10 Tunes Of 2016 With Mike, Our Work Experience Kid
Sharing a much deeper music knowledge and writing ability than our entire office combined.
Words by Michael Heffernan - follow him on Twitter @micklewik4.
Well it’s almost that time of year again. Holidays and the like. And naturally, it’s time to check out the year’s highlights with a list of all the good stuff. How original. This little number is going to keep it simple and long-winded; no real order and no restrictions on songs. These songs won’t all be the best of the year necessarily, but they will be some of the highlights. I also included the genre so you can easily skip all my blood, sweat and tears if you don’t think a track looks interesting. Ya welcome.
Hell To Pay - Miracle Of Sound
As off the writing of this, Miracle Of Sound’s album Level 7 is sitting proudly at the top of the Bandcamp charts. Irish rocker Gavin Dunne’s one-man band has been gathering steam over the past few years with his film- and gaming- inspired music. Personally, I think that the man is exceptionally talented as a musician but often falls flat as a lyricist, perhaps due in part to the source material. But, 2016 provided two exceptions from Mr Dunne: Hell To Pay and another I’ll get to later. Hell To Pay is stupid. But so awesomely, gloriously stupid. Comparisons could easily be made to the source material, DOOM, which received similar praises. And that’s what makes the song exceptional. It perfectly emulates the source material by being a hell for leather, roaring metal track with impact and pace like no other. Every element is so perfectly enacted, the screaming vocals and chugging guitars, so much so that it easily could have been my favourite for the year. A song that, if a single part was removed, would only be half as effective. The only thing I would want is a slightly better solo section, but even that is thoroughly passable. My inner Goth approves.
Kings Avenue feat. members of Galactic) - Too Many Zooz
Obvious one out the way. New York trio Too Many Zooz are arguably one of the most important up-and-coming bands in the music industry.
Mashing together the bizarre combination of electronic music and jazz into the genre they call ‘Brasshouse’ is one of the most impressive new ideas out there. Somehow managing to incorporate technically complex and difficult rhythms with a simple and catchy sound, Too Many Zooz’s style is almost inimitable, not to mention brilliant. Kings Avenue, however, is a much more typical affair in terms of being straight out of Jazz fusion. The song has a bigger range of instruments, including members from Galactic, but their signature animalistic song and funkiness remains solid. Incredible improvised sections from the sax and a chorus straight out of a James Brown song. In a reasonably stagnant genre like modern Jazz, this is the type of reinvention that’s so necessary to keeping it alive. Did I forget that the sax player dances?
Look these guys up on YouTube and watch that damn sax guy. It’s worth it.
Quicksand - Guante & Katrah-Quey
Genre: Conscious Hip Hop
Obvious number 2. Maybe one day I’ll write an article that doesn’t talk about Mr Kyle Tran Myhre, also known as the poet and M.C Guante.
While this song was originally written as a Slam poem, it was given a full track treatment for his Post-Post-Race album. And, none of the poem’s exceptional and thought-provoking writing is lost in this reinvention of the track. I already talked about this song specifically in my last article that no one but my mother read but for the majority, this song is an incredibly well thought out metaphor for the way that people at large treat issues in the world today, doing as much as they can to help without fixing anything. While most likely originally used to talk about racism, this song can also apply to sexism, social issues and mental health in a lot of scenarios. The backing also helps really bring out the impact of the lyrics. A must for anyone into their political music.
Took A Pill In Ibiza - Mike Posner (Remixed by Seeb)
As a massive basher of modern pop, I feel it’s necessary for me to find the good ones and give them a biscuit in the vague hope that it will improve things. And the overplayed remix of Mike Posner’s musical breakdown was certainly a highlight. After getting big with his song Cooler Than Me in 2010, Mike Posner fell out of the pop spotlight extremely fast. While he wrote several big hits behind the scenes, he never managed to capture any level of personal fame again. After struggling with depression, Posner wrote I Took A Pill In Ibiza, to sum up his feelings of irrelevancy. And with a remix that replaced the stupid acoustic guitar with actual good EDM, the song became a hit. Took A Pill In Ibiza is the kind of introspective look at pop artists that barely ever gets discussed. We hear about the flashy thrills of being a pop star, but rarely what happens after everyone have moved on to the next big thing.
Posner’s lyrics are very well written, openly showing his insecurities while being backed up by a reasonably upbeat and catchy rave hook. Despite being played far too much on radios, it remains a decent pop song by all accounts. Only one more question: Where now Posner?
Jason (AKA Boom AKA Walking Out of Hell One Step at a Time) - Bignic
I’ll be honest. I expect big things from Bignic. Over the past two years, this Canadian beat-maker has become my favourite electronic artist. Period.
His 2013 song Drone is probably my favourite song ever. The tracks Bignic makes are loud, pulsing and full of attitude. Ah. Aside from half of his latest album, Thrust. Thrust has the issue that it is considerably more experimental than previous albums. It makes for a mixed bag of quality that is saved purely by Sun, Hot Mess and my pick for the best, Jason (AKA Boom AKA The long title is a bit pants). Jason’s incredibly epic orchestral sound being bolstered by the catchy Bignic chiptune shenanigans I know and love makes for an experimental song that works so brilliantly. Its sound is so fiercely original and unique that I can’t even think of a good comparison. Of course, the classic Bignic build is here but Jason is just so different to most of his other work, discarding Gladius. But most importantly, it’s got attitude, something that is missing from Mist and Finally. A bit of a hot mess, but a fun hot mess (Ha-ha-ha-ha I’m so unbelievably funny).
The Man Who Rocked The World - Miracle Of Sound
And here’s the second one. As everyone would be aware, the world lost the irreplaceable David Bowie this year. The response from the music world included a lot of tribute music and covers to pay respects to one of the most influential music artists this world will probably ever have. And while I loved Bowie’s Lazarus as a bizarre and sombre epic, Gavin Dunne’s tribute is by far the best Bowie-related song to come out this year. With a melody and instrumentation strongly reminiscent of Bowie’s early works, Dunne manages to almost perfectly replicate his style. The lyrics, the singing and the melody all feel like they could genuinely be in a Bowie song. While being a fantastic replication, the song also feels like a Miracle Of Sound song. Gav still uses the lyrics to talk about the effect that the Star Man had on people through the generations including himself without being too overdramatic or cringe worthy. Just heart-felt, genuine lyrics, all in the classic Bowie way of writing. You couldn’t ask for a better sending off.
Killing Pool - Fixions
Genres: Electronic/Dark Synth/Soundtrack
First soundtrack song for the list. While soundtracks are often popular over on the madness that is Bandcamp, not all of them get much of the spotlight. Not every album can be remixed and covered to the ludicrous extent that the Undertale soundtrack has been, to the point where there are still cover albums in the top 10 of Bandcamp a year after the original album. I digress. The Mother Russia Bleeds Soundtrack was one that got pushed to the side for the most part, which is somewhat surprising considering how much it resembles the popular 2015 soundtrack for Hotline Miami 2. It’s equally a shame because this soundtrack is seriously good. Particularly, of course, Killing Pool. Killing Pool is 100% perfect. I cannot complain about a single aspect of it. Everything it does, it does flawlessly with so much grit and style. If there was to be a song of the year from me, here it is. There isn’t much to say really. It’s just so damn good. It’s perfect from a song perspective and equally perfect from a tone-setting soundtrack perspective. The melody is catchy and is replayed just enough as not to leave us wanting more but not to the point of repetition. The sound is varied enough to stay fresh and interesting and all backed up with a kicking beat. Game, set, match.
Old World - Black Canary
Genres: Pop Rock/Alternative
Quick question: Who could have honestly predicted that one of the best rock albums of the year came from a comic book tie-in? What. It sounds so stupid until you give Black Canary’s self-titled first EP a chance and realise: This is kind of genius. New York rockers D.D, Paloma Terrific, Lord Byron and Ditto form the band based on the DC Comics character of the same name, the band somehow had a strange deal with DC where they had their formation story told in a graphic novel called ‘Kicking & Screaming’. The band then wrote the music played in the novel as a tie in. I think. Regardless of everything else, the album has three absolutely stellar tracks on it that all deserve recognition in their own right. All expertly sung, played and just weird enough to stay unique. The songs also have this incredibly loose feel to them, with slightly off pitch singing and instruments in parts only adding to the album’s rough charm. Old World’s slightly more sombre tone was what put it over the line for me but the others were serious competition. Of all the bands debuting this year, Black Canary is by far the most impressive.
Heaven Is A Bedroom - TV Girl
Genre: Indie Pop
If there is one topic that music likes talking about, it’s sex. That’s been the way since the rise of rock'n'roll in the ‘50s. But, who talks about it well? TV Girl, that’s who. This Los Angeles trio has become somewhat of an indie hit with their uniquely fun take on modern sex and relationships. Their first main breakthrough was the 2014 album French Exit, an album taking a very playful and fun look at modern sex and relationships. From all accounts, this year’s Who Really Cares is in a very similar vain. TV Girl’s music is very soft and simple, tonally and instrumentally. The reason I chose Heaven Is A Bedroom as my pick of the album was because it perfectly incorporates everything that the band is. It’s not quite as catchy as Taking What’s Not Yours or as well written and intelligent as Loving Machine, but strikes a fantastic balance of light, relaxing pop and well written, light-hearted lyrics. As they describe themselves; “[We make music] You can sing along to, but wouldn’t sing around your parents”.
Pavement - Siobhan Cotchin
This is a weird one for me. I’ve known about Siobhan Cotchin, the Perth girl writing music in her teens for about a year now. A friend of a friend type deal. I remember looking at her SoundCloud page and...let’s just say that it needed some work. Her singing and playing had potential but it was incredibly rough around the edges, with one of the songs including my ironic favourite line in a song. So, it’s 2016, the year that dreams came true (Now let me say that without laughing) and what happened to Ms. Cotchin? Ah. She finally did it. Pavement is her first genuinely great song. Lyrically tight and well written, sung with the type of rawness that Sia can be so good at. It’s played with serious feeling; the simplicity of the guitar really working in the song’s favour. More than any of her other work, this song has very strong Missy Higgins vibes.
And considering I think Missy Higgins is the best vocalist this Earth, that’s high praise. While this isn’t quite as lyrically analytical as Guante or as musically complex as Too Many Zooz, it shows improvement. And goddamnit, that’s reason enough to give this song a look. Siobhan Cotchin gets the Most Improved Award. Now give us that Fangirl remaster that we all want.
And Finally, Those That Fell Short:
Treats - Inheaven
Heathens - Twenty One Pilots
Deku Palace - Theophany
Gamma Knife - King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
M.Bison Theme - Hideyuki Fukasawa
Beelzebub - Jonah Senzel
Your Best American Girl - Mitski
Well there you have it. That is my overly comprehensive thoughts on how the year of music went. Hope you enjoyed. Now go and enjoy a break you wonderful person.