Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Best Of 2016 - part 3

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

If 2016 taught me one thing it's to be careful how I change album art on iTunes. I made the wrong selection a couple of months ago, which resulted in most of the artwork in my carefully catalogued library being altered, often to completely random and unrelated releases. I then had to spend days changing things back to the way they were meant to be - because that was a good use of my time. Here's the next batch of songs that got added to that iTunes library this year...

In 2016, Alex Newell continued to confound all my expectations about which Glee cast members' post-show musical efforts I'd be listening to. Having been the go-to guy for wailing guest vocals last year, Alex released his debut EP, POWER, which featured this storming single.

British singer Charli XCX has been involved with a number of huge international hits the past few years - songs like "I Love It", "Boom Clap" and "Fancy". My favourites of hers? Her collaboration with Rita Ora, "Doing It" - which was a big old flop in Australia - and this random inclusion on the soundtrack to animated also-ran The Angry Birds Movie. I've never seen the film (despite having an age-appropriate child) but, as its title suggests, the song just bursts with exuberance.

Like Miike Snow in Part 1, New York duo Phantogram is an act whose music I'd probably like, but who wind up on this list thanks to a remix. In this case, "You Don't Get Me High Anymore" gets the synthpop treatment from a favourite Australian dance act of mine: Miami Horror. The original version of the track appears on Three, the third album from Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter.

Two songs from Music Complete made my top 100 last year, and another two make the grade this year. First up, it's this song, which, like "Tutti Frutti", features guest vocals from La Roux's Elly Jackson. Despite the band being as good as they've ever been, it seems that, like many of their contemporaries, the days of New Order having hit singles are behind them. At least the album gave them their best UK chart position since 1993's Republic.

Remember when The Temper Trap were massive? It was about the time "Sweet Disposition" was completely unavoidable and the Melbourne-formed, London-based band were tipped to conquer the world. That ubiquitous debut single certainly did that, but nothing since has been anywhere near as big. Returning in 2016 with their third album, The Temper Trap did succeed in releasing their best single since 2010's "Fader". Unfortunately, the title track of Thick As Thieves missed the ARIA top 50 - although the album did reach number 1, which is a pretty good trade-off.

It took a while and a couple of false starts - namely, "Baby Don't Lie" and "Spark The Fire" - but Gwen Stefani's third solo album finally materialised in 2016, and with it, a single that compares favourably with her hit streak from 2004 to 2008. A vibrant pop gem, "Make Me Like You" came with an ambitious one-take music video, which Gwen performed live during this year's Grammys (with a little help from sponsor Target) and went off without a hitch.

Jon Gooch is one busy man - a remixer, producer and artist with two aliases working in multiple genres. In 2016, he released music as Spor (his drum and bass project) as well as the Feed Me's Family Reunion EP in his electropop guise as Feed Me. Lead single "What It Feels Like" featured the vocals of Scottish singer Nina Nesbitt, who we'll be seeing again closer to the end of the countdown.

Here's the other Music Complete track, and with its prominent guitars and driving beat, "Singularity" sounds more like a classic New Order track than "Tutti Frutti" or "Plastic". It was also a highlight from their visually spectacular concert at Sydney's Opera House as part of this year's Vivid festival.

On my year-end chart for 2014, they made the top 40 with "Everytime" from debut album Evergreen. Now, New Zealands' Broods have to settle for a top 60 spot with this promo single from second album Conscious. A much sweeter track than the hard-edged official single, "Free" (which is just outside my top 100), "Couldn't Believe" was once again written by the Nott siblings with Kiwi songwriter/producer Joel Little, who's incredibly in-demand now following his work with both Broods and Lorde.

Netflix's throwback sci-fi offering, Stranger Things, had everyone talking in 2016 - and not just about Barb. It was inevitable that the Goonies-meets-ET series would find its way into other areas of pop culture, such as the music video for this single by LA synthpop duo Scavenger Hunt. One of three singles released in rapid succession by singer Jill Lamoureux and producer Dan Mufson, "Never Enough" (not to be confused with the Allie X track of the same name) was the highlight of the ensuing Shapes And Outlines EP, although "Sweet Talk" also came close to making my top 100.

She's already released three albums in Denmark, but this new synthpop single from the singer born Maria Apetri is the first I've heard from Fallulah - although a quick trip back through her previous videos on her website makes me think I might want to catch up on what I've missed so far. 

Next up, yet another male electronic artist with a British singer on guest vocals - in this case, Portuguese DJ/producer André Allen Anjos and English vocalist Victoria Hesketh. Less indie and more synthpop than most of RAC's other singles I've heard, "Magic Hour" reminds me a little of late '90s Saint Etienne, which is no bad thing. We'll hear more from Little Boots shortly...

Canadian songstress Lauren Malyon landed two songs on my year-end chart for 2015, and here she is again with another sweet slice of synthpop that, fittingly enough given its title, was used in the remake of Grey's Anatomy Melissa George medical drama, Heartbeat.

"Home", her entry on my year-end chart for 2015, was a love letter in the form of a synth ballad, but American singer Chelsea Lankes had a very different message to impart this year. With its kiss-off line "I dodged a bullet with you", "Bullet" is about as upbeat as breakup songs get.

"My Love 4 U" featuring A*M*E just missed my top 100, but this previous single fared much better. The singer on "Piece Of Me" is another perpetual guest vocalist - former The Voice contestant Becky Hill, who appeared on my year-end chart for 2014 on Rudimental track "Powerless".

Her first two albums, Hands and Nocturnes are among my favourite albums of all time, but for some reason, nothing from Little Boots' third full-length release, Working Girl, grabbed me last year. She was back in my good graces in 2016 with this track from the Afterhours EP.

Paloma Faith. Ella Henderson. Take That. British duo Sigma have a habit of teaming up with artists you'd never expect to hear on a drum and bass track. Add to that list 20-year-old balladeer Birdy, whose tortured vocals add a depth to "Find Me". Standing in for Birdy in the music video is an even younger star giving an impassioned performance, 12-year-old actress Millie Bobby Brown, who shot to fame playing Eleven in - here it is again - Stranger Things.

She might have just missed the top 100 on the MK track I mentioned just before, but A*M*E made the list with this collaboration. This time, she lent her pipes to what looks to be the fourth single by Australian DJ/producer Tyson O'Brien (aka Generik).

They've only missed my year-end top 100 twice in the past decade (and one of those times, only just), so it's hardly surprising to find Dragonette here once again in the year that they finally got around to releasing their fourth studio album, Body Parts. "Sweet Poison" featured the input of Israeli-born, London-based DJ/producer Matt Schwartz (aka Dada) and is the first of two songs by the Canadian band to appear.

Here's another reliably consistent electronic band - Scotland's CHVRCHES have appeared on my year-end top 100 each year since 2013. "Bury It" was a new track included on the extended edition of Every Eye Open and features the vocals of Hayley Williams - or Hayley Williams of Paramore, to give her her official title (wonder if that's contractual?).

In Part 4: the return of a female singer who did pretty well on my year-end charts between 2001 and 2011, the act behind this year's UK Christmas number 1 (with a different single) and the male artist who's spent the past 12 weeks stuck between numbers 2 and 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 (also with a different single).

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