Monday, 26 December 2016

The Best Of 2016 - part 1

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

I think we're all agreed 2016 was a pretty terrible year for one reason or several. And the year in music was among the worst there's been - so much so that I haven't been able to come up with my usual list of 200 songs I like (it stands at 176). Of course, there were still some good songs and, as usual, I'm going to run through my favourite 100. So let's put on a brave face and get started with the countdown...

Her 2015 collaboration with The Chainsmokers on "Roses" is destined to be one of 2016's biggest singles on the ARIA and other worldwide charts, but I was much more interested in the solo efforts of the singer born Elizabeth Mencel. Debut single "Hangin' On" followed her first EP, Burn Wild, the title track of which sits just outside my top 100 for the year.

After making my top 10 for both 2013 (under a slightly different name) and 2014, Ekkoes seemed to have disappeared last year. Turns out the pop trio were just finishing off their debut album, from which this was the fourth single. We'll see the third single later on...

2012's X Factor winner Samantha Jade finally got around to releasing her first album after the obligatory post-show collection of covers in late 2015 - and it didn't include many of the singles she'd released in the intervening years. One song it did feature was "Always", another typically perky piece of pop.

After a year absent from my year-end chart (in which she released single "Too Young To Remember"), Florence Arnold is back amongst it with this single. In theory, "Real Love" was to precede her long-awaited debut album, but that still hasn't materialised. Maybe in 2017?

Appearing with the first of two singles on this list is British synthpop duo Born Stranger. The anthemic "Be Someone" is the second single by singer David Maddox Jones and producer Raife Hacking. We'll see their debut release much later on...

Surely wearing that big white box on his head just becomes annoying after a while? For now, DJ/producer Marshmello is sticking with the disguise, even though his cover has apparently been rumbled and his identity revealed as Chris Comstock (aka Dotcom). "Ritual" was the most recent of Marshmello's handful of 2016 singles and features Stephen Wrabel on vocals.

Last year, "Papernote" made my year-end top 50 before promptly disappearing from the internet. Late in 2016, it resurfaced as the title track of Tigertown's second EP, which also featured the poppy "What You Do". 

Did Fifth Harmony learn nothing from Five and S Club 7? Make the number of people in the group part of your name and it becomes inaccurate as soon as someone leaves. And someone always leaves. In the case of the US girl group, Camila Cabello quit just over a week ago. To be fair, the former contestants of America's The X Factor didn't actually chose their name - the public did - but they're now faced with the decision to stick with a name that no longer makes sense or recruit someone new to make up numbers. Fifth Harmony's last single as a quintet, "That's My Girl", is their first to really connect with me after the more R&B-skewed worldwide hits "Worth It" and "Work From Home" left me underwhelmed.

I feel like Miike Snow is one of those bands I should like, but I've never got around to really exploring their back catalogue properly. Perhaps I will now this tinkly remix by 21-year-old Brazilian DJ/producer Olin Batista has caught my attention - although given it's significantly different from the original version, maybe I won't like the band's normal sound after all. 

In 2015, "No Words" was in my year-end top 20 - and here's another perfect pop single that'll be included on Erik's upcoming fourth album, Innocence Lost. Maybe 2017 will be the year the Swedish singer finally achieves the international success he's been tipped for these past few years.

It was a mixed year for chilled out dance act RÜFÜS - they achieved a second number 1 album with Bloom, but, despite several nominations, came away from the recent ARIA Awards empty handed thanks in no small part to Flume. "Say A Prayer For Me" was the fourth single from Bloom. A fifth, "Be With You", missed my top 100.

Just when you thought there hadn't been my normal quota of female-fronted, synth-based scandipop in this batch of songs... "Tell Me Lies" is a brooding, pulsating track from the A New Shape EP, the first new music from Firefox AK in five years. Swedish singer Andrea Kellerman added her initials to her musical persona, Firefox, to avoid confusion with the Mozilla web browser of the same name.


More Scandipop now from Tove Lo, who has enjoyed another successful year on global charts. We'll see one of the singles from her 2016 album, Lady Wood, much later on, but stand-alone released "Scars" was one of several other projects she was involved with this past year (see also: singles with Nick Jonas and Flume). "Scars" was taken from Allegiant, the most recent film in the dystopian sci-fi franchise hardly anyone's talking about: The Divergent Series.

The upside of the decline in the albums market is that artists aren't feeling the need to complete a whole batch of songs before they start releasing any of them. Instead, they can pretty much chuck a single online as soon as it's done. Case in point: this sexy track from Demi Lovato - look Mum, no bra! - which kept her on the radar in 2016.

The original version of this single by the Canadian singer born Keandra Shan Lal is like one of those dreamy Ellie Goulding-ish ballads - nice enough but also fairly forgettable. New life is breathed into the track thanks to this remix by a couple of her countrymen, which adds a nagging synth hook and a bit of oomph to proceedings.

I was beginning to think The Naked And Famous were one of those one-album wonders - you know, those bands that never live up to their debut album in terms of success or song quality. Well, didn't they just go and prove me wrong with Simple Forms? After the disappointment of second album In Rolling Waves, the New Zealand band kicked off album number three with this lead single, which recaptured the exuberance of songs like "Young Blood" and "Punching In A Dream". As we'll see much later on, it didn't end there...

They were my chart champs for 2015, taking out the top two spots of my annual chart. In between continually remixing and re-releasing "Desire", Years & Years also found time to lift another single from Communion. And, unlike many of the songs in this batch, the British synthpop trio even made an actual music video to go with it. And not just any video - a raunchy parking garage interpretive dance... or something. We'll see another two tracks from Years & Years before we reach the top. Will they take out the number 1 spot two years in a row?

After discovering M83 (along with the rest of the world) thanks to "Midnight City" and the singles that came after it, many of which made my year-end charts for 2012 and 2013, I was excited when the French band released a new album in 2016. But, I wasn't blown away by "Do It, Try It", the lead single from Junk. It took until a fourth single, but the bouncy "Road Blaster" finally came through with the goods.

Also returning from my 2015 top 100 is this American duo who still have that Shakira-meets-tropical house vibe going on. This time, though, Teesa and Mighty Mike mix things up by including male vocalist Quinn XCII on "100 Degrees", which has nothing to do with the Kylie and Dannii Minogue duet of the same name.

I can't understand why Foxes isn't bigger. Year after year, she releases great pop tunes, and yet her only top 50 appearances in Australia come from her collaborations with Zedd and Rudimental. In the UK, where she has enjoyed some solo chart action, "Amazing" didn't even break into the top 100 despite being about as joyful as songs get. Perhaps that's the problem - in a year when "Closer" by The Chainsmokers and Drake's "One Dance" hogged the number 1 spot without having a discernible melody between them, "Amazing" had too much of one.

In Part 2: a remake of a song that just missed my top 100, a couple of once-buzzworthy bands have understated comebacks and a bunch of additions to the X section of my iTunes library.

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