20 Little Boots – Hands
Whether singing about power struggles within a relationship ('Earthquakes
'), being ignored by the one you've got your eye on ('Ghosts'), or getting over an ex ('Remedy'), there's a fundamental warmth and optimism to Hesketh's songs. "Nothing can divide a heart plus a heart," she sings on 'Mathematics
', and it's hard not to be charmed by her attitude. This is a magnificent pop record that satisfies the heart, the feet and - most notably when she references Fibonacci and Pythagoras in 'Mathematics' - the head. #
19 Ciara - Fantasy Ride
She may not have the voice of Beyoncé
or the tunes of Rihanna, but she tops them both when it comes to cheesy double-entendres. "I appreciate your recovery time," she purrs on the self-explanatory 'Like A Surgeon'. "But you need a physical one more time." For keeping a straight face through that one alone, Ciara's Fantasy Ride deserves the benefit of the doubt.#
18 Paramore- Brand New Eyes
Listeners past their teens (and especially those blessed with Y chromosomes) will be less likely to join the ranks who've catapulted Brand New Eyes to the top of the charts ahead of Madonna
's 25 years of perfect pop. But that's as pointless and redundant an observation as commenting on the demographic of the people turning up to the Waltham Abbey vs. Hastings United match later this week. If you like your guitars loud and your popstars bursting with authentic - if somewhat overwrought - emotion, you won't find it done better than here.#
17 Cheryl Cole – 3 Words
When I heard the 30 second song snippets on the album sampler I thought, hmm these all sound repetitive and kind of boring. Having heard the whole thing now, I can safely say I was very very wrong.
Revered and popularised to the point of over-saturation thanks to the X Factor, the backlash against Cheryl Cole has begun in earnest as before anyone had even heard a note of this album the accusations of "she can't sing" and "auto-tuned to oblivion" flooded the internet.
First off, this is not really an RnB album as had been hyped. I mean, there's definitely some RnB flavour going on, but it's mixed in with dancey-pop and is no worse off for it.
The auto-tune argument is a bit pointless, given how prevalent it is nowadays- see Madonna, Kanye West, Britney Spears
, and Lady GaGa. Cheryl Cole is never going to be a big-note diva a la Leona Lewis
, Beyonce etc. But to criticise her for this would be missing the point. She definitely sounds like a human being throughout though, no overdone Cher-style robot vocals to be found.
As an album, 3 Words is about beats, grooves and catchy tunes. And there's loads of them (9 great ones out of 11) in an album that packs a nice punch at 44 minutes and never outstays its welcome.#
16 Shakira – She Wolf
Shakira really masters electropop on this album, even though she is a Rock/Pop singer! The best songs on the album, in my opinion, is Men In This Town, Mon Amour, Gypsy, Good Stuff and Why Wait, all very different. The album takes a lot of influence from cultural music, which makes it break boundaries in a seductive way. She Wolf is not Shakira's best album, but definetely a Shakira album!#
15 Will Young – The Hits
The only British male artist of the 2000’s to have four consecutive platinum albums, Will Young’s first compilation ‘The Hits’ is a celebration of his extraordinary career so far.
The 14 tracks that make this collection may represent Will's singles, and commercial work, showcasing his one of a kind voice. While it is the obligatory hits collection for the artist, to truly have a taste of Will's best work however, I recommend picking up his 2nd and 4th albums - 'Friday's Child' and 'Let It Go
' where his full artistry and sentiments are fully explored. But the collection is always a nice addition to anyone's music box.#
14 Paloma Faith - Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful
Let's ignore all Amy Winehouse
references from the start because though the voice is similar that is where the comparison should end. Paloma Faith deserves to be considered on her own merits. With a background in dance and theatre Miss Faith is clearly a woman very aware of performance and composition in her music. At 25 years old she steps into a music scene which is primed for original female performers like her.
Paloma Faith is a very talented woman and this has translated brilliantly into her debut album which is varied and intriguing with a good spread of pop songs that don't stick to conventions. Rather they are filled with her own soulful personality. This is a phenomenal debut.#
13 Stereophonics - Keep Calm and Carry On
This album contains a welcomed, warm and upbeat mix of rock, hints of electronica, and a collection of song ideas which - whilst at times seem frightened to fully expand into what they could be - are bristling with some 'good old' Stereophonics flare. It's an album that builds in quality - much like their second album 'Performance and Cocktails', with some of its most interesting and intriguing moments coming over half way through. Stand out songs are '100mph', the single 'Innocent', 'Trouble' and the last track 'Show Me How' is possibly Jones most honest piece of songwriting to date. Bassist Richard Jones' performance is also noticeably more melodic than previous work, which gives a deep undercurrent of ebb and flow to the work. This album almost feels like a culmination of what-could-have-been after 2001's JEEP. Sharp, swift moving, and rarely laboured - the sonic feel of this record is 'Nu-Phonics'. And a very nice change it makes too. #
12 Michael Bublé - Crazy Love
Micheal Buble has proberbly recorded his best album yet and in doing so has embraced all sections of the record buying public. The voice is perfect whether scaling the heights or singing in his boots and each track is a gold star performance. I could not fault a track because each track has a magic about it that only Buble and the excellant orchestrations encompass. The changes from swinging band and sometimes swinging voices to smooth strings with full orchestra on other tracks. Listen to 'cry me a river' with pounding orchestral opening giving the standard a different dimension. Listen to 'Some king of Wonderful' ( an old Drifter's hit) smooth pop at it's best. I could go on. Do we have to wait another year for another album ?#
11 Robbie Williams - Reality Killed the Video Star
Britain's leading pop entertainer Robbie Williams goes back to pop basics with his eighth studio album.
This album is brilliant, Robbie back to his best!
This isn't as much of a comeback record as it is just a really great album by an artist finding his footing after a near-fatal career-killing record. The songs sound fresh, and lyrically they're for the most part excellent and insightful views on life and love and happiness.#
10 Norah Jones – The Fall
She has radically changed the languid jazz tinged style that brought her the huge album sales of her first three Blue Note albums. The Fall is a revelation. Her trade mark piano playing is hardly heard and when it does make an appearance its actually a distraction. The songs are all about the disintergration of a love affair. A lot of the tracks are very raw and emotional."December" is heart rendering "Chasing Pirates
" is quite striking and "You've Ruined Me" tells it as it is. The last track "Man Of The Hour" is a paen to her dog (the St. Bernard on the cover)but though playful still carries a sad undertone. She now appears to be writing from the strengh of her own experiences and the result is fabulous.#
9 Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3
No one can stress enough the fact that Jay-Z is no longer the same man who hit the streets with Reasonable Doubt. If you are looking for that from Jay then you need to ask yourself two questions. 1. Why would you think he hasn't grown up? 2. Why haven't you?
Back in 1995 he was creating his music from his perspective in Marcy Projects, from the perspective of a hustler and man of the streets. He has since had 10 #1 albums and has become CEO of Def Jam, co-owner of the Nets, co-owner of the 40/40 club franchise, and husband to Beyonce Knowles. The man is a media mogul and multi-millionaire. He has friends like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. He has aged fourteen years. He has appeared on various Forbes lists. There is no way he can have the same perspective or outlook on life as he did in 1995 and his music reflects that.
If you can appreciate mature hip-hop with quality beats, a sophisticated sound, and inventive lyrics, then you need this album in your life. I sincerely appreciate this album because I love the depth and growth that this man is showing. At the end of the day he is the greatest rapper alive and nothing can take that away from him so it makes sense for him to be a trailblazer and take the game to greater heights. No one but him can do it and he does it well. I applaud him for that.
What Jay-Z is doing right now reminds me of Beyonce's I Am... album, which many people also criticized, and while I am no fan of B I had to admit that she showed tremendous growth and range with the ballad side of the release. Musicians have to take risks in order to advance the art which means so much to them. And, at the end of the day, they are people who have to grow up. Jay-Z is an adult. His rhymes are adult, his collaborations are adult, his beats are adult, his track selection is adult. And I love it.#
8 Adam Lambert - For Your Entertainment
This man's mere existence invalidates everything I hate about American Idol. He's like the glittery lovechild of Velvet Goldmine and Edward Scissorhands, ridiculous, offensive, and intelligent all at once, and he has somehow landed in the hands of mainstream America. Oh, and he can sing his face off, as evidenced by this record.#
7 Rihanna – Rated R
Wow! I bought this CD on a whim after reading a review by Mike Ragogna on the Huffington Post. He said this was the album Rihanna needed to make, not an album the record label would have necessarily chosen for her to make. It almost sounds like it could have been recorded in 1980's Eastern Europe with so many heavy techno beats and crunchy synths and simmering industrial arrangements. Apparently Rihanna's Caribbean accent is more present on this album than her previous work. I'd never been drawn to Rihanna's earlier work so I can't qualify that assertion, but I think her accent works for her and I hope she continues to brandish it in her future work. If you are a fan of blended musical genres and artist experimentation and still enjoy popular music, this CD is a goldmine. Not a single dud track and it flows nicely. It may take a while for people to realize it, but this is going to end up being a landmark CD for Rihanna. It's an amazing piece of work by a young person so early in her career. I can't wait to see where she goes next in her sound. This is a young woman firmly in control of her music and her life.
Rated R should primarily be perceived as Rihanna's most significant career progression yet. If 'Pon De Replay
' and 'SOS' showed she could sell a pop single, and 2007's Good Girl Gone Bad
proved she could carry an entire album, this is the record – startling in vision, startlingly good in execution – that elevates her from popstar to pop artist. Rihanna, in case you were wondering, is still only 21 years old.#
6 Peaches -I Feel Cream
"Some call me trash, some call me nasty, call me crass, but you can't match me," Peaches raps on 'Serpentine', the opening track of I Feel Cream.
Compared to her previous albums, both the production and singing are becoming more polished and refined. The production on this album is shared by a host of electronic masters. This is not necessarily better or worse since I love the rawness of her previous releases like "Diddle My Skittle" on Teaches of Peaches (Bonus CD), and the simpler arrangements of songs like "Operate" on her "Fatherf-cker" album.
5 Eminem - Relapse
As soon as Eminem stops trying to live up to his own controversial reputation and lets the mask slip, Relapse can be thrilling. When he ditches the "ironic" sick fantasies (On '3AM' he masturbates over Hannah Montana before going on a killing spree in McDonalds) and exposes his inner demons, we're reminded of the rapper's energy and lyrical sharpness. Whether it's contemplating his future as a musician on 'Beautiful' ("I just can't admit... that I may be done with rap"), ditching the drink on 'Deja Vu' ("That's the devil in my ear, I been sober a f***in' year") or discussing in excruciating detail his sexual abuse at the hands of his stepfather on 'Insane', Eminem proves he's still got the power to stun his listeners. For that alone, We should be grateful that Slim Shady is back again. #
4 The Gossip - Music For Men
My God, The album’s FULL OF WIN!!
With their first mainstream release, Gossip still holds true to their underground punk sound. The guitar is raw and the drums are punchy, but lack the in your face kick and snare of most modern releases. The real clarity is given to Beth Ditto's vocals that may not be as refined as Ann Wilson or Pat Benetar, but share a similar power and energy. For a band looking to perfect their sound without losing the edge that got them to where they are, producer Rick Rubin was the perfect choice.#
3 Lily Allen- It's Not Me, It's You
I loved Alright Still
and really wondered if Lily Allen could produce another album of equal quality and appeal. The answer is a big YES - this has all the quirky appeal of the first album with poetic lyrics and tunes that hook and stay with you (I've lost track of the number of times I keep singing 'you're so mean' to myself). The tone throughout is once again modern girl with attitude and wrapped up perfectly with the music. #
2 Lady Gaga – The Fame Monster
She may have couched her reasoning in typically preposterous and pretentious terms, but there's no quibbling with GaGa's conclusion. The Fame Monster does work as a standalone album and, what's more, it's a far more enjoyable listen than the disc with which it shares its 2CD slipcase. At just eight tracks and 35 minutes, there's no fat, no chance for GaGa's schtick to grate and, crucially, just the one ballad.
Best of all, there's a certain fearlessness to GaGa here - specifically, an I-don't-give-a-s**t-if-look-ridiculous sort of fearlessness. Her vocal performances, as anyone who's heard 'Bad Romance
' will know, can err towards the deranged. When she tries to sound Spanish on 'Alejandro
's spoken word intro, the result is more Dolmio ad than Almodovar. Oh, and barely a year since she scored her first hit, she's already self-referencing ("I wanna Just Dance / But he took me home instead"). Getting to the bottom of the GaGa phenomenon is going to take a hell of a lot longer than 12 months, but she offers a temporary fix here with her latest catchy motto: "I'm a free bitch baby." We wouldn't have her any other way.
GaGaLOO CAN SING!! Her voice is a rich and powerful instrument.
The cut-and-paste way with both words and melody keeps
us both guessing and entertained at every turn. The ecstatic hook of 'Alejandro' errupts out of the swirling, raw-edged, synth and big-beat backdrop like a ray of sunshine bursting through a black cloud.
When Lady GG tells us that "...he ate my heart and then he ate my brain" on a subway train, we know that we are not in the company of an ordinary or restrained musical imagination. A song like 'Monster' confirms both her eccentricity and her genius. 'Speechless' delivers one of the finest vocal performances she
has so-far given us. Soulful, sincere and totally believable. Back to the dancefloor with 'Dance in the Dark
' (begging for a more uptempo remix!). The thundering percussion and deleriously infectious chorus are magnificently uplifting.
So too the electric collaboration with Ms Knowles on 'Telephone'. The chemistry generated by these two not inconsiderably large egos could have burst the song at the seams. Full credit to the production team for keeping the train on the rails.
Both Divas would appear to have survived with their dignity intact. 'So Happy I Could Die
' layers instrumental and vocal harmonies to splendid effect. One of the album's strongest tunes. The stripped-down minimalist stomp of 'Teeth' is a total BLAST !
The Lady can sing the blues too! She can sing anything well in fact. It has been quite a year for this extraordinary woman. The exotically shiny plastic persona belies the fiercely inventive and original creative creature within. I remain besotted and totally convinced by her wild and unbridled talent.
1 Florence + the Machine – Lungs
When I first heard Florence and the Machine on Steve Lamacq's show I didn't get it. Here was an artist who was being hyped as a live sensation and one of the tips for 2009 and it didn't impress me. I didn't see anything special in the music, the voice or the delivery. It just didn't add up for me. But then I heard `Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
' whilst driving on a sunny day with the windows down and the radio up. Then it clicked.
Florence and the Machine for me is the glorious sound of someone who has sat down with a piano and a drum kit having just listened to too much Tori Amos and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Florence has a strangely ethereal voice helped along by the slight echo in quieter moments of the songs and the layered choral like backing vocals. The sound is deceptive. It is simultaneously demanding and seductive. The drums are relatively simple designed for no other reason than to drive the songs. The piano adds melody in support of Florence's voice and if you listen carefully there are subtle layers an nuances in it that will slowly be uncovered as you listen more.
To follow all this Florence + the Machine could not hope for a better debut. It is simply a joy to listen to. The tracks fly by but you remember every beat of them. `Dog Days Are Ove
r' is a brilliant start and following this with the most recent single adds a nice bit familiarity. Tracks like `Howl' and `Kiss with a Fist' are then great additions before the rhythmic genius of `Drumming Song'. It then gets a little more widescreen and epic in its sound with the combination of `Between Two Lungs
' and `Cosmic Love'. It then relaxes down to a more intimate and personal sound for the final three tracks which round off the whole album nicely.
It is a well crafted album that exhibits the quality and diversity of this band and especially Florence's wonderful voice. I feel like I have found Florence and I don't want to go back.