End Of Year · Music

Backfill: 2015 EOY: Part 4 of 5

In the penultimate Backfill post ever, at least that I have planned, we go from 125 to 60 in songs of 2015. If I feel the need to identify that my opinion has changed I will use bold to indicate the song is better than it is, and a strikethrough to indicate the song is worse. All comments from me now are going to be italicised. This is archive writing by me from Buzzjack.com that I am putting on here for posterity. 

125 – Crywolf – The Home We Made Pt 2
124 – Calvin Harris – Pray To God (feat. HAIM)
123 – Owl City – Back Home (feat. Jake Owen)
122 – PONIBBI – Heartskip
121 – Dawn Richard – Tide: The Paradox Effect
120 – Elize Ryd & Rickard Soderberg – One By One
119 – Eves The Behaviour – TV
118 – Enrique Iglesias – Bailando (Matoma Remix)
117 – Kyla La Grange – So Sweet
116 – Elina Born & Stig Rasta – Goodbye To Yesterday
115 – Orange Caramel – Shanghai Romance (an older track I really loved this year)
114 – Tinashe – All Hands On Deck
113 – GRL – Lighthouse
112 – Machineheart – Snow (Myles Travitz Remix) (such an epic pop tune)
111 – Against The Current – Uptown Funk (feat. Set It Off)
110 – Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime
109 – Edurne – Amanecer
108 – Stellar – Vibrato
107 – Maraaya – Here For You
106 – Dolly Style – Hello Hi
105 – Battle Beast – Out Of Control
104 – Chisu – Sabotage
103 – TheFatRat – Windfall
102 – Haruka Tomatsu – Courage (emotional points, the best OP from SAO I’d say now)
101 – Sigala – Sweet Lovin’

Starting off the next section is a track that obviously deserved to get far more original appreciation but doesn’t seem to be lacking in any of that now (not that it ever was from me, Bré and Bal at least), The Home We Made (Pt. 2) is a pretty perfect rendition of a building, longing epic dubstep track, like, it’s the sort of track where you never want the vocals to end… until they drop and then you never want the drop to end and it perpetuates some beautiful cycle. Lovely.

Calvin Harris’ only track this year that I’ve found really any good to listen to more than once or twice is obviously the one where he features the three goddesses of the Sound Of poll, the HAIM sisters. They really make this track awesome as their parts are fast and interesting, adding meaning to the instrumental and it’s very very fun.

Just above that, Owl City’s best track this year for me is somewhat surprisingly his most country-orientated, featuring a country star in Jake Owen. I mean, I’m often up for a traditional sounding country ditty and Back Home is like that in the instrumental but slowed real down, but I’m not huge on country most of the time. The slow tempo on here adds more weight to the lyrics and you get a song that seems to be wanting to strain away from its origins and you really want to see how it does that. And of course ‘back home’ is always a rich lyrical subject. It just stuck with me so much more than everything else from Mobile Orchestra for being the most sincere thing on there.

Heartskip is basically nightcore and I’m always up for finding songs where I didn’t know the original that well before in that genre as I have then nothing to automatically compare it against. I didn’t know the original of Heartskip, nor do I have any desire to really, but the extra speed makes this a very exciting song. And addictive.

Tide is a track that shocked me into liking it. Knowing very little of Danity Kane, and a little bit of Aubrey O’Day’s solo career, I thought Dawn Richard’s attempts would be similarly pop. Never did I expect a wondrous experimental dive into ballad indietronica, it’s slow and deliberate and that can be sometimes just as good as a fast track for me, if it feels like there is a sense of purpose and I absolutely get that with Tide. The awesome effects of the music video only serve to solidify this as one of the ~coolest~ discoveries I’ve made from BJSC this year.

Amaranthe may have had a year off releasing post-album singles from Massive Addictive but thankfully that wasn’t true for their beautiful (hottest gril in metal everyone) lead singer Elize Ryd, who quite apart from me having a huge unrequited crush on her (yep, still have that crush), decided to do me a solid and entered Melodifestivalen, with a big voiced rockopera singer in tow. So naturally I was probably going to love the result. I guess, with such a star-winning combination (for me) it COULD have been a better song and really that sort of monster collab should just be winning the competition outright so it wasn’t the best it could be but it’s way up here so it’s still great. Sated me enough until Amaranthe return. (and checking, I just found out their latest came out a couple of months ago and I completely missed it! will have to check that out, I’ve been a bit distant from music recently)

Eves The Behaviour gave us a beautiful little indie-pop track that turns itself into one of the choruses of the year with ‘I saw my face on an icy screen’, I’m really enjoying her metaphors about exposure here.

Another of my many discoveries from plug, this as a part of Jake’s fabulous remixes (a guy who’s really good with musical discoveries) + my love for tropical house, this is actually the only major impact Matoma had upon my year. I love the original of Bailando for the summery Latin vibes and this tropical house version just turns that up to eleven in the most satisfying manner possible. Such a beautiful listen to make one think of better weather and lighter days.

Kyla is pretty amazing so the first teaser of new stuff from her emerged late this year in the form of So Sweet. While initially very strong, it’s fallen slightly short of where I’d expect it to be, not through any real form of its own, it’s upbeat and purposeful which if anything, Cut Your Teeth last year was lacking ever so slightly, but I found it gave most of what it had to offer up pretty quickly.

2015 was the year of the great and plentiful Eurovision duets, a fitting dominant style as it can often be epic. Goodbye To Yesterday was one of the better ones, it doesn’t do anything remarkable but with Stig having an interesting voice, he makes this notable enough to enjoy over and over again as both of them sing at each other how to try again. I guess it’s rather sweet.

I had a rather big year with Asian Pop, as some of you may have noticed in the latter half of the year and part of this was making sure I had all of the classics down. I have many of the obvious lot, but one that had eluded me so far was one by one of the best Korean groups out there, Orange Caramel, singing in their usual bubblegum-rhythmic style about a Shanghai Romance. It has one of the best choruses I’ve ever heard a K-Pop song had. So an old song but one with a deserved place in here.

One of the rare appearances by an RnB singer, I’ve always really liked most of what Tinashe has put out, and this single of hers (solo only obviously) put out at the beginning of the year really hit the spot. A score for ‘awesome title’ also. Lighthouse by G.R.L is another song you might be surprised to see here if you assumed I am now too hipster to join in with the pop crowd of Buzzjack. I can sometimes. And Lighthouse is, for rather obvious reasons, painfully emotional, particularly with the respectful video to honour Simone’s passing. G.R.L were short-lived but they never missed a beat as a girlband, I’ll be sad to see them go and that’s so unusual for me to say now that I feel like we’ve entered a time vortex. I guess I do retain some of my pop taste. When it’s good only.

Machineheart were one of my rare chart overlooks, I found this grew so much on me from its time in BJSC that I had to draft it in specially for here. Snow’s a worthy successor to Circles with this wonderful Myles Travitz remix of it, the chorus is emphasised so wonderfully and then the drop afterwards…. *cat heart eye emoji* (look sometimes I feel I’ve used all of English’s positive adjectives so recently so I can be forgiven this recent lapse of expression)

One thing that was pretty genius to do with Uptown Funk would be to turn it into a duet. It’s such a fun upbeat song already that a guy and a girl on it in swapping lines would sound so amazing. Particularly if they were trained in singing pop-punk style. Somehow, this wishdream actually exists with Set It Off and Against The Current coming together for a glorious collaboration and of the Against The Current covers I’ve listened to, it’s the main one that’s stuck with me (it could also be a Séyetana x Taahino duet ohmy.gif (don’t worry if you don’t get that reference)). I’ve put it way lower than the actual Uptown Funk in here as it owes so much to the original song in what I enjoy of it but man, sometimes I want the whole world to be Punk Goes Pop style covers because they’re normally top class.

It may have been too soon for Coldplay to release a song called ‘Adventure Of A Lifetime’, I’m still in love with ‘A Lifetime Of Adventure’ from last year (Tuomas Holopainen). But it’s a great title so I can’t hold that against it. And while, like most Coldplay lead singles, it didn’t quite reinvent my life, I’m waiting for them to perfectly pick the second single for that to happen (Birds apparently, we’ll see if I love it in a couple of weeks time). But it feels way more alive than Magic and I think it’s going to hold onto me for longer, those little distorted vocals make all the difference sometimes.

Two more Eurovision tracks, Amanecer, whose Lord Of The Rings inspired video and huge Spanish ballad credentials had me convinced it was going to be a shock hit on the night, this didn’t turn out very well but it’s still one of the best offerings from the contest this year, and Slovenia’s Maraaya, a duo whose performing image with headphones and mystery kinda captivated me into loving them. Good pop song too.

The second-lowest and third-lowest of my BJSC entries, and yes, that means I’ve put 7 in my top 100 aren’t far apart in position here or contest number but they couldn’t really be more different. Well, for a start, one is Finnish and one is East Asian and we know those two can never collaborate (or can they? (that question to be answered in my EOY this year)), but the differences run a lot deeper than nationality. Sabotage, an old potential of mine for a while and eventually the entry accorded the honour of being my 40th entry is perhaps my music taste at its most refined, a light airy pop song in Finnish that runs along at a melancholy pace with a vague uplifting sound at the end. Vibrato is a dirty, down and trashy K-Pop song, albeit one of the best of that type I’ve heard this year, it almost sounds like it could be by a Western girlband if the song were in English (although it would probably lose lots of its identity in the process, no more glass box to get undressed in sad.gif ). With a music video widely known for causing outrage in Korea for its obvious sexual overtones. I can really confuse the other people in BJSC sometimes, can’t I?

Another Finnish song, but this time it was my Unknown Pleasures entry (are there any Finnish songs you haven’t sent to one of the contests Iz? nah), Battle Beast, a niche power metal band well known to me for having a vocalist with an absolute crazy range, sometimes she sounds like Kylie or Britney, sometimes she sounds like Lzzy Hale with a smoker’s cough, I’m okay with this. Out of Control is actually pretty normal for them, it’s my favourite but they have a couple of other good ones like Black Ninja or Touch In The Night… actually, Touch In The Night is almost entirely pop. But yeah, a really weird metal band that got me my favourite UP experience since almost winning and that was a good thing to have done to my year. Got me through parts of last winter.

Second highest for Melodifestivalen is a kawaii YOHIO-adjacent production made up of shameless girlband pop. Nearly had me on board straight away. But I’d find it hard to deny Dolly Style’s first (and last with these members) statement of intent, it’s so cheery and upbeat that I can’t help but smile when I hear it.

Two dance songs narrowly miss my top 100. I’ve grown to really love instrumentals this year, particularly quirky glitch hop stuff, and TheFatRat is good at that. His newest track Monody gives me absolute chills at the point where the vocalist comes in, still with the boppy Celtic style, but Windfall is something else, an huge triumph of falling keys and notes and all sorts of musical dance beats, it’s addictive. Again, one of the best discoveries I’ve made from BJSC this year. Sweet Lovin’ may also appear next year (spoiler, it will) as it’s still riding high for me now but for this year it did something brilliant even better than Easy Love, it had some strong, purposeful vocals backed with a happy dance track and that’s just a perfect combination. I want this to stay in the charts forever as ‘it’s all that I need’ (or something like that, once you get to the end of a section one’s well tends to run a little dry and relying on lyrics to write your commentary for you is JUST FINE)

Finally, and I saved this until last purposefully, Courage. The blue oni to Eir Aoi Ignite’s red oni, it’s the song used as the opening for the second half of Sword Art Online II, and this makes it rather special. The second half is all about camaraderie and friendship and facing loss with a courageous heart. It’s a remarkable song, I normally like anime opening songs at least a little bit and Sword Art Online really knows how to pick the best of J-Pop, but that’s hardly the point, when associating it with things in the anime, or just facing your own life with Courage, the indecipherable Japanese lyrics (won’t be saying that about many Japanese songs in the future 私は日本語を学んでいるので) open up a little bit more meaning and it really gets me emotional. It’s very well paced to do that, it’s intentional, and I’m absolutely fine with that. A beautiful, beautiful J-Pop midtempo. *retreats from posting and sobs uncontrollably for half an hour*

100 – OMFG – Ice Cream
99 – The Hardkiss – Organ
98 – PVRIS – Fire
97 – Jon Henrik Fjallgren – Jag Ar Fri (Manne Leam Frije)
96 – Oh No Fiasco – All Systems Go
95 – Robert DeLong – Don’t Wait Up
94 – Rarity – Anne Hathaway
93 – Wolf Alice – Giant Peach
92 – Rachel Platten – Stand By You
91 – Fleur East – Sax

Kicking off my top 100 is a fantastic slice of quirkiness. I initially thought Ice Cream wouldn’t be able to top Hello, or indeed any of the other OMFG songs. I was wrong. Maybe because this one got a little bit more exposure, being entered into BJSC but I think now, out of all the OMFG productions, it shows a instrumental that’s quite powerful in its build, its ebb and flow, every part of the song comes together in a very very pleasing way. I don’t even want to look at my playcount for this because it’s probably very very high. This is the sort of amazing track that I want to be finding on Youtube all the time, because it’s quite life-enhancing.

The Hardkiss getting entered gave me the discovery of another Within Temptation-esque band. Those don’t come along very often so I was so glad to hear this sort of thing. Ukraine are onto a good thing having them. I enjoy on Organ that both vocalists get a chance and I can’t really tell which one’s the normal lead without looking up. It actually reminds me so much of ‘Whole World Is Watching’ last year. This is quite the pinnacle of operatic rock, it’s uplifting, it’s not too heavy on the rock chords and it just lets the power in the vocals shine through. Towering, beautiful song.

Another PVRIS song, their mid-year single Fire. As you might expect from Fire it’s a bit more aggressive than their standard single and it gave me a lot of enjoyment in the middle of the year. They still have two more tracks to come in this top 100.

My highest track from Melodifestivalen is, quite sadly, the track that came second. The track that won is nowhere to be seen here. That might give you a clue as to how I felt about Sweden’s victory. So so very bittersweet, I’m glad that the contest is coming back to Stockholm but I so dearly wanted the Swedes to send something with a bit of identity to break up their run of technically competent pop. There’s nothing wrong with the former but for all their success in Eurovision, Sweden are one of the countries that shows the least of themselves to the world in the contest and I would have liked something a bit different. Now, that’s not to say Jag ar Fri would have completely solved the problem for Swedish culture, it only shows a particular part of Swedish culture, the culture of the Sami, but it was so interesting, a song that felt like a frozen northern version of African chants, an uplifting piece that made me feel pretty free, like the song says. I really got a lot out of it.

All Systems Go is a song that really benefits from having such a upbeat title, the best songs all make you feel their titles, because this is definitely Oh No Fiasco on all systems blazing. I say that only having heard the one song from them. Very fun pop-rock track, I liked it as soon as I heard it, and it’s been a joy to return to when I have. I’d actually say this doesn’t remind me of Paramore (ikr, it still does a bit ohmy.gif) as much as it gives me vibes more akin to Lights or someone of that sort, the vocals feel northern and light just like that sort.

Global Concepts was a pretty unique track but as much as it was innovative, and is actually so much more so than Don’t Wait Up, it doesn’t give me quite as much joy. From the first low drop in the bridge to the whole entire long anthemic chorus, this is one piece of dark electro-pop I was absolutely enraptured by during the late summer. Sir DeLong, you’re very alright by me, now someone pick this up because it’s screaming to be played on radio.

Riserecords are an interesting beast as far as Youtube channels go. They mostly pick up hard punk verging on low-level screamo and as much as I enjoy various forms of metal, too much screaming puts me off so I haven’t made many great discoveries on there (and unfortunately none as good as PVRIS yet). However I did pick up this very energetic hard-rock tune, Anne Hathaway, from a band named after best pony (hey, I can have a favourite pony, I’m ex-all that stuff now) called Rarity. And as far as riserecords they are a rarity, they have a pretty good EP, none quite as good as Anne Hathaway but some very promising stuff for a new band. I have no idea why it’s called Anne Hathaway but it’s so good I barely mind Oh, and it’s also quite ironic that my two Nuggets entries this year are above the two UP entries when I did so much better in the latter competition :’) Can’t win them all, I seem to always assume Nuggets = time to get my hard rock mojo on (because it’s a contest specifically for rock songs!!! Just the hard rock base is so low on Buzzjack that some lower level strumming normally wins there sadly). Which I do very successfully and then no one supports me doing so.

This is becoming an incredibly rocky section actually, because next up is potentially Wolf Alice’s hardest song, Giant Peach. Also possibly their most interesting song, it isn’t quite the highest but those chords are to die for. I’d say it made me realise they’re a band worth following for more than one good single (the prior one being Moaning Lisa Smile), lyrics like ‘I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I’m not looking for proof’ are enjoyable among the great backing, with a repetition of ‘dark and pretty town’ completing the climax. I assume there’s a lot of allegory there because it makes little sense on its own. Just like Anne Hathaway, I’m not quite sure why it’s called Giant Peach either. But again, I haven’t paid that much heed, the music has kept me so interested that I hadn’t actually thought of that question until now.

Two pop entries to close out the section. Rachel Platten’s Stand By You is far more reminiscent of 1000 Ships than Fight Song was so that’s a great point of its favour. It’s also very happy pop and that’s what Rachel Platten is. In all my time following her, I’ve always seen her make uplifting, positive, inspiring anthems. That’s clearly who she is as a person and it explains so much of her music. ‘Keep your eyes set on the horizon’, ‘nothing ever happens if you stay in your room’, and now ‘even if you can’t find heaven, I’ll walk through hell with you’, all are great messages to build a song around and I’m glad she’s gotten attention for doing so. It also happens to be TOTAL f***ING TUNEAGE. So she’s among my faves.

If more songs imitated Uptown Funk, the world would be quite a lot more interesting. It’s a good song to imitate. I was waiting for this. And Fleur is the natural choice to be the first to come out with an ‘Uptown Funk clone’. Except Sax has a point standing it out from Uptown Funk, it’s… saxy. And sexy. I meant sexy. Reverse Freudian slip. Um yes, the verses and the chorus are filled with innuendo and it’s all dressed up in a funky tune that got me slightly addicted in the last part of the year. To things… like the video… and the music. Definitely the music. I’m still into it even now (probably helped by managing to almost totally avoid it until December) and the only reason it’s not higher is because of what it owes to Uptown Funk. It’s so fun.

90 – 4minute – Crazy
89 – LIZ – When I Rule The World
88 – Brandon Flowers – Can’t Deny My Love
87 – Eir Aoi – Ignite
86 – Fall Out Boy – Irresistible
85 – Hendersin – All I Got
84 – Death Cab For Cutie – The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive
83 – CHVRCHES – Tether
82 – Elnar Huseynov – Hour Of The Wolf
81 – Kyla La Grange – Cut Your Teeth (Kygo Remix)

Unless I’ve forgotten something major further up, 4minute’s Crazy is actually my favourite K-Pop track of the year. It’s not been a bad year for K-Pop by any means, there’s more from 2015 than there was in 2014 for example but after a while it is a less diverse genre than J-Pop and it takes more to stand out. Fortunately, Crazy, as befits 4Minute’s normal genius, definitely stands out from the pack a whole lot, it’s loud, it’s brash and very crazy indeed, with a very well-realised balance of lightning speed rapping and belting-out chorus. It’s a whirlwind of fun, and it’s exactly what I want Korea to start doing more of. There’s a reason these girls are normally the best on the K-Pop block, this is another to add to the successes, to sit along such giants as Love Tension, I My Me Mine and Volume Up.

Acting more kawaii than both the Asian songs in this section, When I Rule The World is a really addictive SOPHIE-produced (because he seems to just make a track magic) song, it feels so self-assured and girly and bubblegum poppy I feel like I shouldn’t be listening to it (or… who am I kidding, that’s exactly the sort of stuff I love, and I don’t care who knows about it… online). Clearly borrowing a lot from past PC music productions, it’s definitely made a statement that this type of music is the future. Perhaps.

Yet another loud song, although one from a far more familiar face to music lovers, Brandon Flowers came back with a stormer of a track, I would love to put it higher because what I love about it was that I wasn’t ready for him to do such a complex and interesting chorus, I love Crossfire still so I expected all his solo material to be like that. I’ve now listened to The Desired Effect and it’s all so much like little versions of this one. Total tune from one of the best musicians the 21st century has produced.

Some J-Pop now, and the thing I love about Ignite is the undercurrent of lifting and grand slightly classical backing, with some pretty ADORABLE vocals, I can really feel every inch of emotion in Eir Aoi’s enunciation despite not understanding the language, that’s what makes foreign language pop so attractive to me, you feel the emotion through contextual and subtextual clues and it makes it all the stronger for making your own stab at the subject matter of the song. That’s the best argument I’ve ever made up for not learning a language, and while I’m still planning to learn Japanese at some point, getting those feelings out of this is working for now. It’s also the best anime opening I’ve heard this year, just because it was such a powerful vocal proposition. Haven’t been able to get enough of it in the last month.

One of the… many Fall Out Boy songs in the top 100, and the one that’s gotten the most attention so far on here as one version of it features Demi Lovato. Well guess WHAT, in my standard grumpy style of only preferring the original, I’ve only really listened to the solo Fall Out Boy version outside of watching the video (and that’s definitely because the Demi Lovato version is inferior and not because I’m too lazy to get another version of a song that I don’t think is changed much at all by her addition). Yeah, the addition is just like Foxes on Just One Yesterday, it doesn’t do much. Irresistible is still very much a tune either way with the standard Fall Out Boy style of fast-paced verses reeling you in time to belt out the chorus.

I got really quite obsessed with All I Got towards the beginning of the year. Unlike Ignite, this time it’s all about the lyrics. I love rap at times when I can really feel what’s going on behind the lyrics and when they’re rapping about a more interesting subject than partying. Giving it ‘all that you got’, combined with the high-pitched sample from New Soul who ‘came to this strange world hoping’ gives the whole song the feeling of reaching for success and trying your very best. It’s rather inspiring in that form. When you get lyrics this clever it makes the whole song something you listen to for hours on repeat. It also helps that the nightcore-y thing and Hendersin’s flow make it one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard all year. SO BRILLIANT. Again, I figured it’d be far higher. There’s just so much goodness when you really look for it.

I do like Death Cab For Cutie a lot although I’ve kept a lot of my love for them under wraps a bit, so the best song from their newest album getting in here might look a bit out of place. They’re a band (coupled with the lead singer’s project The Postal Service) who could be argued to have influenced the likes of Owl City and much of electro-indie-pop ever since the late 00s, at least much of the sort of airy pop I love I’d give them credit for being pretty innovative in that area. Ghosts Of Beverly Drive is a typically good listen from them, wistful and very true to their sound, it makes me feel quite nostalgic for the times I had when first discovering them.

Tether is a couple of years old and from CHVRCHES’ last album. However it got a bit of attention this year because Eric Prydz released a remix and you know, after sort of liking that, I went back to the original, not really remembering it that well, and I was struck by how much BETTER it was. Since then I’ve been spreading this gospel of original songs UP (sometimes). But in Tether’s case that’s absolutely true. The remix dilutes the impact of the drop throughout the song and lets the instrumental flow all around the vocals, this works ~rather~ well, doing that works on some songs, but stacked up against the standard version’s practice of spending 2 minutes of slow singing building to something and then, when it can hold on no longer (or ‘feeling incapable of… seeing the end’), letting go into the instrumental in the most glorious, eargasming manner possible, there is absolutely no contest in my eyes. This love also really helped prepare me for CHVRCHES’ return to secure their status as one of my favourite electropop acts of the moment.

If there’s one thing Eurovision got right this year, it’s the titles of the songs being much better than the normal fare. ‘Face The Shadow’, ‘One Last Breath’, ‘A Monster Like Me’, ‘Goodbye To Yesterday’ are all infinitely better headlines for a song than ‘Ghost’, ‘Home’ or anything using the word ‘Love’. And the best of all those titles by FAR was Azerbaijan’s effort, ‘Hour Of The Wolf’. The title alone really gives you the image that this is Azerbaijan’s dark time in Eurovision, after what happened in the last few years. It’s powerful stuff and in some ways it would have been perfect, from a Eurovision narrative perspective, to be their first DNQ. I’m quite glad this didn’t happen as it’s a stunner of a track, very easily giving me chills, especially with extra moon imagery and everything I want an Azeri ballad to be. With Start A Fire being retroactively beautiful in its instrumentation, I think they’re going into a fun indie period and I’m looking forward to their next track more than ever. Critical acclaim is definitely the way to go, Azerbaijan. It also serves as my fifth-favourite song from Eurovision this year, so six points!

Cut Your Teeth made it to just about missing out on my top 100 last year, the original version. And that’s because it was a good song but I felt it was missing something, I far preferred The Knife from that album. Fortunately, new man on the scene Kygo figured out what was wrong with it and at the start of the year this remix grew on me over and above the original. In some ways it’s the pinnacle of tropical house for me, as it really served as a gateway into Kygo himself. He has tracks higher than this as they express more of his own identity and impacted my year more, but this, this beautiful collaboration of indie-pop and tropical house served as my real introduction to the genre and I’m very happy at it for that. Perfect track to put on in the background and slowly capture people’s attention with as well.

80 – QT – Hey QT
79 – Truls – Circles
78 – Suiyoubi No Campanella – Shakushain (水曜日の寒波ねっぁ シャクシャイン)
77 – Lindsey Stirling – Take Flight
76 – Best Coast – Heaven Sent
75 – Kygo – Stole The Show (feat. Parson James)
74 – Avicii – The Nights
73 – Shaun Frank & KSHMR – Heaven
72 – New Found Glory – Vicious Love (feat. Hayley Williams)
71 – Meg Myers – Sorry

QT is quite the quintessential PC Music song. Quirky, questionably sexual, cute (as per her name), I have no qualms about putting it so high even though it was kinda last year. Because I only really began to get into this at the beginning of this year and then it became one of the first plug songs and then it got an adorable video and everything went right for it at the start of the year. Wonderfully produced little future-pop song, some may find it annoying but I find it all a very convincing package.

A short while after discovering Circles I began to play it a lot. Over and over again. In the middle of summer. The powerful undercurrent of music just sounds so powerful and then Truls’ falsetto comes in to sell it even further. Again, it’s the backing that keeps it going though, it sounds so perfect. Then I went through a period where I had played it so much in such a short space of time that I was bored of it, I may have overestimated just how good it was at first. But, having had it around for a few months has taught me that even when you overplay a song you love, the best thing to do is forget about it for a bit and eventually it will sound just as good again. And that’s how it is now with Circles, the most epic piece of Norwegian pop I went crazy for this year.

The perfect word to describe Shakushain is… idiosyncratic. And, what do you know, that’s a trait I value very highly in all aspects of life, as a word it means the nice side of crazy. Or eccentric. Although I should save that word for another song that describes it. Um, Shakushain. The local scope of it, talking about the island of Hokkaido (the Japanese Scotland (is that an accurate analogy? it feels like it)) is refreshing to hear from my perspective, too often the only ‘local’ scope for songs I hear is London or some place in the USA (in fact the only other local song I can think of right now that doesn’t fit that criteria is my own ill-fated BJSC entry ‘Pohjanmaan Tuulia’, titled after Western Finland). But this means that Shakushain is a very much Japanese part of the music scene and that adds to its colour and flavour and oh my, it is just quite a romp of music, not quite rap, not quite indie, a mix between the two all done in a rich, commanding Japanese accent. Incredibly fun and captivating song. And it’s something very different to the normal Japanese music I inundate myself with.

Lindsey Stirling was the queen of my year in 2014, coming with a massive second album and it was also the year where I discovered her first album. It made me into a bit of an obsessive with her. Because she is pretty awesome. The sole song from her to make my chart this year is a track I overlooked a bit (compared to others) on Shatter Me until a pretty wonderful video came out for it. She seems to like doing videos for all her songs and that’s awesome, that each song has a visual to accompany it. It’s just another reason to love her. Take Flight is a very inspiring instrumental, aurally giving the impression of reaching beyond your limits, gaining height and well, flying up into the sky. It barely pauses for breath either, and in fact is similar instrumentally to Shatter Me itself. And as that had such a roar of violin dubstep it turned me into a wreck, this did just about as well for me.

I was aware of Best Coast before Heaven Sent and in fact, what I knew was pretty similar to what would end up as my favourite from them, but I feel that the stuff I knew wasn’t quite as heavy and demanding that you listen to it as Heaven Sent, which was quite the revelation for me. The chords take my breath away slightly, they never stop as they barrel you through the track, hitting the stops then heading on with barely a pause. I could listen to all of this over and over again. The instrumental is the most remarkable thing but the singer’s voice is very strong too, a well balanced rock voice. This is what I mean when I say I love rock, the hard backing solo. It’s just too good.

Lyrically, it might be a bit soon to claim that Kygo stole the show, he’s certainly captured some attention but this feels so much like a goodbye track that getting released so early into his career, it doesn’t fit as well as it could with the narrative. Unless Stay doesn’t take off and he never has another hit again. Despite that, I was very glad to see it get a hit and cement Kygo’s name into the annals of dance as the tropical house king. Parson James’ vocals are more fully-formed than Conrad’s and so this is a nice contrast and alternative to Firestone. For something nearly as uplifting but tinged with a bit of sadness. Not all Kygo’s songs sound the same. Well, they do a bit with the instrumental but that signature bopping style is so brilliant I will never care. Just repeat that on everything please. Nothing Left and Here For You were nowhere near as good as this.

MORE SCANDI-DANCE YAY. It seems I like any dance DJ who comes from Scandinavia, I can’t think of one I don’t, and they’re normally better than most of their more central counterparts. Avicii of course is the king and he delighted us with another single at the start of the year with another entry into his venerable country-dance annal, The Nights. Again, the lyrics are inspiring, and inspiring lyrics are key to making a good dance song, you need something you can sing your heart out before you go cray jumping about and killing the floor with some sweet moves and it helps to feel good while doing so. The Nights did that job and more because I never got bored of it.

And another song to show off some dance love. Some may call this generic. Some may say it’s not as good as Jammu because it lacks a bit of the Indian vibes. The last point is right, songs can be great with Indian vibes, but some are wrong on all other counts. Heaven is most certainly not generic as I see it, because so few dance songs have such joyful sounding undercurrents as you build up to the climax, making the vocals more and more distorted, taking you on a journey over a waterfall of sounds. It took a couple of listens to get stuck to me but it’s given me so happiness ever since I’m so glad it got taken into the hearts of Buzzjack as a winner (that I called #psychiciz).

Hayley Williams has one appearance in my chart this year, a song she did with her fiancé’s band New Found Glory, which works as a rock duet. An upbeat rock duet no less. All about love. And this works because you know that it’s quite real in this case, and given the nature of their genre, you can believe it’s ‘vicious’. Emphasis on the quotation marks obviously, rock is all about acting hard but being a total sweetheart on the inside, any who don’t follow this formula aren’t real rock musicians. Again, like so many of the rock songs in this chart, in another time, one not so hostile to the genre, this would and should have been huge. Because it sounds it. And it quite easily hooked me in. I’ve had a sketchy relationship with New Found Glory in the past, they are capable of moments of brilliance and some moments I’d rather forget but this is a triumph for the veterans, helped of course by Hayley but in part to them also.

Meg Myers I’ve also thought has been a bit hit and miss in the past, I’d say Sorry is the first song from her I really noticed to be standing out as being excellent. Desire was only okay and back when she was releasing stuff like Monster it was clear she needed a few more years to bloom to fruition. That’s come about and Sorry was one of my favourite discoveries of the year. Because now she’s an artist I’ll really take notice of and that’ll increase the chance I like stuff from her. Most probably. It’s not even close to boring pop-rock because of all the packed little things going on with the backing, it’s slightly grungey, slightly indie, all manner of things going on. Like Heaven, I’m glad it won, but this one I didn’t see coming until so much later. Mainly because I never believed BJSC would actually go through with a tune this amazing.

70 – Sia – Big Girls Cry
69 – Urban Cone – Come Back For Me (feat. Tove Lo)
68 – Diablo Swing Orchestra – Justice For Saint Mary
67 – Sanni – 2080-Luvulla
66 – CHVRCHES – Never Ending Circles
65 – Kero Kero Bonito – Picture This
64 – New Politics – West End Kids
63 – NicolAmarfi – Painful History
62 – Kishi Bashi – I Am The Antichrist To You
61 – Halestorm – I Like It Heavy

Sia is notable to me for putting every inch of emotion into her singing. I seem to be able to understand what she’s singing about to which is a surprisingly rare trait, but it means I can get right into her emotional songs and Big Girls Cry is certainly one of those. As one of the strongest on 1000 Forms Of Fear it was great seeing it get released, it would never have done as well as Chandelier but as a dark, tear-jerking, ballady counterpart to that particular triumph, it makes for a compelling listen from one of the best writers in pop at the moment.

I have taken a casual interest in Urban Cone since Sadness Disease so at the start of the year I was on the lookout for new songs from them. This got two reply when Leww posted a thread on it in the indie forum. TWO. From me and later Kath. I can’t believe it flew under the radar that much on Buzzjack, it features one of our favourite cool Scandi females in Tove Lo, it features some little vocal bubbles that just make the track feel happy, it’s a brilliant indie-pop song. If you like Tove Lo, if you like Urban Cone, if you just like indie-pop, you have to take a listen to this because I think this is the Buzzjack classic that got away. I played it a few times on plug and from what I remember everyone liked it, but it needs and I expected it to get so much more love than it originally got. Hence this being one of the two thumbnails in this post.

I have high hopes for Blake/Ninjabait in his future on this forum (as he will most certainly have a huge comeback at some point this year), because one of the first things I noticed him for was giving me this brilliant discovery. And many other ideas for getting into more symphonic/power/gothic metal bands since when we’ve been on plug/rabb.it together. Justice For Saint Mary is a grand, sweeping song with many wonderful different parts, a lot of experimental sounds, some really beautiful melodic crooning and then a drop into some grindy, exciting chords. There’s so much space in the track because it’s so long which gives it the chance to do so many different things, I have had a blast with this. It reminds me of some of the best of Nightwish’s tracks but rather a bit darker and well, if Nightwish are fantasy in their inspirations, then this is a thriller. I think that explains the difference.

I love the Finnish language for the little accent and breathiness that seems to come with the singing, and how it sounds so beautiful and ethereal. 2080-Luvulla is a typically great example of this, a building ballad that heads towards a climax of Sanni singing her heart out. About what I’m not sure but it sounds so good, I can see why so many took well to this and that they did was pretty brilliant, I’m not normally one to need validation from others to share my tastes but seeing so many finally see what I’ve been seeing in Finnish songs for absolutely ages was very gratifying with this one top-of-the-range example.

The idea of going in ‘Never Ending Circles’ is one that seems to be employed in any track with Circles in the title, as one would expect because it means the idea of going nowhere. Unlike most of these, CHVRCHES are sarcastically celebrating the idea of staying in the same sort of relationship (as opposed to longing to get out), and it’s an interesting tack because they hadn’t done much lyrical dissonance up to now and were mostly uplifting in their lyrics. At the time it made me very exciting for the album because this is very brilliant electropop and I couldn’t get enough of it. Until the album came out and a few more hit me but that’ll be for later. Best electropop group. In 2015.

I was still enjoying ‘Sick Beat’ at the start of the year for its geek pop creds and similar (to CHVRCHES actually) sound. Something that would emulate that sound far more was coming though. Picture This is nearly perfect as far as pop songs, slightly mischievous and quirky in its lyrics, slyly poking fun at a trend of the modern day, taking a picture of oneself, the whole ‘show me a pic or it didn’t even happen’ culture, it’s witty and it sounds wonderful. Call this the ‘why didn’t people love this more’ section because just like Come Back To Me this sounded like a fantastic Buzzjack classic that I shouldn’t have even been the biggest fan of. It’s a winner in my heart.

Well, we were going to get to some pop-punk sooner or later. I’m amazed I had never heard of New Politics before because they sound like a genius Scandinavian band and I should have come across them at least once or twice in my scouring before. Especially when they make anthems this fantastic. With lyrics espousing youthfulness, optimism for the future, even if you aren’t a kid from the west end you should feel something pretty uplifting from this. The lead singer has a real great voice on him, this is on the whole some excellent rock, and it soundtracked a lot of my summer.

Painful History is the highest track here nobody will know. That’s okay, because it’s so mainly here on a couple of really really strong emotional listens. It’s an instrumental with just a slow piano build. The sort that seems to be laden with a sense of foreboding. Coupled with where it is in the game, it’s the theme song to a girl who has severe facial burns and has trouble talking to anyone. When you first hear it is the first time she opens up to you in any way, when she tells you part of her history. That first time, when the instrumental dropped at about 50 seconds in, was like a cold knife to my heart. And then later in the story, it gets even more torturous with this song. I purposefully didn’t play it much but it was impossible for it to not make an impact on me when I had such an emotional truck going into me, and even now, listening to it, it brings back memories of that story. I still haven’t finished her storyline, I don’t know if I’ll be able to take it (still need to do that at some point!). That’s how powerful music can be when you attach it to something you care about.

From one super emotional song to another, Kishi Bashi’s I Am The Antichrist To You took a couple of listens to sink in, but once it did, there wasn’t any going back. A tale of loss, regret and the sense that something awful happened to lead to this, again, it’s hard to listen to without emotionally welling up, but the beauty of the music helps me enjoy it moving from one vocal bit to another. And the vocals, high but filled with a sense of misery and desperation and longing for the past, it’s a hauntingly beautiful listen and one I have managed to brave many times but it will never be tiring to me, it’s a creation I’m glad exists because it’s a song with a lot of meaning and a lot to think about and a lot to listen back again and again to over the latter half of the year.

Finally, to close out the section, a song whose title should be my epithet. I Like It Heavy is pleasingly heavy, one of the heaviest I can remember Halestorm doing. And of course it’s lyrically all about the wonders of hard rock, while showing aurally how brilliant that can be. I wasn’t quite prepared for something this awesome when I got Into The Wild Life. There are so many clever lyrical turns of phrase in it ‘I need the volume one louder than ten, put the pedal to the medal, needle into the red’, ‘I got a demon in my soul and a voice in my head it’s saying go go go! I can sleep when I’m dead’ ‘I’ve got a ringing in my ears ready to burst, screaming ‘hallelujah motherf***er take me to church”, ‘I need it harder than the sound of a guitar grunge’, ‘since I was thirteen years old I’ve had my fist to the sky’. And that’s not even all of them. Never have I seen a more brilliant lyrical ode to the culture of having ferocious, loud, heavy music. The only negative is, as it’s the outro of the album there’s a bit towards the end that I tend to skip as it’s once the main song is done but that’s a minor thing and doesn’t take away from the first 3 and a half minutes.

Just one more backfill and then we’re done. EOY will start after that. RWBY review for episode 5 will be up tomorrow. And then on Tuesday I think another Europa Universalis post.

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