It’s the final ever Backfill! I am commencing my review of my year in entertainment soon and so the final part to my previous reviews is now going live on my blog! Containing my top 60 songs of last year – posted over the next two days as I won’t be at my computer tomorrow so I’m scheduling out the second part, which will be this one if you’re seeing it, first part was posted the day before this. Most backfills are much longer than my normal daily post anyway, because I took much longer than a day to write them originally. I don’t know that I’ll do it, because I’m a bit short on time, but if I do, bold will indicate a song that’s now much better than its position indicates and a strikethrough indicates much worse. Any comments from me will be in italics. This is archive writing from Buzzjack.com and the last one I plan on copying for now, I shall now retire the Backfill section until I find further old writings that I feel I need to post here.
30 – CHVRCHES – Leave A Trace
And I’m as sane as I ever was
but my heart don’t understand
and I could treat you better but I’m not that smart
you give me something to talk about, that’s not the SHIT in my head
Leave A Trace took a little longer to get into my head than Never Ending Circles did, I initially thought the latter was far better. It’s Leave A Trace that has stuck with me much harder though, and it was the song mainly responsible for me getting incredibly hyped for Every Open Eye back in September. It’s not quite as brash as Never Ending Circles but there’s a more subtle beauty to it, about adversity and breaking through that. And it just sounds totally beautiful, Lauren gives a stunning vocal performance here, and while it isn’t quite my favourite CHVRCHES track this year, it’s come pretty close for successfully making me even more excited for an act on their second album than I was for their first (which seems to be unusual in my attempts to find someone new to obsess over every year).
On My Mind is located in a similar brand of electropop actually. I’d be the first to say that Ellie Goulding has gone a bit ‘less good’ ever since Burn turned her from aspiring pop indie darling similar to where Marina is currently residing (is it a law of the universe that these two must always be compared?) but On My Mind has TEMPORARILY brought me back into the fold. I still haven’t heard Army so I can’t say if that’s continued or not (it hasn’t, Army’s not good) but the little vocal sounds on it and the breathy zig-zagging Ellie does with her vocals makes this appeal to me far more than Love Me Like You Do does, it starts and stops and it is a little bit all over the place for a pop hit but that just makes it far more interesting to listen to.
I swear I didn’t plan this but Marina’s highest track is one above Ellie’s. They’ve definitely diverged paths now but they’re still sitting at being CAPABLE of producing the same level of awesome electropop, but with the adage that Marina must always be slightly better. Because she is. But Froot was a weird era for me, I was all over Electra Heart and a couple of years after the fact, I’m totally happy with naming The Family Jewels as one of the finest pop albums if not of the current decade, then ever. Froot only hit me with half the songs though. But Marina’s ballads, because of the inherent emotion in her voice, are pretty much always hits with me no matter what, and I’m A Ruin is one of the most powerful she’s ever done. Numb and Buy The Stars might be a bit slower (and I’m not sure what is better yet) but I’m A Ruin takes a kind of joy in announcing how bad she is, and that joy kind of shines through to make me like this. It’s strange when you say a track like this makes you feel happy but it does.
Uptown Funk needs no introduction and scarcely any commentary from me to explain why it’s here. It’s just a phenomenon of a pop hit. It’s far too energetic to ever be boring, it has enough charm about it, and it avoids being about sex and love, it’s just about having a very fun time… with your uptown funk (and it helps that funk is a pretty wonderful genre as it is, the good side of RnB for me). It really was a trailblazer for a kind of pop that’s not going to be imitated all that often because I don’t think many people have it in them to make something just as exciting as this. This being so successful was a victory for the taste of all humanity, that just goes to show you can never keep a genius song down. 2016, produce something as unique and unquestionably amazing as this and I might get back into the charts again (how optimistic was I?). Could still listen to it over and over and over again.
I’m always looking out for new bands that give out a philosophy like PVRIS, and when I discovered St Patrick just over 12 months ago I was so very very excited because actually, to me, it looked like we had found a pop-punk band with a singer whose voice is the next… Florence. Like, that comparison comes to me not because Lynn sings like Florence, she doesn’t, at all but she has a voice that’s similarly strong and easily filled with feeling, that could be played on radio and get people actually excited about what’s playing. Instead of being background, it would be something that gets people interested and search this out and then St. Patrick would become a hit. Because it really did sound like one to me at the start. The whole song is tight and well done, the backing, the guitars and the drums, the extra touches to the instrumental (the sort that enable you to reflect back on the whole song, almost essential in dance hits but not so often applied to rock, it works so well here), the emotion in Lynn’s voice, especially as she smashes down ‘that’s not the shit in my head’ or ‘you’re a miracle’. While I’ve since become a huge fan of PVRIS and have gotten their album, they are certainly yet to top this for me. It’s a song sitting in a perfect position between Paramore and ‘indie-cred’ rock and it’s a joy all the way through.
And then of course there was that whole BJSC thing with it and what was in effect the stupidest decision of my LIFE to not go for it (short story is: I put it off for a contest or two and someone nabbed it up in contest two of the year and it WON, which I never saw coming – for reference, I have never won the contest myself), I think I only really saw how big its appeal could really be after that, I knew it’d be big, but I didn’t think that big of a song. Still waiting for that worldwide #1 because it really deserves this.
25 – 5 Seconds Of Summer – She’s Kinda Hot
Sometimes I’m feeling like I’m going insane
24 – Fall Out Boy – American Beauty/American Psycho
I’m the best worst thing that hasn’t happened to you yet
23 – Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best
my internal monologue is saturated analog it’s scratched and drifting I’ve become attached to the idea it’s all a shifting dream bittersweet philosophy
22 – Avicii – Waiting For Love
Thank the stars it’s Friday, I’m burning like a fire gone wild on Saturday
21 – Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful
We are a special speck of dust, a fleeting moment on an ark
One of the most major problems with the chart at the moment is that it is real SLIM PICKINGS for anything in my preferred genre (i.e. rock, I mean real rock, I mean upbeat fun stuff). So I end up taking what I can get. In this case it means attaching to myself to 5 Seconds Of Summer, who have undergone an evolution this year from the new McFly to an accursed hybrid between them and My Chemical Romance. It shows a sign of improvement I guess. And when I say I guess it means ‘thank god I can like them unironically now’. Because while I loved She Looks So Perfect to pretty weird levels, I feel no reservations about fully declaring my love for She’s Kinda Hot, it brings back some pretty amazing memories of hits like Teenagers and certain blink-182 songs and with its brashness and ability to sound different from everything else, it was a welcome break. Also I dare you to deny that towering chorus. Seriously. WE ARE THE KINGS AND THE QUEENS OF THE NEW BROKEN SCENE (and with that lyric it looks like they have a handle on where they’re fitting into the new music order)
*takes deep breath*
I’m not kidding. I think American Beauty/American Psycho might now even be my favourite track from this new Fall Out Boy album, the one that I think is now perhaps their strongest album overall. Firstly, it’s one of the most energetic rock tracks out this year, so that’s a point to it right away. It does the Fall Out Boy thing of some hard whirlwind verses perhaps at the best they’ve ever done it. Or at least since ‘This Ain’t A Scene..’. It has some references to films and American Psycho is actually one of my favourite films so having a track that espouses the same sort of philosophies as that crazy film is very lovely. It took a while, I think I was initially influenced by everyone saying it was awful but late this year it really hit me that everyone was completely WRONG about that. It’s a romp of a track and I will not hear otherwise. (for some reason everyone really hated this, I don’t understand why, if you are a fan of it give me a shoutout so I know I’m not alone in loving this beauty/psycho)
Pedestrian At Best was pretty much exactly the sort of track I wanted to discover from BJSC. I’d heard of Courtney Barnett once before and I wasn’t too into Avant Gardener, but Pedestrian At Best is quite a different beast. The guitar chords are adorably heavy and really, knowing me, that is pretty much all you need to make a track sound good. In fact, they’re very similar guitar chords to a certain track yet to come. But what makes this stand out is the force of Courtney’s personality, the way she races through the verses while singing them out well, with some lyrics that at least SOUND clever or at least pleasingly abstract. And, trying to decipher them, it becomes apparent that this really is one of the louder ways to be humble (or at least that most people are just pedestrian). Okay, every song up here is a perfect package, I should stop inferring that but yeah, this is another one of those.
Waiting For Love is the only dance track in a section overwhelmed by rock otherwise. It’s also my favourite Avicii track this year and it goes straight into my list of his classics. I mean, I know I like Avicii’s folk-dance thing, enough that I probably wouldn’t get bored of it for quite a while, but with a completely different singer to Wake Me Up and Hey Brother and The Nights, Waiting For Love maintains a distinct identity, and Simon Aldred is a strong singer. What really works for me is the 7 days lyrical concept. I know it has been done before but I think the way it’s done here is really nice. Each day is a further lead up into the drop, such that I start getting chills at Friday and Saturday. And I’m quite a fan of ‘waiting for love’ as a lyrical concept, it’s something I can relate to a lot more than being in love, such is life. And Avicii’s production skills are still top-notch on here. One of my favourite chart hits this year.
The third-highest Nightwish track now, the title track from Endless Forms Most Beautiful, released as the second single halfway through the year (as if singles mean anything to Nightwish, outside of Finland at least, where this was their first single not to get to the top 5, and indeed, apparently, not to chart at all, for 7 years, not sure what happened there). Endless Forms Most Beautiful has a pretty simple structure as far as Nightwish songs go, which is why it was one of the first from the album to really hit me, and at one time I was obsessing over Shudder Before The Beautiful and Endless Forms Most Beautiful at the same time, that’s not confusing in the slightest no. The chorus is pretty brilliant here, again it’s fast-paced verses, leading into this and then an emotional rendition of the title, and lyrics like ‘before the grandeur of it all’. It is a song about all life, and that makes it very chill-worthy. Slightly stronger than Shudder… it nearly alone sold me on the album being my #1 but there’s still two better that stuck with me ever so slightly more.
20 – M83 (feat. HAIM) – Holes In The Sky
Somebody pull me from the dark
I’ve learnt to expect big things from M83. They’re a current act, one that people are getting excited about that is still making awesome cinematic music and so when I saw this was a soundtrack song, with HAIM attached, with that title (what a poetic beauty of a title) I went in hoping that it would be one of the best songs I’d heard all year. That got fulfilled because, although it wasn’t quite what I’d expect from a HAIM feature, M83 have really made their sound their own, it exudes a stunning beauty because of that. The lyrics are slow, deliberate, and fill well with the burgeoning instrumental, so the whole thing takes on a slightly dark beauty. And then there’s the little synths that I’ve learnt to be more M83’s trademark than anything, slowly appearing in the background and coming up to the point where they don’t take over the more full instrumental but are working on a par with it. It’s a stunning beauty and one I thought for a long time would be in my top 10 of the year, I just hadn’t counted on several things coming up in the latter half of the year to move ahead of it.
19 – Muse – Psycho
Your mind is just a program, and I’m a virus, I’m changing the station
Now most probably Muse were going to pull something out of their hat when they came back that would really hit me in a big way, I just didn’t expect it to be the slightly controversial buzz single. Well, that’s a lie, I liked Psycho from the minute I heard it but I thought it wouldn’t stand up so well to repeated listens. I was quite wrong. Seeing it performed live (on the tour it gave its name to) in a very energetic setting lodged it properly into my consciousness as one of the best Muse tracks since Uprising. I think overall, I do like their stadium upbeat anthems the most as you can feel the most from them. And Psycho fits into that, and it’s also very dark lyrically. Not even the ‘your ass belongs to me’ bit, but the way it introduces the whole Drones concept, and the sergeant bellowing, with some very grindy chords even for them, they’re more often into the cleaner cinematic type, it’s a very exciting experience from beginning to end. I’m always up for exciting. It may have not been to everyone’s taste but I very much appreciate this direction into the daring, that’s what bands at this stage of life need to be doing. Well on its way to becoming one of my favourite Muse songs.
18 – Kamelot – Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy) [feat. Alissa White-Gluz]
Liar liar on the wall, give the world to me, a wasteland or a monarchy?
Two songs here, both are solid rock tracks, albeit of completely different hardness levels, and both deserve a lot more appreciation than they originally got. Because for me, they’re two of the finest examples of the genre that I’ve seen this year. Particularly as far as male-led tracks (with a featured female!) go. So, Wasteland Monarchy. Or Liar Liar. Whatever you want to call it. I’ve always had a bit of an eye on Kamelot as some people call them the male-led Nightwish. The thing is, nothing I’d heard yet had really stood out so I wasn’t really much of a fan. Until I gave Liar Liar a few listens and let it in. And I’m glad I did that because the chorus is so strong, the cinematic sound so beautiful with the hard rock chords, the little bits of harsh vocals work just as well as they do on many Amaranthe songs, Alissa is actually doing clean singing (she normally does harsh vocals for Arch Enemy and I’ve been never been able to quite get into that), her bit works as a solid reprise of the emotional chorus done by the Kamelot lead singer. It’s an amazing power metal song through and through and I’m glad I let it into my life because it’s not strayed far away from my most favourite songs of the moment (read: done well in my chart) since then. It has amazing longevity powers which is why it’s up so high despite being so recent. It’s also by SOME WAY my favourite song I’ve ever entered into an indie forum contest – as such I was quite disappointed that it was yet another Nuggets flop for me, it sounded so much like the most awesome winner to these ears. I wonder how it’d have done in BJSC. Basically, my pick of the non-Nightwish metal scene this year, and it’s a most excellent one if you’re in any way open to that genre.
Okay, this one did get SOME appreciation as it was number one in the most populated country on Earth. Or at least a very big hit, I don’t have the Chinese charts to hand. But the magic of Love Doesn’t Need To Pretend for me comes from the chorus which rises in conjunction with a slamming chord, a vocal raise, a little musical transition you want to happen over and over again as Diana Wang takes the reins from R-Chord doing the verses. His rapping in the verses, his little inflections in the middle of the singing, Diana being a pretty awesome rock chick making a good first impression on me, in fact both of them making a great first impression on me, this is easily the second-best Asian rock song I’ve heard this year because it’s so well put together and makes for a very invigorating listen. I would have definitely sent it if Yu hadn’t, would have been one occasion where I’d have been proud to take a DNQ for this track, I have so much love for it, I think I played it more than everything else from that contest combined, even including my entry. (and yet it’s only the third highest BJSC track in here haha) Injustice of the highest order that not enough people saw the brilliance of it but I’m pleased to be a fan of it because it will forever be one of my songs of summer 2015 now.
16 – I See Stars – The Hardest Mistakes (feat. Cassadee Pope) [Electric Forest Remix]
I’ll scream it until my heart comes out of my chest, and leave it to the music to transcend the rest
Just over a year ago now, I got recommended this band called I See Stars. I knew they were a bit hard-edged, so I thought I’d search them out, see if I liked them. Honestly, I found them a bit hit and miss, not much was sticking with me and it was a bit too hardcore for my tastes. Then I stumbled across a reworking of one of their songs, Electric Forest, this one called The Hardest Mistakes. It completely cut out the harsh bits that I felt weren’t for me with this band, and added some pretty nifty distorted bits and a dancey sound (also a sound that’s begging to be nightcored but that’s another story (I’ve since nightcored it in this video)). It was one of my prime candidates for my first BJSC entry of the year, but I managed to put it off for almost the whole year because I had a couple of other priorities at the time. Come the end of the year though, and I’m so very glad I did enter it as it’s ended up higher than both PVRIS and Porcelain, the songs that originally beat it. I think it was a continual growing process throughout the year, and that’s why, it gives me so many strong feelings now, the lyrics are beautiful in a ‘perfect love’ sort of way, screaming until my heart comes out of my chest, this life is just a perfect fit, that’s exactly the sort of thing someone with harsh regret for the mistakes they’ve made in the past would say and I love that. The grindy instrumental also adds a pretty great nostalgic feel, I associate it very much with gaming, procrastination and all the memories of overcoming my struggles this year. All in all, a very unique track, one I’m glad I’ve found and was able to share to such a warm reception. On a side note, it’s also so very nice to hear more of Cassadee in the era when she was still the leader of that awesome band Hey Monday rather than the white bread country-pop singer she has become now. I feel so much from her in this song. And the I See Stars guy also. Brilliant duet. (guys, if you want to know the reason for my blog name, it’s half right here – because of this song, I changed my name to Izzy Stars on Buzzjack because of it, as a pun, and I just started using it for lots of other things after that because it’s catchy and fits with my love of night vistas)
15 – Nightwish – The Greatest Show On Earth
Man, he took his time in the sun, had a dream to understand a single grain of sand
You know, The Poet And The Pendulum and Ghost Love Score, both the longest Nightwish tracks on those respective albums are among my favourite of my favourite band. They’re 14 and 10 minutes long each. So when I heard that this new album would top that length of 14 minutes by an extra 10, I was definitely very excited to see what lay in store. And with a title like ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’, how could it be anything BUT amazing. And it is. The thing is, that even with its length, when you put it on, it’s got so much going on that you need to commit to doing little else for the next 24 minutes as you get swept up in its wonder. Over the course of the year, I’ve done that 16 times. I think that says it all, that I’m still very ready to spend half an hour with this behemoth. And I’m still getting chills off of it. It’s split into a few parts. The first part, Four Point Six, a reference to the age of the Earth, is a continuation on from The Eyes of Sharbat Gula, few lyrics, a constant repeating piano chord that gives the feeling of reaching towards something, and about halfway through it, Floor comes in sounding not unlike Tarja, slowly breathing her way through what lyrics they are as the track gets more urgent beneath her. Then the first of three monologues, all sampled from speeches by Richard Dawkins (who is a clear presence on this album, and I don’t mind him surprisingly, as what he’s saying is so beautiful), comes along, this time talking about the beauty of the Earth and how great it is to spend time understanding the universe. That’s a theme that’ll be built upon. The second part, Life, is the first of the proper Nightwish sections, it flows much like a harder Nightwish track, some parts of it reminiscent of the time Anette was with the band, lyrics talking about the first years of the universe as the Earth is created and life begins to form, ‘a day-to-day new opening of the greatest show on earth’. Throughout, the instrumental sections are going strong. The third part, The Toolmaker, talks about the growth of man on Earth, how he went from crude tools to nuclear weapons, still with that desire to understand everything, and this part sounds very much at home with the rest of EFMB, callbacks to Alpenglow in particular. The thing is, it all sounds so Nightwish, even in this long track they keep their identity so well as it flows from section to section, and as well as it telling a history of Earth, it’s also telling a history of the band to me (the part ‘fantasy to idolatry to self destructive weaponry’ sells that theory to me). This section closes out with the closest thing the whole song has to a chorus, Man taking his time in the sun, holding onto life as long as he can to know all, and this is the bit I think sounds best of all. The final parts, The Understanding and Sea-Worn Driftwood, are much more subdued as they close out the album, but the former has a long, full of chills, speech to make you think from Dawkins, all about life and death, ‘we are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones, most people are never going to die because they’re never going to be born’, that we are living our Greatest Show On Earth and now is our time to make of that what we will.
Beast of a track, I couldn’t put this anywhere else really (could have been #1 but the 14 songs ahead of it I listened to loads more, this track is just so long, brilliantly long but you can’t listen to it as often as some others), it’s wonderful and it’s so rare that I find a track that encapsulates everything I ever wanted in it from the moment I heard of its existence, but here it is.
14 – Danny L Harle – Forever
I need you to know I will always remember
I think when I first heard Forever I was struck dumb by how good it was. I mean, I’ve been on the bandwagon that PC music is good for a while, it’s essentially strong pop dressed up in a slight computerized fashion and a cutesy styling so of course it is, but never has it hit my emotions quite like this. Take Broken Flowers, which I’m very glad is getting some attention as it’s one of the best songs from the channel for doing that, but I don’t find it as powerful as Forever is as there’s something to Forever’s backing that makes it sound a lot thicker and closer together which of course is excellent for all of the emotions to pour out. And Broken Flower’s lyrics are abstract, which can be good, but Forever’s lyrics are very relateable and they’re what keeps me coming back to this song. It may seem simple but ‘like, we’ll do this forever’ is an incredibly strong concept of writing and it makes the whole song stand out, with the wistful backing to keep track of it and inject a sense of melancholy, it feels the most meaningful PC music has ever sounded. It could be in the present but I like to think it’s supposed to sound like it’s in the present but it’s actually looking back at the past, that this is what you should have said to keep the relationship going. Also, have I said how much I love the concept of being in love with someone forever? Forever is a hella long time and to be able to do that in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re just saying it is just beautiful. Like this song. Forever.
13 – Susanne Sundfør – Delirious
I hope you’ve got a safety net, cause I’m going to push you over the edge
Delirious took me a couple of listens to really get behind, courtesy of Jake on dubtrack as I only really remembered Susanne Sundfør from a couple of mediocre singles and a very good Röyksopp track. Him playing Delirious sold me on her as a solo act and then I got her album and that’s done very well for me this year with plenty of strong pop songs. Delirious remains the strongest of them though. It may be because I’ve listened to it the most, but really, very few other songs open with a line as strong as ‘I hope you’ve got a safety net, cause I’m going to push you over the edge’, it’s tight and meaningful lyric writing, each word sounding impactful, as the swirly pop production drowns you in a beautiful wall of sound. While the lyrics allude to one or both of the people involved being quite crazy, and that’s where the Delirious title comes from, I find that the track itself sounds delirious. As in, off-of-center a little bit. It’s not perfect singing, and that’s what makes it so brilliant, there’s a slight flaw in there. Somewhere. Also it never really lets you figure it out as it keeps you interested all the way right through to the end when Susanne FINALLY drops you off her wild insane indie-pop ride with ‘I’m not the one holding the gun’. Which proves who’s the crazy one, guns are bad. Brilliant pop song all the way through. (also I might have said this in a note when I posted the album on backfill, but the metal influences on this pop song are glorious and are probably half the reason I like it so much)
12 – Kygo – Firestone (feat. Conrad)
Sparks will fly, they ignite our bones, but when they strike, we light up the world
Tropical house. The genre of light, love, and firestones. The principle example of this subgenre that I’m sure everyone will point to in the future is this song, a song that, as to its hit status, feels like it could have really gone either way. If people didn’t pick up on it, tropical house would have gone on its way quickly. Now Firestone changed the year, brought the prominent remixer Kygo very much into the public consciousness, gave us a nice hit single from Norway, started spawning imitation hits, a few too many trying to do tropical house covers but a few good innovators in there, and it also really touched my year a lot as well. The vocals on Firestone could be anyone really, sorry Joseph (a fan of ‘Conrad’), but the lyrics are simple and strong just like I always want my dance songs to be, a vague feeling of togetherness and epicicity (just made that word up) that builds to maximum as the climax is reached and drops into the beat. And the remarkable thing about Firestone is that it does this while still remaining classy. It’s a song for the early evening, when people are still aware of the music around them, and I’m sure partly because of this, the music on it is quite beautiful, I could listen to those beats over and over (which explains why nearly every Kygo song is a hit with me). For a long time this year I was playing too much Firestone. So much Firestone. The little touches in the synths, the building of the singing, when I was listening to Kygo’s remixes only, this is pretty much what I imagined a solo track of his would have been like, and I’m glad it turned out that way.
11 – Caravan Palace – Lone Digger (they are all bold now as you might have noticed but this one definitely deserves top 10 for me now, a track that is pretty much PERFECT)
Baby can you move it ’round the rhythmOh electro-swing, you beauty you. A genre that there doesn’t seem to be much of but when it does appear, it appears strong. Very much my song of November, and all the work I was doing then, with pretty much no other challengers, Lone Digger is incredibly recent but given not long after hearing it I couldn’t get enough of it, that’s enough for anything to get right up there as one of the best songs of the year. Probably one of my favourite ever discoveries from BJSC as well, although not quite the highest this year as that’s had a big impact on my list this year. Why it’s so brilliant lies in, well, you just need to take a listen to it to fully understand but it’s one of the fastest songs in here, with a nonstop chorus that is exactly what I’d LOVE to be dancing to in a club – we need clubs that play this because this is a great track for me in my groove. Like the lyric says, it’s rhythmic, it demands you find it catchy, the singer goes at breakneck speed through the lyrics, something like that must be incredibly well-balanced to work, and it does. Several times over. The verses are a bit more serene but no less fun as the wonderful swing backing is apparent throughout the whole song. It should be a classic of the genre. And it’s clearly got a lot of wide appeal too, it’s just such a COOL song. Exudes cool, you might say. And the video does that as well, some beautiful animation that added an extra bit of love from me for this outstanding creation. And a little bit of darkness to the whole song (in a slight DyE – Fantasy way, not as extreme as that of course, but what is it with that kind of weird French animation being paired with wonderful songs) but I’ve never minded that in the past. I encourage it.
10. Galantis – Peanut Butter Jelly
To get a wildfire burning, VISUALIZE IT
Galantis have really been wondrous this year. And an act I’ve completely changed my opinion on. From the average Scandi-dance act I had them pegged as with last year’s ‘You’ and to an extent ‘Runaway’ when I first heard it, they’ve managed to do a complete turnaround from that pedestrian image I had of them to become one of my favourite dance acts of the year. And this song solidified that. Peanut Butter Jelly belongs in only one category, the ‘quirky as all hell dance category’. I’ve seen comparisons to Basement Jaxx and the sound is very much the most Basement Jaxx-esque sound I’ve heard for a long time, it’s kooky, it’s not what you’d expect from Eurodance, it’s not what I’d have expected from Galantis or the DJs that make up Galantis based on their past material to come out with, it’s almost disco, while previously it was dance not so far away from your standard pop song. And that really plays to its strengths. There is rhythm in there, for each reprise of ‘visualize it’, for each ace high, each wildfire, and this conjures up an almost perfect dance feeling weaving its way through the song. It may be quirky, it may be weird, but I love weird, I love quirky, and with its madly infectious powers, there has been almost no better song this year for making me want to start jumping around.
9 – Scandal – Stamp!
Everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be okay
Ever since I got obsessed with BABYMETAL, I’ve been looking for more in the J-rock genre for a band I can really get into. It’s tough sometimes as with lyrics I don’t understand it’s often a lot harder to get attached to the songs. But around the end of summer this year, I hit the jackpot with one of the more pop-esque J-rock bands, Scandal. They apparently produce loads of songs for anime, although in a somewhat surprising occurrence, I haven’t watched any of the animes they’ve done that for. I did go on a Youtube trawl with them when I first found them, really appreciating their strong guitar chords, their singing voices, but I didn’t find a song that majorly connected with me. Until I found ‘Stamp!’. Their newest single, and it shows that they’ve definitely found something special within them over their time as a band. From the very beginning, the chords are among the lushest I’ve ever heard, definitely my favourite alternative-sounding chords this year, and the vocals are pretty awesome in the first verse alone. Rhythmic, cute, it was exactly what I was looking for. And then the chorus hit and it makes me almost the happiest I’ve ever felt on any piece of music, it’s bright, optimistic and given what I’ve been through with this song, overwhelmingly emotional now. All the while the backing instruments aren’t letting up. In a way similar to the way HAIM’s instruments took over their songs while not drowning out the vocals but making them stronger overall as a result, this backing takes over and pushes Stamp all the way through to my top 10, I love the Japanese voices but I don’t think it’d be anywhere near as great as a pop song. And I’m saying that before you all look at me in a funny way (because all the group members are very attractive but that’s NOT WHY). It’s their instrumentation I love. And their voices. And when they start singing ‘everything’s gonna be alright’ at the end, that was when I knew I was going to love this song until the end of my days. I love all of it, it’s just a very very perfect package of a song, and pretty much the only song I played throughout September. And, so it seems it is definitely my song now.
8 – Two Steps From Hell – Miracles
The first music I can ever remember saying I loved was film music. As that sometimes is what is now substituted in our culture for nouveau-classical music, that would make sense as sometimes there really is nothing more pure and wonderful than an orchestra playing along to a well-written tune. Especially tunes which give you the feeling that you’re taking in a whole world with you. The amount of possible feelings from imagining a whole world are so many that the track will mean different things to different people. And Miracles, encompassing the feeling of standing, looking over a beautiful vista of wonderful sights, is a track that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for for so long, a piece of film-like music I can really attach my own emotions to. There’s so much going on in such a comparatively subdued piece of music, it has its rises, it has its falls but at all times there’s a feeling that you’re listening to something great, and that greatness is being reflected back to you, so that you can go out and do great things. Great miracles, if you will.
I like high-octane, energetic, romps of music so often that it takes a good stripped-back track to get to me. And it makes a stunningly beautiful change. The build in Miracles promises so much and delivers so well, it can be listened to anytime, anywhere, anyplace, it will make me smile, it will make me feel fantastic about myself, it is great for being a mood changer, it is great for encouraging me to keep going no matter what, it enforces the beauty of the world around you. It is quite amazing how much comes across to me now I’ve let this into my heart but it’s so wonderful every single time.
Additionally, it’s also the first ever BJSC discovery I’ve let into my top 10 but given how much it’s impacted my year ever since I’ve done that, I’d say there’s no better song to take the title.
7 – Nightwish – Alpenglow
Roaming on the endless prairie, writing an endless story
Sometimes, familiarity wins over all else. While Endless Forms Most Beautiful was a wonderful album and a great progression for Nightwish, I’d say that my favourite track from it is the track I’d say sounds most like the Nightwish of the albums coming before it. It’s also quite orchestral and soft so I’d imagine most people would like this if they heard it (that’s code for give it a go), it’s very much like Evanescence, almost as much as Nightwish will ever sound like them. There’s a definite urgency to it as well, peaked with some fast verses and occasional calls of ‘WE WERE HERE’, which is a very important lyric for the song, and indeed this gets a callback later on in the album on The Greatest Show On Earth. See, Alpenglow is a story of the humans of the past, those who have been lost to time, and ‘we were here’ enforces that everything has left an impact. It’s somewhere, but now they’ve become one with the music, just as noticeable as the sunset’s light on the mountains above the plains, alpenglow. You have to look to find alpenglow, you have to look to notice those who came before. Eventually, that is all we will be, alpenglow.
The most chills I ever get from this song is when it slows down into the third chorus, doing a slow, meaningful reprise and then, just when you think it might be over, like all great songs, it jumps back into the fourth chorus. The introspective parts of this song really really help that. It may be new, but I’m quite ready to declare Alpenglow one of the ultimate Nightwish songs. That is no small feat and it’s not their best yet but when a song makes me feel so alive and happy just through creating an epic scenario in a matter of minutes, that’s something that deserves recognition.
6 – Halestorm – Apocalyptic
Give me a red hand print right across my ass, I’m leaving scratches up and down your back
It’s well established that I prefer female-fronted rock over almost all else right? I mean, that IS what’s making up a large part of my top 10. And within that, Halestorm are probably the most normal of the girl-led bands. And that’s not a sentence people normally say when presenting their favourite rock bands. Because Halestorm are weird, and brash and definitely not something anyone with a weak constituition and predisposition to go ‘musical decadence is destroying our civilization’ should listen to. But they are what people would think female-fronted rock sounds like if they don’t think it sounds like Paramore. Were I in any way a rebel, particularly a rebellious teenage girl (and in this I’m talking the cool teenage girls, the ones who’ve realised there is life beyond listening to music from those you fancy), I can imagine there would be nothing better than Halestorm for me. And particularly this song. They’ve always been quite dark but I didn’t think that either that they’d go as far as releasing a track like Apocalyptic, or that it’d be the track to lead them into a new era of success and recognition.
That’s because it lays its cards on the table pretty clearly from the offset, it’s a song about kinky, rough sex, like it’s the end of the world type. And that this relationship is one entirely built on that. I mean, props to that because while it’d probably be fine with Halestorm’s fanbase, it doesn’t do much for pushing it to any new horizons. And yet it DID, doing incredibly well in the US rock charts, and setting the stage for a successful album.
For me, the music here is dark and grindy, but that’s what makes it absolutely essential. It seems like the band is having a lot of fun with the chords, while the lyrics are questionable but delivered with such conviction, especially the innuendo ‘so you press play and I’ll hit record’, that it completely sells me on the song. It’s the sort of song only Halestorm could do, and in that, an excellent hard rock song, done by my new idols from that genre.
catching fire as the wind blowsThe final piece of evidence this year for why Scandinavian dance musicians are some of my favourite people on the planet at this moment falls to Runaway (U & I). Specifically its amazing growing ability and its amazing video. For the former, when it was originally entered to BJSC I considered it on the same level as You and didn’t think a whole lot of it beyond it being a nice dance track. And, I swear it’s not me giving into commercialism, but just as I heard it more and more and it began to hit more people it wormed its way into my brain as well and really stuck there. Seeing the video plenty of times really nailed it home though. One thing I didn’t mention on my commentary of Peanut Butter Jelly that much is how bubbly and fun the video there is, all the normal people getting up and dancing (copied in lots of bright, strong dance tracks lately, hi Sigala, but that’s by the by). That’s very fun but the important part is that there’s a quick cut to the Galantis cat character, which, given what we see her go through in this video, elevates both songs for me and is a very powerful moment of its own video. But what they illustrate in this video is what makes that so special, it is a city at night, bathed in vibrant lights and two strands of energy coming together in a glorious explosion of brilliant lights, and two people, wandering lonely, ‘open for love but not searching’ until they find one another at the climax. And a huge dance backing, because that’s necessary. It’s just the perfect imagery for a song so drenched in longing feelings and the joy of everything you’d hope for finally coming together in one great moment.The video certainly unlocked the song but otherwise, what we have here is a pretty perfect dance song filled with feeling and a tune. While I don’t have as much to say about it as the video, it’s a dance song, there is less to talk about for the lyrics. But it’s a song for the imagination, it’s taken me away to so many wondrous places, it’s evoked feelings from deep within, it’s served me very well as a soundtrack of this year, and it’s made me think I can fly.
I knew we were bound to be togetherWe come to it at last. My favourite chart hit of the year. For the second year in a row my top 2, and even my top 3 are songs that have not been hits in any way, at least as far as Wiki chart numbers go. So the song that is a hit, is a song that actually did very well for me at the tail end of last year but this time, I do submit to commercialism in that while I thought Shut Up And Dance was pretty amazing from the start and gave it many many points in BJSC, it took it becoming possibly the biggest rock hit of the decade so far (I don’t think I’m forgetting anything obvious am I?) it to move up to this, godlike level for me. And that’s so pleasing to see for such a pleasant, optimistic song.At the height of its popularity I couldn’t get enough of my new favourite song from a band I would have never thought to make it big before they brought this out. ‘Don’t you dare look back, just keep your eyes on me’ is a hookline that demands to be repeated over and over, it certainly makes this song for me, the confidence of the woman who the song is about. See again, like with Galantis, it was watching the video numerous times that hammered this one in. What goes on in the video is my dream of the perfect club visit, I’m having fun, suddenly a girl steps in front of me, she may be a stranger, but we make eye contact, the same thought goes through both our heads and we just go for it, for dancing to that one song (before breaking apart, nights made). And the awkwardness in the video is what any case of that happening to me in real life tends to be tinged with. In some way. It may not be the most expertly made, it may not be the most true rock song, but what it is is a good feelings song, with a nifty guitar solo, a lovely voice from the lead singer, a great amount of catchiness and a whole vibe of positive feelings. I’ve seen a Youtube comment insinuating that this is the Mr Brightside of the ’10s what with it being about a couple and being perfect for sing-alongs. It may well be, we’ve needed a new indie classic for some time now. It’ll certainly be that to me.
3. CHVRCHES – Empty Threat
I was better off when I was on your side
Let me just reiterate again, CHVRCHES saved pop for me this year. At least, as far as traditional pop and indie-pop music goes. Nobody else even tried to come close it seems. With their strong melodies, Lauren Mayberry’s distinctive and captivating vocals, excellent production skills, cool lyrics, I don’t see any challengers to them in that respect. So, we’ve already covered Keep You On My Side, Clearest Blue, Never Ending Circles and Leave A Trace here, all very lovely songs and enjoyable in their own ways. What makes Empty Threat different from the rest? It stood out to me as soon as I heard the album, I knew then I’d found my new favourite CHVRCHES song. There’s a couple of reasons for that.
Most importantly, it’s clean, it’s suave, it’s slick, perfect production. They’re an interesting act in that they make different songs by the way they approach the production, is it going to be grindy and experimental like in Science/Visions off the first album, or will it be slick enough to impress you with how flaw-free it sounds? Empty Threat is the latter, while the former has great uses, here it elevates the song into something ethereal. And when a track is ethereal you pay a lot of attention to it.
Secondly, the lyrics are well-measured, a bit of angst to them, but they’re more wistful, filled with confidence when talking to someone who’s been cut out of the singer’s life, but behind that veneer of confidence lies a lot of vulnerability. When the water comes in, I think that’s the facade breaking down, the empty threat exposed for what it is. Combining this with the build, it sounds fantastic as it goes up to the climax. Empty Threat is why I still believe there is hope for pop music. Interesting lyrics, fantastic melody, I’d be hard pressed to imagine a song more perfect in every way. (although of course, there are 2)
2. BABYMETAL – Road Of Resistance (feat. Dragonforce)
Forever! Forever! Forever! Forever! Kokon kon wow kokoro no oku ni moeru atsui hahto bokura no resistance
It isn’t often that you find a song that is directly about the story of a band. That may be because most bands don’t have a story in and of themselves but rather write their songs about the experiences of the members. But a band is the entity that is presented to the music fan, and so any song that seems to capture the mood of the whole band is going to be very powerful. It’s why I love, picking three out of my iTunes, Paramore’s ‘Playing God’, Oasis’ ‘I’m Outta Time’, even ABBA’s ‘Thank You For The Music’, they’re songs that I associate with a major point of the band’s life, the subsequent turmoil Paramore found themselves in after releasing Playing God added a lot of weight to its angry lyrics, while I’m Outta Time and Thank You For The Music are essentially goodbye tracks from bands with a long history. And Road Of Resistance is another one of those tracks. In fact, it’s so much one of those tracks that it’s enough to make Babymetal the artist behind my favourite rock song for two years in a row *.*
When BABYMETAL first arrived on the scene, or at least broke out of Japan, there was a lot of resistance met by metal fans who saw this new band as defiling their beloved genre. Never mind that it was something new and interesting, they weren’t having it. So they did face a road of resistance to get where they are, and that is what this song I presume is talking about, but it seems, hate is only initial. I think there are many many more people who have fallen in love with this trio of teenage girls then than dislike them now, hearing the crowd chant on the live performances has got to be testament to that. I would find a Babymetal live concert such an experience I’m sure, especially if they continue to make music as good as this. (sadly I live too far away from London for me to have justified going to their Wembley concert, I’m gutted I missed that)
Teaming up with power metal veterans Dragonforce to provide some excellent guitar backing making this a bit more of a refined experience than the craziness of Megitsune or Gimme Chocolate, there’s still a bit of wackiness interspersed throughout, but the main thing that’s made Road Of Resistance for me is the plaintive singing of the girls as they drag out ‘forever’ and ‘resistance’ and the Japanese lyrics falling into ‘resistance’. It’s enough to make me tear up because I’ve gotten really invested in this band since discovering them, and this sad but triumphant overcoming song is the perfect way to make me feel for them. Megitsune and one album might have just been a fad, Road Of Resistance is enough for me to know that I’ll be behind this band for however long they go.
1. Two Steps From Hell – Compass (feat. Merethe Soltvedt)
But the most beautiful thing you have, is a light that shines brightly, and it lives there inside you, a compass that lights up your night (roughly translated from the Norwegian)
I don’t know what it is, but sometimes you find a track so perfect that you know, after absorbing it in and evaluating what it’s done to your life, that it is the most brilliant song you’ve heard this year. That’s how Compass felt to me, after Chez played it as an accompaniment to Miracles on plug.dj. So not only have you provided me with my favourite BJSC entry of the year, you’ve given me my favourite song of the year, and that’s something I have to thank you for over and over. I imagine my summer would have sounded so very different without Compass to guide me through it.
There are two versions of it, I love both. The instrumental version has on at least one occasion, caused me to burst into tears for no real reason other than being overwhelmed by the timeless melody and the slow build of the extra piano minute at the start. And it’s that instrumental that is the powerhouse behind Compass, driving it forward in a slight but delicate way. But I’d give the edge to the version that has all of that, plus some excellent ethereal vocals from the songstress of the Miracles album, Merethe Soltvedt. Every single word is measured so beautifully that it evokes a completely natural sense of wonder. That I can’t understand it (despite translating the lyrics above, they are beautiful and epic, which is why I did that) adds a level of splendour that’s also caused me to feel extra emotional at difficult times throughout the year. Throughout, you have to be made of stone to not be swept away by where it’s taking you as a track and that’s a challenge!
Unlike my #1 of last year, it’s not a track that wins you over with loud sounds, but rather with orchestral beauty, a sense of coming together, a sense of endless magnificence, a perfectly balanced sound that is one in a million. I didn’t really see this coming but I know it’s for definite, no other track has hit me quite like this over the year. A victory for epic emotional music, now may my compass point me towards great songs like this one forever.