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Friday, December 03, 2010

Best of 2010: The Top 5 Pop Albums

These days, most of my music-listening involves pop music in some form or another. Even the more avant-garde pieces in my collection have catchy hooks or lines that infect you in the way that only a great pop song can. So cementing my Top 5 Pop Albums of 2010 is not the easiest task to undertake, but it is certainly a great way to reflect back on all the awesome pop music of the past year.

#5. Ellie Goulding: Lights – I can’t really explain how I first came across Ellie Goulding for this simple reason: I don’t remember. I almost certainly read about her on Pitchfork or some other source for music news, though my memory is hazy on this. All I remember is downloading Lights one night, playing the first track and immediately being blown away by Ellie’s vocal gymnastics, her excellent lyricism, and her songs’ flawless production. Lights was overlooked my pretty much everyone with an American accent, but it is one of the more endearing pop records of 2010, and the only one that isn’t afraid to wear its genre on its sleeve.

#4. Belle and Sebastian: Write About Love – 2007’s The Life Pursuit was my first run-in with this longtime indie pop favorite. I loved it upon its release, and even now I still throw it on occasionally. Write About Love is just as good, if not better than its predecessor. It’s filled with the kind of timeless pop music that the band is famous for and features awesome guest vocals from Norah Jones and Carey Mulligan (the latter is particularly charming). At some point in a band’s career, you begin to wonder if they can continue making amazing music, but Belle and Sebastian keep putting out awesome music. Doubt is not an option.

#3. Sleigh Bells: Treats – Sleigh Bells make the kind of genre-blending music that make assembling this list such a difficult task. Is it pop? Is it rock? Is it dance? What do we call it exactly? However, beyond the band’s distorted guitar and dance drums lie some of the catchiest pop songs of 2010. Rarely will I be listening to “Kids” or “Rill Rill” and not be singing along with complete disregard as to how ridiculous I sound in doing so. That alone is the mark of great pop music. Oh sure, they can put up a front of tattoos and amp walls, but we know that deep down they’re just a friendly little pop band looking to make you dance. Awwww!!

#2. of Montreal: False Priest – Kevin Barnes’ latest foray into the dark corners of pop music is one of his more difficult listens. This is why it only received a 7 out of 10 from me when I reviewed it. But like most of Montreal records, it only gets better as you listen to it. Somewhere along the line, False Priest stopped being a fun little pop-funk record and started speaking to me on a deeper level. That’s something pop music rarely does, but something that Barnes does exceptionally well. False Priest is just the latest in a long line of affecting pop music from of Montreal.

#1. Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid – Much like Sleigh Bells’ Treats, Ms. Monae’s debut LP is a difficult album to define. At times it’s hip hop, at others it’s soul. But like its rock-laced brethren, The ArchAndroid is heavily rooted in pop music. One listen to “Tightrope” or “Make the Bus” and this becomes apparent. However, the brilliance of The ArchAndroid does not lie in the greatness of each individual track, but rather the overall package that they form. Janelle Monae has done more that create an amazing pop record, she’s crafted one of the strongest female albums of the last decade and presented us with one of music’s most exciting new characters. Everything from the album’s orchestral movements to the raw energy of her live performances makes clear the fact that Janelle is much more than your average pop star. She is a personality to be excited about, and one that will be with us for a long time.

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