Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Best Of 2015 - part 3

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

It might be 2015, but I still haven't come around to the idea of streaming services yet - I'm yet to even start my three-month free trial of Apple Music. The fact that one of the songs in this next batch has disappeared from Soundcloud (and was never released on iTunes) seems to support my preference for owning a copy of the tracks I like rather than relying on the fact that they'll always be available for me to listen to online. Here are the next 20 songs I was listening to a lot this year...

Number 60 "I'll Be There" by Chic featuring Nile Rodgers

It was only a matter of time. With guitarist Nile Rodgers in huge demand thanks to his appearance on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky", the band with which he made his name released its first album since 1992 this year. Taken from the appropriately titled It's About Time, "I'll Be There" sounds like it's been plucked straight out of 1979, but it's a brand new song. Well, "brand new" in the sense that it hasn't been released before. Given it was written and produced by Nile with Chic co-founder Bernard Edwards, who passed away in 1996, it's actually quite old. 
Included in a box of Chic demo tapes that were thought to be lost, "I'll Be There" pays tribute musically and lyrically to the heady days of disco when Chic scored a stack of hits themselves, and Nile and Bernard were also responsible for chart smashes by Sister Sledge, Diana Ross and Sheila B Devotion. But while Nile, who receives a featuring credit on this track despite still being in the band, continues to be a major force in modern music, Chic don't seem to be about to have a second coming any time soon.

Number 59 "Just What I Needed" by Wonderful Humans

If I'm getting the timeline right, Amanda Carl and Brian Cag started out as friends, became lovers and then formed duo Wonderful Humans. "Just What I Needed" is one of the fruits of that relationship, which by the sounds of things is going swimmingly.

Number 58 "I Really Like You" by Carly Rae Jepsen

Here she is again - CRJ with the lead single from EMOTION, which did its best to be just as much of an earworm as "Call Me Maybe", while turning the fun factor up to 11 and staying just the right side of cutesy. Helping "I Really Like You" from becoming too much of a cheese-fest was the decision to cast Tom Hanks in the music video - his unlikely presence a much better and less obvious move than having Carly skip around performing the entire bubblegum tune herself. 

Number 57 "Afraid To Love" by Philip George

He had a couple of big hits this year with tracks derived from well-known songs - the Stevie Wonder-sampling "Wish You Were Mine" and "Alone No More" (number 151 on this list), which was based on Another Level's similarly titled debut. But, it was the 22-year-old British DJ/producer's other 2015 song that makes my top 100. Featuring a sample of - what else? - Loleatta Holloway's "Love Sensation" and a big vocal house hook, "Afraid To Love" sounds straight out of the '90s, but despite all that to recommend it, the track seems to have been skipped over for official release.

Number 56 "Jealous" by Nick Jonas

It took him a decade, in which his career has come full circle, but Nick Jonas has finally achieved what he set out to do as a fresh-faced 13-year-old - and that's to achieve solo success. 
In 2005, the youngest Jonas brother was signed to a solo deal, but his self-titled album, Nicholas Jonas, didn't turn him into a pre-Bieber Justin Bieber. All these years later, after stints in Jonas Brothers and Nick Jonas & The Administration, he's finally selling records on his own. And yes, while his biggest hit to date, "Jealous", actually came out in 2014, it broke through in Australia (and the UK) this year - helped along by an awful lot of semi-naked appearances

Number 55 "All Cried Out" by Blonde featuring Alex Newell

You would've expected it to be Lea Michele - but her album full of Sia-penned tracks was forgettably generic. Or Darren Criss. Or even Naya Rivera or Amber Riley. But so far, the former Glee cast member with the most successful post-show recording career has been Alex Newell, who portrayed Wade "Unique" Adams after being discovered as part of The Glee Project. This fourth single from UK duo Blonde was one of a handful of dance tracks to feature Alex's vocals in 2015 - and one of two (alongside Clean Bandit's "Stronger") that reached number 4 in the UK.

Number 54 "In The Night" by The Weeknd

Back in 2012, I recall quite a lot of people getting excited about Canadian singer The Weeknd (real name: Abel Tesfaye) and his debut single, "Wicked Games". The big things he was tipped for came about in 2015, thanks to a string of massive tracks from second album Beauty Behind The Madness - the latest of which is "In The Night".

Number 53 "Clearest Blue" by CHVRCHES

Following lead single "Leave A Trace", which we saw in Part 1, CHVRCHES lifted a track in each of the next three months from Every Open Eye - with each receiving a varying degree of promotional activity. Album highlight "Clearest Blue" might only have had a lyric video, but it was my pick of the bunch.

Number 52 "Not Afraid" by Basic Tape

With its mix of house, disco and soul, this could only come from France - and indeed, "Not Afraid" is the debut single from Paris duo Basic Tape. Members Ben Emard and Sav Milot met at a sound engineering college before being snapped up to a publishing deal.

Number 51 "Criminals" by MS MR

It was second album time for the American duo we last saw on my 2013 countdown. "Criminals" was the second single from How Does It Feel, but despite being another excellent song, mainstream chart success continued to elude Lizzy and Max.

Number 50 "Let The Night Fall" by Dragonette

When they weren't too busy recording with everyone from Galantis to LENNO, Dragonette found time to put out one new single of their own in 2015. A worthy addition to their catalogue, "Let The Night Fall" will hopefully lead to a new album next year.

Number 49 "100 Degrees" by Kylie Minogue / Dannii Minogue

Kylie and Dannii Minogue have always been very careful not to fall into the trap of becoming a double act, saving their collaborations for a couple of live appearances and some low-key musical efforts over the decades. All bets were off in the last few months of 2015, though, when the sisters' duet on this infectious retro-styled disco track from Kylie Christmas led to their first live TV performance together in nearly 30 years and a reprise during Kylie's Royal Albert Hall gig. A reference to the fact that the Minogues grew up celebrating the festive season in summer - although, despite the title, not using the Fahrenheit scale - "100 Degrees" should have become a modern Christmas classic, but seems so far to have appealed mostly to the pair's fiercely loyal fanbase(s).

Number 48 "True Love Survivor" by Freemasons featuring Solah

There was a time a few years back where you couldn't move without bumping into either a Freemasons remix or one of the British duo's original songs. Things seemed to be a bit quieter for the production/DJ pair this year, with this sole single surfacing. Originally appearing on the Shakedown 3 album, "True Love Survivor" was remixed for single release, while the tune's vocalist changed her performance alias from HANA to Solah for the occasion.

Number 47 "Threshold" by Redlight featuring Melisa Whiskey

After a run of singles and EPs (some of which appeared on my year-end charts for 2012 and 2014) dating back to 2009, British DJ/producer Hugh Pescod released Redlight's first full-length album, X Colour, this year. Single "Threshold", which features the soulful vocals of London's Melisa Whiskey, was one of the more commercial tracks on the album - and as a result finds its place here.

Number 46 "Delirious" by Susanne Sundfør

I like to think of Norway's Susanne Sundfør as the Kate Bush of the synthpop world, since her music is a bit quirkier and more complex than the average three-minute pop song you'll find on this list. "Delirious" was the second single from her acclaimed Ten Love Songs album and is her first solo appearance on my year-end chart following her 2013 collaboration with M83.

Number 45
"Colors" by VÉRITÉ

More ALL CAPS. More female synthpop. This time, it's American singer Kelsey Byrne, who goes by the annoying-to-type name of VÉRITÉ and, in 2015, released her third EP, Sentiment, which features the MS MR-like single, "Colors".

Number 44 "Under The Shadows" by Rae Morris

I'm sure the endless comparisons to Florence Welch and Ellie Goulding are frustrating to Rachel "Rae" Morris, but her brand of pop music does sit comfortably in between the two. Not as synth-y as Ellie and not as drama-ridden as Florence, single "Under The Shadows" was a standout from debut album Unguarded

Number 43 "Embrace (Le Youth mix)" by Goldroom featuring George Maple

Here's a song that's been kicking around for a few years now. First released in 2013 with vocals by Ariela Jacobs, "Embrace" received a new lease of life - and a new singer - this year when it was included on Goldroom's It's Like You Never Went Away EP. Joining Goldroom (aka producer Josh Legg) for the new version is Australian singer George Maple (real name: Jessica Higgs). In November, a new remix EP surfaced - and it's the Le Youth mix which is responsible for the track's inclusion here.

Number 42 "Papernote" by Tigertown

Here's the song that I can no longer find online in order to post here - but thanks to one of those dodgy Soundcloud to MP3 converters, "Papernote" is in my iTunes library. I'm not quite sure why the Sydney band (which used to be a quintet but appears to have dropped back to four members of the Collins family) decided to take the track down - but hopefully it'll reappear in some capacity one day. For now, you'll just have to take my word for it being a good song - an anthemic pop track with soaring vocals on the sing-along chorus.
EDIT (September 30, 2016): "Papernote" has returned, in what sounds like a slightly remixed version and will be on their next EP.

Number 41 "Coming With You" by Ne-Yo

He used to be one of my favourite American male R&B performers, but it's been a few years since I've been that interested in anything Ne-Yo has released. A few years in which he seemed to try a bit of this and a bit of that (and unfortunately teamed up with Pitbull again). But finally, "Coming With You", which came out around the same time as his sixth album, Non-Fiction, restored my faith in him. Not quite his best effort, but something of a return to his pop/R&B form.

In Part 4: Kylie and Dannii recording together might've been big news, but an even more momentous musical pairing occurred in the final weeks of the year. Plus, there'll be appearances by year-end regulars Madeon, Olly Murs, Miami Horror and St Lucia, among others.

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