Monday, April 15, 2013

Alpine - "Gasoline" & KING - "In The Meantime"

It's only been four months into 2013, but I think I may have already found two of my favorite songs of the year.

Alpine - "Gasoline"

Since I came across this about a month ago, I haven't been able to let go of how much this song reminds me of Little Dragon. I kept picturing a world where they didn't sound as sinister and the keyboards had a bit more bounce to it. The result would likely be "Gasoline." It's deceptively chipper and doesn't sound anything like you would expect longing to, especially the way the lead singer delivers the word "night time" during the chorus, which feels naive and flirtatious at the same time.

KING - "In The Meantime"

Another song that's been in constant rotation is the latest single from KING, who I've been very high on in the past. It's a subtly potent display of quiet storm seductiveness filled with the typical warmth that these ladies bring. I'm not sure how often I've used "warm" to describe their sound, but I can't think of a better way to put it. From the vocals to the production, KING makes some of the coziest, lulling music right now, and I mean that in every positive way.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Best 50 Pop Albums from 2000-2009: #10-#1

This is the final entry in this week's countdown of the top 50 pop albums of the 2000s. The links for #50 - #11 are at the bottom of this post.

10. Yelle - Pop Up (2007)

If a 22-year old Madonna had been a hipster in the 21st century, she might have sounded something like this. The debut album from this French trio was an adventurous and sarcastic trip that was heavily influenced by house and a few strands of DNA from the early works of Cyndi Lauper and the aformentioned Madge. At its best, Pop Up yielded propulsive DJ staples such as "Je Veux Te Voir" and "A Cause Des Garçons" that had vocalist Julie Budet's sassy vocals to distinguish them along with some colorful splashes of 1980s electropop. Other rainbow-flavored cuts like "Mali Puli," "85A" and "Ce Jeu" provided the perfect excuse to bounce around with Pixy Stix as the drug of choice, while at the other end of the spectrum, the album's slower moments were equally captivating as well with the tender "Tu es beau" and the first half of "Tristesse/Joie." For an album attempting to bottle as much as sweat as Pop Up, slow songs usually produce a lull. That turned out to not be the case since there's rarely a duff moment to be found here.

Key tracks: "Je Veux Te Voir," "Tristesse/Joie," "Ce Jeu," "A Cause Des Garçons"

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Best 50 Pop Albums from 2000-2009: #20-#11

I'm counting down the top 50 pop albums of the 2000s this week. This is part 4 of 5.

20. Freeform Five - Strangest Things (2004)

The only proper studio album to date from British producer/DJ Anu Pillai took the flash of his previous house and electro tracks and provided a twist of funk to the songs here, allowing the music to expand beyond the remix audience that Pillai earned his name with. The album also found time to focus on less dance-oriented material, such as "Ask Me Tomorrow" and "What Are You Waiting For" that showed Pillai's diversity as a songwriter and carried over into helping make the uptempo songs so hook-filled.

Key tracks: "Electromagnetic," "No More Conversations," "Eeeeaaooww,"  "Losing My Control" "Strangest Things"

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Best 50 Pop Albums from 2000-2009: #30-#21

This week, I'm counting down the top 50 pop albums of the 2000s. This is part 3 of 5.

30. Girls Aloud - Tangled Up (2007)

Coming off the disappointing Chemistry, Girls Aloud once again set the standard for British pop music with an invigorating fourth album that showed growth while keeping their trademark fierce attitude intact, ditching the ballads—long one of their weak spots on their albums—in the process. The group had always skirted with sex appeal, but Tangled Up felt like the first effort that made a conscious decision to show that the former reality show contestants had finally grown into women.

Key tracks: "Can't Speak French," "Black Jacks," "Call The Shots"

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Best 50 Pop Albums from 2000-2009: #40-#31

This week, I'm counting down the top 50 pop albums of the 2000s. This is part 2 of 5. 

40. Spymob - Sitting Around Keeping Score (2004)

While they gained most of their fame as the backing band for N*E*R*D, their own tunes have more in common with the power pop of Todd Rundgren and Jellyfish and the polished soul of Hall & Oates. The determined energy they showed on In Search Of... brought even more of a punch to choruses that already had their fair share of candy coating.

Key tracks: "Stand Up & Win," "It Gets Me Going" "Sitting Around Keeping Score"

Monday, April 01, 2013

Best 50 Pop Albums from 2000-2009: #50-#41

In a recent New York Times article, "The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food", it is discussed how certain foods and drinks are tested and manufactured to create a "bliss-point," which is basically that part of the brain that tells us to keep consuming regardless of what our bodies tell us. In a lot of ways, pop music is also about hitting that bliss-point, that point that brings us immediate pleasure and makes us repeat customers in the process. At its foundation, the purpose of most pop music is to hit that spot that makes us smile or dance without little thought or explanation as to how we got there. Much like how the scientists in that article went through exhaustive research to get the most out of a product, the same level of care and detail goes into making something aurally addictive in less than three-and-a-half minutes.

The previous decade provided us a renaissance in the genre, in which previously unheralded pop acts could now sit at the same table as some of the most acclaimed artists in respected fields such as rock, hip hop and so on. With the advent of the Internet allowing our tastes to broaden, there was no shortage of good music to be found, which makes the 2000s the perfect period to reexamine pop and with enough time having passed by, we can look at some of the later additions to the decade objectively and fairly.

The ranking of the albums are based mostly on how greatly I felt that "bliss-point" was achieved, overall quality and how well it has held up. I did take into account cultural and critical significance, but not very much, if barely at all. Pop music should be about that moment you flip out in the car when a song you like comes on, even if it's years old, not how a bunch of people bought into a hype for three months.

One more thing: since a good deal of these albums had months between the release in their native country and the United States, I often came across the international version first, which is what I'm judging on in a lot of cases. I'll be rolling out ten entries a day this week, with #10-#1 being revealed on Friday. But for now, let's get started with #50-#41.