Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Top 116 Songs of 2016, #10 - 1

by Ella Hooper

Is it wrong
To hold on, child?

Kicking off our top ten songs of the year is one of our all time faves, Ella Hooper! With 'Monkey Mind', the first song released from her New Magic EP, Hooper put out what's quickly become my most loved work of hers. After 2015's Venom EP took her down a dark and lonesome (and musically brilliant) road, 'Monkey Mind' was like the bright, shimmering counterpart with a driving beat and delicious synth-y goodness. The complex nature and depth that comes with Ella's songwriting didn't get lost amongst the feel-good nature of the track though, with her internal struggles taking over the narrative of 'Monkey Mind'. All the little things you fight off during the day that you just can't keep away at night, those are all the things the monkey mind brings with it. Questions that should have simple answers like, "if I can't make you love me, is it wrong to hold on child?" You know the answer's yes, but what if? Damn that monkey mind. But praise Ella Hooper. As the song builds to the final chants of 'monkey mind', your desire to dance all those thoughts away peaks and you can get on with you day. Hooper totally killed it again this year and now she's doing a bit of a reunion tour with Killing Heidi and if they come to Brisbane the excitement may kill me. Just so you know. (Matt Bond)  

Music was an integral part of my childhood. There was always an artist I liked, always a song I was singing, always a tune in my head. I was always wondering what my brothers were listening to and would spend hours listening to things with my Dad, one of my very favourite memories watching my Dad tapping in rhythm on the steering wheel as we drove so many road trips to places far and wide. So when I found myself on the highway in my car, tapping my fingers to the fabulous beats in Ella Hooper's 'Monkey Mind', I smiled as I thought of all the sounds that have come in and out of my life and the artists who've shaped my opinions and feelings. I suspect Ella may have had some of the same influences, with a track that takes me to the record collection in my family home, and a sound that feels comfortable with a lyric that brings questions to mind and the chords that remind me so much of so many of the amazing musicians of the 70s and 80s that my Dad ensured I was raised on. It's a song that takes me to happy places like my childhood did, where my own monkey mind can rest and that is a rare and special place, so there's pretty much no greater compliment than that. (Jo Michelmore

by Tkay Maidza ft. Killer Mike

They say they're coming for you, but I don't want none
'Cause I really don't care and I'm still kinda young.

Yeah so admittedly, I had one of those proud Mumma moments Matt described back in number 20 en I heard Tkay had collaborated with Killer Mike and more so when I realised Mr K Mike was featuring on a Tkay track and not the other way around. Yes T-kaaaaaaayyyyyy, as we like to say around these parts. 'Carry On' is everything we've come to expect from her, all punch and pop with a big dash of future superstardom thrown in for good measure. Killer Mike knows it, we know it, everyone needs to know it. Tkay isn't that next big thing anymore, she is the big thing. (Jo Michelmore)

Many a kingdom seemed to fall over the course of 2016, but one ascension to the throne that made me insanely happy was Tkay Maidza's elevation to worldwide rap royalty. That's right peasants dear readers, bow down to your Queen. Each year we have to find new ways to express how amazing and crazy and AMAZING it is to see how Tkay has grown in the past twelve months. Last year she established herself as Australia's finest rapper. This year, she took on the world and she kicked the world's butt with the debut album TKAY that makes one word come to mind as soon as you hear it and that word is slay. It's what Tkay Maidza does best. 'Carry On' was the first taste of what TKAY would be and it set the tone for chaotic brilliance to follow. An absolute banger of a track, 'Carry On' saw Tkay keep the spotlight firmly on her talent on a track that featured Killer Mike and that is not an easy task. And check out that video... ridiculously good, yes? Yes. The coolest of the cool, the baddest of the bad. From the bopping girl blowing up speakers at BIGSOUND to the single most exciting rapper in the world. Tkay, you've come such a long way in such a short time. I'll leave the final word on Tkay Maidza to the superstar herself. "I know you feel the heat because I'm nothing less than fire." (Matt Bond)    

by Big Scary

I'm only doing the best I can, the best I can
I am trying the best I can.

Tom Iansek and Joanna Syme have already proven that they can produce beautiful pieces of work. As Big Scary, they've been doing their musical thing since 2009, with their fan base growing and growing over the years. Their music somehow continues to improve with quality too, with 'The Opposite Of Us' marking their finest achievement yet. Lifted from the must-listen album Animal, 'The Opposite Of Us' is a delicate slice of romantic indie-pop, with Iansek providing an rare honesty that will speak to all of us when he says he's, "trying the best I can." Already established as top notch storytellers, with swoon worthy lines on this track like, "and every kiss is a count in time to the next one," Big Scary are almost showing off just how good they really are. In a year full of incredible love songs, 'The Opposite Of Us' could be the best of them all. It has a genuine sweetness to it that doesn't waste time with the fantasy of what love is supposed to be. Raw and honest, with music from two of the world's best music makers. (Matt Bond 

I was in a shopping centre recently that had one of those pianos in the middle of an aisle, inviting people to play. I wanted to sit down and hit some keys and have some magic appear, but alas, I am no public pianist, so I wandered by with thoughts of having to listen to some keys as soon as possible. And then life handed me our number eight and here are some of my favourite keys in this whole big, long list of songs. Smash those chilled keys together with some quickfire beats and you have 'The Opposite Of Us', which is as calm as it is slightly manic and as reflective as it is noddable. Did I just make up a word? You can use that, you're welcome. See how life hands you things some days? Whatever you want to call them, you can't deny how good Big Scary are. (Jo Michelmore)

by Montaigne

What if I am a liar?
What if I don't control desire?

We've loved Montaigne and everything she does over the past couple of years, but there was something that made me really appreciate her as an artist this year and it was the discovery of her adoration of one of my favourite artists, someone I do not compare to many others, because his talent was so great, very few even dare to reach his height of genius. That person is Freddie Mercury and Montaigne's love of his is worn on her sleeve and when she writes and performs songs like this, I totally appreciate and admire her talent and confidence to aspire to be like one of the greats. The twists and turns 'In The Dark' takes are unexpected and perfectly placed, her voice so strong and her lyrics so powerful, it's an experience, not just a pop song, like her idol would have created. It's also an indication of the places she plans to go, which are so much bigger and grander than you or I can imagine, but I really look forward to watching and hearing it happen as she starts to take over the world. (Jo Michelmore)

Well... Montaigne had a pretty great year didn't she? She featured on the monster Hilltop Hoods hit '1955', scored a ton of commercial radio play with her own 'Because I Love You', made it all the way to #4 on the ARIA charts with her debut album Glorious Heights, won a flipping ARIA Award for Best Breakthrough Artist and she went on a huge national tour. We couldn't be happier for all of the success that has come Montaigne's way and we couldn't love the music she's released anymore than we already do. Glorious Heights was one of the best debuts I've ever heard. Maybe even the best. Our first taste of the album, 'Clip My Wings' took out the #1 spot on last year's songs of the year countdown and with good reason. The follow-up track, 'In The Dark' packs just as mighty a punch. Montaigne makes an analytical review of the world she exists in while part of a relationship and out of one in the verses that build to a manic bridge that examines her views on love and why she feels the way she does. An explosive finish sends us home, but really, it just sends us back to the start of the track. I'd write some more, but *spoiler alert* I've got to write a bit more about Montaigne in a bit, so... (Matt Bond 

by Gang of Youths

So we leave home
They won't see us go. 

I don't know how the Gang of Youths do it. How do they break your heart and put it back together over the course of a song, time and time again? Maybe it has a little something to do with them being really fucking good at making the musics, writing the words and singing the songs that are going to bring you to your knees and have you waving your hands in the air. They'll bring a smile to your face with bittersweet melodies and tales of triumph against impossible odds and the heaviest of heartaches. You'll take a moment to block out the bad and appreciate all of the good. Because if you look for it, there's going to be more good than bad. With songs like this one right here, they'll make you dream big and bold dreams, they'll make you dance, they'll make you should and they might even make you cry. The Gang of Youths are fighters. And they're darn good ones too. (Matt Bond)

When Gang Of Youths started on the journey they are now so gloriously walking through, I'm sure they had no idea where they would go, what they would see, who they would meet. When they wrote all the songs, I'm sure they weren't seeing all the faces that would adore them and when they recorded all the sounds, I'm definitely sure they didn't understand the path that life was about to take them on. When I first heard their hearts I had no idea how much they would come to mean and when I listened to the humble hurt, the loss of love and the determined need for hope, I had no idea how much I would relate. When I saw them live, I had no idea just how many others had seen all the things and felt all the things and needed all the things that these five boys would give to them. When 'The Good Fight' builds and turns from the gentle story into a controlled mania about three quarters of the way through, I never imagined how much of myself I would see in those notes and when I started writing all the words all those years ago about all of the songs I have heard and all of the music I have loved over the years, I never knew how much some of it would come to mean. Which is to say, to me, almost everything almost every day. (Jo Michelmore)   

by Bec Sandridge

And break, these columns down...

I don't mean to blow my own trumpet or anything, because honestly, I don't actually have a trumpet, but this countdown was good, then we got to the top ten and things got very good and now we have Bec Sandridge starting off the top five and it's pretty much the best. I liked Bec Sandridge until the first time I saw her live, at BIGSOUND, and after that, well, after that I decided I love her. One of those artists that just has that 'thing' - an undefineable quality they named an entire talent show about, as soon as she hit the stage I couldn't stop smiling, her presence was magical and her performance was just everything. One of the songs in that performance was this one, which is so fucking good it's difficult to know what to say about it without just saying "GO LISTEN. NOW!" and if you don't like it, then it's pretty simple, maybe you're the fucking joke. Boom. (Jo Michelmore)

Bec Sandridge is the master of the build up. Do you need evidence of this? Do you?! I've got your sweet, sweet evidence right here, mofo's! Press play on the gorgeous, Robert Palmer-ish video above my friends and experience the joy that Bec Sandridge can bring to your life with a tale of love and loss and telling that former special someone that they are 100% a total fucking jooooooke. You're already tapping your feet along at the start of the track, the piano and bass lines will allow no less than some form of body movement, so might as well start with the toes. Sandridge's words create stunning images in your head as she sings about not letting some fucker in and you're all, "I'm liking where this is going and I'm right there with you, sister." And then after two verses we get to what we'll call the chorus and all hell breaks loose and magic is real in the world and Bec Sandridge is the master of the build up. The pay off in 'You're A Fucking Joke' is spectacular, the chorus or section B or whatever you want to call it is EVERYTHING... one of the finest moments in music this year or any year. It's a moment of victory, it's pure joy in musical form and you'll want to experience it again and again. And again and again and again. I'm not even joking. (Matt Bond)  

by Ngaiire

Living on I love yous and recycled prayers.

Smooth vocals? Check. Burgeoning electronic touches, ready to unleash in a frenzy at a moment's notice? Check. Lyrics you want to shout along to? Check. A gorgeous video filmed on location in Tel Aviv? Check. What more do you want from Ngaiire? Nothing. You want nothing more from Ngaiire because she is music perfection, as flawless as she is fearless. With Blastoma, she built on her already unique sounds, shooting herself into the sonic stratosphere in the process to hit us with tracks like 'House On A Rock'. There were a fair few songs that came from a place of, shall we say romantic confusion (?) this year, but none examined the fragility of modern love in as memorable a way as 'House On A Rock'. That's where Ngaiire separates herself from the pack. She looks at things from a a place that others might not dare to go to. And she does it in a way that sounds like she's having the time of her life. So we have the time of our lives to. That's the kind of musical transference we can all love. And we've got a lot of love for Ngaiire. (Matt Bond 

I like to send Matt a little text every now and then with a song name or an artist name and a little heart emoji, just to let him know what I'm hearing at the time. Having said that, there were a few weeks earlier this year that had my social media accounts filled with references to lemonade, the album, not the drink, and at one point I'm sure if I saw another lemon emoji I would have thrown my phone in a bucket of said lemonade. There's no denying that was a great moment in music, but there's another album that was released this year which had me using all the heart emojis, repeated. That album was Blastoma and here is where I declare the answer to that Queen B/bee/bae and all of the titles people like to bestow upon Ms Beyonce. That answer is Ngaiire. With more sass in her little finger than I could ever imagine owning and more talent in her other little finger than I've ever dreamed of having, she is one of the most underrated artists I know. Living on the outskirts of the accolades she deserves for far too long, she is an artist that manages to tread lightly around the concept of all the musical fame she should have, but stomps straight into your heart with her tunes. While the album was so honest, so raw, so danceable and so emotional all at once, 'House On A Rock' was unapologetic in it's subtle brashness, a track that oozed sincerity with its words and demanded movement with it's unconventional beats. It's a song that put her at the top of my list of favourites for 2016, that had me knowing she is destined for so much and had me using all the heart emojis, over and over again. (Jo Michelmore)

by Montaigne

It is bizarre that we're taught to hate ourselves for our flaws.

For those with a keen eye and ear, you would have noticed there are numerous artists that appear numerous times in our countdown. It's not because we're not imaginative, you should have seen how long the shortlist was (ie; not very short) but because the artists we admire the most just keep writing and singing and playing things we can't seem to get enough of. Glorious Heights, Montaigne's debut album,  was everything we expected, every track another piece of Montaigne's intriguing and awesome thought process, every sound a piece of creative genius and 'Till It Kills Me' is almost the greatest example of that creativity, a track filled with dark and light, dancing and life, it's exactly everything we love about Montaigne, which is everything about Montaigne. (Jo Michelmore)

One of the things that I loved most about Montaigne's Glorious Heights was its clear message on a couple of tracks about being there for others. To celebrate the things that make us unique, to be a good friend to those we love even when it's hard to do. There's so many anthems in pop music that preach empowerment from a place that doesn't seem real at all. But 'Till It Kills Me' isn't one of those songs. It is the pop anthem of the year, a highlight of an album full of brilliant pop songs and it's speaking to each and every listener in a way that so many pop stars can only dream of. "Everybody says that we get better, get better later, we can try, we can try through whatever. But the feeling that you feel feels heavy, I will be ready, I will try, I will try, I will keep on fighting till it kills me." This is the message we should be sending to people, young and old, over the radio. Something positive and powerful and kind. Sure, maybe it would be totally boring if every song was coming from a place like that. But it's also why 'Till It Kills Me' stands out so much in 2016. Because there aren't songs like this. Oh, and it's also just an incredible piece of pop perfection that you'll play to death... and then you'll play it some more. (Matt Bond)  

by Tkay Maidza

'Cause I keep moving, I keep moving, I keep moving along
And will you be here when we start finding what we're searching for?

When we saw Tkay Maidza at BIGSOUND this year, her third year in a row at the festival, it was during her performance of 'Simulation' that everyone in The Flying Cock in Brisbane knew it. That Tkay Maidza had become a world class performer. One of the country's finest exports. Someone that you could be proud to know is representing Australian music overseas and absolutely killing it in the process. It was a performance that we'll remember forever, with jumping and dancing and rapid-fire rhymes. Tkay was having fun and the crowd was having the time of their lives. Afterwards, Jo turned around and said we'll likely never see Maidza in a small venue like the one we were in ever again and I couldn't agree more. I was desperate to hear the recorded version of 'Simulation' since BIGSOUND and dreams came true a couple of days before the release of the debut album TKAY. I couldn't have been more impressed with every aspect of the song. It's the definition of a jam. It's lit. It's fire. It's cool. It's ice cold. For those of us that also like normal words, it's all kinds of fun. And if there's something we can all have a little bit more of these days, it's fun. Tkay. Slay. (Matt Bond)

Well here we go, pretty sure this is one you would have been expecting, had you read or heard either of us going on about our beloved Tkay Maidza over the past year. Make that two years. Or is it three? I think it's three, but it's hard to imagine there was ever a time before that first foot stomping track forever ago. You would have known she was going to be back had you read any of this countdown. Had you read about number nine, a few songs back. I know, we're all busy, but here we are at number two and you've almost reached the end, so you can go back and catch up later. 'Simulation' is the epitome of Ms Maidza; it smashes it's into your mind with that super catchy chorus, it demands you move with those beats and it showcases Tkay's uber lyrical skills, all the while getting itself caught up in that little part of your brain that catches songs and won't let go of them. She's come a long way since almost literally blowing up BIGSOUND all those years ago and she's still blowing our minds with every single song. Tkay? You're the best. (Jo Michelmore 

by Emily Wurramara 

I'll be sleeping under stars tonight
Not sure exactly where I'll be.

Some days I'm not really sure how things work. I mean, I understand the actual way things work, like how people play instruments and write songs and companies sign artists and someone somewhere in an office is sitting down right now watching some numbers and deciding on some figures and next thing you know there's the world's next Beyonce advertising perfume on the side of buses driving past you on your way to work. I get all of that, but all of that isn't the important part. The important part is finding the things that make your heart sing, that make you breath a little deeper and listen a little harder and the things that make the days worthwhile. Which brings us to our number one. Emily Wurramara. A simple song, written and performed from her heart, a song that welcomes you with every note and a sound that has wrapped itself gently around my life. I don't know how things work, but I don't really care, because I have found my little piece of the world, with the music that makes everything seem a little more than alright. (Jo Michelmore)

We've written about a lot of songs over the past week and a bit. Counting down all our favourite songs in a year that was rich in music that moved us in different ways. But when it comes down to it, no song moved us in the way that Emily Wurramara's 'Black Smoke' did. In a world that moves further and further in an electronic direction, it still amazes me that a talented young performer can come along with not much more than a guitar and a beautiful voice, some words that will put a smile on your face, a song in your heart and make you fall in love with music all over again. Emily Wurramara stepped into the spotlight in 2016 with 'Black Smoke', capturing the attention of triple J and listeners around the world with a song full of dignity and hope. It's a song that makes you feel like better things are just around the corner. It will make you believe in so many things, but the most important thing it will do is make you believe in Emily Wurramara. The future is so very, very bright for her. This is a song taken from her debut EP of the same name and with one listen, you know there's so much more to come from our favourite find of the year. We're very excited to follow Emily Wurramara on her journey. (Matt Bond)   


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