The Best Music of 2010
11-25 of the year’s top albums!
The 25 Best Albums of 2010, part 2 of 2
A pretty self-explanatory category!
11. Fall From Grace by Infernal: I got hooked on the duo with From Paris To Berlin but was underwhelmed by their 2008 effort, Electric Cabaret; thankfully, Fall From Grace is, for me, a return to form. It has everything that I loved about From Paris: Fall From Grace explores all the best qualities of dance music, from the euphoric title track to the melancholy “Alone, Together” and the aggressive “Materialize!” Then you have “Weird How You…” and its shimmering disco and the gleaming “Club Erotic,” which should have been the final track – but the strange “Think Cavalli, Baby” pipped it to the post for some reason. So aside from the bizarre cover art and that last track, Fall From Grace is a wonderfully executed dance album.
12. 2079 by Shena: I didn’t even know Shena had an album coming out this year, but lo and behold, there it was on amazon.com! Though I didn’t get into her One Man Woman release from last year, I was smitten with her updated disco sensibility – and that dance floor diva voice. After reading the mouth-watering details about 2079 on her official website (the description of Shena’s “Dizco” style is reason enough to get the album!) and listening to the tantalizing clips on Amazon, I bought that album and settled in for a Dizco experience. Result! 2079 comes complete with club chatter transitions between tracks, fabulously rich production, and no duds. This is an album you want to listen to the whole way through – no need to cherry-pick tracks to make your own playlist. Simply fantastic.
13. Back To Scratch by Charlotte Church: Of course I knew of Charlotte Church back in the day as the Voice of an Angel and all that, but I didn’t actually pay attention to her until she got wonderfully trashy with the party-ready “Call My Name” in 2005. The album it came from, Tissues And Issues, was patchy but showed great pop potential. This year, Charlotte dialed back the beats and synths and instead went for a more sophisticated, adult style of pop. Beginning with lead single “Back To Scratch,” a summery kind of tune but with lyrics detailing being back at square one, Charlotte returned to the music scene with a tasteful bang, but Back To Scratch is never boring. The lush instrumentation (like on the pastoral “Snow”), the thoughtful lyrics (“We Were Young” just about breaks my heart with its remembrance of youthful optimism – “And we talked through the night of what we could achieve,” she sings, explaining simply that “we were young”), and the occasional boisterous moments (like the amazing, blues-y/countrified “Don’t Think About It”) all combine to make a really lovely album.
14. Loud by Rihanna: Rihanna bounded back onto the dance floor this year with the singular “Only Girl (In The World),” and I for one was psyched to hear what the album it came from would sound like. And it sounded goooood. “Cheers (Drink To That)” is a wonderfully tipsy sing-along ode to “the freakin’ weekend,” “Man Down” finds Rihanna in the dance hall with a gun in hand, and “Skin” just blows you away with its understated electronica. Add in the playful “What’s My Name,” the “bye-bye, so long” kiss-off of “Fading,” and the just plain fun “Raining Men” (which features a show-stealing Nicki Minaj) and you’ve got yourself one excellently eclectic album.
15. כיס אוויר by רוני אלטר (Kis Avir by Roni Alter): I found this album by chance while music-blog-hoppin’ and fell in love with it. Roni Alter is an Israeli singer-songwriter with an ear for achingly lovely melodies and a beautiful, understated voice. Even though I don’t know what she’s singing about (she sings in Hebrew), it’s as if the feelings of her simply but elegantly produced songs are still communicated because her voice is so enthralling. This, her debut album (loosely translated as Pockets Of Air), features songs that could soundtrack a lazy, hazy summer day (the title track), a clear, starry night (“לא לתפוס הרבה מקום”), or a bracing fall day (“למות קצת”). Lovely, lovely, lovely stuff.
16. Insatiable by Nadine: From the charmingly soundbyte-filled title track (“It’s like whoooaaaaaaaaa, who knew?”) through to the cheesy but you-know-you-love-it belter “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You Yet,” there’s a lot about this album that could turn people off. I’m not one of those people. Nadine Coyle’s voice is arguably the sound of Girls Aloud and here, she proves that she can do her thing even without the brilliant touches Xenomania bring to the group’s songs. “Put Your Hands Up” is a straightforward pop tune with great horn riffs, “Lullaby” is a kicky uptempo ballad, and “Natural,” “Raw,” “Rumors” and “Unbroken” form a knockout quartet. A solid, satisfying effort.
17. Dr Dream and the Imaginary Pop Cabaret by Emma Dean: Australian alternative artist Emma Dean’s Dr Dream is at times reminiscent of the swooping vocal highs and thundering piano chord lows of Kate Bush’s first couple albums (“Emma Dean Meets Dr Dream”), at times similar to Queen’s bombastic brilliance (“Sincerely Fearful”), and sometimes akin to Tori Amos’ piano-driven sensibility (“Thieving Hearts”) – and the album is at all times a thrill to listen to.
18. Sister Sortie by Rebekkamaria: Rebekkamaria (who previously released material under the name As In Rebekkamaria) created an icy but electrified wonderland in Sister Sortie. “Mother Woman” gets all magnificently tribal, with a wise hook (“every man is an island, every woman is the sea”); “Oh Solitude” dares you to not get deliriously cheery while listening; “Sing!” and its driving drums invite you to sing with “all the boys and all the girls;” and the ominous “Winter Winterkill” dances and dives through its chilly synths. Terrific stuff!
19. Tiger Suit by KT Tunstall: Perhaps not as immediate as 2004’s Eye To The Telescope or as rockin’ as 2007’s Drastic Fantastic, the absorbing, atmospheric Tiger Suit sounded the return of a refreshed KT Tunstall. The opening track, “Uummannaq Song,” with its euphoric background chants and intoxicating mix of electronic elements with guitars and a galloping beat, “Golden Frames” and its easygoing tempo (which belies the foreboding highlight of the song – “it’s coming for me”), and the excellently odd “(Still A) Weirdo” (which sounds like it was recorded on jungle treetops) all make Tiger Suit an album that you want to get “Lost” in (another great track!).
20. Black Lace & Leather by Denise Lopez: I knew of Denise (formerly DeDe) Lopez as the pop tart who Dannii Minogue gave the tracks “Sex Dice” and “Karma Sutra” to (on DeDe’s Slave To The Sound album), and that connection was enough for me to check out Black lace & Leather this year. I’m glad I did! This newest release from Denise is a fine pop confection, even if it doesn’t have Dannii’s magic touch. ;) “Turn You On” (featuring Pras Michel) is a playful, fun back-and-forth between Denise and the rapper/The Fugees member; “Girls & Rock’n’Roll” gets in a reference to KFC (“taste me – finger lickin’ good!”) amidst a bouncing celebration of ladies and rock; and “Why” closes the album, revealing itself as one of the year’s best uptempo pop ballads – that chorus is lush. Nice.
21. High Glow by JES: The rocktronica diva JES kicks off her sophomore album with the simply beautiful “Awaken,” an aggressively produced dance number that has that perfect touch of sadness that brings it to another level. “Such A Long Time” continues in the same, fantastic vein; her cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong” is just superb; and album closer “All Night” is a pretty, string-laced ballad. It’s a lovely sort of cool-down after the workout you get listening to the rest of the album!
22. Stil Zengini by Pamela Spence: I kept feeling like I had heard this album’s spirit of fun, unashamed pop before – and then I realized that Pamela Spence is basically Turkey’s answer to Geri Halliwell! This is a compliment of the highest order, believe me – Geri is one of my favorite pop people. Stil Zengini begins with the addictive “Say What You Want,” which features a powerhouse of a chorus (love those guitars underlining the vocals!), and continues on with the 2010 update of Geri’s “Feels Like Sex,” “Sex On The Beat.” “Benim Farkım” proves to be a perky highlight with its “uh huh, uh huh!”s peppering the chorus, “Besides” takes the tempo down a bit with its plea to understand “you hurt me so,” and “Ben Ölmeden Önce” is a simply stunning ballad that you’ve got to check out. Really, really great tunes.
23. Passion and Lounge Musique by In-Grid: With one album (Passion) released at the beginning of the year and one album (Lounge Musique) released right at the tail-end of the year, In-Grid gave us a lot to love in 2010! I couldn’t choose between the two for this list and in any case, they work really well as a pair, with Lounge Musique providing a lovely soundtrack for the lazy morning after partying all night to Passion. Passion‘s “Amour Ma Passion” is a future club classic – just try to get those “la la la la la”s out of your head! – while “Sweet Desire” has a sexy vibe underlined by In-Grid’s breathy refrain of the song title, and “Le Cri Du C’ur” is regal but absolutely danceable. The kicky “Vive Le Swing” and “Papillonne Sur Moi” on Passion provide the inspiration for Lounge Musique, an album that takes you from the dance floor of Passion to a swinging ’60s penthouse. In-Grid sounds right at home covering downtempo classics like “Comment Te Dire Adieu” and “C’Est Si Bon,” and she turns in a gorgeously chilled reading of “Les Enfants Du Piree.”
24. Hande’ye Neler Oluyor? by Hande Yener: “What’s going on with Hande?” asks the album title, and Yener replies with a collection of good old-fashioned pop that will fit whatever mood you’re in. The upbeat tracks sparkle – “Yasak Aşk” is a dreamy dance ditty, “Bodrum” is a party-ready booty-shaker (a sample even commands you to “shake your booty on the floor, baby!”), and “Sopa” and its straightforward dance beat is guaranteed to get you on your feet. When you’re not feeling too dance-y, Hande’s got your back with lovely downtempo tunes like the ballad “Çöp,” the slow disco dazzler “Bi Gideni Mi Var?”, and the yearning “Boşa Ağlayan Kız.”
25. Basic Instinct by Ciara: Despite a seeming lack of interest from the music-buying public, Ciara shook the haters off and delivered a confident, solid album in Basic Instinct. I liked a couple of tracks off Ciara’s 2009 release, Fantasy Ride, but didn’t get into the whole album. I didn’t have that problem with Basic Instinct – it’s chock full of delicious slow jams (“Ride,” “You Can Get It”), mighty floor shakers (“Gimmie Dat,” “Turn It Up”), and snippy, sassy kiss-offs (“Yeah I Know,” the rather epic “Wants For Dinner”) that keep you coming back to replay the album.
All righty, that does it for the best albums of 2010 – the best singles of 2010 are coming up next! :)