Top 50 Songs of 2016

 

 

 

 

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

It’s here! Chuck those negative opinions aside as for the next week we’ll be counting down my musical highlights of the year. While 2016 was full of many negative events (US election, multiple celebrity death, suicide squad, damn daniel etc.), on the other side of the coin music was as entertaining and fascinating as ever. Hip-hop continued to demonstrate its creative power while rock and other genres revitalised themselves to provide us with some of the best singles of their respective artist’s careers.

As always we have the staple “this is my opinion” placeholder to insert before we get cracking on so if there are any songs you think are missing or should be placed higher/lower then keep in mind that this is my list. Since there are 50 tracks to go through, I’ll speed through the first 25 or so and go into a bit more detail as we reach the top 20 picks. With that being said, let’s get the ball rolling…

50. Glue 70 – Casin

49. Crywank – Love

48. Vistas – Sign Language

47. Brand New – I Am A Nightmare

46. Boston Manor -Lead Feet

45. Kevin Devine – Instigator

44. SBTRKT – Let Them In

43. Run The Jewels – Talk To Me

42. Fake Boyfriend – Bumtown

41. Parquet Courts – Dust

40. Pale Kids – Not Listening

39. Blink-182 – Cynical

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC97caHUgKk

38. Weezer – Jacked Up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJOsRoY-na0

37. Frightened Rabbit – Die Like A Rich Boy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es8wQcKrrhA

36. Jamie T- Tescoland

35. Hovvdy – Try Hard

34. Honeyblood – Love Is A Disease

33. Skepta – Man

32. Metallica – Spit Out The Bone

31. Young Thug – RiRi

30. Enter Shikari – Hoodwinker

29. Touche Amore – Displacement

28. Kendrick Lamar – untitled 03

27. Biffy Clyro – In The Name Of The Wee Man

26. Sweet White – Genine

https://soundcloud.com/sweet-white/genine-1

25. Joyce Manor – Eighteen

24. Death Grips – 3 Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood 

23. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Necessities 

22. Twin Atlantic – Gold Elephant, Cherry Alligator

21. Mean Jeans – Michael Jackson Was Tight

20. The 1975 – Somebody Else

Trust me, I’m just as surprised as you that The 1975 are making an appearance on this list. Whilst their latest album was a double-edged sword, only just managing to provide more killer than filler, when the band delivered something good it was really fucking good. See Somebody Else for example, a song that dabbles into the topic of modern day romance that frontman, with the hand of some vocal manipulation, executes brilliantly.

19. Charli XCX – Trophy

The ultimate pump up song of 2016, Charli XCX continues her reign as one of the most likeable female vocalists in music right now with a fantastic combination of 00’s club music and peculiar beats.

18. Radiohead – Daydreaming

Beautifully minimalistic and driven solely by piano alongside some glitzy chimes with a Jamie XX flare to them, Daydreaming was the standout track on Radiohead’s triumphant return A Moon Shaped Pool: a calm, borderline lullaby that dips its toes in fearsome waters before diving head first into them during the climax.

17. Bon Iver – 33 “GOD”

Showing off the majority of 22, A Million’s religious subtext, 33 “GOD” is a showcase of Bon Iver’s experimental take on their latest record packaged alongside the delicate rock they’ve mastered since their debut For Emma, Forever Ago.

16. Blood Orange – Best To You

Providing some of the best R&B in recent memory, Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound hit its peak four tracks in with Best To You. Featuring a stunning vocal performance from Empress Of, Dev Hynes showed off just how good he is at mixing production and songwriting together.

15. Real Friends – Mess

A pop punk song that has lyrics that manage to be fresh for the act due to being about something other than a break up?! Revolutionary! All jokes aside, the crisp production value along with a catchy as all hell chorus makes the track feel like Real Friends have been working hard on their songwriting capabilities since their debut record and, despite what they’re saying in the public eye, are making efforts to progress as a band.

14. Codist – Puddle

Glasgow band Codist came out with their debut record all the way back in January and continued to be one of my favourites throughout 2016. My personal favourite track off of Nuclear Family had to be Puddle that harks back to Blackened Sky era Biffy with some equally beautiful lyrics about “why you can feel your insides glow”.

13. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things

The shortest track by far on this list, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s titular theme tune to Netflix’s surprise hit series Stranger Things is, much like the show itself, a total love letter to 80’s electronica with ominous synths lulling you into a sense of dread.

12. American Football – My Instincts Are The Enemy

Showing that the band still had what it takes to retain relevance in a genre that has long since evolved since their one and only record, American Football showed they deserve all the praise they get with their second LP. My Instincts Are The Enemy is a testament to the intricacy this band can provide with just three instruments, pulling off smooth and satisfying tempo changes and delivering beautiful lyrics as if they had never been away.

11. Schoolboy Q – Groovy Tony 

Schoolboy Q may have given us a pretty lacklustre LP in 2016 but he made sure we weren’t left empty handed with Groovy Tony, drenched in eerie production and driven by one of the most aggressive sounding flows in hip-hop.

10. Frank Ocean – Nikes

WE IN THE TOP 10 NOW BABY! The musical Where’s Waldo Mr Frank Ocean returned this year with his long awaited Blonde that kicks off with one of the strongest tracks of his career. Nikes modifies Ocean’s vocals into unrecognisable territory, delivering lines about lost ones and consumerism with a minimalistic background which needs to be listened to for it to be fully experienced.

9. Danny Brown – When It Rain

Not only did Detroit’s prodigal son Danny Brown deliver the best record of his career, arguably one of the greatest hip-hop albums in the past decade, but he managed to shake up his tried and tested sound on top of that. Much like Groovy Tony, When It Rain cranks up that ominous notch up to 11 and packs the visceral imagery to back it up.

8. Moose Blood – Knuckles

Arguably the best track Mooseblood have delivered thus far, Knuckles embodies everything the band have been great at since their debut: providing a killer hook with beautiful lyrics and vocals. While the majority of the band’s sophomore effort is far more grounded in pessimism, Knuckles seems to hit a major realist chord and wonderfully so.

7. PUP – DVP

Unlike other acts of the genre who do a lot of rocking but very little growing up, PUP manage to nail the topic of maturity on DVP which flows seamlessly on from the aforementioned If This Tour… into an even more anthemic style on record The Dream Is Over. Addressing how they handle issues, in this case getting “so drunk that I can’t speak”, as well as others telling them to grow up, the track manages to keep a positive vibe going in its instrumentals whilst juggling some of the darker lyrics on here.

6. James Blake ft Bon Iver – I Need A Forest Fire

While James Blake’s latest record was sub par at best, there was a diamond in the rough in the form of I Need A Forest Fire. Combining Bon Iver’s beautiful vocals alongside Blake’s versatile singing is a genius concept and is wonderfully executed, managing to explore the .topic of new beginnings with total ease.

5. Chance The Rapper – Blessings

It’s hard to argue that 2016 belonged to anyone but if I had to place a bet on it, my money would be on Chance The Rapper. Colouring Book was one of the most enjoyable listens of the year with bucketloads of optimism and hope in a year that very much needed it. Blessings pretty much embodies the album’s core message better than any other track does. A gospel influence is felt not only in its sound but its lyrical content: lines about redemption, fatherhood and faith are subtle with the main hook from Jamila Woods being infectiously catchy.

4. Childish Gambino – Redbone

No artist this year transformed quite like Childish Gambino. Swapping out hip-hop for funk/soul/R&B music is an impossible risk but Gambino somehow survived the transition, quality intact. Redbone shows this perfectly, displaying a wonderful use of vocoder and the aforementioned funk element that made Awaken My Love one of the most refreshing listens of 2016.

3. David Bowie – Lazarus

The loss of David Bowie was one of many celebrity deaths to occur in 2016 but was the one that no doubt hit the hardest. Lazarus pretty much acts as a foreshadowing to it all with lyrics such as “look up here, I’m in heaven” managing to evoke a tear or two out of even the most casual Bowie fan. While it may be a difficult listen considering the context, Lazarus stood out well before the passing of Bowie, providing the perfect balance of instrumentals and Bowie’s unique vocals.

2. The Weeknd – Starboy

Before we get into the top pick of this list, we have but one more track to praise, that being The Weeknd’s Starboy which features on the RnB superstar’s eponymously titled record. Featuring a backing beat that sounds like a less feisty but equally enjoyable Yeezus feature, the partnership with Daft Punk means it’s no real surprise that Starboy finds itself so high up on a best tracks of 2016 list.

1. Kanye West – Real Friends

While The Life of Pablo was an enjoyable albeit messy release, it undoubtedly features the best song Kanye West has released since Runaway. Real Friends puts Mr West in his most vulnerable position since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as he voices his guilt regarding friends and family over a beautifully tragic sounding beat. Think Aphex Twin entwined with heartbreak. The song ends with a poignant howl that evokes the same sadness and, in a way, isolation that we have become accustomed to with Kanye’s more personal tracks. Sources say that when the track was first released, the title was missing the word “friends”. In a twisted way, it’s both a relief to hear Kanye sounding the most real he has in years whilst it’s also uncomfortable to witness the inner turmoil he’s experiencing that has only since got worse with his recent inauguration into a psychiatric ward.

 

 

 

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Jamie T – Trick

It’s odd to think that at one point that Jamie T was essentially to indie rock what Frank Ocean was to the entire music scene prior to the release of Blond. While the quality of both artists can be debated, the way each of them managed to set the world on fire before somehow disappearing without a trace for years is undoubtedly an odd move especially in this day and age of social media dominance. Following the release of sophomore record Kings + Queens, it would be five years until fans of the South London grimy punk poet got their next dose in the form of Carry On The Grudge which swapped out youthful tales of drinking, smoking and romance for more introspective and mature songs that, while a far cry of what had come before, were delightfully beautiful and still just two years later.

It all made perfect sense considering the fact that Jamie T, full name Jamie Alexander Treays, had turned 28 at the time, now reaching the grand old age of 30, which meant it was only a matter of time before him talking about his adidas donned adolescent days would become tiresome. With Trick however, it seems that instead of following down this path he had established with COTG and reestablishing himself just like Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner has with a slick, suave new persona, Jamie T has made a step backwards in his style but manages to balance his already staple smart songwriting with a raw, heavy and energetic sound, resulting in arguably his best work since Panic Prevention.

There’s no build up to this punch either as soon as Trick starts, we’re welcomed by Tinfoil Boy which has become a divisive track since it was first shown off. While some may see it as a bit basic or less layered than what we’re used to, there’s no denying that the surge of audio adrenaline and paranoia fueled lyricism gets things off to a solid start. Even those who aren’t so big on this opening track will find something to love when Drone Strike quickly follows where Jamie T displays a flow that would put most rappers to shame and shows that he fully deserves the “British Beastie Boy” accolade that he has been graced with since his debut. Jamie T has always had a penchant for writing songs that transfer superbly to his live performances but with Trick, he’s sure to orchestrate menacing mosh pits with ease.

As Trick proceeds, things start to get borderline nostalgic at points. Take for instance Tescoland which is arguably one of the best pieces of music Jamie T has produced so far as a frantic leading guitar accompanies some classic witty lyrics including a skit that begins everything, no doubt a nod to the banality of a 9-5 retail job. Police Tape harks back to the early noughties indie rock peak lead by Bloc Party with menacing, politically fueled lyrics delivered by an even more sinister sounding Jamie which is enough to send a shiver down the spine.

2014JamieTJennFive241114.hero

As Trick nears its inevitable end, we start to see more of what Jamie crafted back on Carry On The Grudge with some more emotive tracks that don’t necessarily carry the same quality of flow that the first half does but don’t drop in quality either. The pinnacle of this end of the Jamie T spectrum is Self Esteem which has a choke-hold on the listener from the ripe beginning to the poignant and almost eerie conclusion.

What makes Trick such a standout album and not simply just a greatest hits as some are titling it is the amalgamation of all the different sides of Jamie T. Having left some of his carefree attitude at the door on his last release, Trick manages to bring this in alongside all the other best elements of the artist from his excellent songwriting capabilities to his flexible and alluring voice. He may be four records in to a nearly decade spanning career but it’s a relief to see that the Wimbledon singer is just as relevant as ever.

9/10

-Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

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BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend 2015 Review, 23/05/2015 – 24/05/2015

Festival season is coming.

Soon the flower head dresses will be donned, the tents miserably pitched up and the cliché face-paint put on by every guy in sight (happy/sad to admit I did the same at T last year). With Glastonbury just under a month away, the BBC have got music fans hyped for the season ahead with their annual Big Weekend event which graced Glasgow last year. This year it was Norwich’s turn and god did they luck out, with what is probably the best line up the event has ever had. Unfortunately I never got tickets but this didn’t stop me from enjoying the coverage provided by BBC Three from the comfort of my bed. Instead of giving you a Top 10 style list a la WatchMojo, I’m just gonna give my thoughts on the different acts I managed to catch over the weekend. As always, this is my own opinion and my favourites and least favourites are gonna differ from yours. Regardless, let’s get started.

Foo Fighters
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R
ight let’s get something out of the way first: I’m not a fan of Sonic Highways. Maybe it was the hype, maybe it was the fact it played it too safe even though it’s the band’s eighth record, it just didn’t sit well with me. However, as soon as Dave Grohl and co. came on stage, as soon as he welcomed the crowd and started playing the opening chords to Everlong, none of that mattered. It was like being transported back to the very first time I listened to their greatest hits compilation and I loved every second of it. This feeling lasted through the entire set, a true testament to the band’s ability to perform. Watch out Glastonbury, you’re in for a treat.

Muse
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Saturday’s main stage headliner were none other than Muse, a band who, like Foo Fighters, have been a favourite of mine for as long as I’ve been a fan of music. However just like Foo Fighters, their recent music has been rather disappointing in comparison to their older material but regardless of the fact that they’ve nearly been around for as long as I’ve been alive, they still know how to put on a show. Their setlist showcased some tracks off  upcoming album Drones with Psycho being a highlight, accompanied by a drill sergeant appearing on a screen behind them yelling as if he was saying to the crowd directly if they were ready. Closing track Knights Of Cydonia was a real treat for fans, regardless if they were new or old, leaving those who attended satisfied as well as excited for June 8th when the band’s new album drops.

Alt J
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I’ll admit now that I was worried about this one. I love Alt J to bits, An Awesome Wave effortlessly making its way into my favourite debut albums list that’s unofficially written in my mind. However the odd vocal style and even odder sound that the band have has always had me questioning whether or not it can transfer to the stage well. Thankfully after the Miley Cyrus featuring Hunger Of The Pine and the even more mesmerizing Fitzpleasure, my worries were laid to rest. As off as some of the vocal performances may have been at times, to me it added to the band’s unique charm. Predictably enough the Leeds boys finished with Breezeblocks, a crowd and fan favourite which is just as much an anthem as you’d expect, resulting in a surprisingly sweet set by the band.

Jamie T
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I
t’s odd to think that Jamie T is actually back. For 4 years after his sophmore album Kings & Queens he just disappeared, fans left wondering what had happened to him and if he was ever gonna come back. Unbeknown to fans though, he was crafting 140 songs with only 12 getting hand-picked for 2014’s critically acclaimed Carry On The Grudge. The luck has continued for the Wimbledon boy with a set of festival appearances lined up, Big Weekend being the lucky one to host him first and he didn’t half arse it. There’s not much I could say that could do his performance justice as it was hands down my favourite of the weekend but I’ll try my best. Sheila, an indie anthem in its own right, had the crowd chanting along as Jamie controlled the crowd without any effort needed and this continued during the remainder of the set, especially during If You’ve Got The Money. There was some quiet moments during the atmospheric Don’t You Find as well as Emily’s Heart, both highlighting the natural skill Jamie T has as a songwriter. This performance showed why his albums will no doubt stand the test of time and why Jamie T is one of the most exciting and talented acts Britain has to offer.

Taylor Swift
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Confession time here: I used to hate Taylor Swift. Maybe it was cause I was 15 at the time and at that age you tend to jump onto whatever seems cool at the time, as proved by the Gangnam Style phase which was a dark time for us all. In my defence though I think it was because I didn’t like the style of music she was going for at the time with her country sound which in itself is a pretty Marmite genre. However her opening track We Are Never Getting Back Together was a glimpse of things to come when it was released on 2012 album Red and I’m not ashamed to admit how much I enjoyed it. Other tracks off last year’s surprisingly great album 1989 went down well with the crowd and if this performance was just Swift getting prepared for her BST gig next month then we should all be really excited.

Slaves
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Fun little story: back in November I was off to see Biffy in London and as such I was excited to say the least. When I heard that a little Kent duo called Slaves were one of the support acts, I didn’t think about it twice. Who would have known they’d become one of my favourite bands at the moment and take the music scene by storm. Their performance on the In New Music We Trust stage was a testament to the sheer power the duo can deliver, enough to put Royal Blood to shame. From White Knuckle Ride to closing track Hey, Slaves kept me entertained via the TV more than most acts I’ve saw live. The stories that vocalist Isaac told alongside bandmate Laurie had me laughing as well as intrigued, something that a lot of acts only wish they could do. If you get the chance to see this band live then do not miss out, you’ll heavily regret it.

And more…..
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I managed to watch a lot of acts over the weekend but the 6 above were my stand outs favourites. There were some other great artists there such as Fall Out Boy whose golden oldie tracks managed to outweigh the mediocre new ones. Florence + The Machine as always put on a stunning performance packed to the brim with quality that is now expected of them and will surely come in handy at Glastonbury. Lastly The Vaccines  put on a rather good performance as well, nicely tying into the release of their album English Graffiti today. BBC’s Big Weekend was well worth watching and with even more festivals on the way, music fans have more than enough entertainment sorted for the summer.

What were your favourites acts? Did you have a least favourite? Comment below or tweet me @blogclyro , thanks for reading to the end!

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