Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Mrdiscopop's Top 10 Albums of 2006

Here it is, folks. An entirely "surprising" list of the best albums that have been troubling the Discopop Towers "ghettoblaster" over the last twelve months.

1) Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope

I haven't written nearly enough about how much I love Regina Spektor on these here pages. Every single track on this album, her major-label debut, is magic. As an added bonus, she is stark raving bonkers. One song is about her illicit relationship with biblical strongman Samson. Another discusses how Regina only ate tangerines for an entire month. What marvellous nonsense, eh? Think Tori Amos or Fiona Apple, but with tunes that stick in your head for months, instead of making you think "oh, she's a really accomplished musician, isn't she?".

2) Nelly Furtado - Loose

It's not consistent - there are far too many Timbaland songs that sound like a good beat in search of a melody - but seven or eight of the tracks on Loose are actually perfect. Quite how Nelly transformed from being a bark-eating, yoghurt-knitting world music aficionado with no fans into a globe-straddling pop strumpet is anyone's guess, but who cares? Just sling on your dancing trousers and turn this album all the way up to 10.

3) Gnarls Barkley - St Elsewhere

On first listen this comes across like cats fighting in a dustbin but, with perseverance, it reveals its magnificence like a saucy lady in the Moulin Rouge. Gnarls Barkley are labelled a hip-hop act, but they're far too eclectic and inventive to be filed alongside Nas or 50 fucking Cent. Songs like Who Cares and Transformer are frenetic, majestic and affecting all at the same time. And it's a concept album about mental illness. Yipes!

4) Muse - Black Holes and Revelations

While Gnarls Barkley are just singing about being barking mad, Muse are the real deal. On this album, they're constantly banging on about spaceships, conspiracy theories and a strawberry pony called Helen (I may have made that last one up). But Matt 'spoons' Bellamy sings about it all with such conviction that you kind of accept it. Plus, they've largely ditched the 12-minute axe solos and made tight little poperas that literally explode from your speakers. Warning: Do no listen to this album on a motorway or you will accidentally start going far too fast for your own safety. I know this to be true.

5) Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

Put this album on and you could be forgiven for thinking it was a lost classic from the heyday of Atlantic Records. Except, of course, that the lyrics feature such delightful couplets as "What kind of fuckery is this?" and "You don't mean dick to me". The lady with the potty-mouth is Amy Winehouse, and here she puts Christina Aguilera and Joss Stone in their places by concocting an album of soul standards that sounds fresh and real, rather than a faded facsimile of the real thing.

6) Pet Shop Boys - Fundamental

I have never liked a Pet Shop Boys album before, but this one is superb. Back together with producer Trevor Horn, the PSBs find their form after a very long fallow period. Lead single I'm With Stupid had great lyrics and a so-so melody, but the rest of the CD towers above it - with heart-rending ballads Luna Park and I Made My Excuses and Left the stand-outs. But shame on them for shunting the superior Richard X collaboration, Fugitive, onto a bonus disc.

7) Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium

A caveat: This top ten placing is only for the tightened-up, 14 track version of the Chili's double album I put together after sifting through the 38-million songs they puked up halfway through the year. Each of those 14 songs is lifted above the ordinary by John Frusciante's breath-taking guitar playing. Nearly all of the tracks on the album (even the ones I don't like) feature some new sound, clever effect or moment of heart-breaking virtuosity. Damn him.

8) The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers

The White Stripes, but with discipline, Jack White's side-project proved to be a formidable lesson in classic blues rock. There aren't any major surprises or innovations here - just the sound of four musicians playing their tiny little hearts out. Could do with a haircut, though.

9) Beyoncé - B'day

In which Beyoncé spends the best part of an hour shouting at someone (Jay-Z?) for cheating on her. Whatever personal crisis inspired this album, and no-one's spilling any beans, it was worth it for the music. For the first time in her career, the thunder-thighed scream queen has turned in a CD you can listen to without your finger poised over the skip button. And it was all done and dusted in a week. Kate Bush, take note.

10) Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds

Like Nelly Furtado's Loose, this album is permanently smudged with Timbaland's mucky fingerprints but - unlike her album - there isn't a standout track that overshadows the rest. But there are several gems, from the filthy S&M anthem SexyBack to the tender, Coldplay-esque I Think She Knows (which should have been a full song, rather than a 2-minute interlude). The quality only drops towards the end when Timbaland absconds from production duties - presumably because he eventually needed a bit of a kip.

And that's 2006 done and dusted... And the best thing about it all was that a big"wig" in charge of the record industry suddenly twigged that bloated 80-minute epic albums were all a bit rubbish and issued an edict that all CDs should fit onto one side of a D90 casette (note to youngsters: a cassette is an ipod with moving parts that can hold a laughable 90 minutes of music). Thus, and henceforth, all of the albums above - bar the Chilis - clock in at well under an hour. This is quite literally a-mazing and should be celebrated with a balloon.

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