With the year just about wrapped up, we here at Idolator decided to get together, pore over our individual iPods and revisit the music that got us motivated in 2010. Perhaps some of the following 10 albums weren’t the most critically acclaimed, but they were ones that inspired our hopes, heart-felt dreams and repeated plays while we navigated Planet Pop here on the website each day over the past 12 months. And so, in no particular order other than alphabetical…
ERIKA’S PICK: The Bird & The Bee,Interpreting The Masters Vol. 1: A Tribute To Daryl Hall And John OatesI can’t decide what The Bird And The Bee accomplished more effectively: covering Daryl Hall and John Oates’ hits, or channeling the ’80s duo when trying their hand at their own tunes (“4th Of July”, “Heard It On The Radio”). This synth-pop/oh-so-melancholy covers album is somehow timeless, thanks in large part to Inara George’s velvety vocals. “Kiss On My List” is a “must add” track to your crush’s next mix CD—better yet, just lend them the whole album. You’ll thank me.
ERIKA’S PICK: Girl Talk, All DayThough some might argue this album could have been called Feed The Animals Vol. 2, with All Day Gregg Gillis (a.k.a. Girl Talk) proved he hasn’t lost his touch since 2008. To me, this ultimate mash-up album (or mega party playlist) is an amazing comment on the way we consume music on our iPods in 2010: in short 20-second spurts, like an over-excited and overstimulated ADHD kindergartener at Chuck E. Cheese. Seriously, when was the last time you listened to an entire song while driving in your car? As with Belinda Carlisle, Derek And The Dominoes and B.o.B.’s “Haterz Everywhere” all in one song (“Down For The Count”), Greg musically transforms apples and oranges into addictive lemonade. Now, will Nike please get with it and release a Girl Talk workout program? This music was built for a hardcore cardio regimen.
ROBBIE’S PICK: Goldfrapp,Head First
When Brit duo Goldfrapp’s fifth album arrived in March, it provided the perfect soundtrack to thaw out to as both the winter and the previous decade faded away. Personally, their albums have always been hit or miss with me. But something about Head First just clicked: the Atari-on-the-dancefloor kick of “Rocket”; the exuberant “Young Turks”-esque bounce of “Believer”; the yearning and synth-y rush of “I Wanna Life.” In the interview I did with Alison Goldfrapp earlier this year, she said, “We wanted to write good, strong melodies… It was just time to get out the synths again, put your hands in the air.” Mission accomplished. Both Head First and its single “Rocket” are Grammy-nominated.
BECKY’S PICK: Gorillaz, Plastic Beach
Damon Albarn has always been able to blur (pun somewhat intended) the line between pop, electro, hip-hop, funk and sounds I can’t begin to compartmentalize. But the aural trip of Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach captures some of his most visceral, glittering, twinkling melodies yet. The result of his copious collaborations and sunny synth work on this set of tunes is something just as beautiful and lush as the scenic album cover implies.
ERIKA’S PICK: Kate Nash, My Best Friend Is YouKate Nash managed to transport me back my 17-year-old self with this album. Listening to My Best Friend Is You hit me very much the way Fiona Apple’s When The Pawn… did, sitting on the floor of my bedroom with the liner notes spread out in an attempt to learn and decipher every lyric. If I was a teen today and on the hunt for my musical idol, Taylor Swift would come off too sweet and Lady Gaga too intense. Kate speaks to the girl who at first listen seems bright and cheerful, but on closer inspection is packing a razor sharp bite.
BECKY’S PICK: Kelis, Flesh Tone
Kelis was able to effortlessly transform from a quirky R&B/hip-hop artist to electro queen with this non-stop dance album, one that has yet to grow old on me after an infinite number of plays—while driving in my car, running the treadmill, dancing during a house party or just sitting back and taking in her collection of hypnotic beats. Not only was this surprising set irresistible, it was also one of the sweetest albums of the year—many of the songs are about the love for her son Knight, whom she was pregnant with while writing and recording the LP. Aww.
BECKY’S PICK: Ke$ha, Animal
As much of a guilty pleasure it is to earnestly enjoy K-Dolla’s debut Animal, I really don’t feel that guilty about it. The hooks on this album last for days and stick in your head long after the hangover is gone. Just like the masses flocking to Hot Tub Time Machine or Jersey Shore or some similar lowbrow form of entertainment, I get why Ke$ha became so popular with her drunk-and-proud-of-it persona, boasting lyrics so dumbed-down they make a tween’s text messages come off as clever. It’s all about not having to think too hard while letting loose and having fun—and fun is had in abundance on every incredibly-catchy track.
ROBBIE’S PICK: Kylie Minogue, AphroditeLike Madonna with Confessions On A Dancefloor, hooking up with producer Stuart Price turned out to be the perfect way for Kylie to give her already impressive career a fresh jolt. The Aussie pop queen’s 11th album hops from sweet (“All The Lovers”) and sassy (“Get Outta My Way”) dance-pop tunes to harder club jams (“Put Your Hands Up”) and fist-in-the-air anthem-like (“Aphrodite”) tracks. And yet Price somehow deftly made it all cohesive. Aphrodite pretty much was my Summer 2010.
ROBBIE’S PICK: Robyn, Body TalkI’m not exactly sure how Robyn cuts right to the heart of the universal longing we all feel with her icy-cool pop jams, but she’s pretty damn good at it. Anyone who doesn’t believe music with electronic drums can evoke emotions needs to give “Call Your Girlfriend”, “Stars 4-ever” and “In My Eyes” a spin. Then deal yourself a final blow with the Grammy-nominated “Dancing On My Own.” Collecting the previous Body Talk mini albums as they were released over the course of the year was a fun exercise, but do yourself a favor and grab the whole LP.
BECKY’S PICK: Scissor Sisters, Night Work
The Scissters made a triumphant dance mix with producer Stuart Price (who also worked his magic on Kylie’s Aphrodite), and it’s impossible to stop yourself from moving and grooving to this disc, which brims over with tracks as perky as the derriere on the album’s cover art. Although not fully unappreciated—this disco-rave party album has scored them even more fans, including Adam Lambert, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga—we still can’t believe this haunting, wicked, cheeky record didn’t make more year-end lists.