Part 3 of 5 – Ahoy, let’s go!
15. ONE DIRECTION “Take Me Home”
Amongst the toothbrush and toothpaste lines, the pillows and bed-spreads, the live-action dolls and all of those gay rumours, sits a sophomore album by a boyband that is at least 20% better than their debut.
“Take Me Home” is a busy record of seventeen tracks; if there were maybe six or seven less songs on here, we’d probably be dealing with a better album and a higher entry. To stay in line with the billions of screaming teenage girls (and teenage gays) following their every move and fantasing about them by their bedside of an evening, songs like “Last First Kiss” – the kind of song that makes Girls Aloud’s “Beautiful Cause You Love Me” sound like a song about murder and rape by Metallica – “Summer Love” and the so-generic even Rita Ora would cringe “Still The One” (which is the only of the four bonus tracks that belong as such) play along as boring, generic filler amongst some of the best pop tracks written in 2012. Even the faster-paced but legitimately boring Katy Perry co-write (and, presumably, a song she wanted nothing to do with) “Rock Me” – whose intro sounds like it was ripped right off of Katy’s “E.T.” song-sheet – plays out like an evening with a dud lover. “I Would”, the McFly penned song on the album, shines predominantly as the records absolute highlight and lends to the idea that, for album number three, there should be a LOT more Danny Jones/Tom Fletcher writing action rather than that of Ed Sheeran or Rami Yacoub. From the material on this record and the way One Direction sing together, it seems like a no-brainer that McFly as a writing team know exactly what One Direction should be singing about and what they should sound like. It’s a right pity they only get the one song on Take Me Home; a handful more could have propelled this record into the higher end of the Top 10, rather than sitting just inside the Top 20. Then there’s the singles “Live While We’re Young” and ballad “Little Things”, the latter which is probably their best ballad to date, but that’s not really saying that much now is it?
Take Me Home is a – mostly – great record with a few off-colour moments. Album number #2 seems like a bridge between the generic boyband pop from their first LP (“Live While We’re Young” is great but could have easily come from that debut) and a slightly older, fresher sound – the kind, for example, McFly have given them. I honestly think One Direction have a truly amazing and flaw-free album ahead of them in the future – and although Take Me Home remains amazing, there are flaws to be found throughout it; flaws we could have avoided if management had thought a little harder about where they’d be sourcing sounds. A boyband like this aren’t necessarily expected to take any risks but I honestly think that’s what a lot of us were hoping would happen for Album #2 and it just didn’t. Good enough to land the band this high on the countdown (last year they barely scrapped the Top 20) but still not quite Perfect.
14. TAME IMPALA “Lonerism”
Sometimes it’s hard to stay away from the hype, particularly when it lives up to its acclaim. Tame Impala’s beginnings were a lot humbler than they are now – gone are the days of their early interviews, where the band sat as a group of teenagers who’d been thrust into the limelight with little-to-no media training. Their debut album Innerspeaker lit the world alight, but it wasn’t until the arrival of Lonerism in 2012, a bizarre trip into psychedelic rock and pop that solidified them as the world’s latest Modular Records darlings.
Talking about the creation of the album, lead vocalist and producer Kevin Parker says “I surrendered to temptation and desire to make an album that is really fucked up. But I also have a desire to sound like Britney Spears, I love pop music and bad plastics. On the one hand this album is weird and fucked up, but on the other hand it’s very pop.” And it’s this, perhaps, that makes Lonerism all the more interesting. The production is weird and fucked up, and it’s as close to ‘Britney Spears’ as the band have ever been but that said, Tame Impala are still a rock band, and it shows through most of Lonerism. It’s exciting to think that a band with the reputation they have amongst “real music listeners” has gone into the creation of a record thinking about Britney Spears.
Naturally the commercial viability of Tame Impala is stronger than ever on Lonerism too, even if the construction of songs in this collection are as far away from your standard pop song as possible. Synths and chords in the verses play out like choruses, whilst choruses sound like they could be verses; it’s almost as if Tame Impala have niched themselves as the indie-world’s answer to Xenomania. And whether intentionally or not, Parker sounds more like John Lennon than he ever has before (see album highlight “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, which sounds exactly like what The Beatles would sound like were they still recording in 2012 and using modern technology to do so,) adding perhaps a little bit more to the ‘plastic’ sheen Parker sought in creating the record.
But it’s the immediate connection and playability of first single “Elephant” – one of the songs of the year that borrows more from 1970’s Glam Rock than it does psychedelic rock from the 50’s and 60’s and is exactly where the band’s future lies. The incredible synths, the bizarre construction (where is the chorus?! Is that the chorus?! Or is that the verse?! WHAT’S GOING ON) and the sleek production – those bad plastics coming into effect, perhaps – it’s hard not to listen to Lonerism and find yourself sucked in by all of the magic.
13. GARBAGE “Not Your Kind of People”
It’s been seven years since the last Garbage record, 2005′s mainly great Bleed Like Me, and a lot has changed in the rock landscape since Shirley Manson and the Boys were filling up radio playlists and knocking out chart-topping hits. For starters, there aren’t many Women who Rock quite like the likes of Shirley. Women like Shirley Manson, Kathleen Hanna and even Courtney Love do not necessarily exist on radio playlists anymore, but Garbage’s wireless-ready return is a triumphant landmark in the bands always enthralling back catalogue.
The albums first singles “Battle In Me” and “Blood for Poppies” are a mild-glimpse into the gems across the record, but it seems a little baffling that its best song was offloaded as a free promotional internet download. The most exciting of all the songs on on Not Your Kind of People is the long player’s opener, the magnetic “Automatic Systematic Habit.” A thumper of a production that fuses all of the bands favourite sounds; it’s complete rock with this throbbing synth that glides through like a jackhammer come the chorus. One of the most forward-thinking moments to come from the band since their sophomore record and what appears to be a hugely wasted opportunity. The next single, “Big Bright World”, marks track two on the album and coincidentally is also People’s second best moment. Starting off as a ballad complete with a glittery shower-of-synths, the song then explodes into yet another radio-ready pop-rock moment. The final 35 seconds are classic Garbage too. The big ballads that follow are the tender “Beloved Freak” (spot the amazing use of another song in this tracks final 45 seconds – truly magical) and “Sugar”, the latter in which Manson declares with a seductive whisper “I don’t need much on my plate just give me Sugar.” The former is more arms-aloft-with-a-lighter rather than arms-down-the-pantaloons, but both make for gorgeous ballads nonetheless. Even the record’s bonus tracks works as killer, not filler, particularly “The One” which could very well have not only been a major album track but possibly even a single.
All up Garbage offer us a 15-track-record that somehow manages to supply (very nearly almost) non stop goods from beginning to end. Not bad for a band going 18 years strong.
12. THE PRESETS “Pacifica”
The Presets have long been a necessary staple in most of our CD racks. There was certainly mild success beforehand, but things reached a fever-pitch in 2008 when the boys released the confronting Apocalypso. One of the greatest albums of its year, the record spawned a mass of singles that commercial radio ate up. Hearing a song originally written about detention centres that has now become a pseudo teen-rebellion/Gen Y anthem on the radio was about 500 shades of brilliant, but perhaps not so much as the gender-bending radio hits “This Boy’s in Love” and “If I Know You”, which were an incredibly welcome surprise on Australian radios. So – album number three. It’s been four years since the whirlwind truly began with the release of their last LP and the anticipation for the arrival of this one has been global. So have Kim and Julian mastered yet another album of legendary proportions and, more importantly, is Pacifica as good as its predecessor? Well, it may be a little too early to tell as they are two very different records, but it’s definitely up there, perhaps on equal par.
Hear Julian channel Chris Isaac on the eerily beautiful “It’s Cool”, or the stadium-trance of album highlight “Fall” which plays out like “This Boys’ In Love” version 2.0. But the most interesting moment on Pacifica is the bizarre “A.O.”, where you’ll hear Julian singing about the “concrete crime” and corrupt nature of the city of Sydney. A massive Paul Kalkbrenner moment; very minimal but with this demonic thud of a beat. And just when you think you’ve probably heard the best song on the album, “Fast Seconds” comes along and rips your brain, ears and soul apart. Confrontingly hard techno that seeps its way into the pineal gland. Even The Carpenter’s get a nod on Pacifica’s album closer “Fail Epic”, which sounds like it’s been heavily influenced by “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”, which is really not a bad place to take an album closer at all now is it?
Whether or not the record is actually better than its predecessor Apocalypso is almost irrelevant. Here we have two incredibly talented Australian-bred men who have grown a considerably amount in the last four years between records. There is almost a polar opposite in some cases not only lyrically but vocally to what is happening on Pacifica and what happened on Apocalypso. Just as Beams, their debut, delivered this exciting band of promise with twisted pop music that was almost on the insanity levels of Walt Disney’s Fantasia, they’ve once more continued with that similar mentalist fairy-tale soundtrack. Except their ones just happen to often come with a four-by-four beat. And you know what the best thing about the whole album is? It’s only 10 tracks long; the perfect length for a record. All killer, no filler.
11. RICKI-LEE “Fear & Freedom”
Ricki-Lee really didn’t get enough credit across the blogging world for this absolute pearl of an album. The first stroke of genius was making the record no longer than 10 tracks in length; some of the most perfect albums of all time house between 9 and 12 tracks in total and that is generally the first key to ensure your record is all killer, no filler. With her third foray into the album world, Fear & Freedom, Ricki-Lee has birthed one of the most honest, refreshing and enjoyable pop records of the year. Everything from the track-length to the pristine production spread across these ten tracks; this is exactly how a pop star in her element should sound.
This is also the very first time we’ve heard Ricki-Lee sound so assured, this confident and this frank on record as well. First single “Raining Diamonds” is as much of a revelation and immediate classic now as it was in 2011 when first released, and bonza-brilliant club-romper “Crazy” may just be the greatest high-octane moment on here – see also “World Disappears” for Ricki-Lee channelling her very big 1990′s dance-floor moment, which comes complete with a middle-8 ripped right out of the Alex Party handbook.
The exciting thing about this glorious album is that each track stands alone as a massive moment in the career of Ricki-Lee, a career highlight among an album full of career highlights.
The Presets are gearing up for the release of their third studio album Pacifica – their first since 2008′s phenomenally huge Apocalypso – with the release of a new single entitled “Ghosts.” So far we’ve had two very different slices of electronic music from the Sydney duo. The first track, the bonkers “Youth In Trouble”, is a hyperactive 1990′s rave-up that wouldn’t sound out of place amongst a playlist of Underworld’s greatest hits or Rollo & Sister Bliss remixes. It’s been a long time since dance music on a Global Scale has been executed as well “Youth In Trouble.” If you’ve yet to hear the track be patient, the production makes you work hard for your climactic rewards but once you’re there you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
From the massive, stadium-ready rave-build-up’s to the complete acid house production throwdown, this six and a half minute club romper is exactly the kind of rave I want to hear in 2012 and is exactly the kind of rave radio had no idea it would be forced to once again slot into their watered-down commercial radio formats. “Youth In Trouble” peaks (ho ho!) and reaches ultimate-rave climax in its final 90 seconds and has left me panting for more since its arrival in June. The anticipation has just gotten itself thicker, too.
The stark in contrast “Ghosts” is the complete opposite of a rave-up and sees Julian’s vocals teeter into Chris Martin territory - not a bad thing, particularly when you take into effect how solid Martin’s vocals actually sound backdropped against sledge-hammering basslines. But with “Ghosts” the band have really stepped out of the soundscapes they’re familiar with, providing a mid-tempo gallop complete with tinges of Blackbox and the KLF. This may not be the radio-ready anthem the commercial FM networks were hoping for from the boys but there’s definitely a lot more commercially viable about “Ghosts” than there is in “Youth In Trouble.”
PACIFICA is released through Modular Records on September the 7th, 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!