1. TURN BLUE – The Black Keys.
I’ve listened to “Turn Blue” five times in as many days and something I wasn’t initially sure of is now certain: I like it. I like it a lot, in fact, as I’d hoped to. I’m a big fan of the Keys’ previous three albums, so for me “Turn Blue” always… had a lot to live up to. I approached my first listen with the kind of cautious optimism I always try to approach initial listens with and, thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. Even though that first listen didn’t leave me all aflutter and instantly enamoured, with the benefit of multiple listens it’s exactly what I wanted it to be. It all sounds very Black Keys – definitely no bad thing – with obvious elements from previous albums combined with some new sounds thrown in for good measure. “Weight Of Love”, “Year In Review” and “Waiting On Words” are early stand-outs.
2. KISS ME ONCE – Kylie Minogue.
Following 2010’s triumphant “Aphrodite”, “Kiss Me Once” disappoints me in a way that I never want a new Kylie album to disappoint me. There are more cringe-inducing moments than a Kylie album should ever induce and more questionable song choices than a Kylie album should ever feature. Its lead single was underwhelming, there’s a weird obsession with sex and there’s a slightly odd duet with Enrique Iglesias that’s overly-vocodered and downbeat to the point of depression, despite trying to sound achingly beautiful. There are a couple of crackers (“Million Miles”, “Kiss Me Once”) and, as is so often the case, one of the bonus tracks (“Sleeping With The Enemy”) is far superior to many of the standard album tracks. That said, I’ve listened to “Kiss Me Once” more times in five weeks than I listen to some albums in five years. Clearly my critique and apparent disappointment have about as much depth as the sparkly pop of this album.
3. SUPERMODEL – Foster The People.
“Torches” was the 2011 debut of Mark Foster and the said People and it’s one of my all-time favourite albums. A slightly offbeat collection, its eventual (and kind of unlikely) crossover commercial success was driven almost entirely by its slow-burner lead single, the instantly memorable and slightly annoying “Pumped Up Kicks”. This follow-up album is still offbeat in its way, but where “Torches” was a decidedly un-American-sounding collection of samples, electronica and catchy indie-pop, “Supermodel” combines all of those elements with an overall sound that’s just a little bit more mainstream. “Ask Yourself”, “Goats In Trees” and “The Truth” are favourites.
4. PLEASE YOURSELF – Bananarama.
This week’s classic pop schlock selection. The much-maligned “Please Yourself” was almost universally panned from the moment it was released in 1993. It’s an album the Bananas themselves have always claimed to dislike and which even die-hard Stock Aitken Waterman aficionados rarely appreciate. Rather than marking an exciting new direction for the group as a duo, the album was dismissed as little more than a contractual agreement which they’d been ‘forced’ to reunite with producers Stock Aitken Waterman to complete. Most of the album was recorded 1-2 years before it was finally released, by which time the S/A/W sound – arguably only ever truly embraced by 14 year old girls and gay men – was well and truly out of favour. Still, 21 years on “Please Yourself” seems a more coherent collection of S/A/W tracks than many albums from the ‘Hit Factory’ producers’ more commercially prosperous years. And let’s face it, if Steps hadn’t had this album’s second single (“Last Thing On My Mind”) to cover as their own second single, they would’ve faded back into obscurity faster than they could count to 5, 6, 7, 8.