Thursday, December 4, 2008

Now for the songs...2008 edition

Before you lose any sleep, here were my choices for best songs of 2008. Make of it what you will:

1) GOLDFRAPP "A&E"--simple and very beautiful
2) THE PRESETS "This Boy's in Love"--electro heaven
3) THE KILLERS "Human"--did Pet Shop Boys lose a member?
4) HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR "Blind"--Antony kills this track!
5) DUFFY "Rockferry"--her best song by a mile
6) LADYHAWKE "Paris is Burning"--catchy AND innovative
7) BRITNEY SPEARS "Womanizer"--nuff said
8) CUT COPY "Hearts on Fire"--joy in repetition
9) CYNDI LAUPER "Grab a Hold"--Dragonette one-ups themselves!
10) GRACE JONES "Williams Blood"--best song since Slave to the Rhythm
11) SANTOGOLD "L.E.S. Artistes"--I love her manifesto here
12) COLDPLAY "Viva la Vida"--great song, epic percussion!
13) GIRLS ALOUD "The Loving Kind"--so lovely, yet danceable!
14) SAM SPARRO "Black & Gold"--more like this now...
15) KEANE "Spiralling"--Bowie-esque!
16) ABC "The Very First Time"--killer song from overlooked album
17) SOLANGE "Sandcastle Disco"--best song from an album with many
18) AIMEE MANN "31 Today"--her best single in years
19) I AM X "President"--why isn't Chris Corner a household name yet?
20) DRAGONETTE "Jesus Doesn't Love Me"--can't get enough of this!
21) GIRLS ALOUD "The Promise"--one-ups Emma Bunton!
22) LAST SHADOW PUPPETS "My Mistakes Were Made for You"--one-ups Scott Walker!
23) HOT CHIP "Ready for the Floor"--quirky dancefloor fun
24) VAMPIRE WEEKEND "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"--love the Peter Gabriel reference!
25) KYLIE MINOGUE "Do It Again"--Bird & the Bee gone disco! (Thanks Greg Kurstin!)
26) THE TING-TINGS "Shut up & Let Me Go"--dumb fun (sorry XO)
27) BRITNEY SPEARS "Circus"--maybe even better than "Womanizer"?
28) BLACK KIDS "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You"--good times!
29) SUGABABES "Every Heart Broken"--love the murder references!
30) KAISER CHIEFS "Never Miss a Beat"--Mark Ronson brings a new vibe!
31) GOLDFRAPP "Caravan Girl"--more glorious retro pop
32) MADONNA "Heartbeat"--had to namecheck her somewhere--actually a good song
33) JAMES "Hey Ma"--best (and delinquent) post 9-11 song
34) THE WHIP "Frustration"--who needs New Order?
35) THE HOOSIERS "Goodbye Mr. A"--peppy, well arranged tune
36) PRIMAL SCREAM "Uptown"--a whole new side to Bobby Gillespie?
37) R.E.M. "Supernatural Superserious"--they discovered a heartbeat!
38) WALTER MEEGO "Girls"--can Daft Punk still write catchy tunes like this?
39) ADELE "Chasing Pavements"--young girl, big voice
40) ANNIE "I Know Your Girlfriend Hates Me"--oh the debacle--should have been HUGE.

My last comment here is that 2009 will definitely be tougher, as there are already several projects lining up to really clamour for the top. An early fave--Lily Allen's "The Fear", which was actually premiered in mid-2008 on her myspace, but took another 6 months to get a video! When it is officially released stateside in 2009, I will already predict a top 10 placement for the coming year. Everyone else has their work cut out for them!

Next post--assessing the pros and cons of selected 2008 releases!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Well, it's that time again. Time to crack open the year that was, and what a year this was, and I don't necessarily mean that in a positive way. After a pretty smashing 2007, 2008 began promising, but became rather lackluster pretty fast when it came to music. Maybe it was the economic crash or a lame duck president, but music went on most people's backburner by the time July rolled around, never to fully recover. My list even surprised myself by how weighted toward the early half of 2008 it seems. That is not to say there were not any good releases in the second half of the year--just noticeably fewer. So without further ado, here are my choices for tops of 2008. Grab your knickers as we wade in:

In Ghost Colours

The best album by the end of 2008 was the best album by June 2008. Cut Copy delivered an album that far surpassed their last effort (hell, did anybody really even remember their last album?), stitching together catchy tunes propelled by snappy beats, jangly guitars, and layered keyboards in a way that referenced the 80's while avoiding cliche. "Hearts on Fire" and "Lights and Music" were particularly good songs from this particularly good effort, while "Far Away", "Out There On the Ice", "So Haunted", and "Nobody Lost, Nobody Found" beat New Order hands down at their own game. Opener "Feel the Love" even references the melody from Electric Light Orchestra's "All Over the World". Still, this does not even begin to touch the lovely melancholy that is "Strangers in the Wind". New Order should be very jealous that they haven't been able to turn out a full record this good in nearly 20 years, choosing instead to constantly bicker. Maybe they should just take a tip from Cut Copy and have a good time. Way to go Modular Records!

Seventh Tree

This should not come as a surprise, as Goldfrapp also had my second favorite album of 2005, SUPERNATURE (they registered behind Madonna's CONFESSIONS ON A DANCE FLOOR--Madonna released a new album this year as well, however, she does not appear on this list). A complete shift of instrumentation and approach might derail most groups, but somehow Goldfrapp made the transition seem almost effortless, as if it were a logical progression away from the stark electro beats of their two previous releases. Some things did remain constant: 1)Alison Goldfrapp is a fantastic vocalist, 2)Will Gregory is a great musician and arranger/producer, and 3)They continue to write great original songs. "A&E" may be the most beautiful single of the year (sorry Leona Lewis), while "Caravan Girl" and "Happiness" showed the poppier side of pastoral English folk music. At first listen, it seemed as though "Clowns" had been beamed in from some outer space clone of Alison, but as the song progresses, she slips right into it like a worn shoe. We mustn't forget the lyrics about "titties that go on & on". Heck, they even used harps on this album! Closing with "Monster Love" is an appropriate way to wrap this bon bon up nicely. Now about all those different versions...


What can be said about this that I have not said already except it reminds me at times of Deep Purple. Not the color, the band. An eleven year gap produced some head-turning moments here similar to what Goldfrapp did with their three year gap, but Portishead have a lot more emotional baggage to unleash. For anybody who thought they would just make the same type of album, this came as a shock, but a rather refreshing one. Sure, most of the hip hop beats are gone, but that doesn't mean they can never make a comeback. This was the album P wanted to make in 2008, and there is some pretty visceral material here. There are no radio bangers, nor do they ever sound happy, but would we want them to? Beth Gibbons sounds just as fractured as ever, while the band creates soundscapes ranging from fragile folk to psychedelic sludge. Not for the faint of heart.


The first entry from a late 2008 release comes in the form of a 19-year wait for Grace Jones to return. Unlike the most acclaimed albums of her career, which featured many cover tunes and a scattering of a few original songs, Hurricane is a mission statement that is all Grace. Aided by many first rate musicians (Brian Eno, Sly & Robbie, Tricky, Wendy & Lisa, Ant Genn), these original songs are some of the most personal she has ever committed to record, and at times, they soar. "Williams Blood" in particular chronicles her growing up in a strict religous household, while "I'm Crying (Mother's Tears)" is the more tender side of the same event. Balanced with the more direct "This Is" and "Devil in my Life", alongside the scarier Massive Attack-influenced material of "Hurricane" and "Corporate Cannibal", Grace released an album that may not sell mountains, but she can be very proud that she has released the best album of her career (NIGHTCLUBBING runs a very close second).


This Kiwi girl with Aspergers syndrome really surprised in 2008, working mainly with great producer, Pascal Gabriel, to come up with one of the catchiest, well-written pop records of the year. Coming on like Kim Wilde's dark young stepsister, the songs are 80's influenced, but work as more than just pastiche, featuring some truly original elements (see "Paris is Burning"). This album is one great tune after the next, all disarmingly humble and never too slick, becoming the kind of pop record we need to hear more of in 2009. "Magic", "My Delerium", "Another Runaway", "Back of the Van", and "Dusk Till Dawn" are all great pop records. That's 2 for Modular Records!

Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust

Sigur Ros never really registered with me until this album. I owned the first with the fetus on the cover, and while I enjoyed it, I felt much of the music that followed was simply drawn out rehashes of the same concept. This is the album where the tables really turned. Not only did they discover drums and rhythm, but they actually sing a bit in English! An unconventional video featuring young men & women running around through the countryside did not do much to raise the profile of the album (the cover art seems to be drawn from those shoots), but the music is the most kaleidoscopic in variety Sigur Ros have recorded. The first two tracks alone are absolutely uplifting, with their tribal drums and brass sections, only to be followed later on the record by the lovely "Ara Batur", featuring the London Symphony and Children's Chorus who sang on the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter soundtracks. A gorgeous effort which the band can be proud of.


It seems as though every one of the last three years, an album seems to pop onto my list that has actually been floating around as an import or on the internet for quite some time, and here is this year's entry. I'm not really sure when this album was first officially released (it may have been 2006), but I bought my copy in early 2008, and it was finally issued in the US in November of this year. Similar to what happened with Robyn and Junior Senior's recent releases, Galore may have been around for a while, but it is pop music of the highest order, featuring a smart lyrical bent that never sinks to the banal (sorry Katy Perry and Lady Gaga), yet still maintains a sophisticated humor delivered by an attractive lead singer. "Take it Like a Man" and "Jesus Doesn't Love Me Anymore" are the kind of songs most bands would kill to record, much less for their debut effort. I cannot wait to hear what they come up with next.

Out of Control

I just realized that GA landed in the exact same position on last year's list with TANGLED UP, and here they are again. Another year, and another great album from the TV contest winners who have become so much more than that. I was just looking at Popjustice where the Girls Aloud general discussion page is up to 415 pages! Now that's is a rabid fanbase! That being said, this is a great pop album. A little less dance than the previous one, there may be a bit more variety and growth here, as is evident in the Pet Shop Boys assisted "Loving Kind" and the expansive "Untouchable". Still, the Girls serve up class in songs like the catchy 60's-ish "The Promise", and the Johnny Marr assisted "Rolling Back the Rivers in Time". Spice who? More please!


Another album I feel I have talked about ad nauseum, but damn if this isn't a great electronic pop album. Rather dark & scary at times, these guys are not afraid to take chances, yet can turn out some really great tunes like "This Boy's in Love" and "If I Know You". Their imagery, along with songs like "My People" can also speak to those with more aggressive tastes, putting them in the interesting position of being an alternative electro band with accessible overtones. There has to be more great music to come here, so stay tuned. Way to go Modular--that's number 3!

Vampire Weekend

I heard this numerous times at work this year, and it really stuck with me. Sometimes the hype is just hype, but sometimes there is a reason for it. VW may have more to prove to be a lasting group that isn't tied to just one sound, but for now, this was a highly enjoyable record with humorous references, memorable melodies, and a nice Afro-beat backdrop complimenting their indie sensibilities. Nerd rock never sounded so good (sorry Devo).

Catfights & Spotlights

Their most consistent effort since ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, and it feels like they are actually enjoying themselves most of the time. Amelle is becoming a great addition. Now if they could only get past the press who hound them for selling fewer records.

Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends/Prospekt's March

A really solid effort from a really solid band. Nothing to complain about except you wish they loosened their self-consciousness a bit more. The PM EP was a nice addition to an already great album.

Exotic Creatures of the Deep

Nearly 40 years of recording and still going strong, with this, their 21st album. It doesn't get much better than this.

Day & Age

Redeeming themselves from that which was Sam's Town (you guys are NOT Bruce Springsteen), Flowers & Co. release a solid effort produced by Stuart Price of Madonna's "Confessions"--fame. Duran Duran called and wants their sax player back.

Bring ya to the Brink

A bad title to a not great title track, the rest of Cyndi's album was the return to form that saw her taking chances on the dancefloor with many up and coming hot producers, not ones that were already flaming out (sorry Madonna). Who knew that Cyndi & electro could make such great partners? "Into the Nightlife", "Echo", "Grab a Hold"!

Age of the Understatement

A side project for Alex of the Arctic Monkeys, this Scott Walker-flavored affair brought back the 60's in an edgy, indie way. It may not have clicked with all the Monkeys fans, but it was a great stopgap, no doubt.


Last year's BLACKOUT was arguably a better album, but Ms. Spears managed to pull herself together (with a lot of help) to record another undeniably fun and catchy pop album of the highest order. How she ever managed to accomplish what she has in one short year is beyond me, and it's not like the cracks don't show, but good for her for trying to get back to what she had. It may not be as great as BLACKOUT, but it will definitely connect more with her fans.

Rocking Horse

A late addition, anybody who remembers Kelli will know that she was the singer on Sneaker Pimps first album, only to be fired shortly after, and release a couple of rather unspecial pop records. ROCKING HORSE is her first album in a few years, and while some may say she is pulling a "copy Goldfrapp" moment, this album has been in the works for over three years, and features no drums. Kelli recruited chamber musicians to play oboe, flute, strings, and some light keyboard to produce a fragile folk record recalling early Kate Bush mixed with Joni Mitchell. Where Kelli differs is in the rather dark subtext of the lyrics and the fractured manner of her delivery. Refreshing.

Hercules & Love Affair

I already said this was one of the best albums of the year. Still is. Antony's contributions are undeniably good, but the rest is good as well. Rarely does a record put you in New York circa 1982 without being cheesy. This one succeeds masterfully.

Off With Their Heads

Just 18 months on from their last effort, this Mark Ronson produced affair may not give them the breakthrough they are looking for, but there are some damn good songs here, and having Lily Allen sing backups doesn't hurt either.

Beautiful Future

This return to form is welcome after their return to trying to be the Rolling Stones. The Scream are always better when experimenting, and this has the looseness of EVIL HEAT, but manages to be much more accessible and memorable from the great tunes.

X Marks Destination

This album will probably never be released in the US anywhere other than iTunes (unless you find an import like me), or it will come out in two years like the Dragonette. In any case, this is a great electro-pop album inspired by bands like New Order, but leaning more to the pure groovy side than Cut Copy. Still, there are some great pop songs like "Frustration" and "Sirens". A very good investment if you can find it.

Sol-Angel & the Hadley St. Dreams

Beyonce's little sister finally comes into her own and beats big sis at her game with this great gem of an album. Serving up retro melodies in a totally current way, there are many highlights here, but any R&B girl who samples from Boards of Canada and Thievery Corporation deserves some serious attention.


Is she new wave? Is she R&B? Is she electro? Santi White, Philly girl extraordinaire, is all of these things and more. Where she goes from here, only she (and maybe M.I.A.) know, but I'll be watching!


A loud return from a band that needed to wake from its slumber, R.E.M. proved they are still a force to be reckoned with. This album had a lot of very good songs. Now if they can keep the energy and write even more GREAT songs, they may go even further. Welcome back guys!

More lists, including my favorite songs and the biggest disappointments of 2008, are around the corner!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

20 Y.O. (or something like that)--Janet, I feel your pain...

I know I don't get around to posting very often--(life has me beat to a pulp)--but I hit a milestone yesterday--the big 4-0. No, I don't mean height, I know what I mean. Such is the case in the world of Miss Jackson where turning forty is named "20 Y.O." (that means 20 years in the business, although in her case, I think it was a way of making herself sound a LOT younger than she REALLY was). I am not usually a massive fan of lists (I'm sure you couldn't tell that from my blog), but I thought it was definitely time for a list. Maybe the most important list of my pop life. My 40 favorite songs of the past 40 years. There may be several from one year and none from another. I tried to keep it to only one song per artist (if I was super strict about the list, there would be several Pet Shop Boys, Marc Almond, David Sylvian, Erasure, and New Order tracks, but that would leave little room for anything else). This way, the list also represents my greatest pop loves of the past 40 years. Some songs may be overrated due to their freshness, while others I have left off are possibly underrated (i.e. U2's "One", Coldplay's "The Scientist", Dead or Alive's "You Spin me Round(Like a Record)". They are not necessarily the best songs, or the most popular, but somehow hold a special meaning to me, or move me emotionally.

So here is the list, presented in all its glory. Maybe you'll find something worth checking out.

40)"Valentine" by the Delays
39)"Just Like Heaven" by the Cure
38)"No Regrets" by Robbie Williams
37)"Election Day" by Arcadia
36)"Imitation of Life" by R.E.M.
35)"Who's That Girl?" by Eurythmics
34)"Bad Cover Version" by Pulp
33)"Victims" by Culture Club
32)"Hold Back the Night" by Sinead O'Connor
31)"Life on Mars" by David Bowie

30)"Goodbye to Love" by the Carpenters
29)"Frozen" by Madonna
28)"Poison Arrow" by ABC
27)"Sour Times" by Portishead
26)"Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush
25)"#1 Crush" by Garbage
24)"Stay" by Shakespear's Sister
23)"Everyday is Like Sunday" by Morrissey
22)"Pain in Any Language" by Billy Mackenzie w/Apollo 440
21)"Falling" by McAlmont/Butler

20)"Love is Stronger Than Death" by the The
19)"Winter" by Tori Amos
18)"Hide & Seek" by Imogen Heap
17)"True Faith" by New Order
16)"Torch" by Soft Cell
15)"With Every Heartbeat" by Robyn w/Kleerup
14)"Tarantula" by This Mortal Coil
13)"Always" by Erasure
12)"Xanadu" by Olivia Newton-John
11)"Still Life" by Suede

10)"Running Up That Hill (a Deal With God)" by Kate Bush

9)"Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me" by the Smiths

8)"The Winner Takes it All" by ABBA

7)"Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode

6)"Utopia" by Goldfrapp

5)"Teardrop" by Massive Attack feat. Liz Frazier

4)"Forbidden Colours" by David Sylvian w/Ryuichi Sakamoto

3)"My Hand Over My Heart" by Marc Almond

2)"Bachelorette" by Bjork

1)"Miracles" by Pet Shop Boys

Maybe some of your favorites are on this list too!

other songs that didn't quite make the cut:

"Heartbeat" by Annie
"Save Me" by Aimee Mann
"Before Today" by Everything but the Girl
"The Damned Don't Cry" by Visage
"Do You Realize?" by the Flaming Lips
"My Best Day" by Lightning Seeds w/Alison Moyet
"Situation" by Yazoo
"Deadline for my Memories" by Billie Ray Martin
"Peek-a-Boo" by Siouxsie & the Banshees
"Higher Than the Sun" by Primal Scream
"Genius of Love" by Tom Tom Club
"You Know me Better" by Roisin Murphy
"Crucified" by Army of Lovers
"Tonight We Fly" by the Divine Comedy
"White Flag" by Dido
"Don't You Want Me" by the Human League
"Sloppy Heart" by Frazier Chorus

maybe next time!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Favorite songs of a first half...

Here are my favorite songs of the first half of 2008, in case you were interested:

PRESETS "This Boy's in Love"
SANTOGOLD "L.E.S. Artistes"
GRACE JONES "Corporate Cannibal"*
LILY ALLEN "I Don't Know"*
SAM SPARRO "Black & Gold"
CYNDI LAUPER "Grab a Hold"
CUT COPY "Hearts on Fire"
AIMEE MANN "31 Today"
MADONNA "Miles Away"
ANNIE "I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me"
GOLDFRAPP "Caravan Girl"
LAST SHADOW PUPPETS "My Mistakes Were Made for You"
HOT CHIP "Ready for the Floor"

*Grace was only premiered at the Meltdown Festival and Lily's is just a Myspace track, but they are both quite deserving of attention, and will most likely appear in the second half of the year in an official capacity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

As I awoke from my deep, dark slumber...

Wow, another six months have gone by with me postless. Anyone (and that means the one or two of you) that bother to read my blog are probably like "does this guy still exist?" Well, after many months with my nose to the grindstone and getting a master's degree (YAY), I want to have fun again! And I find writing about music fun. So here is (finally) a mid-year recap of my favorite (oh, let's just say the best) albums of the first half of 2008. Those coming up will just have to work harder...

CUT COPY--In Ghost Colours (Modular)

All I can say is, if you haven't bought this album yet, shame on you! Playing like a seamless mix of 80's New Order and 00's Daft Punk, Cut Copy raise the bar with this, their second album, by creating songs that actually generally match the level of the music this time around. "Feel the Love" and "So Haunted" do a good bit to bring the indie pop, while "Lights & Music" and "Hearts on Fire" conquer the indie disco side, while "Out There on the Ice" and "Far Away" are personal faves, merging both worlds. The vocals are catchy and unpretentious, and DFA member Tim Goldsworthy does an excellent job producing. Do not let it pass you by!

HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR--Hercules & Love Affair (Mute US)

I have a feeling Tim Goldsworthy may want to call and thank me for placing two of his productions at the top of my list here, but this album really is deserving of attention. I will be the first to admit this is NOT TO EVERYONE'S TASTE as illustrated by the recent offering of the lead single "Blind" as a free download from iTunes in the US, where it received much more derision than elevation. That alone shows how ahead of the trend this is, and how a vocalist like Antony Hegarty can polarize opinions. From my first hearing of "Blind", I was immediately transported back to the Bronski Beat "Smalltown Boy" and Soft Cell "Torch" era. However, this is no pastiche...this is the real deal. Using a variety of singers and the talents of DJ Andrew Butler, this album is generally a success from start to finish, with Antony's other contributions ("Time Will" and "Raise me Up") being particular highlights. Who knew the Mercury Prize winner could sing this kind of music so well? ("You Belong" sounds like Inner City reborn.)

VAMPIRE WEEKEND--Vampire Weekend (XL)

Not one to usually cave to hype or trends, I have to admit I keep going back to this album. The thought of four Columbia grads doing Afro-beat inspired pop songs would normally send shudders through me, but this album is truly unique in today's pop landscape. The melodies are catchy, the lyrics funny without being crass, and there is a certain fresh quality to their references that hasn't been seen since the likes of bands like the Specials. Yeah, its all a bit NYC, but since when is that a bad thing? They even name check Peter Gabriel for God's sake! "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa", "M79", and "Walcott" are three non-single faves. Great for summer as well!

GOLDFRAPP--Seventh Tree (Mute)

Well, what an about face this was. This album caused an immense stir when it was revealed to be bereft of sexed-up electronics and whacking beats, in favor of more pastoral gestures. It was a shame to see many disco-nistas run for the hills, because Goldfrapp have cleverly crafted an album full of warmth and subtlety they had yet to explore. "A&E" is possibly the best three-minute single of the year, while "Happiness" and "Caravan Girl" are simply euphoric. Not to mention that "Clowns" is the most Cocteau Twins sounding song we've heard from anyone since their demise over a decade ago (what is Allison saying about titties?) In any event, this was a beautiful diversion and escape. Now what's next, classical? Prog? Industrial?

THE PRESETS--Apocalypso (Modular)
Wow, Modular is cleaning up this year and Australia gets some respect! This album is remarkable, as it is such a quantum leap forward from their last, and has a great balance of electropop singles and industrial stormers. "My People" and "A New Sky" are futuristic slabs of dark techno, while "This Boy's in Love" and "If I Know You" effectively outdo the Pet Shop Boys at their own game. Any weak moments are more than made up for by the sheer embrace of synthetic textures and the strength of great songwriting.

SPARKS--Exotic Creatures of the Deep (no US label yet)

I feel guilty listing this as already released, but the US is still waiting (possibly In the Red will pick this up as they released the last Sparks album which did rather well). Quite simply, this may be the best Sparks album in 25 years. I'm not just saying that. This album takes everything that was good about their previous work and combines it into one strong effort. "Good Morning" and "Photoshop" serve the pop side well, "Strange Animal" and "Lighten Up, Morrissey" do good service to alterna-rock, and "Let the Monkey Drive" is reminiscent of their more recent classical influenced experiments. Russell's voice has never been stronger, and if these brothers can continue to produce music of this calibre 40 years into their career, they will definitely be having the last laugh.

PORTISHEAD--Third (Go! Discs)

After 11 years of hibernation, Portishead returned with the darkest and most uncompromising album of their career. As a band that dwells on the dark and depressing side of life, that is saying something. Once expectations get thrown out the window regarding any kind of trip-hop or DJ scratching, we are left with a visceral piece of modern art that is utterly unique in shape and purpose. Beth Gibbons vocals are still front and center, connecting the old and the new, although here she lets the music surround her performance, as opposed to her trying on a new voice for every song. The progression from "Deep Water" to "Machine Gun" alone shows the wild variety of sounds they have been toying with for the better part of a decade. A proliferation of Hammond Organ would suggest Deep Purple as a reference, but it is churned through the Portishead sound in such a way that it could only be them. Glad to have you back, if for nothing else to know that somebody out there feels worse than me.

THE LAST SHADOW PUPPETS--The Age of the Understatement (Domino)

Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys fame decided to take a break with his friend Miles Kane, and upon a trip to France, came up with this incredibly engaging piece of retro-pop that totally shreds those Duffy-chasers. Sharp writing skills and big orchestral arrangements courtesy of Owen Pallett (of Arcade Fire fame), this plays like a more romantic version of the Monkeys giving space so the melodies can shine. "My Mistakes Were Made for You" and "The Chamber" are particularly mature recordings for 23-year-olds, and while they do go a bit to ape the sound of prime-era Scott Walker, is that such a bad thing? Nobody else has done this kind of music in the last 20 years which such panache (excepting Marc Almond), and nobody so young! It's a revolution!

SAM SPARRO--Sam Sparro (Universal)

We have Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Adele, and more retro-Brits waiting in the wings. It's about time a guy got some respect, and Sparro is, quite possibly, the best blue-eyed soul singer in a generation (sorry Jamiroquai). Combining elements of soul, electro, and funk, Sparro creates something that doesn't rely on retro alone, but pushes into new territory. Lead single "Black & Gold" is a case in point--a song that could have been oversung and oversold, Sparro's delivery is restrained enough to let the song speak for itself. Even when he gets funky, as on "21st Century Life", he melds so well with the music that it would be difficult to imagine one element without the other. He even outdoes Prince with "Hot Mess", which should be Christian from Project Runway's new theme song!

CYNDI LAUPER--Bring Ya to the Brink (Columbia)

Who would have thought Lauper would be gracing this list instead of Madonna? While I still love the queen, her latest does not send me into orbit the way the previous four did. That being said, Ms. Lauper, a queen in her own right, has released the second best album of her career (She's so Unusual is pretty unsurpassable at this point). While not a complete Cyndi devotee, I will admit that I have loved many of her songs, and her Christmas album is my favorite holiday record (see "December Child" or "Christmas Conga"). With a voice that could shred taffeta, Lauper has learned (probably too much) from Cher's example, but still has managed to craft a superb and modern dance-pop record with a bunch of A-list producers that probably did not cost as much as Madonna's recent choices. She will probably also not be conquering the charts the way Madonna does, but that does not mean her efforts have gone unnoticed. Best pop songs are "Into the Nightlife", "Echo", "Grab a Hold", and "Rain on Me", but there are plenty of forays into disco and dance too, with "Rocking Chair" (with the aid of Basement Jaxx) a personal favorite. Nobody sings like Cyndi, and fans who don't like this album need to realize that we're not in 1983 anymore. Admittedly, "Lyfe" is the only song that should be cut, but unfortunately it contains the album's title in the lyrics.

As an advance warning...there is no appearance from Justin Timberlake on this record.


Aimee Mann-- @#%&*! Smilers//Coldplay--Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends//R.E.M.--Accelerate//ABC--Traffic//The Whip--X Marks Destination//Neon Neon--Stainless Style//Hot Chip--Made in the Dark//Walter Meego--Voyager//Guillemots--Red//Destroyer--Trouble in Dreams//Hoosiers--Trick to Life//Madonna--Hard Candy


Robyn--Robyn//Kylie Minogue--X//I Am X--The Alternative//Ed Harcourt--Beautiful Lie


Sigur Ros--Med Sud...//Wombats--Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation//Alanis Morissette-Flavors of Entanglement//Elvis Costello--Momofuku//Santogold--Santogold//B-52's--Funplex//Duffy--Rockferry//Donna Summer--Crayons//Gnarls Barkley--Odd Couple//Hoosiers--Trick to Life//Ladytron--Velocifero//M83--Saturdays=Youth//MGMT--Oracular Spectacular//Temposhark--Invisible Line//Radiohead--In Rainbows (technically a 2008 CD release)//Ting Tings--We Started Nothing (sorry XO)//and the aforementioned--Cut Copy, Presets, Hercules & LA, Sam Sparro, Vampire Weekend, and Cyndi Lauper


Calvin Harris--I Created Disco (too monotonous)//Feeling--Join With Us (too sappy)//Guillemots--Red (sometimes trying new things isn't the best course of action)//Janet Jackson--Discipline (more pop less sex pls)//Fischerspooner (didn't even release an album, just bad singles--what happened?)//Moby--Last Night (a valiant effort, but a bit too "been there, done that")//Fratellis--Here We Stand (not fun, really)//Long Blondes--Couples (I like synths as much as the next guy, XIV (so bad I completely deleted it from my playlist)//Sia--Some People Have Real Problems (bahring)//Scarlett Johannson--Anywhere I Lay my Head (nuff said)


Morrissey//Annie//Grace Jones//Franz Ferdinand//Sophie Ellis-Bextor//CSS//ABC (US)//Keane//Jem//Lily Allen (digging the myspace tracks!)//St. Etienne (another singles collection)//Peter Gabriel//Darren Hayes DVD//Tracey Thorn//The Cure//Pet Shop Boys//Royksopp//Patrick Wolf//Kaiser Chiefs (working w/Mark Ronson)


Shirley Manson//David Bowie//Roxy Music (promises, promises)//David Sylvian//Dido (thought it should have been out by now?)//the Knife (soon?)//Tears for Fears (are no more?)//Daft Punk//Daniel Merriweather//Amy Winehouse (should I ask?)//Massive Attack//the Prodigy//Divine Comedy//Boy George (again, should I ask?)//Liz Fraser//Siobhan Fahey//Kate Bush (ahem...)


Yay on me for finally creating a post with added pictures! Hopefully media files will be next!