I think we know that pop music is my favorite palate cleanser to start the day off with before I spend the rest of the day listening to blacksludgepostdeathcrust metal. Granted my taste is pop is generally darker, and many of these albums would have been battling it out in the over crowded goth list, one of the artists even self identifies as goth.
10- Camouflage : "Greyscale"
In the same club as Twin Shadow , but coming from a much more Euro vibe. Think Depeche Mode. Well I don't have to tell you to think anything because if that doesn't come to mind when you hear this I'm not sure what blog you are normally reading. This is however better than anything Depeche Mode has done since "Ultra". They are not totally stuck in the 80s as a song like "Laughing Proves". No wonder the title is "Greyscale" as that is how dark this album is. So not goth, but it will appeal to goth's who have "Violator" in heavy rotation, as this is which era of Depeche Mode this projects draws inspiration from. They do tend to ride some of the grooves into the ground, but it allows the songs more of a drone.It goes in a chill wave sort of direction, so you have to be in the right mood.
9-Lana Del Ray : "Honeymoon"
When I'm not making a pop list she is obviously more mainstream the majority of the artists I cover, but has enough melancholy to her sound to have her place along side some of the other female artists covered here. She said this album was going to be filled with muddy trap energy and inspired by late night drives listening to Miles Davis. She employs elements of sound to make the album feel like a 60s western soundtrack. Her voice glides with her typical cool croon like it is business as usual. She closes the album with a cover of the Animals " Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" that retain in the organ some of the trippy 60s feel. Overall this album might not be "the Ultra-Violence" as the lyrics are not as biting and the ballads are sleepier, but she excels when she does what she does best.
8-Prince: "HITNRUN Phase Two"
Once upon a time the only artists I listened to who were not metal were the Violent Femmes , David Bowie and Prince. I got "Purple Rain" X-mas of 1984 and hung tough with him despite changing his name to a symbol and the Bat Dance not parting ways with him until fifteen years later with s"Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic", though the last I saw him live was on the "3121" tour. The opener might have the social commentary similar to his "Sign O the Times' album, so it no surprise the upbeat opening remind me of a slower paced "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man". His guitar has a jazzy Frank Zappa like cadence following the chant of "if there ain't no justice there ain't no peace" . His voice sounds like he hasn't aged a day. The only sign of age is in his mellowed approach to rock, which finds his guitar using a cleaner jazz tone and forsaking the wild man Hendrix wail of feedback.In some ways it is unfair to compare this album to "Around the World in Day" which is a place in time that he can never get back to but where he is finds the Purple One at a much better place than I expected and makes me want to back back and listen to the albums I missed out on , because if they are as good as this one it will be time well invested.
7-Puscifer : "Money Shot"
Before you balk at this album being on the pop list, first ask yourself what are you doing reading this in the first place if you don't like pop music. Tool used to be one of my favorite bands. A Perfect Circle was up there as well. Puscifer seemed like Maynard's stab at doing his own Massive Attack , but heavy on the jokes. The first album he mainly used his lower range and further separated himself from being the voice of Tool. First off the album sounds great but sounds best through head phones. More focused on songs and less focused on jokes , with more of an emphasis placed on songs. Closely harmonized with female voices it sounds like this could have been written for a Perfect Circle album that never happened.Even though Former Ministry bassist Paul Barker lays down the grooves this is not industrial, nor is it dark enough to be goth or organic enough to be rock, it is what is good catchy songs, do you not think that what defines pop, it's just low on the sugar.
6-Madonna: "Rebel Heart"
Me and the Fabulous Ms. M have been out of touch. After "Music" we parted ways, she went on to have a mid-life crisis and released four albums none of which had anything that entered into my consciousness, but then again when I quit doing drugs, I also quit frequenting gays bars. The first song on Madonna's new album "Rebel Heart" makes it apparent gays bars are where she has been hiding out making music. This is perfect for my climate so there is a bit of a nostalgic edge to this which gives me a appreciation for this album which in it's initial sales haven't impressed the rest of the world , but what do those sheep know about good music any way?Oh, well it is what is, don't believe the hype saying this is a bomb, because it's not creatively , try to get the expanded edition there some songs that are actually better than some of these , but this still is getting a 9.5 as Madonna is back in biznasty.
5- Dr. Dre : "Compton"
Things have changed in the hood. While working on the film "Straight Outta Compton" Dre was inspired to make this album, only his third full length. This album does not feel like a companion piece to the bi-opic about the rap crew that put Dre on the map, which he produced as well. This is not a retro homage to his days in NWA and perhaps to a fault finds it's place in the modern hip-hop market. While I wore out my copy of "the Chronic" in high school, when I quit smoking pot thirteen years ago rap listening took a decline. Post -Tupac rappers got krunk and began writing twerk anthems because truth be told they just didn't have anything to say as it became harder to distinguish hip-hop from pop-music. The lyric " we load up pro-tools" on Dre's first team up with Kendrick Lamar explains one of the things that has changed in how Dre assembles his beats.The last song finds Dre doing what he does best without having other mcs crowding him. At times This album feels like it is serving two masters he is trying to make sure at 50 he can still sell albums to kids of today while doing what he does best, however this is better than any other hip hop album that came out...the Dr is in.
Karin Park : Apocalypse Pop"
She already has two Grammy's in Norway and this is her fifth album, so if there is any doubt as if the six foot three fashion model knows what she is doing , this album is a resounding yes. The album opens with a driving pop song with rough and tumble beats pumping under the otherwise carefree vocal.My finance drew Lorde comparison in her fleeting listen to the first single off the album "Shine" which I can hear in her phrasing that sometimes rides the rhythmic line between singing and rapping on a you be be as broke as you want/ you can be as drunk as you like". The lyrics on this album are incredible and often explore her dysfunctional relationships.Needs to be played while driving fast on dark roads...high on coke optional.
3- Chvrches: "Open Every Eye" Funny enough I decided to break down and give Chvrches a shot a few weeks ago after hearing them brought up on the State Of the Goth Scene panel at this year's Dragon-con. While not what I consider goth they do have a more serious lyrical tone than most of today's pop music and much like Twin Shadow are an act that proves pop doesn't have to be a bad word. their last album some reviews compared it Taylor Swift's "1989". They took that as a compliment. And this might come as a surprise to readers here who normally click on for the goth/metal/ punk reviews, but I have gained an appreciation for Swifts last two albums. The hooks are addictive and the same can be said for Chvrches. Lauren Mayberry continues to ooze with the same youthful glee that Swift also possesses, the difference being more lyrical as Mayberry doesn't always have to be the protagonist in her songs. She has little regret for not always being nice claiming on "Leave a Trace" that she is as sane as she ever was. Mayberry might make you dance , but she didn't show up to the studio trying to start a party. Fans will not be disappointed if they liked the last album.
2-the Weeknd : "Beauty Behind the Madness"
Abel Makkonen Tesfaye goes about things in a manner darker than your average r&b singer and has been known to sample both Siouxsie and the Cocteau Twins, his drug use might explain for this taste in music .He gives many winks to another addict...Michael Jackson. Lyrically the album has bi-polar moments, either he's a pimped out playa or hopeless romantic in the tug of war his pimp side is lyrically more interesting. He is a master of hook and they keep me returning to this album.
1- Twin Shadow: "Eclipse" This album caught me by surprise I'll tell you right off the bat it's a strong contender for album of the year. From the first song he shows you how to make a chorus carry the most emotional impact possible.Who said pop music has to be a bad thing? More common with the 80s he sings in an urgent baritone, think Corey Hart but with a larger dose of soul injected in the phrasing. It's a crime not to check out this piece of greatness. Every vocal oozes like a hook in it's own right, one of the most perfect vocal performances.