ON TO THE TOP 100 *.*
100 . Different Heaven – OMG/Nekozilla
99 . Big Black Delta – RCVR
98 . Shpongle – Around The World In A Tea Daze
97 . Myth & Roid – Styx Helix
96 . Twenty One Pilots – Stressed Out
95 . Blackbriar – Until Eternity
94 . Animal Collective – FloriDada
93 . Aelyn – Give Love A Try
92 . Jeff Williams & Casey Lee Williams – Caffeine (feat. Lamar Hall)
91 . OneRepublic – Kids
Different Heaven has been quite a revelation in my post-Alan Walker wave of discovering fast-paced NoCopyrightSounds music, both OMG and Nekozilla are tunes that demand you keep coming back to them again and again with stabby synths, a feeling of elation and huge build to huge drops. This sort of unabashed dance is what I want to see more of.
Big Black Delta is more of a dark synthy affair, with two vocal styles competing for track space as it delves classily towards a drop of a chorus about the couple’s inability to communicate. It sounds so good. Also sounding so good, Shpongle’s Around The World In A Tea Daze is an 11 minute introduction to one of the most delightfully strange musical acts I’ve ever come across. I forget how good it is until I’m listening to it, there’s so many sounds that come up. It’s kind of like Free Tibet but less audacious about the sounds it’s taking from world music and instead just introduces them classily, at one point it really sounds like you’re ascending the steps of a Buddhist monastery, at another, a world choir joins in. Or a chant. It’s something amazing one can drift off into.
Probably the highest anime song in my list that was actually released this year, Myth & Roid’s Styx Helix is a beautiful modern pop song that jumps straight into the emotional part that, by watching Re:Zero you associate with the uplifting moment after a load of sadness and desperation. There’s a lot of emotions mixed in here. The structure’s a little weird but the lyrics, ‘oh please don’t let me die, waiting for touch’, ‘and our memories are gone’, relating to the anime, but also feels really emotional. I suspect my enjoyment of it is heavily tied to the anime but it’s still a great song. While I’m here I’ve also got directed onto Re:Zero’s first opening ‘Redo’ which is a great heavy rock tune that we didn’t hear enough of because most of the time there was so much going on in the show they cut the opening.
One of the best hits of the year as it introduced the majority of the world to the incredible Twenty One Pilots if nothing else – but it’s also one of the better downbeat songs this year by not being totally f***ing boring. Stressed Out isn’t the most lively twenty one pilots song, most are far more lively, but for a proper introductory one with ‘my name’s Blurryface and I care what you think’ and ‘wish we could turn back time’, it hits my good lyrics button and my story of a band button. The instrumental is really chill and swish too. It might have suffered a little from overplay but it’s still one of the best things that the charts have seen for a long while.
Blackbriar is one of those bands that if you know me you immediately say ‘that’s an Izzy band’. Female rock, hard beats, operatic voice, slightly harsh, it’s all there. Probably shouldn’t be a surprise that this was on my radar before it showed up in BJSC. But that solidified it for me as a favourite as it often does, making me notice the amazing voice Ms Blackbriar wields and getting right into her struggle until eternity.
FloriDada was a result of my yearly indie catchup at the very beginning of 2016 – which has become an annual thing for me. FloriDada is an incredible bouncy indie-pop tune that dispels basically all of the image of overly avantgarde experimentality I saw when I saw the name Animal Collective and instead replaced it with a fun experimental image. It’s still outside the norm but it’s still very much a true anthem.
There’s far too little trance around here nowadays, as I’m sure any snake will tell you. So to see one come in the form of an artist who also seemed to have a face and personality to go with it, well that’s kind of catching me off guard from what I expect from trance and it of course makes for a great combination as Aelyn pleads for you to give love a try just one more time, all the poignant considering what country she comes from (actually, the last few years have been somewhat INCREDIBLE for Ukrainian music, I never noticed any outside of Eurovision before 2014 but they have tons of great band and singers hitting the scene now, I hope that’s not a direct correlation but they’re on top of it in Kyiv regardless).
Caffeine is something rather ridiculous to contrast the sublime from Aelyn just behind it. An ode to both coffee and RWBY team CFVY, it’s three singers going one after the other on a track that almost seems out of control but keeps it on the tracks, first with the harsh singing vocals of Jeff Williams (‘listen up strap in notify your next of kin’), followed by the amazing cool girl vocals of Casey Lee Williams (‘I’m a cheetah on the plains I’m a highway star, a supersonic princess in a million-dollar car, blood on fire pumping through my veins, weaving in and out as I’m bolting through the lanes’ – one of my nominations for most epic single stanzas of a pop song anywhere). The energy in both of these verses pumps up and up until you get to the chorus, all like you’re taking a huge caffeine shot. Then in-house rapper Lamar Hall comes in for a verse and he has the weirdest verse of them all (‘grab yourself a mug cause I made a fresh pot, come and get a dose of my kick-ass java, fueling your addiction with this thick black lava’ NOT A DICK JOKE KLAXON). The song is even accompanied by a load of violence and fighting in the show as CFVY come in to save the day. It’s weird but addictive as all hell. Like the drug it’s talking about.
Finally in this section OneRepublic’s Kids is an example of a band I keep writing off but shouldn’t, because Kids shows their willingness to evolve with current trends and I got addicted to it for a few weeks after I first heard it. It sounds like Smallpools’ Dreaming a bit (as so many songs do these days but what a band to emulate), the backing a bit like M83 (again, what a band to emulate), and despite an obviously much bigger band picking up tips from comparative minnows reeks of consumerism, I can’t help but enjoy this anthem a lot.
90 . Thomas D/Franka Potente – Wish (Komm Zu Mir)
89 . OVERWERK – Toccata
88 . Gfriend – Rough
87 . DJ Snake – Middle
86 . Ignea – Alga
85 . Eluveitie – The Call Of The Mountains
84 . Christopher Tin – Walayo Omoni (We Overcome The Wind)
83 . Ramin Djawadi – Light Of The Seven
82 . Tegan & Sara – Boyfriend
81 . Kishi Bashi – Ode To My Next Life
Komm Zu Mir is something quite incredible I’d never come across before this year, accompanying a film that’s obviously a classic, but being a breathy haunting track in half in German which makes the entire thing more tense as the male voice gets more and more desperate while the female voice sounds more and more dead inside – a compliment because this is art. German is awesome in songs sometime.
A toccata is a classical music term for a piece that is designed to exhibit the technique of the performer as the intent is that they run their fingers over the keys so lightly it barely touches them. That fits half of what Toccata is about as it samples from Bach’s most famous work of that name, but it doesn’t account for its dark mood, it’s like a dark twisted version of a virtuoso’s display of talent by adding synthwave against a classical backdrop. This turns it into such a wonderful sound and there’s so much of it. Very fulfilling discovery.
I think that Rough is my highest K-Pop song, in a year when I wasn’t so up on it but based on 2017 so far will probably come back to it at least a bit. Rough however was the rare… ahem… diamond in the rough in 2016 though, filled with lush and gorgeous strings, a melody that sounds sweet given the girlband, a band I’ve never heard anything about before or since. It feels so pure and almost Japanese (which is probably why in this most Japanese year of mine, I liked it more than all other Korean songs). An absolute tune and one I think deserved more recognition.
A rare chart hit, but DJ Snake has been one of the more reliable big names of late due to his unique production style that even with the push to produce less abrasive music from the stunning Turn Down For What as his record executives recognise he’s now has a chance of being successful, resulting in this, he hasn’t completely lost it. The strength of Middle is, as always with Snake, in the breakdown, that distorts sounds into something that sounds rather pleasing to the ear. And Bipolar Sunshine does a fairly good job with the vocals. It’s a completely different song from Turn Down For What and more in the style of Lean On but it’s still exciting enough for now. Which means he’s got one up on Skrillex who’s just been completely neutered now.
Remember that Ukrainian thing I talked about with Aelyn? It surfaces again with Ignea, whose song Alga is a pretty obvious bid to make it the national anthem of Ukraine (‘no one can take our land from us, this is our home’) – and I would wholly support that, it’s suitably grandiose, with an entire orchestra involved, and it’s got a great rock beat as it shows everyone how symphonic metal should really be done. I compare their sound to Nightwish, and believe me when I say, that is NO SIMPLE COMPLIMENT from me, this could fit on Oceanborn or Wishmaster with ease.
Another symphonic metal track, this time venturing into Celto-Germanic folk as well so basically a lot of my loves summed up in one, I’d had Eluveitie’s commercial pop-esque offering The Call Of The Mountains on my radar for a while but it really hit me this year out of all years and I had some great times listening to the unusual instruments and the sweeping landscape images that accompany the video, one of the finest examples of how to do a track that more people than just symph metal nuts like myself will be on board with.
Everyone remember the awesome intro track to Civ IV? Baba Yetu featured the talents of American composer Christopher Tin and the Soweto Gospel Choir, on his album Calling All Dawns, a concept album filled with similarly great world-classical music about the day/night cycle which is probably top of my list of albums to actually god damn listen to one of these days. He, in 2014, released a followup album about the water cycle called The Drop That Contained The Sea, inviting all new choirs and singers from all over the world to participate in that. We Overcome The Wind is the closing track on that and he invited back Soweto Gospel Choir back to make what basically amounts to a 12-minute Baba Yetu. It gives me serious chills every time I listen to it and well deserves a place in my top 100 for it. You can imagine, like with Baba Yetu that it transcends what it’s supposed to be about what with the language (this time in Lango rather than Swahili) being indecipherable to my ears and instead a wall of beautiful sounds envisaging a bright future for all of humanity. That is this song. It’s slow for part of its unwieldy length so I wouldn’t rank it above Baba Yetu nor is it my favourite (second, by a narrow margin) from The Drop… but it’s an awesome composition from an amazing composer.
Nor is it the only composition from an amazing composer in this section, this one being far more relevant to 2016. If you’ve watched Game Of Thrones Season 6 you’ll know what a true triumph Light Of The Seven was in the episode where it premiered and I shall say no more about that. The music itself, it’s slow and foreboding, it’s effective even on first listen as although songs generally sound less notable on first listen as you need to get used to where the notes are going this coming out of nowhere to suddenly make you realise that it’s playing is an effective part of its beauty. It then delves into some faster more heartracing stuff and eventually puts themes of the main theme into it, a masterful composition and probably one of the best modern classical soundtracks. I am really positive for my #80-ish songs, but just you wait.
Boyfriend marks the first song of that title that I’ve thought is any good and indeed, rather love it. It’s ironic because it’s sung by Tegan & Sara, who are otherwise noted lesbians and so shouldn’t have any business singing about that but it’s not what you think it’s about from that title, it’s about a relationship that has to be hidden. That makes more sense doesn’t it. I love Tegan & Sara in all incarnations, through their pop sellout era (which this continues with bouncy synths) to their indie-rock era (and this also has a couple of elements of this as it feels less perfectly produced than Heartthrob did), so good return for them. Still yet to get an album other than Heartthrob because I’m a bad fan of theirs.
Clearly an album track off a Kishi Bashi album, Ode To My Next Life nevertheless came to my attention and it was a great discovery as this has more complexity to it than I Am The Antichrist and is almost (but not quite) more emotional, as it goes through tons of sounds and heavy St. Lucia-like synths to create something that sounds utterly fantastic, a huge wall of synth sound that I need to hear more of. It’s a brilliant upbeat journey and one that deserved a huge video and a lot more recognition than it got.