The time has come for my annual end of year "best of" countdown and I thought I'd start with albums. 2007 has been a great year for pop songs but there have been slim pickings for consistently excellent long players. My list features many of the usual suspects as well as a couple of surprises. I wish there were more fresh faces but it's hard to get excited about new artists when the old guard continues to churn out such high quality material. As usual, my list is predominantly but not exclusively made up of local acts. I'm proud of my passion for homegrown pop! I'd also like to note that Robyn's amazing self-titled album is a notably absent due to its appearance on my 2006 countdown.
1. X - Kylie (#1 Aus)
2007 was all about Kylie's 10th studio album. After more than a year of speculation, controversy and leaks, "X" was finally released in November and somehow managed to exceed my expectations with its winning blend of sparkling pop, nutty experimentalism and hilarious misfires. "X" isn't consistently perfect but when Kylie gets it right ("Like A Drug", "All I See", "In My Arms", "Wow", "The One", "Rippin' Up The Disco", "Stars") the results are truly exquisite. The best thing about "X" is the ability to mix and match your own album with the widely available leaked material. If you skip "Sensitized" and "Nu-Di-Ty", swap them with "Lose Control" and "In The Mood For Love" or whatever else takes your fancy! "X" is reviewed in full here.
2. Songs Of Love & Loss - Tina Arena (#3 Aus)
Teaming the finest voice that Australia has ever produced with some of the greatest songs of the 20th century was always going to be a winning combination but Tina Arena's "Songs Of Love & Loss" exceeded everyone's expectations. The song selection is inspired and the delicate production sparkles but the towering achievement of the album is its ability to showcase the devastating purity and versatility of Tina's voice. I'm ecstatic that "Songs Of Love & Loss" is a massive chart success and I can't wait to see Tina perform the album live in concert next month! Read my full review here.
3. Club Disco (As yet unreleased in Australia)
The only reason that "Club Disco" isn't sitting at #1 on this countdown is the fact that 13 of the 18 songs have previously been released! Basically the "beyond" songs from "The Hits & Beyond" with the addition of B-sides, remixes and unreleased tracks, "Club Disco" is by far the most fabulous "X factor" cash-in that Dannii has unveiled in 2007. It seems that poor song selection is an affliction that plagues both Minogue sisters because Dannii's unreleased tat is fucking amazing! "I'm Sorry", "I Will Come To You" and "Do You Believe Me Now" are all hits that went begging, while Dannii's glorious cover of "Xanadu" is a career defining moment. "Club Disco" is an absolute delight! Read my full album review here.
4. Electric Dreams - Slinkee Minx (Did Not Chart)
I can't help but feel sorry for Slinkee Minx. The girls spend 3 years putting together a spectacular debut album of poptastic dance tunes complete with a bonus disc of fabulous remixes and no one bothers to buy the damn thing! Australia isn't renowned for its commercial dance music but "Electric Dreams" is absolutely top shelf. The production is crisp and the sound is surprisingly diverse. If you're not convinced enough to buy the whole album, download "Falling Free" and "Nu Love" from iTunes for a taste of what this fabulous album has to offer. "Electric Dreams" is reviewed in full here.
5. Laura Imbruglia - Laura Imbruglia (Did Not Chart)
Officially released towards the end of 2006, Laura Imbruglia's debut album has been in constant rotation on my stereo this year. I don't listen to a lot of guitar driven pop music but I have completely fallen for Laura's witty lyrics, sleepy voice and sweet melodies. It's easy to let the often quirky subject matter distract you from the intelligence and humour on display in each and every song, making "Laura Imbruglia" one of those rare albums that rewards repeated listens. "Home Sweet Home" speaks to me like no other song I've heard this year. I really need to review the album sooner rather than later.
6. New Attitude - Young Divas (#10 Aus)
The Young Divas specialise in cheap and cheerful covers of gay anthems and their second album offers up a winning selection of camp delights. "New Attitude" follows exactly the same formula as their debut but somehow manages to be even more gay! Critics have labelled the band's output as artless and manufactured. I prefer to call it pure pop fun. As far as I'm concerned, any album that includes trashy pop covers of Diana Ross, The Weather Girls, Taylor Dayne, Stevie Nicks and The Pointer Sisters was always going to be an absolute winner. Read my full review of "New Attitude" here.
7. The Other Woman - Deni Hines & James Morrison (Did Not Chart)
I've been wanting to write about "The Other Woman" for months but as a complete novice when it comes to jazz, I just don't feel qualified to pass judgement. I'm not sure what jazz purists would make of Deni's soulful take on classics like "God Bless The Child", "Strange Fruit" and "Too Darn Hot" - and to be honest I don't really care. I love every second of "The Other Woman". Deni's gorgeous voice combined with Mr Morrison's extraordinary musicianship is a match made in heaven to these ears. "The Other Woman" is very highly recommended - particularly the title track and Deni's lovely interpretation of "All The Kings Horses".
8. Unleashed - Dannii (#168 Aus)
The second of Dannii's X Factor cash-in albums to feature on my list is "Unleashed" - a roughly thrown together collection of Dannii's unreleased rubbish during her time at London Records. Unlike "Club Disco", "Unleashed" will really only appeal to Dannii enthusiasts. The album is wildly uneven and some of the unearthed tracks probably should have remained on the studio floor but I'm glad they didn't. I could listen to Dannii fart to a dance beat and still be enthralled, so "Unleashed" is something of a treasure trove for me. There are enough excellent tracks to make the album a worthwhile purchase for pop fans, especially "No Romeo", "Undeniable", "Hurt In Love", "Invitation" and the blissful "Viva L'amour". Check out my full review here.
9. The Dutchess - Fergie (#1 Aus)
A modern masterpiece that will one day be displayed in museums as the height of 21st century musical culture! Read my explanation for this outlandish claim here.
10. The Other Side - Brielle Davis (Unreleased)
One of the biggest finds of 2007 is Sydney's Brielle Davis. Apart from releasing one of the year's best singles in the form of "Take It Off", Brielle somehow found the time to unveil a charming acoustic EP, perform for soldiers in the Soloman Islands and entice the gays with several stunning club appearances. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of Brielle's forthcoming "The Other Side" album and was mightily impressed by the versatility of her voice and the quality of her songwriting. While most self funded singer-songwriters peddle depressive guitar anthems, Brielle has crafted a diverse album of upbeat pop songs, rock anthems and urban jams! It really pains me that "The Other Side" is still sitting on a shelve. Brielle is an absolute sweetheart and the title track, in particular, is an astonishing achievement. Fingers crossed that this finally gets released in 2008.
11. Brand New Day - Ricki-Lee (#37 Aus)
"Brand New Day" is a massive step forward from Ricki-Lee's debut solo album. The production is sharper, the songs are better and Ricki-Lee's voice has developed into an even more powerful instrument. The album also houses two of the finest singles released by an Australian act in 2007. "Can't Touch It" and "Love Is All Around" both stormed the top 5, becoming instant pop classics in the process. As excellent as those two songs are, they don't overwhelm the rest of this diverse and enormously appealing album. "Brand New Day" is yet to really take off. I hope Shock Records stick with the project and consider releasing "Can't Sing A Different Song" or a remixed version of "Melody Of Life" as the 3rd single. Read my full review here.
12. Life - Marcia Hines (#21 Aus)
Marcia's latest album of cover versions takes the unusual approach of doubling as a self-help manual. There's nothing quite like sorting through your inner turmoil to a soundtrack of sappy ballads performed by Marcia Hines! "Life" is overly sentimental and bogged down by too many ballads but I find it impossible not to be moved by Marcia's sincerity and soulful voice. There are also more than enough great tracks to make up for the occasional god awful moment. It's worth buying the album for Marcia's versions of "All Woman" and "Get Here" alone. Read my full review here.
13. #1s - Erdmoebel (Not released in Australia)
I first became aware of Germany's Erdmoebel when they released a magnificent version of The Carpenters' "Close To You". I was excited to learn that the band had released an entire album of German interpretations of English language hits and "#1s" more than lives up to my expectations. The obvious highlight for me is Erdmoebel's dark and brooding cover of Kylie's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" ("Aus Meinem Kopf") but the album is consistently quirky and excellent. Other favourites include a delicate cover of Joan Osborne's "One Of Us" ("Einer Wie Wir") and an amusing take on The Venga Boys' "Up & Down" ("Auf und Ab"). Well worth tracking down.
14. Rewind Please - Anshelle (Digital release in Australia)
"Rewind Please" is a beautiful and intelligent album full of catchy guitar-pop gems with a distinctly whimsical edge. The album garnered the band a lot of attention in their native Switzerland but "Rewind Please" has international potential due to the quality of the songwriting and the lead singer's impressively soulful voice. Anshelle have been signed to a UK label and I wish them every success in 2008. "Rewind Please" is available to download from Australian iTunes. Read my review here.
15. Gays Gone Wild - Johnny McGovern (Digital release in Australia)
Johnny McGovern, also known as the Gay Pimp, is an American comedian turned queer rap god who continues to rule the internet with his fabulously witty tunes. "Gays Gone Wild" is camp treat bursting with hilarious club bangers like "Somethin' For The Fellas (That Like The Fellas)", "Girl, I Fucked Yo' Boyfriend" and "Gayboy Mansion". However, my personal favourite is Johnny's haunting warning to fag hags, "Don't Fall In Love With A Homo"! "Gays Gone Wild" is available to download from Australian iTunes.