Tag Archives: Agnes

Top 11 Albums Of 2009

I don’t really have much to say about this list other than… ta-da! Here are my Top 11 Albums Of 2009!

This was the year of electro, the year of another Scandinavian invasion on my charts and where the only bloke on the list hides in the shadows of Elly Jackson’s quiff. It’s also the only year where I managed full-length reviews of all the entries on my list (not that this matters much to you, what with Teentoday’s archive being down) and it was the year I wondered what the hell to do with The Fame Monster… and I’m still not entirely satisfied with the result!

1.            Florence and the Machine – Lungs
Weird, wild and wonderful, flame-haired Florence Welch could well be the Kate Bush of the Noughties. Lungs positively glitters with songs as dark and rich as the finest chocolate fudge cake, whilst her enigmatic Machine provide backing instrumentation with more layers than you’d wear to brave the British winter. But beneath all this Gothic polish lie tunes that are just unmistakably excellent, made all the more wondrous considering this is a debut album (Cosmic Love may even be my track of the year). The Twilight Saga only wishes it was this epic. Let yourself be sucked into Florence’s whirlwind world and you won’t regret it.

2.         Agnes – Dance Love Pop
Recording pure straight-up pop music sometimes seems like it’s something to be ashamed of in these climes. Thankfully, not so in Scandinavia. Agnes’ Dance Love Pop does exactly what it says on the tin, with a smile on its face throughout, and is totally unabashed about doing so. Think 80s Whitney at her best (and Agnes’ vocals are just as immaculate) with that trademark sprinkle of Scandipop magic and you’re halfway there. These are pop songs so solid they might survive nuclear war.

3.            Alcazar – Disco Defenders
Other acts get to their third studio albums making noise about progression and change of style. Alcazar just get on with doing what they do best – making pop songs catchier than chickenpox with choruses bigger than some entire songs whilst wearing the tackiest outfits they can (and sometimes can’t) get away with. What’s more, despite line-up changes that even the Sugababes might shirk at (as yet, even they haven’t tried to add then remove boyfriends from the band), Disco Defenders manages to be their strongest album yet, with hit after hit walloping you around the face with shimmering shimmying brilliance. Burning sees Alcazar hit the clubs, specially-designed dance routine in tow, Inhibitions sees them take on a delicious guitar riff or two and Put The Top Down has them doing a summer cruise, deflecting UV rays with stellar pop choruses. Fabulous.

4.         Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
Forget her status as tabloid fodder. Forget the outspoken interviews and the paparazzi shots of her looking wasted. It’s Not Me, It’s You proves that Lily Allen was born to be a pop star – and makes the news that she’s taking a break from music look all the more bleak. Who’d Have Known, Chinese and I Could Say are feather-light ditties that make the everyday sound beautiful; Back To The Start, Everyone’s At It and The Fear are pure choons with emotional/topical clout. With a dash of wit here and a pinch of profanity there, plus that trademark singing style that would sound stupid with anyone else, it’s unmistakeably and unapologetically Allen – and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Come back soon, Lil!

5.         Lady Gaga – The Fame Monster
I umm-ed and ahh-ed about The Fame Monster’s inclusion in this chart for days. Strictly speaking, it’s a re-release. But it’s just so good. But it’s only eight tracks long! But it is just SO good. And so here The Fame Monster finds itself, only eight tracks long but my, what an eight tracks they are. Eight tracks that are better than most twelve-track albums and represent Gaga’s near-complete mastery of the pop genre (not content with throwing the kitchen sink at the deliciously frantic production of Telephone, even Beyonce turns up for the ride!). Watching Gaga’s next move should prove fascinating (with Speechless finally showing she can turn her hand to a decent heartfelt ballad) yet The Fame Monster, in all its rah-rah-rah-ing glory, will do just perfectly for now, thanks very much.

6.         The Saturdays – Wordshaker
Since this album plummeted down the charts, The Saturdays backlash has already started (and spare me from the hilarity of those oh-so-witty Flopgo and One Last Shot puns please). In my eyes though, The Saturdays have nothing to be ashamed of (bar the PR who pulled our competition for mentioning their live performance record is a little dodgy) – five girls easy on the eyes and ears whose songs are high-gloss pop. Upping the fierce factor from the mostly saccharine Chasing Lights results in an album that’s a lot more listenable; Lose Control, Ego, Open Up and One Shot are all rambunctious robust tunes with more than enough hooks to withstand a few rounds in the ring with their greatest critics.

7.         Ashley Tisdale – Guilty Pleasure
I don’t believe in the concept of guilty pleasures for music (in my opinion, if you love a song, you love it and there’s no need to be ashamed whatever Q says – apart from the Crazy Frog that is…) but I do understand where Tisdale’s sophomore album title is coming from. For those whose usual preference is bands with guitars, beards, independent record labels and self-penned (usually shit) lyrics, then any sniff of this Disney queen near their record collection would be something to feel guilty about – yet I’ve seen just those types start humming along shiftily once they’ve lost themselves to a few of these fairly immaculate renderings of pop-rock at its finest. An endless series of catchy choruses sung with gusto, it’s like the kid sister of a Katy Perry album (if One Of The Boys had actually been much good).

8.         VV Brown – Travelling Like The Light
VV Brown may be more famous for her style, her press ubiquity or her Twitter breakdowns, yet Travelling Like The Light showed she at least deserved to be just as well-known for her music. You won’t find many debut albums with more energy (or that kick off proceedings with a manic bawl) and from start to finish, VV rarely let’s up. Her brand of doo-wop pop is a little rough round the edges yet in a year saturated by electropop, it sounded fresh exciting and pretty unique too, whilst Travelling Like The Light (the song) showed Brown could tackle silky smooth slowies too. Surely you’ve gotta have a little bit of love for an artist that sprinkles old-school Nintendo bleeps in her songs?

9.         Nerina Pallot – The Graduate
You won’t find this album in many ‘Best Of 2009’ lists – in fact, you’ll struggle to find many reviews of The Graduate at all – yet more fool everyone, because this album is almost as quietly brilliant as the album that was meant to launch her to mainstream success, 2006’s Fires. Pallot has a beautifully understated voice and a dangerously good talent for banging out quality songs (she’s now writing for the likes of Kylie and Diana Vickers). Just as adept at a radio-friendly uptempo (Real Late Starter, I Don’t Want To Go Out) as a heart-stoppingly gorgeous ballad (It Starts, Everything’s Illuminated), Pallot could well be pop’s best-kept secret. Until we let you in on it, that is.

10.            Shakira – She-Wolf
So the current craze for all things electro reached Columbia too. South America’s finest (legal) export manages to successfully meld her international influences with Pharrell’s pulsating beats and some excellent disco hooks to produce one of the year’s tightest albums. As ever, Shakira’s unique bleat and barmy lyrics prove as much as a draw as the tunes themselves – who else would manage to name-check Matt Damon (the whirling insanity of Men In This Town), compare herself to a coffee machine (the delicious disco of She-Wolf) and impersonate an airport tannoy welcoming you to Hell (the rollicking rock licks of Mon Amour) all on one album?

11.       La Roux – La Roux
La Roux have a sound and by God, they’ve stuck to it. Their debut album sees them glide glacially on the good ship Electro (what they’ll do when that’s no longer in vogue remains to be seen), with some absolutely major tunes along the way. The absolute relentlessness of those beats and Elly Jackson’s Marmite vocals ensure that it never manages too many repeated spins on my record player but these are choruses so insistently effective that just one listen does the trick. Cover My Eyes, meanwhile, goes against the odds to prove that an electro-ballad (even with choir) is not only possible, but positively brilliant.

Top 11 Singles Of 2009

So I decided to save my rant on why great songs aren’t necessarily great singles for my Top 11 Singles Of 2009.

This is because Paloma Faith’s New York (a big favourite of the Teentoday audience) has been kicked off in favour of Ke$ha’s Tik Tok, and she doesn’t even make the nearly but not quites either. Whilst I still stick by my original comments that New York is ‘a ballad that just leaves all others trailing in its jewel-studded wake, with an old-fashioned sweeping majesty to it’, I don’t think it’s one of the best singles of the year. This is because its true home is not as a three minute blast of brilliance on your mp3 player, or a three minute blaze of glory sandwiched between Fearne Cotton’s squeals on the radio, yet instead cocooned in the loveliness of Faith’s whole (very good) album instead. New York is a lovely song, but it’s even lovelier surrounded by Faith’s other work – a sign of a great cohesive album and therefore nowt to be ashamed of.

This is why listing the best singles, as opposed to simply the best songs, of the year appeals (for the more mundane, practical reasoning, see here). For a song to be an amazing single, it has to stand on its own feet and sound just as brilliant in isolation as it does next to its fellow album fodder. It has to have some spark to it that makes it instantly intangibly incredible but also enough about it to do the business in the long term, when you’re casting your mind back to the year’s greatest moments. It has to blaze and burn so brightly that you want to experience it repeatedly, over and over again, preferably as soon as humanely possible.

And so that’s why, sorry Paloma love, you missed out. But don’t fear, here’s eleven other such blasts of 2009’s brilliance instead.

1.         Release Me – Agnes (3)
Right from the strings intro that signals ‘classic in the making’ through the stompy power-walk verses to the majesty of the perfectly-crafted chorus, Release Me shows every sign of being a song whose power will remain undimmed for the next few decades. Agnes’ powerhouse vocals combine with typical Scandi song-making genius for our single of the year. A diva is born.

2.         Party In The USA – Miley Cyrus (11)
This song sounds like summer distilled into three and a half minutes of head-nodding, arm-waving, grin-inducing happiness. With a chorus like that, the Dr Luke production credit is a no-brainer yet the country twang and full-throated charm of the song is all Miley’s own. Just hearing those few opening strums on a guitar is enough to make me smile… and that’s before she’s even mentioned the Britney song being on or not getting the memo that it ain’t a Nashville party. Glorious. And half of it doesn’t even bloody rhyme.

3.            Remedy – Little Boots (6)
Little Boots’ first single (and video) was a disappointment. Little Boots’ first album was a disappointment. Little Boots’ appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks was a disappointment. But for Remedy alone, we’re willing to forgive. Offering two choruses for the price of one, it’s a perfect marriage between RedOne’s addictive production and Boots’ electro sensibilities. Factor in the chilly charm of Boots’ vocals and you have an absolutely divine record.  Let’s just ignore the line about temptation calling like Adam to the apple, shall we…

4.         I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas (1)
If this was a list based on feelgood factor, I Gotta Feeling would be top of the pops. Not content with the basic brilliant building block of that clanging beat running through the whole track, the BEP keep chucking good thing after good thing at the song until it crescendos into dancefloor excellence. A perfectly encapsulation of the party spirit – just wait for the sing-along smiles and unhinged cries of ‘Mazel-tov!’ that sound when this comes on in a club and you really don’t need me to tell you how great it is.

5.            Battlefield – Jordin Sparks (11)
Many opted for Beyonce’s Halo as one of their songs of the year and whilst I do love the simple beauty of that song, Battlefield is like it’s more bombastic overblown underrated little sister (and once you’ve heard Glee’s mash-up of Halo with Walking On Sunshine, you’ll never hear Halo in quite the same way again). Ryan Tedder’s pulsating production? Check. Vocals set to belt? Check. Epic chorus? Check. Battlefield’s a complete blast from start to finish, with crashing percussion exploding all-around whilst Sparks bellows like a demented warrior about getting armour. An absolute beast of a song.

6.            Untouched – The Veronicas (8)
Somewhat fittingly given the current climate, this is a veritable snowstorm of a song. The haunting strings of the intro are so good they sound like they should be a sample, next comes anthemic hand-clapping, then the crash of guitars. And all that is just the introduction. Icy vocals avalanche from the Origliasso twins’ mouths at a thrill-inducing speed during the verses before segueing into a heart-stoppingly cracking chorus. All underscored by a strings motif so hypnotic that Mozart would be proud. A beautiful blizzard of a pop record.

7.         Poker Face/Bad Romance/ Paparazzi – Lady Gaga (1, 1, 4)
OK, we know this is kind of cheating but we simply couldn’t choose between Gaga’s hits. That she’s so low down the list is more a sign of her sheer ubiquity and consequent overplaying than anything. No artist has had quite as many strokes of genius as Stefani Germanotta this year so let’s hold a glass to the intoxicating ‘muh-muh-muhs’ of Poker Face, the unhinged ‘rah-rah-rahs’of Bad Romance and the dark electro throb of Paparazzi (check out the Demo Mix btw, it’s awesome). My favourite: The dark theatricality of Bad Romance. It could well be remembered as the sound of the noughties. No small feat for an artist that has only appeared in the last year.

8.         Boys & Girls – Pixie Lott (1)
Those Mark Ronson horns sound mighty familiar yet let’s face it, originality isn’t the key here. It’s bold, it’s brassy and it’s bloody catchy whilst Pixie’s pipes shine through as ever. Boys & Girls bursts with a youthful exuberance that we wish Lott would show a bit more often (she is a teenager, after all) and its pursuit of a fantastic chorus is relentless. ‘A good beat never hurt no-one’ indeed.

9.         Tik Tok – Ke$ha (4)
Tik Tok was all set to feature high on my 2010 list, before I looked it up and discovered it was actually released in November 2009. Oops. So here it is, in all its trashtastic glory – the song responsible for making an entire generation want to wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy. With vocals set somewhere between Amanda off Ugly Betty and vapid Valley girl, lyrics so intentionally ridiculous that you can’t help but go along with them (brushing teeth with Jack Daniels, kicking men to the curb that don’t look like Mick Jagger et al) and another hu-owge chorus from Dr Luke, Tik Tok makes the most of its (slightly grubby) charms. Unwashed, unfettered and unleashed – the party don’t start ‘til she walks in, after all!

10.       The Fear – Lily Allen (1)
Never has an artist’s tone been so completely at odds with their lyrical content. Allen has the feather-light voice of an angel but takes sharp stiletto stabs at society, with the odd swear-word thrown in for good measure. Zippy, beatific Greg Kurstin production disguises a succinct dissection of nearly everything that’s wrong with the decade, with lyrics like ‘I am a weapon of massive consumption’, ‘everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner’ and the naughty schoolgirl thrill of ‘But it doesn’t matter cos I’m packing plastic/and that’s what makes my life so fucking fantastic’. And let’s not forget the fact that Allen has an ear for a catchy tune as well – The Fear’s chorus is up with the best of them. Heady stuff.

11.       Beat Again – JLS (1)
Whoever thought that one of the best (nay… only) British boy bands we’d be left with at the end of the decade was courtesy of the previously-dodgy group category on X-Factor? The jury’s out on whether Beat Again is better than Everybody In Love (for my money, the latter is an amazing bridge and anthemic chorus missing memorable verses) but Beat Again must win on account of its ludicrous/brilliant dance routine. It involves JLS playing dead, for God’s sake! The song itself is a stuttery minimalist delight that ponders whether you’ll be attending their funeral (if you failed to give them ‘love CPR’, I imagine). JLS snatch the last place in the top 11, for keeping a straight face if nothing else.

Three nearly but not quites…
Good Girl Gone Bad – Cobra Starship & Leighton Meester, Bonkers – Dizzee Rascal, Bulletproof – La Roux