Infernal - From Paris To Berlin
Infernal are one of my favourite bands and I was very pleased to see them break through to the mainstream with their inescapable dance hit "From Paris To Berlin" - even if that song makes me want to hit myself on the head with a large hammer. Thankfully, the album is full of shiny pop gems that put "From Paris To Berlin" to shame. "Ten Miles" and "Peace Inside" show a more contemplative side to Infernal, camp anthems like "Careful With The Boys" and "Loved Like A Maniac" provide even the most desperate pop addict with a fix, while their cover of "Vienna" and the Australian single "A To The B" are treats for tragic Euro-trash lovers. The Australian release even came with a selection of live tracks from their amazing tour. My only complaint is their choice of singles. What is going on? "Cheap Trick Kinda Girl" and "A To The B" assured the album's failure in Australia, while a new track, their amazing cover of "Self Control", is being promoted in Europe. What the fuck?
Marcia Hines - Discotheque
The Young Divas are not the only Australian act to release an album of poptastic cover versions this year. Marcia Hines, 1970s "Queen of Pop" and current Australian Idol "earth mother", scored a top 10 album with her take on disco classics. "Discotheque" is positively bursting with good, old fashioned GAY fun! Marcia tears through a couple of numbers on auto-pilot but brings a real sense of joy to songs like "Best Of My Love", "Never Knew Love Like This Before", "Disco Inferno" and particularly, "Right Back Where We Started From". The album is also notable for the presence of "Stomp!", Marcia's first duet with her equally amazing daughter, Deni. There is nothing cool or cutting-edge about "Discotheque", which is exactly what makes it so fucking entertaining!
For a detailed Marcia rundown, with more tracks to download, check out this post.
Mary Kiani - The Sydney Sessions
Mary Kiani is the Scottish queen of dance, who has become such a fixture on the Sydney gay scene that she has recorded an album songs inspired by her many Sydney visits. "The Sydney Sessions" is a stunning achievement. Mary has crafted an album of pop gems that plays just as well in a club or in your home stereo. This album is pure bliss; there is nothing deep and meaningful here, just a collection of shiny pop songs that make you want to get up and dance. I believe this is the album that Madonna wanted to make with "Confessions On A Dance Floor" before her ego got in the way and spoiled things. "The Sydney Sessions" not only showcases Mary's recent output but includes several updated and remixed classics, such as "I Imagine" and "When I Call Your Name". The new songs, recorded with the team responsible for Melissa Tkautz's previous album, are also great. "Dreams", "Come Into My World" and "Anything Is Possible" are my favourites.
Read more about Mary (and download more songs) here. You can buy "The Sydney Sessions" directly from Mary's record label.
Paulini - Superwoman
Paulini was a busy woman in 2006. She began the year promoting her solo career, which should have been kicked into orbit with the release of her fabulous third album, "Superwoman" (I guess that Christmas monstrosity counts as an album). "Superwoman" is a bright, sparkling collection of urban pop tunes, which reminds me of American R'n'B in the 1980s - ie when it was still good. The album contains the singles "Rough Day" (which Paulini promoted tirelessly in gay clubs) and the magnificent "So Over You" (which made my top 40 songs of 2006 countdown). Despite good reviews and endless promotion, "Superwoman" stiffed at #72 in the charts and Sony asked her (ie pushed her) to join Young Divas. The success of their releases spelled the death of "Superwoman" and the third single "I Believe" was scrapped, despite promos being sent to radio and a video clip being filmed. It's a shame because this is one of the funkiest Australian pop albums of the decade.
Dannii - The Hits & Beyond
Next up is Dannii's much maligned "Hits & Beyond". A greatest hits compilation with a handful of new tracks tacked on, did not seem the most promising way for Dannii to begin her partnership with AATW records. With the career momentum Dannii had built with the work of genius that is "Neon Nights", a quick follow up seemed a no brainer. Only, in true Dannii style, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong; Dannii's new producers messed with the warm synth sound that made "Neon Nights" so unusual and did their best to transform her into an AATW in-house diva. It didn't end there, Dannii's planned new album was scrapped for "The Hits & Beyond" and the choice of singles has been nothing short of appalling. Let's not even get started on what happened to the planned "I Can't Sleep At Night/Love Fight" single or the mystery that is "He's The Greatest Dancer". The end result is that Dannii has now returned to Australia to host a talent show. Sorry, I was so carried away with my ranting about Dannii's tragi-fabulous career that I forgot about "The Hits & Beyond" (like most of the buying public). "The Hits & Beyond" offers 13 Dannii classics and 7 new tracks, only one of which is shithouse. Obviously, no record collection is complete without it!
Deni Hines - Water For Chocolate
Although I'm not ranking these albums, if I was pushed to choose a favourite I would probably go for this one. Deni Hines returned with her first new studio album in a decade without the support of a big record label and with a bunch of tracks that she wrote herself. The first time I listened to the album, I was a bit mystified because there seemed to be a dearth of songs that immediately grabbed you. After the filthy and fabulous first single, I wasn't expecting a collection of songs that seem more influenced by 70s R'n'B than current trends. To put it simply, this album is dripping in old school SOUL. "Water For Chocolate" requires a few listens before the extent of Deni's accomplishment becomes apparent. She has written an album of melodic soul tracks that is positively bursting with variety and energy. My favourite songs are Deni's fuck you anthem "That's You", the divine ballad "New Day" and the only nod to current R'n'B, the fabulous "Cut It Up". Deni might have sold 3 copies of "Water For Chocolate" but I hope she's proud of a spectacular achievement.
Deirdre Halliwell - Twisted Bitch
I am proud to call myself Deirdre Halliwell's number 1 fan. I truly worship the ground that Deirdre walks on. In a world full of carbon copies, Deirdre is a bonafide original. Who else would have the fabulous nerve to serve up an album like "Twisted Bitch", a musical cesspool of filthy songs like "Slave To The Jizzum" and "(Get Your) Curtains Parted"? Deirdre's formula of covering pop classics with newly revised, obscene lyrics may sound simple but there is genius at work here. "Freaky Like Deirdre" is one of best songs of 2006, while "I'm A Filthy Mental Bitch", a cover of Britney's "I'm A Slave For You" left me in awe of Deirdre's spellbinding artistry. You can hear many of the songs on Deirdre's website or on her Myspace. You can order the album here, which is well worth it, if only for Deirdre's cover art which takes minimalism to new heights! Bless her filthy heart!
Young Divas - Young Divas
The Young Divas are famously four Australian Idol rejects who banded together (ie. were legally obliged) to form the most successful Australian girl group for some time. Their first single, a cover of "This Time I Know It's For Real", made my end of year top 10 and their follow up, a cover of "Happenin' All Over Again" was almost as good. The girls decided to stick to a winning game plan when they released their self-titled debut album a couple of weeks before Christmas. The album is basically a poofter's wet dream, with the Divas covering everything from "It's Raining Men" to Barbra Streisand's "Woman In Love". This album is so fucking gay it almost defies belief. Much like, Marcia Hines' "Discotheque", the Young Divas have created a majestic slice of dumb fun. I think I'm going to have to buy another copy because mine is almost worn out!
Katie Price & Peter Andre - A Whole New World
I'm not being facetious, I seriously LOVE this album. I have been a fan of Peter Andre's since his "Funky Junky" days and I am mesmerised by the vision of trannytastic loveliness that is Jordan. I have been waiting for a Jordan solo album for years but "A Whole New World" will do nicely. The presence of both Peter and Jordan ups the cheese factor to the point where basically anything goes. Their versions of "I've Had The Time Of My Life" and "Islands In The Stream" are so wrong, they become so very right. While occasionally, the pair strike gold and find a song that actually suits their voices. I prefer their version of "The Best Things In Life Are Free" to Janet & Luther's, while "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", a song I usually find unbearable, becomes a winner when interpreted by Jordan and Peter. Every bone in my trash loving body is waiting for volume 2!
PS. The profits go to charity - so just buy it, you cunts.
Nelly Furtado - Loose
Nelly Furtado sold out. Someone crack open a bottle of champers and get the party started! I pretty obviously don't give a fuck about musical credibility but even I was surprised when I heard about Nelly Furado hooking up with super-producer Timbaland for her 3rd album. The idea of the man behind Missy Elliot producing the woman who strummed her way through superb folk-pop classics like "Try" sounded about as appealing as Victoria Beckham's attempt to go urban. To my great surprise, "Loose" works on every level. "Promiscuous" is one of the great R'n'B-pop collaborations of 2006, while "Maneater" was a brilliant shot of adrenalin charged pop. The rest of the album plays like a remixed verison of "Folklore", lovely melodies combined with awesome beats. My favourites are "Say It Right", "Do It" and the beautifully delicate "Showtime". If this is the result of "selling out", then I suggest everyone hurry up and jump on Nelly's gravy train because this shit is HOT.
La Toya Jackson - Startin' Over
Sooner or later, I will get around to writing a full post about the incredible (and still ongoing) debacle that is La Toya Jackson's comeback album, "Startin' Over". By the time Toy gets around to "startin' over", we might all have died of old age. The album, recorded in 2002, leaked in 2006 and scheduled for release after La Toya's reality TV series in 2007, has had more twists and turns than an entire series of "Nip/Tuck"! Thankfully, "Startin' Over" is a camp, pop masterpiece that should finally allow La Toya to have her moment in the spotlight after a 30 year music career that has spanned 9 studio albums and resulted in zero hits! I guess someone as original as Toy Toy is simply too fabulous for mainstream approval. It's their loss.
I'm From Barcelona - Let Me Introduce My Friends
I'm From Barcelona are a Swedish group who sing bright and happy songs about mundane things like stamp collecting and having the chicken pox. That might not sound particularly exciting but "Let Me Introduce My Friends" is the closest thing to bottled happiness that I have stumbled across all year. I'm From Barcelona specialise in a brand of exuberant, organic pop that is positively heartwarming without ever being sentimental or soppy. I defy anyone not to smile when listening to something as wonderfully ridiculous as "Treehouse", which has the amazing lyrics "I have built a treehouse, nobody can see us, 'cause it's a you and me house!" Other highlights include "Rec & Play", "We're From Barcelona" and "Chicken Pox".
Bic Runga - Birds
Even the most hardcore trash addict needs time off every now and again. When I overdose on ageing gay icons and start to hallucinate that it's 1984, my antidote of choice is the sublime Kiwi diva, Bic Runga. Bic is one of the most talented women to ever pick up a microphone. Her voice is an instrument of almost incomparable beauty and she writes, produces and plays all the instruments on her records. In other words, Bic is a fucking freak and I really should hate her because there is not a cheesy synth in sight. In fact, her latest opus, "Birds", is an even further step away from pop than her previous albums. There is nothing as instantly catchy as "Sway" or "Get Some Sleep"; rather Bic has served up a superb collection of what I can best describe as modern day torch songs. This album is best played at 3am with a cigarette in your mouth and an alcoholic beverage in your hand. "Birds" is simply exquisite.
Paris Hilton - Paris Hilton
I was convinced to give this album a second chance by a friend who raved that it was one of the best pop albums of the year. He was right! Paris' self-titled album is a fabulous set of pop songs about looking hot. I'm serious. The vast majority of these songs are about how sexy Paris is. The titles say it all - "Turn You On", "Fightin' Over Me", "Jealousy", "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy", "I Want You" etc. Superficial? Yes. Fabulous? You bet. I actually think this is a very personal album. Paris has recorded songs about the thing she knows best, which is basically how to look hot at a party. Paris has employed some of the best and brightest to help her explore modern day hotness and the album works a treat. "Nothing In This World" is one of the best pop songs of recent years, while the above mentioned "hot" anthems are surprisingly fabulous. However, my favourite song on the album is "Heartbeat", an 80s flavoured mid-tempo ballad, which is absolutely gorgeous.
Sneaky Sound System - Sneaky Sound System
I'm so jealous. Paris Hilton is spending New Year's Eve in Sydney at an event hosted by Sneaky Sound System. The idea of Paris and Sneaky Sound System in the same room is enough to give me heart palpitations. I would do some very bad things and some very ugly people to be there. My attendance is as likely as Dannii scoring a #1 hit, so I should get back to the music. Sneaky Sound System are the Australian "It" band of the moment. They are on the verge of big things, having recently supported Robbie Williams, scoring a top 20 hit with "Pictures" and having their breakthrough hit "I Love It" used on a commercial, which has resulted it re-entering the top 50. Both songs have been burning up Sydney dance floors for months, with their killer beats and catchy lyrics. Sneaky Sound System's album is that rarest of things, a consistently excellent, Australian pop-dance offering. Previous singles such as the hilarious "Hip Hip Hooray" (with the memorable lyrics "Hip hip, hip hip hooray, I'm looking for love of the one night variety! Hip hip, hip hip hooray, I wanna go home with you and I don't even know your name!") and "Tease Me" are included while irresistable cuts like "UFO" and "It's Over" smell like further hits. Fingers crossed that they hook up with Paris for their next album!