2019 was a spectacular year for pop, so here’s the Classic Pop pick for last year’s top ten new releases…

Gary Daly – Gone From Here

Gary Daly – Gone From Here

China Crisis’ Gary Daly’s solo debut was an indispensable, softly-spoken mix of Terry Hall’s solo work, Stephen Duffy’s classicist songwriting and Crowded House’s melodies. Synths were still fundamental to its sound, but it was Daly’s candour, plus a cameo from It’s Immaterial’s John Campbell, that made this so endearing.

The Specials – Encore

The Specials – Encore

Four decades after their debut – also reissued this year – Terry Hall, Lynval Golding et al couldn’t have timed their confrontational, yet celebratory return better. They revisited old ground, of course, but the familiarity of their approach was as thrilling as drifts into new territory, especially Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys’s irresistible disco.

Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars

Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars

The Boss’ 19th album was a lush, widescreen affair that confirmed his status as a master storyteller, as well as one of America’s most charismatic songwriters. Inspired by 70s Californian pop, and full of a corresponding – if gritty – nostalgia, this was a string-drenched masterpiece, peaceful, sincere and full of warmth.

Lloyd Cole – Guesswork

Lloyd Cole – Guesswork

Though it picked up from where his previous two records left off, Cole’s 12th solo album also found him exploring the intimate approach of The Blue Nile. Wit and charm combine with his minimalist electronic pallet on this heart-warming acknowledgement of middle-age.

Top Ten New Releases Coldplay – Everyday Life

Coldplay – Everyday Life

Coldplay’s eighth album proved revelatory, with Chris Martin and co. attempting unexpected experiments with Afro-beat, lo-fi, gospel, folk and blues. There were big choruses, inevitably, but there was also an overdue attempt to break the mould, especially on the Femi Kuti-guesting Arabesque and Trouble In Town, which offered the year’s
best climax.

Top Ten New Releases Anna of The North – Dream Girl

Anna of The North – Dream Girl

This year’s Scandinavian model pop star was Anna Lotterud, whose second album felt gloriously young at heart, yet still seemed crafted by a veteran. Her debt to the 80s remained evident, but the mischievous title track, the Lily Allen-esque Thank Me Later and disco-flavoured My Love highlighted her versatility and character.

Top Ten New Releases Bananarama – In Stereo

Bananarama – In Stereo

It may not have been a total reinvention, but Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward’s long-awaited studio return was a riot. Richard X steered Love In Stereo the right side of corny, Dance Music could give Kylie a run for her money, and Stuff Like That was as good as their vintage 80s peak.

Top Ten New Releases Stats – Other People’s Lives

Stats – Other People’s Lives

Fronted by Ed Seed, a veteran of La Roux’s and Dua Lipa’s bands, Stats’ debut will definitely have pleased LCD Soundsystem fans, but older heads will have clocked how it simply draws excitably from the same well, not least Bowie. There’s Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and Eurythmics in there, too.

Top Ten New Releases  Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell

Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell

While some were distracted by Elizabeth Woolridge Grant’s odd claim, given her pseudonym, that she’d “never had a persona”, others revelled in her sixth album’s sultry sophistication and her attempts to look beneath the bonnet of the American Dream. Doin’ Time even got away with quoting Gershwin’s Summertime.

Top Ten New Releases Rustin Man – Drift Code

Rustin Man – Drift Code

Talk Talk fans mourned Mark Hollis’ passing in February, but may have found consolation in the overdue return of former bandmate, Paul Webb, aka Rustin Man. Very different to 2002’s Beth Gibbons collaboration, this was admittedly idiosyncratic – Webb’s voice sounds much like Robert Wyatt’s – but it’s worthy of close attention.

Wyndham Wallace, John Earls, Mark Lindores and Steve Harnell

Click here to read more Classic Pop reviews