Singles and albums of the year from Phoenix FM presenters:
Album: David Guetta – One More Love
This guy really impressed me when I saw him on the MOBOs a couple of years ago, and whilst I think it’s a bit of a cheap trick adding a few tracks to an existing album to create a new one it does at least qualify it as a 2010 favourite!
Single: Usher feat will.i.am – OMG
I like so many things about this song – the minor key, the background chanting and, for their unashamed simplicity, the lyrics. Most of all, though, I love its structure, particularly the way it builds to a crescendo.
Album: Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz
First proper album since 2005’s Illinoise and it was completely worth the wait. The album where Sufjan went electronic and came up with something mind-blowing, personal, and I don’t mind admitting it reduced me to tears more than once. 11 tracks finished off by the 25 minute epic Impossible Soul. After the first listen I just sat there stunned for a good half hour. Music really doesn’t get much better than this.
Single: Family Of The Year – Summer Girl EP
Debut release from this Californian band is breezy, summery feel-good music. Expecting big things from them next year. Hoping they get the breakthrough they deserve.
Album: erm …
Well this was a tricky one, certainly from the best album point of view as I realised I haven’t actually bought one this year – the curse of Spotify perhaps …
Single: Arcade Fire – Ready To Start
So for my best single, I’m picking Ready To Start by Arcade Fire. I like the way it drives along, Win Butler’s voice, the lyrics, it’s just a great song, as is the title track from the album too. I’ve always liked what I’ve heard of theirs, but still haven’t got round to getting an album, I really should. If I’d got The Suburbs, then I’m sure it would be my album of the year.
Next year will no doubt cause more problems, in that both Queens Of The Stone Age and Elbow are due to release albums …
Album: Scissor Sisters – Night Work
A fairly safe choice for my pick of the albums as the Scissor Sisters still rate as my favourite artist of the 21st century. More experimental and a definite return to form after the hit-and-miss Ta-Dah, the long awaited third release didn’t disappoint. I clearly remember my excitement hearing the first track from it and being blown away. Highlights include Kylie minogue singing backing vocals on the second single from it – Any Which Way – and a sample of her hit Can’t Get You Out Of My Head on Something Like This. However the new single Invisible Light would have to be my favourite of the twelve – Sir Ian Mckellen features on this, no less.
Single: Cee Lo Green – Forget You
I have various indicators for how much I like a song. Turning it up as loud as possible in the car and singing along at the top of my lungs; loving it the first time I hear it; and not growing sick of it no matter how many times I play it. All are certainly true of this summer smash. The simple story combined with the unique sky-high voice we grew to love with Gnarls Barkley and the retro Motown vibe make this my fave of the year.
Album: Maroon 5 – Hands All Over
Easy winner for me – this was released 17th September. The opening track ‘Misery’ is anything but, and it shouts ‘Maroon 5’ from the second it begins it’s magic super-sized sound. Bought on CD, it’s been in the car ever since.
Single: Michael Jackson – Hold My Hand
Had this not been released, ‘Let the Sun Shine’ by Labrinth would have won! The genius of Hold My Hand is that it is catchy, it blends MJ and Akon’s voices brilliantly, and unusually, the entire song from start to end, without a single bar exception is based on the same 4 bar / 4 chord sequence – this never tires thanks to the imaginitive use of the vocals and backings. It’s also in my favourite key (D flat major) – if anyone reading this is as nerdy as me about such things you will understand that this song has to be in that key, it would be quite wrong in C or D. Overall, a real tonic for Jacko fans everywhere, and perfect for Christmas too.
Album: Oli Silk – All We Need
A great album from this UK keyboardist – Oli played his first solo gigs at the Pizza Express Soho this month and sold out all 3 sessions. He’s supported just about everybody this year, including playing keys for Anastasia. Oli has also become a big friend of the show, coming on once a month to play us one of his rare grooves – A nice guy in every sense of the word.
Single: Dave Koz – Got The Top Down
Got everything you need in a smooth jazz single – top melody, invokes what it says in the title and just a great tune. We interviewed Dave at the Soho Hotel, London and a nicer man you couldn’t hope to meet. He’s Dave Grohl’s godfather you know!
Album: The National – High Violet
They’re a band I’ve really gotten into over the past couple of years – it was great to be able to see them live at Latitude and the footage at Glastonbury. They’re an interesting mix of rocking out and melancholia which seems to appeal to me!
Single: Interpol – Lights
I don’t usually keep up to date with singles, but I thought it was worth mentioning this song as the first from their new album ‘Interpol’ this year. It was great to hear new material from them still sounding great, despite bassist Carlos Dengler leaving this year.
It’s taken me a while to decide on these, firstly, because like banking. I think music in the UK has become cautious and dare I say it derivative and is heavily influenced/managed by the outcome of X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and others, all of which in my view is wrong. Each year to date (in my time with Phoenix) I have measured my album or single of the year in terms of those songs which I couldn’t wait to get home and download. This year, having listened back to them they were sadly lacking. Yes there were the fun filled derivatives, Katy Perry’s California Gurls and others, Beach Boyesque riot or derivative pop? … like First Class … Beach Baby … Gourmet in the way of a McDonalds burger, but unfortunately in the absence of anything greater, the blind man is king!
Album: Kisses – The Heart Of The Nightlife
This has been a year of consolidation on my part in terms of albums – I bought everything from Rock n’Roll to James Taylor to the Beatles. Try the tracks Bermuda and Kisses … Positivity or what?
Single: Wombats – Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)
Although overlooked in most quarters, I like the urgency of this track as well as the positive sound of the production. Like it or loathe it I bet it gets your foot tapping on a cold Monday morning … brilliant!
Album: Plan B – The Defamation Of Strickland Banks
A rapper who sings as well as he raps! An album that tells a story from beginning to end in a compelling and intelligent way for the first time since The Streets did it with A Grand Don’t Come For Free! A soulful 1960s vibe with 21st-century social commentary! Who’d have thought it!
Single: Everything Everything – My Keys, Your Boyfriend
I know it’s a bit of a cheat as it’s a re-release but this is the year it was big. It just sounds astonishing on lots of levels: his voice, the strings, the lyrics, everything.
Album: Take That – Progress
The boys came back with a grown up, smart and brilliant album – great lyrics, great production and serious tunes. For pop music, it’s in a class of its own.
Single: Cee Lo Green – It’s OK
Why? Because it makes me just feel good, it makes my toes wiggle about in my shoes and it’s cheerful – feelgood factor all the way.
Album: Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill
For me the debut single instantly grabbed you and the melody and strength of the lyric was just daunting. Best track on the album is Fuel Up, which demands a second hearing. I expect to hear a lot from this band in the future. Close runner up was an album from a Dutch artist called Caro Emerald. Her album Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor is the most original and fresh sounding album in years. Expect this to have the same radio play ten years down the line as Fagen’s Nightfly.
Single: Maria Mena – Just Hold Me
Album: Minus The Bear – Omni
The band hail from Seattle and offer an incredible mix of indie, grunge and electronica – not a combination you hear often, but these guys make it seem natural. Every song on the album has a life of its own, a mix of epic soundscapes and instant hooks. With a lot of the tracks being around five minutes, it might take more than one listen to get into, but once you do, it makes for an atmospheric and rewarding listen.
Single: Gaggle – I Hear Flies
It’s actually the sort of song that could quite easily get stuck in your head and drive you mad, but what this 20-piece female choir achieve with a minimalist techno soundtrack and a few simple refrains is nothing short of utterly compelling.
Album: Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call Music 77
The reason for this is because it has all the singles on it that I could have chosen for my best single. All my favourite songs and artists are on this album – love it!
Single: Bruno Mars – Just The Way You Are
It was really hard to choose but I can listen to this song over and over again and not get fed up with it. Also, I like songs that I can relate to and I know many girls can relate to this song, as can I
Album: Jonny Cola and the A Grades – In Debt
This London band played a memorable session down at the Phoenix studios back in March and their debut album, released in October, is full of bittersweet glam-Britpop songs.
Single: Crystal Fighters – Follow
No song has made me want to drum on the desk so badly since Kings Of The Wild Frontier.
Album: Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite
By total contrast to my favourite single, this album was a return to form for Kylie and found her doing what she was does best once again – making tunes which get you on the dancefloor.
Single: Corinne Bailey Rae – I’d Do It All Again
The brilliant first single from her second album The Sea which was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Written after an argument with her husband and recorded just after he died, it was a great introduction to the album and her new darker sound.
Album: Editors – In This Light And On This Evening
I always did like this band and my ears pricked up when I heard they were going to give this record a more synthesiser-laden sound. This album evokes a flavour of the industrial 80s electronica, but manages to make itself feel of now.
Single: Boxer Rebellion – If You Run
No, Piers didn’t force me to say this … but I had to pick a single that I enjoyed and this was it, especially as it’s from a band I had never heard of until joining Phoenix.
Album: Kerry Ellis – Anthems
This album is the result of a fab combination Sung by Kerry Ellis and produced by Brian May. Kerry has a great rock voice and a musical theatre background being the first Scaramouche in We Will Rock You and has also played Elphaba in Wicked. This album contains rock version of a combination of theatre and pop. The combination of the two performers is great. They first worked together to record an orchestral version of ‘No one But You’ in 2004 and this year they released this album. It includes some versions of Anthem from Chess, Defying Gravity from Wicked and Brian May’s I Loved A Butterfly. Brian May also plays on the album.
Single: Rumer – Some Lovers
This was actually in my stocking on Christmas Day. I love Rumer and this is a CD single released for Christmas called Rumer sing Bacharach at Christmas. Its a great song and on the sleeve Rumer describes how she went to meet Burt Bacharach at his home in California and felt really nervous. This is actually a new song written for a new Bacharach musical called The Gift of the Magi. It’s set at Christmas so perfect for this time of year. I can’t wait to hear more! There are two songs on the CD. The other one is an accoustic version of Alfie which is equally as good.
Album: Five For Fighting – Slice
I’m going to cheat a bit as it turns out to have been released last year but has only just come to my notice. The album is called “Slice”, which is also the title of the second track to be released as a single – the first was “Chances”. The artist is (Vladimir) John Ondrasik who records under the name “FIVE FOR FIGHTING”. His songs always have a message and “Slice” really follows on from the Don McLean 1971 song “AMERICAN PIE” which was was driven by the loss of the American feelgood factor and confidence which had grown up in the 1950s but was damaged by the various assasinations in the US, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan during the 60’s and the ongoing Vietnam War. “Slice” is perhaps about the increase in networking by computer as the cost of human interraction. This may all sound a bit heavy but it is a great track.
Single: Katy Perry – California Gurls
It is simply a good summer feel song that I am certain has very wide appeal. Great song to sing along to while you’re driving (hopefully on a fast road and NOT sitting in a jam at the Brook Street Roundabout!
Album of the Year no 1: Hugh Hopper – The Gift Of Purpose
There are two CD’s that I can’t separate this year. If you purchase these, the money will go to a good cause.
The first is “The Gift of Purpose” – a tribute to the late great Hugh Hopper. It’s a live recording of Hugh with his last project Bone. All monies go to Hugh’s widow. You can buy the CD by clicking here.
Album of the Year no 2: Various Artists – Leader Of The Starry Skies – A Tribute To Tim Smith. Songbook 1
The second CD is “Leader of the Starry Skies” a Tribute to Tim Smith. The leader of the Cardiacs is seriously I’ll in hospital and all profits from this CD will go towards getting Tim out of hospital and leading as normal life as possible. You can buy the CD by clicking here.
If you want to support the artists that you enjoy then buy their CDs. There are times though, that even if the artists are not necessarily amongst your favourites, perhaps you should dig deep and pay tribute to someone who has given so much pleasure to the music fans around the world.
Album: Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
A great band I managed to interview at Reading, and they didn’t let me down. The album sums up the year for me, probably because I’ve played it more that any other other. Wide Eyes is a great track, I love Airplanes and their version of Talking Heads’ Warning Sign has to be listened to.
Single: Foals – Spanish Sahara
Proving that a second album does not have to be a let-down. A band I still haven’t managed to catch live but will make it a new year’s resolution to change that.
Album: Lostprophets – The Betrayed
Released in January of this year, this album didn’t come without its fair amount of trials and tribulations. After scrapping an album and a public argument between then producer, John Feldmann, and the band in 2008/9, the boys decided to produce it themselves. That decision saved them, and their latest rock offering proved that they still are the band of ‘Start Something’. Packed with darkness and angst, Watkins and Co kept a good balanced between their roots and musical maturity, balancing with ease of the same tightrope that many other bands fall off of. If you haven’t checked it out already run to the shops and buy a copy – you’ll love it.
Single: Katy Perry – California Gurls
This was the song of my summer and every good memory of this year can be pinned to this song. Katy Perry’s celebration of all things California even heated up July like nothing else and, for 3 minutes at least, the world feels as cute and edible as the music video!
Album: Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
I’m not convinced 2010 was a stellar year really. Two albums stick out. XX by the XX was a dream, it’s really rare to find such a cracking post-party indie-rock album. I absolutely loved it and am still listening now, really makes me think, it’s a thinky album. However, I have to give the album of the year to Arcade Fire, for The Suburbs, I have loved to their slow escalation to the stratosphere and in an age of the one album ‘artist’ its so pleasing to see a band just getting better and better and being appreciated more and more … it’s OK to be anxious, it sounds nice actually.
Single: Tinie Tempah – Pass Out
Going to throw a wild one in to the mix for single of the year. Loved Crossfire by Brandon Flowers, and Ellie Goulding’s Starry Eyed, but something about this tune brings out some sort of testosterone infused rage, and it feels good. It’s a ‘tune’, well that’s what my sister said, and she should know – she can play the recorder.
Album: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
If this had been a couple of weeks ago my answer probably would have been B.o.B’s debut album, but Kanye seems to have taken the spot just in time. This could be due a combination of a short attention spell and it being the latest album I have listened to but I think I will be feeling the same way for some time. 13 songs filled with great emotion, lyrics, production and a whole host of featured artists, along with no tracks on the album that seem skippable, makes this my album of the year.
Single: The Pretty Reckless – Makes Me Wanna Die
What a hard decision with so many great singles being released this year covering such a wide range of genres. But the song/band that have failed to fall from my radar is The Pretty Reckless and their first single being Make Me Wanna Die. Taylor has such an amazing flawless voice for a 17 year old both on the CD and live which leads this to being such a strong debut single. This was the song that introduced me to them and I have since become hooked.