In his Singles Club round up of 2016 Getintothis’ Matthew Wood reflects on a year that has left many with shattered hearts following the tragic departures of some of the most celebrated artists in music. Despite this, he reveals artists old and new, who have taken it upon themselves to stitch our shredded souls back together.
A single is a token of monstrous force, from the intangible Soundcloud upload, to the deeply satisfying purchase of a 7”, the single has the capacity to transform perspectives, rocket one to fame, or simply be a joy to create.
Over the last year I have encountered some glittering gems, documented over the last 26 Singles Clubs and now it’s time for an end of year round up of the Top 40 tracks I thought shone brightest this year. Although a year that will no doubt be remembered with solemn air looming over it, it has notably been host to some very important sophomore albums, massive breakthrough acts and an overall goal to reassure us that the future of music is safe in the hands of talented musicians.
In our hectic, saturated world of creative forces, it has become somewhat of a crisis of consumption; we are fully aware of the many currents of innovation pulsing around us, but we simply do not have the time to ponder them all as much as we’d like to. Put it simply, we need to be picky. This is becoming an issue with more and more aspects of daily life, we want juicy headlines, we’re victims of click-bait, we want coffee on a drip! I have to say, I am not advocating this lifestyle we’ve adopted, but it does place an unprecedented emphasis on the importance of a band getting their single release just right. We simply aren’t going to waste our time with an album if the single isn’t to our liking.
So what is it that makes a perfect single and is it really that important? Some of the greatest bands in history have never had major success in the single charts, and arguably today the singles charts are dominated by the same old faces creating music just to fill the void of silence so many of us have come to fear. Leafing through the history books we see a dominance of songs that capture a moment, Elton John’s Candle In The Wind was a most graceful goodbye to Princess Diana and is the second best selling single of all time. We see tracks tied to tragedy, such as The Tornados‘ Telstar in which Joe Meek revolutionised the recording process and consistently challenge the norm, allowing him to become one of the most influential record producers to date. A legacy riddled with the pains of paranoia, depression and his eventual suicide, Meek will forever be one of the industries most iconic tragic heroes. But granted, not every track has a sheet of social fabric to stitch its name to, nor (thankfully) will all end in tragedy, so what are we looking for here?
For me, a truly great single bares it’s soul to the world, entices us into a cubbyhole of creation and proceeds to offer us a snippet (at least) of what they’re here to do. There’s some fantastic songs out there that, despite their obvious qualities, whether this be a cracking riff or a juicy hook, there’s a disconnection between artist and the music. There’s something not quite genuine about them, they’re like a simulation of what is considered a ‘great pop song’ or whatever it may be. Any musician can tick boxes, but for me it’s about aggressively scribbling out these boxes with a red pen, drawing a little asterisk and explaining why ticking this box just won’t cut it! I hope that these tracks below will epitomise what it takes to create something special.
You’ll find as you scroll through my picks that yes, some obvious contenders may have been omitted, but as always with Singles Club, I’d like to invite you into some spectacular tracks that you won’t find anywhere else but I believe deserve recognition. So, I hope you enjoy rummaging through these 40 tracks that have brought myself and many more of you magnificent joy through the year.
So long 2016, and I look forward to seeing you all next year. Matthew Wood
1. David Bowie – Lazarus
We couldn’t really start anywhere else could we; a figure that transcended our world, an alien, our generation’s saviour – David Bowie.
It’s difficult to know exactly what we did to deserve such a genius in our lifetime, a legacy that will follow his name through probably hundred of generations to come. His music will launch itself through space and time for infinity.
What we will all hold dear to our hearts is that we were here to witness the life of someone truly quite remarkable. To sign off as he did, with Lazarus, is so typical of him. To immortalise his own death in art, through jazz. We can hope and dream that a miracle would allow Bowie the same fate as Lazarus, but one last time in 2016, let us thank Ziggy, for your Stardust will continue to fall and continue to inspire forever.
2. Frank Ocean – Ivy
With the musical world like putty in his hands, Frank Ocean, as predicted, broke the Internet with the release of his second album. More a trip through psychedelic pop than a venture into RnB, Ivy utilises resounding, dizzy chords and slick plucks of bass, sans drum beat.
It’s lyrically typical of Ocean, ‘I thought that I was dreaming when you said you love me’ he oozes from the depths of his emotion.
Brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario look very much like they stepped off a Wes Anderson set, so admittedly, they’ve got their image down already. The musical talent that follows their scrawny shadows is remarkable and then you learn how old they are and your bottom jaw smashes to the ground.
The teenagers have been in bands since they could hold a pair of drum sticks and were brought up religiously on The Beatles and The Beach Boys, a combination for success. As Long As We’re Together is almost like a series of homages, nods towards their heroes.
A jangly guitar and surprisingly baritone 17-year old vocal is somewhat Dylan-esque. While the uplifting chorus and medley style construction is a footnote to Abbey Road. These youngsters are already TV and rock stars and boy do they fit the bill: in other words, they’re off to a bloody flyer.
6. Iggy Pop – Gardenia
Taken from Post Pop Depression, Iggy Pop joins forces with Josh Homme and Matt Helders for what Thurston Moore has described as record of the year.
The premier single, Gardenia, struts in true Iggy-Fashion as he preaches like a Beat poet over a chilled rhythm of life.
A duo of baritone vocals make for a dark yet sweet chorus and tops off a track with all the right measurements.
8. Kendrick Lamar – Untitled 2
Proving to the world that he is practically superhuman when it comes to penning verses that arrive with such potency and vivid imagery.
His movement through his jazz-orientated soundscapes in this one is so fluid and unique, he shifts vocal style and rhythms as though he was born to do so.
Kendrick Lamar has been on full form for a while now, and his career continues to outdo his peers time and time again. (Sadly there’s no track available on YouTube, see our Spotify playlist for this one).
9. Skepta – Man
This year’s Mercury Music Prize Winner for his album, Konnichiwa, Skepta has carved a new path for the Grime genre with a passion for success and the happiness of the people around him.
Charged with an aggression fuelled by revenge, Skepta is out to turn heads, alter mindsets and attack the senses; he does all of this here.
There’s a subtlety to Skepta rhymes that is unparalleled in the Grime scene of late, and when he is more blatant, it’s fused with an irony and a humour that entertains as much as it astounds.
10. Cate Le Bon – Wonderful
11. Robbing Millions – In The No Air
A fond favourite of mine throughout 2016, Belgian psych outfit Robbing Millions astounded me on more than one occasion with their star-gazing, mesmeric constructions. They hurtle you through space on their cosmic vessel of sound; it’s a journey riddled with sparkling riffs, baffling timings and lyrical complexities, enjoy the ride!
13. The Vryll Society – A Perfect Rhythm
The Vryll Society have won over many throughout 2016 and they’re still yet to release a full-length debut album. The singles they have given us over the years have been spectacular, and their EP Pangea, equally noteworthy, but it is their live performances that has afforded them such success.
Like a werewolf under a full moon, Vryll’s tracks transform during their live shows; they quite simply tower over their peers with their immense psychedelic constructions. A Perfect Rhythm marks a change of pace for the band; they simmered through 2016, but 2017 will see them explode!
14. Telegram – Taffy Come Home
15. The Magnetic North – A Death In The Woods
Composing musical vignettes that capture history and memories from Skelmersdale, The Magnetic North arrive with a fantastically unique track and album.
Comprised of Comprised of Simon Tong (The Verve and Blur) Gawain Erland Cooper (Erland and the Carnival) and Hannah Peel, the band immortalise otherwise forgotten aspects of a small colliery town in Lancashire, where Tong himself grew up.
Tune in to the super-group’s distinctly British charm below, just a snippet of their incredible debut album Prospect Of Skelmersdale.
16. Bruno Mars – 24k Magic
Another monster track from Hawaii’s answer to Michael Jackson, I had a right good boogie to this one the other night and came to the conclusion that I simply couldn’t leave it out.
Once again Mars exercises his astounding ability to produce a hit, and fortunately his most recent tracks depart from his cringe-worthy earlier tracks and harness a world domination of cool that the whole world can tune into.
17. Natalie McCool – Fortress
Local talent Natalie McCool arrived on the scene after props from Paul McCartney and Chris Martin, which is indeed one way to get the ball rolling with your music career. Since then she’s put out a sumptuous record, The Great Unknown and has continued to impress with her delicate brand of folk.
Fortress is a mostly stripped back effort that plods gently, while McCool unleashes her powerful, sometimes haunting vocal in a poetic medium that spreads effortlessly through the track’s bare bones.
18. Man & The Echo – Vile As You Want
A track I’ve returned to over and over, it’s socially and politically relevant, you can equally have a good ole giggle at the music video and it’s topped off with a smashing chorus.
2016 was a good year for Man & The Echo, it saw them feature at Glastonbury and release their self-titled debut album. Next February and March will see them embark on a UK tour; terrible shirts and laughs abound.
19. Fufanu – Ballerina In The Rain
Icelandic rockers Fufanu come equipped with a history enriched with electronics and backing from huge names like Damon Albarn. They’ve made a name for themselves with their notoriously riotous live sets and their complex, muscly sound.
With a UK tour in February, they’re set to pummel us Reykjavik-style.
20. Laura J Martin – I Can’t Bear To Feel Myself Forgotten
Super quirky darling Laura J Martin documents her fears of being forgotten in this vibrant dose of pop.
Her use of vintage instruments make for a sound that’s tricky to pin down, with a rich influence from the past she equally defines something completely new.
Her vocal ability is in full flight in this track particularly, and her wonderfully weird ways will take her far.
21. Cigarettes After Sex – K
Cigarettes After Sex sign off 2016 with a characteristically moving love song. Not many bands can conjure an atmospheric, ethereal sound quite like the El Paso quartet nor could many do it so consistently.
Sure they opt for repeated motifs and structures, but why change a formula when that formula has the ability to churn your guts like a new crush and send tingles down your spine?
22. Radiohead – Daydreaming
Again producing something with an untouched beauty, Radiohead’s return was quite immaculate.
Daydreaming is an exercise in judgement and prudence, utilising what are for Radiohead quite simple snippets of synth, sewn together with electronic flourishes and tied up with some rather ominous reverberations of Thom Yorke’s sinister cries.
23. Chris Cohen – As If Apart
A toe-tapper if there ever was one, Chris Cohen utilizes jazz chords and math-y timings and cleverly constructs a well catchy dose of vintage pop.
He ushers his vocals onto the stage uncertainly to begin, but comes into his own for a twinkling chorus in which he remains composed amid a frantic backdrop of driving bass notes and rapid drum flurries.
24. Conor Oberst – Tachycardia
Two years since his last solo venture, Conor Oberst returns in typical fashion with a tale brimming with philosophical musings, excessive heart beats and tattered suits accompanied by a stripped-back piano/harmonica combination and the oak-y, quivering vocal of Oberst that we all know and love.
25. Whitney – Golden Days
I could quite easily have put in every track from this album, but since we decided at Getintothis that Light Upon The Lake is our album of the year, I reckon two tracks from these boys will suffice.
Golden Days is the band’s summer anthem, home to organic textures, Julian Ehlrich’s vocal serves as a shimmering gloss for another perfectly crafted piece of music, ending on a triumphant burst of horns this track elevates you no matter what your mood; the golden days are still within reach, especially when you’ve got a Whitney track to hand.
26. Yak – Harbour The Feeling
Yak took 2016 by the scruff of the neck, leaving a trail of wreckage with their ferocious rock that channels the likes of Nick Cave, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Fat White Family.
They stormed through dates with established crowd favourites Peace and The Last Shadow Puppets and offered up a rip-roaring debut album Alas Salvation, and they’ll carry this momentum into 2017 for more most welcomed carnage.
27. The Growlers – I’ll Be Around
Another from The Growlers here because I couldn’t resist. This one sees Brooks Nielsen hospitalised and boogy-ing in an OBE while his friends and fellow patients proceed to pop pills. An infectious shout back approach charges the track to life; let this one shake you up… or down.
28. Warpaint – New Song
Their catchiest outing to date, New Song launched Warpaint substantially into the mainstream. Still, the track exudes that shadowiness that pervade their earlier tracks, with gloomy melodies haunting a crisp, sunny dose of pop.
Metallic chugs of guitar and a funk driven bass create a thick undercurrent while the loftier melodies ride on a wave of disco; simple and infectious, the hip quartet show they can smash the charts if and when they want to.
29. Anderson. Paak – The Season/ Carry Me/ The Waters
Another magnificent story surrounds yet another hip-hop icon. Anderson. Paak’s third album, Malibu, documents his turbulent past of abusive parents, marijuana farms, all building up to a present day Paak and life as a Grammy Award nominee.
This track is equally as turbulent and we witness the versatility of .Paak through a shapeshifting montage of vibrant, sincere rhymes and silky smooth instrumentals.
30. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
Leonard Cohen embodied everything you could ever want from a man and a musician. His wisdom exceeded that of a thousand men, his gratitude and modesty touched the hearts of every nation, not to mention how effortlessly cool he was.
Cohen, like Bowie, gifted us a little something before he left, and I felt it right to feature a track from his departing record as 2016 is a year for solemn goodbyes; the death of another flame.
33. James Blake – I Need A Forest Fire (feat. Bon Iver)
James Blake earned himself the privilege of hosting some of the biggest names in the industry on his latest record The Colour in Anything, amongst those was Bon Iver.
Of course, we owe credit to both, Blake for his instrumental production that worms its way into your consciousness and Iver for his conjuring of melodic clairty amid a frantic backdrop. Another beautiful construction from Blake given a most welcome folk slant.
34. Rostam – EOS
Former Vampire Weekend multi-instrumentalist, Rostam Batmanglij marked the beginning of 2016 with a taste of his solo ventures with EOS.
Built on spiritual chants with a soothing musical climate, we have fond memories of Vampire Weekend seeping through in his melodies while crystal beacons of light illuminate his minimal approach.
35. Palace Winter – Positron
Hailing from Copenhagen, Dane Caspar Hesselager and Carl Coleman aka Palace Winter create spiralling alternative rock that owes plenty to 80’s heroes The Smiths as well as their more experimental counterparts.
A buoyant track that floats rapidly along on a shimmering, jangling wave, Positron is mightily upbeat, yet rings with a sense sharpness; something tinged within a distinctly cool darkness.
The track ends with a monstrous surge of experimental synths somewhat like a howling wind rising to destroy; their debut album Waiting for the World to Turn is out now and it’s quite extraordinary.
36. CROWS – Whisper
Producing roaring shoegaze with British punk sympathies, CROWS blew me away with their sinister belter Whisper.
Frantic and powerful, the tracks scuttles menacingly with a quick-fire ride cymbal and towering busts of fuzz. They’ve made great headway in 2016, so good in fact that they’ve soared to spots alongside Bo Ningen and Baba Naga.
37. Hinds – Warts
It’s been a huge year for these endearing Señoritas and their joyously jangly pop. Recalling infamous band The Shaggs with their innocent chord progressions and cute vocal clashes, Hinds are out to have fun with their heroes and are an inspiration to musicians at all levels.
Warts is a typical Hinds set up, infuriatingly infectious riffs, charming broken-English utterances and an all round feel-good vibe that makes this band so loveable and uplifting – we all need a bit of Hinds in our lives.
38. Minor Victories – A Hundred Ropes
A formidable force of post-rock and shoegaze, pioneers by members of Slowdive, Mogwai and Editors, Minor Victories channel their unique achievements to create something that builds with a ferocious intensity into a dreamy colossus.
Eerie strings and spooky vocals recall Arcade Fire and post-rock pioneer Stuart Braithwaite has the final say with some scorching guitar work to top off a monumental force.
39. Liima – Amerika
Amerika is a glimpse into the future, when AI’s begin to realise consciousness and glitch out of their formulated, mechanical ways and instead call out to a higher being, a higher reality.
40. Magic Potion – Jelly
Swedish lo-fi outfit, Magic Potion are one of the unique treasures you’ll find on PNKSLM Records right now, a label that came on my radar earlier this year and I’ve been checking back ever since- it’s a goldmine, trust me.
Channeling the woozy chill of Mac DeMarco, it’s instantly likeable slacker pop with it’s own unique Scandy vibe.