10. Lily Allen – Sheezus
Back from hiatus with two kids, Lily tried to have both the biting satire and the fame of a pop diva. Unfortunately, it backfired somewhat, but there is still plenty of the sassy Lily on this collection.
Favorite songs: “L8 CMMR,” “Insincerely Yours,” “Hard Out Here”
9. Stars – No One Is Lost
One of these days Stars will get a little respect for their brand of honest pop. All their usual subjects are here: death, love (unrequited and lost), and… partying? “Put your hands up coz everybody dies!” No One Is Lost was recorded above a gay bar so some of the beat seeped in. In the end, Stars are trying to prove one thing: no one is lost because we’re all lost.
Favorite songs: “From the Night,” “No Better Place,” “No One Is Lost”
8. Jack White – Lazaretto
Jack White has been experimenting with the blues his entire career, but never as gritty as this. Everything on Lazaretto seems be filtered through a fuzz pedal which creates a harder-hitting song. This just happens to be the best selling vinyl as well due to the fun things all over it including starting Side 1 playing from the inner groove out.
Favorite songs: “Lazaretto,” “Temporary Ground,” “Alone in My House”
7. “Weird Al” Yankovic – Mandatory Fun
Those who know me are aware that I’ve been a exuberant Al fan since 1983 when I first saw “Ricky” on HBO’s “Video Jukebox,” so imagine how amazing it is that this is his first #1 album. Even he was surprised. Yes, there is a polka medley, but there is also his most biting social satire in the Pixies-homage of “First World Problems.” He’s still got it.
Favorite songs: “Handy,” “Word Crimes,” “First World Problems”
6. Blondie – Ghosts of Download
Relevant? Not so much. Still fun after all these years? Hell, yes. Here’s your typical Blondie album: a collection of songs in styles that appease the mood of the band at the time. All the usual stuff is here: reggae, pop, new wave, rock; and — always wanting the try the latest thing — they even dabble in EDM. The collection comes with a second disc of surprisingly good re-recorded classics.
Favorite songs: “Rave,” “I Want To Drag You Around,” “Take Me In the Night”
5. Chromeo – White Women
Can’t believe it took me four albums before I gave them a chance and I have to thank a commercial using “Come Alive” of all things. This is a fantastic party album with a sprinkling of silly on every ear worm. The catchy singles are at the front of the album, but make sure you give the second half a listen. I’ve heard they are also tons of fun live.
Favorite songs: “Come Alive,” “Play the Fool,” “Old 45’s”
4. The Both – The Both
No Web Pen album list would be complete without an Aimee Mann album and here it is. She and Ted Leo have formed a nearly perfect balance of their strengths. Aimee brings out the melodic in Ted’s chaotic post-punk and Ted makes Aimee rock for the first time in several albums. The fun part is being able to hear who was the main song writer. It’s great power pop with several stand-out cuts like “Volunteers of America.”
Favorite songs: “Milwaukee,” “Volunteers of America,” “You Can’t Help Me Now”
3. Broken Bells – After the Disco
This was a surprise. Their first album got press, but it never stuck with me. After the Disco is different. It’s more sincere in a way. From the tinkling of the open keyboards to the synth blues of “The Remains of Rock & Roll,” the combination of Danger Mouse and The Shins doesn’t quit. It’s not a party album as the title may imply, but an after-party chill out mix of rock, pop, and, of course, a little disco.
Favorite songs: “Perfect World,” “After the Disco,” “Live It Alone,” “Control,”
2. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Annie Clark nailed it. Her brand of odd-ball, spacey rock hasn’t been this accessible before. Her album Actor suggested it, but her next (Strange Mercy) was just too dark for the masses even if it had some of her most personal songs. Yes, it’s still weird, but she did get to work with her idol David Byrne recently and that seems to have rubbed off. These are twisted pop songs. Still not for everyone, but amazing nonetheless.
Favorite songs: “Birth In Reverse,” “Digital Witness,” “I Prefer Your Love,” Severed Crossed Fingers”
1. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
Absolutely glorious and brilliantly celebratory, The New Pornographers finally made a album which is a worthy follow-up to Twin Cinemas. Blame life. Their last two albums were dour due to several members having a rough go over the past six years. Carl Newman reveals himself to be a true leader of a band who does the music thing together as a side project. Neko Case and Dan Bejar (Destroyer) have their own successful careers, but here everyone sounds joyous. It helps that Newman has created the band’s hardest rockin’ collection of off-the-wall pop all held up by some of the oddest, out-there lyrics put on an album. Wonderfully infectious.
Favorite songs: “Brill Bruisers,” “War on the East Coast,” “Marching Orders,” “Wide Eyes,” “Dancehall Domine”