The Almosts…

In the words of Timbaland on Aaliyah’s ‘Try Again’, “it’s been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you, without a dope beat to step to”.

For much of the last year, we have left you dear readers to fend for yourself, some of you may have ended up in pop wilderness, so if that happened to you, here is list of recommendations to get you back on track – hopefully, you’ll discover something here that sparks some interest…

We’ve listened to A LOT of different styles and genres of music this year – although the recommendations here didn’t feature in the countdown of Pop Cart’s Top 15 Albums Of The Year 2012 (see full details of numbers 1-15 below) these albums are absolutely also worth checking out…

(Each set of recommendations reads left to right…)

Amanda Mair – Amanda Mair’ – Debut album from Swedish popstress, was mostly very good – she has a keen eye of detail and an ear of folky, electro beats and sensual vocals. Highlights – Doubt, Sense, It’s Gonna Be Long

Frank Ocean – ‘channel ORANGE’ – An impressive debut, a superb display of how to change the sound of a genre – stunning vocals, sublime production. A game changing, genre-busting album. Highlights – Pyramids, Lost, Pink Matter

Madonna – ‘MDNA’ – Really fabulous album, plenty to discover, set against interesting sounds and beats provided by the on point and very current producers. The re-connection with William Orbit was a success. The ballad makes a return to a Madonna album, it is here where she has always excelled and in this case, it is no different – beautiful. Highlights – I’m Addicted, Masterpiece, Free Falling

Christina Aguilera – ‘Lotus’ – Christina’s most pop record to date, and her most current sounding for some time too. Impressive vocals combined with songs of hope, solidarity and empowerment. Sheer brilliance throughout. Highlights – Your Body, Blank Page, Empty Words

The Weeknd – ‘Trilogy’ – Comprising of three mix-tapes collected together to form his first album. Trilogy features a range of styles and sounds – it shows progression throughout each mix-tape, plenty of good stuff on offer. Production sounds sharp and unique. Highlights – High For This, D.D, Montreal

Estelle – ‘All Of Me’ – A long time coming but third album marries Estelle’s many talents as vocalist and MC successfully. It features some interesting collaborations with US heavyweights and the positive, bright and upbeat subject matter, made for a great comeback record. Highlights – The Life, Love The Way We Used To, Thank-You

Alt-J – ‘An Awesome Wave’ – Debut album and Mercury Music Prize winner, a strong collection of tracks that is worthy of the praise it has been given. Warm, rich vocals set against a folky, sparse backdrop – delightful. Highlights – Tessellate, Dissolve Me, Matilda

Delta Goodrem – ‘Child Of The Universe’ – After an absence of five years, it was a relief to hear Delta’s stunning vocal set against her piano, combined with revelatory subject matter about the end of a relationship. A confident and assured return. Highlights – I’m Not Ready, Dancing With A Broken Heart, I Lost All Love 4 You

Poliça – ‘Give You The Ghost’ – Spooky, bleak and eerie sounding debut, which benefits hugely in enjoyment and understanding when the printed lyrics are close to hand. It’s poignant and dazzling – the synthy rhythms, affected vocals and tinges of R&B are innate and special. Highlights – Violent Games, Dark Star, Lay Your Cards Out

Yesayer – ‘Fragrant World’ – Third outing provides an interesting clash of styles and sounds to what they have produced before. Some glorious sing-a-long moments held together with synthy 80’s sounding grooves. Highlights – Fingers Never Bleed, Henrietta, No Bones

Totally Enormous Extinct Dionsaur – ‘Trouble’ – The sound of elaborate retro house beats set against a melchaholic vocal made this album a delight. There are many references and glimpses of a range of styles and genres – most notably, 80’s Black Box references spring to mind at certain points. Highlights – Trouble, Your Love, Solo

Kylie Minogue – ‘The Abbey Road Sessions’ – Reworkings of classic hits have never sounded better, Kylie turns the brightest, shiniest pop songs into often heartbreaking torch songs – Kylie’s vocals sound stunning throughout. The live instrumentation, production and surprising new arrangements make for a sumptuous and indulgent listen. Highlights – Hand On Your Heart, Finer Feelings, Flower

Ladyhawke – ‘Anxiety’ – Another solidly great album, plenty of highlights notably because of the catchy hooks and strong choruses. Heavy set, wholehearted beats made it an irresistible listen. Highlights – Black White & Blue, Blue Eyes, Gone Gone Gone

Django Django – ‘Django Django’ – A long time coming but their debut matched the promise from their earlier music and live sets. Surprisingly focused and clear for a debut – confidently aware. Highlights – Waveforms, Love’s Dart, Life’s A Beach

Elton John Vs Pnau – Good Morning To The Night’ – Pnau have taken various Elton John numbers from the 70’s spliced them together to create new tracks that are aimed firmly at the dancefloor. It’s oddly intriguing yet exciting and uplifting to hear. Highlights – Good Morning To The Night, Sad, Sixty

Santigold –Master Of My Make-Believe’ – Impressive second album – daring, bold, unique and different – big giant beats with thoughtfulness in the lyrics. Listeners are rewarded with repeated listen. Highlights – Go!, Disparate Youth, Never Enough

Lianne La Havas – ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ – Sublime vocals, gorgeously enhanced with slick production and arrangements. Quietly confident yet loud in parts – it has a bit of everything and is the equivalent of a musical hug. Highlights – Don’t Wake Me Up, Forget, Gone

Jessie Ware – ‘Devotion’ – Such depth and intensity to the sounds, recalling the work of some of the greatest UK RnB artists whilst remaining contemporary and relevant. Heavenly vocals, slick production. Highlights – Devotion, Wildest Moments, Running

Two Door Cinema Club – ‘Beacon’ – Second outing proved a great success – superb quality to the writing, extremely danceable and Alex Trimble’s vocal sounded majestic and soaring throughout. Highlights – Handshake, Sun, Sleep Alone

Bloc Party – ‘Four’ – Another welcome return to an old favourite as Kele reunites to create an impressive album, chock full of chunky basslines and beats – held together with Alex Newport’s clear production. Highlights – Real Talk, Day Four, V.A.L.I.S

Miike Snow – ‘Happy To You’ – A hugely enjoyable second album. With its jaunty and euphoric dance beats to its feel-good choruses and piano led sounds. Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (who make up production duo Bloodshy & Avant) together with Andrew Wyatt created a superb record. Highlights – The Wave, Devil’s Work, Paddling Out

Skunk Anansie – ‘Black Rain’ – Loud and in your face, Skin’s mighty vocal remained as impressive and impassioned as ever on this fine selection of tracks. Superb production and writing too. Highlights – I Will Break You, Our Summer Kills The Sun, Drowning

MNDR – ‘Feed Me Diamonds’ – A fine collection of uplifting, solid well crafted electro-pop numbers. The album is full of distinct subject matter and has an urgency, which demands repeated listens. The easy sing-along ‘oh woah oh’ styled choruses are also a winner. Highlights – #1 In Heaven, Faster Horses, Fall In Love With The Enemy

Metric – ‘Synthetica’ – Features some surprising elements such as the ethereal vocal of lead vocalist Emily, mashed together against a glam electro rock backdrop as well as capturing a more straightforward, dramatic and rousing sound. Enjoyable throughout whatever style is presented. Highlights – Youth Without Youth, Speed The Collapse, Breathing Underwater


Beach House – ‘Bloom’ – Fourth album from the American duo, sees them extend and refine their sound even further. Strong melodies, ethereal tones, more disjointed sounds and abstract ideas throughout make for a wistful and invigorating listen. HighlightsOther People, Troublemaker, Wishes

Noisettes – ‘Contact’ – Emerging as a duo, Shingai and Dan crafted a fine return on their third album. Focusing on the storytelling of the songwriting, the tracks are forceful and immediate. Upbeat and uplifting across a range of styles and subject matters – very fantastic return. HighlightsI Want You Back, Final Call, Let The Music Play

Hot Chip – ‘In Our Hands’ – Broad, vibrant and bursting with life and interesting details, the fifth album from Hot Chip is their most accessible to date, it shimmers and is very danceable. It is direct, exhilirating and of a consistent high quality throughout. HighlightsHow Do You Do? Don’t Deny Your Heart, These Chains

Rufus Wainwright – ‘Out Of The Game’ – The Mark Ronson produced, seventh studio album from Rufus, saw him embrace a more radio-friendly, concise and more accessible sound, in a way which doesn’t detract from the credibility or integrity he upholds. Lovely from start to finish. HighlightsOut Of The Game, Barbara, Sometimes You Need

Brandy – Two Eleven’ – Sixth studio album saw Brandy embark on a creative adventure with the project – it’s an album without the latest fashions or en trend producers, it focuses on delivering classic sound, showcasing Brandy’s stunning sensuous vocal against unusual and disctint beats – the vocal is the main feature throughout. HighlightsHardly Breathing, Scared Of Beautiful, Wish Your Love Away 

Bat For Lashes – ‘The Haunted Man’ – Third outing from Natasha Khan, sees a formidable return. A dreamy soundscape, heightened by those sensual vocals. It is beguiling and effortlessly magnificent as well as atmospheric and emotional. HighlightsLilies, Marilyn, Rest Your Head