Although we were secretly hoping My Shadow would be the next single release, epic pop purveyors, The Sound of Arrows have unleashed the gorgeous Conquest onto the world, and we are the better for it. It’s the fifth single to be lifted off their debut album, Voyage, which has the distinction of being our first (and currently only) choice as best album of the year. We are not sure what the DeLorean is doing in this medieval/science fiction video, but feel it magically conveys the speed and conquest of this mystical imaginary world. No one does epic better.
Although comprising our list of top albums of the year was relatively painless, narrowing our list of singles, was daunting. It is purely a subjective list, captured at this moment in time (We are fully aware that if you asked us a month from now, the list may change). This list is also very personal. Since we started the bop2pop blog last March, we have covered nearly 300 singles, a few concerts and caught up with a few of our 80s idols. All of these songs are winners in our book, so to narrow the list to 20, exlcuding some in order to place others, was often very painful. But we had to do it, so like it or not (most likely you will not agree with everything or anything on our list), here are picks for top singles of the year.
20. Simulover: Tourniquet
Squeaking in on our list is the debut single by Simulover, the brilliant collaboration of SIRPAUL and Alex Lauterstein. We confess we love the S/M theme, which makes us feel oh so slightly dirty.
19. Holy Ghost: I Wanted To Tell Her
Our favorite remake of the year by Brooklyn duo, Holy Ghost which we like better than the original. Check out the really RAD video.
18. Fil OK: Fall In Love
We fell in love with this haunting ballad that sounds like the twisted love child of Felt Mountain era Goldfrapp and Marc Almond at his most ironically sleazy
17. Tie: The Good Natured: Video Voyeur / Icona Pop: Manners
We group these two bands together because they both bring an energy to their stage presence and we predict great things next year. The Good Natured’s Video Voyeur kind of reminds us of early Missing Persons (which is a very good thing) and they are a band to watch out for. We are including Icona Pop’s neontastic Manners video which seems inspired by the 80s cult film, Liquid Sky.
16. Tie: Garcon Garcon: Stay In Touch / Patrick Wolf: Together
We love this Garcon Garcon video that looks like something director Derek Jarman would create if he wanted to create an early Erasure video. Also stunning is the new Patrick Wolf single.
15. OMD: History Of Modern
Taken from last year’s album of the same name, this was the song OMD should have released first since it is the track that most captures the spirit and energy of OMD’s heyday.
14. Tie: Penquin Prison: Fair Warning (Oliver Mix) / Starlings – Sirens (Sanfernando Remix)
Two great songs made brilliant by simply stunning remixes. We will be featuring Sanfernando soon on our 2011 remix recap.
13. Electric Youth: Fade Away
Our top b-side pick by the band that got major exposure by appearing on the Drive soundtrack. Pure pop bliss!
12. Tie: Johan Agebjörn: The Last Day of Summer / Queen of Hearts: Where Are You Now
Both tracks simply sublime. Johan Agebjorn you may recognize from his work with Sally Shapiro and as for Queen of Hearts, she is our pick for breakout artist and who, in addition to creating great music herself, has collaborated with a who’s who at bop2pop (Johan Agebjorn, The Sound of Arrows, Monarchy, Fear of Tigers, Bright Light Bright Light)
11. Lana Del Ray: Video Games/Blue Jeans (Nikon Remixes)
Regardless what the cynics say, these are two beautiful songs made even more so by the gorgeous remixes by Nikon.
10. Beth Ditto: I Write the Book
Why did it make our top 10? Because Beth Ditto is fierce and she completely reinvented herself for the dance floor and outshined Madonna – Got to love it.
9. Monarchy: I Won’t Let Go
Our favorite track off of one of our top albums of the year, I Won’t Let Go updates the classic Chris Isaak track, Wicked Games (also check out number 11 which does the same).
8. Washed Out: Amor Fati
chilled synthpop at it’s finist (think A-Ha on Vicodin), we adored this track off of Washed Out’s Within and Without album. Best of all, he gave away the single for free!
7. Queen of Hearts: Freestyle
This was the song that started our love of all things Queen of Hearts and it is still our favorite. Queen of Hearts, if you are reading us, you enticed us with a fantastic video teaser, but then broke our hearts by never releasing the full video. Can we have a full video please?
6. Hurts: Sunday
Sunday was the last single taken off of the excellent debut album by Hurts. It’s our favorite track off the album and the video is simply stunning.
5. Marsheaux: Can You Stop Me
We think Marsheaux could record them practicing scales and it would still make our list. Can You Stop Me was a change in direction for Marsheaux (kind of a “harder” synthpop sounding Delerium) and we love it. We were hoping for an album, but alas it has yet to materialize.
4. Sound of Arrows: Nova/My Shadow
We would include the new version of Into the Clouds and M.A.G.I.C., but they both made our lists in previous years. Their debut album, Voyage, made our choice for album of the year.
3. Mirrors: Into The Heart
We loved, love, loved this single by Mirrors that should have gotten more exposure and been a bigger hit. Recent lineup changes had us a little worried about where the direction of the band would be going, but a couple of new tracks prove they are still the ultimate conveyors of quality synthpop.
2. Daybehavior: Silent Dawn
Simply epic track by a band we have been eagerly awaiting their new third album, Follow That Car, for awhile now. For the unconverted, Daybehavior incorporates cinematic dreamscape vocals and haunting melodies that would fit comfortably in a french 1960s spy film soundtrack. Their last single, It’s a Game, got remix treatment by our faves, Marsheaux.
1. Kid Kasio: Over and Over
Sounding like something Howard Jones would come up with if he was comissioned to write Depeche Mode’s Shake the Disease, Over and Over, tugged at our heartstrings and was the track, more than any other, we played…over and over. Kid Kasio promises his debut album will be out next year.
The Best of the Rest
Arcade Fire presents Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Austra – Spellwork
Bachelorette – Polarity Party
Bunny Lake – Young Lovers
Charli XCX – Nuclear Seasons
Chart Music – All My Life
Citizens! – True Romance
Class Actress – Weekend
Computer Magic – The End Of Time
Faker – Dangerous (CSS remix)
Fiorious – I’m In Love With A German Film Star
Florrie – I Took A Little Something
GusGus – Over
Human League – Sky
Icona Pop – Nights Like This
Jessica 6 Prisoner Of Love (ft. Antony)
Johan Agebjörn & Le Prix (Feat. Fred Ventura & Sally Shapiro) – Alice (Energy Mix)
John Maus – Head for the Country
Kites – The Disappearance of Becky Sharp (The Sanfernando Sound Remix)
Ladytron – Mirage
Mint Julep – Why Don’t We
Miracle – The Visitor
Mirrors – Shooting Stars
Neon Indian – Polish Girl
Nightlife – On the Run
Niki & The Dove – Mother Protect (Goldroom Remix)
Northern Kind – Dreams
Northern Kind – Euphonic
Oh Land – Sun of a Gun
Queen of Hearts – Shoot The Bullet
Rimer London – Put Your Gun Away
Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend
Ronika – Only Only (Fear Of Tigers Remix)
Selebrities – Surrounded By You
Sisely Treasure – That You Like
Soft Metals – Psychic Driving
Space March – American Girl
Space March – Space Cowboy
Starlings – Dark Arts (The Sanfernando Sound Remix)
Starlings – Sirens (Sanfernando Remix)
Tesla Boy – Waste My Body
The Golden Filter – Mother (Cosmonaut 3AM Remix)
The Good Natured – Wolves
The Opiates – Anatomy of a Plastic Girl
The Scientists of Modern Music – Because If I Die
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Trouble
Vanbot – Make Me, Break Me (Video)
Voltaire Twins – Animalia
Will Young – Jealousy
YELLE – Safari Disco Club
YELLE – Le Musique
Yuksek – On A Train
We admit we are more of a singles blog, but there have been some albums that we have been listening to quite a bit, some we thought we would and aren’t, and some that we were told were to come out, but never did. We expected Ladytron, whose 2008’s Velocifero was our top album of the year to appear on this list, and although we respect the showmanship, in all honesty, we feel it is an album to be appreciated, more than to be enjoyed. Same for M83 and Bjork. A couple of bands on our list were to get major label releases, but things did not work out as planned, and they were released on small independent labels or self-released. Some of our most anticpated new albums by bands like Marsheaux, DayBehavior and Northern Kind have yet to come out. All the albums in our top 5 are debut releases. Perhaps this is a passing of the torch that comes with the dawn of a new decade. In addition we saw the re-emergence of the ep as a viable means of getting music out. So without further adeiu, here is our admittedly very subjective list of top albums of the year.
5. Monarchy – Around The Sun
With tracks like I Won’t Let Go, Maybe I’m Crazy, The Phoneix Alive, Love Get Out of My Way and Black is the Color of My Heart, there is so much to fall in love with by this duo who mix synthpop with dance. We feel it is a crime of the worst kind that these guys aren’t household names… yet. A great album to get your groove on. Check out our review of their New York City concert here.
4. Johan Agebjorn – Casablance Nights
We were really hoping for a new Sally Shapiro album this year, so when we heard the genius behind her was releasing an album instead, we were at first slightly apprehensive, but all fears were immediately dashed upon listening to this italo-disco masterpiece. Sally Shapiro is back in true form on the title track and Alice and Johan Agebjorn had a stroke of genius by using Queen of Hearts for the simply sublime, The Last Day of Summer (more on QOH below). We are still praying for a new Sally Shapiro album, but until then, this will do just fine.
Queen of Hearts – The Arrival
Speaking of Queen of Hearts, her debut was our top EP of the year, and a trend we are seeing a lot more of as musicians self release their material. We first became enamored with a teaser of Freestyle and it is clear her influences lie in electronics and synthpop with a nod to Kylie and Little Boots. Every track is a winner, but we are particularly taken by the aforementioned Freestyle as well as Shoot the Bullet and Where Are They Now. Best of all, she has released a gazillion of remixes that she has made available to download for free, so support your artists and get this EP – it’s priced as a bargain since it is under that of a happy hour cocktail!
2. Mirrors – Lights and Offerings
No band captured the heart and spirit of synthpop music better than Mirrors, whose album Lights and Offerings, a kind of “Best of” of the material they had released during the past couple of years, proved the genre was still very much alive and well. Although often compared to Hurts, Mirrors are the real deal and they melted our hearts with such now classic (at least to us) tracks like Into The Heart, Ways to an End, Hide and Seek and Look At Me.
1. The Sound of Arrows – Voyage
There was no debating the album that we fell in love with most this year. Nearly 4 years in the making, with enough setbacks to become a Lifetime movie of the week, Voyage was finally self-released this year, and wow, was it ever worth the wait. To describe this album as epic would be an understatement, as each track transports the listener into their magical world of innocence and hope. The album is so cohesive and accomplished, it is simply stunning that it is a debut album. Nearly every track is a winner, although we are most partial to Into The Clouds, M.A.G.I.C., My Shadow and Nova. If you haven’t heard this album, stop reading now and get this album. You will be so glad you did.
Washed Out: Within and Without
Space March: Monumental
Holy Ghost: Holy Ghost
Yelle: Safari Disco Club
We recently talked about how much we loved the new The Sound of Arrows album, Voyage, and we are all giddy from just finding this live version of one our favorite tracks from it, the very Petshop Boys and Cicero sounding, My Shadow. The video is taken from a live performance on a Swedish morning TV show.
Whenever The Sound of Arrows releases a new video it is an event. They are truly geniuses who can express themselves just as magically through visuals as they can through their music. If you haven’t purchased the new The Sound of Arrows album, Voyage, run, don’t walk, and do so now. It is a stunning achievement and is our choice for album of the year. Wonders is the fourth video to be taken from this album and as expected, it is simply a marvel to watch. Exploring themes of exploration and travel, there is a youthful innocence about the video, with its renewed sense of excitement that comes from hope and optimism. Beautiful.
It has been less than a week since we previewed After the Silence, a track from The Sound of Arrows that was rejected from their soon-to-be-released debut album, Voyage. For fans wondering if the direction of this new album would create the same kind of magic as Into the Clouds or, continue the Tiesto sounding trancey synth beats introduced with Nova, new single, Wonders, unfortunately seems to suggest the latter. Not that there is anything wrong with the single, we like it actually, especially the crescendo up to euphoria that has become their signature sound. It’s just we have ridiculously high standards for SoA and we just don’t think this is the single that is going to elevate them to the level of success they deserve. We still love you though.
The Sound of Arrows have a new track that won’t be included on their debut album, Voyage, due out November 7. After The Silence is an epic ballad, with lush melodies, uplifting lyrics and grandiose arrangement; in other words, its their signature sound that we have fallen in love with. If this discarded track is any indication of things to come, Voyage is going to be something very special.