1: Adele – 21
Pop albums don’t require each musician to be a virtuoso. Simple parts on each instrument blended together elegantly and creatively does the trick. Along with amazing songs and an amazing singer. This album is one for the ages. I’m glad America caught on, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.
2: Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto
They can experiment around with all sorts of different sounds and STILL sound like Coldplay. That is the hallmark of a band that knows their identity. There are great songs here, and the production is so lush, if you listen with first class headphones, you’ll be lost in a three dimensional world for the duration.
3: Black Keys – El Camino
How is it that they sound so like they are plucked from the 70’s, but still sound like no one other than themselves? This album rocks and grooves. So simple, but so much depth to the recording at the same time. I dare you not to dance whereeveer you are as you listen to this album.
4: Parachute – The Way it Was
Whew! These guys have a lot of ambition for a little ol’ pop band! The instrumentation is top noth and surprising (Horn sections are yummy) and their lyrical storytelling goes deep. They don’t forget about great hooks though. How these guys didn’t cross over big with this album is a mystery to me.
5: Erasure – Tomorrow’s World
This album is why I keep buying their albums, after mildly disappointing me for about the past 3 or 4 albums, these two return with their strongest album in 15 years, and I dare say one of their best ever. They invented the “electro-euro-pop” thing before it took off in Europe, and then were largely left behind when it became the craze over there… on this album, Erasure shows they can still do the modern sounds better than he big boys, and still keep their own sound going at the same time.
6: Mayer Hawthorne – How Do You Do?
Do you like 60s and 70s soul? If you answered yes, rush out and get this album from the cheeky Hawthorne. Playing most everything himself, he is a real wunderkind… and while the instrumentation and the melodies sound like they could be straight out of an older era, the depth to the production is rich and modern, and the lyrics, if you listen close, are are curious blend of classic/current with a unique twisted wit.
7: Radiohead – King of Limbs
I still don’t know WHY I love Radiohead, but I do. There is no logical reason for it. I hate maturbatory random noodling without consistant structure… but evidently these guys do it right. Not my favorite album of theirs, but it sits about halfway in their very consistantly (and perplexing) brilliant oeuvre.
8: Florence & the Machine – Ceremonials
The detail to the mixing is so much clearer than her debut album, which lets one better stand in awe of her eclectic and ambitious instumentation which is still intact on her follow-up… but as impressive as it still is, I feel like she’s trying a little too hard for a hit all over the album… lyrically and melodically it’s a little bit too safe…
9: Matt Nathanson – Modern Love
A simple pop album with great songs, solid production, and leaves room for the singer’s personality to shine through. Probably not one for the ages, but in this current era where ALL personality is stomped out of mainstream pop artists, this is a worthwhile breath of fresh air.
10: Michael Buble – Christmas
The fact that this ranks as #10, means this is actually a disappointment. I LOVE Michael Buble. He’s a great stylist, and consistently gets the best arrangers and producers Big Band will allow. He was MADE to do a Christmas album…. but after a promising first half, the second half gets bogged down and boring… and one of the biggest mishaps is the reverse gender singing of “Santa Baby” as “Santa Buddy” which would be odd enough on it’s own, but is delivered with absolutely no sense of humor or whimsy… But there is enough good stuff on the album to make it worthwhile for any fans that for some reason didn’t already pick it up.