Monday, January 31, 2011

modern dance

I'm very impressed with the promotional campaign behind "History Of Modern", the latest longplayer from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

Much like Bryan Ferry's current album, "Olympia", the long promotional tail has settled in across many months during a time when most acts can barely squeeze out a month of activity around the release of an elpee.

Paul and Andy are about to embark on another tour. This time, US shows are on the cards. And they are about to release the title track as the third single from "History Of Modern".

To mark the release of the next single, they will be issuing the title track as a limited edition collector's digipack CD and 10" vinyl.

The CD will include all the b-sides including their cover of "VCR" which was originally recorded by The xx. Plus, it will include three remixes of "History Of Modern (Part I)", an extended remix produced by OMD, and the newly mixed radio version. That's twelve tracks in total. A bumper crop of goodies for fans!

The 10" will include previous b-side, "The Grand Deception", OMD's extended mix of the a-side and '"VCR". And for all those who want to download the full bundle, it will be available from all fine online "shops".

To get your mojo going, here is an exclusive preview of the remix of "History Of Modern (Part I)" by New York sensations, Selebrities.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

on the seventh day

Theo and Adam are at it again. "Sunday", the fourth and presumably final single to be plucked from their debut longplayer, is scheduled to be released on Feburary 27. It will be available in three consumer friendly flavors.

The digital download configuration will feature remixes from Seamus Haji and Tom Flynn. The following is the full tracklisting. Only the Glam As You mix has surfaced on the interwebs thus far.

1. Sunday
2. Sunday (Seamus Haji Remix)
3. Sunday (Midland Remix)
4. Sunday (Tom Flynn Remix)
5. Sunday (Glam As You Radio Mix)

The CD single will include "Live Like Heroes", another non-album track. The 7" single will replace that track with the Seamus Haji remix.

I'm really pleased to see the label continuing to back Hurts' musical endeavors. Theo and Adam continue to tour behind their current album, "Happiness", and visit ever larger venues.

Even the cover art for each single has shown a level of style and sophistication that few acts are afforded these days. That leaves an even bigger question mark as to the reason for the album sleeve being such a design disaster. It smacks of a hamfisted, taste impaired label exec insisting it have a photo of the group on it and their name be emblazoned across the top in oversized type. That's what passes as "marketing" at labels these days.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

golden opportunities

One of my fave raves at the moment is Penguin Prison, aka New York based singer/songwriter Chris Glover.

At seemingly random moments throughout last year, Penguin Prison dropped a couple of amazing singles on hot spot label, Neon Gold. Remember them? They breathed life into the careers of Ellie Goulding and Marina And The Diamonds before they were signed to major label deals.

Over the last twelve months or so, the gentle folk at Neon Gold have been nurturing Penguin Prison. They've been giving Mr. Glover and co. some time to ferment their musical wine. "Animal Animal" and "The Worse It Gets" slipped out on 7" single as tasty previews for Penguin Prison's debut longplayer.

Third single, "Golden Train", is their debut on Wall Of Sound, the UK tastemaker label that is home to Grace Jones and The Human League. Not exactly an unamazing place to be!

Although "Golden Train" has been knocking around a while, PP decided to lense an intimate, acoustic rendition of it in what appears to be an empty dining room in a local bed and breakfast.

The stripped back performance lets the song breath without all the production bells and whistles.

Here's the original version with all the accoutrements.

Lots of 80s influences going on. I detect bits of Hall And Oates, Thompson Twins, Scritti Politti, Blancmange and Talk Talk without ever sounding like any of them. The arrangements are interesting and substantial without overpowering the song at the heart of the recording.

And if you're a fan of mash ups, PP has fashioned a lovely little mashy of his top tune with Michael Jackson's funky "Workin' Day And Night" from his "Off The Wall" opus. Prepare to take a ride on your disco stick!

Wicked! I have dubbed it "Workin' On The Golden Train".

No word on the forthcoming album, though. But if it's even half as good as any of the expertly crafted singles release thus far, it's sure to be amazeballs. Penguin Prison even turn out mindblowing b-sides with consummate ease! Check out "Something I'm Not" which appeared as the flip side to "The Worse It Gets".

And they even have a deft hand a producing remixes! Two of my fave PP post productions include their reswizzling of Faithless' latest, Blancmange sampling single, "Feel Me", and "Get Outta My Way" by Kylie.

Very New Order meets the Thompson Twins! N'est-ce pas?

More plz! Clearly, I'm spreading the Penguin Prison love. Do yourself a favor and do the same.

Monday, January 24, 2011

a little night music

Continuing on the Pet Shop Boys theme...

I've been waiting for "Night Song" to hit YouTube. It's the only track Neil and Chris have released from "My Dad's A Birdman", a children's play by David Almond. They graciously gave it away to members of their fanclub at the tail end of last year.

"Night Song" finds Les Boys in lush and lovely ballad mode. Neil sounds positively gorgeous.

The melody is tender and beautiful. The lyrics are terribly cute yet still quite smart. Perfect for children and parents alike. My favorite part is when Neil's backing vocals respond as the sound of singing swallows.

My only criticism is that the spoken bit around 2.18 sounds rushed. Of course, I'd love to hear "The Dumpling Song" and "Wings And Faith", the other tracks they penned for the play. "My Dad's A Birdman" spent its residence at the Young Vic in London from November 25, 2010 through January 1, 2011.

PSB's next foray into music accompaniment will be the score for their ballet, "The Most Incredible Thing". It will be available across a double CD set which is scheduled to hit the "shops" in March.

Performances of the ballet, choreographed by Javier De Frutos, will take place at Sadler's Wells in London, from March 17th through March 26th.

Guess who's making the transatlantic trip to see it? I will be tweeting, updating my Facebook status, uploading content to my blog and causing general mayhem at the final show. Watch this space, mes chattons!

Friday, January 21, 2011

here today, built to last

In honor of the 25th anniversary of "West End Girls" reaching #1 on the UK hit parade, Andy Connell from Swing Out Sister has produced a smooth, laid back, instrumental cover of the Pet Shop Boys' first smasheroo.

A fine tribute to a British institution! Hopefully, SOS will turn this into a full fledged vocal track on their next longplayer.

Regarding his latest recording, Andy recently said, "A quarter of a century ago "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys went to number one in the UK. We were just developing our sound at that time, and that record was a big influence on us. So, 25 years later, here's my little instrumental tribute."

If you think about it, some of Swing Out Sister's first clutch of singles like "Blue Mood", "Surrender" and even "Breakout", have similar production elements to some of PSB's early singles.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

this woman's work

Rumors abound on the interwebs, mes chattons! Apparently, Kate Bush will be gracing our presence with some new material sometime this year. I think I might have peed a little!

Her spokesperson has been quoted in a carefully worded statement which indicates Kate is recording something new, but that doesn't necessarily mean she'll be releasing a full-length longplayer.

Seems to me that it will probably be a singles collection with a few new tracks tacked on the end for her salivating fans. By now, we are used to Kate's long droughts between musical rainshowers. Clearly, she's in no rush. After all, she has only released eight elpees in thirty years.

With her dedicated and patient fanbase, new music from Lady Bush is always seen as food from the gods. Since the release of "Aerial" in 2005, she has only released "Lyra", a song for the movie "The Golden Compass".

If a career retrospective is on the cards, it is long overdue. It's hard to believe "The Whole Story" was released in time for the Christmas market WAY back in 1986. In fact, it's the only hits collection Kate has issued to date.

As for new material, I hope she delivers more than one track. Kate's sumptuous, velvety soundscapes are beyond comparison. They live in a musical universe of their own. However, I'd like to hear something with a bit of tempo, as well.

When Kate gives good rhythm, we get this...

And when she goes all lush and lovey, we get this...

Gosh! The video for "This Woman's Work" brings me to the brink of tears everytime. Nearly everything Kate has released still gives me serious goosebumps. The strength and passion embedded in her work has not faded over time.

And who doesn't love the kooky, arty side of Kate?

Eccentric. Reclusive. Emotive. Genius. Always amazing! Kate really hasn't put a foot wrong. Let's hope she gets that new stuff in the "shops" tout de suite!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

radio musicola

Roxette crash back down to earth with their brand new single, "She's Got Nothing On (But The Radio)". It's all sweet 70s sounding bubblegum with a touch of rubber synth bass.

The verses are sound like a hybrid of "Mony Mony" by Tommy James And The Shondells - or Billy Idol, depending on the number of times you've spun around the sun - and "Pump It Up" by Elvis Costello. The chorus, a gigantic slab of sunny pop, is a certified winner!

Per Gessle certainly can write a tune. He deftly taps into the music of his youth with every strum of his guitar. Nicely done! Of course, it's Marie's voice, equal parts rock grit and heavenly tones, that sets the song on fire.

In anticipation of the launch of "Charm School", their first longplayer in a decade, the Swedish duo have lensed a video for their new single. Shiny backlighting, soft focus on Per and Marie, "youths" frugging their stuff at a party, and a hot dose of fun from all participants are the order of the day.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

the gift of schizo

After nearly a year since it was supposed to be released, the long delayed career retrospective from Scritti Politti will finally hit the "shops" on Feburary 28.

"Absolute" is a solid affair touching on nearly every aspect of their work. It's surprising that it took this long to assemble considering most of their contemporaries have been anthologized numerous times by now.

As a Scritti fanatic, I find very few faults with the tracklisting. However, it still remains to be seen if the single versions are going to be featured on this collection. Many of them have never appeared in the digital realm of zeros and ones. So, be prepared for some shouting if the album versions turn up on this compilation.

Without further hesitation, it is my pleasure to announce the official tracklisting for "Absolute".

1. Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)
2. Absolute
3. The Word Girl (Flesh And Blood)
4. Perfect Way
5. Hypnotize
6. Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry For Loverboy)
7. Boom! There She Was
8. Umm
9. Tinseltown To The Boogiedown
10. Die Alone
11. Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder
12. Skank Bloc Bologna
13. The Sweetest Girl
14. Asylums In Jerusalem
15. Jacques Derrida
16. She's A Woman
17. Day Late And A Dollar Short
18. A Place We Both Belong

The scuttlebutt is that Green didn't want to include anything from "Provision" and several tracks from "White Bread, Black Beer". How could a masterpiece such as "Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry For Loverboy)" not be included?

Apparently, after a bit of to and fro, kicking and screaming, and some exasperating discussion, nearly every single seems to make an appearance on the collection with the exception of "Faithless", "First Boy In This Town (Lovesick)", "Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me", "Mystic Handyman" and "The Boom Boom Bap". But, at eighteen tracks, something had to be cut.

Nice to see "Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder", one of Scritti's most epic tracks ever, in the line up. Definitely one of their career highlights. "Skank Bloc Bologna" makes an unexpected showing.

Most significantly, we get two brand new songs - "Day Late And A Dollar Short" and "A Place We Both Belong" - both of which are written by Green and David Gamson. David is nearly single-handedly responsible for the unique, Farilight driven, Scritti Politti sound of "Cupid & Psyche 85". It will be very interesting to hear the fruits of Green's new collab with Mr. Gamson.

Lastly, I'm thrilled they put together a proper sleeve. The cover art stands in rank with their signature visual style.

love is love

As January slips into February, thoughts of love start to bubble to the surface. For slurry chanteuse, Corinne Bailey Rae, love is overall theme of her forthcoming project, "The Love EP". Snappy title!

Consisting of five lovey dovey covers, the EP shows Corinne wearing her influences and inspirations on the very end of her neatly tailored sleeve.

First up is a daring choice - "I Wanna Be Your Lover", Prince's breakthrough hit from 1979. Who knew she had some sexy funk itching to get out?

The arrangement remains faithful to the original. Corinne could've gone more glossy and electronic with it, but she chose to pull back on the shimmer. The rag tag edges like the buzzy synths and slightly loose drumming give it a more live and honest quality. Surprisingly, her dreamy vocal suits the track perfectly. The extended, vampy jam at the tail end sprinkles in a bit of dark joy.

The rest of the EP includes her take on "Low Red Moon" by Belly, "Is This Love?" by Bob Marley, "My Love" by Paul McCartney and Wings and a live rendition of "Que Sera Sera" originally made famous by Doris Day.

"The Love EP" will be available from all fine digital outlets on Valentine's Day. Natch!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

class act cat

Jay Kay is a proper rock star. N'est-ce pas? The beautiful models, the fast cars, the stroppy attitude. It's all there. Then there are the undeniably amazing tunes.

Jamiroquai's highly anticipated longplayer, "Rock Dust Light Star", showed so much promise with the release of first single, "White Knuckle Ride", a dirty funk workout which stands among their best moments. The remix package was pretty wicked stuff, too.

Follow up single, "Blue Skies", was a mellow affair. Still, nicely done. Unfortunately, the album fell kinda flat for me. Being a massive fan, I felt a bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong, there are some fine moments on the elpee. It just doesn't sparkle from top to tail like previous efforts.

Now, the third single, "Lifeline", is about to be plucked from the album and a video has been cobbled together. It features lots of behind the scenes shots of Jay Kay and co. at various concert locations from around the globe. He looks like he's having the time of his life. But the clip is nothing special, IMHO.

However, do keep an eye out for Jay Kay's shapely posterior. He's a class act, kittens.

"Lifeline" is scheduled to be released on January 24.

Monday, January 10, 2011

one of the living

Just when the world thought Frankmusik was going to be brushed under the rug as having one terrific longplayer, Vincent Frank returns under his superstar moniker with a new EP.

"Long Live Frankmusik" is a four track taster with at least two of its songs being earmarked for inclusion on his forthcoming, sophomore elpee, "Do It In The AM". Terrible title.

The EP includes two ballads - "Hurt You Again" and "Warrior" - which sorta made me think he was getting all slushy and syrupy on our collective asses. The latter of the two is a distinct treasure. When he's in downtempo mode, Frankmusik has a deft hand with layers and simplicity which go completely against the grain of his marketing brief as a techno electro wizzard.

"Warrior" is the better of the two with a delicately played piano which underscores Vincent's confident, emotive vocal. In all honesty, it's reminiscent of "Hide And Seek" era Howard Jones.

I would have preferred "Warrior" as the lead promotional push for Frankmusik's return, but I completely understand going with "The Fear Inside". It's a slab of dark anxiety laid over an electro production straight out of 1982. Sounds like someone has been listening to plenty of Arthur Baker records.

It also looks like someone's enjoying his move to Los Angeles. The video is more Hollywood gloss and less on the quirky Brit tip.

Then there is the uplifting, fizzy joy of "Our Discovery (Tribute To Daft Punk)" which cheekily references "One More Time" by Daft Punk. Glad to see he kept he isn't taking himself too seriously.

Final slot on the EP is home to "Hate Your Love", which features the middling talents of Digiraatii with whom I am not familiar. It's a bit of mess. Nothing memorable. Completely throwaway. Three outta four ain't bad.

If this all makes you tingle inside, then you'll be happy to know you can download the EP for free on Frankmusik's official website! It's a snip!

Let's hope he can get more of a foothold this time around. He might have what it takes to be the male version of Robyn.

Friday, January 7, 2011

everyday feels like Sunday

It appears out favorite moody duo of the moment are going to pluck another single from their debut longplayer! Hurts are rumored to be releasing "Sunday" as the follow up to "Stay" which crashed out in the UK singles chart at a lacklustre #50.

It's amazing that the label would choose to go four or even five singles deep from "Happiness". In ye olden days (ie. the 80s) it would have been expected.

So far, only the Glam As You remix of "Sunday" has appeared on the interwebs. It ups the tempo and makes it a more poppers o'clock affair with more than a passing resemblance to classic PSB.

My only criticism of "Happiness" is that it could have been served better by including a few more uptempo tracks. Perhaps the single version of "Sunday" will be reswizzled for radio play and popular consumption with a bit more thump in the bottom end. Ooh er, missus!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

once more into the bleach

The new Blondie album, "Panic Of Girls", has been on the release schedule for AGES! Maybe they're working on a track with Sophie Ellis-Bextor? Oh, I kid.

Recently, two tracks from the band's forthcoming ninth longplayer appeared on a special cover mounted CD of "Parallel Lines", their evergreen, landmark elpee. This edition of the album was featured in "The Mail On Sunday" in the UK.

A third track, "Mother", is now available to download from the band's official website. Let's take a listen.

Love the shiny, jagged keyboard parts. It's got a nice shimmy to it when the chorus hits. Debbie still sounds like the pouting sex kitten of rock n' roll. Her shouty vitality is exactly how I think of Ms. Harry. The way she delivers the word "mother" must be a bit of nod toward "Psycho".

Pull your finger out, Debbie! We've been waiting.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

ten for 2010

As another year draws to a close, so many of us in the blogosphere must hunker down and review our faves raves from the previous twelve months. Getting stuck in the great Boxing Day blizzard was the best springboard from me to begin the simultaneously arduous and thrilling task of completing my list. Thankfully, 2010 turned out to be a banner year for music. One of the best on record if I recall correctly.

But first, a look forward. Which longplayers am I anticipating in 2011? Hue And Cry, The Human League, Duran Duran, The Feeling and Penguin Prison. I know Duran just released "All You Need To Know". But the iTunes configuration isn't the whole enchilada. The full twelve track experience will be issued in physical form in February. So, I'm gonna wait to review it. It's already one of my most played elpees of this year! Sure to be a top contender in the next.

And will someone PLEASE tell me where the new albums from Blondie and Sophie Ellis-Bextor have gone? Once imminent, they've slipped off the map. Can't bode well for either of them.

Without further faffing about, here are my ten favorite albums of the year listed in alphabetical order.

Marc Almond - "Varieté"

Taking on the dual roles of showman and troubadour for "Varieté", Marc Almond showed he could deliver his own, self-penned material with as much style, quality and panache as the covers he performs so exceptionally well. All of this during his rehabilitation from a near fatal motorcycle accident a few years ago.

From the Russian strains of "Najinsky Heart" to the gypsy peasantry of "Bread And Circus", the piano torch of "Lavender", the swinging 60s London glam of the title track, the entire longplayer hangs together thematically, lyrically and musically in a way that most artists can only dream of at any point in their career.

Even the limited edition version of the album is an embarrassment of riches for Mr. Almond as he presents another half dozen or so songs which are presented in a stripped back, smoking jacket, beat club production. Every track on "Varieté" is vintage Marc Almond, one of the UK's musical treasures.

The Divine Comedy - "Bang Goes The Neighborhood"

Neil Hannon, in the guise of The Divine Comedy, returned with a... bang! Natch.

Still waving the flag for intelligently crafted songs with nods toward classic British pop of the 60s and 70s, TDC returned in grand style. Neil still kept the orchestral flourishes in tact, but delivered "Bang" with a slightly more low-fi approach. From the Blur-like "At The Indie Disco" to the Continental flavor of "Neapolitan Girl", the album fits in perfectly with previous TDC masterworks without ever sounding like a retread. One word... Bravo!

Bryan Ferry - "Olympia"

Ten years on from Bryan Ferry's last longplayer of original material, "Olympia" had a lot to live up to. Sure, it has many of the trademark soundscapes he's been known for. There are the languid electronics, the dream guitars, the slurry delivery of someone intoxicated by love and other musings. All of it is present. But there's a rugged undercarriage to the songs which seems to

"Olympia" is champagne and gelato. A swirling mixture of style with a soupcon of danger lurking around the corner. A stunningly beautiful goddess flashing a sinister, knowing smile encouraging you to succumb to the layers of sound.

Mr. Ferry has lost none of his ability to seduce and beguile. May "Olympia" be the next of many nexts.

Goldfrapp - "Head First"

Zippy synths. Breathy, insistent vocals. Pulsing beats. Goldfrapp returned from the pastoral excursion of "Seventh Tree", itself a work of beauty, with "Head First", an album that should've scaled the dizzy heights of the charts.

Urgent and sexy. The opening synth triptych - the high octane "Rocket", the slightly ethereal "Believer", and the anthemic "Alive" - set up the album nicely. All nine tracks are dotted with some unusual, early 80s influences including "Xanadu" and Kim Carnes, as well as the obvious ones like OMD and Kraftwerk, without ever sounding retro.

But it's more than a dance album. There's a lot of deep emotion running through its synthy veins which gives "Head First" a lot of heart and plenty of warmth. Plus it has a penis on the front cover. Look closely. Trying to find it is part of the fun.

"Head First" never left my playlist all year. Let's keep the fire burning for Alison and Will in the hopes they come up with the goods on their next, full length, studio effort. Perhaps it won't follow too long after their forthcoming greatest hits collection which is scheduled to drop later this spring.

Hurts - "Happiness"

Grand, eloquent, elegiac and moody . Hurts live an a sophisticated pop universe. Equal parts Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys, yet sounding like nothing else in the charts.

Unfortunately, Theo and Adam haven't lit the world alight with their debut longplayer. But those of us that savor their kind of magnificent melancholy and well written, melodic vignettes know they have put a lot of work into making the album special.

The album became a bit of event, which continues the DM and PSB comparisons as it has become both bands' calling card everytime they release one of their always anticipated longplayers. My only (minor) complaint is that the elpee lacks in the uptempo tune department.

"Better Than Love" is a driving, gothic number with shades of early New Order and bits of Sisters Of Mercy woven throughout. And that's the extent of anything that pushes the BPMs into the upper reaches. Strangely, they ditched the brooding, captivating title track, a and relegated it to a bonus track status on very few digital portals.

Also, the singles could have benefited from a different release sequence. Instead of launching straight out of the box with the magnificent and moving "Wonderful Life", they chose "Better Than Love" which would have performed better had it followed the clearly defined hit.

Overall, the album is lovely. Don't wait too long to follow it up with something breathtakingly beautiful, lads.

Kylie Minogue - "Aphrodite"

Everyone's favorite, Aussie pop rocket delivered another sparkling album. This time, she gave her fans what they wanted - an elpee of full on, straight ahead pop.

It's an album that burst forth with the euphoric energy that her fans loved on "Fever" and wanted her to capture again after the spiky electronics of "X". Nearly every track has a hands in the air moment whether it's the gorgeous strains of "All The Lovers", the pulsing, singleworthy "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)", the lovely Keane written "Everything Is Beautiful" or the mighty drumline excitement of the title track. Singles for days.

Unfortunately, in this era of lowest common denominator, identi-kit R&B dominating the charts, Kylie's brand of top shelf pop seems a bit out of step. Therefore, third single, "Better Than Today", fell short of the top 30 even with all the promotional stops pulled out in full force.

It clearly underscores the damage a wrong single choice can trip up an otherwise flawless pop longplayer. Surely, the rumored deluxe edition is right around the corner as Kylie ramps up for her forthcoming world tour. I'll be there. Will you?

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - "History Of Modern"

It is the year of the synth. And who better to make their return than OMD? Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphries reunited the original four piece and decided to embrace their origins.

After testing the waters during a reunion tour for their 30th anniversary and a celebration of their seminal longplayer, "Architecture And Morality", Paul and Andy realized there was a lot of life left in the old mare. They dug out their synths, hashed out a dozen new songs or so and set about capturing the excitement of their debut recordings. At the same time, their return made it very clear where current faves like The xx owe their debt of gratitude.

The lyrical bite of distorted opener, "New Babies: New Toys" lays out their manifesto with a succinct "fuck off" delivered to the impostors and detractors. OMD are doing what feels best.

Anthemic first and second singles, "If You Want It" and "Sister Marie Says", respectively, show their affinity for a finely tuned pop song. They revisit every aspect of their recorded work without ever sounding like they are trading on past glories. The strength is in the clean production which supports the melodic strength of every tune on this magnificent return to glory.

All the orchestral samples and choral pads are in tact from throughout their esteemed career. The synths sparkle, the effusive melodies twinkling like a million stars until they burst into a shower of fireworks across the pristine production. Lovely.

Robyn - "Body Talk"

For nearly a year, Robyn has been a whirling dervish. A Swedish dynamo!

When she revealed her plan of releasing three albums in 2010, many scoffed at the idea. How could she come up with the goods three times?

Firstly, she kept each release in the "Body Talk" trilogy trimmed down to about eight tracks with the third installment featuring the best of the first two plus five new tracks.

It may have sounded unorthodox first, but in this new frontier of wireless trading of zeros and ones, it seems to have worked. It also helped that she promoted each effort with the vitality and excitement of an artist in her prime. She embraced every opportunity to get the word out and incorporated eye popping visuals into every part of the media mix.

Standout cuts, "Dancing On My Own", "Hang With Me" and "Indestructible" are a clutch of the finest, tear stained dancefloor epics this side of the Stockholm archipelago. But Robyn proves she has a sense of humor inside her arctic heart. "Fembot", the Snoop Dogg assisted "U Should Know Better" and the expletive ridden "Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do" are the jammy jams with a wink and smirk to let her fanbase know she can party smartly with the best of the current R&B set. And who doesn't love to initiate slut mode at least once a day?

Scissor Sisters - "Night Work"

Sleaze is the word! Jake Shears and co. whipped up a frenzy. "Night Work", their difficult third longplayer, is a deep n' greasy blowjob in an amyl nitrate filled backroom in a backstreet leather bar in Berlin.

The Trevor Horn via FGTH inspired "Invisible Light", complete with Bee Gees falsettos and thunderous percussion may have set the tone, but a few surprises like the anthemic "Fire With Fire" sounded more like The Killers. "Any Which Way" is incendiary funk with a sexy, slippery backbone and more typical of ver Scissters previous work. "Running Out" and "Night Life" sound like they bastard child of Devo and The Cult. All meant with love, of course.

"Night Work" is the sound of a group trying to break out of the corner they might have painted themselves into with their first two albums. Equal measures of frivolity and anxiety may have built them to survive or burnt them out completely. We'll know after their mammoth world tour wraps up this year. Catch them while you can!

Tracey Thorn - "Love And Its Opposite"

Tracey Thorn is one of Britain's most gifted songwriters. Every word that falls from her mouth seems to carry massive weight despite the simplicity and directness of her writing.

"Love And Its Opposite", the follow-up to 2007's more rhythmic driven "Out Of The Woods", explores mid-life in all its glory and disappointment. This is particularly apparent on poignant tracks like "Oh, The Divorces" and "Singles Bar" - two locations many are surprised to find themselves when they've crossed the great divide into the second half of their planned obsolescence.

On Twitter, Tracey has a spiky sense of wit delivered with a dash of self deprecation. Much of it is her keen attention to detail and the gift of acute observation cloaked in a laugh. And that's where much of the lyrical content of "Love And Its Opposite" resides. With every tweet, you can imagine Tracey in her kitchen chuckling to herself in deep, Mutley tones at some of her wry commentary which touches on everything from gardening to "X Factor". Essential twitteratum.

Hardly a folk album, Tracey's third solo elpee showcases her as one of Britain's quintessential singer/songwriters. Everything in the writing, arrangements and production is never pushed or rushed. Its quiet elegance, urgent beauty and balance shows Tracey at the height of her lyrical prowess. Stripped of the thump of the dancefloor, "Love And Its Opposite" is a more direct route to the head and the heart which allows for a greater impact on the listener.

Highlights include the haunting "Kentish Town", the yearning "Why Does The Wind?", the Squeeze-ly "Hormones" and the ethereal glory of "Swimming".

And that sums up my musical excursion through the previous 52 weeks. For those keeping track, you can find my ten favorite longplayers of 2009 and 2008 by clicking here. Bring on the sound of 2011!