Adventures In 2010: Top 30 Albums [#20-11]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eat the music...

20. Cracks - Nabiha
I don't know too much about the R&B movement in Danish culture, but there is a market and Nabiha is one to watch. Wobbling between pure bubbly pop and soulful coffeehouse stirrings, Cracks, is a debut album that manages to bridge the two genres seamlessly, something that R&B artists right now are having trouble doing because they let other things get in the way (copy-cat-isms, pointless rapper cameos, overdone sampling, bad singing, no soul...). She scored with "Deep Sleep", a spirited 60's go-go boot finger snapper, and "The Enemy" which feels straight from the lab of Imani Coppola. Cracks is a rather terrible name to describe this album, because it's a fulfilling course from a singer who probably won't get her dues past her homeland, but managed to make the best pop/R&B merge album of the year. 

Notable Tracks: Computer Love, You, Boomerang, Deep Sleep, Red Letter Days, The Enemy

19. Second Chance - El DeBarge
It's really no secret that El DeBarge is the comeback story of the year. If more evidence is needed then Second Chance is the perfect indicator that an old friend is back, and it's really like he never left. After overcoming drug addiction and stints behind bars, here he gets his 'second chance' of redemption with his slickly produced collection that is grown, sexy, and recalls back soulful memories of his time in DeBarge with El's divine falsetto still as robust as ever. With a heavy production backing of Babyface, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Mike City, DeBarge is not steered wrong.

Notable Tracks: Second Chance, Lay With You (ft. Faith Evans), When I See You, Heaven, Sad Songs

18. Aphrodite - Kylie Minogue (Review
A hypnotic pop oasis. Handled by Stuart Price, and done with spirited conviction by Kylie, Aphrodite is purely every fiber of Kylie Minogue's being. Though Kylie is now the grand aunt of pop like Madonna, she hasn't settled into a comfortable middle or tried to act like she is trying to play in the pop kiddie park, she knows how to be blend in the class ("Closer") and the funk ("Better Than Today"). Aphrodite isn't tricky like her last album, 2007's X, or even as challenging as her classic Impossible Princess, but it coasts in the same vein as her early 2000 dance masterpieces, Light Years and Fever. Every Kylie fan will be at home with this, especially when she sweetly spats out anthems like "Get Outta My Way" and the strident march of staggering title track, which pretty much sounds like Kylie descending from her own private heaven. Worship.

Notable Tracks: Aphrodite, Get Outta My Way, Everything Is Beautiful, Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love), Better Than Today, Too Much

17. Love.Seen - Nikko Gray (Review)
Nikko Gray may not be a familiar name to most, but she should be lauded for putting out the most entrancing form of electronic Soul set this year. Love.Seen, the UK born-LA based singer's first official collective, is sublime and serene, perfect for relaxing and for getting submerged in the subtle synthesized grooves. A little goes a long way here, as it clocks in with only eight tracks, but they are eight heavily condensed tracks that feature the tender touch of Nikko's voice. Songs such as the brooding opener of "Eyelash Wishes" and the grainy acoustics backing of "Push" have to be experienced. And if you want to hear the best ode about getting lacquered tips, then "Nail Polish" is it. Nikko is truly in tune with making some sweet mellow madness.

Notable Tracks: Nail Polish, Push, Eyelash Wishes, Love Scene, Love Shield 

16. Cries & Smiles - Izzi Dunn (Review)
While most UK female soul artists try to clamor to sound just like they gobbled up whatever Amy Winehouse consumed to make her album, Izzi Dunn has turned down that entree and opted just to be herself. Oh, she's one funky and biting White girl like Winehouse for sure, it's evident on the superb finger wagging, "Tits & Ass", but since she's also attached to her upright bass and raised on a classical music diet, she interjects those elements to form her own brand of Soul. Izzi has worked with a laundry list of artists such as Moloko, Soul II Soul, Brand New Heavies, Beverley Knight, and her highness Chaka Khan, but here she gets a chance to really strut her stuff. Listen to the likes of "Nothing But Love" and the chilling, "Oblivious" to get a clear picture why Izzi is one to keep on watching.

Notable Tracks: Nothing But Love, Cries & Smiles, Oblivious, Analogue Girl, Kill Me Slow

15. Lights - Ellie Goulding
On the surface, Goulding appears to look like the typical blond pop starlet in waiting, but once Lights is taken for a spin, it's obvious Goulding isn't chewing the same bubble gum as her peers. She's more refined in her electro-pop sensibilities hanging in the same club that Ladyhawke and La Roux stand in. Complex infectious rhythms and poetic lyrical weavings sparkle throughout the set, and if a synthesized album can be beautiful then Ellie and her production team of Starsmith have succeeded in that vein. Just listen to the likes of "This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)" and the enchanting, "Starry Eyed". With coos and chirps that's can be likened to a lip glossed Bjork, Ellie has made one of the best impressions of this year.   

Notable Tracks: Starry Eyed, This Love (Will Be Your Downfall), The Writer, Under The Sheets, Everytime You Go

14. Blackmagic - Jose James (Review)
If you have at least one working ear, it's pretty obvious that Jose James has a stellar voice. It's rich and thick, and a little rough. He uses his voice as a weapon on Blackmagic and brings songs like the enigmatic "Code" to life. If this album had been handled in someone else's voice box, it wouldn't have the same effect, and even when the compositions are simple, it's still an enriching experience just by voice. Blackmagic is a sophisticated affair that is seeped in the classic makings of what Miles, Monk and Coltrane laid down along with the trimmings of shivering cymbals and detached tumblings of pianos in the background. Here is where Jazz from yesteryear is given new life and is modernized for new ears.

Notable Tracks: Code, Warrior, Lay You Down, Promise In Love, Touch, Love Conversation (ft. Jordana De Lovely)

13. The Ballad of Purple St. James - Yahzarah (Review)
Wow. That was voiced from me after hearing the opening of "Strike Up The Band". It just ushered in Yahzarah's arrival, and she's one baddd singing bish. Well, she's been around, she's had albums like Hear Me and Blackstar out prior, but this time she's just taken a rebel yell and is brasher than before, and we're all going to take notice. With The Foreign Exchange family being in the background giving her a groove to really nestle into, The Ballad of Purple St. James, is Yahzarah at her most inventive. "Why Dont'cha Call Me No More" out Stefani's Gwen and tracks like "Have A Heart" and the impeccable "Come Back As A Flower" are strong reminders of Yahzarah's vocal poweress. 

Notable Tracks: Shadow, Strike Up The Band, Why Don'tcha Call Me No More, Come Back As A Flower, Have A Heart, Starship

12. Love Letter - R. Kelly
If you had asked me earlier in the year if I was going to rate an R. Kelly album in my top 20 of 2010, I would've gone into a fit of giggles, clutching my side. Well, this is me eating crow with a relish of made up of doubt, but Love Letter exceeded my expectations, making it swiftly become one of my favorite strictly-based R&B albums of 2010. Songs like "Not Feelin' The Love", the title track, and the show stopping, "When A Woman Loves", just took me back to when R. Kelly used to rotate on my player back in the day. There is nothing but testosterone levels of good-old fashioned male crooning, from a man who was a part of that 'bump n' grind with some wine' movement of the 90's. I would like to thank R. Kelly for finally showing the little boys how a real R&B album should be done.

Notable Tracks: Number One Hit, Music Must Be A Lady, When A Woman Loves, Not Feelin' The Love, Love Letter, Just Can't Get Enough

11. Body Talk - Robyn (Review)
Ambition was Robyn's forte this year as she released Body Talk in three separate, but equal, increments. The project and the message is really realized when the final product merged the best of each segment to formulate a "super" album, a super album of deep electronic dance that brought us anthems like "Dancing On My Own", "Hang With Me" and "Indestructible". Robyn, like Ellie Goulding and Goldfrapp, managed this year to make a tried-and-true pop masterpiece that can cross-over and be enjoyed by even by the most stubborn of pop music shunners. An 'electric feel' of dancefloor fillers.

Notable Tracks: Dancing On My Own, In My Eyes, Time Machine, Hang With Me, Stars-4-Ever, Dancehall Queen, We Dance To The Beat, Love Kills

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