Feed Limmy Albums of 2012: #10 – #1

Are these really my Top 10 albums of 2012? I mean, over the last 12 months I’ve been making mental notes of LPs I’ve come across that really stood out to me as Top 10 material but it wasn’t until I started ranking them that it sank in how much I’ve enjoyed, learned from, and connected with each one of them in different parts of the year.

Top 10 albums of 2012

2012 has been a really special year for me and one I’ll probably look back on as the year I chose to be happy. I’ve never consciously thought about happiness as being something I choose to attain or achieve for myself. I had always expected for happiness to simply happen as a reaction to something.

I’ve had the pleasure of travelling overseas by myself for the first time this year, I’ve met and hung out with some awesome people in London, Paris, Brisbane and here back home in Melbourne. Making the move to breakfast radio and receiving a broadcasting award from the station after five years on air was such a surprise and delightful moment of validation. I felt my confidence come back to me, not as it was before I lost it, but in a new and slightly more bulletproof form. I was excited by change, I was opening myself to new experiences and beneath all these experiences, the music never stopped.

Although it has been a year of playlists and tailoring my own listening experiences, I’ve been really inspired by a handful of artists who have come through with really good albums. These Top 10 albums of 2012 have all inspired me and my personal exploration as a songwriter and artist (it still feels weird for me to refer to myself as a singer even though I know I can sing. I am not ready for the pressure of being a ‘singer’). There are glossy pop albums here, creative projects that opened me up to new styles and influences, and grand singer/songwriter albums.

As much as I love blogging about music, I’m really excited to explore the possibilities of being an artist myself and that’s pretty much what I’m gonna focus my time and energy on in the new year. Friends, you gotta follow your bliss.

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Chart Feed – 29.10.12

Pull up a seat. The beginning of what’s set to be Taylor Swift‘s global chart massacre has begun.

Chart Feed

The young country superstar has made clear she’s a force to be reckoned with on the Australian, UK and New Zealand album charts this week with her newest offering Red debuting straight at #1 in these territories. Check out the damage after the jump.

Elsewhere, it’s been a good week for Brandy, Mika, Labrinth and Emeli Sandé, Kelly Clarkson and – heck – even Girls Aloud is back on the charts.

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Leona Lewis “Glassheart” Album Review

I’ve never been in a position where I’ve felt equally frustrated and excited about a Leona Lewis album before. That’s actually a lot of passion and fuss over a “beige balladeer” most of my peers have little time for these days.

LEONA LEWIS glassheart deluxe

However, if you’ve spent any more than three minutes on this blog, you’ll find that I do rep hard for premiere female vocalists a lot of tastemakers happily dismiss as irrelevant.

Glassheart is Leona Lewis‘ third studio album and – without question – her most eclectic record to date. In its finest moments, the project captures Leona‘s preference for love-bled songs and renders it to elements of drum ‘n’ bass, trip hop, and alternative pop. All of which are sonic styles the X Factor siren has never dabbled in before.

But I’d be wary to label Glassheart as some vigorous artistic overhaul for Leona Lewis because it is sorely inconsistent in parts – and that’s where the struggle I mentioned before comes in. There’s this strange tension between the aforementioned innovative new styles and the shackles of tired “Leona-format” balladry that we’ve all heard before in her first two albums.

Glassheart just feels like one of those bodies of work that tastemakers are likely to pick apart and re-assemble in a way they see fit, much like the approach to Christina Aguilera’s Bionic.

One would give approving nods to standouts like ‘Come Alive’ – a formidable storm of grime and drum ‘n’ bass – that feels like the album’s true opener once you’ve placated Leona’s conservative fans with the single (‘Trouble’) and two dutiful ballads.



Elsewhere in ‘Glassheart’, a sinister cross-pollination of Leona‘s ethereal vocals with aggressive dub step beats hit the lights with blindingly great results.

There has never been a more exciting Leona Lewis uptempo created. It legitimately snatches wigs in the hardest way, from the cold and bemoaning verses through to the head-splitting dance breakdown.

However, that walloping bass-heavy breakdown is something of a new addition. If you play back the first performance of ‘Glassheart’ Leona did at G-A-Y a year ago when the album was originally slated to drop, you’ll find it pounding to a more poppers o’clock, Euro-dance production. Just a little bit of trivia you can share with your friends between sips of strawberry daiquiri next time you’re cruising at the bar.

However, not every square inch of Glassheart flares with ostentatious displays of new styles and colours – you would actually need to listen closely to some of these tracks to pick up the subtle flavours in Leona‘s experimentation.



The bittersweet ‘Favourite Scar’ – which samples Tears for Fears‘ ‘Head Over Heels’ – hears the Hackney diva adopt a bossier swag in the verses. The way she dismisses “it don’t matter, it don’t matter, it don’t matter… boy, you better turn up your ste-ree-oh!” sounds like something Rihanna would put down.

Props must be given to the diverse producers and songwriters who collaborated with Leona to make Glassheart sound as vital as it does.

Emeli Sandé – one of the most celebrated breakthrough British artists this year – lends her songwriting abilities to three tracks on the album’s final tracklisting. It’s a stellar collaboration that I never wanna see diminished in any way because these two talents fit each other so damn well.

The most memorable of Sandé’s contributions is ‘I To You’ – a smouldering, strings-soaked James Bond-theme in waiting that casts Leona as a love-imprisoned siren, delivering line after line of intense drama.

“I will stay home with the kids, everyday cleaning up where you live even though I’m educated. ‘Cause you are great, you are big. And I don’t mind givin’ in, givin’ in for free, for free. You are love, you are sin, you’ll always be everything, everything to me… What am I to you?”

My personal appreciation of ‘I To You’ comes hand-in-hand with a relief in hearing Leona deliver a song so capably without the vocal acrobatics and escalation to glass-piercing high notes she is typically known for.



Elsewhere, the album’s next single ‘Fireflies’ is constructed on and driven by an emotive piano melody so stunning in its own right, it almost absorbs the spotlight from everything else happening in the song – including the gospel vocals and Leona‘s crescendoing ad libs.

I mean, there’s a time and place for it, I’m not in favour of stamping out those vocal tricks in Leona‘s repertoire per se, because in the context of the right song it can be so fucking electric.

‘Lovebird’ – which is a textbook example of your standard Leona Lewis/Ryan Tedder ballad – is shining proof that the winning formula is what it is for a reason. I fucking broke down in tears behind the steering wheel when I first heard the massive break up ballad. The lyrical themes of growing apart from someone you love and that guilt-ridden desire to want to be set free felt like it was written about my last relationship.

“But the time went on, the wind has blown, and I have grown. And I started feeling that my wings have been broken. And I can’t believe that I ever want to be set free, but I just can’t stay. So your love bird’s flying away…”

The intensely personal song was of course written about Leona’s own separation from her long-term boyfriend, who she had known since she was 10.

There are some extraordinary songs written on this album that just sound like honest and vulnerable accounts of love’s many kinds of bruises. Although, Leona’s no stranger to singing tortured break up ballads in her six-year discography, they feel chillingly personal this time around.

Glassheart feels like a worthwhile investment in establishing the singer’s versatility even if it wasn’t a committed effort from start to finish. The overall quality of the songs on this album is the stronger than any of Leona‘s previous releases, which I think more than compensates for her dwindling record sales and general commercial relevance.

Footnotes:

Leona LewisGlassheart debuted at #3 on the UK charts, making it her first album to not enter the British charts at #1. There is no Australian release date confirmed as yet, so I’ve imported by copy of the deluxe edition, y’all.

The project’s proper lead single ‘Trouble’ (remember, she’s pretending that ‘Collide’ never happened) managed to peak at #7, while the album’s title track ‘Glassheart’ cracked the UK Dance charts at #27, based on downloads alone in the week the album came out.

Chart Feed – 24.09.12

We’ve seen the charts light up like it was Christmas this month, thanks to the heavy flow of new albums taking over the shelves.

CHART FEED

For only the second time in history, the entire top six spots on the US Billboard 200 are filled with debut entries. Here in Australia, we have eight new albums scaling our ARIA Top 20, while over in the UK, they have six.

Y’all can obviously expect for it to get even more competitive in the coming months as all the strong sellers come out to play for your seasonal spendings.

This has been a good week for Pink, The Killers, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kanye West and – definitely more than ever – PSY, the K-pop icon responsible for ‘Gangnam Style’.

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Chart Feed – 20.08.12

Remember back when it was kinda uncool to be “launched from a reality TV show”?

CHART

Well, it would seem that if you can escape that stigma with class and some bloody awesome creative ventures, you’re guaranteed to be embraced by the masses in the way Guy Sebastian and Jessica Mauboy were this week.

Elsewhere on this Chart Feed, it has also been a good week for the Spice Girls, Emeli Sande, Rita Ora and Flo Rida.

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Chart Feed – 13.08.12

The Olympic Games is doing nothing to stimulate Britain’s album buying habits as the nation hits its lowest weekly album sales in 16 years. Rihanna‘s Talk That Talk has returned to #1 on the UK charts with just over 9,500 copies sold – making it the lowest weekly sale for a UK #1 album in the 21st century.

CHARTFEED

Elsewhere, American Idol winner Phillip Phillips scores big on the digital charts thanks to a placement in NBC’s Olympic broadcast, the Pet Shop Boys cops a chart fail with ‘Winner’, and J.Lo now ties with Katy Perry for most consecutive US #1 dance/club play singles.

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Emeli Sandé ‘Next To Me’ Music Video

If this is the kinda quality you’re working with for your third single then, gurl, go right ahead and help yourself to that trophy.

Emeli Sandé has every reason to act like she’s dat bitch. The Scottish soul/R&B songwriter is off to a rather promising start with her solo career. Yes, she’s foremost known for featuring on Roll Deep‘s ‘Never Be Your Woman’ and Professor Green‘s ‘Read All About It’, the UK #1 hit that’s currently rising up the Australian ARIA Top 100 – but unlike most rent-a-vocalists, Ms Sandé‘s own material is solid enough to build a bankable career on.

‘Next To Me’ is possibly her most accessible release to date and given how close we are to the album drop date, putting out the more straightforward radio-ready track now might not be such a bad idea. Even though Sandé‘s last two singles – ‘Heaven’ and ‘Daddy’ – were great staples of modern soul, they’re nowhere near catchy or straightforward enough to be proper radio hits.

I’m not advocating for folks to dumb down their music – especially not when they’re as effective a songwriter as Emeli Sandé. All I’m saying is that, ‘Next To Me’ has the potential to reach further and appeal to a wider range of listeners than her more introspective first two singles.

‘Next To Me’ hears the Scottish chanteuse sing of a good man who’s faithful and who’s always there to support her. You know, it’s uplifting and inviting enough as it is without considering the lovely, driving soul music. Production wise, ‘Next To Me’ is a capable contemporary mix of Motown, urban and even a touch of gospel.

Enough about that. What about the video?

Ms Emeli is thankfully not testing our gag reflexes with saccharine depictions of a lovely couple enjoying a cosy night in on the couch.

‘Next To Me’ is a drastically low-key compared to her first two videos which were all flavoured with a bit of drama, grit and street realness. The completely in-studio production featuring a scene in a warehouse with two spotlights over a drummer and Emeli on piano really drives home the song’s simple message of companionship.

Colouration becomes a big deal in this video because there’s really nothing much on set to distract you. You’ll notice the contrasting switch from warm, earthy tones in Emeli‘s wardrobe in the scene with her male drummer to the glossy, V Magazine-ready bright colours of her solo shot. That to me symbolises the grounded, natural and homely state she’s in whenever she’s “next to” her man – a world that’s just the two of them and the beautiful music they’re making – as opposed to the glamorous editorialised version of Emeli Sandé, the chart-tearing pop singer.

Watch the music video for ‘Next To Me’:

 

Footnotes:

Emeli Sandé will release ‘Next To Me’ in the UK on 13 February, the same day her album arrives.

At this stage, there’s been no word on whether Aussies will get the single. But hey, Emeli‘s debut album Our Version of Events is confirmed to drop Down Under on 10 February.