20 . Grimes – Kill Vs Maim
19 . Beautiful Bodies – Capture & Release
A big new obsession of the year, just under 12 months ago now, was Grimes and Art Angels and on no track was this stronger than Kill Vs Maim. The beautiful synthpop stormer of a track easily made its way to the top of my favourite Grimes tracks, mainly because of her excitable shrieks that carry the bubbling undercurrent of this track to full fruition. I don’t think many synth tracks are this strange yet beautiful. Also features bonus Tei Shi in the video as a demon. I’d normally try and attempt a dissection of the lyrics but I’ve got no idea where to start as the title seems irrelevant to everything else. The music on here and each individual line is amazing enough to let me forego deeper meaning.
The big highlight of what turned out to be Beautiful Bodies’ only album (I’m sad having just found that out, so much potential here) is another synth stormer, but more in the synth-rock sound. It’s such a huge, epic sound that goes through the whole track, helped by powerful ‘woah-oh-ohs’ and a vocal style that’s not too dissimilar from Halestorm but a bit softer with all the synths to cushion it, Capture & Release is one of the best modern rock tracks of the last few years and an anthem that deserves to be a hell of a lot more than a footnote in rock music history. That instrumental and the vocalist’s voice go together quite perfectly.
18 . Jeff Williams – Mirror Mirror (feat. Casey Lee Williams)
17 . Minus One – Alter Ego
I actually don’t really remember whether I found RWBY or Mirror Mirror first. Whichever I did though, was brilliant enough that it encouraged me to get into the other. Mirror Mirror is a pop song that is brilliant by feeling weighty and classical with huge ripping piano riffs and a building and dropping bassline, such that it whips you along on its ride. I love the extended version that adds an extra verse making the entire experience better but the link I’m putting here gives the context behind this track. As the soundtrack to the second trailer for RWBY and therefore the second song that RWBY creators intend you to hear after Red Like Roses, it zeroes in on the character of Weiss Schnee in a scene that shows off her fighting skills against a faceless suit of armour. As she’s burdened by expectations from her family that she’ll never be good enough, this shell is her mirror, she sings but she’s trapped, her singing (emphasised by her incredible wordless octave singing) is merely a performance act she puts on for her father to be proud of to his rich friends, she wants to have feelings and act on them but is ultimately lonely, and Mirror Mirror captures all of that. I hang onto every word, as my favourite main character from RWBY, this song helped to make her that way but it turned out I love her anyway, it becomes just that more powerful for me.
And there’s Alter Ego, my favourite track from Eurovision this year, (UK really has the BEST juries) for being both an incredibly written track (basically it’s a pop song masquerading as a rock track and a lot of the time those are the best), something everyone would have been all over if it was sung by a girl on her own, and for introducing proper rock, even a bit of alternative metal, back into Eurovision, because that had been really been missed over the previous few years. 2014 and 2015 definitely had a track like Alter Ego missing from their lineup, just think of Wig Wam, Lordi, even The Ark, that sort of token thing is needed and after all the rock bands failing so often in NFs at least one was guaranteed to be in from the start. I don’t think I was quite ready for how great Alter Ego would be though, when it came out, the pure anthemic quality of it shone through and I was hooked. And wolf howls, let’s not forget the wolf howls. By SOME DISTANCE the best Cypriot entry and probably the best Eurovision entry since O Mie and although it deserved far better in the final, at least it qualified and got through to final night, which for a rock entry of its quality it really deserved. O Mie I still really love despite my shift in music tastes, but this was something I could really stan and get excited over. And that’s what Eurovision needs, songs to stan and get excited over. Please take notes UK, because the day that the UK lays down a rock band like this I will die of happiness/sheer patriotism.
16 . TheFatRat – Monody (feat. Laura Brehm)
15 . FAUN & Santiano – Tanz Mit Mir
The picture on MrSuicideSheep’s channel accompanying Monody came out just as I’d finished watching and enjoying Sword Art Online (if any serious anime critics ever read this I am honor-bound to let them know I did not enjoy it one bit and hated every minute of it but that’s not true at all). But it really looks like the World Tree from the Alfheim Online arc from that show so that was what was going through my mind when I first heard Monody. And therefore it comes with a permanent association with a fantasy world which is honestly one of the best associations a new song can have on me. Monody is so light and airy that it sounds fantastical, especially in the flourishing of strings but also in the glitchy parts, somehow. And elvish. But a monody is a poem about lamenting someone else’s death. You can hear that in the horn that announces the start of the track (which is one of the best ways to start a mix I’ve found). But otherwise it adds a bit of musical dissonance and adds a lot more emotion to the Porter Robinson-esque vocal part, coming in at an unexpected part of the song to produce emotions anyway, so that moment feels powerful and drops perfectly back into the main instrumental sound of the song. A really amazing construct of a track and one I’ve played over and over and over again this year because it hits that sweet spot of always sounding ‘nice’ but also always sounding ‘epic’ so you can play it in a casual or ‘music appreciative setting’. Still a bit salty it didn’t break TheFatRat to a mainstream audience, Windfall was excellent, this was even better than that.
For Faun, this was the year I really got into them and so my favourite from their catalogue has ended up being their huge party track with Santiano, Tanz Mit Mir, a folk romp that harkens back to olden times with a medieval feel and the first track I’ve heard that really espoused those virtues since left behind NF song Saule Riet from Latvia. And it’s even better than that. Santiano’s deep voice contrasts perfectly with the lead singer of Faun, the German language of the track (and pretty simple German at that) means I can pretty much understand the entire gist of the track (essentially just a call to dance and party the night away). There’s so many unique whistling instruments, the track feels alive with positivity, the far too short video captures the mood of the performers perfectly, as with Monody, it even feels slightly fantastical (that the album is called Von Den Elben – ‘of the elves’, helps that image) but the unusual instruments are what solidify that image, it’s something I’ve listened to over and over again. I’m glad this and Monody are in the same section, despite being completely different genres, there’s so many noticeable similarities between them and both make me feel incredibly happy.
14 . Against The Current – Wasteland
13 . Kyla La Grange – Hummingbird
Wasteland is really quite a wonderful track and one of two absolutely incredible new songs I discovered upon adding In Our Bones to my collection, it’s a pop song that makes heavy use of its synths and rock backing to create a really swish and modern atmosphere, I honestly think it’s just an incredibly produced piece of music which is the main reason it’s up this high, it withstood the test of time very well and has been a regular play for me in the second half of this year. More than anything but one, this was the track I was waiting them to play live, and it really delivered, the place went wild for it.
Proving that she’s ahead of the curve by more than one way, Kyla La Grange released a panoramic video for Hummingbird that you can drag around. The future, everybody. That’s not a reason it’s up this high of course. Kyla’s been one of my favourite singers for an absolute age, her wispy voice and ability to put exciting, indieepic melodies in her music proving to be unmatched by anyone except perhaps Susanne Sundfor last year (this is even at the same position that I put Delirious last year and it fulfils pretty much the same role) and even then I think Kyla has more of a proven track record. Though you might associate her with slow songs, Hummingbird is absolutely not slow, beating as fast as the bird it’s named after does to produce an incredible chorus of ‘like a hummingbird I’ll hover, but never taste the fruit, like a memory of a lover that flickers into view’. It’s an undeniable tune and yet again one I thought would break her, but I guess she’s just going to have to be someone I stan near alone (along with other synth-pop connoisseurs) forever. Absolute banger.
12 . Disturbed – The Sound Of Silence
11 . Alan Walker – Faded
Two chart hits outside of my top 10 and I can actually report that the way it’s panned out, they are the two highest UK chart hits, meaning the top 10 is completely hit-free, as far as my home country is concerned anyway. Hurrah. Or not hurrah, as you may choose. But it’s no coincidence that these two are by far and away my favourite things about popular music this year. First is Disturbed, doing the unthinkable and as a metal band, getting a hit. I’d only started hearing the name Disturbed for the first time a few months before this broke out, some of my flatmates discussing how good they were and I had resolved to check them out but didn’t until The Sound Of Silence came along. I like the original Simon and Garfunkel but never really had it as a regular play of mine, but this, with its bombastic and beautiful anti-silence anthem, being a very accessible metal song, I loved it to pieces and was always checking how it was doing. And it got an official UK top 10 hit out of it (and that is the story I stick to because this was exactly the sort of different hit the UK chart needed before streaming ruined it), I compared it to the early 00s, a herald of a new rock wave starting to become popular and I hope I’m still right on that because more hits of this sort of calibre would be wonderful.
To contrast the heavy gruffness of The Sound Of Silence, my other favourite thing about the chart was it recognising true talent as new EDM god Alan Walker showed up at the beginning of the year and over time and exposure, Faded became one of the most enduring hits of the year. I’d discovered his instrumentals and was loving them but the addition of vocals to Fade, it was a good choice. Because what they did is they added an extra epic feeling ESPECIALLY on the ‘the monsters running wild inside of me’ line and solidified it as one I’d come back to over and over. It was something I’d always check to see how was doing, would get excited if I heard it out in any context, and managed to play that role of the rare hit I’d cheer on because it felt so pure and incredible as a hit, getting there solely on quality and winning people over by appealing to them that way. And it made me follow Alan Walker’s output from then on as it turned out I would be addicted to that sort of addictive EDM + wispy female vocals for quite a long time… (as if I wasn’t already but this provided a solid excuse for this year).