Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Best Of 2016 - part 2

JUMP TO: 100-81 II 80-61 II 60-41 II 40-21 II 20-1

2016, hey? Just when you think it can't get any worse... Shortly after I posted the first part of my top 100 for 2016, the news broke that George Michael has passed away. In the '80s and '90s, I was a huge fan of both Wham! and George's solo career - and as late as 2004, he proved he could still come up with the goods with "Amazing". A great singer. A superlative songwriter. A fantastic pop star. And no doubt an influence to many of the performers in this batch of songs...

None of his previous three singles did much for me, but it was hard for Sigala (real name: Bruce Fielder) to go wrong by drafting in the distinctive vocals of John Newman and guitar playing of Nile Rodgers for "Give Me Your Love". Like his second release, "Sweet Lovin'", but not his first or third, "Give Me Your Love" was an original track, rather than being built around a sample - and was all the better for it.

Time for another young lady from Sweden. Dark and dramatic debut single "Save A Little Love" tackles one of the year's most contentious topics: the refugee crisis. And it does so with a music video that's as powerful as the song itself - something that's part of Laura Nox's mission statement.  

The original version by The 1975 is just outside my top 100, but this rapid remake by VÉRITÉ, who featured on my 2015 list with "Colors", gave the synth-ballad a bit of a kick up the pants and, as a result, became my favoured version.

Proving that I really have no limit when it comes to female pop singers from Sweden, here's another entry by a woman following in the footsteps of Robyn, Vanbot, Loreen, Agnes and Tove Lo by placing in my year-end top 100 in recent years. Nineteen-year-old Ida LaFontaine has already been in the business for almost a decade and, funnily enough, "Cold" almost sounds like it could've been released in the mid-'00s, when big choruses were more on trend. We'll see Ida again on this list...

Our next new-ish female singer comes from Britain - and appears with a song that sounds straight out of the mid-'90s (think: Lovestation, Spirits, Love To Infinity). Having worked as a backing vocalist for the likes of Jess Glynne and Katy B, BB stepped into the spotlight late last year with songs like "Instinct" and "Feeling", and a guest spot on a track we'll see later on this list.

A couple of years ago, Gorgon City could do no wrong, with a string of four top 20 hits in the UK (a couple of which made my year-end chart), but the dance duo have struggled to match that success with subsequent releases. And it's not like they haven't tried, with a steady stream of singles being issued throughout the year. Two of them make this list, including this subtle slice of sophisticated electronic music with uncredited vocals by Carlos St John and one we'll see a little later on. Despite all the new music this year, there's been no sign of that second studio album, though.

Next up, another duo - this time LA-based Sleeping Wolf with their synth-laden single "Ghost". The track was also included on The Fire, the second EP by Sleeping Wolf, which is comprised of singer Jake Newton and producer Steven Solomon.

We never leave Sweden for very long, do we? This bubbly little number was concocted by two DJ/producers from Stockholm - the confusingly named Norde and Lucas Nord. The latter also sings on "Missing You".

No matter how hard I try, there's always one (or sometimes more) songs that end up on my chart for the year after they were released. Originally issued in late 2015, "Be The One" was the second single from British singer Dua Lipa (yep, that's her actual name), but it took its time to get going, not reaching the ARIA top 50 until April this year. Given the fact a new video featuring actor Ansel Elgort has just been released, it looks like there might be a push to finally turn "Be The One" into a hit in the until-now-resistant UK and US in 2017.

Two of her earlier, more subtle singles, "Never Enough" and "Old Habits Die Hard", almost made my top 100, but it was the amped up "All The Rage" which made Allie X stand out from the dreamy synthpop crowd. Boasting shouty Charli XCX-style vocals - something I'm not often a fan of - "All The Rage" is expected to appear on her forthcoming EP, CollXtion II.

They've sneaked into my top 100 the past two years - and it seems Ben and Katie Marshall weren't lying when they promised big things for Paperwhite in 2016. A steady trickle of music from the duo resulted in them landing two entries in this year's chart - "On My Own", which also appeared on the Escape EP, and another track we'll see much higher up.

We saw "Heaven" in Part 1 and here's another Ekkoes single from 2016. Neither were quite as good as "Fight The Feeling" or "Last Breath", but they did set the bar very high at the outset.

Welsh trio XY&O featured on my 2015 chart, and the haze-pop band comprised of singer Skip Curtis, guitarist Nick Kelly and producer Tudor Davies double up this year, with stand-alone single "Chamleon" the first of two offerings. Stand by for the second...

Yet another performer with two songs making my list this year is Norwegian singer Dagny Sandvik. "Too Young" appeared on Dagny's debut EP, Ultraviolet, as did the other song we'll see much closer to the end.

The members of LA dance duo Oliver didn't have to look far for inspiration when deciding what to call themselves - in a wonderful piece of happenstance, their names are Oliver Goldstein and Vaughn Oliver. This is the first time one of their own songs has caught my attention, although their remix of BØRNS' "Electric Love" narrowly missed my top 100 for 2015. The singer on the pulsating "Electrify" is Scott Mellis, who's actually from Australia.

They seem to be a duo at present, but when this deep house track was given a renewed push in late 2015, German act Teenage Mutants was the one-man show of Kristian Samujlo. Handling vocals on "Falling For You" is British singer (and former Gorgon City collaborator) Laura Welsh, once again moonlighting from her day job as an indie pop singer.

And it's back to XY&O and this track from Shimmer + Shade, their debut EP which also features their 2015 single "Fahrenheit".

It's about time for another Swedish female singer, don't you think? In 2015, 20-year-old Amanda Winberg was the runner-up of the 11th season of Idol - yep, Sweden is one of a handful of countries that continues to air the singing competition. In 2016, she released her second single, "Clouds", which was much more of a pure pop belter than her debut effort, "Shutdown"

She made my year-end top 100 in 2015 with "One Last Time", and pop's most famous ponytail is back amongst it this year thanks to by far the best single from her Dangerous Woman album. I would say I like "Into You" because of the input of pop's Mr Reliable: Max Martin, but he was also involved with "Side To Side" and the title track, so there goes that theory.

Not to be confused with '90s dance act Strike, The Strike are a new band from Utah (home of The Used and Neon Trees). The six-piece are not really anything like either of those bands, although they clearly share Neon Trees' appreciation of '80s music, as evidenced on funk-influenced debut single "Eye For An Eye".

In Part 3: two songs by one of my favourite bands of all time and another couple by a female British synthpop star. Plus, Gwen Stefani's return to form and Sigma's latest unconventional collaboration partner.

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