Sunday, 13 December 2015

Top 115 Songs of 2015, #20 - 11

Sarah Blasko, Kendrick Lamar, The Grates + Chvrches!

by Eves The Behavior

I'm nothing more than skin and bone
With wires that make me tremble.

First up, we’re just gonna refer to her as ETB throughout this review, because I’ve written a bazillion words now and can’t be bothered remembering to stop my computer from correcting the spelling of behavior all the way through, but don’t let that put you off, ‘Electrical’ is a tremendous piece of electro-pop, something that ETB has been perfecting over the past year or so. Don’t let the quiet start fool you, it’s not an indication of where this song ends up, which somewhere right in the middle of powerful indie pop, the military style beats adding to the drama and the soft vocal of ETB’s in beautiful contrast with the crispy synths and chords. This girl has somewhere to go and ‘Electrical’ is an indication of that place being so much bigger than I think even she has imagined. (Jo Michelmore)

#19. DRIVE
by Oh Wonder

And I promised I'd be there but you don't make it easy
Darling, please believe me.

Oh, the video for this one is something special. If you haven't seen it before, watch it now because there be spoilers ahead. No further warnings, let's proceed... When you first figured out that 'man' character is only in 'woman' character's mind, were you not like *boom* mind blown. It's like watching The Sixth Sense all over again, but not like that at all really, but TWIST. At the start I was thinking she was just sad, lonely, missing her great love. But then it turns out she's actually kinda bat-shit cray and robbing old school American diners and wasting milkshakes. Enough about the video though, I'm supposed to be talking about Oh Wonder's song 'Drive', but they've made such a great clip it's hard not to want to talk about it. Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West's voices fit so sweetly together. You could even say they were made for each other. Awww, cute. The whole sweetness thing and perfect harmonies make the all too real sadness in the lyrics hit so much harder. I imagine the live version is even more heartbreaking, Anthony and Josephine stealing glances at each other while singing, "and I promised I'd be there but you don't make it easy, darling please believe me," and everyone in the crowd feels sad about life. Hopefully I'll get to see Oh Wonder live sometime soon. They'll be at the upcoming Falls Festival and have Sydney/Melbourne shows in early January but they don't have a show in Brisbane because whoever booked their tour is a d-bag :) (Matt Bond)    

Oh my I’m so glad Oh Wonder have made it to the list again. I think I sent Matt one of my approval text messages when I this one made our top 25 a few months ago, which usually involves a name and a heart emoji, because what else is there to say about a song so good? They were a refreshing slice of music in a world defined by names and looks and social media accounts; releasing a song a month for a year and hiding their identity for the release of their first few songs, which forced those who cared, to listen to the music alone, which could have been seen as a marketing disaster, but when the music is this strong, when the songs are so honest and the sounds so crisp, well that’s when all that matters is the music. And the music is so, so good. (Jo Michelmore)

#18. I'D BE LOST
by Sarah Blasko

You're not just someone to believe in
You've become a part of me and I know...

So, if I was a fortune teller and you’d given me a crystal ball 18 months ago and asked me to tell you what Sarah Blasko would be doing in 2015, I’d have made up some elaborate story about orchestral arrangements, haircuts, something fabulous and a someone starting with a random letter of the alphabet. That’s about how much I believe in fortune telling and crystal balls, but I would have been right about one thing and that’s the fabulous part, because with the release of her fifth album Eternal Return she hit fabulous right on the mark; an enchanting pop delight, not at all what I would have expected from Ms Blasko, but a masterpiece nonetheless. The new wave type synths and falsetto vocals make ‘I’d Be Lost’ anything but lost, it’s a piece of electro-retro inspired greatness and her album was just as great. I might not be a fortune teller but I can tell you that Blasko keeps getting better and better with every album, so who can even imagine how good her next one is going to be? (Jo Michelmore)

I'm not going to lie. When I heard the whispers about Sarah Blasko's Eternal Return being an upbeat, "happy" album I was quite apprehensive. Would the haunting vocals and devastating, punch in the guts moments full of heartache and longing be gone? Who would I turn to when a hit of melancholia pop was just what the doctor ordered? Would hell freeze over? Would the zombie apocalypse began so I could finally reach my full potential? There were a lot of questions, some would be answered upon the release of the single 'I'd Be Lost' and some of those questions will be addressed at a later date. 'I'd Be Lost' was so different to the sounds of Blasko's fourth album, I Awake. We've gone from string heavy orchestration to an exploration of 80s synth and the results were spectacular. Which shouldn't be a surprise, because at this point in her career Blasko has built up a great deal of trust from her fan base that she will deliver the goods each and every time. 'I'd Be Lost' might be about love and warm, fuzzy feelings, but that doesn't mean there's not a darkness lurking, if only you scratch the surface of it. In my review of Eternal Return I wrote that 'I'd Be Lost' is, "as close to a runaway pop smash as we're likely to ever experience from an artist who might never cross over into the Top 40, this is so different from what we've come to know about Sarah Blasko. Which is possibly why I wasn't enamored with it upon first listen. Like all great pop gems, 'I'd Be Lost' has a way of working its way into your brain and refusing to let go. Crafted expertly with coos in all the right places and finding Blasko falling deeper and deeper in love, this is a stand out moment on Eternal Return and shoots towards the top of a stellar catalogue of music." It might even be at THE top of that stellar catalogue of music. (Matt Bond)

by Japanese Wallpaper ft. Airling

You feel it in your bones but you won't act on it
There's something in your heart but you won't talk, talk, talk about it.

The stunning and layered production of Japanese Wallpaper with the sweet and heartwarming vocal stylings of Airling. What more do you need in your life? Nothing. You need nothing else. JW's Gab Strum creates the most peaceful atmosphere on 'Forces' that becomes perfect for almost every situation. Going for a long drive down the coast? Put on 'Forces'. Having some Sunday afternoon bevvies on the deck with sunshine and friends? Put on 'Forces'. Feel like you're going to punch someone in the face at work? Put on 'Forces'. It's beyond calming and guaranteed to put a smile on your dial and have you seeing the good in the world again. And we could all stand to do that a bit more. Anyway, I don't want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need... and that's to hear Japanese Wallpaper and Airling are working together more in 2016. (Matt Bond)    

So I’ve got this theory about Japanese Wallpaper, which could be considered slightly controversial, but I’m going to go with it. He’s actually 45 years old and has been kept in school, repeating grade 11 for the last twenty(?) years (whatever, maths wasn’t my strong point in high school) because I can’t quite figure out how someone so young can make music so….good? It always blows my mind when I remember that Japanese Wallpaper is a teenager and winning Triple J’s Unearthed High Competition last year was just the beginning of his introduction to the world, but it’s obvious that making music is a talent that is more important than any subject he could have taken in school (just don’t tell any teachers I said that). ‘Forces’ is magnificent, Airling’s vocal floating beautifully over the sweet, sweet sounds of JW’s, that line about “I’ve been dreaming about you, won’t do a thing about this ‘cause I don’t wanna ruin you” one of the most well-hidden but meaningful lyrics I heard all year, which again makes me question how someone so young can be so amazing? But the answer to that is pretty simple. Music isn’t about age, it’s about heart. (Jo Michelmore)

by Kendrick Lamar

Straight from the bottom, this the belly of the beast
From a peasant to a prince to a motherfucking King.

Kendrick Lamar is one of those hip hop guys they’ll talk about years from now, when he’s old and grey they’ll talk about his glory days at the top of the hip hop pile, he’ll be one of the ones people twenty years from now talk about influencing their sound, he’ll be the one they name a music award after and he’ll probably be one of the ones that gets sampled over and over and over. Which now thinking about it, will be kind of funny, because Kendrick samples things so well, if other people sample him is that a sample sample or just a sample? The writing credits on songs are going to be pages and pages long in years to come, aren’t they? Anyway, the point is he’s very good at the rap and at the hip hop and as ‘King Kunta’ says, he’s very good at putting the funk in. Whatever that means. (Jo Michelmore) 

Nobody did rap better in 2015 than Kendrick Lamar. You need only look at his leading nominations for the upcoming Grammy awards to know he's a pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory. Whether he'll take down Queen Swift and... whoever else is nominated (?)... will be decided next year, but Lamar doesn't need the awards to know he's had a good year. 'King Kunta' was released as the third single from Lamar's third LP, To Pimp a Butterfly and was, for my money, the best track on the album. Sorry I'm so mainstream. I can't say I really have any idea what's going on with the whole yams thing (even if he does go out of the way to explain), and there's plenty of analysis articles out there so we can all go learn something about the track later, but I love the flow of Lamar's rhymes and the incorporation of funk-ier backing elements seems fresh among the more industrial/electronic and standard pop leaning rap tracks making the rounds. 'King Kunta' expresses Lamar's views on the stereotypes facing much of the African-American community in America and for the most part, it leaves out the grandstanding and ego-driven verses that have become the new norm. Lamar could be responsible for taking rap back to its roots. I've got no issues with that. (Matt Bond)

by Kira Puru

I hear you're doing well
But it never goes away.

As glamorous the life of a music blogger may seem, I have to admit that there are moments when I'm rushing around non-stop with work (the one that pays the bills), weddings, birthdays and all of those things that dominate your time when you start adulting and I'm thinking... you could just, you know, not blog anymore. I had one of those moments this year where I was for sure done and dusted and then an email found its way into our inbox from a delightful music PR company somewhere down south saying Kira Puru had released her first solo single. I couldn't not listen to it, I mean, it was Kira Puru and everything is better with Kira Puru. Her voice is filled with a fiery passion and she does soul unlike anyone has been able to in this country for far too long. So I start playing this track that was kindly sent through to us. 'All Dulled Out' was the name. Even that's so perfectly Kira Puru. With synths and light electronic touches surrounding her, Puru shares some deep thoughts about someone I'm already convinced is a jerk and her attempts at payback via fun times with friends. Not Puru's friends. His. Nothing works though and there's always that lingering pain that never goes away. I love everything about this song. But I strongly dislike that 'All Dulled Out' didn't receive the attention it so strongly deserved from radio, the internet and however else the kids are hearing about the musics these days. If we can hear the same ten songs ten times a day on commercial radio, I'm pretty sure there's room for an amazing track like this to take up some of those plays. Until that starts happening, I'll keep on writing about talented local artists like Kira Puru. Because if we didn't have the blog going, we wouldn't have an inbox for these emails to come to. And I wouldn't want to miss out on music this good. (Matt Bond)    

If you haven’t been lucky enough to find her yet, I’m going to ask tell you to go and do one thing today. YOU NEED TO GOOGLE KIRA PURU AND LISTEN TO EVERYTHING YOU FIND. I have put that in capitals to emphasise how important this is. There are very few people I have found that have the talent Kira does, the way she can rip my heart out, gently toss it around and then give it back, seemingly unchanged but forever a fan, a talent like hers is rare, is special and is totally life affirming. I have already written so many words about so many songs, but this is one of the selfish ones, really one of the ones I want someone, anyone to find, so that Ms Puru can continue to make the music that has made my last couple of years complete. (Jo Michelmore)

by James Chatburn x Jordan Rakei

We pretend our
We pretend our hearts surrender.

The smooth and soulful James Chatburn absolutely killed it in 2015, releasing the finest jams from both his hometown of Sydney and current place of residence, Berlin. 'Holiday Love' saw Chatburn team with Brisbane's Jordan Rakei for the best slow jam of the year. Let's be honest, who would have thought we'd be saying that about two Aussie lads? The track has racked up 153,000 Soundcloud plays in the past 9 months, a whopping amount for any emerging artist and it goes a long way in showing there is huge interest in the music of both Chatburn and Rakei. I'd say about a thousand of those are me though... #superfan. I've just realised I've written essentially the same thing as I wrote about Chatburn's 'We Drink' at the start of the countdown. So let's talk about 'Holiday Love'. The main groove in the verses has a bounce to it that will draw you in, but the focus stays exactly where it should be; on the ridiculously smooth voices of Chatburn and Rakei. In a perfect world, 'Holiday Love' would be a huge summer anthem. With the music he's come up with in 2015, I don't think it will be too long before Chatburn scores a summer anthem in this current, non-perfect world. (Matt Bond) 

by Florence + The Machine

How do you do it?
I think I'm through it, then I'm back against the wall.

It’s kind of weird to think this was the first taste of what was only Florence and her Machine’s third album; it feels like she has been around forever, making music since the beginning of time. Now thinking about that, her music kind of has that timeless feel to it, all the drama and all the giant notes and dramatic highs and lows, whether they be celebrating a wonderful moment or wallowing in moments of despair, this is a band that can take all the emotions and make them magnificent. If my life were a made for TV movie, I’d hope Florence appeared in the score somewhere, because wherever she was, good or bad, what a moment it would be. (Jo Michelmore) 

Apparently a running theme with me this year was not giving my favourite artists the benefit of the doubt. My latest piece of evidence in favour of this, was my initial reaction to Florence + The Machine's 'What Kind of Man'. When the music first starts and it's all sparse and electronic-y with distorted Flo vocals, I was like... she's gone off the rails and it's all Kanye's fault because when there's distorted vocals or auto-tune it's always Kanye's fault. But then the opening segment closes with the question, "what kind of man loves like this?" and then comes the guitar, the choral backing and the untouched vocals of Florence Welch in all their glory. There's horns, unbridled fury and an artist who has secured her place at the very top. 'What Kind of Man' was even better than what I could have ever imagined Florence + The Machine's return would be in 2015. (Matt Bond)

by The Grates

Blood and fear, hearts on trees, pig skin knees
It's not gonna hurt anymore, than it was ever going to.

As a big fan from way back of all things Grates related, I was super excited to see the Brisbane legends release their album Dream Team at the end of last year. It was this song right here, #12 on our songs of the year countdown that I would love the most. There I was, sitting in my car and feeling particularly down in the dumps (what an awful expression) on that day and 'It Won't Hurt Anymore' started playing. I found myself really paying attention to the words for the first time and, well, it inspired me to not feel so shitty anymore. It was a perfectly timed reminder that things that are sucky were always going to be sucky and at some stage you've got to make a decision for things not to be so goddamn sucky because no one else is going to make that decision for you. If music's that friend you always have when no one else is around, 'It Won't Hurt Anymore' is one of the best friends you can have. So many years into a wonderful career and The Grates continue to astound, amaze and inspire. All I can say is thank you. (Matt Bond) 

These are the moments I look for in music, these are the moments that make me keep listening, make me keep writing, keep me company and keep me wanting more, the moments that make everything ok when everything is sometimes not ok and even better when everything is more than ok. When the notes rest upon your life, talking to you in ways words never can and when the words speak about moments in the ways chords cannot, they are the moments in music that mean the most. When music is more than the composer, than the singer, than the guitarist and the drummer, when music is more than all of those people imagine they could ever be, that’s when music is the most. When I hear it all and hear nothing at all, those are the notes that bring the tears and the smiles, they are the songs that make the soundtrack for life and those are the moments that music is everything to me. (Jo Michelmore) 

by Chvrches

You think I'll apologise for things I left behind
But you got it wrong
And I'm as sane as I ever was.  

These songs, sometimes I write about which album they were from and who sings them and what the film clips are like. And sometimes these songs mean things I can’t explain and so sometimes I write things like this, because everyone’s had a song they know like this. Remember that jerk that did that thing that made you feel like a teeny tiny piece of nothing, that made you question who you were and where you’d been and why you ended up there? Remember that person who said that thing that stabbed you in the stomach, that took the air from your lungs and almost stopped you breathing for a while because all you had were gasps? Remember the one who took all you had and made it their own, even long after they had left? Remember the face of the person who turned you into someone you hate, someone you never want to visit again and someone you never knew you knew, let alone could be? Remember the empty they left when you finally walked away and remember the terrifying freedom in all that emptiness? “You think I'll apologize for things I left behind, but you got it wrong” Yes Chvrches, all that and yes. Thank you. I am as sane as I ever was. (Jo Michelmore)

There is nothing worse than someone making you feel like you're crazy, when the reality of the situation is you're perfectly fine and they're just a manipulative asshole. Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry knows it. Jo knows it. I know it and you know it. People can be the worst, but it's not all people that are the worst. Because on the other side of that is the you, the one that's been treated like dirt in the past and had to walk away from a really crappy situation. After a while you have these thoughts running through your head of all the awesome things you wish you had said at the time, things about how you had nothing to apologise for, that you weren't the crazy one, that you can see clearly now the rain has gone etc. etc. And you'd look awesome doing it, with a great new haircut and some hot new jeans. So this song comes along from Chvrches this year called 'Leave A Trace' that pretty much puts all of those thoughts into three minutes and fifty-seven seconds and you're just left here saying, "sing it loud, sister!" and high-fiving a million angels in Chvrches honour because you know you're not the only one thinking these thoughts. It's also just a really fun song with 80s vibes that makes you want to dance. There's also that going for it. Woo. Hoo. (Matt Bond)

Well, that wraps up the penultimate edition of our Top 115 Songs of 2015 countdown. Check back tomorrow for the TOP 10 SONGS OF 2015!

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