't say, can't say what it is..." LOVE Kylie.

7 The pounding finale of Take That's epic track, Kidz. Hear it now.

6 In Bim's shimmering Head Over Heels, I constantly replay 2:53 to 3:25, during which the song swirls to a climax. Chill inducing. Hear it now.

5 The acoustic section of Kelis's Brave, at 2:24. What I love most is how Brave is a personal manifesto - a declaration that acknowledges strength comes from weakness and even bad choices. Hear it now.

4 The euphoric middle eight (at 2:19) of the finest love song this year, Cee Lo Green's I Want You. Here is my favorite part of the lyric: "Oh, I'll even quit my job. Lovin' you, I'll make it my job. Thank you Lord, thank you lord! This is it, my god!" Hear it now.

3 Judie Tzuke's daughters Bailey and Tallula singing the middle eight on If (When You Go). It's a perfect, almost haunted counterpoint to their mother's warmer, melancholy tone and the most spine-tingling moment of a perfect song. Hear it now.

2 The closing 40 seconds of Elli Goulding's This Love (Will Be Your Downfall), my most played song of the year according to LastFM. This is hard to explain in words, but there is something that goes very deep in the way that song ascends into the heavens and then gently comes down to earth with a guitar strum in the final moment. The best music often ends up associated with something tangible in life, and this has become very personal (and, honestly, sad) for me. Hear it now.

1 The final 90 seconds of Goldfrapp's glorious Giorgio Moroder/Tangerine Dream-esque masterpiece, Dreaming. The zippery synth vamp still gives me chills. The song and the Head First album are the most underrated of 2010. Hear it now.

and the Plus One goes to...

The extended instrumental section from 2:00 to 2:52 in The Pipettes's Need A Little Time. This was worthy of the highs on their debut album, which is sayin' something.

photo by Slimane

December 17, 2010

Beth Ditto: I didn't see this one coming

It's no secret that I am enamored with Beth Ditto of The Gossip. She's the definition of cool - and self-created. I had no idea until moments ago that she is releasing a solo EP in January on Deconstruction. It's produced by Simian Mobile Disco and there are four very clubby tracks: Goodnight Good Morning, Do You Need Someone, I Wrote The Book and Open Heart Surgery....

Check out the sampler:

Beth Ditto EP preview by Deconstruction Records

Not quite sure what I think so far, but will be eager to hear it in full...