Music

Izzy Stars’ Songs Of 2016 (Final Part)

And that’s it, no more of me talking about the entertainment that happened to me, who is some guy you barely know, last year… until middle of December this year when I start the whole process over again. But enjoy my top 10 songs of 2016 – and I should remind everyone that they don’t necessarily have to be from that year because… well… a lot of them aren’t.

10. 3-Nen E-Gumi Utatan – Jiriki Hongan Revolution

I got so beautifully, some might say worryingly, obsessed with Jiriki Hongan Revolution in the summer because it represented everything fun about music and specifically the music I was drawing from this exciting world of anime I was jumping headfirst into. Far more of an inviting prospect than the summer tunes on the charts, ahem. Yet it also spoke to my love of seeing people come one after the other and sing together as a group to overcome the odds. I think this is why I like musicals. Jiriki Hongan Revolution means ‘self-reliant revolution’ and comes to Assassination Classroom at a time when the class, the characters have to come together and think of ways to defeat their teacher and save the earth after it’s clear no one else will come in and do it for them. This results in the lyrics being a little cheesy, hell, the chorus line is ‘Mr. Teacher how can we shoot through the perfect target that is you’ but, um, the chorus is my least favourite part. It fits with the story the song is telling but the verses are so much better. First off, the absolute best thing about Jiriki is the crowd rousing chant of ‘Kiritsu! Rei! Lock On!’ which is a corruption of the traditional call (Kiritsu! Rei! Chakuseki!) that the student class representative of a Japanese class calls to make sure the rest of the class greet the teacher properly, literally meaning ‘Stand! Bow! Sit down!’. Instead here, it’s stand! bow! lock on! (as in a target), showing the class’s new priorities as assassins by twisting the traditions they’re expected to follow.

And that’s just the first line. The rest of the translated lyrics are about how you would not expect these students to be put in charge of saving the Earth even with the rule of ‘it’s anime’, you have ‘the more the potential the bigger the hassle’ which is why many of them ended up where they are, in the bottom class, because they have a ‘dropout mentality’, and they end up looking like they’re nodding off but have knives in their hands – and this is all as the opening introduces each student and by this point in the show you should know at least half of their stories. And then it drops into the chorus by summing up the bystander effect that the class had mostly been banking on for the first part of the season, ‘let it go and someone will take care of it, we thought it was someone else’s problem’. An anime that uses its in-house actors to produce a song that so perfectly speaks to the point of where the show is at (and this isn’t a one off thing, each of the other three openings is also perfectly placed based on its lyrics and content).

But more than that, Jiriki is a bright and happy upbeat summer tune that gave me plenty of chills due to its association with the show and gave me lots of enjoyment listening to it as a song outside of it. The middle eight, not played in the show as the opening only does the first verse and chorus, is a wonderful sequential of each of the five students who get singing roles saying the chant one after the other, the perfect build to bring the song out for one more rousing chorus. Which is still rousing even if the lyrical part of the chorus is not as stellar as the verses. An anthem I associate very much with a show I love but has been an incredible music track outside of that.

(good grief I wrote three paragraphs about that, I don’t know if I can do that for all of the top 10 although I certainly have a lot of stuff to say about them)

9 . Kitten – Fall On Me

Kitten are a band that I have known to do good things before and I have been following them on and off for years, I first heard, when they didn’t yet have an identity to me, the slightly hard-edged Cut It Out, and then fell completely in love with the wondrous G#. They were like a Metric or Paramore hidden behind production back then, and G# especially was very heavy on production as it deliberately meandered through ‘these were the days’ but it sounded pretty glorious.
Then I didn’t really hear a lot about them, I thought Like A Stranger was alright but didn’t seem to be going into much new territory and like with many bands, I thought my first initial impression would be the strongest and they wouldn’t make anything as great again. Turns out that wasn’t the case.

Fall On Me shows a changed Kitten, literally as there’s only one member left now, less production-focused and more like an out and out rock band, and wearing their allegiance to the 90s right on their sleeve with ‘Trash’ (which I’m reliably informed through hearing of twitter stories to find it out that it is indeed a reference to a Suede song), and the whole track carries a powerful nostalgic feel (with ‘who am I to reminisce’, it seems that’s the subject matter). When it gets to the chorus and gets the production to beef up just enough rather than drowning out the track, that’s when I fell in love with it. The title line of ‘fall on me’ has so much beautiful emotion contained within that I immediately want it to last forever. This only gets more concentrated on the last chorus. Building songs are incredible, keep doing those because then adds that magic to every single lyric Chloe sings. Incredible discovery, I’m very glad they were pulled out of the archives of older bands to have another chance material because this is by miles their zenith and I spent a lot of the late summer/early autumn beholden to its beauty and have never really stopped loving it since.

8 . Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas – Let Me Hear

Even though I am a fan of metal, and a fan of anime, to have said that a harsh metal anime OP would be in my top 10 of the year at the start of this year, I would not have believed you simply because I never tend to rate screamo quite THAT highly. I like it as a concept because it enhances a track and makes it more exciting, but there’s a real limit, it can’t be all a track is or it suffers just as a track that’s all a dull beat suffers. Yet Let Me Hear is in on the strength of both being great when I was watching Parasyte, but that isn’t just why I like this track. Yes it was good while I was watching the anime but I only heard the first minute and a half of it and the track changes completely after that minute and a half.

It was later in the year, when Parasyte was but a distant memory, I got into the full version of this song in a huge way. I’m not even sure how I did it. While the first part, the part you hear in the theme tune is mostly clean with some lovely autotuned vocals carrying the day and the screams in the background, as soon as you get past the first chorus, they switch roles. The harsh stuff comes to the fore and barrels the song along a low line for most of the rest of the song. Most songs I switch off when they do this but not Let Me Hear, the growling sounded gruff, it fit with the beat, it was engaging, it was pumping me up, it takes you on a journey. And then to complete the magic, at the end of the track it comes back into the rising autotuned chorus that made up the hugely catchy theme tune, full circle. Addictive metal track that crept up on me with hidden beauty and insane energy swirling inside it. You’d all hate it.

7 . Ortiga – Ilumbarada

Germany-Chile is a place where they hide incredible world music tracks from the turn of the millennium is it? Okay then, off to there we go. I had no experience with these guys so my love for Ilumbarada is completely pure and is just me latching on to some music so incredible it almost defies description.

There’s something very perfect and all-encompassing about Ilumbarada, it’s the same feeling I got from Baba Yetu, that it’s meant to talk about all of humanity and bring them all together, even if the chanting is not about that, because of the lifting riff that brings forth images of circling up to blue skies beyond lush forests and landscapes and whatever, that coupled with the vocals that initially seem to let the music do the talking but come further forward on the track until they break out into a chant of ‘ilumbarada AY’ and complete the track in a glorious cacophony of sound.

An incredible addition to my collection of world music life anthems and I should really check to see if Ortiga have anything more like this.

6 . Against The Current – In Our Bones

This is now my favourite Against The Current track. It’s not a wild rock track like most of their stuff at all, it’s not what I came to the Against The Current party for, it’s a sit down on the guitar stool and strum out to the audience moment (as Chrissy did when I saw them live). But what hits me most strongly sometimes is just a bit of an emotional singing and In Our Bones strips things back to the, well, bare bones.

It’s a force you shouldn’t mess with, because you and me we’re glowing bright radioactive’, ‘we are not invincible but we’re both stronger than we know’, with a bit of gorgeous instrumental fall following these lyrics, some unusual, some lyrics you’d expect to find. It’s a simple song but a beautiful one, I get why Against The Current named their album after this one, it’s a song that should be at the very core of a band’s discography, buffing up the power anthems that surround it with a bit of tenderness and a bit of humanity. Although Wasteland, Paralyzed, Outsiders, Young & Relentless, Blood Like Gasoline, Running With The Wild Things stand out for being huge fun and make the band what I like for the most part, all have to bow to the core of what’s in the bones of a stripped back Against The Current can do with just a little bit of caring potential.

5. Kalafina – To The Beginning

Perhaps it was fate (it’s a funny because this is from Fate/Zero) that the top end of my End Of Year would be completely dominated by Japanese music and anime-adjacent tracks, there’s already two gone past in the top 10, the highest track I’d call ‘rock’ is at #6 and four out of five of my top 5 have resonated with me because of where my interests have directed themselves this year into another medium. I almost don’t know myself. Almost. Because the basis for why I enjoy the music is still right at the core of all of these tracks and that’s why they’ve managed to stay so high, it’s not that I’ve changed tastes, it’s that because of this context I’ve spent time getting attached to a track I’d have liked even without the context.

Except I probably, in the case of Kalafina, wouldn’t have gotten into it at all had I not been such a huge fan of Fate/Zero. I thought it was a pretty weak opening when I first heard it, unusual in structure, stopping and starting all over the place, for a pop song, it seemed a bit too far gone, a bit crazy and experimental in not really having a good structure. It was only after repeated listens, after declaring the anime to be the best thing ever, that I even came round to it as a song I liked. And then, even after I’d finished the anime, I kept listening to it, because it reminded me of the anime. And I started to notice more things about it. The gorgeous string flourishes that open and close the track became my route into loving it, then I noticed the awesome vocal harmonies that the three members of the band play off each other with, then I noticed how the instrumental line remained constant, how the structure seemed much better put together than I remembered and close to the string flourishes that I loved so much, and there was no going back, To The Beginning had become one of my favourite tracks of the year, it soundtracked so much of it. Helping with my exams, my dissertation, all through the summer, and then finally, as that came to a close, I swallowed the risk that it’d do nothing and tried it for a song contest and seeing it qualify against the odds was hands-down my favourite moment related to that song contest this year.

A beautiful, unique, pop track that wormed its way into my head by being persistently good that I overcame an average first impression of to become basically my favourite anime OP ever (possibly, it has to challenge Super Driver and I’m not ready to make that life-choice yet) – the anime tracks ahead of it aren’t openings but tracks played at special, poignant moments.

4 . Alan Walker – Sing Me To Sleep

Sing Me To Sleep was very instant. Building on what I expected from Alan Walker from Faded, when Sing Me To Sleep was announced, I spent an entire weekend absolutely obsessed with the sound of this wonderful new EDM tune for being even more tender and sweet than Faded. The sentiment instantly hit through for me so I would listen to it hanging onto every lyric, dissecting how the song felt so caring and pure, two people who would do anything for each other, it just told the most beautiful story and I got just into it enough to fall in love, right in time for the emotional drop into the instrumental chorus. It kept me coming back because that feeling never faded. Pun made by accident and so I’m saying it was completely intended.

What also happened (and here is where the only non-anime related song in the top 5 gets infected) is that at the time I was watching Re:Zero and although the plot there is different to the plot in this song, there were similar enough themes and Iselin has a high enough voice that I started projecting images of that into my mind when hearing this song. Pro-tip: I absolutely recommend doing this with anything you love, if you can find a good (or even tenuous) connection between two different pieces of media and have it so when you hear one you think of the other it feels wonderful. I even made this nightcore minimix of Alan Walker with Sing Me To Sleep as the leadoff track because of the connection. I spent the entire summer loving this, I thought it might have been my EOY #1 at several stages, three songs managed to sneak ahead of it, it’s still an absolutely incredible song and a testament to Alan Walker’s ability to make excellent heartfelt and tender music.

(rock/Yui version)

(piano/Kanade version)

3. Girls Dead Monster – Ichiban No Takaramono (feat. LiSa)/ Karuta – Ichiban No Takaramono

All aboard the heavy feels train.

When I watched Angel Beats in the summer, after hearing good things about it for quite a while from anime boards, I was rather blown away by the beautiful song that ended the anime. It had been used a couple of times in the anime before that but it closing out the anime, I won’t say what happened but the way I talk about it you will clearly figure out it was emotional so I can’t really hide that. That was the piano version, the ‘original’ version by Karuta. I love that for basically all the same reasons I’m outlining below but because of the direct association with the end of the anime I haven’t listened to it as much, to preserve the moment as it were for any subsequent rewatch I do in the future.

But in the aftermath of processing what happened and wanting more of the song, I found a brilliant compromise. A more rocky, driven version of the song existed, being sung by LiSa on behalf of the anime’s fictional in-story band Girls Dead Monster, led by the character Yui. She also has a pretty emotional arc in the anime, but it’s not as devastating, but more beautiful, and it was there that I began to pay real attention to the lyrics of Ichiban No Takaramono. The rock, the strings, the piano plunking, the rising and falling, the last verses sounding more and more desperate, was good enough to keep me coming back but I started looking at the lyrics to this song and they are, with no unintentional hyperbole, the lyrics to one of the best love stories I’ve ever seen. The singer is singing about someone she truly loves. It starts with the good memories of a relationship, to the singer being unafraid because her love has taught her how to overcome her impairments and be happy. It then has her losing him, but even though she’s alone she’ll strive to make her life like the idealised one she had with him. One lyric (translated) that really strikes me is ‘I don’t regret that I was born anymore’ and I don’t think I need to say why. Similarly for ‘I can hear your voice saying that I shouldn’t die’. The rock climaxes keep getting bigger until ‘Megutte Nagarete’ (going round and flowing) and then it’s a big race to the end, to get to the big lyric, ‘Nazeka sore ga ima, ichiban no takaramono’ or ‘somehow, right now, you’re my most precious treasure’. I want to cry.

Basically this song hit me about as hard as I ever want an emotional song to hit me and because it was so good both musically and lyrically I kept coming back to it and even though I watched Angel Beats back in July, few days have gone by since when I haven’t loaded this one up to have a good emotional feel.

2 . Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter

So it turns out Porter Robinson is a massive weeb. I am now about 200% more interested in his music because of this. No, but really, I sort of liked him for a while and Language was a massive tune that I underrated a lot back in 2012 but has turned out to be one of the best dance tracks of the last few years. I would have been interested in a new song of his but I don’t think I’d have listened to it as readily were it not for the humongous coup he pulled by getting a major anime studio, A-1 Pictures, producers of the huge hits Sword Art Online, Your Lie In April and Erased among other series. A good, solid studio with a huge pedigree who aren’t going to be messing about with just anybody to create what most anime fans with a youtube channel can only dream of, a true, official anime music video.

Shelter tells the story of a young girl named Rin, whose father sent her away from Earth when Earth was being destroyed by Jupiter (because of reasons) and she now lives her life in a virtual world where she could have everything she ever wanted, but she still gets lonely. I found it incredibly moving and emotional and I really recommend you watch the video to get the most out of this song, if only because the way they pack emotion into a short 6-minute story that is nearly all wordless and mostly just accompanied by Porter and Madeon (let’s not forget him) doing their sweeping dance music across the top of it.

Make no mistake though, if I didn’t really love the song as well, it wouldn’t be up here. Shelter sounds completely perfect. Like, as a dance track, divorced from all of the anime aspects that drew me to listen to it, it’s a huge banger of an emotional dance tune, outpacing Language and everything else in Porter and Madeon’s already respectable catalogues. The chopped up sound effects that start it reinforce that, as it draws back into an instrumental filled with interesting sound effects, and then some beautiful full vocals carry the song. With lyrics like ‘it’s a long way forward, so trust in me, I’ll give them shelter, like you’ve done for me, And I know, I’m not alone, you’ll be watching over us, until you’re gone’, it does exactly the right job of minimalistic but meaningful dance lyrics that give me huge chills as I feel the song’s sound wash over me.

1 . Nao Hiragi – Requiem (Stygia Bootleg)

Comprising what is basically my #2 and #3 combined, with the emotional ending feelings generated by Ichiban No Takaromono apparent in Requiem’s roots as an anime ending, while taking forward some heavy dance motifs and chopped vocals like in Shelter, Requiem is a towering triumph of a song, or indeed an artistic work, that I don’t think was ever intended to be a towering triumph. But never underestimate my love for a hardcore track, if I find a good one I’ll be all over it.

I found Requiem at the tail-end of last year, I’m a follower of Maikel6311, a high quality nightcore and hard dance youtuber who occasionally puts out some real tunes to promote. He hadn’t put out anything quite like this before though, a remix done by an obscure Finnish guy called Stygia, who, well, I’d like to shake his hand for producing such a beauty out of nowhere. On listening I noticed that he said that this song had a melody that made it pleasurable to listen to numerous times and how right he was. I initially just earmarked this for my song contest (incidentally, the previous height I put a BJSC entry was at #4, how’s that for self-promotion), but it soon became apparent that it was going to mean a lot more than that to me. Pretty much throughout the entirety of January last year, when I wasn’t slowly finishing off my EOY from 2015 and putting off uni work, I was listening to this over and over again. I would get CRAVINGS to listen to it when I was out and didn’t have any music player with me. I don’t think I’ve ever had that with a track before.

The original of Requiem is quite something too, an emotional number sung beautifully by Nao Hiiragi to soundtrack an anime from 2012, but this hard dance remix makes it come alive by chopping up the vocals, adding a lot of heavy synths, and most importantly making it feel like it’s been going on for far longer than it has. So many times I’d think the track was nearly over only to look and see I still had four minutes of this rising and falling bliss left. It left a real effect on me and it’s for that reason I make it my EOY #1, an epic track I feel I wasn’t supposed to find but managed to anyway and wore out the repeat button something fierce. It also continues the time-honoured tradition of me calling myself a rock buff but mainly putting strong dancey/soundtrack numbers at my EOY #1. Still, this is so brilliantly epic, I don’t feel I could have discovered a better #1.

And the recap, at least for the top 100:

1 . Nao Hiragi – Requiem (Stygia Bootleg)
2 . Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter
3 . LiSA – Ichiban no Takaramono
4 . Alan Walker – Sing Me To Sleep
5 . Kalafina – To The Beginning
6 . Against The Current – In Our Bones
7 . Ortiga – Ilumbarada
8 . Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas – Let Me Hear
9 . Kitten – Fall On Me
10 . 3-nen E-gumi Utatan – Jiriki Hongan Revolution
11 . Alan Walker – Faded
12 . Disturbed – The Sound Of Silence
13 . Kyla La Grange – Hummingbird
14 . Against The Current – Wasteland
15 . FAUN – Tanz Mit Mir
16 . TheFatRat – Monody (feat. Laura Brehm)
17 . Minus One – Alter Ego
18 . Jeff Williams – Mirror Mirror (feat. Casey Lee Williams)
19 . Beautiful Bodies – Capture & Release
20 . Grimes – Kill Vs Maim
21 . Clean Bandit – Rockabye
22 . BOOTS – CURE
23 . MO – Final Song
24 . Aimer – Brave Shine
25 . Jeff Williams – Red Like Roses (feat. Casey Lee Williams)
26 . Jamala – 1944
27 . Greta Salome – Hear Them Calling
28 . Eir Aoi – Memoria
29 . Yeasayer – I Am The Chemistry
30 . The Chainsmokers – Roses
31 . The 1975 – The Sound
32 . Phantogram – You Don’t Get Me High Anymore
33 . SaRaHa – Kizunguzungu
34 . Kungs vs Cookin On 3 Burners – This Girl
35 . Poli Genova – If Love Was A Crime
36 . Twenty One Pilots – The Judge
37 . LITTLE BIG – Hateful Love
38 . 3-nen E-gumi Utatan – Bye Bye Yesterday
39 . Lindsey Stirling – Prism
40 . Alan Walker – Spectre
41 . TheFatRat – Epic
42 . Stupeflip – Stupeflip Vite
43 . Kygo (feat. Kodaline) – Raging
44 . Arion – At The Break Of Dawn
45 . Against The Current – Running With The Wild Things
46 . Aoi Tada – Brave Song
47 . The Chainsmokers – Closer
48 . Otto Knows/Lindsey Stirling – Dying For You
49 . BABYMETAL – Karate
50 . Ken Arai – Next To You
51 . Sigala – Sweet Lovin’
52 . Avantasia – Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose
53 . Ovidiu Anton – Moment Of Silence
54 . Soeur – Pass Out
55 . Lil Wayne – Sucker For Pain
56 . Christine & The Queens – Tilted
57 . LP – Lost On You
58 . Jeff Williams – I Burn (feat. Casey Lee Williams & Lamar Hall)
59 . Coldplay – Hymn For The Weekend
60 . Visions Of Atlantis – Winternight
61 . GARNiDELia – Yakusoku
62 . Baracuda – Where Is The Love
63 . Thomas Bergersen – Children Of The Sun
64 . Wardruna – Odal
65 . Grimes – Flesh Without Blood
66 . Henrik The Artist – Perfect Workout
67 . Crystal Fighters – All Night
68 . ZOE – Loin D’Ici
69 . Twenty One Pilots – Heathens
70 . Ultra Tower – Kibou No Uta
71 . Sia – Cheap Thrills
72 . Jeff Williams – I May Fall
73 . Christopher Tin – Temen Oblak (Dark Clouds)
74 . FAUN – Federkleid
75 . Philter – Revolver
76 . Icon For Hire – Now You Know
77 . CHVRCHES – Bury It (feat. Hayley Williams)
78 . Blossoms – Charlemagne
79 . Galantis – No Money
80 . Lao Ra – Bang Boom
81 . Kishi Bashi – Ode To My Next Life
82 . Tegan & Sara – Boyfriend
83 . Ramin Djawadi – Light Of The Seven
84 . Christopher Tin – Walayo Omoni (We Overcome The Wind)
85 . Eluveitie – Call Of The Mountain
86 . Ignea – Alga
87 . DJ Snake – Middle
88 . Gfriend – Rough
89 . OVERWERK – Toccata
90 . Thomas D/Franka Potente – Wish (Komm Zu Mir)
91 . OneRepublic – Kids
92 . Jeff Williams & Casey Lee Williams – Caffeine (feat. Lamar Hall)
93 . Aelyn – Give Love A Try
94 . Animal Collective – FloriDada
95 . Blackbriar – Until Eternity
96 . Twenty One Pilots – Stressed Out
97 . Myth & Roid – Styx Helix
98 . Shpongle – Around The World In A Tea Daze
99 . Big Black Delta – RCVR
100 . Different Heaven – OMG

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