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Saturday, December 23, 2006

In a year full of pop gems there's bound to also be some stinkers. Here are six songs I never want to hear again…

6. Justin Timberlake - Sexy/Back
Okay, so it was tolerable the first few times. It even seemed innovative. Then, everyone started quoting it. Everyone was bringing their sexy back, even those who had obviously never had it in the first place. When a song becomes a catchphrase, it’s all over for me.

5. Pink - Stupid Girls
A very lukewarm return from a once promising new star. If you’re going to try your hand at satire, please don’t be so obvious. The circa 1999 hip hop beat didn’t help, either.

4. Vincent - Paradise
Proving that not all Swedish music is created equal, this song proudly owns the worse chorus of the year. Infuriatingly spelling out the title (with a “the” in front of each letter) over and over again, I cringed every time I heard it.

3. Beyonce - Ring The Alarm
Clattering, squawking mess that instantly revoked my fan status. If I wanted to hear a hissy fit like this I’d turn on Jerry Springer.

2. Fergie - London Bridge
An inferior Gwen Stefani sound-alike, Fergie couldn’t even the name of the bridge right. Annoyingly this went to number one in America. It only shows our ignorance.

1. Hinder - Lips Of An Angel
A wimpy breakthrough from self-professed saviors of rock and roll. And what do they give us? A soggy, misogynistic pop ballad that manages the amazing feat of being sub-Nickelback. It’s worse every time I hear it.

10. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade
Another surprise entrance into my list, MCR managed to create something that, while not straying completely from their sound, loosened them up and freed them from the confines of a screamo stereotype. I'm a sucker for rock operas, and MCR's is right up there with recent efforts from Green Day and the Killers. Surprising in its scope, The Black Parade finds the band at their undisputed pinnacle.

Album Track: Disenchanted - A more subdued track from the band, this song has one of the best melodies and vocal performances of the year. More than almost any other track the band's recorded, Disenchanted is a classic, epic pop song.

9. McFly - Motion In The Ocean
The fact that this album made the countdown (and so high) surprised the hell out of me. I never thought a McFly album would end up in my top ten, but here we are. A cornucopia of power pop styles, this is a mature yet youthful effort. Each song is its own entity and the boys imbue every of the album's many styles with a sense of urgency and playfulness. Motion really is the album that should catapult McFly to a wider audience. I have yet to play it for someone who didn't instantly love it.

Album Track: Transylvania - A bizarre marching band/opera/pop song hybrid that's unrivaled in its joyful weirdness, it is one of the standouts of the band's career, begging to be a single.

25. McFly - Friday Night
Schizophrenic sorta-boyband cribs Def Leppard's power metal... bombast never sounded better.

24. The Kooks - She Moves In Her Own Way
The sound of a late summer afternoon by the pool... subtle, yet inescapable.

23. Mika - Grace Kelly
Madcap cartoon put to music... music's new hope reincarnates Freddie Mercury and throws in some Robbie for good measure, too.

22. Boy Kill Boy - Suzie
Snarly British version of the Killers at their catchiest... squeaky synths battle with a monster hook.

21. White Rose Movement - Girls In The Back
To the sound of a cracking whip WRM recalled the best of Devo and Adam Ant... shockingly few listeners took notice.

Friday, December 22, 2006

12. The Feeling - Twelve Stops And Home
The Feeling best represent the soft-rock resurgence of 2006. This is a genre that can either be welcome and fun, or utterly pointless. Luckily, this album passes the fun quotient (the f.q.?) with timeless melodies and an absolutely joyful sound, even when the subject matter is less than sunny. A consistent album with room for growth, it's the kind of record where literally any song could have been chosen as a single.

Album Track: Kettle's On - A stunning, homegrown ballad, this song is rightly placed along the band's hit Sewn, another fantastic, slow-burning song. This one is notable mostly for its slinky background and nuanced vocal performance.

11. Bodies Without Organs - Halycon Days
This Swedish trio manages the almost impossible: making highly produced, europop and still managing to sound like a credible band. Somehow they find a way to make disposable music absolutely indispensable. Halycon Days is more pop oriented and diverse than their debut, bt still just as fun. And, it must be… four singles in Sweden so far and counting.

Album Track: Obsession - A creepy, catchy dance track that compliments European Psycho off of their first album, Obsession is a late album gem in an album brimming over with them.

30. Roxette - One Wish
Triumphant return by top Swedish duo... catchy and gorgeous as ever.

29. Orson - No Tomorrow
Funky fodder for a night out... sure to be remembered as a one hit wonder, but a great one.

28. Cobra Starship - Snakes On A Plane
Silly novelty track by supergroup brought together by an equally silly movie... why is it so good?

27. Sunblock - I’ll Be Ready
Didn't love Baywatch... love this... crazy dance around your room track of the year.

26. Oh No Ono - Keeping Warm In Cold Country
Screwy blender of pop elements, each fighting for its spot in the mix... kept aloft by a kaleidoscopic beat and androgynous vocals.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

14. Oh No Ono - Yes
Denmark is bringing us a lot of fantastic bands right now, but none are as interestingly alien as Oh No Ono. Sounding a bit like the Muppets forming an alternative pop group, all of their experimentation could have easily fallen apart, except the band clearly knows how to write a tight pop song with hooks piled on top of hooks. Judging from their success in Denmark, it's a winning formula.

Album Track: Victim Of The Modern Age - One of the many plastically funky tracks on the album (if that makes any sense), this one stands out for its indelible (and inescapable) hook.

13. Hellogoodbye - Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!
An American indie band actually worth caring about, Hellogoodbye's mix of dance, rock and emo proved to be irresistible this year. Unlike most of their similar-minded peers, the band presents a huge array of styles on their full-length debut, all of which are completely successful. Majestic synth lines battle with clever lyrics and a youthful, almost innocent outlook.

Album Track: All Time Lows - Possessing one of my favorite synth riffs of the year, this simple pop song is probably the most immediate on the album, though all the band's output is equally bright and catchy.

35. Protocol - Where’s The Pleasure
Shiny pop pleasure from now-defunct 80's revival band... Duran Duran wish they sounded this good.

34. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
Massive worldwide single retains most of its luster even after radio domination... the rare deserved #1 hit.

33. Darin - Perfect
Shamelessly catchy funk/pop confection... Sweden still does it best.

32. Bodies Without Organs - Chariots Of Fire
Fist pumping anthem with very strange music video... BWO at their silliest and most over-the-top.

31. Snook - Snook, Svett & Tårar
Best rap song of the year, and it's not even in English... the chirpy hook leaves an indelible mark.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

16. Robbie Williams - Rudebox
One of the most polarizing albums of the year, some have written this off as aimless, schizophrenic Robbie, while others champion his dramatic stylistic shift. Either way, the highlights far outweigh the clunkers and the album is all the better for its experimental, genre-busting track list. By far Williams' most interesting album to date, it's like listening to a really good , multiformat radio station (if those still existed).

Album track: The Actor - One of the many synth-styled tracks on the album, The Actor is an addicting piece of bumpy dance floor fodder. Best part? The name-dropping rap towards the end.

15. The Sounds - Dying To Say This To You
Though a bit of a fall from theier brilliant debut, The Sounds are still one of the best dance-rock bands around, with undoubtedly one of the best (and most recognizable) front women in Maja Ivarsson. Turning up the synthesizers a bit this time, the band succeeded in creating the perfect party album. It may not be lyrically deep or original, but it will get you dancing.

Album Track: Hurt You - Sounding very different from most of the album, this mostly synthesizer driven dance track is a fantastic debut between Ivarsson and guitarist Felix Rodriguez. Funkier than it has any right to be, I wish Blondie were still this good.

40. Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous
The best hip-hop duet of the year… this was Timbaland's triumph.

39. Razorlight - America
Aching Springstein-ian ballad… hold your lighters up and just give in.

38. Sparks - Dick Around
Continually inventive, overblown opera about doing nothing... Freddie Mercury would be proud.

37. Persephone’s Bees - Nice Day
Swirling throwback with enormous chorus… too joyous for pop radio.

36. Pink - Who Knew
Her most convincing artistic rebound since Missundaztood... a timeless lovelorn trifle.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Video Premiere: Eric Prydz Vs Floyd - Proper Education

Pink Floyd fans were already pissed off over the Scissor Sisters' cover of Comfortably Numb a few years back... now they've got another one on their hand. As with the Sisters, the track is absolutely fantastic, but it's the video that really makes it. Beautifully shot and brilliantly conceived... this should be shown everywhere.

18. White Rose Movement - Kick
Definitely one of the most promising of the new wave art rock bands out of England, White Rose Movement succeed because of their ferocity. They simply attack the songs on their debut. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the tracks (especially the singles) are all so strangely catchy. Girls In The Back should have been an anthem this year.

Album Track: Pig Heil Jam - If you've heard the demo version of this song, you really need to hear the finished product. A ferocious burst of guitar, snarls and falsetto, it's a lethal combination and one that should set your heart pulsing.

17. Pet Shop Boys - Fundamental
The second elder duo on the countdown, the Pet Shop Boys had a bit of a resurgence this year with this album. Marred by horrible single choices, Fundamental remains a treasure trove of relatively unnoticed material. Spilt evenly between high energy dance tracks and slow brooders, both styles are more successful than Pet Shop Boys have managed for some time.

Album Track: The Sodom And Gomorrah Show - Highlighted by a spiraling string section at the beginning, this track pumps so much energy, so many things, into its 5:20 minutes that it practically bursts.

45. The Alpine - Trigger
Stomping glam-power-pop from Danish foursome... pulled straight from another dimension.

44. Goldfrapp - Fly Me Away
Laid-back electronic rumble turned into Target Christmas promo... still transcends sell-out.

43. Muse - Supermassive Black Hole
UK band finds their groove... nearly out-scissors Scissor Sisters.

42. McFly - Sorry's Not Good Enough
Boy band goes all Queen on us... proves that Green Day aren't the only ones who can make pop-punk dramatic.

41. Van She - Kelly
Shimmering eighties pastiche... as lightweight and pleasant as a lemonade in the summer.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Johnny Boy
Release Date: April 10th, 2006
Label: Wild Kingdom

Johnny Boy's debut effort may just be the best punk album of the year. And... it's not even punk. Like the bustling city awash with fireworks depicted on the album's cover, Johnny Boy create a busy, epic soundscape of trumpets, air traffic, bells… and that's just on the first track. More importantly, the London duo carry an anything-goes attitude throughout the whole of the record, something that's been sorely missing in modern pop music.

Nothing on Johnny Boy quite reaches the dizzying heights of former single You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve. It is quite possibly the most brilliant down-with-consumerism song that's ever been recorded. From the very first listen it sounds like a long-lost classic, all shimmering doo-wop vocals and instrumental grandeur. It is undoubtedly on the short list of perfect pop songs recorded this millennium. Johnny Boy Theme and All Exits Final nearly match You Are The Generation's success, while other tracks (namely the boisterous Living In The City and sing-along 15 Minutes) go for a dancier approach. Most everything on Johnny Boy sounds like nothing that's ever been released, which is an absolute credit to those involved, given the cyclical nature of the pop scene.

The only time the record takes a dip is with a pair of tracks, Springer and War On Want, which are too sparse in actual vocals to garner much attention. More successful is Bonnie Parker's 115th Dream, which sounds frighteningly like something Adam Ant would concoct if he was still making music. While Johnny Boy is a dense, sometimes challenging album, those listeners that stick around will be rewarded with one of the most refreshing pop debuts in a good long time. A-

Key Tracks: You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve, Johnny Boy Theme, All Exits Final

*The band wants you to know that no matter where you live, you can buy the album directly from them, as you should!

20. Nelly Furtado - Loose
Probably the most commercially successful album on my list (worldwide), and the only mainstream American pop release worth a second look, Loose was the perfect combination of pop star and producer. What other album of 2006 opened with back-to-back successes like Promiscuous and Maneater and finished up the year with no less than five successful worldwide singles? Even better, the album manages to be experimental yet not off-putting, a tough quality to find in pop music.

Album Track: Afraid - Opening the album with a suitably funky hip-hop/pop makeover, this is the most immediate sign that Furtado's grown as an artist. Atmospheric and immediate, it could have easily been slated for single release.

19. Sparks - Hello Young Lovers
By far the oldest group on my countdown, this is Sparks' 21st album, and one of their best. Fusing symphonic production with dramatic, hilarious vocals, Hello Young Lovers is unlike anything else out there, and that's why it excels so completely. It's probably not for everyone, as it isn't always as hum-able as most pop releases, but it is continually experimental, always catchy, and theatrical in a different way than any other release this year.

Album Track: As I Sit To Play The Organ At The Notre Dame Cathedral - The longest track I'll post, at seven minutes, this song goes through distinct phases, from the hectic to the heavenly. It may be jarring at first, but it is absolutely captivating.