Q2 is almost over and for those who don't know, this time of the year tends to have the reputation of being when the album of the year is released. Did it happen again in 2016? Possibly, because there were some amazing albums released by some amazing pop people. So here is a quick rundown of what I've been listening to for the past 3 months and you can compare them to the other amazing albums from Q1 here!
Super by Pet Shop Boys
When you consider how long Pet Shop Boys have been amazing in the whole pop game, it's frankly ridiculous that they can still be doing so well with their THIRTEENTH album, aptly titled Super. While most of the PSB albums adhere to a well-thought out theme mixing in the elegant thought-provoking rave pop the boys are known for, Super is special in that it takes all the BEST BITS from the act's history and meld them into a pop album. Lead single "The Pop Kids" sounds like a hit from the 80's and 90's while "The Dictator Decides" harkens to the deeper parts of their Elysium album. Overall, Pet Shop Boys made an album for music lovers. The best kind of albums, if you ask me.
Two Essential Tracks: "The Pop Kids" & "Groovy"
Red Flag by All Saints
Another supergroup whose skill in pop after two decades is frankly preposterous, All Saints have made the comeback of all comebacks. The serene electropop that the girls were known for during the turn of the century is on full display in Red Flag, with "One Strike" and "One Woman Man" being prime examples. However, they have also updated their sound to fit alongside the urban hits of late ("Ratchet Behavior" anyone?). It's just another pop miracle that keeps the whole thing so exciting.
Two Essential Tracks: "One Strike" & "This Is A War"
Last Year Was Complicated by Nick Jonas
For someone who seems to be able to do it all, the fact that Nick Jonas managed to make another decent pop album is actually quite surprising. From sex romps to love songs, LYWC details the intimacies behind a serious break up and takes a sensitive look at it from a male perspective. It also helps that the songs have a good pop beat and contributions from superstar writers like Tove Lo, Justin Tranter, Julia Michaels, Max Martin and Bebe Rexha (who wrote "Under You", one of the best songs about sex of the year, but more on that later). Hopefully, his third album will push him to the upper limit of pop and turn him into the best post-Timberlake male singer in the world.
Two Essential Tracks: "Close" & "Under You"
Lemonade by Beyoncé
The last Beyoncé visual album was thrilling in the novelty of its release mixed with Beyoncé owning her status as a pop cultural deity. But let's be real, Lemonade shows that Queen B has improved leaps and bounds. Tying themes of infidelity and distrust in relationships together, Lemonade is a sonic journey just as much as it is a visual one. Most of all, songs like "Hold Up" (written with MNEK) and "Daddy Lessons" (written with Wynter Gordon) show just how far ahead of the curve Beyoncé is. Thank goodness she is in our lives, right?
Two Essential Tracks: "Sorry" & "Daddy Lessons"
Stranger Things Have Happened by Clare Maguire
Earlier this year, Clare Maguire released the biggest, most dramatic torch ballad in history in the form of "Elizabeth Taylor." I decided to listen to the album that this gem popped out from and to my surprise, Clare pretty much recorded exactly what I would have wanted from the third Adele album. Her sweet saccharine voice belies a lot of power and it is in full focus on this future timeless classic.
Two Essential Tracks: "Elizabeth Taylor" & "Hanging In The Stars"
Love You To Death by Tegan and Sara
Tegan & Sara's transition into pure pop was one of the best things to happen in 2013. Their pursuit of pure pop while mixing in themes of sexuality, responsibility for hurting someone, and their trademark bite in their lyrics is one of the best things to happen in 2016. Every song on the ten track opus is packaged with the right amount of grit and ear worms that won't leave your head like in "Boyfriend" , "That Girl", and "Faint Of Heart". You could honestly listen to Love You To Death forever on repeat, something which I highly suggest as it is a great experience.
Two Essential Tracks: "Boyfriend" & "Stop Desire"
Electricity by Ekkoes
I have been listening to Ekkoes back in the day when they had proper spelling and dramatically energetic hits in the making. Luckily, they have decided to rebrand and release a fantastically straightforward guitar driven album that places them as the Human League of our generation. Elekktricity has a deceptively romantic feel to all of its songs, which is matched by the upbeat energy that the singers take on throughout each track. One of the best under the radar albums out there right now!
Two Essential Tracks: "Heaven" & "Couldn't Miss You Anymore"
Junk by M83
French outfit M83 takes the cake for best album cover of Q2. Between this and the Elliphant cover, 2016 is in rare form for album art. The cinematic soundtrack that is Junk matches the expectations. The album itself plays with the idea of unfinished and scatterbrained thoughts but connects them through the distinctly 90's sound. Features from Mai Lan and queen of underrated pop gems Susanne Sundfør round out the collection by providing a voice to some of the best cuts and they even sing in FRENCH!!! Even her royal majesty Nicola Roberts is a fan. Simply spectacular.
Two Essential Tracks: "Go!" & "Atlantique Sud"
Everybody's Heart Is Broken Now by Niki & The Dove
Pop music is best when it's tailored to a specific season yet resonates year round. Everybody's Heart Is Broken Now accomplishes that in ways that no one can really comprehend. The slow burning funky jams like "So Much It Hurts" and "Play It On My Radio" hit you just as hard as the upbeat yet melancholic jams like "You Stole My Heart Away". Like the Pets Shop Boys album, you have your weirder moments that fascinate you like "Ode To Dance Floor" in equal amounts as the wow moments (the middle 8 on "Everybody Wants To Be You" is one of the best pop moments of the year). A spectacular summer album that gets better every time and just proves how special Niki & The Dove are in the pop world.
Two Essential Tracks: "So Much It Hurts" & "Lost Ub"
Mind Of Mine by ZAYN
The ZAYN album technically came out in March, but having recently taken the plunge, the whole record is a huge surprise. "Pillowtalk" was a horrible first choice as a single, as the more intimate, less in your face about Zayn's sexual prowess songs are the true highlights on this nu-R&B masterpiece. While it does not hit you over the head with hits, Mind Of Mine makes you excited for what Zayn might be able to with a little more time and patience.
Two Essential Tracks: "It's You" & "Like I Would"
7/27 by Fifth Harmony
Fifth Harmony's last album was a mess in a way that made me kind of sad that America could not have a girl group to match Little Mix. Then, the girls came out with the bulldozer of a pop song that is "Work From Home". After teaming up with some of the best songwriters in the business (and Kygo for some reason...), 5H has turned in a decently amazing album that sets each of them apart in the way that Girls Aloud albums always did. Though they could have trimmed some of the fat, sassy hits are paired with pseudo-ballads that introduce the girls as a pop force just getting going. Hopefully, they stay together a little longer...
Two Essential Tracks: "Work From Home" & "Dope"
Conscious by Broods
The Broods album came out very recently but it has already cemented itself as one of the year's finest. Adding drama to their already crystalline alt-pop has paid off as "Free" has been one of their biggest hits and "Couldn't Believe" is a rush of brilliance. Teaming up with hitmaker Joel Little, Broods move beyond the Lorde comparisons, ironically by teaming up with Lorde on "Heartlines" and the goddess of Sweden Tove Lo on "Freak Of Nature". Thank goodness for everyone involved in making Conscious so amazing.
Two Essential Tracks: "Couldn't Believe" & "Are You Home"
Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande
I knew that Ariana Grande would eventually reach the summit of a huge, dare I say GRANDE, pop mountain and Ariana has done it with Dangerous Woman. Adopting an alter ego tends to work well for pop stars (just look at Beyonce and Marina) and hits like "Be Alright" and the title track show Ari's versatility as Super Bunny. She goes from reggae with Nicki Minaj to throbbing electropop thanks to some help from Max Martin, whose contributions include my song of the summer and her best song to date "Into You" (into you, into you). The mix of various sounds makes the album such a delight to listen to.
Two Essential Tracks: "Into You" & "Greedy"
Heartbreak Hi by Avec Sans
Electropop artists tend to meld together after a certain but Avec Sans tracks are always a delight to hear. The mixing of crystalline chugging synths capes and sharp vocals reminds you of a softer version of CHVRCHES, but Heartbreak Hi is a dreamy collection of pristine pop that takes all their older hits and mixes them with some brand new tracks. We'll take one of these every year, thanks Avec Sans.
Two Essential Tracks: "Heartbreak Hi" & "Shiver"
Wild Things by Ladyhawke
Oh Ladyhawke. My dear sweet Ladyhawke. Having grown up listening to her beyond spectacular debut album, Ladyhawke has held a very special place in my heart. Her mix of 80's synths with new wave romanticism makes her one of the most lovable pop stars on the planet. Unfortunately, she suffered from a sophomore slump, but after a lifestyle haul, Ladyhawke has come back to the light. Wild Things takes all the romance of her debut and mixes it with life experience and the sound of retro electropop to make a compelling album. "The River" and "Let It Roll" show a carefree side to the singer's personality but her storytelling has only improved. The stunning line "Me lost in daydreams and wonderful nightmares" pretty much sums up the majesty that the album expresses by making you look forward to falling in love. Just one of the many reasons I love Ladyhawke.
Two Essential Tracks: "A Love Song" & "Golden Girl"