Something seems to be missing these days. It seems that record companies, radio stations, and streaming services are pushing some the great established musicians to the background. As a result these veteran artists are not getting the attention they deserve. Enter the Top 10 Album Countdown: The New Oldies. The main point is simple – to make this list you must have at least 20 years of producing established music. The album by the artist must have been released between November 1st, 2019 and October 31st, 2020.
#1 Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
Coming in at #1 on the New Oldies 2020 Album of the Year Countdown is the Pet Shop Boys Hotspot.
Hotspot is the first Pet Shop Boys album in four years. It’s the third consecutive album the duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have done with producer Stuart Price. This author thinks Price is the best producer in the music business. His work with Madonna, The Killers, and Kylie Minogue have demonstrated how good he is. Since working with the Pet Shop Boys, Price seems to have elevated the duo to the next level.
Much like we looked at with Simply Red’s Blue Eyed Soul (#2 Album of the Year), Hotspot is an album where for the most part the Pet Shop Boys do not reinvent themselves. They focus on their core competency – which is the electronic post-Disco era sound. Tennant and Lowe have always been masters of this sound and Stuart Price gets them to deliver a home run performance.
Out of the gate, Hotspot’s opening track is going to lay down the high energy, electronic post-Disco sound will Will O’ The Wisp. It’s a throwback to what you would hear in a 1986 London nightclub, and that’s just fine with me.
Happy People brings Neil Tennant’s strengths – a combination of the spoken word and his elegant vocals. There is a wonderful bass track and I love how this song changes the tempo on multiple times. This track brings a vintage Pet Shop Boys sound done as good as the duo has ever been.
Monkey Business is one of the more humorous tracks on the album. It also is a throwback to the early days of the Pet Shop Boys. This one has me envisioning Tennant and Lowe jet setting around the world drinking champagne and eating caviar.
Dreamland was an interesting track in that it had a very 2020s sound, yet still had the foundational characteristics from the 1980s post Disco Pet Shop Boys sound.
There are slower tempo songs such You are the One, Hoping for a Miracle, Only the Dark, and Burning the Heather that showcase a softer side to the band.
Finally, the last track Wedding in Berlin mixes in the traditional march with the a more contemporary electronic sound. This mashup works and is the perfect finale to the album.
For the past 35 years, one can argue the Pet Shop Boys have been the most dominant post Disco band. One can certainly make the case for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame consideration (we know that non Rock bands always get into the Hall). As for Hotspot, one can argue this ranks with the best of Tennant and Lowe’s work. Unlikely as this might be for a #1 choice, it Hotspot is certainly an album that has earned this honor.