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12 Essential Modern Pop Albums You Need To Own On Vinyl

Just a handful of essential recent releases.

There's absolutely no denying it -- vinyl records are cool.

Because of that coolness, vinyl sales recently reached a 26-year peak, with 9 million physical records sold in the first half of 2015 alone (compared to 14 million throughout all of 2014). As the holiday season approaches, I decided to look at some of my favorite pop releases from the past few years and mandate that everyone absolutely needs to own them on vinyl.

The 12 below are my top choices, and of course, yours will be different. But these are just my faves -- albums to listen to (the ones I already own) and albums to add to my Christmas list. And albums to frame and hang in my living room for cool decor. Enjoy.

  1. Katy Perry: Teenage Dream (2010)

    Why You Need It: I got this as a 25th birthday present earlier this year, and my life has not been the same since. When I need a boost, when I need to escape the world and drown in sugary pop goodness, the two thick, 180-gram discs of Teenage Dream are my escape. Plus, it's a heavily, heavily acclaimed album with all sorts of sales and certification records, so it's become a 2010s essential.


    Song To Blast: "Firework," obviously.

  2. Haim: Days Are Gone (2013)

    Why You Need It: Full disclosure: I don't own this one, but my roommate does. We play it whenever we need to feel those jittery '80s rhythms rush into our blood like we drank coffee way too quickly. So, basically all the time. If the Haim sisters' followup album is even remotely as good as this one, you'll have to add that one to the list, too -- whenever it actually drops.


    Song To Blast: Tie between "Forever" and "The Wire." And sing along to both. Loud.

  3. Taylor Swift: 1989 (2014)

    Why You Need It: The album that spawned a Ryan Adams-recorded track-for-track remake only a year later. The album named after the '80s that simultaneously sounded completely modern and forward-thinking (for an artist at a massive career crossroads). The album with vinyl-ready cover art. This one's a shoe-in.


    Song To Blast: I mean, gotta be "Bad Blood," right? This is a hard decision.

  4. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories (2013)

    Why You Need It: As the premier vintage-sounding record of the 2010s so far, Daft Punk did us all a favor and cranked out these 13 deep, spacious grooves with a stellar guest list that would put any other pop album to shame. Nile Rodgers, Julian Casablancas, Panda Bear and even an appearance from electronic music legend Giorgio Moroder -- Random Access Memories is a tour of every sound vinyl is supposed to capture, captured.


    Song To Blast: "Get Lucky" is the easy choice, but I'd vote for "Lose Yourself To Dance" for a close second. Pharrell, man.

  5. Lorde: Pure Heroine (2013)

    Why You Need It: Debuts this strong don't happen every day or even every year. When "Royals" hit, I was a bit concerned about Lorde losing momentum in the aftermath, but Pure Heroine is proof that she refused to be defined by the rules she set up for herself on her breakthrough single. "Team," "400 Lux" and "Glory And Gore" alone could've been career-making hits for other pop stars. But Lorde is different. She always has bee.


    Song To Blast: I always play "Ribs" as loud as possibly can because I need to.

  6. CHVRCHES: The Bones Of What You Believe (2013)

    Why You Need It: OK, one last dip into the '80s. CHVRCHES' debut came at a time when it probably shouldn't have worked given how much other synthpop was floating around in the ether at the time. But singer Lauren Mayberry's melodies are undeniable. They drive every patchwork of quivering sound that much further into your brain until they all become unforgettable.


    Song To Blast: The icy synth daggers in "Gun" always get me pretty amped.

  7. Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience (2013)

    Why You Need It: JT's triumphant re-entrance to the pop world in 2012 was a welcome return, given how his 2007 FutureSex/LoveSounds helped define the landscape that sprung up after it. It was partially a creator coming home to marvel at his oeuvre and a partially a dude we've come to love eager to show us the flashy stuff he'd been working on. And it was so epic, he had to drop a second part six months later. You can get both on vinyl together, though it might cost you upwards of $50.


    Song To Blast: Tempted to say "Suit & Tie," but the answer is "Mirrors" here, people.

  8. Mark Ronson: Uptown Special (2015)

    Why You Need It: Two words, my friends -- "UPTOWN FUNK." It's a little song that everyone and their mother recorded a cover of (even President Obama, kinda). But actually, the rest of this album is pure throwback fire, too, with Stevie Wonder guest spots and pop, funk and rock joints that'll make you roll up to work with curlers in your hair.


    Song To Blast: "Uptown Funk," yeah, but also Mystikal's straight-up awesome contributions on "Feel Right."

  9. One Direction: Four (2014)

    Why You Need It: For me, it was a toss-up between Four and Take Me Home, but any album with "Fireproof," "Clouds" AND "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" can take my hard-earned money any day. Any 1D album is a good one to keep around in the collection, actually. Four has a lot of deep groove-utilizing sounds, though, and it's a hell of a headphones album, too. So, yeah. Four is for when you need some inspiration.


    Song To Blast: "Steal My Girl" or "No Control" -- or "Night Changes" for the feels.

  10. Robyn: Body Talk (2010)

    Why You Need It: All you need to do is listen to "Don't F---king Tell Me What To Do" to realize why you need to own this album and have it at your disposal for the next party at your apartment. There's literally a relatable line every 10 seconds in that song, including but not limited to: "Your nagging is killing me/ My gut is killing me/ My PMS is killing me/ My email is killing me."


    Song To Blast: "Dancing On My Own" for a less NSFW experience.

  11. Adele: 21 (2011)

    Why You Need It: Do I really need to explain this one? You know those best-of lists mags like Rolling Stone love to put together (yeah, we do them too occasionally) where the historical value of albums are ranked against each other? 21 is the album that is forever destined to come out on top from here on out. It's that good, it's completely timeless and it sounds great on vinyl.


    Song To Blast: Honestly, the whole thing, but "Someone Like You" specifically.

  12. Bruno Mars: Unorthodox Jukebox (2012)

    Why You Need It: Master genre shapeshifter Bruno Mars brought everything together on Unorthodox Jukebox -- seriously, everything. From reggae-influenced rock on "Locked Out Of Heaven" to stadium pop on "Gorilla" to unabashed disco on "Treasure," Mars hopped around to some always-stylish vintage sounds, and it's no surprise he's technically popped up on this list twice. He might just be the best dude out there mining the past to make something new with what he finds.


    Song To Blast: Low key, "Treasure" is the jam of all jams (though I like this one too, just for the record).