Ladies and Gentlemen, Lady-boy’s and She-men, welcome to Part 2 (of 5) in the AdemWithAnE.com Top 25 Albums of 2012 countdown. Step right up, step right up; let’s get on with this show shall we?!
20. AZEALIA BANKS “Fantasea”
The Mix-tape phenomenon isn’t usually one I like to indulge when it comes to these lists but Azealia’s highly impressive “Fantasea” delivered a lot more than any old mix-tape in the past.
What was put on the table (and offered as a free download) had more thought, passion and drive welded into it than most commercially released efforts this year; and all for somebody who hasn’t even dropped their debut album yet. “Fantasea” is a mixed bag of clever samples (The Prodigy, Montell Jordan, AraabMuzik) and strong, thick lashings of Urban basslines fused together with hard, up-front club cuts and tongue-lashing lyrics. 1990′s house and rave music really take a larger viewpoint on this mix-tape than they ever have, with obvious influences hailing all over the dance music capitals of the world. And that’s what I really love about Azealia; not only is she not afraid to play around with serious dance music, she also has an ear for what it actually is about those housey sounds that meld so well with urban beats and knife-sharp raps. Slabs of Detroit techno waver through on the magnetic “Luxury”, one of the mix-tape’s biggest moments, but it’s the highly controversial “Esta Noche” which makes Fantasea worth the download alone. Sampling Montell Jordan’s “Get It On Tonite” gave Azealia what was potentially the most bankable of songs on her mix-tape (which she, or rather her label, ruined with shady back-door dealings with the track’s original producer), and Prodigy-sampling mix-tape opener “Out Of Space” demonstrates the kind of quick, dirty, lyrical prowess Banks is starting to become very renowned for.
Azealia herself claimed that this mix-tape was “a test run” for her debut album (dropping early 2013), and if that is the case, we’re in for a very bankable 2013 because everything on Fantasea is right on the money.
19. NO DOUBT “Push & Shove”
It’s been a long time coming but the return of seminal 90’s pop-rock band No Doubt is a somewhat massive occasion. 2011 saw the return of Courtney Love’s fronted Hole, and the first half of 2012 brought us the re-emergence of another seminal 90’s pop-rock band, Garbage. In an age where the Women of Rock are given the cold-shoulder by music fans, it’s refreshing to see Rock Chick’s like Love, Manson and now Stefani returning to the forefront – where they belong.
No Doubt’s sixth studio album, their first in almost 10 years, not only marks a 26 year anniversary of the band but is also an exciting trip into the adventurous musical world of No Doubt. First single “Settle Down” took the band into 6-minute raggamuffin territory (a place the band have become incredibly comfortable with over the years) but still managed to reign the sound in so that it felt like something from 2012. “Looking Hot”, Single number 2 and rightly so; is the best jam No Doubt have recorded for this record and Gwen has never sounded better. A killer, punchy chorus that comes tapped with Stefani urgently coo-ing and aah-ing her “oh, Oh, OH’s” which, in turn, make for the absolute highlight of the album. Title track “Push & Shove” is a Balearic bassline that trumps through its flaw-free verses before slamming itself into a minimalist guitar-driven nod to Dubstep. The song also houses the record’s best lyric (“Just when you think it’s over, we be on another level like we doin’ Yoga”) and the album’s best middle-8 by a long shot. The freshest and most forward-thinking song No Doubt have on here; and perhaps would have been a better first single choice.
All in all, the return of No Doubt in 2012 has really been one to celebrate. The album is full of hit singles and classic No Doubt mid-to-low-tempo numbers (such as career highlight “Dreaming the Same Dream”); it’s also the album that clearly identifies exactly where Gwen Stefani belongs as an artist, sounding a lot more comfortable and at-ease across this record than she did at any stage on her previous solo effort.
18. T.E.E.D. “Trouble”
Orlando Higginbottom’s debut album “Trouble” is a thick, generous offering of subdued club and house beats with tinges of acid, Detroit techno, progressive house, euphoric trance, and even a splash of Hot Chip influence for good measure; particularly in the way Orlando lays down his vocals for the bulk of the tracks on Trouble.
An incredibly accomplished record (particularly for a debut), the greatest cuts on Trouble are the ones which lend themselves the most to the dance floors of the 1990′s. “Tapes & Money” sounds like it’s come right off the club circuit in Ibiza circa-1993, as does the stunning “Your Love”, which sees Higginbottom team up vocally with a bona-fide 90′s vocal-house diva, burning down the proverbial building with one of the most electrifying moments in dance music this year. Songs like “Panpipes” – a trip into minimalist house – and “You Need Me On My Own” all take T.E.E.D. into a world full of softer-paced beats-per-minute, but it’s really the slammin’ techno of jams like the epic “Closer” or the captivating “American Dream Part II”, both of which may be Trouble’s most colourful, exciting and envelope-pushing moments, fusing 1970′s disco with banging spheres of techno, minimalist and acid house.
The interesting thing about Trouble is that, lyrically, this is primarily a record about love and, in most cases, love that is unrequited. What better way to deal with those issues than with two feet firmly placed on the dance floor.
17. ICONA POP “Icona Pop”
Sweden’s Icona Pop surprised Australian radio audiences this year with the frighteningly good “I Love It”, a song that peaked at Number 6 on the ARIA singles chart – quite the feat when you consider this Swedish duo have not exactly released anything before in our country – and was one of the few Top 10 hits this year to actually be deserving of its placement. The album is an pulsating collection of electropop, house and indie-pop, and instant charmers like “Wanna B With Somebody”, singles “Sun Goes Down” and “Manners” all do a damn good job of solidifying exactly why Icona Pop are one of the most talked about acts of 2012.
The saddest thing about Icona Pop’s debut is the inclusion of “Nights Like This”, a song that was bettered when the band mashed it up with Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” for a 2011 release and called it “Nights Like Bonita” – the track on its own is a mish-mash of ideas that doesn’t really translate into anything beyond a decent Crystal Castles xerox, but the aforementioned Madge-up takes the song to places never thought possible. Chances are the sample couldn’t get cleared in time for the album release – just an assumption – but if you can I’d highly suggest you investigate it. Swapping them around in iTunes is not that big of a task, and luckily the remains of Icona Pop’s debut is brim-full of instant pop hooks and clever choruses.
16. AMANDA LEAR “I Don’t Like Disco”
Salvador Dali’s former muse Amanda Lear has been recording music in her homeland of France since 1977, making “I Don’t Like Disco” her 22nd studio album affair. The record, which lends itself strikingly to the much-loved Italo Disco movement (which really took european dance floors by storm particularly through the 1980′s with artists like Fancy and Bobby Orlando) and intertwining it with modern-day EDM. Everything from Lear’s raspy English-as-a-second-language accent to the larger-than-life production made this one of the most played records of 2012 for me.
“What A Surprise” is a kicky pop-dance hybrid with a snappy chorus and seductive lyrics, then there’s the twisted, dark and complicated key progression of the sinister “Money Money” which shifts the record into darker territory, all before launching into the Cascada-esque dub cut, “You’re Mad.” The no-bullshit pop moments like “I Need Silence” – which sounds like it could have been originally sung by Fancy himself – and spellbinding album closer “Chinese Walk” (complete with some very interesting lyrics) take the cake as Disco’s biggest, brightest beacons of light, connecting thundering Italo key progression with some of the darkest, thickest techno beats you’ve heard in pop this year.
That combined with Lear’s unique vocal prowess leaves you with one of the most beautifully composed records of 2012.
Here is a playlist of about 55 tracks comprised of 100% Ace Pop that is – mostly – from 2012. Let’s have a look at some of the songs on this Very Good Playlist Even If I Do Say So Myself. If the above widget isn’t working (or is curiously not displaying 55 tracks) then point your browser hurr.
PURPLE CRUSH – Basic Bitch
Brooklyn duo Purple Crush are a big favourite of mine. Their 2011 EP “Welcome 2 The Underground” was one of my most played last year and, if I ever decide to finish my 2011 year round-up’s, a number of songs (including this one) feature throughout that end of year songs list. You should also take a gander at their excellent homage to Madonna’s “Reductive” moment from earlier in the year and also their GREAT cover of Fischerspooner’s “Emerge.” One of the brightest emerging acts (ho ho!) in Pop.
FLORRIE – Shot You Down / To The End / Every Inch
Florrie, as featured in my fun new banner next to Queen Madonna, has released what is by far-and-away the most exciting bunch of pop songs of her career. The frantic soundscapes of “Shot You Down”, to the no-prisoners rave-up of “Every Inch”, to the monumental “To The End” – her defining moment – Florrie is a properly amazing pop star and with each release she trumps herself greatly.
MADONNA – Gang Bang / I’m Addicted / Love Spent / I Don’t Give A
How different a campaign Madonna’s “MDNA” would have been with “I’m Addicted”, the superior dance moment, as its lead single. “I’m Addicted” is the best, freshest thing Benny Benassi’s produced since “Satisfaction” and could have given Madonna the club-pop crossover hit she deserved with this album. Even the Nicki Minaj feature “I Don’t Give A” would have made for a better, more striking first single than “Give Me All Your Luvin’”, which – all things considered – failed to do what it should have for Madonna on the charts because it was the wrong single. The singles should have played out with “I’m Addicted” as the first, “I Don’t Give A” as the second, “Gang Bang” as the controversial third and “Love Spent” as the albums final single. “Love Spent” is one of the most underrated Madonna songs in a very long time; the fact that it contains two completely different choruses has seemingly been lost on its critical detractors. It’s also the most lyrically vulnerable song on the album. And the thing that I love the most about “Gang Bang” is its obvious tribute to that iconic early 2000′s German Hard Trance sound. People teetered with German techno from the 90′s but nobody has really taken direct inspiration from that truly golden era of early millennium rave and that is something Madonna needs to be commended for. The song itself is a little like Madonna doing Neils Van Gough’s stadium-rave anthem “Pulverturm“, but with a lot more vitriol and anger. It’s also the most experimental and forward-thinking thing Madonna’s done since the American Life record and is said to be the final single from the MDNA era.
VAN GO LION – Glow
Portland duo Van Go Lion are another of my big favourites from 2011. This song in particular encapsulates everything brilliant about their pop songs and their “Body Moves” EP from last year is something worth chasing up. Big things coming for them in 2012.
VAN SHE – Sarah / Coconuts / Radio Waves I & II / We Move On
“Sarah” is Van She’s big Fleetwood Mac moment from their incredible sophomore album “Idea of Happiness.” Vocally Nick hasn’t sounded better and on a production front this is their grandest moment to date. A massive review of this excellent album is on the way, I just have to get it right y’know? There’s a lot to say about an album as good as this one, and the other four tracks amongst this playlist that are lifted from the record are a great sample of what to expect when you eventually invest and Buy The Album.
PET SHOP BOYS – A Certain “Je Ne Sais Quoi”
I’m not the biggest fan of PSB’s new single “Winner” but this B-Side is where the money is at. Non-apologetic classic Pet Shop Boys pop. How Very.
GOSSIP – Move In The Right Direction
After “Heavy Cross (Fred Falke Remix)”, this is the Gossip at their very best. A stomping pop song with Xenomania on production credits – not exactly a terrible fusion is it? And the album “A Joyful Noise” delivers exactly what it says it does on the tin.
ICONA POP – I Love It
Imagine if this had been the new Veronicas single instead of “Lolita”? Get this on Australian radio at once.
MARINA & THE DIAMONDS – Lonely Hearts Club / Teen Idle / Valley Of The Dolls / Fear & Loathing
Marina’s “Electra Heart” is one of 2012′s best records and these four songs are a great slab of the cream of the crop to be lifted from it. “Lonely Hearts Club” sounds like it’s been ripped right out of a 1980′s Molly Ringwald movie, “Teen Idle” is pretty much the most incredible thing Marina has ever penned, “Valley Of The Dolls” is eerie with its end-of-the-world talk and Illuminati undertones therefor making it one of the most interesting and captivating pop creations of the year, and then there’s “Fear & Loathing” which, funnily enough, seems to follow similar themes. A full (and completely schizophrenic – you’ll understand what I mean when it goes online), rather lengthy piece reviewing this complexly wonderful album is on the way.
LADY GAGA – Scheiße
Shoulda been a single, my god. The best moment during Gaga’s epic Born This Way Ball.
NO DOUBT – Settle Down
I am here for this song and comeback, yes I am. This is 6 minutes of bliss.
WILLAM BELLI & FRIENDS – Let’s Have A KaiKai / Love You Like A Big Schlong / Chow Down / The Vagina Song
The break-out controversial star from RuPaul’s Drag Race and literally every TV show ever created is also one of the best pop stars to come from the series. Willam’s update on the Scissor Sisters song “Let’s Have A KiKi” manages to outdo the original, her stunning tribute to Selena Gomez and Enormous Cocks is truly touching, her collaboration with Vicky Vox & Detox, a take off-of Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” that lyrically pays tribute to Chick-Fil-A Chicken, is Current, and of course “The Vagina Song” which really speaks for itself. I am a proud Willam Belli Stan and I will not Rupologise for it.
CASSIE – Queen Of Hearts
How has this not been the biggest Urban single of 2012?
LANA DEL REY – Off To The Races / Blue Jeans (Kris Menace Mix) / This Is What Makes Us Girls / Radio
I had the honour of seeing Lana live a couple of weeks ago and then the extended pleasure of meeting her afterwards (Full review with photos incoming) and I can’t get her out of my mind. “Born To Die” is obviously the album of the year and the tracks I’ve picked from the record for this playlist don’t even do the majesty of the whole record justice. If you haven’t yet, then you should. Lana is EVERYTHING.
ROGUE TRADERS – Girl In Gold
This flawless tribute to Deborah Harry is a truly lost gem from the Rogue Traders incredible final album “Night Of The Living Drums.” Second only to “In Love Again” as the bands finest creation.
SANTIGOLD – Pirate In The Water / Fame
Santi’s new album “Master of my Make-Believe” is a revelation, but these two tracks in particular are the records biggest slabs of self-assured Jamaican-tinged punk-pop. “Pirate In The Water” is the lighter pop moment but “Fame” is the lyrical clencher.
THE PRESETS – Youth In Trouble (Green Velvet Remix)
This incredible remix of an already bonza dance song from Australia’s very own is hopefully a nice example of the kind of anti-radio dance music the band started out creating. In its original form, “Youth In Trouble” is this acid-house rave explosion that is exactly the kind of rave I want to be hearing in 2012 and exactly the kind of rave Australian radio weren’t expecting from the boys. An inspired club-cut.
SNEAKY SOUND SYSTEM – Really Want To See You Again
Connie & Angus bat it completely out of the park once again. Lifted from my favourite Album of 2011.
SANDRA BERNHARD – Perfection
I’m not entirely sure what this electro-infused Chicks On Speed-esque dance bomb is all about but it came on at the end of Sandra’s excellent stand-up album “Everything Bad & Beautiful” and I just had to share it.
KATHY GRIFFIN – I’ll Say It
The theme-song from Kathy’s new talk show is all kinds of fun and literally makes Carrie Underwood completely redundant. Bitch bye! There’s a MIAMI MIX (!!!!!!) on its way too which you can hear in this video of Kathy & Gloria Estefan singing it together on stage. Amazing.
The playlist also features songs by Muscles, Azealia Banks, The Saturdays, Garbage, iamamiwhoami, Justin Bieber, Queen of Hearts, Loreen, Ricki-Lee, Nicki Minaj, Kylie Minogue, RuPaul and Jessica 6. Each month (or so) I’ll attempt to create a new playlist to share with you on the blog; let me know what you think!