Feed Limmy Albums of 2011: #20 – #11

Damn, honey gurl. The line up change around here has been swifter and colder than a Sugababes reshuffle.

Basically, within half an hour of me posting the pixelated teaser on Facebook/Twitter, I’ve already changed my mind and switched four albums around. Have I made the right decision? Absolutely. *claps* Silence! Now, bring me my gurls.

The Feed Limmy Albums of 2011 (#20 – #11) category gave me a lot to think about in terms of how I rate my enjoyment versus the overall quality of the album. How do you guys work out your “albums of the year”? I know for some folks it’s down to how much they listen to the album and for others, it’s awarded on what they see as “artistic excellence”. It’s really hard when you have a persuasion for low-rent trashy pop like me. But fuck it, I’m not here to do what Popjustice does. This is what mattered in 2011 according to Feed Limmy. And I’m glad you – appreciator of quality, fun and emotionally relevant pop – and I can share this. Let the games begin.

Check out Feed Limmy’s Albums of 2011 (#20 – #11):

#20 Killer Love by Nicole Scherzinger

I can’t believe how much Nicole Scherzinger has soundtracked my year. In 2010, ‘Poison’ snatched trophies as one of my Top 3 songs of the year and I had extremely high hopes for the eventual album. However, after “expecting” for months, Killer Love didn’t deliver in the way I had hoped [Editor’s note: some critics would save such basic pregnancy puns for Beyoncé, but no shade, please carry on].

Them tedious ballad fillers kept this package from being a proper killer but amazingly enough, there was something thoroughly addictive about the uptempo half of the album that kept me fixated. That line in the title track – “if it’s bad then why can’t I just walk away?” – perfectly sums up my conflicting emotions.

Killer Love is very much a case of guilty pleasure indulgence because even though, at best, it was peddling hand-me-down RedOne dance/pop – that shit was still so on-point for an artist like Nicole. Her vocal extravaganza completely rips through the speakers on corkers like ‘Poison’ and ‘Say Yes’.

‘Don’t Hold Your Breath’ – the album’s best known song – is so distinctly European in its dance persuasion, it actually sticks out awkwardly when lined up with the other sister tracks, which might explain why the execs included the similarly styled ‘Heartbeat (Rudi Wells’ Open Heart Remix)’ with Enrique for good measure. But when all is said and done, Nicole‘s truly at her best when she’s serving sex, soul and aggression on electrifying tracks like ‘Killer Love’. Forget the pleasant and just embrace the sweat-dripping dance tracks.

Mandatory listening: ‘Killer Love’, ‘Don’t Hold Your Breath’ and ‘Wet’.

#19 Who You Are by Jessie J

Did I miss the memo with Jessie J, y’guys? Because it seems like everyone in my circle’s burning a bitch at the stake and won’t give this album the time or day. It’s like Dullta Goodrem gate all over again and I’m caught out, left seated in a corner to quietly amuse myself with it.

Who You Are is one of those formidable debut pop albums that gets it right commercially with a diverse range of hit singles. The colourful production and fistful of melodies really ought to be praised because, for a mega vocalist of Jessica Cornish‘s calibre, they could’ve easily taken a completely different and more serious route.

The commitment to pop cannot be denied – it’s utterly in your face from every angle. Check summery anthemic pop in ‘Price Tag’ to ferocious crotch-grabbing urban in ‘Do It Like A Dude’ and unbridled funk in ‘Mamma Knows Best’.

In a lot of ways, Jessie J‘s debut reminds me of early Christina Aguilera records. You know the girl can sing without having to endure wall-to-wall, eight-part harmony ballads. It’s vocal showcasing at a whole greater level in pop.

Mandatory listening: ‘Who’s Laughing Now’, ‘Who You Are’, ‘Big White Room’ and ‘Mamma Knows Best’.

#18 Heaven by Rebecca Ferguson

Someone sitting outside the Top 20 Albums of 2011 list must be royally pissed at Rebcca Ferguson right now. This record shuffled in on the very week I was rounding up my albums of the year list and fucking stole the spot.

The X Factor soul siren is one of the most unique female vocalists to have ever emerged from the UK franchise and with the amount of love I had for her, there was virtually no way she could’ve fucked up this album in my eyes.

Heaven is a collection of warm, mature and organic songs that glisten with the authenticity of old school soul records. The lead single ‘Nothing’s Real But Love’ is a fair indication of the album’s angle but is by no means a representation of Rebecca‘s breadth as an artist.

Bewitching tracks like ‘Fighting Suspicions’ sees the Liverpool mama amalgamate 60s Bacharach-style blues with kicking 90s hip hop beats. Elsewhere, ‘Run Free’ gives sun-soaked pop with a subtle nod to disco, and ‘Glitter & Gold’ could’ve been an Aloe Blacc smash. Bloody A+ effort.

Mandatory listening: ‘Fighting Suspicions’, ‘Nothing’s Real But Love’, ‘Glitter & Gold’ and ‘Teach Me How To Be Loved’.

#17 Secret Codes and Battleships by Darren Hayes

This is the gift that keeps giving. I feel like at this stage – with the album only been out for two months – no one has really worked out the full extent of Secret Codes and Battleships yet. Every time I’ve listened to the album from start to finish, I’ve come away with a newfound appreciation of Darren‘s intricate opus.

Secret Codes and Battleships is Darren Hayes‘ fourth solo album and his first to adequately recapture the mainstream adult contemporary appeal of Savage Garden proportions. Personally, I prefer my Darren Hayes records a little experimental and electronic but I just can’t walk away from Secret‘s orchestral soundscape.

The lush music complements the mature and sentimental lyrics, adding a greater dimension to ballads like ‘Bloodstained Heart’, ‘Taken By The Sea’ and ‘The Siren’s Call’. There are also extremely articulate and emotive songs about relationships in Secret Codes – a true testament of Darren‘s A-grade writing abilities. Open your heart to ‘Nearly Love’ (“It’s hard to confess but my nearly love is not real enough to be the one”) and ‘Stupid Mistake’ (“I got lazy on the wrong side of love. I was stupid, sold my kingdom for a war with you”). Simply magnificent in every way.

Mandatory listening: ‘Black Out The Sun’, ‘Nearly Love’, ‘Glorious’ and ‘Bloodstained Heart’.

#16 Vows by Kimbra

It wasn’t until I spoke with Kimbra about Vows that I realise its many intricacies and concepts. You shouldn’t have to spell out these things for your listeners because this sense of “working it out for yourself” and constructing your own interpretation of the record is all part of the greater listening experience.

However, wankfest and highbrow speak aside, Vows demands a certain level of open-mindedness and curiosity from you. Kimbra herself tries to facilitate this entry to the best she can by taking listeners on a journey from really constructed and precise beats/harmonies (see opener ‘Settle Down’) to a spiralling and fractured closer (see: ‘The Build Up’). In a sense, this deliberate transition from track one to 11 symbolises how “vows” by nature start off really well-intended and well-kept but all eventually fall to pieces.

There’s beauty at every stage of Vows and different tracks will appeal to different people, depending on their willingness to invest in the record. ‘Settle Down’ and ‘Cameo Lover’ – the key singles – are both quirky and instantly lovable, as is the Prince-esque future smash ‘Call Me’. But I would also prescribe the voodoo jazz single ‘Good Intent’ and ‘Two Way Street’, which glistens with a cinematic quality courtesy of its dainty instrumentation and orchestral string section.

Mandatory listening: ‘Settle Down’, ‘Two Way Street’, ‘Call Me’ and ‘Cameo Lover’.

#15 Stronger by Kelly Clarkson

Ms Kelly Brianne Clarkson, this is more like it. I will be the first to throw up my hands and admit that I’m not the most sophisticated of Kelly Clarkson listeners. I haven’t got a minute to sit here and stan for her edgy My December era. I have no real desire to experience “Kelly Clarkson: the deep and experimental artiste” because frankly she’s sufficiently amazing enough as a purveyor of angsty radio-friendly pop.

Stronger, to me, is the best connection Clarkson has made with the sass and spirit of her best loved album Breakaway. The songs are – for lack of better words – stronger than ever here and that’s largely thanks to the pedigree songwriters and producers on board.

For an album hooked up by producers who are typically hired to stamp their imprint on a record, Stronger remarkably sounds 100% Kelly Clarkson and less like a predictable by-product of these hit makers’ production line. Each and every one of these A-list writers and producers – from Brian Kennedy to Greg Kurstin, Toby Gad to even Darkchild – have submitted songs that sound distinctly believable as authentic Kelly Clarkson hits.

The natural highlight of this new collaboration is, of course, hearing the slight twist in Clarkson’s signature angsty rock style. The project’s lead single ‘Mr Know It All’ is a good example of the singer sensibly adapting to a different style but still keeping the familiar sass.

Stronger‘s most defining moments include the wind machine-ready single ‘What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)’ and ‘You Love Me’ – a nouveau Fleetwood Mac-esque ballad that reacts to the classic “it’s not you, it’s me” break up line.

Mandatory listening: ‘What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)’, ‘You Love Me’, ‘Dark Side’ and ‘You Can’t Win’.

#14 Falling & Flying by 360

“Being a rapper ain’t getting me far. I don’t have a house, or a pet or a car. I’m 24, living in my parents’ garage. Safe to say I’m off to a terrible start.” Pause and sample that piece of realness Melbourne rapper 360 is serving on one of his more personal tracks, ‘Meant to Do’.

I am a very rare consumer of hip hop albums – let alone Aussie hip hop – so I’m sure this unreserved kudos I’m giving Falling & Flying is gonna send heads spinning a little. Truth is, 360 speaks to the present generation of Aussie twentysomethings with a message that’s part “don’t fuck with me” and part “let’s aspire for better”.

Falling & Flying is most captivating when it is serving biographical accounts (see tracks like: ‘Miracle In A Costume’) and inspiring us with 360‘s personal account of following his passion (see: ‘The Take Off’).

Stylistically, this album is such a brilliant combination of indie, electro and hip hop. The first two singles ‘Just Got Started’ (featuring Pez) and ‘Throw It Away’ (featuring Josh Pyke) is perfect for the Triple J community – the former was actually my entry point to 360‘s world. I can’t even front, you know I cannot resist a sly disco bass line.

Mandatory listening: ‘Throw It Away’, ‘Boys Like You’ (feat. Gossling) and ‘Miracle In A Costume’.

#13 21 by Adele.

2011 was the year of 21 – plain simple fact. The complete global domination Adele and her Adelephants have achieved in the space of 11 months is nothing short of breathtaking. 21 has to date sold over 14 million worldwide and if you’ve followed my weekly Chart Feeds, I’m sure you’ve noticed that there isn’t a week where the British soul siren isn’t breaking some kind of record.

The real quality with 21 is the way the girl communicates to the broken-hearted, especially with the life-changing ‘Someone Like You’, which I’m sure has sent many a bitches cowering in the corner of their office cubicle sobbing whenever it came on the radio.

Her flawless vocal delivery is most effective when she’s accompanied by nothing more than the barest of band music. However, Adele is also just as formidable when she’s letting these children have it with the stomping and sassy ‘Rumour Has It’. Fuck, that beat just makes me wanna drop my shopping basket and Naomi Campbell-walk down the supermarket aisle every time it comes on. Don’t act like it never crossed your mind. The best break up album of the year.

Mandatory listening: ‘Someone Like You’, ‘Rumour Has It’ and ‘Take It All’.

#12 Up All Night by One Direction

I thought my boyband adoring days were behind me but Lord, it’s coming back with a vengeance thanks to this brood of embryos. This is the final – and most important – album by a contestant of 2010’s UK X Factor series in my Albums of The Year countdown. [Editor’s note: Matt Cardle who?]

Up All Night is an unstoppable collection of top-shelf, summery pop that is very much in a lane of its own in a market so saturated with urban/electro fusions. The melodies are thoroughly rapturous on youthful numbers like ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ (clock that nod to Grease‘s ‘Summer Nights’?) but there’s also a great deal of heart here.

The album glistens with a handful of quality ballads like ‘More Than This’ and ‘Taken’ – both flaunting acoustic guitar noodlings that recall Cheryl Cole‘s ‘The Flood’ and Beyoncé‘s ‘If I Were A Boy’ respectively.

The A-list roll call of producers – read: Savan Kotecha (Britney), Rami (Backstreet Boys), Steve Robson (Alphabeat), Toby Gad (Beyoncé) et al – have all contributed worldwide hits to this project. Up All Night is quite possibly the greatest boy band album of the century yet.

Mandatory listening: ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, ‘Gotta Be You’, ‘Taken’ and ‘Up All Night’.

#11 2nd Mini Album by 2NE1

How do you explain 2NE1 to an undiscerning listener? These bad ass bitches have often been pitched as the female K-pop equivalent of Black Eyed Peas but that comparison in itself only references one aspect of their style.

CL, Bom, Dara and Minzy are all positively drippin’ with swagu when they are at their fiercest [see: the EP’s key single ‘I Am The Best’] but behind the bass heavy, electro urban productions lies a king hit of melodies unparalleled to anything you’ve experienced in the Western world.

The girl band’s six-track 2nd Mini Album scorches with a variety of sounds. There’s ferocious urban in ‘I Am The Best’, anthemic Kelly Clarkson-style pop/rock in ‘Ugly’ (packing a full English chorus), and tender acoustic ballad realness in ‘Lonely’. Could your faves end careers in so many styles? Didn’t think so. Class dismissed.

Mandatory listening: ‘I Am The Best’ and ‘Ugly’.

Footnotes:

I wanna take this moment to thank y’all for reading and anticipating on Feed Limmy‘s Albums and Songs of  2011 countdown. It means a lot to hear from you guys because y’know how receptive I am to compliments.

I wish I could pump these out quicker but my priority will always be to give y’all the best, most interesting and articulate reviews I can from my perspective. With full time work now taking up most of my schedule, I’ll post a message here next week to give y’all a rundown of what you can expect from Feed Limmy in 2012. Let’s try to take this to the next level.

Feed Limmy‘s Top 10 songs and albums of 2011 will be revealed next week – yes, once again on the final week of the year. Have yourselves a very safe and Merry Christmas!

Here’s a little something something for the festive whorelidays.

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