Now we’re just about over the sheer excitement of our Top 50 singles of the year (missed it? Start here), the time has come to glance back at the year’s 15 best long-players.
Have we missed any classics off the list? It might be one we didn’t even hear (the shame!), so drop a comment at the bottom of the page. Honourable mentions go to Take That, Kylie, Charlotte Church, Alesha Dixon, Olly Murs, Robyn and The Hoosiers; who would have been included had we been bothered to extend beyond a Top 15.
15. Ke$ha – ‘Animal’
February, Peak No8
Kesha Rose Sebert – that’s Ke$ha to us – was reportedly chosen to provide the vocals on Flo Rida’s ‘Right Round’ after being overheard belting out one of her own tunes in a nearby studio. On the basis of ‘Animal’ we can’t honestly say we agree that singing is her forte, but in this case it literally couldn’t matter any less. ‘Animal’ is an assault of attitude-packed electro-pop, including the legendary single ‘Tik Tok’ and the rather adorable ‘Your Love Is My Drug’. Admittedly the novelty wears off towards the end of the disc, but tracks like the unexpectedly vulnerable ‘Hungover’ inject a shot of Genuine Emotion into proceedings, and we’re really excited for the ‘Cannibal’ extension, due in the UK in early 2011.
14. Example – ‘Won’t Go Quietly’
June, Peak No4
Elliot Gleave (EG… e.g… Example… get it?) trod the well-worn path between the urban and pop worlds to create ‘Won’t Go Quietly’, an album packed with summer anthems including the fantastic singles ‘Kickstarts’, ‘Won’t Go Quietly’ and ‘Last Ones Standing’. Particular favourites are the brilliantly restrained ‘When The Sun Comes Up’ and mid-album anthem ‘Millionnaires’, which should by all means have been released as a single. Despite being occasionally too urban for pop fans and too pop for urban fans, Gleave does on the whole manage to unite the two genres rather well, and this was a real summer must-have.
Read our original review of ‘Won’t Go Quietly’
13. The Wanted – ‘The Wanted’
October, Peak No4
We’ll probably never understand the hype around JLS, so imagine our surprise when we found this self-titled début from The Wanted surprisingly likeable. Singles ‘All Time Low’ and ‘Lose My Mind’ are the runaway favourites , but don’t overlook the late-album brilliance of ‘Personal Soldier’ or the classic boyband ballad ‘Replace Your Heart’ either. They may be rushing straight on to album number two already, but be sure to give this triumphant début a spin while the ink’s still wet.
Read our original review of ‘The Wanted’
12. Rihanna – ‘Loud’
November, Peak No2
Good Lord do we prefer ‘Loud’ to ‘Rated R’. Yes, the latter was an epic journey into gritty bleakness, but ‘Loud’ is just so much more fun. Even though RiRi herself never troubles her own notepad on this LP, the songwriters in command do brilliant jobs on tracks like the Avril-sampling ‘Cheers (Drink To That)’, R’n'B ballad ‘Fading’ and Nicki Minaj collab ‘Raining Men’. A couple of tracks misfire – ‘California King Bed’ for example is forgettable down-tempo crass – but Rihanna is on surprisingly strong vocal form here, especially on the long-awaited sequel to ‘Love The Way You Lie’. Play it Loud.
Read our original review of ‘Loud’
11. One Night Only – ‘One Night Only’
August, Peak No36
Commercial success wasn’t really on the cards for ONO this time around, but their eponymous second album was a real treat. Much more of an identity had been found, with some proper stadium choruses and a real newfound maturity in the songwriting. Single ‘Say You Don’t Want It’ is as catchy as their 2008 breakthrough ‘Just For Tonight’, but ‘Chemistry’ out-anthems it with some roof-raising vocals from George Craig and, by contrast, ‘Never Be The Same’ is a haunting Keane-like tune that adds another string to the quintet’s bow.
10. Cheryl Cole – ‘Messy Little Raindrops’
October, Peak No1
Credit for this should probably go to the brilliant team of producers rather than the vocalist, but Cheryl did pull out her A-game in 2010 with an album that trumped the mediocre ’3 Words’ by a country mile. Lead single ‘Promise This’ was the year’s ultimate grower, Travie McCoy collaboration ‘Yeah Yeah’ is a club classic in waiting, and ‘Happy Tears’ is a disarmingly relevant track about leaving a cheater. For the real highlight though, be sure to YouTube/Spotify final track ‘Waiting’; co-written by Kelis and sampling Vanessa Carlton’s ‘A Thousand Miles’, it’s a euphoric dance-pop gem that could maybe be the best track that Chezza’s put her solo name to yet.
Read our original review of ‘Messy Little Raindrops’
09. Joe McElderry – ‘Wide Awake’
October, Peak No3
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Poor Joe. ‘Wide Awake’ may have been the most pre-ordered disc by an ‘X Factor’ male ever, but in chart terms it didn’t really make for a long-lasting stint. One brief appearance in the Top 3 and suddenly it had taken up residence at the wrong end of the Top 100. What a shame, as this is, on majority, a really good album. Singles ‘Ambitions’ and ‘Someone Wake Me Up’ are both brilliant, Nerina Pallot cover ‘Real Late Starter’ is an unexpected triumph, and the Fray-like title track is surprisingly moving. Check out also the Uncle Kraker cover ‘Smile’ for an uplifting treat, and ‘Farenheit’ for what could easily be a Scissor Sisters offcut. With just ten ‘proper’ tracks on offer, it was a disappointment to find a couple fall below par (‘Until The Stars Run Out’, ‘Feel The Fire’) but for the most part this is a supremely under-rated début; and the good news is that Simon Cowell has pledged to support the guy for at least one more disc.
Read our original review of ‘Wide Awake’
08. Eliza Doolittle – ‘Eliza Doolittle’
July, Peak No3
Eliza Sophie Caird made one heck of a breakthrough in 2010. After the disappointing performance of launch single ‘Skinny Genes’ made her look like a bit of a non-event, follow-up ‘Pack Up’ became one of the year’s biggest singles and this self-titled LP has been lingering on the charts ever since its release in July. The girl can certainly write a charming little pop ditty, with ‘Mr Medicine’ and ‘Rollerblades’ being two particular summery favourites. Our favourite song however is ‘Back To Front’, a touching but restrained mid-album track with an affecting whistle sample and a restrained vocal performance that holds back on the powerhouse ad-libs that her live performances have shown her surprisingly capable of.
Read our original review of ‘Eliza Doolittle’
07. The Script – ‘Science & Faith’
September, Peak No1
We can honestly say we weren’t expecting The Script to be able to replicate the success of their self-titled debut album, but thankfully we were wrong. ‘Science & Faith’ was another emotional rollercoaster of a set, stuffed with pop rock that ranged from uplifting to heartbreaking. Lead single ‘For The First Time’ and follow-up ‘Nothing’ are two particular highlights, but note also ‘Dead Man Walking’ for a quick lesson in how to write a song about being the one left with all the feelings. At just ten tracks long it steers completely clear of filler, and we’re already looking forward to the next instalment in a couple of years’ time.
06. OneRepublic – ‘Waking Up’
January, Peak No29
Album No2 didn’t come anywhere near the sales figures of its predecessor for OneRepublic, whose leading man Ryan Tedder couldn’t quite replicate the success of the global megastars he writes for. Still, that’s not to say the album wasn’t good – in fact, ‘Waking Up’ showed a vast development from 2007′s ‘Dreaming Out Loud’, showing all the signs of an American Coldplay. ‘Secrets’ is a brilliant shout-back to Tedder’s harshest critics, ‘The Good Life’ is a gloriously feel-good anthem, and ‘Marchin On’ is a defiant track that, like their breakthrough hit ‘Apologise’, got given a Timbaland makeover. At once reassuring, relaxing, euphoric and inspiring; ‘Waking Up’ was a superbly crafted LP that deserved to do a lot better than it did.
Read our original review of ‘Waking Up’
05. Katy Perry – ‘Teenage Dream’
August, Peak No1
Mrs Russell Brand proved she’s more than a one-album wonder in 2010 by featuring on five of the year’s 40 best-selling singles and releasing a sophomore album that charted a full 10 places higher than her début. Admittedly it was a bit too front-loaded, with the quality slacking slightly towards the end, but the vast majority of this set showed a budding songwriter who’d been working hard at her craft for years before she made her breakthrough, and is continuing to do so. ‘Teenage Dream’ and ‘The One That Got Away’ alone fully justify Katy’s status as a world-class popstar, and tracks like ‘Firework’, ‘California Gurls’ and ‘Last Friday Night’ are amazing also. Closer ‘Not Like The Movies’ is a touching, stripped-back ballad; and check out also the angry and surprisingly gritty ‘Circle The Drain’ if you ever feel like getting on her wrong side.
Read our original review of ‘Teenage Dream’
04. Marina and the Diamonds – ‘The Family Jewels’
March, Peak No5
A hot tip from critics as one to watch in 2011, Marina didn’t disappoint. ‘The Family Jewels’ came packed with brilliantly crafted pop music, including the fantastic singles ‘Hollywood’, ‘I Am Not A Robot’, ‘Oh No!’ and ‘Shampain’. Also well worth a listen are opener ‘Are You Satisfied’, fan favourite ‘Obsessions’ and oddly-titled ‘Hermit The Frog’. Her fashion style on tour may give her the look of Greece’s answer to Lady GaGa, but musically Marina is refreshingly unique – thought-provoking lyrics that steer clear of cliché at all times, quirky little vocal tricks, and irresistible choruses that don’t really sound like anything else out there at the moment.
03. Gabriella Cilmi – ‘Ten’
March, Peak No28
UNDER-RATED ALERT! One of 2008′s breakout stars returned for the sophomore effort in 2010 with very limited commercial success. Lead single ‘On A Mission’ did the business but sadly this fantastic album more or less sank without a trace. Oh, the shame of it. This is a totally different LP to 2008′s ‘Lessons To Be Learned’ – the 80s pop is in, and Cilmi’s distinctive voice sounds surprisingly at home. That gay as a maypole lead single is the definitive guilty pleasure, lone ballad ‘Defender’ is a defiant plea of loyalty, ‘Hearts Don’t Lie’ is producer Xenomania at his best, and ‘Superhot’ – with lyrics like “He’s a superhot guy, it’s a superhot ride” – is a song that should be utter shite but miraculously is a stroke of genius. If you only Spotify one track though, make it ‘Love Me Cos You Want To’: written by Cilmi and Ellie Goulding, it’s an incredible take on an ailing relationship that has to be heard to be believed.
Read our original review of ‘Ten’
02. Diana Vickers – ‘Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree’
May, Peak No1
OH THE CONTROVERSY. No, we’re not even ashamed. Many critics dismissed Diana Vickers’ long-awaited début as numbingly mediocre, but the wiser among us found it a master-class in contemporary pop music. If you’ve never been a fan of the cat-like yelp with which the ‘X Factor’ alumnus croons then you’re pretty much doomed from the outset, but file it under Good Things and you’re onto a winner. Nerina Pallot ballad ‘Put It Back Together’ is breathtaking, Ellie Goulding co-writes ‘Remake Me + You’ and ‘Notice’ are two totally different but equally amazing tracks, ‘Me and You’ is a folky gem, and closer ‘Chasing You’ is an overlooked triumph as well. Kudos for the songwriting (thematically it’s rather samey without being repetitive), kudos for the A-list army of helpers, and kudos for an amazing début album of which we will probably never tire.
Read our original review of ‘Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree’
01. Ellie Goulding – ‘Lights’
March, Peak No1
We’ll be honest. First time we heard ‘Starry Eyed’ our initial impression was simply ‘meh’. 6/10. OK. Three stars. B-. Not bad. But after a few more listens and the eventual realisation of its amazingness, we gave the album a spin and, as the saying goes, never looked back. With just ten tracks, this isn’t an LP front-loaded with potential hits and padded out with filler, it’s one with ten out of ten songs successfully registering as amazing. Each and every track is special, each and every track is gloriously well-produced by Starsmith, and each and every track is sweet and believable in the hands of our soft-voiced lady in charge. We’ve already named ‘The Writer’ as one of our very favourite songs of the year, but elsewhere ‘This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)’ is pop at its best, ‘Your Biggest Mistake’ has the best middle-8/pre-finale chorus of the lot, and ‘Wish I Stayed’ begins ghost-like before building to another perfect chorus. December re-release ‘Bright Lights’ packs a few more punches too, with the wonderful title track becoming available to the masses for the first time, and acoustic gem ‘The End’ flaunting more of Goulding’s folky roots. An amazing set, and one which’ll make Album #2 a very tricky task indeed.
Read our original review of ‘Lights’