End Of Year · Music

Izzy Stars’ Songs of 2016 (Part 1)

Part 6:
The final, and for most years, the most important part of my EOY, it always takes the longest because I always find tons of songs I like and love enough over the year to include in this list, so there’s always about 200 songs in it, actual numbers varying depending on how kind I’m feeling.
The songs are not limited by year, the only limit is that I must have enjoyed them a lot in this year just gone, normally because it’s the first year I was made aware of them. So there will be plenty of songs that got released in 2010-2015 in this list, a few even earlier than that. Mostly because they’re attached to an anime that I watched this year, so see my anime lists for more details there. But not all, there’s even a couple outside those circumstances.

This should be in 3 or 4 posts. Tonight is the first part, covering numbers #220 to #150. As I want to save my best commentary for the higher numbers, it is short for each individual song, but make no mistake, I love all of these songs a lot. And I hope I continue to find music that’s as good in similar numbers in 2017, my playlists need the bolstering.

While most years I like having a lot from the charts, most of these are not from the charts. Because the charts were awful this year and based on a quick cursory listen last Friday show no signs of getting better. Says the person who’s grown to hate watered-down commercialised RnB/dancehall or poorly-made house. Hell, the biggest song of the year is some warbly repetitive, dull bullshit I can’t tolerate and have no clue how the whole world managed to tolerate it for so long. But I’m not here to hate, I’m here to put out all my positive feelings about the music I experienced this year. Because I like doing that. Not gonna stop me being critical of them though. If they deserve it. And most of these deserve no criticism. Or at least only constructive criticism.

#220 – #150

(lemme get that unrelated Re:Zero hype)
220 . Clean Bandit – Tears
219 . After Dark – Kom Ut Som En Stjarna
218 . The Cat Empire – Wolves
217 . Freddie – Pioneer
216 . Robin Bengtsson – Constellation Prize
215 . Lady Gaga – Perfect Illusion
214 . Van Canto – The Bardcall
213 . Tonight Alive – How Does It Feel?
212 . The Pretty Reckless – Take Me Down
211 . Gramatik – Illusion Of Choice
210 . Foreign Air – Echo
209 . Tokyo Karankoron – Spice
208 . 360 – Lights Out (Will Sparks & Joel Fletcher Remix)
207 . Caravan Palace – Wonderland
206 . Brown Eyed Girls – Warm Hole
205 . Danny L Harle – Broken Flowers
204 . Major Lazer – Light It Up
203 . The Collapsible Hearts – Easy Street
202 . Sergey Lazarov – You Are The Only One
201 . Yu Takanashi – Hikari No Haneri

I always pick the cutoff point for talking about songs at the point where I feel I can exclude no more from my original list of songs I charted in my personal chart (not normally available but I do add songs that I like to a list weekly) over the year as well as any I added by discretion. I had 368 of those so all of this lot are enjoyable and since I haven’t played many of them much they also feel rather fresh for the most part. Anything (that you, the reader do not know) in here does come with my recommendation to listen to. You know, if you feel like adding some good music to your repertoire.

The chart hits here are at the point where I start to find them enjoyable to listen to, I have slightly higher standards for those. Tears was a fairly tuneful Clean Bandit single but I knew they could do better and thankfully they proved that later in the year. Louisa does do an okay job though. Perfect Illusion, I’m beyond really being interested in Gaga beyond a casual listen here and there but lead single Perfect Illusion was initially rather nice and something I felt I could enjoy rather than ignore. Light It Up also got harmed a bit by outstaying its welcome but Major Lazer’s foray into stardom hasn’t quite found a bad song (and Cold Water was not too far outside the cutoff point).

Melodifestivalen hits and Eurovision hits are mostly here from male pop stars, it seems, including After Dark, who provided an unexpected melodic anthem in a rather average Melodifestivalen year, it feels so LONG ago now I’ve probably underrated the whole cohort in here. Constellation Prize is also very competent but couldn’t quite excite me, which might have been why it didn’t win. The winner is not going to be appearing, despite making itself annoyingly tolerable to me by the end. Sergey Lazarev has been rather reliably been my 10th-12th favourite song in this year’s Eurovision (not that I’ve checked how many exactly are ahead of it yet but I’ve always given it one point or nothing in game rankings), a good song, not the best, very slick and polished and Russian. The harsh-voiced Pioneer from Hungary was also memorable and enjoyable. Definitely been far too long since a Eurovision season.

I’ve been aware of Gramatik for some time now but Illusion Of Choice was the first song of theirs that grabbed me in a good way, old favourites like The Cat Empire and Tonight Alive appear with pretty decent tracks if not the best by either artist, same for the Pretty Reckless, who have fallen a long way from reliably being top 100 residents.

Hikari No Haneri and Spice are the anime songs to appear here, from Orange and Food Wars respectively. Light years apart in show tone, they’re both similiar in song tone though, although the former is a male melodic ballad and the latter is more sweet bubblegum pop. And they’re OP and ED. But the tone is similar. I’m trying. The riffs in both of these are brilliant. They’re not JUST anime pop, they’re good anime pop.

Broken Flowers gets back in for its commercial push but not a whole lot as it didn’t go the way it should have and the original was better. Did appreciate the reminder of an incredible song though. Echo’s a lovely indie-pop song with a strong ‘echo’ present, and The Walking Dead’s unlikely foray into pop song making does well as Easy Street lands at #203.

Van Canto’s The Bardcall shows off their metal guitar mojo… without guitars. Instead, it’s a metal vocal musical through way of acapella guitar imitating and something you should check out to believe.

360’s Lights Out is one of those songs I shouldn’t like but this remix I found through a nightcore channel really endeared it to me, it’s got a great beat and the vocals sound very engaging so it kinda lured me in. For quite a few plays. Killer remix.

Warm Hole is one of those K-Pop songs we shouldn’t really talk about. I’ll just give you the hook lyric (‘fire in the hole when you touch me down there’) and make you make up your own mind.


Finally, Caravan Palace has Wonderland, a great song with a single push that made me chart it for a short while, but this appearing has made me realise I completely forgot to put their wonderful album <I°_°I> (so it’s now retroactively 8th) in my albums list. There are always oversights, but this is a big one. Not just Lone Digger, the tunes of Tattoos, Wonderland, Russian, Mighty, were all excellent electro-swing examples. Definitely one I shouldn’t have missed out.

(a couple of songs were missed out so I just doubled up a few numbers here)

203 . tiasu – Plummet
202 . Trippple Nippples – LSD
201 . Kaleo – Way Down We Go
200 . Evelina – Honey
199 . Wolf Alice – Freazy
198 . Deficio – Egyptica
197 . Cruskin – My Soul To The Devil
196 . DNCE – Cake By The Ocean
195 . Jeff Williams – From Shadows (feat. Casey Lee Williams)
194 . Alisia – Moy
193 . Frances Rose – Dangerous
192 . PVRIS – Empty
191 . Superfly – Kuroi Shizuku
190 . Lukas Graham – 7 Years
189 . Barei – Say Yay!
188 . Ghost Town – Spark
187 . Against The Current – Young & Relentless
186 . Yoko Shimomura – Hikari
184 . Nothing’s Carved In Stone – Out Of Control
183 . Javiera Mena – Otra Era
182 . Void Camp – Dead Bodies
181 . Volbeat – The Devil’s Bleeding Crown

A suicidesheep instrumental, Plummet does just that and was one of the many I could listen to over and over again, I have only one other like it in this section, Hikari, which leaves drops behind for something that sounds straight out of a heroic Disney movie (which Plummet could also be if it was a bit less produced), and I think it’s not that far off in its actual intent, but beautiful sounds in both of those.

LSD is the first of my 10 BJSC entries to show up (I enter a monthly song contest and naturally I get obsessed with the songs I enter there), I do love it for its weirdness but it was one of my… more annoying entries. Worldvision entry Moy is above that, a Bulgarian slutjam that has a lot of interesting instrumental noises that led me to it in the first place. It’s beaten by Void Camp from that contest, a very weird song, a weird video combination but something I know is good whenever I listen to it – it also includes an unexpected sample (the same one as on Warrior’s Dance *.*).

Kaleo was a song I liked for a few weeks after seeing it surface the iTunes charts, see no one talk about it and this unknown group, sounding a bit Bastille if anything, and then I wondered why it was getting slightly famous. Cool song. And cooler title. That was probably half the reason.

Honey was an exciting Finnish pop song and probably one of the best the nation had to offer this year although not quite the very best. It’s joined by Frances Rose, a group with a surprisingly effective pop song at capturing my interest.

Freazy, a leftover from Wolf Alice’s album, did really well for me at the start of this year. It looks like Lisbon might be getting a new lease of life with me in 2017 now but Freazy was another win from that very great group. Cruskin just ahead was a female rock tune I got recommended through last.fm I believe (possibly the last song I remember that happening with) and ended up really liking – it’s a song subject I definitely have no issue with those sorts of bands doing – although I don’t really have any issue with them doing any subject – but that’s more powerful than most.

PVRIS’ Empty is their only entry up this high, I liked You & I but had to eliminate it before this stage, I just didn’t listen to it enough. Empty is a very lovely vulnerable slow song though so I really liked that. Meanwhile, Against The Current have their first entry of many here with the youthful anthem Young & Relentless, which I listened to a lot to prepare me for seeing them live.

Deficio’s Egyptica is one of the few trap songs I’ve gotten really into – and it’s mostly because it embodies the ancient, exploratory Egyptian sound really well and any sort of ethnic sound is too easy to get into my brain. More like this for the wider public please.

Two fairly unfairly ragged on popular songs I’ve seen this year have been DNCE’s Cake By The Ocean and Lukas Graham’s 7 Years. In a year where we were struggling to get anything upbeat at all, Cake By The Ocean was a freaking marvel, by a band who despite industry connections and questionable songwriting skills created a really unique pop song subject and a very fun tune to sing along to. I’ve been missing these silly pop songs. 7 Years on the other hand, yes, people found the lyrics a bit trite but that’s offset by some lovely piano and vocals – I’ve always liked Lukas Graham’s voice and eventually I let the lyrics endear themselves to me. And for a ballad, it wasn’t boring. 10, no 100 times more interesting than that gnash thing.

Blackpink’s Boombayah stands out among the Asian entries for being a rare Korean entry this year, in a year where you could probably expect most of them to be Japanese because anime. It stands out in another way, had it been released a few years earlier it’d be dismissed as a trite club song, faced with the dull and drab pop scene in 2016, this out-and-ridiculous K-Pop song was one of the few I got really excited by – although on here it’s sadly remembered for a veto drama more than anything else, it’s a right tune. There’s Kuroi Suzuku, a Japanese pop song, one I got attracted to for sounding more like an Indila-esque French hit than a Japanese song, it has that vibe and Superfly is a great performer. The only other Asian entry in this section is Nothing’s Carved In Stone, the rock group who did a Psycho Pass OP, and you wouldn’t know it, as the English-language Out Of Control sounds more like an early 00s American rock anthem than anything else, and definitely not like an anime OP.

Similarly (old), the first song from RWBY shows up, from when the first volume came out. From Shadows is the theme song for the Black Trailer, introducing Blake and her life as a vigilante. ‘From Shadows, we’ll descend upon the world, take back what you stole’ is the indicative hook line and it’s coupled with some chill-inducing instrumental bits, I only put this so low because it does a few production things I tend to skip and I haven’t spam played it like I have the rest.

One more Eurovision song from Barei, the joyful Say Yay, the Fall Out Boy-like Spark from Ghost Town that was quite an anthem, I knew Otra Era from a couple of years ago when it won PJSC but I appreciated the reintroduction of this Chilean beauty into my life, and some hard rock from someone like Volbeat never goes amiss with me and The Devil’s Bleeding Crown was quite an incredible outing for them.

180 . Eir Aoi – Innocence
179 . ZUN – U.N. Owen Was Her?/Nhato – Way Of Life
178 . Triple T – Born To Be Wild
177 . Justs – Heartbeat
176 . Halsey – Castle
175 . Against The Current – Outsiders
174 . CHVRCHES – Warning Call
173 . Milk Teeth – Brain Food
172 . Pogo – Mellow Brick Road
171 . Twenty One Pilots – Ride
170 . Twilight Force – Riders Of The Dawn
169 . Demagumi Inc – Demparty Night
168 . BanYa – Beethoven Virus
167 . Mai Lan – Technique
166 . David Lyme – Bye Bye Mi Amor
165 . Iveta Mukuchyan – LoveWave
164 . Jeff Williams – When It Falls (feat. Casey Lee Williams)
163 . Kygo – Stay
162 . M.I.A – Borders
161 . White Lung – Kiss Me When You Bleed

Eir Aoi’s Innocence is from an anime I watched last year rather than this year, Sword Art Online, the same one that Ignite came from. I include it here because after another opening by her made her pretty much my favourite and most reliable J-pop singer I got back into this in a big way – the only one of Sword Art Online’s 4 openings I didn’t chart last year and yet did chart this year. It’s really sweet and has that wonderful instrumental flourish (just after it’s done a spine-chilling chorus no less) all the best anime OPs have.

Instrumentals finds another tune, the dark Touhou soundtrack theme for one of the bosses. And actually, though I haven’t included it because I never charted, might as well make this one a shoutout for Nhato’s Way Of Life which got really into my head too this year (I don’t actually play Touhou the songs just got recommended to me). Just above it, Triple T’s great K-Pop party anthem – similar to Boombayah really and it’s definitely planned that they’re at a similar level.

Latvia started a streak of well-produced pop this year with Justs’ Heartbeats, while not quite as good as Love Injected, still an impressive and well-vocalled entry for a nation once ‘lovably shit’.

Halsey’s only solo song I’ve really been convinced by was Castle, a cinematic pop song, admittedly more Lorde imitator than she is normally, but cinematic sounds count for a lot. Another Against The Current follows it, Outsiders is lovely, and has Chrissy’s excellent vocals all over it but isn’t quite as rocky as I want it to be, I can see how it won over far more people than normal though. Almost TOO rocky is Milk Teeth’s Brain Food, but as we know that superlative doesn’t really exist in my vocabulary, Brain Food is a short, sharp, exciting female rock song that introduced me to this talented band – I should keep my eye out for more.

CHVRCHES had an excellent year for me last year and I wanted to give the few tracks that carried over this year more attention but I forgot about Warning Call pretty quickly if I’m honest although it sounds excellent listening now, a great progressive building tune. Just past it, the wonderfully weird Pogo does a great Lemon Jelly impression.

It’s hard to choose between all the many great Twenty One Pilots songs to find one to eliminate this low down and Ride is certainly incredibly good (retrospectively Tear In My Heart deserves a better position in last year’s EOY) but it’s the hardest for me to remember how it goes. Out of those I’ve shortlisted anyway. Still a huge bundle of joy and a great example of why they’re one of the best things about popular music right now.

Twilight Force seem to be a very interesting band, mostly specialising in camp power mithril (metal with fantasy lyrics). Naturally, this is something I’m very into. Riders Of The Dawn really sounds like the Riders of Rohan are about to charge into the fray and it’s glorious. Meanwhile, something similarly weird and something I nearly sent to BJSC before deciding not even I could take it seriously, Demparty Night is a song done by a Japanese girlband made up of geek chic girls that seems to take the piss out of every cutesy kawaii sugar pop song by trying to outdo them at their own game, complete with Disney-esque riffs. At least, I think they’re satirising it.

Beethoven Virus (Nightcore) is everything it sounded like and that is AWESOME. Classical, nightcore, instrumental, evocative imagery coming through the music, an easy 18 for me in instrumentals and one I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of. Continuing to go through the weird section, Technique. One of Pitchfork’s weirdest offerings ever, the M83 collaborator made her own mark with a ferocious accusing track that attempts to… moisturise, take breaks, take computer breaks, and hide the drops, god help me there’s a hidden message in it. Bye Bye Mi Amor is from the 80s but I had so much fun discovering this disco-pop song in November I’m awarding it a place regardless – that probably makes over half the songs in this section not actually from 2016.

Actually from 2016, LoveWave was another highlight of Eurovision, even if it took me a long time to get used to the unusual structure, but only in a similar way to Sia’s weird structures. Now I’m all for the future of Eurovision to sound like this. At least some of the songs.

The only RWBY song in here from Volume 3 and therefore from 2016, the opening When It Falls promised a much darker and desperate RWBY through its sound. Calling back to earlier songs like Red Like Roses (‘maybe it’s red like roses, maybe it’s a pool of blood’) Mirror Mirror (‘mirrors will shatter’) I May Fall and general darkness (‘misery and pain for all when it falls’), it’s got some incredible lyrics and a dark, robust rockier sound than earlier songs, the vocals are a little bit harsher than they used to be, so it’s a dark song. We got that. It’s so far the only RWBY volume 3 song I’ve really gotten into, although I’m sure there’s more from Casey Lee and Jeff waiting for next year (when I’ll be adding in Volume 4 songs as well I bet). Neon springs to mind as hitting me big right now, I did love that episode after all.

Kygo’s small hit Stay eventually hit me quite well, although not his best this year, it’s still got all his trademark great sounds and Maty Noyes does a good job with it. Borders was something I nearly put in the tail end of last year but saved for this year, its powerful video and typical hard-hitting M.I.A lyrics, ‘what’s up with that’ on numerous human constructs, principally borders (which I think so many people in our country could do with getting less uppity about), questioning why we’re so keen to make divisions that shouldn’t be there. I love M.I.A when she does stuff like this – I hope her message reached some ears who can do something.

White Lung was a really incredible discovery I made from Nuggets, hard and harsh, very Pretty Reckless and hence one of the best forms music can take. I should have listened to it more outside of Nuggets, it could be a favourite if I keep it on playlists – I feel so alive listening to it.

160 . Brown Eyed Girls – Brave New World
159 . Highasakite – Golden Ticket
158 . Twenty One Pilots – Lane Boy
157 . Wiktoria – Save Me
156 . Lindsey Stirling – The Arena
155 . John The Baptiste – Socila
154 . Beautiful Bodies – Ravens
153 . Claudia Kane – Einstein
152 . Illenium – Fortress
151 . Jonas Blue – Perfect Strangers

The better half of Warm Hole, Brave New World shows off the real strengths of Brown Eyed Girls, comparatively innovative compared to the rest of K-Pop and with similar militaristic instrumental flourishes that made Sixth Sense such a triumph. K-Pop’s had a fairly good year up at the top.

Golden Ticket builds on the incredible longing pop that Highasakite showed themselves capable of on Since Last Wednesday, it’s joyful in its expression and a track I’m definitely glad I got into for a short while. They’re not always good, I struggled to get into Someone Who’ll Get It and I wasn’t so into Samurai Swords, but this elated beauty of Scandipop is one of the best I’ve heard that area of music do lately.

Lane Boy, says ‘don’t trust a song that’s flawless’, so what do I do with it? It feels perfect, I just have to spread out 21P songs somehow. Like Ride it’s got some great bouncy instrumentals, intriguing fast flowing lyrics and a good rock chorus. I can’t praise these guys enough. There’s still three more of them to come.

Save Me by Wiktoria is an impassioned cry of a pop song, and one of the highlights of this year’s Melodifestivalen, due to her unusual vocal style (almost TOO screechy but unique enough to be interested in listening to it) and backing choir.

The return of Lindsey Stirling was heralded by The Arena, something that’s fairly usual for her but of course that means very amazing upbeat and ferocious violin dubstep. Always good.

The opposite of nightcore, something I’m always into, is apparently daycore now. Because I guess that makes sense. Socila is a form of another song, still obscure, in slow motion. And from memory when I went and checked that song out (it’s so memorable, I’m sure you can tell by me telling you the name), this slow motion version is awesome. It feels a bit team rockit, the way it plods along, still energetic, still going somewhere, and it’s just a really wonderful track.

Ravens instantly spoke to me. It always reminds me of The 100 as I was watching it at the same time as this came out, but it could fit with the plot of many fantasy shows, all the talk of ravens taking flight, it’s really quite inspiring. A bit. But it’s a really compelling song and stuck with me from one listen of Beautiful Bodies’ album.

Einstein has some awesome lyrics, very befitting of the great man himself and it’s unusual I’d say that about a pop song, all the talk of time machines and black holes, I think he would have appreciated it. The classy, slow appeal, helps with that.

Fortress, like Spirals last year, sticks with the tried and tested method of wispy high voices over a progressive instrumental – that’s always a good tactic for modern dance music to use.

Similarly, in the world of chart music, Perfect Strangers partially redeemed Jonas Blue for his crimes earlier in the year by being a pretty good dance track. Not forgiving him totally yet but both this and By Your Side were enjoyable songs so he’s making at least some good out of his rise to fame.


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