16. Treats – Sleigh Bells
Arriving like a fist to the face of pop music – huh? – Sleigh Bells, aka producer/guitarist Derek E. Miller and singer Alexis Krauss – make music that’s abrasive yet poppy, aggressive yet strangely sweet, noisy yet hummable. Treats followed an internet buzz so loud is threatened to drown out the actual songs, but there’s a lot to enjoy here. Opener ‘Tell ‘Em’ is essentially one long guitar riff and some cheap beats, ‘Kids’ is old school hip-hop meets Girls Aloud, whilst the brilliant ‘Rill Rill’ is the soundtrack to the best teen romcom you’ve ever seen. It may not stand the test of time – who cares right? – but for now Treats is a thrilling, fun, totally rad hardcore pop album. Man.
Best track: ‘Crown On The Ground’
For their fourth album, Antony Hegarty and his Johnsons created a song suite focused on both the personal and the global. First single ‘Thank You For Your Love’ found Hegarty in joyful mood, whilst opener ‘Everything Is New’ imagined some kind of emotional cleansing and ‘I’m In Love’ was practically upbeat. Still, this is an Antony & The Johnsons record so introspection was just behind the corner, with the haunting ‘The Spirit Was Gone’ and the abstract title track creating that unsettling feeling only they seem to be able to muster. The highlight is the piano-lead duet, ‘Fletta’, in which Hegarty lets Bjork‘s crystalline vocals lead the way to devastating effect.
Best track: ‘Fletta’
Out went the brass and the cover versions and in came stylish synthpop and renewed credibility on Mark Ronson’s follow-up to the zillion-selling Versions album. Lead single ‘Bang Bang Bang’ – featuring the brilliantly laconic Q-Tip and soon-to-be reasonably big, MNDR – was the perfect introduction to an album that features at least five stone-cold pop classics. Rose Elinor Dougall lends a sleek vulnerability to the excellent ‘You Gave Me Nothing’, whilst Boy George croons his way through the dramatic, lip-quiveringly sad, ‘Somebody To Love Me’. Elsewhere, Ronson roped in everyone from D’Angelo (the odd ‘Glass Mountain Trust’) to Duran Duran (the Wiley-assisted title track), creating a party mix to end all party mixes.
Best track: ‘Bang Bang Bang’
Critics darling, political activist, pop star. M.I.A was all of these things at the start of 2010 and yet around the release of her tetchy, hard-to-love third album things started to go slightly awry. Long pieces were written in important magazines about how much of hypocrite she was, how she loved expensive truffles and how she was the root cause of the economic meltdown (OK, maybe not the last one). The critics who adored her turned on her, her politics seemed like simple rhetoric and the album flopped. Still, dig beneath the shards of guitar feedback or the sound of drilling that peppers the album and there are some moments of perfection; the clattering, Britney-esque XXXO, the murky Teqkilla, the future-pop of Tell Me Why, to name just three.
Best track: ‘Tell Me Why’
20. One Life Stand – Hot Chip
Despite lacking an out and out chart smash like their previous two albums, One Life Stand was the moment pop nous and geeky musicianship coalesced into something wonderfully human. Opener ‘Thieves In The Night’ is six minutes of pure joy, Alexis Taylor’s little boy lost croon weaving in and out of galloping synths and spluttering effects. Elsewhere, I Feel Better is their attempt at modern-day R&B pop (complete with JLS-aping music video) whilst Slush is a big ballad coated in real tears.
Best track: ‘Thieves In The Night’