Tag Archives: lists

Through The Looking Glass’ Top 11 Posts of 2016

ttlg-top-posts-2016

Everyone loves end-of-year posts, right? Especially when they come, not at the end of the old year, but at the start of a new one!

So with my trademark lateness (and wish me luck with last year’s best dessert list hitting the blog before the end of 2017), here are TTLG’s most read posts of 2016:

1. Australia’s Next Top Model, Cycle 7
2. Hong Kong Murders: The Braemar Hill murders
3. Arcane restaurant review
4. The Intercontinental Hong Kong afternoon tea review
5. SK-II Facial Treatment Essence review
6. Skin Laundry facial review
7. Clinique Chubby Sticks in Two Ton Tomato, Mighty Mimosa & Pudgy Peony review
8. Mott 32 restaurant review
9. Lancome Blanc Expert Ultimate Whitening Hydrating Cream moisturiser review
10. Australia’s Next Top Model, Cycle 4
11.  Top 5 Desserts in Hong Kong 2015

It seems the key to being a popular post on my blog is to be an article written several years ago! Anyway, thanks as ever for reading and here’s hoping 2017 is a great year for us all.

Through The Looking Glass’ Top 11 Posts of 2015

rachttlg top posts 2015

Because I can never resist the urge to obsessively crunch some stats for the sake of an end-of-the-year post, here are TTLG’s most read posts of 2015:

1. Hong Kong Murders: The Braemar Hill murders
2. Clinique Chubby Sticks in Two Ton Tomato, Mighty Mimosa & Pudgy Peony review
3. Barbie: still the Best
4. Mott 32 restaurant review
5. Making a splash – the best hotel pool package in Hong Kong
6. SK-II Facial Treatment Essence review
7. FACESSS Hong Kong gets a makeover – Innisfree, Philosophy, Tony Moly and beauty brands galore hit LAB Concept!
8. Lancome Blanc Expert Ultimate Whitening Hydrating Cream moisturiser review
9. The best hand creams ever: Physiogel A1 Cream, Cetaphil Intensive Moisturising Cream & Herbacin Wuta Kamille Glycerine Hand Cream
10. MAC Stay Pretty Pro Longwear Blush & Sunny Seoul Cremesheen Lipstick review – think pink
11.  The Intercontinental Hong Kong afternoon tea review

A couple of other random best-of-the-years just because…

The best restaurant of 2015: Arcane
The best show of 2015: Singin’ In The Rain
The best nail polish of 2015: Chanel Mediterranee
The best afternoon tea of 2015: FINDS x GreenGate
The best facial of 2015: The Peninsula Spa Ultimate Aesthetic Treatment by Margy’s
The best dessert of… Oh look, I already did a list of the best desserts of 2015 here!

As ever, thanks for reading… and see you in 2016!

Through The Looking Glass’ Top 11 Posts of 2014

ttlg top 11 2014

Because not getting in on all this end-of-year list action would kill me, here are TTLG’s Most Read Posts of 2014:

1.  Hong Kong Murders: The Braemar Hill murders
2.  Clinique Chubby Sticks in Two Ton Tomato, Mighty Mimosa & Pudgy Peony review
3.  Barbie: still the Best
4.  SK-II Facial Treatment Essence review
5.  MAC Stay By Me Pro Longwear Blush & Coral Bliss Cremesheen Lipstick review – going coral cray-cray
6.  Lancome Blanc Expert Ultimate Whitening Hydrating Cream moisturiser review
7.  Innisfree Hand Cream Collection review
8.  MAC Stay Pretty Pro Longwear Blush & Sunny Seoul Cremesheen Lipstick review – think pink
9.  FACESSS Hong Kong gets a makeover – Innisfree, Philosophy, Tony Moly and beauty brands galore hit LAB Concept!
10.  Don’t wake me up…
11.  The Nail Library review – nailing it in Hong Kong!

ttlg 6 faves 2014

… And here’s six of my personal favourites that just missed out on being in the top eleven this year:

The one with the most hits for a restaurant review: Mott 32
The one that brought back my nail polish mojo: YSL Bleu Celadon
The one with ALL THE DESSERTS: ATUM Desserant
The one that fixed my hands: The Best Hand Creams Ever
The one where I was on The Crystal Maze (sort of): Freeing HK
The one that got my boyfriend’s hands on Buzzfeed: 7-Eleven Noodles

It’s been a great year guys *sniff sniff*; thanks SO much for reading and see you all in 2015!

Through The Looking Glass’ Top 11 Posts of 2013

rachttlg best of 2013

I love reading lists. I especially love reading end-of-year lists. But wait… a thought just struck me… instead of just reading everyone else’s best of lists, I could actually make my own!

So here are the Top 11 Posts of 2013 on Through The Looking Glass – according to the stats, like. (And the stats don’t lie, Shakira Shakira). 

1.  Barbie – still the Best
2.  Don’t wake me up… Nostalgia, 90s TV show reunions and feeling old
3.  Hong Kong Murders: The Braemar Hill murders
4.  Clinique Chubby Sticks in Two Ton Tomato, Mighty Mimosa & Pudgy Peony review
5.  SK-II Facial Treatment Essence review
6.  Lancome Blanc Expert Ultimate Whitening Hydrating Cream moisturiser review
7.  Cake That! (A stranger! From the outside! Oooh!)
8.  Essie Mint Candy Apple nail polish review
9.  Make-Up Miracles: Atorrege AD+ Medicated Acne Spots Treatment review
10.  The Beauty of Lilian Bassman
11.  Tan-tastic Pixar posters this way…

So… more beauty reviews, more pretty things and more reminiscing over the 90s has been duly noted. Thanks for reading folks, and see you in 2014!

Top 11 Albums Of 2010

When my Top 11 Albums Of 2010 was published on Teentoday, all I heard was abuse from bitter Wanted fans angry that I didn’t give their beloved boys the top spot. One claimed this list was ‘the biggest pile of shite I’ve read in years’, which is always a delight to read when you’ve spent weeks slaving over something. That The Wanted weren’t number one was no fault of their own – one of the strongest unashamedly pop UK boy band albums in recent memory, as anyone who actually read my mini review would have found out – but down to the intense competition that 2010 offered. Read on and, if you’re a Wanted fan, feel free to register yet more vehement disapproval here too…

Note: these write-ups are longer than usual because I didn’t do many proper album reviews in 2010. Enjoy!

1.            Robyn – Body Talk

This year, Robyn was the gift that kept on giving. Some artists struggled to get one great song on a full-length album, Robyn churned out 3 EPs with an almost annoyingly high hit rate – c’mon Carlsson, give everyone else a chance! Body Talk saw Robyn continue to hone her trademark of dancefloor heartbreak to perfection – we’ll be sobbing into our cocoa whilst simultaneously attempting to bust some moves to the likes of Dancing On My Own, Indestructible, Love Kills and Cry When You Get Older for many years to come. But mastery of one genre was not enough, as she managed to work her elusive magic on (take a deep breath) straight-up pop, clubby dance beats, minimalist electro, atmospheric melancholy, too-cool-for-school rap, a skittish Snoop Dogg duet, playful ska, emotion-laden orchestral numbers and, wait for it, even a Sweden folk song too. We’re out of breath just thinking about it, she seemed to barely break a sweat. An astonishing body of work, Body Talk cemented Ms Carlsson’s place as the one to beat. The number one spot was never in doubt.

2.         Tove Stryke – Tove Stryke

As if Robyn hadn’t bestowed us with enough treasures this year, here’s the best Robyn album that Robyn never made. Tove Stryke has the same innate sense of coolness, the same electro-dance-pop sensibilities and the same desire to chase an amazing beat at all costs. But what is uniquely hers? Sweet vocals, dreamy production and an album that feels like you’re floating amongst silvery clouds and shooting stars. A reverie of eleven quixotic tracks, it feels as light, fresh and airy as if it had been spun by fairies with cobwebs. But that makes it sound horrifically twee when in fact, it’s the perfect marriage between pulsating persistent beats and uplifting enriching melodies. The most gorgeous daydream you ever had eventually culminates in the power-pop explosion of White Light Moment, a dazzling diamond of a track that in some alternate reality has been number one for weeks on end. Tove Stryke makes you float away and never want to come back.

3.            Marina & The Diamonds – The Family Jewels

Is it Shakira? Catherine Zeta? Actually, her name’s Marina and being mentioned in the same breath as fellow Sound Of 2010 Ellie ‘hit the snooze button’ Goulding almost proved to be the kiss of death for Marina Diamandis as far as I was concerned. That and getting nine out of ten in NME, obviously. However, The Family Jewels turned out to be a rich decadent delight, a sumptuous medieval banquet, preferably with a giant succulent roast hog in the middle. In short, it’s anything but boring, anything but one-dimensional and anything but insular indie. Dodging every attempt to pigeonhole her, Diamandis hops, skips and jumps joyously between riotous pop (Girls, Oh No!), glittering Abba-esque choruses (Shampain), introspective baroque ballads (Obsessions, Numb) and pretty piano jaunts (I Am Not A Robot). The result? Whip-smart lyrics, highly palatable pop melodies and layer upon layer of glorious production combining to create an opulent ornate aural tapestry. Factor in Marina’s idiosyncratic vocals, pitched somewhere between Gwen Stefani’s gluey style, Kate Bush’s histrionics and Dory trying to speak whale in Finding Nemo, and you have an album that couldn’t possibly be made by anyone else.

4.         The Wanted – The Wanted

Frankly, I thought British pop groups had forgotten how to make albums this good. It’s not three good singles with ten tracks of filler tacked on. It’s not got one eye obviously desperately trained on breaking America. It’s not so desperate at wanting to seem “credible” that members are busting out acoustic guitars, song-writing credits and tales of how they aren’t really ‘pop’ at every possible opportunity. And as a result of being none of those things, it’s exactly what it should be – an unpretentious unabashed example of a polished pop album that’s actually more daring than most indie types could ever dream of. With a debut single as arrestingly ambitious as All Time Low, it should come as no surprise that The Wanted dart between genres with all the agility of someone playing Knock Down Ginger. The sweet melodies of Heart Vacancy, the swooping angst of Lose My Mind, the choral simplicity of Hi And Low, the infectious marching rhythms of Personal Soldier, the glossy punch of A Good Day For Love To Die, the menacing verses that make way for a superb sing-along chorus on Say It On The Radio… there are too many great moments to mention. Suffice to say, The Wanted comes sprinkled with as much creativity and colour as a five year-old topping her cupcakes with generous helpings of hundreds and thousands. The best boy band record in a long long time.

5.         Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite

After the oversexed and underpowered mish-mash of X, Kylie returned to claim her crown with this heavenly serving of exactly the sort of dance-pop she does best. Sounding like Fever’s guardian angel, never have synths sounded so easy or disco so effortless. With just one trademark Minogue swoon, she’ll have you smitten on tracks as beatifically breezy as All The Lovers and Can’t Beat The Feeling but keep those hotpants on-hand for irresistible calls to the dancefloor in the shape of Get Outta My Way and Put Your Hands Up. And just when you think you’ve second-guessed everything about this winsome wonder of an album, along comes the title track. Strutting and stomping its way onto the scene with the announcement that Kylie is ‘fierce and feeling mighty’, it’s a swaggering declaration of intent. Princess Kylie no more – only divine status will do. We had the ‘Goddess’ nametag ready all along.

6.         Miley Cyrus – Can’t Be Tamed

Loudly proclaiming that she ‘can’t be tamed’ and isn’t ‘your robot’, I think it’s safe to say Hannah Montana is all grown up. About time too. No longer content with all-too short bursts of brilliance (a la See You Again and Party In The USA), Can’t Be Tamed marks Cyrus’ most convincing attempt at proper pop stardom. Despite featuring one too many soldiers in the sweeping ballad contingent (the echo-ey My Heart Beats For Love and heartfelt cover of Every Rose Has Its Thorn are the best of the bunch), Can’t Be Tamed boasts some of the finest frothy electropop of 2010, be it the raging rap of Liberty Walk, the rocky drama of Scars, the divine blast of Permanent December or the best non-Swedish penned chorus of the year in Two More Lonely People. We could have done with a bit less Autotune (I’ve always enjoyed Cyrus’ distinctive drawl), but if this is the sound of Miley shaking off her Disney shackles, long may it continue.

7.         Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

There are people out there who will try to tell you that One Of The Boys is better than Teenage Dream. They are wrong. Whereas One Of The Boys was a wildly patchy debut with killer tracks that could be counted on one hand, Teenage Dream is a slightly less patchy sophomore effort with far more than its cotton-candy scented cover to recommend it. For those keen on the lurex-clad innuendo-spouting Perry, there’s a horrifically catchy song about cocks, the sunny bombastic beats of California Gurls and the feelgood sax solo and infamous ‘epic fail’ lyric of Last Friday Night. For those keen on the Perry who knows the meaning of words like ‘subtle’ and ‘nuanced’, there’s the golden-kissed swoons of Teenage Dream, Hummingbird Heartbeat and The One Who Got Away. And for those keen on the Perry who spurts pyrotechnics from her tits whilst making you feel better about yourself, there’s the Stargate-helmed uplift of Firework. In short, there’s a Perry for everyone and they’re almost all good. Apart from that angsty one with no tune obviously.

8.         Kelis – Flesh Tone

The last time we paid any attention to Kelis, she was bragging about her milkshake being the best in yard and screaming about how much she hated us right now. How times have changed. Pregnancy has tamed the tigress, instead leaving us with purring Kitty Kelis – albeit a kitten with a fondness for electro-synth rave-ups of the highest order. Flesh Tone is nine tracks of unrelenting beats that pound throb and thump you into submission, but in the gentlest way possible. There hasn’t been an album full of this much dancefloor euphoria since Madge’s Confessions (it even does the continuous mix thing), yet Flesh Tone has heart too. Put simply, ‘Without you, my life was acapella’ is one of the loveliest lyrics of recent times – and that’s just one of many completely captivating moments on this giddy triumph of a record. Who wants that milkshake now?

9.         Elin Lanto – Love Made Me Do It

Elin Lanto is one of those Scandipop stars who seems to be struggling to do the business charts-wise, yet keeps getting great songs regardless. Love Made Me Do It is solid pop bounty, half shiny sharp electro edges, half rough rocky ones, including the smitten eyelid-flutter of Tickles, the cocksure thrust and grind of Toy Boy, the Kylie-esque shimmy of My Favourite Pair Of Jeans and the 80s power-ballad melodrama of Give It All Up. Meanwhile, there are two tracks too stellar for the world not to be shouting from the mountains about. Funeral’s glittering melody, soaring chorus and delightful Swenglish lyrics about ‘dancing on your funeral’ are enough to make Abba proud whilst Love Made Me Stupid is an immaculately-crafted subversion of the typical pop song, detailing how love ‘made me mess up everything in my life’ (‘before I met you, everything was just fine’) with a chorus that socks it to you with a stunning slap in the face. Those pesky Swedes did it again.

10.       Take That – Progress

2010 was the year that someone woke up Take That. It seems that person was Robbie Williams. Everyone’s favourite man-band returned sans Williams in 2006 and quickly eased their way into producing safely soporific albums, albeit with an average of three complete epics along the way. Suddenly, Williams returns and they’re all synthesizers, keyboards and music you can dance to – and guess what? It’s brilliant. Producer of the year Stuart Price (also responsible for 2010’s offerings from Kylie, Scissor Sisters and Brandon Flowers) has whipped the group into a frenzy, where souped-up stadium pomp and stomp (SOS, Kidz, Underground Machine) trades blows with silky sinuous melodies (Wait, Happy Now) to spectacular effect. Elsewhere, Mark Owen tears his heart out for your listening pleasure on What Do You Want From Me, Jason Orange unearths a piece of blissed-out beauty on Flowerbed and Gary Barlow makes a last-gasp dash for his piano with the soft and affecting Eight Letters. Alongside the truly epic The Flood, that only makes for two Take That traditional ballads. To be honest, I could have done with just one or two more but the absence of a few lighters-aloft moments seems a small sacrifice to make. Genuinely exciting, invigorating and unexpected. Progress indeed.

11.            Animal – Ke$ha

Effective, efficient, instantaneous and easily disposable – no, it’s not Huggies new strapline but a few words to describe Ke$ha’s debut album. Beating out strong competition from Janelle Monae (overlong, inconsistent), Miranda Cosgrove (great songs, nowt to do with her) and Cee-Lo Green (everything else dwarfed by Fuck You) for the much-coveted eleventh place, pop’s resident skank arrived with an arsenal of heat-seeking missiles, locating pop’s catchiest choruses and claiming them all for her own. You might feel like you need a shower afterwards, but only the most dedicated wallflowers could resist finding their inner party girl to the likes to Tik Tok, Your Love Is My Drug and Kiss N Tell. But the highlight is the whooshy rush of Animal itself, a track tingly enough to make you weak at the knees. Seems there’s more than slurred raps, wasted moshing and playground lyrics (admittedly ones that are likely to get you grounded) to Ke$ha’s trashtastic image after all. Thank God.

Top 11 Singles Of 2010

The Top 11 Singles Of 2010 was one of the easiest lists to decide upon – the top eleven literally jumped out at me as being far and away the best of the year, whilst their only competition was other singles by the same artists (Robyn’s Indestructible, Katy Perry’s California Gurls, Gaga’s Alejandro and Diana Vickers’ The Boy Who Murdered Love are arguably better than the three nearly-but-not-quites). So there’s not much more to say apart from… enjoy!

1.         Fuck You – Cee Lo Green (1)

If something looks like a Motown classic, sounds like a Motown classic and feels like a Motown classic, is it to all intents and purposes, a Motown classic? Well, perhaps not with a swear word in the title. Stuffed with more classic moments than a Channel 4 Jimmy Carr-fronted countdown – ‘she’s an Xbox and I’m more Atari’, the pure grrr behind ‘I really hate yo’ ass right now’, the wailing all over the middle eight – not even an auto-tuned Gwyneth Paltrow doing the sanitized censored version on Glee could ruin it. But with its golden-retro-funk stylings, a rich soul vocal and a tune that lodges itself in your head until your dying day, Fuck You may as well have come stamped with ‘future classic’ on its forehead.

2.            Poison – Nicole Scherzinger (3)

Do I hear the words dance breakdown? Just when everyone thought the RedOne gravy train was losing momentum, the man goes and does it again. This time, he manages to turn the dislikeable diva from the Pussycat Dolls into a sexy sultry strumpet with this barnstorming belter. Half superhero soundtrack, half dancefloor manifesto, is there anyone out there who ISN’T Swedish capable of coming out with a chorus this good?

3.         On A Mission – Gabriella Cilmi (9)

Some of my favourite things in life are ‘talky bits’, ‘epic middle eights’ and ‘ridiculous dance routines’. So imagine my delight to find a song that delivers all three – at the same time! Sounding like Barbarella singing a Jem & The Holgrams song, On A Mission is precisely 80% amazing to 20% totally ridiculous. If most songs enter the scene at a jog, On A Mission announces its arrival shooting cosmic rays from every comet-spurting hook with a few cartwheels, high kicks and roly-polys thrown in for good measure. Cilmi suddenly got sexy – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

4.            Dancing On My Own – Robyn (8)

Heartbreak never sounded so good. Managing to combine beats that beg to be bopped to alongside lyrics that sound like your heart being slowly but surely ripped out, Dancing On My Own comprehensively nails the genre of ‘dancefloor melancholy’ that probably didn’t even exist until the divine Ms Carlsson decided to do it so well that no-one need even bother trying. The stillness of the middle eight before the chorus windmills back in with a vengeance is a thing of pure Nordic beauty… has it been formally declared a crime yet to dislike Robyn?

5.            Telephone – Lady Gaga/Beyonce (1)

The song that turned the humble music video back into an event of international importance, Telephone would still be worthy of a place even without the poisoned sandwiches, cigarette sunglasses and abundance of awesomeness delivered by the mini-movie. If songs were people, Telephone would be one of those massive over-achievers constantly putting their hand up in class – not content with delivering just one hook, it piles on about fifty before declaring its work done. Beyonce’s ferocious cameo is better than any of her recent solo efforts, whilst Gaga outdoes herself by creating a song with even more catchy ‘eh eh eh’s than the one she actually titled ‘Eh Eh’! And for those that say this Darkchild-produced track is Gaga at her most generic, take one listen to the flavourless Britney demo to hear just how much Queen Gaga and her Honey-Bee bring to the party.

6.         One – Sky Ferreira (64)

In a year when everyone, their gran and their pet gerbil were coming out with processed electropop productions, it took something special to stand out from the bleepy beepy crowd. That something was Sky Ferreira. Ignore the obnoxious interviews, ignore the freaky video that makes her look like she has a giant baby head floating in a box and instead concentrate on one of the sleekest, cleanest and most unique electropop songs of the year. Superlative.

P.S. For anyone that has given up on the use of repetitive lyrics in pop songs thanks to Cheryl Cole’s efforts, Ferreira restores faith in the art. There are no fewer than twenty-three ‘stop’s, fourty-nine ‘up’s and one hundred and twelve ‘one’s in One, and the song wouldn’t be the same without any one of them. [Please note, these figures may not be accurate]

7.            Teenage Dream – Katy Perry (2)

It takes a bit of effort to look past Katy Perry’s projectile-emitting tits, the ‘ooooh, I’m controversial, me!’ lyrics and the collection of cartoon wigs and spandex dresses but Teenage Dream proves that it’s just about worth it. Featuring that rarest of things – a somewhat subtle Dr Luke/Max Martin production – it beats with heart, soul and sincerity. A rose-tinted, golden haze of pure youthful love.

8.         All Time Low – The Wanted (1)

I think it shows how far the pop firmament has come when, rather than releasing slushy dross as a first single, a new boy-band are launched with an ambitious different and actually minorly epic track. All Time Low is the very definition of a grower, emerging from sparse beginnings of a stop-start string staccato section, sprouting wings around the classic pop chorus area, introducing a pounding beat mid-way through just for the heck of it and finally taking glorious flight in the gorgeous layered crescendo of the middle eight. And they didn’t even take their tops off in the video.

9.            Higher – The Saturdays (10)

I despair of The Saturdays. Yet every time I feel safe in totally writing them off (tampon ads, half-brained mini-album release, piss-poor comeback single, half-arsed performances, dull ITV2 shows, re-releasing already crap mini-album with songs off their old album that they’ve attempted to delete from record stores etc etc), they use another of their nine lives by releasing their best song since Up. A fantastically-constructed pop song, with a chorus so unashamedly uplifting that the NHS are thinking of making it available on prescription, Higher would sound good even if it were sung by a dodgy session singer with a blocked nose and throat infection. Hell, it might even sound better as, in true Saturdays style, they managed to balls it up (Una’s epic middle eight live moment has disappeared to the bottomless well of Autotune). They then added Flo Rida. Farewell, eighth life.

10.       Echo – Girls Can’t Catch (19)

Alas, Girls Can’t Catch, we never really knew ye. Well, actually, we did, but it’s hard to recover from playing croquet in a rubbish tip and a potentially career-ruining Teentoday interview. Echo, with its sweeping Tedder-esque production, should have been the ace up GCC’s sleeve; instead, it just fizzled out on a cliff somewhere in front of some dodgy blue-screen animation. Oh Echo, we’ll light a candle in your memory and place it in the temple of ‘Great Forgotten Pop Songs Of Our Time’.

11.       Once – Diana Vickers (1)

Given that I enjoyed Diana Vickers’ X-Factor stint as much as I enjoyed my last bout of gastroenteritis, no-one was more surprised than yours truly that I ended up loving The Claw’s debut single as much as I did. With the pop might of Eg White and Cathy Dennis behind it, Once was a quirky little number that suddenly smashed you in the face with its full-throttle body-slam of a chorus. Idiosyncratic vocals, glacial production and Diana’s pure charm complete the gift-wrapped package.

Three nearly but not quites…

McFly – Shine A Light, Take That – The Flood, Katie Melua – The Flood

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.