Sub­merge in 2011’s best pop

If you can’t af­ford an iso­la­tion tank, no mat­ter – get lost in the top 10 al­bums of the year and let them take you into their world

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODSOUNDS - CHRIS RICHARDS

IF A good pop al­bum is like a sonic bub­ble bath – a lit­tle act of men­tal hy­giene that lets us get away from it all – then a great pop al­bum is like a visit to one of those iso­la­tion tanks that cost $75 (R630) an hour at the day spa.

And who had that kind of money this year?

In 2011, pop artists helped us make sense of our world by pulling us deep into theirs.

R&B croon­ers took us on hal­lu­ci­na­tion tours. Rock bands of­fered tu­to­ri­als in lu­cid dream­ing. And in­stead of invit­ing us into her dou­ble-wide mo­bile home for a beer, the most mag­netic singer in Nashville tried to get us to sign the lease.

Each of the year’s best record­ings de­manded our time, our pa­tience and the en­tirety of our imag­i­na­tion. Here they are, ranked one to 10, but al­most all equally deep. Close your eyes, pinch your nose and sub­merge. 1. The Weeknd, loons The last time R&B felt this darkly erotic, it was be­ing made by a tiny pur­ple sphinx from Min­neapo­lis. Abel Tes­faye, the 21-year-old Toronto singer who records as the Weeknd, al­ready seems ev­ery bit as enig­matic as Prince – and his dreamy-druggy-sexy-scary-su­perla­tive de­but was nearly as se­duc­tive.

House of Bal- 2. Jay-z and Kanye West, Watch the Throne In­stead of blush­ing over their em­bar­rass­ment of riches, pop’s most in­trigu­ing part­ner­ship de­liv­ered a self-con­grat­u­la­tory opus that was ad­ven­tur­ous enough to re­mind us that they’re rap vi­sion­ar­ies first, 1 per­cent bazil­lion­aires sec­ond. 3. Pis­tol An­nies, Hell on Heels On their de­but al­bum, Mi­randa Lam­bert and her song­writ­ing bud­dies go hunt­ing for the con­tact point be­tween humour and heart­break. They find it with Trailer for Rent, a song about an un­happy home avail­able on the first of the month. If it doesn’t put tears in your dim­ples, noth­ing will. Katy B, On a Mis­sion So you think you can dance (and would pre­fer to do it while lis­ten­ing to a Bri­tish singer nar­rate youth in 21st-cen­tury club­land with an hon­esty that you wish Amer­i­can pop stars would em­u­late)? This one’s for you. 5. Drake, Take Care He’s not re­ally a rap­per. Or a singer. Drake sim­ply spills his guts at the blurry in­ter­sec­tion where words meet melody. On his stun­ningly self- aware sopho­more ef­fort, he speak-sing-raps: “I think I like who I’m be­com­ing.” Ev­ery­one should. 6. Blue­brain, The National Mall The Washington duo’s first “lo­ca­tion aware al­bum” was the year’s most in­no­va­tive pop re­lease – a smart­phone app that used Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem tech­nol­ogy to trig­ger changes in the band’s mu­sic, de­pend­ing on where you strolled on the Mall. It was like

us­ing GPS to nav­i­gate a dream. 7. Bon Iver, Bon Iver There’s hard rock, there’s soft rock, and now there’s this. Lis­ten closely to Wis­con­si­nite Justin Ver­non’s va­porous bal­lads and you’ll hear rock ’n’ roll subli­mat­ing like a block of dry ice. 8. Real Es­tate, Days These Jersey boys pen ca­su­ally gor­geous rock tunes about sub­ur­bia that ac­tu­ally re­sem­ble sub­ur­bia – they’re very clean, sorta sad and 9. James Blake, James Blake In­ven­tive and emo­tive, this young Lon­doner’s avant love songs sound as if they were pressed from an undis­cov­ered cor­ner of the hu­man heart. 10. Fauna, Man­shines This Ar­gen­tinian duo kept things slow and low, con­tin­u­ing their rein­ven­tion of Cumbia by adding a splash of psy­chotropic. – Washington Post

Watch the Throne PIC­TURE: REUTERS

RAP VI­SION­AR­IES: Jay-z, left, and Kanye West’s ad­ven­tur­ous

was one of the stand-out al­bums of the year .

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