Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Top 10 Discopop albums of 2007

Happy New Year! And, looking forward at our past, here are the top 10 albums from the Discopop Towers ghettoblaster in 2007.


Sounds like: Early Madonna, with better jokes.

The critics say: “Is it any good? No. IT IS FUCKING BRILLIANT!” (popjustice)

We say: Okay, so this came out in Sweden three years ago but it’s still the freshest, deadliest pop album to hit these shores in aeons. Robyn pens a killer hook, but her real skill is in the lyrics, which can be heartbreaking (“It’s a good thing tears never show in the pouring rain”), sentimental (“I would knit you mittens and make you pie”) or out-and-out comedy (“I’ll make your balls bounce like a game of ping pong”). One for the rewind button every time.



Sounds like: Twelve monks who are, like, really depressed about the future.

The critics say: “A magical kingdom of noise that's equal parts Disney's Fantasia and Echo & The Bunnymen's lavish Ocean Rain.” (Q magazine)

We say: Post-millennial angst you can sing along to. Planes crash into buildings, families are ripped apart by war, a big black tidal wave comes to wipe out the population. Not the cheeriest album of the year, but certainly the most epic.



Sounds like: A kids party in a mental asylum.

The critics say: “Lots of handclaps, woo woo backing vocals, and laughs amid funny observations about contemporary urban hipster life reveal an assured and charming debut.” (Stylus magazine)

We say: Hey, it’s another album that’s technically three years old. Did I ever say I was a hip and with-it indie scenester? No, I did not.

Anyway, CSS are brilliant. Bouncy, stupid and colourful – they could only have come from Sao Paolo. The lyrics verge on nonsense (“Am I a mouse? Am I an elephant?!”) yet often reveal something deeper on repeated listens. But Cansei De Ser Sexy (tired of being sexy) is mostly designed for jumping up and down to in a student disco with a bacardi breezer and an ironic t-shirt. Ah, the memories.



Sounds like: A modern r&b record that knows its roots.

The critics say: “It would be no exaggeration to call Amerie one of the greatest singers in pop music. Her vocal performances are extraordinary: she catches the fleeting thrills and momentary rushes of intensity that permeate otherwise mundane days, and stretches those feelings out across four-minute songs without ever letting up.” (The Guardian)

We say: R&B is in a bit of a lull these days, which is why it’s so utterly criminal that this sparkling firecracker of an album did so badly. The record company hasn’t even bothered to release it in the US, which means it could be one of the great lost records of our time.

Amerie, who takes on a great deal of the writing duties for her third album, has a fantastic understanding of her soul music forebears and pays tribute to the likes of Smokey Robinson, Issac Hayes and Dozier-Holland-Dozier throughout. Not that this is a Winehouse-esque pastiche of latter-day r&b. Every lesson she learned from those masterminds of composition has been updated and spun in new directions, underscored by that fantastic voice. 2007 didn’t have a better soul workout than Gotta Work, a funkier guitar line than Take Control, or a more sugary pop confection than Crush.

Seriously, you have got to buy this album.



Sounds like: A girl band growing up.

The critics say: “Unbeatable future pop hits.” (NME)

We say: It didn’t seem possible a year ago that a band who would release a tired, by-numbers cover of I Think We’re Alone Now would emerge re-invigorated to produce an album this fresh. The traditional Girls Aloud formula still stands – preposterous song structures, brain-eating hooks – but the mood is a little more melancholy than before. Call The Shots, their best single since Biology, is a minor-key pop wonder, while future single I Can’t Speak French is a sultry mid-tempo sleazefest. Top marks all round.



Sounds like: A Radiohead album.

The critics say: “The first time I listened to Radiohead's In Rainbows, I loved it, no holds barred. Joy warmed my ears as the album's 10 songs poured forth from a freshly unzipped download.” (Los Angeles Times)

We say: I didn’t wet my pants quite as readily as everyone else, but In Rainbows is a fantastic album, and probably the most direct record Radiohead have released since The Bends. You can hear what Thom Yorke is singing, you can hum most of the tunes, but you’d still be hard pressed to replicate most of the songs on an acoustic guitar. The ones that you can, however, are stunning . Among them are Nude, Faust Arp and Reckoner – some of the most beautifully haunting ballads the band have ever written.

On another note - I never thought I’d see the day when Thom Yorke cribbed lyrics from Madonna’s Justify My Love. But on House Of Cards he really does sing “I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to be your lover”. Amazing.



Sounds like: Goldfrapp snogging Britney Spears in a strip club toilet.

The critics say: “A 21st Century Eurythmics” (Uncut)

We say: This one crept in under the radar and burrowed its way into our mind with the cunning use of big, fat choruses from planet singalong. Dragonette, a Canadian band managed by the team behind the Scissor Sisters, plough a similar furrow to their New York counterparts. That is to say, glittery synth-driven pop with an undercurrent of sleaze. My particular favourite is Competition – a song about stealing someone from their girlfriend by being better in bed (“Goodness I like this, being your mistress,” purrs singer Martina Sorbara). No-one seems to have heard of them, and the album is rarer than a French beefsteak, but I still love it.



Sounds like: A ginger Kate Bush.

The critics say: “Nobody else in 2007 is making records this bold, this big-hearted and this defiantly different.” (Digital Spy)

We say: Siobhan, the first former Sugababe, surpassed the ambition and invention of her former colleagues this year but she paid the price for releasing such a wayward, complex album without the calling card of a radio-friendly single. If you’re going to be Kate Bush or Tori Amos, you need a Wuthering Heights or Cornflake Girl to alert people to your presence. But for those prepared to investigate, this is pop on a grand scale: sweeping strings, icy melodies and choruses like a warm bath (I’m not quite sure what that means, but I think you get the point).



Sounds like: Robot hip-hop from the only producer in the game.

The critics say: “It would be more accurately titled Timbaland Presents Slight Confusion or Timbaland Presents an Uneven Mess.” (Allmusic)

We say: Admittedly, only 11 of Shock Value’s 19 tracks still exist on my iPod, but those tracks are stunning. And, even when the album fails, you have to give Timbaland credit for attempting to broaden his musical palette. Rather than go down the Dr Dre route of calling up all his famous mates (although Justin and Nelly do appear), he has roped in The Hives, Fall Out Boy and Elton John to create some of the album’s stand-out tracks.

My favourite, however, is the UK-only bonus track – Come Around – which features underground rap star M.I.A. Her slinky delivery is, for once, not drowned out by superfluous sound effects and rave sirens as Timbaland gives a masterclass in how to frame a woman’s vocals. The song is only let down by the hip-hop supremo’s own rapping which, at its best, is hopeless. “Baby girl, you and me / Need to go to your tipi”. Oh dear.



Sounds like: A collection of songs assembled by big-name r&b producers and sung by a very lucky lady from Barbados.

The critics say: “Beyonce's superstar status is not in danger, but she should hand her A&R man a copy of this album.” (The Observer)

We say: Umbrella is great. Don’t Stop The Music is great. The rest of Good Girl Gone Bad is very good assembly-line pop. You don’t learn anything about Rihanna, the 19-year-old musical phenomenon with a pretty nose, whose whiny voice will almost certainly begin to grate by the second half of the record. And, with the exception of the one about the precipitation-repelling device, you won't be singing any of these songs three years from now.

If I sound like I don’t like Good Girl Gone Bad, it’s because I’m a little frightened of what it represents – that lots of money can buy you a hit album regardless of your talent. So, while this is my 10th most listened-to album of the year (this list is based on my iTunes play counts) I’d prefer to give the “award” to Stargate, Timbaland, Redzone and all the other production teams, rather than Rihanna who had her photograph taken for the picture on the cover.

...And on that grumpy note, let’s look forward to the next 12 months of music!

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